Humor on the Planes

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Jem
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Humor on the Planes

By and large, the Planes are presented in the Planescape supplements as deadly serious places. The Upper Planes have a vision of the Multiverse as it should be and a sacred duty to pursue it across all obstacles. Mechanus is proverbially humorless and Limbo is incomprehensible. The Lower Planes are places of drear, fear, and hatred. But laughter is an important part of many mortal lives, and a tragically missing element in many others. It's a powerful tool for communication and even manipulation. Thus, there are almost certainly places on any plane concerned with projecting a philosophy -- which is most of them -- where humor is studied, honed, and used.

So this thread is for ideas on how the Planes deal with humor. You can describe places the players will find funny, places where the NPCs will find the PCs a source of humor, places that philosophize about humor, things to obtain regarding humor, people who specialize in it: you name it.

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Arborea

This is probably the easiest plane to discuss. Both the Greek and the elven side of Arborea are known for their humor. The Greeks even have a deity: Thalia, Muse of comedy and idyllic poetry. Comedy is one of the great theatrical forms, regularly performed and taught in the training of bards and other performers from the region. Of course, comedy is not contained within the amphitheatre; it also plays its part in the cut and thrust of rhetoric, taught to the Greeks' orators for use in persuasion, commerce, and all manner of other situations.

To the Greeks, humor is about recognizing absurdities in life, and accepting the fundamental ones. There will always be paradoxes, mysteries and ironies; what can't be penetrated can still be appreciated. Resignation can come with a laugh at oneself or one's situation; good humor can make the workload lighter.

A PC seeking humor in Olympus will find many places to partake of performances, and many schools and professionals willing to train them in an ancient and respected art form. The temples and academies of the Muses will contain precincts devoted to Thalia where more specialized services and experts may be found.

The elves and the fey, on the other hand, favor a wilder sort of humor: pranks and gags are commonplace, especially on the unsuspecting. These are generally meant to puncture undue self-importance and attachments. Though long-lived and in some cases immortal, much of the beauty that these races revere is transitory: performance art, the passing seasons.

However, they're also known for pulling jokes in the middle of mortal combat -- to defeat an evil enemy is good, and for him to know that he is easily defeated is better. Fiends are often prideful, and embarassment is an arrow aimed straight at pride's heart. Both Squelaiche, Jester of the Seelie Court, and Nathair Sgiathach, fey deity of pranks and mischief, oversee some aspects of this practice.

Someone seeking humor in Arvandor will certainly find it. If they're well-off and seeking exotic entertainment, they may find themselves the butt of the joke, but usually only until they get the point. If they're someone who needs a touch of laughter to bring light to a dark life, the elves and the fey will almost certainly be able to provide.

Arborean Vivacity

A bard trained on Arborea may select, at any bard level where he would learn a new type of bardic music, to replace the type with "Inspire Energy (Sp): A bard with 3 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use his music or poetics to encourage his allies to vigor. To be affected, an ally must be able to hear the bard sing. The effect lasts for as long as the ally hears the bard sing and for 5 rounds thereafter. An affected ally can ignore the effects of a fatigued condition that existed at the start of the bard's performance. Inspire Energy is a mind-affecting ability."

Typically bards who take this song replace fascinate or suggestion (usually for moral reasons regarding mind control), or a level of inspire courage. If a level of fascinate or suggestion is replaced, the opportunities to obtain fascinate, suggestion or mass suggestion move up to the next such place respectively. If a level of inspire courage is replaced, future levels may be taken with the total reduced by 1.

Greater Vivacity

As above, but the bard requires 15 ranks in Perform and an ally may ignore an exhausted state. Greater Vivacity requires Arborean Vivacity as a prerequisite.

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The Abyss

There is a great deal of humor in the Abyss. None of it is kind. The laughter of demons comes in gales of cackling hordes and echoes down the halls of cruel overlords. It is mockery at its most brutal: lethal slapstick. Humor is just another way to express your power over others and your good fortune in not being the victim of their ill fortune. For once, you're not on the receiving end -- yuk it up, tomorrow may be your day.

In combat, demonic humor is an inverted reflection of the fey's: you can gain an advantage if you can demoralize your foe by a display of strength and callousness. To laugh at their pain, or in response to their attempt to harm you, is to show your invincibility.

