In Praise Of The Nonsensical

A few years ago, our family delved into the Skull & Shackles campaign of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. In it, the heroes play would-be pirates who go out on seafaring adventures. Because it's a card game, certain randomness is . . . err . . . in the cards. Having an aquatic theme, a nontrivial amount of sharks come up as random encounters. What made this so memorable for us is that – regardless of the location of the scenario – we always seemed to encounter sharks. At sea? Shark. Exploring an island? Shark. Working our way through an unfamiliar town? Shark. Climbing a tower? Shark.

The propensity of sharks to appear while we were climbing towers became the running joke in our campaign. We eventually concluded that a bard ally of the heroes was singing a song that summoned sharks. "Hmm . . . why does this tower have windows with fin-like openings on the side?" [Tuneless singing.] "Shark, shark, sharksharkshark, SHARK, shark..." [Shark appears, diving perfectly through the shark-finned windows, and starts attacking the heroes.] "STOP SINGING!!!"

I don't expect this anecdote to make much sense. It's quite probably a perfect "you had to be there" inside joke that enriches gaming tables. But we've grown to love these seemingly nonsensical moments in our games, and I suspect the ability for games to generate inside jokes and personal references is why it's such an enriching hobby. Even now, if something totally unexpected happens in one of our tabletop games, one of us will blurt out "Shark!" or start singing the Shark Song.

I hope you have your own anecdotes and incidents that have made your own gaming life that much more fun!

-- Steven Marsh