DM of the Rings LXXIV:
Equestrian Diving Event

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 12, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 111 comments

Aragorn rides a warg.
Aragorn gets cliffed.

If the DM is against you, it doesn’t matter what you roll. You’re going down.


From The Archives:

111 thoughts on “DM of the Rings LXXIV:
Equestrian Diving Event

  1. Shamus says:

    Sorry for the late posting on today’s strip. I should point out that many Bothans went without lunch to bring you this comic.

    1. joesolo says:

      star wars ftw!

    2. Wide And Nerdy® says:

      Ha ha! I get to be the second nested post because comment nesting wasn’t a feature on your site nine years ago.

      1. meltard says:

        let’s see how deep this nest can go!

        1. VeryPeeved says:

          not very far, apparently.

          wait, shit.

          1. Droid says:

            What a vile pyramid scheme you have going here!

            1. Turtlebear says:

              Surely we must almost be at the top by now. Or maybe the bottom. Wait, how do pyramid schemes resemble pyramids? Is the starter at the top to represent one person handing down to multiple people, hence it widening? Or maybe they start at the bottom, as the first person is the foundation of the whole scheme. Maybe I’m overthinking this.

              1. imarobot says:

                beepboopboopboop boop boop boopbeepbeepboop beepboopboopboop beepbeepbeep beepbeepbeep boopbeepbeepboop

  2. vonKreedon says:

    When I DMed I loved doing that sort of thing to the players, make them roll for things they expect to be automatic, like falling out a window. Of course, a lot of the rolls I made them take were for no reason at all other than to keep them guessing about what rolls meant anything.

  3. Badger says:

    Worth the wait my man…. bwahahaha that tought him ;o)

  4. Steve says:

    Ah yes, Nature’s Call, the combat-slowing thing that is never mentioned in the “tips to speed up play” columns. I will mention it.

    …drone drone roll all the dice together…dribble drool…learn character abilities before needing to use them…babble…blither…

    Tip 14. Do not hold combat for someone giving up their lease on a 2-liter Coke or Big Gulp. Everyone goes to the potty before we start combat, or ends up with their character fighting defensively while their player is incommunicado.

    That is one horrible colour for a D20 too. Yech!


  5. Dw00 says:

    New commenter here, just poking in to say I love the comic.. er.. campaign.

  6. Shamus says:

    Yeah the construction site orange dice are the worst looking set I have here, although they are very, very easy to read. In fact, I’ve found the better looking dice are, the more unreadable they are. I used those polyhedral traffic cones myself for most of the Mar Tesaro campaign.

  7. Rod says:

    Love the look on Aragorn’s face in frame 5!!!! Great comic, keep up the good work :)


  8. Sartorius says:

    I have a set of dice that are the precise crystal-orangey color and transparency of Triaminic, the children’s cough tonic many will remember and loathe for its syrupy, mockery-of-orange taste. I have actually had players become ill from looking at them and recalling the taste. Bwa ha ha.

  9. -Chipper says:

    Heehee! I think the DM is just finding a way to remove Aragorn’s invisible leather TARDIS.

  10. Namfoodle says:

    When I was wee lad, I bought a set of clear crystal dice that were un-inked. They were the height of gaming technology at the time (which should give some of you a clue how long I’ve been playing D&D) Sadly, although I was the first kid on the block to get them, I couldn’t actully read my d20 at all. It was like looking at a hunk of rock salt. I haven’t learned yet, either. I just spent $40 on new dice at a con last month. So pretty, my precious. The swirly multi-colored dice with gold ink aren’t hard to read, really!

  11. Definitely a DM grudge; if that worked in general, you could deliberately take low skills in things like horseriding and just claim you’re constantly trying to fall off. It’s like throwing yourself at the ground and missing.

    #2 reminds me of my fake “Real Life” RPG, wherein nobody has ever survived more than a minute of game time. With a D20 roll on each heartbeat, motion (taking a step, sitting up, etc.), and several bodily functions, critical failures generally result in your death very quickly. A normal (albeit slightly abridged) game:

    DM: “OK, you’ve rolled up your character. Uh-oh, you’ve failed your heartbeat roll. You die. Would you like to play again?”

    ‘Player’: “Sure.”

    DM: “OK… hey, this time your heartbeat. What would you like to do?”

    ‘Player’: “Uh, where am I? I look around.”

    DM: “Sorry, you’ve failed your eye control roll. Your eyes roll up into your head and you see nothing.”

    What amuses me about this “game” isn’t the dialog, it’s the mental image of such micro-managed skill-checking combined with the fact that a D20 comes up a 1 one-twentieth of the time. Considering how many things you do per minute, anybody would be a total spaz under this simulation system. One can only imagine the horror that would true hand-to-hand combat; the fighters would be lucky to lay a hand on the other guy.

