Sunday, October 08, 2006
Joke Warfare in the Official Traveller Universe
Stone Monument marking the last known location of the Unknown Joke.
Given the apparently static and uncreative nature of their culture the Vilani were in the habit of telling the same worn out old jokes for thousands of years. Members of the hereditary comedian caste would stand on the stage and recite the official identification or catalog number of the joke rather than actually tell the joke to their audiences. This practice would have terrible consequences when the Vilani Empire came into contact with the inhabitants of Terra.
One of the devastating effects which occurred as a result of contact and subsequent warfare by the Vilani with the Terrans were the masses of Vilani soldiers who were killed upon hearing a Terran joke, or were otherwise incapacitated while rolling on the ground laughing. It was not unknown for Terrans to escape from Vilani Prisoner Of War camps after disabling the guards through the use of improvised comedy or the repetition of an old Monty Python sketch. As the Interstellar Wars progressed the Terrans would open planetary landing operations by broadcasting translations in Vilani of several classic stand up monologues and comedy sketches. Although for some odd reason the Vilani were generally mystified instead of incapacitated by Monty Python's "Undertaker Sketch."*
German Leader Adolf Hitler personally tests an early prototype of the Nazi V-Joke at a Nuremburg Rally.
Along with the usual charges of biological warfare the Terrans have also been accused by some historians of deploying the so-called "unknown joke", which was allegedly developed by the British during the Second Terran World War, in use against the Vilani. While some variations of the Nazi "V-Joke" have survived to the present day (with a numerical designation assigned by Stand-Up Comedy Bureau of the local Vilani government's Ministry of Humor) there is no indication that the so-called "unknown joke" has survived in any known language of the Third Imperium or any other human interstellar power.
The Iraqi Minister of Infomation (commonly known as Baghdad Bob or Comical Ali) makes a pathetic last ditch attempt to practice joke warfare during the Second Gulf War.
It is possible that a not terribly competent historian, or another person with nefarious intent, could upon seeing video documentary footage of the stone marker over the resting place of the last known copy of the unknown joke, send a player character group to Terra to recover it.
*My mother on the other hand, was very thoroughly offended by the Undertaker Sketch, and forbade me to watch any further episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus. My literally rolling on the floor and laughing while she was in the living room probably was a factor in this decision.
I shortly thereafter bought my own small black and white television set for my own room.