The Silly Campaign

The GM can simply play the martial arts for laughs! One option is a campaign in the tradition of low-quality kung fu movies with bad dubbing, worse plots, and blatant continuity errors. Another is a game inspired by well-made martial-arts comedies.

The shorter the campaign will run, the better silliness works as a standalone theme. In a one-shot game, you can have great fun with a paper-thin plot ("You killed my brother! Prepare to die!"), cliched PCs, horrendous accents, and legions of disposable goons . . . but such things get old after a few sessions. In a long-running campaign, it's advisable to mix silliness with a more serious theme: fighting imperialism, saving a school, etc. The silliness level can be the same in both cases. For instance, the movie Shaolin Soccer features high silliness (Shaolin monks use chi abilities to win soccer games!) but mixes it with The Quest (p. 247).

Silly martial-arts movies abound. Slapstick is an excellent match with the martial arts, if only because the difference between a pratfall and a spectacular martial-arts move is a painfully small slip. This describes almost all the work of Jackie Chan and his frequent costar, Sammo Hung. Most Chan movies combine Borderline Realism (pp. 237-238) with lots of humor and quickly healing bruises. Kung Fu Hustle is definitely Over-the-Top (p. 239)! Silly stories don't have to dispense with reality or tragedy, though: Magnificent Butcher is a classically silly martial-arts film, yet depicts a violent murder. There are also many "serious" movies with such low quality and bad dubbing that they seem silly, although the distinction can be hazy; for instance, Dirty Ho is intentionally silly and dubiously dubbed.

Silly martial arts can lighten up even a non-Martial Arts game! For inspiration, see Blake Edwards' "Pink Panther" movies or any 1960s super-spy flick that features "judo chops" and "Hi-keeba!" karate action.

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