DM of the Rings LXXI:
The Spice of Life

By Shamus
on Mar 5, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings

Goblins, Orcs, Ettins, Bugbears, Skelletons!

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202020203There are now 83 comments. Almost a hundred!

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  1. Azaria says:

    I’m first to post..just had to post that since everyone seems to be in a race…lol I really enjoy the strip, but this is the first time I’ve ever posted.

  2. Dremmen says:

    Close second.

    And it is hard for a DM sometimes to plan encounters, specially with experienced players because they already know every entry in the multiple monster manuals. They know every weakness, how many hp, AC, etc. Very frustrating, specially when you are trying to build tension, the sense of danger or doom, while the players are number crunching on how much experience this is going to be.

  3. vonKreedon says:

    Frame two, peasants is not usually spelled pesants.

  4. Hoyce says:

    Great Gimil shot on second to last frame. That and Aragorn’s amusement that the peasants are running for their lives.

  5. Greg says:

    But orcs and goblins and skeletons are the fodder of ANY evil army! Of COURSE you have to bash through 10,000 of them before you get to the throne room with a fairly boring NPC guarding treasure that was everyone’s real purpose in adventuring anyways :D

  6. damien walder says:

    I pray for something other than undead with my DM. She’s very fond of the dark…

    Too many Wights?
    Oh here’s a Lich-Mind Flayer (Oh, Thanks!) – I think it’s called a Al-Houn.
    – Cooked two of our party then split.
    – OK – no more undead, please?

    Well, here’s an army of bugbears and trolls and a naked guy sitting on-top of a nameless horror with many
    tentacles. Which is on top of your goal/treasure.

    Yeah – I made the same face that Gimli made.

    Be careful what you ask for when someone else has the reins of reality…

  7. Hippocrass says:

    Am I the only one who can’t see the comic.
    I tried both FireFox and IE. Nothing.

  8. Tola says:

    Same here. It’s not showing up.

    Ah, well….maybe in the morning…

  9. Maddyanne says:

    I can’t read it in Firefox and IE too. This has never happened before. I noticed some folks saying they couldn’t read the last one, which loaded just fine for me earlier today. I can’t see any of them now.

  10. Shamus says:

    Ah. Looks like my site at mu.nu is down. Now I can’t see them either.

  11. Kiwi C. says:

    No you aren’t, and I’ve even tried whitelisting the whole site in Adblocker to no avail!

  12. Bard says:

    …all I’m getting is an image that says “Goblins, Orcs, Ettins, Bugbears, Skelletons!”

  13. -Chipper says:

    I’ve had no problem seeing the comics, which I know reside on a separate server, up until today – just now in fact.

  14. Yunt says:

    It seems to be back up, though with considerable delay.

    Great comic BTW. I’m learning to DM by its negative examples!

  15. SteveDJ says:

    Well, I CAN see it here (IE7 on Vista) but strangely it is showing me the old comic with the misspelled ‘pesants’ still in it, even though you fixed it. Hmmmm… (no it isn’t cached, I just got here today)

    Anyway, LOL at Aragorn’s comment “Look at them go”, and the screencap is just too perfect! Great work! Keep it up!

  16. Maddyanne says:

    I can see it now, though it took a while to load, with the corrrect spelling of “peasants.” Skellies and a nice mace. Happy times. I like the crunch.

  17. Hippocrass says:

    Ok it’s back.

    Everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief.

  18. Hippocrass says:

    “Look at them go!”

    I’ll be laughing at that for a week

  19. Scarlet Knight says:

    Got to love Gimli ! “Everyone loves bashing up some skellies…” So true!

  20. Blindeye says:

    I really wish people wouldn’t post their tech support needs on the comments. This is really for discussing the joke and the comic itself.

