Beware Of Python
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Basic Information

What is "Beware of Python"? Is it a warning sign? Is it a tabletop gaming trope? Is it a meme? Is it just geeky human nature? Whatever the reason behind it, the fact remains that a single line of Monty Python holds the power to erode all focus at the gaming table. Dramatic tension peters out, NPCs stop being taken seriously, the whole group gets derailed, and it's likely to lead to additional lines of Python being quoted within the hour.

This is especially true of games with Arthurian, Medieval or Fantasy themes, mostly thanks to the popularity of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Elements from other Python skits sometimes have similar effects. To a lesser extent, things like this can happen with History of the World, Rocky Horror, and the like. Python, however, seems to be the most potent.

Things to watch out for:

  • The Spanish Inquisition, even if the PCs expected it.
  • Crucifixion is a laughable threat, because they'll always look on the bright side.
  • If you describe a castle in the distance - it's only a model.
  • Wizards whose name has not been given yet - someone will call him Tim.
  • Watery Tarts, especially the sword-dispensing kind.
  • The use of a Vorpal Sword or Sword of Wounding will always result in flesh wounds.
  • French accents. Insults. One leads to the other, and vice-versa. Elderberries, swallows, and/or "kanigits" will be mentioned.
  • Any quest will turn out to be for a shrubbery.
  • Riddles, puzzles, and questions three.
  • Any strategic withdrawal will result in cries of "Run Away!" or a little song about Sir Robin.
  • Out of character - You offer to open another bag of chips (after the group has already had pizza or other food) and someone will compare it to a wafer-thin mint.
  • Etc. etc. etc.


1. DM of the Rings webcomic - chapter XIII addresses this directly.

Game and Story Use

  • Obviously, a humor game can use this to great advantage, the GM saving himself a lot of effort by relying on the players to go there. An intentional reference to Python early in the session can work like the warm-up comedian, it gets the players in the mood to enjoy your later humor.
    • Even then, though, it's best to be a little subtle. For maximum impact, you want the players to make the connection and jump to the joke. Nobody wants to just sit around while the GM's NPCs perform Python skits with themselves.
  • For a really serious game, however, Python is the enemy. Be aware of the sorts of parallels that are likely to inspire this, and downplay them or avoid them.
    • If there's inquisitors, never mention what country they're in or from. It also might be a good idea to avoid the "I" word, when Padre or Priest or Bishop will do.
    • Give your wizards names that are easy to remember, and present the name on arrival, before it occurs to the players to ask.
    • If the players are sent on a treasure quest, name the end goal quickly, don't drag out the scene. Once they're on the quest, never have an NPC ask them what they quest for.
  • As a player, you might consider asking yourself if the line you were about to quote is really appropriate for this scene and this campaign. Don't get me wrong, I love Python too, and sometimes the game needs an icebreaker, but you have to balance the momentary fun of quoting python vs the overall enjoyment of the scene. If it'll enhance everyone's fun, go ahead. If it'll undermine what the GM's been building towards, then perhaps you should keep it to yourself for now.
    • Scenes to be particularly cautious about quoting Python in, include the start of a new plotline, and during big climactic scenes. Python during a random encounter or filler scene is no problem, but jumping in with Python when the GM is still setting the tone of everything that will follow is bad form. If you see other players really getting into character, don't take them out of it with a joke they've already heard a thousand times before. If you want to make a joke during such a scene, please come up with a new one that you can make in-character.
  • If you feel like getting meta, you can use this in your plots. Python is some kind of interdimensional memetic infection that causes people to recite lines from another world's comedy sketches. The local lord wants the PCs to find out why the peasants keep referring to his castle as "only a model" and talking about "automatically treating them as an inferior".
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