  12. Blindeye says:

    There was this one guy I knew who had sleep apnea. (I spelled that wrong)

    Anyways, he would fall asleep the minute I went beyond one sentance. Like, I opened my mouth to give a nice long descritpion of the scene and *snore*.

    Now, I like the guy, he plays his characters pretty bad-ass. When he’s awake.

    Needless to say during combat he was asleep for everything but for when his turn come up, where he now reflexively rolls a d20 whenever I call his name.

    A player falling asleep during the game is freakin’ annoying, and angering. I just wanted to tell him “Sorry, but I rolled a critical on an attack just now that you missed when you were sleeping. You’re character just got killed.”

    It’s mean, but just in the case with this comic, the DMs vengeance is absolute.

    I never actually did that, but I did the next worse thing: I told him the game was cancelled due to everyone’s schedules changing and just kept playing without him.

    I’m still his friend, and thank god he’s getting his apnea treated by a doctor. I’d love to have him in one of my games again.

  13. Woerlan says:

    Any GM worth his salt can explain the results. Aragorn was trying to fall off. Falling off is EASY. The Ride check is for him to fall off without injuring himself… that is, to fall off safely. If Aragorn succeeded, he dismounts without (or minimal) injury. If he failed, then he falls off and hurts himself, perhaps on one of those convenient rocks dotting the countryside. In this case, a 1 is a CRITICAL FAILURE. So Aragorn gets his foot tangled in a stirrup (or something) and rides the warg off the cliff.

    Awesome stuff. Keep the comics coming!

    1. Daniel B says:

      Great explanation Woerlan.

      I like to think of this as the Producers Rule (the old Mel Brooks movie where these guys try to make a horrible musical, but fail and accidentally make a funny one). If you fail at failing, then you succeed at something you didn’t want to succeed at.

    2. WJS says:

      Should it even be a ride check? I would suggest that ride is about controlling a mount; a ride check would be needed to get the warg to run off a cliff (quite a hard one, actually, animals don’t like to charge into hazards). Jumping off is dissimilar to dismounting, where the skill is in getting the horse to stand still. Jumping off should be either a straight Dex check, or a tumble check.

  14. Jonny says:

    Heh, This is just how it happens. I’ve gotten your site IP banned from my school from reading them during class. Good Job.

  15. Morte says:

    “Any GM worth his salt can explain the results…”

    Surely you mean…

    “Any GM worth his salt can JUSTIFY the results…”

    Or maybe I played far too much Paranoia in my younger days.

  16. nilus says:

    Nah you can’t penalize people for heading the call of nature. Trust me on this. I don’t care how awesome your game is let the poor man pee. The alternative is having your players crack under the strain and start wearing diapers to the game session. Every wonder why cat piss man( smells like he does, thats not cat piss you are smelling.

  17. Erik says:

    Blindeye, that sounds more like narcolepsy than sleep apnia.

  18. Mark says:

    Justify? The Computer,er DM does not need to JUSTIFY anything. He’s just informing the citi- player why his actions may have been considered treas-ummm, dificult.

  19. Phoenix says:

    It could be narcolepsy, but sleep apnea (Blindeye had it right) can cause people to fall asleep at inappropriate times due to chronic lack of effective sleep.

    Narcoleptics (yes, I’ve known one) can fall asleep mid-sentence, not just when there’s nothing specifically keeping their attention.

    I’m really looking forward to finding out what Aragorn will be thinking/saying on that long ride back…

  20. Tola says:

    Slightly off-topic, but I’ve noticed some of the previous comics are being(have been?) updated with new pictures, and even the front art is better now. Good job.

    …It had to be said SOMEWHERE.

  21. Jperk says:

    Well piss off the DM and Bad things happen right. Since he left that note to make it happen I am guessing if he hadn’t ridden off a cliff a warg would have bite him and run off the cliff with him.

    1. Bryan says:

      I beg to differ. The worg would have bitten him in the nether regions, dragged him with his head dragging the ground (every rock deals 2d6 damage,) swung him around a few times between a couple of large boulders (3d6 per hit,) and slapped him over the cliff face a few times (3d6 damage each) before his “meat” finally parted from him, allowing him to finally fall off the cliff, WITHOUT the worg going with him.

      I’ve been a player and a DM for a long time. Trust me, vengeful DMs are far, far worse than you can EVER imagine. }8^>>

  22. Rolld20 says:

    This harkens back to discussions I’ve had over what exactly a *critical* failure should entail. Some people vote for ‘the worst thing that could happen’, while others expect ‘the opposite of what was intended’, and the two are sometimes contradictory.
    For example, trying to avoid combat by knocking someone’s weapon out of their hand. Some GMs will decide the critical failure means you hit the person instead of the weapon (worst thing); others might say your own weapon jams or breaks (opposite). And others just say a failure is a failure: you don’t hit anything.