    Anyways, responding to the comment that addressed the PCs knowing bloody everything about every monster, I think that certainly lends a perfect reason to have armies of the same monster, with something different thrown in now and then. (The Orcs with an occasional Troll for LotRs for example)
    Because then it’s not about finding this one monster’s weakness, it’s defeating your opponents through strategy, which is far more satisfying than just knowing that you use fire on a particular monster.

    Of course, it’s so much cooler when the PCs actually aren’t scholars on every monster. Like yesterday my group of level 12 PCs fought a Nine-headed Fire hydra. None knew much about it, or that the fact that it had red scales meant it breathed fire. After my wizard got taken down to 4 hp (only due to the ‘shield other’ the cleric put on me did I survive) did I ask if I could roll Knowledge Arcana to know stuff about Hydras because it was a magical beast. Then it was all a matter of cutting off heads and sealing them before they regrow with my spiffy Staff of Frost, spewing out Cone of Colds.

    Much fun was had.

  21. Nazgul says:

    I LOL’d on the first frame. Aragorn’s smirking expression was priceless. Again.

  22. Salen says:

    Players should never use such comments to tell the GM that the game needs some spicing up, otherwise they tend to get far more than they wanted. On the plus side, Gimli will get to fight undead sooner or later in a cave, so that all works out well.

  23. Thad says:

    After all the “role-playing”, I’m almost expecting a comic about how none of the players can remember how to use the dice in combat. “Wow, what’s this weird thing with… 12 sides? What would that ever be used for?” “I swing my sword with flair and elan, sparking terror in my foes as the sunlight glints off the sharpened blade. It streaks through the air, a whistle of impending doom, aim to sever the flesh of the evil beasts that dare to confront me-” “Look, just roll your attack, okay?”

    (Or have I just ruined the next comic? ;) )

  24. Flexstyle says:

    I had to laugh at the grimace on Gimli’s face in the 2nd-to-last frame. Although in the next frame, I have to point out that if the DM had in fact used skellies, wouldn’t the players have complained that those were too generic as well?

  25. Damo says:

    Even skellys can be tough, I remember our lv 6 party wearing diving suits on a sunken wreck item recovery mish. Just 1 HP of damage with piercing or slashing weps could be a major pain in the ass, a shed load of HP doesnt stop you drowning when your suit is punctured, you are out of repair patches and your DM expressly forbids the invention of Gaffer/Duct tape.

  26. Damo says:

    Even skellys can be tough, I remember our lv 6 party wearing diving suits on a sunken wreck item recovery mish. Just 1 HP of damage with piercing or slashing weps could be a major pain in the ass, a shed load of HP doesnt stop you drowning when your suit is punctured, you are out of repair patches and your DM expressly forbids the invention of Gaffer/Duct tape..

  27. Dez says:

    Aragon – Frame 4
    and Gimli – 2nd Last Frame.

    Two of the best frames yet!! (and both in one comic!!)

    Keep up the good work!!

    D!

  28. gedece says:

    I never tell my players what they are seeing, I describe it to them. Most of the times I also alter some descriptions. For example, my necrophages crawl in four limbs, craving for dead meat like big predators, and with some slight sense of teamwork. They still are necrophages when it comes to combat, but my players don’t know which type of undead they are untill they fight them. Of course, I don’t do this if players have already faced a certain tipe of enemy, unless something wicked changed the monsters in a given area.

    Another specialty is special monsters under normal disguises. Once they found a dwarven burial site, near a really big battle site. It was really old. Inside the tombs they found two armed dwarven skeletons and one armed dwarven great warrior skeleton. The axe of that skeleton looked impresive. One of the players decided to grab the axe, bad call. The skeletons got up and scary red lights appeared in their sockets. They were fighting like normal skeletons, expect the great warrior that fought a little better, but every time they hit one, splinters came off, and then returned to mend the bone, and the skeletons received no damage. My players got REALLY scared of fighting three lonely skeletons. Finally, one of them decided to let go his weapon and use the axe they found inside. With that weapon the skeletons didn’t regenerate and were put to sleep again. That weapon was only useable by a dwarf, and the skeletons were a mean to ensure that the weapon passed to a dwarf, by means of a simple curse in the axe. So they weren’t evil undead, but they looked like they were.
    That simple twists can make players stop taking things for granted, device your own and experiment a little.

