DM of the Rings LXXXIII:
Ladder Game

By Shamus
on Apr 4, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings

Gimli steals their ladders.
Gimli is cheating.

In D&D, there is no act more reckless and fraught with danger than that of outsmarting the DM.

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  1. Jeremiah says:

    Oh, that’s beautiful. Another great comic, as always. And oh, so very.. very.. very true.

  2. Eltanin says:

    I’ve never done anything like that. Ever.

    Well, there was that one time.

    But the players! They pull that kind of stuff on me all the time! I swear, it’s their fault.

  3. Jeremiah says:

    As a DM, it’s hard not to be frustrated when your player’s think of the one thing you failed to plan for. Luckily, I’ve never had any DM try to pull anything like this. And anyhow, player’s should be rewarded for being creative.

  4. Skeeve the Impossible says:

    SOOOO when are they gonna free the slaves or start a food distribution scam. TEE HEE

  5. Mysti says:

    LOL!!! Okay, that is so true…

  6. billybangleballs says:

    Leisure is smelt wrong.

  7. Purple Library Guy says:

    I’m really not convinced that would work.
    But it makes for a beautiful comic!

  8. Sarah says:

    Hee hee! I *love* Gimli with his *two* grapple hooks! :)
    however, it’s “teeming” in the first panel… when you get a chance…
    Thanks, as always, for another great comic!
    S

  9. Oona says:

    Well, I have to admit I’ve been on both sides of a similar situation. When I am a player, I’m always the one who thinks up something the DM totally did not plan for (i.e. tracking so well I find the back door to the dungeon or suggesting we go through the air duct in the roof of the compound). On the other hand, I also have five very brilliant players in my D&D group. It’s always a challenge to react creatively to their schemes! However, I love it and that’s why I’m still a DM. I have still pulled the “No, it doesn’t work. I don’t care what you say, give it up!” on occasion. Because the DM says so! LOL! BTW, Shamus, LOVE YOUR COMIC! Keep them coming.

  10. Woerlan says:

    OMG! This is the best one ever! Love the Player/DM interplay.

    Gimli’s idea reminds me of that time when the players yanked a common hall runner (aka. really long hall rug) to make the fleeing villain fall. No magic, no special powers, just a rug and a bit of muscle.

    Keep it up!

  11. Da Penguin says:

    Shamus

    Another classic… i’ve often had players who just come up with ingenious plans and i’ve been so tempted sometimes..lol

    also i always find the next player has more rope than the previous one but not hint to how they are carrying it all…

    Steve aka penguin.

  12. Harlequin says:

    Gimli waving his 2 fingers is 2 funny. Clearly his player is a slightly overweight ‘Nam veteran with glasses and a beard. He’s archetypal to the point of Jungian.

  13. Tim says:

    Clearly his player is a slightly overweight ‘Nam veteran with glasses and a beard.

    phones ringing dude.

  14. I’ve tried to not overwhelm you server, but I also wanted to tell you I bent over the keyboard laughing at this one.
    Nice!

  15. Sorry – ‘Your’ server, I meant.

  16. Jindra34 says:

    Trying to decide which is funnier the last few comments or the comic

  17. Librain says:

    “In D&D, there is no act more reckless and fraught with danger than that of outsmarting the DM.”

    Not quite true. I’ve made a couple of rather misguided calls in my time, that were more outstupiding myself than outsmarting the GM. Not all of these were D&D, but it still applies. Walking past a random encounter, and blatantly telling the GM i was refusing to get involved didn’t end well, but my worst was definitely the line “I believe in karma.” to justify being nasty to some people who had attacked the party. I was lucky to survive that one.

    Then there was the Wizard who took 5 minutes to be talked out of casting lightning bolt in battle, which the DM informed him quite explicitly, several times, would most certainly kill the other 3 members of the party. It was a really bad idea, but it was his, so he didn’t want to abandon it.

    Librain
    “I’m not arrogant, I really am that good.”

  18. Jason says:

    This one was gold. Cheers to the Gimli screenshot holding up the two fingers and making that face.

  19. Rosuav says:

    First post, but been reading this comic ever since it was pointed out to me (at about strip 50) – it’s brilliant!

    Gimli’s gone back to the “pack” notion again. A hundred feet of rope and two grappling hooks… err… where? :D

    I love this sense of a DM that can be as childish as his players. “You started it!”