There are a few places in the Abyss particularly devoted to laughter. Some petty demon lords spend their days seeking new jests to amuse their rapidly jading immortal fancies, and on rare occasions reward richly the performer who manages to break through their boredom, though more often the attempt ends in another type of performance. The entertainment of prisoners thrown into combat against impossible odds is often great fun, though woe to the mortal who dares upset the punch line by failing to die bloodily at the hands of his tormentor. In realms of bizarre illusion one may find all logic reducing into absurdity, a shaggy dog story that will go on until Armageddon. To beings that consider the entire Multiverse unreasonable, these places are no stranger than the rest of Creation.

Demon's Cackle Cost: 500gp

This bloodstained totem can be carried anywhere on the body. It has a single charge. If the user would become staggered or unconscious from nonlethal damage, the item expends its charge and the user ignores the condition. Instead, they begin laughing creepily and uncontrollably -- not enough to mimic the spell Hideous Laughter, but enough to interfere with speech, spellcasting that has verbal components, or the use of bardic music. The laughter and the consciousness last for 1d4+1 rounds, after which if the nonlethal damage has not been healed, the user suffers the staggered or unconscious conditions normally.

Faint conjuration [evil]; CL 3rd; Craft Wondrous Item, hideous laughter, creator must obtain blood from a living demon; Price 500gp.

KnightOfDecay
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Interesting topic - and great

Interesting topic - and great stuff Jem.

One particular source of humor in our campaign was the use of "Factol Karan Facts" (based, of course, on Chuck Norris Facts) in Sigil.

Quickleaf
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Interesting and unexpected!

Interesting and unexpected!

Cool bit about the Seelie Court jester. And "Factol Karan Facts" is frickin' brilliant :)

Let's see...I always thought it would be fun to find the living spell Tasha's Unbearable Derisive Laughter from PS: Torment tucked away in a stoppered jug on some fiendish arcanist's bookshelf. Naturally, it would berate and belittle characters if they refuse to release it from its stoppered jug. Actually, pretty much the same as if they did release it!

And I've got a Planescape joke for you:

Did you hear the one about the blind fanatic's debate with the dabus?

Jem
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They never did see eye to eye

They never did see eye to eye?

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Outlands

Humor on the Outlands is a curious topic. Denizens of the Plane of Concordant Opposition are likely to find their humor in ironies, bathos, and silver linings to misfortune. When something bad happens, find the silver lining; when something good happens, chuckle at the imperfections of lie. For them, every idea is in contact with its opposite, and the truth lies somewhere between. Thus, something that seems flawed or damaged to someone else may be a source of amusement to an Outlander, which may be moderately kind or unkind depending on the damage in question.

Rilmani humor is, naturally, rather strange to others. Depending on their momentary preference for boosting law or chaos, good or evil, they may make jokes at inappropriate times or inappropriate targets, or offer kindly and soothing wit to ease someone's pain. Really, their humor is as unpredictable as any of their other behavior.

Outlanders especially like to poke holes in the pious certainties of ideological extremists. In a comedy play from the Outlands, a "Brother Jonathan" or "Hodge" type of character, a simple rustic, is likely to be not amazingly wise but able to expose the flaws in a pompous argument with a sincere question, or overturn a complicated crusade with an innocent quotidian activity. Mortal natives in and near the realms of deities like Obad-Hai and Sheela Perryroyl are especially fond of this formula.

Skill Trick: Hidden Wisdom

Prerequisites: Perform 5 ranks, Bluff 5 ranks, familiarity with the literature of the Outlands

You are skilled at playing the bumpkin. By acting somewhat more foolish than you really are, you can make your speech seem charmingly rustic and obviously true to someone who does not know you well. You accept a penalty to your Int-based skill rolls while in the presence of your target, and receive an equal bonus to Cha rolls affecting them. You may end this effect at any time. You may target multiple people, or even "everyone," although lying to too many people quickly leads to a tangled web.

To use this trick you must not have succeeded on an Int-based roll, while in the presence of your target, by a margin of less than the penalty you accept. (Memories can be fickle and the GM may waive this requirement if it is not immediately obvious whether it holds.) If the target is given reason to suspect that you are acting (for instance, other comrades seem surprised that you are being a rube), make an opposed check of your Bluff versus their Sense Motive. (Your Cha bonus does aid this roll.) If you lose, the effect ends, and does not hold for a check that had yet to resolve. If you end the effect for someone and interact with them again, you may not renew it, and a contest of Bluff versus Sense Motive will allow them to recognize that they were deceived.