    • WJS says:

      Skeletons aren’t evil anyway; mindless undead are true neutral. And saying your players were scared of “three lonely skeletons” is incredibly misleading when you’ve given the skeletons regeneration! That is not a standard MM skeleton!

  29. Corwin says:

    Aragorn’s smugness and his unabashed glee at the fleeing peasants are things of beauty. As entertaining as stoner Stareagorn has been, it’s great to see his face has other expressions as well :)

  30. Woerlan says:

    Fortunately, for all the failings of the d20 system, orcs and other formerly generic foes are anything but, with all the character classes and prestige classes available to them. Even monsters can suddenly reveal unheard of abilities with a few class levels here and there. Warg riders being a case in point. ^_^

  31. KarenB says:

    “You want a change of pace? How’s a big, black dragon for change of pace, huh?”

    It’s probably a good thing I’m not DM anymore. :P

  32. Colfox says:

    Shamus, you are growing into this. I swear these are getting funnier and funnier. The choices for the screencaps are brilliant in this one. Keep it going. I can tell already that I’m going to get very sad when we get to Mt. Doom, ’cause I’ll know it’s almost over.

  33. Vegedus says:

    Lord of the rings was always a little too satisfied with it’s hoardes of orcs (and the bigger orcs, sometimes calle uruk-hai). Wonder if he’ll complain if they run into a Nazgul.

  34. Sartorius says:

    I’m going to get very sad when we get to Mt. Doom, ’cause I’ll know it’s almost over.

    Plot prediction/suggestion: Frodo and Sam reach the Cracks of Doom, whereupon the DM foolishly requests one last Will saving throw vs. the Ring’s domination. One failed save later, the DM now has to think of a way to get the Ring destroyed and the quest ended.

  35. theonlymegumegu says:

    I’m tempted to email this strip to my DM and tell him to replace “goblins and orcs” with “kobolds” XD Though, logically I understand because geographically we’ve been fighting in kobold controlled lands. Sadly my common sense ruins the joke :/

  36. Kiwi C. says:

    I know I love to bash up some skellies, myself! Does Gimli really think the DM’s going to change things now that he has all these warg-riders coming after them?

  37. John says:

    The expressions in the frames are just brilliant.

    Very well done

    John

  38. Carl the Bold says:

    “I can tell already that I’m going to get very sad when we get to Mt. Doom, ’cause I’ll know it’s almost over.”

    I already have that problem when I read the books, watch the movies, and listen to the BBC radio drama. Now I’ll have it with this as well. Ah well. Tis better to have loved and lost…

  39. Dan Dan says:

    Point taken…on the *other* hand…populating a dungeon randomly with monsters makes no sense either, and matching them up to the terrain, climate, and geographical location takes a lot of time and thought, and a sparse few of us geeks have real lives…:P

  40. John says:

    I know this is just me, but it seems like Gimli has a light in his face (so his features aren’t in shadow from the helm) – which gives me the wonderful feeling that he is looking up into the glowing visage of the Almighty Narrator!

    On a totally different note – one nice thing about 3.x D&D is creatures with classes and templates so that all the orcs and wargs don’t have to be the same.

  41. EmeraldTiara says:

    Hah! He wants trolls? Just wait till we reach the battle of the Black Gate. Maybe the Paths of the Dead will make Gimli stop wanting the undead. But then, you know, maybe not.

  42. Tola says:

    Well, the DM’s hands are tied here. Sauron and Saruman don’t exactly have much variety in their forces. Saruman has Uruks and these Warg Riders. Sauron has Orcs, Trolls, the Men of the East, and their pet Mumakil.

