DM of the Rings XCI:
The Predictable Surprise

By Shamus
on Apr 23, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings

Gandalf arrives to save the day.
Gandalf annoys Aragorn.

Yeah. You saw this coming.

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  1. Joshua says:

    “What?! Cheesier than having Aragorn fall off a cliff for no reason and more unnecessary than to have Arwen contact him & his HORSE(!)telepathically?”

    Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say the cheesiest, myself, just the most pointless. The Ents decide to ride to war after a long deliberation, not because they didn’t have any clue about what Saruman was doing to the woods and just now found out. Besides, HOW did Pippin know about the burned woods anyways? It’s not like they passed by that way beforehand, or heard about Saruman cutting down all of the forest to fuel his war machine.

    The cheesiest moment I think would be the special effects around Galadriel when she pretends to be tempted by the ring. It’s like Jackson pulled a George Lucas and didn’t trust his actor to get the right feeling across.

    Random side-note: Anyone notice how the character of Glorfindel was snubbed by both the old and new LOTR movies? Although replacing him made more sense because he was written as a character who had history with Aragorn but little actual role in the story. Of course, Tolkien seemed to have a hell of a lot more backstory than actual main story in the books.

  2. James Blair says:

    What confused me was the “white wizard” arc with Treebeard in both versions of the movie. It was pretty obvious in hindsight that it was Gandalf they were looking at. Gandalf, who personally saw Saruman do the deforestation but obviously didn’t think it a matter of enough import to tell Treebeard about it…

  3. Bugsysservant says:

    “Of course, Tolkien seemed to have a hell of a lot more backstory than actual main story in the books.”-Joshua

    Gahhhh!!! The Lord of the Rings is nothing but a pale extension of Tolkien’s true stories, the Silmarilion. Even Peter Jackson’s overly dramatic and inaccurate portrayal of Haldir and his band of a few dozen Elves would pale in the face of the hundreds of thousands of Noldor, elves and men who took part in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the last great battle in the war of jewels. Much as I love the Lord of the Rings, I couldn’t truly appreciate it until I had read Tolkien’s best.

    “just some constructive critisism. the last few havn’t made me laugh. no offence. try to make them some what funnyer.”-Nigel

    Ignore the critic. While I missed the nethack/tony hawk jokes (before my time and not a game Im familiar with respectively) the last few have been hillarious, and this one has been the crownign glory. Keep up the good work!

  4. orcbane says:

    Three cheers for the DM PC!

  5. RollD20 says:

    “Hip, hip — ”

    [coughs, shuffles feet]

  6. Jindra34 says:

    Hip Hip HOoray
    {ducks}

  7. Alasseo says:

    @Woerlan- in actual fact, they were pikes (being about 20′ long), and about twice the length of the throwing spear/demilance cross that the rohirrim were using.

    @Richard- The fact that the Uruk raised their pikes was what saved the rohirrim. If they had planted the butt-end of their weapons and then lowered them, THEN the rest of the movie would be hypothetical.
    Woerlan was right about Gandalf’s holy/magical blinding light making them break just in time for a textbook cavalry overrun, though.

    While the players may be discovering that they’re merely the plucky comic relief, they should know by now it could be much worse- they could be the redshirts…

  8. Heather says:

    I will not talk about what Tolkien really said about his characters or complain about the movies compared to his intentions (as explained in his letters, Silmarillian, and Lost Tales.

    I will not talk about what Tolkien really said about his characters or complain about the movies compared to his intentions (as explained in his letters, Silmarillian, and Lost Tales.

    I will not talk about what Tolkien really said about his characters or complain about the movies compared to his intentions (as explained in his letters, Silmarillian, and Lost Tales.

    ACCCKKKKKKK.

    Moving on.

  9. Valcore says:

    So every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday eh? I’ll be here. This is awsome!!

  10. Rachel says:

    I find it best to just consider the movies as seperate, and only vaguely related to the books. I enjoy both a lot more.

    And the comic is just great either way.

  11. Isoyami says:

    Awesome comic, loved it!

    I do want to point out that in the very first DM speech/plot panel, the phrase “..it shines on the orcs, their number thinning but still multitude.” does sound a bit awkward to me. It should “[a] multitude” or “multitudinous”, methinks.