    Personally, I think the GM should decide what will make the game most fun and interesting, and try to be consistant for all cases. If one player’s shooting criticals always result in a broken bowstring, let the same thing happen to the NPC archer (even if he is your favorite villian!). :)

  23. Web Goddess says:

    Ha ha ha! Brilliant!

  24. Jeff says:

    That d20 reminds me of the one included in the intro to AD&D 2e boxed set I have stashed somewhere…

    I’ve never really had a problem with calls of nature. If I have to go, I wait until /after/ my turn and I’ve gone, then run off. I have yet to fail to return before my turn comes up again.

    What is extremely annoying is the ones who leave one or two turns before their turn, because invariably they won’t be quick enough. So come on people, we all know how long it takes to resolve a combat round – long enough for a dash to the bathroom.

  25. Jeff says:

    For the record, the latest incarnation of D&D has no ‘critical failures’.
    Yes, a natural 1 on an attack roll always misses, and a natural 20 on an attack roll always hits, but that’s not a critical failure or critical hit. (Indeed, on a natural 20 you’ll have a critical threat, but a 1 is simply an automatic failure. And against things immune to critical hits, a natural 20 is simple an ‘automatic hit’. The word ‘critical’ doesn’t even get to be used.)

    And with skill checks, a natural 1 is not even an automatic failure – if your modifiers are high enough, you’ll still succeed fine.

  26. Woerlan says:

    House rules, m’boy. House rules. ^_^

    Critical failures make 1’s EXTRA fun.

  27. Steve says:

    Shamus says

    Yeah the construction site orange dice are the worst looking set I have here, although they are very, very easy to read. In fact, I've found the better looking dice are, the more unreadable they are. I used those polyhedral traffic cones myself for most of the Mar Tesaro campaign.

    What’s wrong with Black on Yellow? I also recommend White on Dark Green, White on Dark Blue and Turkey & Swiss on Wholewheat Toast (although that last one is more a Quiznoze Sub suggestion than a Dice Colour Scheme to be honest). In fact, white works on any really dark colour for me better than black on anything, dunno why, and black is better against bright yellow than white. Go figger.

    Anything is better than that hideous, sanity-blasting, squamous orange blasphemy you call a die.


  28. Shamus says:

    Wow. You people are really taking the orange dice personally.

    1. athenakt says:

      Noooo! Do not pick on my lucky Pumpkin die! It only rolls 1’s some of the time…

      And yes, it’s from one of the original first D&D sets. Senility has set in or I’d remember which one. And laziness has set in or I’d look it up. Sorry- late game last night. ;)

  29. Animayhem says:

    Long time reader, first time (I think) poster.
    About players falling asleep, we use to have this Robotech game that we played almost nightly for years. (It was the house game.) One of the players fell asleep during a battle and we let him sleep. Well a few hours later another player's character wanted to speak with his. As we woke the sleeping player he rolled a D20 and said “Volley of 4″. The GM (for that night) looked at the other player and said “Looks like she got you Harlington.” The look on Harlington's players face was great.

  30. Woerlan says:

    Shamus says:
    Wow. You people are really taking the orange dice personally.

    Yes. We gamers take dice seriously. It’s part of the equipment. I wonder if golfers talk the same way about their clubs? Hmm…

    I wish there was a set of black dice with bright yellow numbers. THOSE would really stand out. Even more than yellow on black, I would think.

  31. Woerlan says:

    Or rather, more than black on yellow. My typo. My bad.

  32. Ward Hall says:

    Jeff, if I recall correctly, none of the rulesets actually codified critical hits/failures, though it may have been suggested. It’s just such a wonderful concept, you can’t help but add it to your house rules.

  33. Tallain says:

    Golfers do indeed take their clubs just as seriously, if not more seriously. At least golfers I know. The same thing goes with disc golfers. You mess up a disc and there will be hell to pay.


    Reading these comments always makes me wish I had learned to play earlier and that I played more often. My last session was somewhere around last November.

    I miss this game.

  34. No time like this time to let Aragorn’s player know he has a fiancee that he’s forgotten about ;)

    I can’t wait for that one …

  35. Miral says:

    Ward Hall says:
    “Jeff, if I recall correctly, none of the rulesets actually codified critical hits/failures, though it may have been suggested. It's just such a wonderful concept, you can't help but add it to your house rules.”

    I remember reading a table showing possible critical failure results for magic casts (using a d100) in one of the AD&D2 rulebooks. And I think the *concept* of critical success/failure has been around since the very beginning, it’s just than in most cases the exact meaning of this is left up to the DM to decide.