    Now, the Men of the East can provide some variety, but the rest? Unless you go all ‘The Third Age'(console RPG based off the movies) and give them all SUPAH SPIRIT POWERS and other such things…(That game….I love it and am annoyed by it in equal measure…)

    • fantasywind says:

      Well actually there is enough variety in armies and followers of Sauron and Saruman, they also use animal spies, Saruman has crebain, orcs: standard ones and slightly modified Uruk-hai, also ,,half-orcs” or ,,goblin-men” some with mannish looks, Dunledings wild men of Dunland some of whom he employed as guards at gates of Isengard, he had also slaves working on fields, wargs and special formation of warg riders, Sauron has multiple man nations many tribes of Easterlings like short bearded axe-men, Variags of Khand, Haradrim of many kingdoms of Near Harad (with the mumakil of course), corsairs of the realm of Umbar with entire fleet, some tribes from Far Harad with possibility of existance of ,,half-trolls” or ,,troll-men” if taken literally, trolls of many kinds: hill-trolls (they have habit of biting necks of their victims of finish them off), cave-trolls, mountain-trolls (apparently larger than rest), special kind of Olog-hai who spoke only in Black Speech were more intelligent and even a bit stronger than normal trolls and they could survive in sunlight, also wargs, werewolves, wraiths, Barrow Wights, orcs including black Uruks, evil spirits and phantoms, flying beasts (and other ,,beasts spell enslaved”), possibly also those huge blood sucking bats from The Hobbit, and then there are allusions to many other kinds of monsters and strange beasts which have no name one was like a hideous horse-like thing with flames burning in nostrils and eyesockets, mouth of Sauron rode it in book oh and this reminded me of special nation of Black Numenoreans who often became sorcerers.

  43. Cat Skyfire says:

    My favorite is the characters who rely on ‘heat vision’ in dark dungeons. Funny how the undead have no body heat…

    • WJS says:

      Shouldn’t be that big a deal. Thermal imaging’s great strength is it’s ability to readily discern bodyheat from many miles away, but anyone familiar with it knows that it’s also possible to see the basic shapes of isothermal objects too. A zombie walking around without body heat will still be visible on thermal, even if he doesn’t stand out as much as a man would. This is of course ignoring that moving around will generate a certain amount of heat anyway, even in a monster that doesn’t normally have a body temperature.

  44. Web Goddess says:

    Great choice of photos for the shot. Love it!

  45. Rob says:

    Sartorius wrote: One failed save later, the DM now has to think of a way to get the Ring destroyed and the quest ended.

    Funny. As i remember that is exactly what happened in the book……

    Man, Shamus, you must put in a LOT of hours in front of the screen to get all these good expresions out of the cast. Bet Peter Jackson could have had use of your talent.

  46. Ed Dunphy says:

    Templates Rock in d20 land, if used right. My Epic level party’s worst foes…a set of 5 identical quintuplet paragon goblins with a few levels of fighter tossed in. Buggers were almost impossible to hurt!
    Actually, being able to add levels or increase the HD of monsters has been the greatest way for me to get around boredom related to Metagame knowledge. “You’re 20th level? How tough do you THINK that squirrel is going to be?”

  47. Marlous says:

    Sartorius wrote: One failed save later, the DM now has to think of a way to get the Ring destroyed and the quest ended.

    Funny. As i remember that is exactly what happened in the book……

    True, but remember how Legolas shot Gollum in one of the earlier comics? I’d love to see Shamus find a suitable ending to the end, now that the catalyst is unavailable. I’m really anticipating that, ever since Legolas took a natural 20. I truly find that one of the best comics so far.

    And as for the Path of the Dead part.. I can already imagine how it must be for Gimli: they finally face some undead, and instead of fighting them they end up becoming allies. *snorts* Maybe he’ll “pull a Legolas” and wreck the whole event. :D

  48. Steve says:

    Blindeye Says:
    I really wish people wouldn’t post their tech support needs on the comments.