    Also, when did Aragormless wake up? Wasn’t he asleep for the last 10 combat rounds in the last panel? rofl.

    Maybe when Gimli was blowing on the giant Horn in the Hornburg for the 20th time? Talk about an alarm clock…. lol.

  12. apandapion says:

    Yes. The core premise of any campaign is, at some level, the players have a chance to do something that makes a difference, either to themselves or to everyone else. I am reminded of the makers of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie debating if Author is a hero… he is, because things turn out differently (probably for the better) because of his presence.

    My current campaign is filled with parties of NPC adventurers. They do not have the player’s “destiny”, so they are portrayed as being halfway low noble slackers, halfway street gang, and are generally played for laughs. A gang of freebooters that know how to stab things, minus a chance at destiny, is actually a funny thing. Think of the things that your players do when they arn’t well entertained. Now imagine a subculture of NPCs making careers out of that kind of mischeif.

  13. Gandalf The Monk says:

    Woerlan Said
    One a less humorous note, there’s a moral lesson here to all Game Masters. NEVER let the NPCs steal the credit from the PCs (unless the PCs let them by purpose or inaction). PCs are deserving of at least as much glory. The speech from Gandalf asking Aragorn to defend Helm’s Deep (which this comic’s not-so-good DM omitted) until he returned with help, would have justified all the suffering, but credit should have been given where credit is due.

    Unless they’re a villain – then it should be encouraged. Nothing will engender the players hatred of an NPC more than having them take all the credit (or shifting the blame to the PCs), especially if they were actually working against the PCs.

  14. Luklan says:

    I’m starting to hate their DM…

    I’d be asking questions like “Why the heck didn’t you just throw Gandalf into it earlier, so we could have gone home and to bed!?”

    Staying up all night rolling dice would have annoyed me, and that would have tipped the scales -.-;

  15. Tola says:

    Heh.

    The cavalry has arrived, as promised…and the players hate it.

    The DM clearly has a inferiority complex.

    I will not talk about what Tolkien really said about his characters or complain about the movies compared to his intentions (as explained in his letters, Silmarillian, and Lost Tales.

    Can you summarise for those who don’t own all of these books?(I own the Silmarillion, but not Lost Tales. There were NO notes on LOTR characters in Silmarillion, save the backstory of Sauron, and the fall of Numenor.)

  16. Tola says:

    The speech from Gandalf asking Aragorn to defend Helm’s Deep (which this comic’s not-so-good DM omitted)

    Not so…exactly.

    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=972

    They KNEW he was coming back.

    Though what’s irksome is likely the fact that they’re going absolutely nuts over Gandalf.

  17. Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness says:

    woah… I’ve got to ask where have all these people come from? First of all it’s post 20 before i get a look in, then 55. and now 80… come on people what about the penguin?

    (Nb i dont actually have anything to post today)

    sO i’ll just say – keep up the good work Shamus,

  18. Noumenon says:

    “Their numbers thinning but still multitude” is not awkward. It’s stylish.

  19. b9anders says:

    Brilliant comic. This DM has a story to tell and he’ll be darned if he is gonna let the PCs stop him!

  20. Tola says:

    Their numbers thinning but still multitude” is not awkward. It’s stylish.

    Nope. It’s missing the ‘a’. Still A multitude. That parses better. You’re expecting the A, and without it the sentence goes flyinmg off the track and into the bridge, killing all on board.

  21. Salen says:

    I totally called that! I knew Gandolf was gunna show up and steal all the glory. Oh well. At least this means the halfling will be returning in a while to play with the rest of the group. I bet the group will call shinanigans on the fact that while Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli were fighting for their lives, somehow the halflings managed to team up with the treants and destroy Saurumon’s home and stuff so completely.

  22. -Chipper says:

    “Their numbers thinning but still multitude”.
    I like it that way. The lack of “a” may be unexpected, but it isn’t wrong.

  23. Margaret says:

    Last GalaxyQuest reference?

    They avoided capture by using your Mak’tar stealth haze.

  24. Rast says:

    “still multitude” is grammatically permissible.

  25. Nate says:

    hahaha. Oh man. This only happens so much with crazy NPC’s, they come in, finish them off, do some fancy-shmancy magic, and ohhhh the town loves them more than the lowly ranger. Pah.