  36. Namfoodle says:

    I think dark numbers on a light background are supposed to be easier to read. I think they’ve done tests with police officer’s ability to read plates and determined dark on light is better. So California plates were yellow on black long ago, but are no dark blue on white. Anyone know of any states that still use light on dark?

    That being said, most of my dice are dark colors with gold or white numbers…

  37. melchar says:

    Best crit and fumble charts ever were IMO from ‘Warlock’ – a rather old game dating from the late 70’s

    And I loves me dice – having some lovely ones. However I still have 2 of the high impact red d20’s [from 1973] that have white and black numbers wax-crayon’d in. My players specifically request that I don’t roll them because they have an unnerving tendancy to roll what I want them to.

    [you want a hugh number? Okay. A low number? Sure. An ’11’ … hmmm, does a ’12’ count? Great dice.]

  38. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Thank you, melchar. I was beginning to feel I may be the only one to remember the original red plastic die. My set came from the early 80’s, but I believe they were exactly the same. Those Twizzler-red abominations turned me in to the man I am today: a scarred, bitter shadow of a human who wishes he could play this cursed game with a group of people who understand his foibles. Now, I cannot stand Twizzlers (possibly due to those same plastic demon-summoners), but I recall those wax-crayoned icons of unholiness with fondest nostalgia.


  39. Gandalf The Monk says:

    Melchar said, “Best crit and fumble charts ever were IMO from “˜Warlock' – a rather old game dating from the late 70's”

    Wouldn’t happen to have a link to them, would you? I like ‘collecting’ critical charts.

  40. Greg says:

    Personally, I always found half the fun of these games was to collect cool looking dice : )

  41. EmeraldTiara says:

    Haha, the DM must really not like them, then. What happens when Aragorn gets stepped on by a troll in Return of the King? He is SO dead.

  42. Shamus says:

    Personally, I always found half the fun of these games was to collect cool looking dice : )

    So is the other half. :)

  43. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    “Slightly off-topic, but I've noticed some of the previous comics are being(have been?) updated with new pictures, and even the front art is better now. Good job.

    …It had to be said SOMEWHERE.”

    I’m glad someone else noticed that… i thought i was just losing my mind

  44. LemmingLord says:

    Well *I* like the dice…great comic, keep it up!

  45. Cineris says:

    Oh man. I am constantly waging a war on the foolishness of the “critical fumble” concept. I don’t know why so many people are smitten with the idea that the more dice you roll the more you should screw up. Seems to have a disproportionate effect on making everyone a klutz at the things they should be best at.

  46. Gandalf The Monk says:

    Cineris said, “Oh man. I am constantly waging a war on the foolishness of the “critical fumble” concept. I don't know why so many people are smitten with the idea that the more dice you roll the more you should screw up. Seems to have a disproportionate effect on making everyone a klutz at the things they should be best at.”

    I agree and disagree – criticals (fumbles and successes) make the game much more interesting and exciting most of the time. The way our group does it, the better you are at what you’re doing, the less likely it is to fumble. One needs an 18 on 3d6 (

  47. Chris says:

    I like the Black on Orange dice. I’ve got a whole cube of the Black on Orange d6’s.

  48. muzzmonster says:

    Namfoodle: When I started playing, clear crystal dice didn’t exist.

    Keep up the good work Shamus.

  49. Andy says:

    When some of us started playing, the only dice were the knuckle bones of past games masters, with the numbers scratched into the ‘sides’. Oops, showing my age there…

  50. Teria says:

    “I hate this campaign!” Priceless. Love it.

  51. Anistalker says:

    Aragorn says: I hate this campaign…gotta love that one

  52. Rydlic says:

    Oh boy, this reminds me sooo much of a game I ran a few years ago.
    Everyone rolled up level ones and they were getting together. One of them wanted to play dumb but really be evil trying to kill everyone. So when they get to a cliff part of the party goes down to a ledge were they enconter some dire rats and battle begins. Now the barbarian (evil dude) and the Sorcerer stayed up top, so the Sorcerer is pointing his fingers over the edge and wiggling some Magic Missle fun when Mr. Evil sends me a note the he’s going to Bull Rush him and knock the Sorcerer over the edge. I say ok, roll, Mr. Evil gets a 1 and misses the Bull Rush. I say ok, roll to see if you can reflexivly grab the edge, he rolls a 1 and now is falling to the ledge. I say, “Roll a use rope to see if you can grab the rope that is flying past you.” He rolls a 1, so he grabs the rope but the momentum tangles the slack around his neck and hanges him doing 5d6 damage to him. I roll 28 damage, Mr. Evil died and everyone was happy.