    1) Telling the site owner you suddenly cannot see his work is not a “tech support need”, it is vital information that Shamus might otherwise not get. Shamus is quite assertive and will tell us if the comments are being misused in his eyes, have no fear. :o)

    On that note, I’m still getting that bogus “your message has not been posted” page Shamus. The posting is getting through though, which means that not only is it annoying behaviour on the part of your spam countermeasures, they may not be working at all.

    “Skellies are nice”

    It’s a bit sad that for some players it requires a change of game system to get out of the “DoomQuake” mode of playing. Take these same players into Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, GURPS et al and they suddenly are open to the game you, the DM, have been trying to get them to play under D&D D20 for months.

    This means something. I’m not clever enough to figure out what though.

    Steve.

  49. scragar says:

    Only just found this site on stumble upon, but I love it.

    I once GMed a game where a new player(never played DnD before) wanted to play as a magic user, but only if he got to invent a new class and wear luminous purple robes and wield broadswords as well as a warrior.
    To say the least his request was denied, but I did tell him that if he could role high enough attributes (to wield the broadsword as well as an average warrior would) I would let him find the robe of his choice at the end of the first quest as a reward BUT he had no keep to a default class, he could not make his own up.

    To date he has yet to be able to role such a character and keep it alive for the duration of a quest to earn his said robes(although he always appears as someone wearing said robes when he GMs just because he’s crazy)…

  50. Wraithshadow says:

    “True, but remember how Legolas shot Gollum in one of the earlier comics? I’d love to see Shamus find a suitable ending to the end, now that the catalyst is unavailable.”

    Ah, come on now. Look at the state of this game- it’s obvious how it’s going to end. As a DM of many a one-session campaign I can tell you right now what’ll take place: they’ll all end up at the gate and they’ll cheese off the DM one last time, probably by complaining at length about how the encounters have all been incredibly unfair. He’ll lose it, declare the hobbits have successfully dropped the ring in Mt. Doom, and boom, that’s it, campaign over, he quits.

  51. Gandalf The Monk says:

    Steve said:
    “It’s a bit sad that for some players it requires a change of game system to get out of the “DoomQuake” mode of playing. Take these same players into Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, GURPS et al and they suddenly are open to the game you, the DM, have been trying to get them to play under D&D D20 for months.

    This means something. I’m not clever enough to figure out what though.”

    So exactly true its not even funny. I think one reason is that dnd in general (d20 is a bit better about this) has mechanics which are far too focused on combat. Most systems (that I’ve had any fun playing) have most of their rules focused on combat and/or character creation.

    Dnd devotes about 1/2 the PHB, virtually all of the DMG to combat(and I won’t count the MM). What I’ve seen happen in games that devote the majority of their core book pages to combat and what happens after it (loot, xp in dnd) is that the people who play them focus on combat because thats when the “actual game part” gets used. You learn a bunch of rules, and if the only time you use them is for combat, then thats what many people look forward to – the time when they get to use all those rules they spend time learning.

    To be fair, D20 took a couple huge strides forward in this respect in implementing a very good (if somewhat arbitrary) skill system, and the existence of feats which don’t direcly relate to combat (I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone take a non-combat feat for a character, though). D20 still, in my opinion, falls far, far behind point-based systems (lets not get into how much I dislike levels and HP here) and even White Wolf in actively encouraging roleplaying. We shouldn’t need a system to encourage roleplaying for a group to seek opportunities to do it, but in my experience, it helps a lot.

    When my group switched to the HERO system I saw players change from uber-munchkin combat demon characters to ineffectual socialites just because the system rewards them equally for doing so. I think that players open up in other systems more because they KNOW (the book tells them) that they can earn xp for stuff other than killing monsters. I can hear the DMs reading this crying out, “I give xp for good roleplaying and stuff!” 500 xp becomes worthless once levels start costing 10s of thousands each, and since there are no incremental awards for being level 4 3/4, it becomes meaningless.