  26. Browncoat says:

    Isn’t it great when geeks can take a break from arguing about sci-fi content to argue about grammar?! We rock!

  27. Blindeye says:

    I think it’s an excersize in disrespect to constantly spell-check and grammer-whine this guy who’s giving you an awesome comic FOR FREE and has also done something that I’m sure most of you have never done: Written a farkin’ BOOK. Seriously: STFU

    • WJS says:

      Yes, how dare people point out when someone makes a mistake! God forbid someone interpret “post a comment” as “post a comment” rather than “fawn over me, puny mortals”!

  28. Scarlet Knight says:

    Is it just me, or has Gandalf returned as Goodgulf Greyteeth? You know, the whole showing up after the fight thing?

    I’m also waiting for Sam to rescue Frodo from the orcs & say: “Well, I see you’ve managed to take your shirt off.”

  29. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    their number thinning but still multitude

    It is awkward, and in my opinion not correct, since multitude is not adjectival. Our Author was probably subconsciously thinking “but still legion.”

  30. Jenx says:

    This. Right this is why I hate NPCs.

    Great comic indeed.

  31. Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness says:

    As a primary school teacher, generally the word ‘multitude’ is a noun although it could be used in an adjectivial clause.

  32. LethalSpoon says:

    Legolas’ ears don’t look elf-like.

  33. Scarlet Knight says:

    Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness Says: “generally the word ‘multitude’ is a noun although it could be used in an adjectivial clause.”

    Well, yeah, in Australia….

  34. SongCoyote says:

    Regarding the visuals of Galadriel in the most recent movies: yeah, I thought the special effects were overdoing it a bit, though cutting off the Ents’ nuts was what rankled me the most.

    As silly as the old Bakshi Lord of the Rings was, in my opinion they portrayed the temptation of Galadriel perfectly. I like a lot of other things about that version, too, but that’s the most germane to the current discussion.

    As for the Ents, as others in here have noted, in the book they were quite aware of what was going on (including the cutting of trees) but still didn’t want to be too hasty; it was the younger trees’ concern that helped sway their council towards the Last March. In the movie the Hobbits essentially tricked Treebeard (who was otherwise gloriously imagined) into noticing the extent of the damage, which makes absolutely no sense as he’s a friggin’ elemental of the Forest!

    Ahem. Enough of that. Thanks for the comic, Shamus – it’s delightful!

    Light and laughter,
    SongCoyote

    • WJS says:

      The change to the Ents was probably because it’s a movie; everything has to be to do with the heroes. You can’t possibly have minor characters doing things of their own volition, they have to be talked into it by the major characters!

  35. SongCoyote says:

    Woo hoo! Gods’ Eyes! Nat 100! WOOT!

    I have nothing else to say; I just wanted to snag #100 :)

    Light and laughter,
    SongCoyote

  36. okay! says:

    Started reading this recently, and I’ll just add the completely original comment that the whole LOTR-as-D&D-campaign is great in concept, design and execution. Every strip is good. Shamus, you have the gift!

    I played D&D when I was 10-15 years old, and now I am 39 and just started playing it with my 8-year-old boy. So I’m enjoying all of the characters, but Gimli most of all.

    The game seems to be a lot more complicated, especially the combat, then when I played it around 1978-82. I guess that’s to be expected, but it seems like a bunch of lawyers got ahold of the rulebook (not to bash lawyers too much — I am one).

    Also, I remember several monsters in the original Monster Manual had no equivalent in existing mythologies, but in the current version there seem to be an excess of monsters that have been drummed up out of nowhere. I’m all for creativity, but some of them seem a little silly.

    I also wonder how the popularity of RPG videogames is affecting the popularity of D&D.

  37. james says:

    Man, you’d think that those guys -want- to spend the next eight hours killing yet more orcs… ;)

  38. The almighty penguin says:

    “yes, in the book the ents did indeed attack Isengard. But in the book the ends just took a very long time to decide and finally they agreed. They didn’t wait for a snotty nosed midget to point out to them (cleverly) that it’s not nice to burn tree people. To me that was the single cheesiest unnecessary change in the entire movie.”

    I’d just like to point out that peter jackson was in fact making a movie. and in movies, many things have to be focussed on. one of these things is pace.While the movie does make the Ents seem more foolish, it still gets across the fact that they are emotionally linked to the forest. Tolkien could talk about how they took a long time to decide logically, because all he has to do is say “the ents took a long time deciding”. but what can peter jackson do? 20 minute scenes of the ents going “ummm” “maybe maybe not?” or should he just show the ents starting to think then have a little caption, in comic sans ms why not, a little caption saying “8 days later”
    Peter jackson did a fairly good job to get the feeling of the books across. books very rarely make good films due to the different media methods. the one problem i have with peter jackson is the lack of gimil doing anything besides making stupid jokes.

  39. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    As a primary school teacher, generally the word ‘multitude’ is a noun although it could be used in an adjectivial clause.

    But when “multitude” isn’t a primary school teacher, its just a noun.

  40. Jindra34 says:

    104 Osvaldo Mandias Says:
    April 24th, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    As a primary school teacher, generally the word ‘multitude’ is a noun although it could be used in an adjectivial clause.

    But when “multitude” isn’t a primary school teacher, its just a noun.
    Joke is way to old…

  41. Deoxy says:

    “Of course, Tolkien seemed to have a hell of a lot more backstory than actual main story in the books.”

    He did. Much, much, MUCH more. And that’s one reason I like LotR so much – it feels so REAL – very few things contrived, just to fit the story. It feels like you could pick any hobbit hole in the Shire and look inside, and you’d find it bing lived in by a Hobbit family, with clothes in their closets, food in their larders, and fresh “product” in their chamber pots. The same thing for any home in Rohan or Gondor.

    I’ve dabbled a bit in writing, and the sheer weight and volume of such history, the level of effort spent on stories that were never intended to be seen by anyone but himself, just to make his final product better, is simply astounding.

  42. Jindra34 says:

    BY the way what are we talking about?

  43. Scarlet Knight says:

    Australia.

  44. Jindra34 says:

    really? Australia, no wonder i was so confused.

  45. Joshua says:

    In regards to my original backstory comment, I was referring to a foreword made in one of the LOTR versions(from the 60’s, I think) where Tolkien himself thought the book a little too brisk at times. After reading that, I re-read the books and saw what he meant. Apart from his occasionally lengthy descriptions, a lot of his chapters read like x occurs, then y occurs, there’s some talking in between, and then the chapter’s over. If I recall correctly, the battle outside Minas Tirith was only a page and a half long or so. So, he seems to have a lot of the backstory in his mind and in appendices, but he keeps the main story fairly light.

  46. TheGrinch says:

    Weighing in on the grammar geek debate — the article before multitude IS optional. Its absence might be unnerving, so you could have a valid stylistic quibble, but not a grammatical one.

  47. Arson55 says:

    Reading the discussion about the Silmarillion et al, I find myself wondering if I would be kicked out of geekdom if I admitted that I never cared for the Lord of the Rings and found the movies pretty mediocre.

  48. Jindra34 says:

    Arson: No but i’m pretty sure you will get demoted…

  49. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    Arson, that depends entirely on your feelings towards, HHGttG, and Dune.

  50. Yahzi says:

    “First, they weren’t pikes, they were spears. Pikes are much longer.”{

    Remember the columns of orcs marching away from Isengard? Those were pikes…

    I know Tolkien never mentioned such details in his book, but watching that marching scene, all I could think about was, “Where are the baggage trains? What the heck are those orcs gonna eat for the next week?”

    :D

  51. Yahzi says:

    Tola, “stil multitude” is style. It’s just not good style – which is perfectly in keeping with the DM’s voice. The DM would say exactly that, because he’s the kind of guy who thinks that kind of faux medieval style sounds cool!

    :D

  52. Tola says:

    I know Tolkien never mentioned such details in his book, but watching that marching scene, all I could think about was, “Where are the baggage trains? What the heck are those orcs gonna eat for the next week?”

    Each other(Though I’m not certain on this), or any farms and things they can raid for some tasty Man-Flesh or Horse-Flesh.

  53. DocTwisted says:

    First time posting, just was shown this comic (at the first one) yesterday, and had to read all the way through.

    Shamus, this is truly inspired work. Most of the comics have caused me to rock with laughter, a few (including “Inconthievable!” and the Nethack-reference-joke one) brought me to tears.