  53. “When some of us started playing, the only dice were the knuckle bones of past games masters, with the numbers scratched into the 'sides'. Oops, showing my age there…”

    Darn, I knew there was a reason I went into hiding … a lot of us from the early 70s are still around, but watching our fingers and knuckles …

    I started a d20/2d10/3d6 system a long time ago. 1 is a fumble, 20 a critical. A berserker rolls a d20. A normal fighter rolls 2d10 and a cautious (man at arms) type rolls a 3d6. The distribution curves and the risk/reward ratio were fun.

    Without every group of kobalds wasting any high level by sending a barrage of d3 arrows and hoping for a critical (after all, consider Richard the Lion Hearted at the siege of Jerusalem — 70 vs. 10,000).

  54. Spluckor says:

    I think the best looking dice are the Red ones with black dots everywhere and venom green numbers. They remind me of the All Flesh Must Be Eaten Players Handbook.

  55. Steve says:

    Chris Says:

    I like the Black on Orange dice. I've got a whole cube of the Black on Orange d6's.


    The first polydice I owned were a black and orange-red pair of D20s, which we called “percentiles” since that was the fashion then. They had to be imported from America and I had to make a 110 mile journey to get them from an obscure game shop just off the Tottenham Court Road in London. That was the fashion at the time. Then they had to be filed down since there was plenty of casting flash on them, and a nasty bulge on one face. Then they had to be painted since they were numbered 0-9 twice – you needed black and white paint to turn the orange one into a real D20. I used white and red on the black die, but the red is very hard to see.

    Then I got a set of (Gamescience I think) blue and a set of yellow polydice with the other shapes. I’ve never gamed with these to my recollection. The dice have a “soapy” feel to them and sharp edges, but the percentiles are the “0-9 twice” variety too and needed painting in. Unfortunately, these dice have a lower relief for the numbers than the older dice and painting them is no fun. I also have sets of crystal dice from the same company. They had the first see-through colours on the market in the UK, and I bought a D20 in each colour for use as EPT gem demonstrators.

    Over the years I have steadily acquired huge quantities of dice, mostly D6s. Partly because I used to play Star Fleet Battles and you need pairs of D6 during combat (it’s easier to play if you have sets of matched pairs of D6) and partly because I used to play Wonkhammer 401k and used themed dice sets for each army I fielded. Second ed Wonkhammer 401k called for lots of D6s. What’s that? Use the SFB dice for Wonkhammer? Are you mad?

    But I am happy to say that never, in my history of dice accreting, have I ever been even halfway tempted to add dice of that nasty orange colour to the mix.

    Oh, hang on. As you were. I’ve got a pair in the SFB dice bag. Gah!



  56. Martin says:

    Ah, back when I got started the box came with a set of dice that were uninked, and a black crayon. The speckledy dice and stone dice and what-have-you hold no joy for me, but that orange thing – you can read that from the other side of the room when a player’s partially obstructing it with his hand and mumbling the result to you.

  57. Jillzmom says:

    In my first D&D set, you had to cut the dice out of paper and glue them together. Didn’t work really well. Also, since I had no one to play with, I generated dungeons by clipping houseplans out of the newspaper. Life is much better now.

  58. Steve says:

    Wait, I just realised that Aragormless hasn’t called for a Reflex save to see if he manages to grab something cliffy before he undergoes droppage of damage-dealing. No seasoned D20 player would forget that.

    I thought this strip was going for realism.


  59. Dave says:

    I love the orange die.. We can see it without messing with our display settings… and about the “I hate this campaign”… Classic.. why do players make these kick-butt characters then whine if they get a paper cut.. I’m always amazed.. everytime.. when a player whines because anything hits him.. He’s a walking tank and complains when someone scratches the paint.. They say they want combat.. but they just want to bet told how good they are.. like my 4-year-old.. though.. my 4-year-old will complain if he’s not challenged.

  60. Steve says:

    I think, seeing as we all seem to have an opinion about dice, the site is named for a die and the owner is a self-confessed dice nutter, that we should have an on-going sub-thread to identify the “best” and “worst” dice colour schemes.

    You’re criteria for best and worst may or may not hinge on visibility and contrast. Mine do. I have no “best” in mind, other than any undifferentiated dark colour with white numerals. For my worst pick, based simply on how hard it is to see what you rolled on the buggers, is Granite by Chessex, which I think belong firmly in the what in Azathoth’s name were they thinking? classification.


    1. WJS says:

      Oh my god, those are hideous! It’s like someone made dice out of DPM without understanding what it’s for – here’s a hint, the ‘D’ stands for ‘Disruptive’…

  61. Steve says:

    Sorry for screwing up the markup there. Thank You Mr Brain.

  62. falkryn says:

    i have some blood red dice w/ black numbers…pretty cool lookin…btw realy funny comic huge fan i am.

  63. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Wow. You people are really taking the orange dice personally.”