    More importantly than that, though, if a DM starts handing out xp for stuff not mentioned, or only glossed over, in the DMG, they are going outside the rules and doing something that the player can’t really expect or rely upon – not from the expectations that the rules of the game give them. At what point do you stop playing dnd, and where do the optional rules stop? If your giving out RP xp and allowing characters to take ‘anti-featsx’ at what point should you just put all the rulebooks away and just ad-hoc the whole game? Or find a system that better suits your playing style.

    Longwinded, and I apologize – but Steve provoked me! (j/k)

  52. Jacob says:

    Look at them go HA HA!

  53. Wraithshadow says:

    Gandalf, that’s not even the half of it- the part that to me set off the most warning bells was in Dragon, when they had the little ‘Power Play’ sidebars that pretty well endorsed min/maxing. From what I understand, the Wizards forums now have a section devoted to the same- and I get to deal with people who think the ‘proper’ way to play a roleplaying game is to optimize the characters (i.e. min/max) and fight through anything in sight. I’d detail all the arguments I’ve had about combat and alignment (“Look, shooting the sherrif when he comes after you for murder is not self-defense!”) but that would take a long, long time. And probably is worthy of its own webcomic, come to think of it.

  54. Jurrubin says:

    Apparently the players have already forgotten their encounter with the Balrog.

    “Ok. That’s new.”
    “Yeah, I would remember him.”

    Hassle not thy DM, lest strange new evils fall upon thee.

  55. Rolld20 says:

    Dremmon and Blindeye: Yeah, I appreciate a GM who describes the foes as our characters would see them; I hate it when my fellow players just name the beasties and start listing their stats and weaknesses. When I was GMing, I usually gave monsters a ‘new skin’, so the players couldn’t use OOC knowledge to recognise them.
    When 3rd edition first came out, we ran a test session to get a feel for the rules, and I used goblins as the enemy. On the spur of the moment, I gave them blue skin. I’ll never forget the interest on everyones’ faces as they tried to figure out what the totally novel blue humanoids were. :) The thrill is in the unknown.

  56. Mantiroc says:

    Dear Shamus,

    Please tone down the humour in your comics as my laughing is disrupting my work mates.

    Thanks,
    Manti

  57. Kay Shapero says:

    For some reason my favorite last words of a character (not mine) was “C’mon, it’s only a hundred skeletons!”

  58. MannyNRob says:

    “Look at them go! Ha Ha!”

    I nearly peed myself! Thanks for the great laughs. I wish I had found this much sooner.

  59. Logan says:

    “Use your imagination a little” Gimli ” Well these are Orcs on WARGS” DM “What about some skelies Everyone loves to smash them” Gimil That was the greatest!!!!

  60. Sewicked says:

    DMs with imagination? I have 5 words for you: black pudding with cleric levels.

  61. TheDeepDark says:

    Okay, I know nobody’s looking anymore, but I still have to throw this down. “Everyone loves bashing up some skellies” only applies in games where all characters have magical weapons standard. As (unless the rules changed on me while I wasn’t looking again – but hey, I’m just a player) undead have traditionally been totally impervious to non-magical weapons, and my hand-to-hand characters have only through long play acquired magical weapons, “bashing up some skellies” is quite literally easier said than done. I’ll accept orcs – they can bleed.

    • WJS says:

      Really? Undeaed used to be immune to mundane weapons? In 3e, they just take a few points less damage, and you can avoid that by using the right damage type; the hard bones of a skellie are resistant to sharp edges, so smash them up with a mace. Likewise, poking holes in a zombie doesn’t hurt it, nor does rupturing internal organs with bludgeoning, but chopping them up works fine.

  62. Toil3T says:

    I’m getting sick of Hobgoblins and Bonedrinkers. Bonedrinkers are pretty powerful monsters. What’s worse is the next campaign we’ll be doing- the Tomb of Horrors. Sounds like lots of undead. Which I can’t turn, being a druid.
    On the other hand, at least there won’t be Hoblins with character classes. Bloody sorcerers and clerics :(

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