After years of relatively serious D&D campaigns set in a well-developed milieu, it’s come as a splash of cold water to see just how wacky a gonzo old-school game can get. A recent session writeup at Carter’s Cartopia—home of such worthies as the PCs Uncle Junkal, Innominus and Barbarella, aided by NPCs like Porkins and Val Kilmer—reminds me of an ongoing peeve of mine: silly names.
There have been a lot of weird names in my Red Box game and in Tavis’ White Box game, and some of them are much more agreeable to me than others. I’m still trying to put my finger on why a fighter named Monterey Jack is fine by me while an elf named Broccoli Cabbage pushes all my buttons, or why I’m bothered more by a pulchritudinous magic-user named Sosexia than a politically correct druid named Obamabiden.
Intellectually, I’d expect to be more troubled by topical real-world references, but in practice they seem to blend into the background pretty easily. It’s the puns that actually get under my skin; they have a deliberately jokey quality that punctures my suspension of disbelief far more than call-outs to the modern world.
Some referees react to this sort of thing with draconian fervor, refusing to allow PCs with silly names in their games. Others take it in stride. Me, I’m looking for a middle way, one that lets me dial down the silliness without eliminating it altogether or making my players feel bad for goofing around. Like everything else, it’s a work in progress.