    So, up to now , we’ve had 58 posts; and 11 have revolved around dice color or replies to dice color. (12/59 with this one). We are a sad bunch…anyway, everyone KNOWS that the best looking dice rolled crummy, & the ugly dice never get thrown away because we always need a good role now & then…

    Great strip, Shamus! “I hate this campaign” was hilarious when Legolas said it, & is still great from Aragorn.

  64. I use translucent purple dice with white numbers. Never had a moment’s pause reading them for clarity, and they look swank too. Best of both worlds.

  65. Badger says:

    My fave crit fumble has to have been the one in from rolemaster(?)

    “Trip over an unseen imaginary deceased tortoise.
    Your foes are stunned for 2 round laughing.”


    Not even seen the rulebook for about 20 years, but still remember that fumble ;o)

  66. Steve says:

    We are all missing an important issue raised by the comic, namely:

    Is it still “equestrian” when the rider is mounted on a genetically enhanced wolf?


  67. Woerlan says:

    Uh… “Lupusian?”

  68. Walter says:

    My DM has a unique critical failure system. Whenever anyone rolls a critical failure in a session, he marks it down. After three, there’s a 50/50 chance of ‘something [presumably bad] happening’. So far, both us and his other group have always made that final saving throw. He claims the thing is already set and will not get worse as we keep avoiding danger, but I’m not so sure.

  69. Shamus, your server is a victim of your success….

    Steve – why the hate-on for dice you obviously wouldn’t own?

    Colour’s so subjective, and I was _glad_ to have many traffic cone (safety) orange D10s for my campaigns in Cyberpunk 2020, and I’ll buy a set for 3.5 D&D if I see them. It’s a great contrast in all levels of available light (some of my games are by torchlight, candle, LED or aquarium glow).

    -You’ll never have to worry about mixing up your dice with someone who has this colour.

    -Or worry if this colour is any more or less “lucky” than what you like.

    My first set was the clear yellow crystal (circa 1981) with no inking. I used burnt umber oil pastels to rub in to the numeral lines, they finally need a redo. Going with dark blue this time.

    Never lost any of my dice… what are the odds?

    /roll percentile!!!

    Owner of Dueling Grounds RP shop (Toronto, Canada) now knows of your online comic, I made sure he’d googled it. The recruitment continues…

  70. R.S.Whisper says:

    And yet, not only can I think of GMs who would do that, I think I would… actually, I think I did do something like that one time and pissed off my friend because his rogue with a Dex of like 30 managed to fall flat on his face from a tower window some 500 feet or so off the ground and he didn’t remember his ring of feather falling until about an hour later…

  71. Steve says:

    Too funny. I couldn’t stop laughing. “No, You were TRYING to fall off”. Reminds me of when I used to DM…

  72. Tallain says:

    I have about six dozen tiny d6’s almost just like your d20 there, Shamus, but their orange is a less painful one. I also have a box of black d6’s with orange dots.

    One of my friends (the man responsible for getting me into D&D and M:tG) had a dice bag filled with dozens of miniature dice. That is, dice no larger than a cubic centimeter. And he uses them when we play Magic and, very rarely, when we played D&D.

    Man, that was annoying, not being able to see anything but a small shape on the table. Sometimes he had to pick it up to announce the roll and often we forced him to re-roll, but that was mostly when he announced anything over 17…

  73. Steelbutcher says:


    Growing up in a small town where the idea of a “gaming store” was as much a fantasy as the games themselves, it was uncommon for every player have his own set of dice. (I use the masculine possessive because “gamer girl” was also a fantasy at the time.) When I started DMing, most of my players shared dice or used some of mine, of which I had four sets that I had purchased along with my Players Handbook and Dungeon Master Guide. (As with Damien Walder – see above – I have never lost any of those original dice.) Those four sets were: solid green with white numerals, clear green with white numerals, clear with white numerals, and solid white with black numerals. It was found that the solid green ones were quite lucky, while the solid white ones were decidedly the opposite. In those early days, I insisted that one player always use the white ones, bot to be cruel, but because he was rather hyper and I felt that if he were to lose any dice, it best be the white ones. Perhaps he did not appreciate my logic.

    After a few years of gaming, I got word of an older kid who was “retiring” from the hobby. I made arrangements to inspect his collection, and found enough of it useful that I bought the whole works for the price of fifty dollars. Among the mix of first and second edition books, modules, and accessories that I acquired was the Fighter Player’s Pack, complete with the set of solid-coloured dice of varying hues. As some of you may recall, this included an orange d20 with black numerals. Now, greatly enriched in polyhedrons, our gaming group had dice enough to go around, and no one had to use the unlucky white set.

