DM of the Rings XCIII:
Impervious to Information

By Shamus
on Apr 27, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings

Legolas doesn’t pay attention.
Legolas doesn’t pay attention.

So here we are, at the end of the second movie. This means I spent 46 strips in Fellowship, and 47 in Two Towers. I didn’t plan that, it just sort of worked out that way. Fellowship occupies 58 total pages, while Two Towers is 74 pages long.

So they are finally going to Isengard. There was a rumor that the Hobbits might have been taken there. I guess we’ll find out.

Sure, it can be bad when you realize that one of your players has been zoning out during crucial moments. But, the real horror sets in when the players who have been paying attention try to explain, and their perception of your gameworld is so different from your intention that you almost don’t recognize it as your own.

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  1. Richard says:

    I love the way Gandalf, who ostensibly leads the expedition, becomes part of the scenery as soon as the players start talking :)

  2. Tola says:

    Is it me, or does Legolas’s expression never change?

    In all the shots(Not just here, but in the other comics, he’s had this similar expression.)

    …Am I imagining it?

  3. Woerlan says:

    Excellent Cthulhu sanity check reference. Legolas seems to switch between two expressions: murderous psychotic and utterly confused. Aragorn also seems to have two primary expressions: stoned drowsy and wryly cheerful. Gimli as well: jolly and annoyed. All in all, a very wacky bunch.

    I LOVE the comment regarding Mr. Plot Exposition. Nasty job, but some NPC’s gotta do it.

    The return of the hobbit players intrigues me. I’m wondering how their taking
    prestige class levels will be worked into the story (given that one rides with the Rohirrim and the other becomes a guardian of the citadel).

  4. Tola says:

    Do they even count as Prestige classes, though? They could easily become another ‘standard’ class. Knight exists as a class, and certainly one could also say they took Fighter levels.

  5. orcbane says:

    I agree. As a DM, its scary when one player summarizes the painstaking storyline you’ve worked up in one or two sentences. Where that novella of your plat and personnas becomes “We’re supposed to go in the castle and kill everything.”

  6. Shadowluck says:

    I’m completely new to this thread, but I’ve been hearing it second hand for months now. I just wanted to say thanks and to let you know it makes me feel not quite so A.D.D. … *Love the furrowed brow on Legolas*!

    Let me also say that Sanity checks should be made by all players the second they sit down at the table…
    It just might save you from a slightly deranged Barbarian making a dragon magnet out of a old woodcutters shed and 7 kegs of Stout Dwarven ale… Go figure.

  7. Rayne says:

    Yeah, and I would have to agree with Shadowluck…I am in that campaign and now my ranger has twitches because I failed a sanity check…really makes it interesting when you are trying to shoot something.

    We honestly did not think she would blow up the shed, but her character is insane, so go figure. It only brought out the uber-dragon and all its minions. Fun fun!

    Oh, and the barbarian ended up gettin knocked out by her own party members and shoved into a portable hole.

    We had to tie her up so she wouldn’t kill us; she went crazy (well crazier than ususal). At least my insanity wears off after a few days….

    Btw….love the comic. It has made many of my bad days good ones. Thanks!

  8. Shadowluck says:

    Umm.. Oh yes I did fail to mention that I am the Barbarian? And yes I have A.D.D. So it is really very difficult for me to read straight through all the posts and what is really up with Gandalf he does appear a bit inebriated.

  9. Naughty Girl says:

    I just found this strip about a week ago and have it on my ‘morning pages to open’ on a daily basis. I’m so glad you are still working on it. So many online comics have stopped recently and it has been depressing.

    My hubby reads ‘order of the stick’ which you mentioned near the beginning. I hate it, its pretty boring to me. BUT THIS… this is GREAT! I’ve even shared it with a few friends who I think will become regular readers too!

    Keep up the good work and don’t listen to the ‘nay sayers’ too much.

    Jokes are hit and miss, you can’t please everyone all the time.

    I know I end up in a giggling mess every 3rd to 5th strip. Hubby came over to see what I was doing when I was reading the archieve all at once, I was giggling so much!