KnightOfDecay
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Very cool!

Very cool!
Do you use more plane-related feats in your game?

Jem
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I do not, alas, have a game

I do not, alas, have a game at the moment. I have played a Planescape game in the past where the GM was fairly free about allowing desired traits that weren't too broken.

Githyankee
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How many modrons does it take

How many modrons does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Well, first Primus has to give the order to a Secundus, and the Secundus has to pass the order down to a Tertian, from Tertian to Quarton, Quarton to Quinton, to Hexton, to Septon, to Octon, Nonaton, Decaton, Pentadrone, Quadrone, Trirone, Duodrone, and then finally a lucky little Monodrone gets to change the lightbulb!

Now how many slaadi does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Silly berk, this is medieval fantasy, electricity ain't been invented yet!

Jem
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The Devil's Laughter: Baator

The Devil's Laughter: Baator
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Although the damned of the Nine Hells scream under whip and flame, and the baatezu prosecute the endless Blood War with green steel and infernal magic, there is still humor to be found in Hell. A select subset of devils like to pose as urbane and sophisticated, with a suave demeanor hiding their moral vacuum. Humor as manipulation and display of authority are both present here.

Generally, humor in Hell is the province of devils with social functions: falxugon (harvester devils) and brachina (pleasure devils) are particular masters of the craft. Both can engage in witty banter for as long as it takes to put a victim at ease, deflect an inquiry, or feign friendship. However, any devil with a degree of agency or authority can occasionally engage in cruel jokes at the expense of those over whom he has power.

Jokes in Baator are never at the expense of one's superiors, if one wishes to continue in existence.

If you are a human in Baator, all devils consider themselves your superior.

These two rules illustrate the main point: like everything else in Hell, humor is regulated and devoted to the greater purpose. Mockery of chaos, demons in particular, is always acceptable; making fun of those who fall prey to accidents, especially the ill-prepared, is a strong vein in Baatorian humor. Gloating over a successful entrapment of a victim is also a common theme. However, humor that ventures toward unacceptable targets is quickly censored and punished.

One interesting specific use of humor in Hell is the paeliryon, who actually has a supernatural ability, Belittle, that manifests as a barrage of insults that stuns the will of an enemy. For some reason, paeliryons also wear heavy makeup -- lipstick and eyeshadow -- which resembles that of a courtesan, despite being inhumanly grotesque and not remotely female. The effect is certainly meant on some level to be humorous, although the location of this level is rather difficult to pin down.

If a devil wants a laugh in Maladomini, he can earn his way into the Eternal Carnival, where not even Fiendish Codex II dares to detail the entertainments of vacationing devils. The imagination runs to Hieronymous Bosch, whose evil spirits lead truly twisted existences of surprising twist and turns, with a certain absurd air about it all.

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Incantation: Paeliryon's Mask

Enchantment (Compulsion) [Mind-Affecting] [Evil]
Effective Level: 6
Skill Check: Knowledge (Arcana) DC 24 2 successes, Knowledge (Religion) DC 24 2 successes, Disguise DC 20 1 success, Intimidate DC 24 1 success
Failure: no effect
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: hearing
Target or targets: all enemies within hearing
Duration: 1 day
Saving Throw: Will negates (DC 16 + Cha modifier)
Spell Resistance: Yes
Material component: heavy makeup, including at least bright lipstick, heavy eyeshadow, and thick foundation. A mirror or other reflective surface is required unless someone else does the face painting.

You paint your face in a manner resembling the favored look of a paeliryon, while putting yourself in a mindset to deliver a vicious stream of insults. If the incantation is successful, then once during the remainder of the day, as long as your makeup is visible and has not been heavily damaged, you can imitate the paeliryon's belittle ability. As a standard action, you utter a rapid stream of mockery and derision, stunning all non-ally hearers who fail a Will save for 1 round, and leaving them shaken for another 1d4 rounds afterward.

Backlash: the hideous makeup imposes a -2 penalty to Cha-based skills while worn (not including the casting rolls).
Extra casters: none required, but someone else may make the Disguise roll by painting the caster's face if the caster explains the necessary visuals.