    Eventually, enough people had their own dice that my dice were used only by me, but not before the orange one had earned a formidable reputation. That die has rolled more than its share of 20’s, but it is reknowned for its 17’s. For some reason unknown to modern science, that orange d20 likes to hit high, odd numbers: 13, 15, 17, and 19, but 17 especially, and 19 next most frequently. However, sometimes it will have a slump and only roll 1 or 4 for an inordinate stretch, so it had become feared for its sudden reversals and most of my players felt its power best left beyond the hands of mortals. By this time, I had taken to using the unlucky white dice for most of my rolls as a means of reducing the rate of character attrition. This had brought great relief to my players, and allowed them to finally attain some moderate-level characters. The lucky green dice I used for friendly NPC’s. Which brings me to the point of my nostalgic excursus: the orange d20 became the official “character killer.” Woe and calamity came to whosoever pissed-off the DM, for with sombre countenance I would heft the orange die above the screen and foreboding (or heckling directed at the offending player) would fill the room.

    So, Shamus, when I saw that orange twenty-sider in your latest installment of comic genius, my first thought was not “Yech!” but rather, “Ah, yes, the character-killer. Doom is certain.” I can just imagine one of my players begging me to use the orange die for his all-important roll, only to have it betray him for his hubris. The orange die is painted the same colour as hazard signs for a reason.

  74. superfluousk says:

    Well, I think the critical failure in this case is quite reasonable — I mean, he was actually trying to do something quite complex. Not just falling off, but jumping off from a precarious position at just the right time, force, and angle to kick the warg over the cliff as he went. If it were just a question of falling off a horse standing peacefully in the middle of nowhere, then yeah, a successful “fall” would be inevitable. But there were so many other things that could have gone wrong with this maneuver!

    He could have fallen off but got his foot caught in the stirrup and be dragged along the ground for 2d6 damage per round for 1d4 rounds; the warg could have avoided falling off the cliff and turned to bite him (3d6 Bite damage) as he lay on the ground after his fall; he could have jumped off, but misjudged his momentum and jumped right into open air… Really, so many things to go wrong, so few critical failure rolls to work with!

  75. Rick says:

    Sorry for the late posting on today's strip. I should point out that many Bothans went without lunch to bring you this comic.

    Paraphrased from one of my fav quotes. My standard reply to the original has always been: “So? They’re only Bothans.”

    Anyway top stuff as usual. Two thumbs up.

  76. gigglestick42 says:

    Lovew the comic! One of my players turned me onto this about 2 months ago. Discussion of this strip has eaten up a lot of game time…

    As a GM, I have a rule that any dice that I cannot read from across the table may not be used. Too many players I’ve met have the odd colored or “so used that the numbers are barely readable” dice.

    And then there are the players who “doctor” their dice….

    But I love the old plastic dice that used to come with the c1979 era TSR products. I still use a couple of beaten up blue d20s that you had to crayon/ink yourself. My favorite dice…

  77. Steve says:

    damien walder Says:

    Steve – why the hate-on for dice you obviously wouldn't own?

    We hates the nasssssty orangey dices, doesn’t we my preciousssss?


  78. Steve says:

    Jillzmom Says:

    Also, since I had no one to play with, I generated dungeons by clipping houseplans out of the newspaper.

    I’ve read that entry about a dozen times, and every time I miss-read “houseplans” as “housplants”. It makes for a surreal mental image of dungeons filled with lush vegetation, or dungeons concieved as arboreal affiars in some far-off tropical rain forest canopy a-la Flash (A-aaaaa) Gordon.



  79. Scarlet Knight says:

    You young whipper-snappers don’t appreciate the usefulness of orange dice! Those dice saved my life! Almost crashed into a stalled tractor-trailer one dark, stormy night; saved only because the driver was smart enough to scatter his ugly dice on the road after his flares burned out! Saw ’em just in the nick of time, I did!

  80. oleyo says:

    I have to return to the falling off of the mount issue. It seemed to me that the skill was in the timing of the fall. Aragorn needed to goad the Warg to the very brink, THEN leap off without going over. The skill lay in falling neither too early nor too late. As far as dice are concerned, I go for pure visibility. I have a white d20 with black letters and plain white spotted d6 ala monopoly. I hate when people use whacky dice colors, since I can never read their dice. Then again I am colorblind and have keracotonus, so I need clarity! :)

  81. septima says:

    It wasn’t campaign’s fault. He shouldn’t fell asleep. I would make him fell off a cliff too. Keep up the good work, Shamus.

  82. Thteve Perry says:

    From the d20 SRD: “Typical riding actions don't require checks. You can saddle, mount, ride, and dismount from a mount without a problem.”

    Nice try, railroader.