    Oh, and btw, I was never into playing D&D / AD&D that much. Played maybe 3 – 5 times in my life. So your strip certainly works for those who aren’t into D&D / AD&D as well.

  10. Jerremy says:

    End of the movie? Where are Frodo and Sam? Gollum? Faramir?

  11. Wilson says:

    Gollum was killed by Legolas, awhile back. But this was an awesome strip, i think it’s my new favorite.

  12. Tola says:

    APPARENTLY killed.

    Remember: they’re not dead till you see the body. And even then…

  13. Jindra34 says:

    tola: Law of Dming: Your description of the world is 1000% percent accurate… like anyone would listen though…

  14. Godfather Punk says:

    John C. Says:
    Heh, if the hobbits are now NPC’s, just imagine the frustration of our plucky adventurers when, just as they are about to have TEH EPIC BATTLE at the Gates of Morannon … Frito the NPC drop-kicks the ring, and … GAME OVER!

    And to add insult to injury:

    “THE EAGLES ARE COING! THE EAGLES ARE COMING!”

  15. Scott says:

    I have suffered from clinical depression for years. The last 4 months have been a real decline, and the last two weeks in particular have taken a very nasty downturn. Today, though, I was pointed to this satire, and have just finished reading it, start to finish. During that time I laughed out loud no less than 5 times.. which is literally more than I have in the last several months put together.

    This probably doesn’t mean much coming from someone you don’t know, and in a comment you will in all likelyhood never read… but…

    Thank you.

  16. WheatKing says:

    Now given that the first movie took 46 strips and the second 47, we can say the last will probably take 48. 48 strips divided by three a week equals 16 weeks which logically means this strip should end sometime in August/September.

    PLEASE DON’T MAKE THIS COMIC GO INTO 2008!!!

  17. Jindra34 says:

    scot: are you suggesting using this site to help depression patients?

  18. Rickster says:

    Hey dudes, when are we gonna get Frodo and Sam (The Jedi Knight wannabes) and GOllum in the picture? I would love it if Sam went to Minas Morgul, banged on the doors and used his Jedi mind trick tell the Orc Guards “You don’t need to see my identification! These aren’t the halfings you’re looking for!”

    Now THAT would be a laugh!

  19. Rickster says:

    Or how’s this, Gollum IS the mini version of Emperor Palpatine, but they mashed up his brain!

  20. Scarlet Knight says:

    Don’t listen to WheatKing. He barley makes sense (heh heh – get it? Barley …never mind)

    Keep going until we stop having fun, and from the sound of the comments, that’s not happening anytime soon.

    Besides, we have all those anticipated events; such as Faramir & his father engaging in dueling Shakespearean quotes: “Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child!” “Oh, yeah? Well, wouldst that thou were wise before thou wert old!”

  21. brassbaboon says:

    Great online comic Shamus. I can’t read it at work, I laugh too much.

    I also DM campaigns, and have been doing so off and on for over 20 years. There are too many times I find myself nodding in agreement at Gimli’s comments.

    You’ve done an excellent job in creating personas behind each character. Keep it up.

    The comments are great too.

    One of my first DM sessions I had this beautiful plan all laid out for the PCs to come into the abandoned keep in the wilderness. I had spent a week carefully and meticulously laying out the hallways and pathways and populating them with denizens of the dark. Finally the party hacked their way through the dense woods and found the old and decaying bridge across the river and to the front door of the keep, a door that was old, rotting and hanging on its hinges, just begging to be walked through.

    Then the players got involved.

    “I’m not going through that door.” the thief (this predates “rogues”) said.
    “Me either.” Said the wizard.
    “I tie my grappling hook to my rope and toss it on the roof.” Says the thief.
    “Um… it falls back down.” I tell him.
    “Great, hey, wizard, you’ve got spider climb don’t you?”
    “Well, not memorized.”
    “OK, we’ll camp out so he can memorize spider climb.”
    “Um.. guys, the door is virtually wide open.” I say.
    “Right, there’s no way I’m going through a wide open door.” says the thief.
    “Uh, uh, me either” responds the rest of the party.
    “If you camp out, you’ll likely get attacked by random monsters.” I say.
    “No problem, as long as wizzie here doesn’t wake up, we’ll be fine.”