  20. Rustybadger says:

    I normally don’t mind “smelling” mistakes, but since billybangleballs (WTF?) started it, the “teaming mass of orcs” should be “teeming”…unless they are actually working together, which would surprise me a lot. Unless by “teamwork” you mean “using the other guys’ bodies as scaffolding”. Or maybe they’re Teamsters? Come to think of it… *evil grin*

  21. Nogard Codesmith says:

    HAHAHAHAHA… yeah my coworkers are giving me strange looks now after all the laughter… or should i say during all the laughter… im STILL laughing.

    I’ve got a game coming up and we are expecting a seige to start soon… im totally gunna have to remember (and secretly prepare for) the ladder thing. Lets see… we’ll need ropes, grappling hooks, and a wench with a winch.

  22. EmeraldTiara says:

    Well, who would expect a bomb in medieval-like Tolkien? maybe that’s why they didn’t do anything.

  23. baf says:

    The truest part of this is everyone chiming in with a report of how much rope they have. I’ve seen this happen so many times. Nothing excites a player more than an opportunity to use the junk they’ve been carrying around since they bought it as part of their starting equipment, and *everyone* buys rope.

  24. Serafina says:

    *blushes*
    Guilty as charged. 20ft silk rope with a +2 circumstantial bonus on climbing.
    *hangs her head*

  25. Shamus says:

    no, no, they were “teaming”. See, there were picking teams… and…

    Grrr.

    Yeah. Now you see how much I rely on spell check and proofing. It’s hard to proof in word bubbles (for me) for some reason. This is the third comic with multiple incorrect / misspelled words. I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t such a monumental pain to fix sometimes.

    It’s either that or leave my borderline illiteracy there for all to see.

    Sigh.

  26. Steve says:

    Heeheehee. More cheese in play at this stage in the game than a 3 cheese pizza with extra cheese hold the crust. Once again the portable weightless hardware store is deployed by the players and the anachronistic and unfeasible megadeath response device tossed in as punishment by the DM.

    Another nail smacked on the head Shamus.

    Nogard Codesmith Says:

    I’ve got a game coming up and we are expecting a seige to start soon… im totally gunna have to remember (and secretly prepare for) the ladder thing. Lets see… we’ll need ropes, grappling hooks, and a wench with a winch.

    Wot, no fortifying meal of delicious chips?

    Jeremiah Says:

    As a DM, it’s hard not to be frustrated when your player’s think of the one thing you failed to plan for. Luckily, I’ve never had any DM try to pull anything like this. And anyhow, player’s should be rewarded for being creative.

    I couldn’t agree more. Many’s the time such ingenuity in one of my Call of Cthulhu games has been rewarded with a Shoggoth.

    Steve

    (who used to climb for “fun” once upon a time, has lugged rope around for real and demands at least a nod from his players towards the realities on this front).

  27. Fred's Friend Mike's Friend Gary's Friend Jim says:

    I have learned to silently chuckle so as not to make my coworkers suspicious. Hee hee.

  28. Jindra34 says:

    Steve lets not go back there please it got a little crazy

  29. Tess says:

    Hey Shamus, why not type all your dialog in a Word program, run spell-check, and then paste it into the comic program. As if you didn’t have enough to do already, heehee.

  30. Tess says:

    Of course, then you get even funnier spelling mistakes. My dad used to do this on his e-mail and one time he referred to my uncle as his “bother.” Um, Dad, I think your Freudian slip is showing!

  31. vonKreedon says:

    Sort of off topic, but it really bugged me in the movie that Helm’s Deep did not have long forked sticks to push off ladders as standard equipment. The place is supposed to have successfully resisted more than one siege, but I don’t see how without the rudimentary means to push off ladders. OTOH, the Uruk-Hai’s assault ladders were really well designed!

  32. vonKreedon says:

    Oh, a Freudian slip, where you say one thing, but mean your mother.

  33. Fickle says:

    A BOMB? *dies* Man. XD I think that round should have autoed to Gimli.

    • 'lement says:

      Well, tbh, imagine this:
      GM: You attempt to pull ladder up. Roll a strength check against two three orcs, with 2 more on ladder.
      Gimli: I get peasants to help me pull it up.
      *successful roll*
      GM: You pulled ladder up. Take 2d6 damage from each orc’s AOO.