    1. WJS says:

      As has been mentioned, this isn’t just dismounting, it’s doing so in a highly timed manner under duress. Please note from the d20 SRD that the DC for “Fast Mounting or Dismounting” is 20, AND carries an armour check penalty. Even if the DM didn’t have it in for Aragorn he should have to roll for such a precisely timed dismount, and it shouldn’t be a cakewalk even without a natural 1. Given the nature of the task, going over with the warg would be a reasonable result of a failure. (Also of note, by the book a natural 1 isn’t an automatic failure for a skill check, only an attack roll or save)

  83. I am forced once again to comment.


    This has happened!
    “I’m trying to fail. (rolls low) Aha, there.”
    “You fail.”
    “No, I mean you fail at failing. You actually succeeded.”

  84. splorp! says:

    I still have my original 1st edition red and blue box sets and the dice that came with them. It was a set of solid colored red and blue dice (for each box, respectively) and a white crayon to color in the die face. The blue d20 seemed to almost exclusively roll 1,3,7,17,19 or 20. It was a huge risk to roll it (as my DM used critical failures), but , man those 19 and 20s were tempting as hell…

  85. Amber says:

    I’m seriously thinking about using this as an example in my physics class. I know the majority of students would get the joke, at least.

    Still, presenting a macro version of quantum mechanics without maiming the physics involved PLUS poking fun at D&D and LotR at the same time…

    I’m impressed.

  86. Toil3T says:

    Steve wrote “For my worst pick, based simply on how hard it is to see what you rolled on the buggers, is Granite by Chessex, which I think belong firmly in the what in Azathoth's name were they thinking? classification.”
    I have a set similar to those, but they’re much easier to read than those in the pic. The gray specks are lighter and the orange numbers are darker.
    Now to resist the temptation to go buy a set of black-on-orange dice, for the sake of being able to say I have some.

  87. Gray says:

    From the d20 SRD: “Typical riding actions don't require checks. You can saddle, mount, ride, and dismount from a mount without a problem.”

    Ah. I see. So dropping off a running mount in the nick of time with the intention of not hurting oneself in the process is a typical riding action. Man, I’m glad I don’t ride.

  88. JD says:

    Rule 1 about D&D: The DM is ALWAYS against you. XD

  89. Tycho says:

    “If the DM is against you, it doesn't matter what you roll. You're going down.”
    I once played a campaign where the DM got so so frustrated with us leaving his (in his mind) beautifully crafted story that he sent seven flights of dragons after us to make sure here was no way we could survive!! I admit we probably deserved a little punishment for some of the stunts we were pulling, but I still feel this was overkill!!!!

  90. Trick says:

    *dies laughing*

    And I don’t know about ‘the DM is always against you’ thing. I mean, I had one DM who gave us a ton of stuff – invented a new spellcasting class – which led to a heck of a lot of fun – gave us each a ‘mind wipe’ so that we could each erase one person’s memory – though it made them retarded, giving way to more hilarity – and a ‘headshot’, meaning insta-kill. Course, that last one was only used once, since it was a diplomatic-based campaign. We killed the T-Rexes in F-47s (Calvin and Hobbs reference – someone correct me if I’m wrong?) that another DM threw at us when the first DM was elsewhere for a few minutes.

  91. John Doe says:

    A few years ago I was in a D&D campaign. Our group was fighting near an enormous pit which contained some sort of arcane magical object. One of the party members had the Tumble skill.

    So he told the DM that, in order to avoid an enemy, he was going to tumble, but NOT into the hole.

    He rolled a 1.

  92. Michael says:

    It’s not “Dies laughing”.

    It’s “Dice laughing” :-).

  93. Carl says:

    I just have to add my experience to this.

    After a long and convoluted campaign, my friend Russ had a Paladin/Fallen Paladin/Blackguard who became a Death Knight (they were epic at this point), and he was riding around in the sky on his nightmare when the party had planned to assault a city.

    He figured he had plenty of damage reduction and hps, so he’d just jump off the nightmare in full flight and stiff the landing, because he could take it. He was bound to land in a hay loft or something soft anyway.

    So he rolled. The thing with +stupid amount black full plate, a Dex of around 8 and no agility skills turned his average roll into around -6.

    “You sit calmly on your nightmare as it whizzes through the sky, and with iceberg-slowness slide slowly off and plumet down into the city with none of the grace or finesse you had imagined when you pitched this idea to me.”

    He then crashed through the roof of a house, startling the hell out of an old peasant woman, who was then rescued by the epic-level paladin who had been watching his blazing nightmare from the ground. This paladin then kicked him through a wall and kicked seven shades of crap out of him until he luckily defeated it.

  94. joesolo says:

    just when you want to fail, the dm pulls out somthing like that. looks likes another ones gonna be going over to the darkside.

  95. Ygnis says:

    Omg so funny!!

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.