    In the end, the thief got tired of the DM trying to game the game, said “Screw this, I’m just going to climb the wall.” rolled a natural 20, and that was that. Up on the roof they went. What part of the keep had I never even considered? Never even drawn? Never even thought about?

    The roof. Sigh. And there they were, on the roof. All of my week’s worth of notes and nothing to guide me. On my first outing as a DM.

    I learned a lot that day (I hope).

  22. Shamus says:

    Scott: Sorry you’re not feeling well.

    I read ’em all. I really do.

  23. Shamus says:

    Brassbaboon: That is classic.

  24. Tess says:

    Scarlet Knight: Great quotes, but… not to be nit-picky but they’re actually “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child,” and “Thou shouldst not have been old til thou hadst been wise.”

    Denethor would have made an excellent King Lear, he was certainly mad enough. (I may be a kender, but at least I’m a well-read one.)

  25. Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness says:

    Scott: Welcome aboard… Now you just need to read through 88 odd comments of people who love Shamus’s work so much they relate it to their own experiences (I am guilty of that as well)….

    now where can i sign the “we want Eomer as a regular PC” petition?

    Personally I’d love this to go into 2008 but we could always do a new webcomic (Note WE means Shamus, my involvment is posting about it and waiting for my ring to arrive – STEVE!!!!!)… I suggest Pirates of the Carribean (I’m a pastafarian, so it appeals to me)

  26. Bugsysservant says:

    YAYYYY Pastafarians!!! Fight Global Warming!

  27. Lundorff says:

    “The roof. Sigh. And there they were, on the roof. All of my week’s worth of notes and nothing to guide me. On my first outing as a DM.”

    Couldn’t the roof have caved in under the strain of their weight and thus having them fall just inside, next to the door, slightly brused and dusty?

  28. Scarlet Knight says:

    Tess : Thanks for the corrections. It’s a fault of mine; I blame it on the translation to common…

  29. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    Pastafarians. heh.

    “Pirates are cool”

  30. Roxysteve says:

    My favourite DM Plan Gone Wrong story goes back to the “white box” edition.

    My friend ran a campaign in which the players were none-too cooperative with each other, but one guy – Jerry – was in a class of his own. Everyone was in a state of near mutiny because the team would defeat a puzzle trap to get some treasure (greatly compressing the narrative here) and then Jerry would dash to the front and grab the item for himself. The DM’s best friend John was beginning to be particularly ticked off and the DM had started that campaign primarily so John could adventure. It was A Problem.

    The DM was chortling over coffee one day and I asked him what was so funny. He said he had the perfect plan: The treasure would be a key with the property that it would cause anyone who touched it to turn into a Unicorn. Jerry would do his usual trick of waiting for someone else to take poison damage form the lock on the casket in which the treasure lay, then dash forward and grab the key. He would then undergo a glorious transformation into the noble hornéd beast. Since unicorns only suffer the company of maidens, the changeling would then put as much distance between it and the party as it could. Jerry’s ticket would have been fairly punched and he would have been hoist on the petard of his own greed.

    The next day I saw my friend glumly drinking coffee and I joined him.

    “How’d it go?” I asked him.

    “Not good. Everything went as envisaged until Jerry went into his Loot Lope. Then John coshed him from the rear and while he was stunned, pushed Jerry out of the way and siezed the treasure for himself. Jerry escaped.”

    “So John is running around with a horn? Looking for a maiden?” I asked innocently.

    “Shut up”.

    “Explain this plan to me again” I said.

    “Shut up”.

    To this day, when my own games start looking like going off the beaten rails, I console myself with the Jerry story. It serves as a watermark for how badly awry a plan can go.

    Steve.

  31. Roxysteve says:

    brassbaboon Says:
    In the end, the thief got tired of the DM trying to game the game, said “Screw this, I’m just going to climb the wall.” rolled a natural 20, and that was that. