Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In Defense of WhimsyHawk

A few days ago ENWorld's Morrus posted an interesting article that talked about the relevancy of whimsy in D&D today in regards to the characters previewed for the upcoming Out of Abyss adventure. He highlighted an old WotC article from 2005 on why humor is downplayed whereas it was more prevalent in editions before that (TSR era essentially). This naturally points a big finger at many Greyhawk products, most of which not considered classics. Sure Greyhawk has had plenty of whimsy, but I have a hunch Forgotten Realms hasn't had as much (in my limited experience) even compared to other settings like Planescape or Spelljammer.

To go along with this is a poll asking if you like whimsy mixed with a "grimdark" setting like the Underdark with all these demon-lords running around in it. I for one have no problem with whimsy mixing with serious if it is handled with care. Currently the poll stands at almost 2/3 in favor of mixing the two elements, with the rest either against or not caring. This shows that there's just enough confidence in D&D's writers to try anything. If those results were like Fantastic Four's rating on Rotten Tomatoes then I'm sure there'd be damage control going on right now.

Of course It's still left to be seen how much the dark and whimsy we are talking about here. Here's a quick analysis and a summary of how I think Out of Abyss will differ from "WhimsyHawk":

Let me tell you about WhimsyHawk!
When people think of humor in Greyhawk the first shoe thrown is Castle Greyhawk, the infamous joke module. It's intentionally full of parody, puns and worse atrocities. The art (Jim Holloway on interiors) is especially supportive of this whimsical adventure. To wit, demon-lord Graz'zt is in this module as well which must make him some sort of object of dark comedy (I should know).

When comparing the cast of Out of Abyss to previous D&D the next whimsy duo brought up is Greyhawk's Dungeonland and The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. It is no coincidence that these two modules also have their setting within the realm of "Castle Greyhawk" though they predate the joke module's publication by five years and have no more direct connection than that. That Greyhawk took on a dark and dangerous Alice parody back in 1983 is remarkable since Alice is presented as more dark than whimsy these days in movies and graphic novels.

I could go on and talk about other silly aspects like those found in Greyhawk Ruins (see a pattern here?), Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (debatable), or heck, Zagyg the demigod of humor, but the bottom line is that none of these things present a serious threat to the World of Greyhawk setting. Castle Greyhawk never instigated the Greyhawk Wars and Dungeonland never threatened to change the face of the Flanaess if the heroes lose. Out of the Abyss wisely starts in the Underdark yet I believe the premise is that if the demons win there, they will spill out and ruin the Sword Coast next. I'm not sure its the demon-lords; I think some people are more worried the whimsy is going to break loose and infect Faerun! 

So yes, I like a mix of dark and humorous, but I don't think the D&D team is in danger of spreading too much whimsy to their future products either. After two heavy world-saving storylines like Tyranny of Dragons and Princes of the Apocalypse why not have a little light-hearted stuff to set up what will inevitably be another Realms-shaking event anyhow?

1 comment:

Mystic Scholar said...

I like "whimsy lite." I think humorous situation can be found anywhere and at anytime. I wouldn't be interested in a truly "comical" module, but sure, a little "whimsy" is a good thing.