    As a former GM, I know all about the players and their obsession with loot. As a former player, I also know what it is to play with Railroading GMs, GMs that want to have your characters listen to pages and pages of exposition just to say the equivalent of “Go kick Orc ass,” and GMs that blow their top as the tension they work so hard to build is broken by one character (usually mine) cracking wise.

    Bravo. Five stars. I will greatly look forward to continuing to read your work here.

  54. Dave says:

    “Gahhhh!!! The Lord of the Rings is nothing but a pale extension of Tolkien’s true stories, the Silmarilion. Even Peter Jackson’s overly dramatic and inaccurate portrayal of Haldir and his band of a few dozen Elves would pale in the face of the hundreds of thousands of Noldor, elves and men who took part in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the last great battle in the war of jewels. Much as I love the Lord of the Rings, I couldn’t truly appreciate it until I had read Tolkien’s best.”

    Ah, yes. “Tolkien: the original Elf-wank”, as one of my old gaming friends once put it. No matter what you can do, an elf can do it better…

  55. Valley says:

    Aragorn: I know, I’ll get the army of the dead to help us.

    DM: Wait, what? You can’t do that!

    Aragorn: Why not?

    DM: Well, they’re dead.

    Aragorn: So were those dudes on Storm Top.

    DM: Weathertop.

    Aragon: Whatever.

  56. Auke says:

    Oh, I thought that would be something like:

    Aragorn: “As Gandalf is going to save the day anyway, I propose we just dive into the nearest cave entrance we come along for some good old dungeon crawling. Who is with me?”

    DM: “You don’t see any caves.”

    Aragorn: “Well, then I’m just going to sit here until we do.”

    DM (thinking furiously): “Okay, you see a mysterious cavern just ahead of you…”

  57. Roxysteve says:

    Never mind the Orcs. What do the Rohirrim use for fodder? They gallop hither and yon in massive thousand-strong forces but the scenery is always ne’er so green.

    Those horses would have been stringy rations by the time they got to Minas Troney.

    Steve.

  58. Tola says:

    They’re Magical Movie Horses: Of the same breed as the Magical Movie Cars(those cars that seem to NEVER need refueling or maintenace unless the plot requires it) and other such things.

    Minas Tirith. Literally ‘Tower of Guard’. Which is likely to be quip-worthy on it’s own when they get there:such an ornate name for what is essentially a (VERY)glorified watch tower.(No, I don’t think you really didn’t know the name. I just used it as a jumping off point.)

  59. SpaceWolf says:

    Thank you for the content this rules

  60. scldragonfish says:

    Last GalaxyQuest reference?

    “Whoever wrote this script should DIE!”–Tawny Madison

  61. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    But when “multitude” isn’t a primary school teacher, its just a noun.
    Joke is way to old…

    The error is way too old.

  62. “To me that was the single cheesiest unnecessary change in the entire movie.”

    There were many, many cheesy and unnecessary changes in the Jackson movies: they all seemed to revolve around one thing. Jackson does not understand nobility and honor. Jackson is a modern man, and by that I mean he is a punk. JRRT understood nobility and honor. He is old fashioned, and by that I mean he had the heart of a hero.

    Consider: in the movie, Aragorn suffers self-doubt and does not want to be king. WTF??! Faramir is tempted by the Ring, making the contrast with Boromir pointless. Denethror is simply a drooling madman, not a tragic man driven over the brink by Sauron, and Pippin has no real reason to vow fealty to him. In the film, Theoden is reluctant to fight, rather than, as in the book, his reluctance being do to the poisonous counsels of Wormtongue. The dialog in the movie about going to Helm’s Deep makes no sense from a military standpoint–Aragorn whines at Theoden for no particular reason. The Ents are reluctant to fight, and then get tricked into it, rather than debating and getting angry, as in the book.

    See the pattern? Everyone is reluctant to fight; no one wants to be king; no one is bad because he is misled or corrupted, they are only bad because they are crazy; no wars make any difference; there is not even a Scouring of the Shire at the end.

    Old Wizards flying around the room on wires was really, really high up on the cheese list also. No one in the film was dignified.

  63. Scarlet Knight says:

    [John C. Wright] At least Sam was loyal without having gay undertones, as most modern stories would add…

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