      Granted, I’ve never played D&D, but this isn’t still so bad.

  34. Woerlan says:

    Gimli should be feeling extra-frustrated. He’s just trying to make up for all those rounds of “Do Nothing” that he had to put up with. You can’t even blame him for being self-serving, coz if the “pull the ladders” tactic worked, he’d be spending even more time “doing nothing.”

  35. Steve says:

    vonKreedon Says:

    Sort of off topic, but it really bugged me in the movie that Helm’s Deep did not have long forked sticks to push off ladders as standard equipment. The place is supposed to have successfully resisted more than one siege, but I don’t see how without the rudimentary means to push off ladders. OTOH, the Uruk-Hai’s assault ladders were really well designed!

    Those ladders had anti-forked-ladder-pushing-stick pawls (those big hooky-things) that latched to the walls. Sticks would have been a waste of time, though I agree they should have been in evidence somewhere.

    On the other hand, Helms Deep had been allowed to fall into disrepair and was entirely unprovisioned when King Forrest Gump forged his mighty plan to hole up there despite everyone else’s opinion that to do so was suicidally nuts. I wouldn’t mind betting more than one party of adventurers had looted it down to the foundation long before the orcs started towards it, and those forked sticks are in a pawnshop in Minas Tirith.

    What a shame for the players in this game that Jackson won’t agree to make The Hobbit. A story drawn from screenshots of that would be much closer to vanilla D&D.

    Which reminds me, one of the extras that really worked for me was the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene with the Stoned Trolls from The Hobbit in it in the four hour boxed buttock-bruising bladder-burster edition.

    Has anyone viewed the latest “cut”, the one that came out around Christmas? They were showing a version on TV around then that wasn’t either the cinematic release or the extended edition. Could it be that Jackson et al will simply recut the movie each year until everyone is sick of Hobbits, Sir Ian McKellan and Tolkien altogether? Has Jackson fallen victim to George Lucas Disease?

    Steve.
    PS
    Not only did Han most definitely shoot first, but the movie originally had no “part IV” horseshirt in the title.

  36. Steve says:

    [Shamus] Missed a trick.

    The orcs with the mine should have called up in bad French accents “Special delivery – a buhm. Were you expecting one?” just before lighting the blue touchpaper and retiring, thus alowing Gimli to do the “A BUHM! Aaaaaa-haaaargh!” bit just as things get all loud and airborne.

    What can I say? I love Sellars’s Clouseau more than anything.

    Also: For what it’s worth, for me one of the best crafted bits you’ve done was the appearance of Gandalf the White and Aragormless’s reaction to it. I can’t read past “Argh! Jerk!” without creasing up. Masterfull.

    Steve.

  37. Freefall says:

    in scene 7 gimli looks mad

  38. Brave Sir Robin says:

    Something about Gimli’s plan does not make sense. Looking at the first panel, I estimate that the average scaling ladder has 5 orcs ascending. Only at the very first moments of ladder-wall contact will the ladder be orc-free. So how much lifting force is required to raise an fully-armored-orc-laden ladder halfway over the wall (after the halfway point, you can use the wall-ladder contact point as a fulcrum)?

    Next question: African or European ladder?

    • WJS says:

      Not even the tops of the ladders were free. There were a couple of orcs balancing on the very top of each ladder so they could be fighting immediately before the defenders even had a chance to try pushing the ladders down. And the speed those ladders were hitting the wall, that should count as charging. +2 for that first round!

  39. Freefall says:

    oh yah, and shamus, I think that in your comment, you wanted to say now, not no… I think… I AM NOT CRAZY!!!!!!!

  40. When the orcs switched from using their regular ladders to the really big ladders with the hooks on top, my thought was “Aha! Dire ladders.” :)

    -blarg

  41. Jindra34 says:

    Dire Ladders what are the coots going to think of next? DIre toothpicks?

  42. Russell says:

    See, the trick as a DM is to overwhelm your players during the first play session as a total prick– but a fair one. It helps if the first game you run for your players is a horror game.

    From then on, your players will be ingenious sometimes. That’s their job. But they’ll also start doing your job *for* you. “The baroness must be working with the bandits in order to drive the peasants into further poverty! She’s the real villain!” Then you nod your head, make up a few stats on the spot, and your players think that you came up with the coolest plot twists.

    I’m a lazy DM. I really am. My players love me for it.

  43. Tola says:

    On the other hand, Helms Deep had been allowed to fall into disrepair and was entirely unprovisioned when King Forrest Gump forged his mighty plan to hole up there despite everyone else’s opinion that to do so was suicidally nuts.

    Trying to take the Uruk-Hai army direct, even with hit-and-run, would be more nuts. The Uruks have pikemen…LOTS of Pikemen. Anywhere the Rohir hit, they’ll get skewered, and their horses are their main, if not only strength. Horse Archers(if they have any) can only do so much…The Rohirrim just don’t have the force to confront them head-on, especially with literally zero time to prepare.

    If you can give an idea of how it could be done, enlighten me. I’d honestly like to hear it.(Good grief, I’m looking at what I just typed and it seems snide. I’m NOT trying to be insulting or anything.)

  44. Ishmael says:

    “40 Jindra34 Says:
    April 4th, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Dire Ladders what are the coots going to think of next? DIre toothpicks?”

    They’re called “rapiers.” ^~

  45. Tola says:

    Ah…and looking at how this went….interesting mix.

    We have the Olympic Uruk-Hai, AND the heroes too busy talking to notice(Though it’s the DM that set it up so).

  46. Jindra34 says:

    43 Ishmael Says:
    April 4th, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    “40 Jindra34 Says:
    April 4th, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Dire Ladders what are the coots going to think of next? DIre toothpicks?”

    They’re called “rapiers.” ^~

    Rapiers ar neither wooden or “Spikey” and have a handle not exactly a dire toothpick

  47. Curt says:

    Spelling slips in rapid email, corrected to change meaning? Never happens. Hah!

    Once I sent a rapid email to my manager discussing what contract work was allowed to be billed (I typed “billable”) and what wasn’t. I was in a hurry and let Word fix all my typos without looking closely.

    It turned out that I discussed what was “bilabial” with my manager and what wasn’t. Look it up – that’s a COMPLETELY different topic…

    (Luckily I had a very open-minded and understanding manager!)

    c.

  48. Brian T says:

    I was kind of expecting a Legolas ‘Gollum’ crit bow shot to take out the torch bearer when we got to this point. Perhaps Shamus didn’t want to derail from the story any more than what’s happened.

  49. eccles says:

    It turned out that I discussed what was “bilabial” with my manager and what wasn’t

    Oh my. :)

  50. Dez says:

    LOL

    Possibly the best comic yet!!

    I think we have all had our share of spiteful DM’s.

    D!

  51. Scarlet Knight says:

    I thought you were going to do a joke on how Legolas could put so many arrows into the Olypmic Uruk- hai & not bring him down because he had too many hit points.

  52. Owen says:

    I love how excited Legolas looks at the idea. :)

  53. Salen says:

    Yup, its the old situation of when you outsmart the DM, he just gets dirty and cheats to make things even worst for you. If he’s really mean though, the DM will be sneaky about it and make you think you succeeded and have the party celebrating… and THEN use the bomb to blow up the wall.

  54. Jindra34 says:

    by the way the DM cannot cheat says so near the start of the DMG.

  55. Alasseo says:

    In D&D, there is no act more reckless and fraught with danger than that of outsmarting the DM

    Yes, there is. Trying to outsmart the DM and failing. If you don’t manage it and the DM figures out that you tried… only then will you see the full power of the Dark Side of the Game…

    …ahem. Sorry about that.

  56. Clyde says:

    That’s brilliant, Shamus! I tip my hat to you.

  57. WheatKing says:

    By far the most annoying thing!

    Brings back memories of our party about to kill an Orc Warboss. What does the GM do to save him? A potion of teleportation!!! On a freakin Orc!!!

    Needless to say we were not impressed.

    • WJS says:

      By the rules, there’s no such thing. You can only make potions of spells level 1-3. Even if you waive that, the rules explicitly state that the drinker of a potion doesn’t get to choose anything about the spells effect, such as where to teleport to. So not only was this GM a filthy cheater by changing the guy’s loadout during the fight, he was a filthy cheater by giving him an illegal item!

  58. Rickster says:

    Love it! LOVE IT! Oh yes I can relate to this very well being a player giving the DM a hard time. Be his friend, you get levelled quick and have lots of treasure. Be his enemy and have a campaign to forget about.

    The comic is fantastic, keep it coming. By the way, are we going to see Frodo and Sam back or with they be “still playing Star Wars?”

  59. Andrew-san says:

    Shamus sez: “It’s either that or leave my borderline illiteracy there for all to see.”

    If you ever start to feel bad about your spelling and grammar, sir, check out the amusing but *horrifically* misspelled Devil’s Panties (http://devilspanties.keenspot.com/) and Geebas On Parade (http://geebasonparade.keenspot.com/). Then note that the artist/author is actually making money merchandising her art, some of which has the misspellings on it. Then consider that she has to have plentiful site traffic to sell those goods. People really don’t care about details as long as the jokes come through or the art is good. (I mean, hell, think about President Bush during the debates.)

    As for the What! You Can’t Do That! syndrome … When I design adventures, I just make them harder than I think they ought to be, and don’t plan any particular solutions. Then when the players (inevitably) breeze past monsters, puzzles and traps, I act like whatever they did was the one secret key that’d make it all possible. I feel no need to nuke them for good solutions, since they’d die or be endlessly stymied if they *didn’t* come up with one.

  60. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Librain Says:

    “Not quite true. I’ve made a couple of rather misguided calls in my time…”

    This brings to mind an experience with an old friend from high school by the name of Cameron. Once, at the beginning of an adventure, we ran into a building of some sort and found a fire just beginning its incendiary task of burning said hovel to the ground. For reasons which escape me at this point (most likely having to do with this being the location of our contact), we felt it necessary to put the fire out. Having no water at ready hand (and the DM ruling that we had “gone before we left”, wink wink) we were racking our brains. Our wizard (the aforementioned Cameron) decided that the best way to stop a fire was to starve it of oxygen. A fine idea, but his execution left something to be desired as he felt the best way of doing this would be to use a larger fire.

    Yes, Fireball will do this nicely. No, Fireball is not intended to be used such that it does not cause damage to any nearby (ie, within range) flammable material (say, a medieval building made primarily if wood with bits of stone).

    We never did find out what the purpose of that building was. In hindsight, however, the frantic scrambling of the DM to come up with a way to get the story back on track after we apparently immolated our contact… hehe.

    BTW: Cameron, if you happen to read this, Dick D still lives in Edmonton. Look me up if you get a chance. Love to introduce you to the new baby!

    Richard

    • WJS says:

      That totally shouldn’t have happened. Seasoned wood is not flammable. Flammable means things that take light quickly and easily, like liquid fuel or tinder. It takes quite a bit to get wood to burn, as anyone who’s ever made a campfire can attest to. The brief pulse of a Fireball should just char it a bit maybe. Personally, I would also rule that a Fireball shouldn’t use up a significant amount of oxygen anyway, it’s not real fire. (Oxygen is only used up when it reacts with something, and in a sheet of fire magically appearing in mid air that won’t be the case)

  61. RHJunior says:

    I dare you to watch that scene with the torchbearing Orc without humming “Chariots of Fire”…

  62. DM T. says:

    That last panel…
    “You started it”
    Now that’s a refreshing way to start up your day, THANKS SHAMUS!

  63. tigerdreams says:

    I’m right there with Gimli. I don’t remember the last character I played who didn’t carry two 50′ lengths of silk rope (one knotted, one not) and two grappling hooks.

    I’m also the type who usually comes up with the creative, lateral-thinking solution to the problem. So I really feel for the dwarf, here. DM apparently is only just now learning that the best battle plan never survives the first engagement with the PCs.

    I do like how Shamus has been attributing plot twists from the movie to OOC disputes between the DM and the PCs (the bomb, Aragorn falling off the cliff). It adds to both the verisimilitude and the awesomeness of the comic.

  64. Phil says:

    Which reminds me, one of the extras that really worked for me was the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene with the Stoned Trolls from The Hobbit in the four hour boxed buttock-bruising bladder-burster edition.

    Actually, the trolls were in the cinematic release too – a nice treat for the observant! So actually I rather disliked Sam’s “Ooh look, Mr Bilbo’s trolls” which was added in the extended version as it rather took away the subtlety of it all!

    Meanwhile, this episode is a gem. One of the best. :)

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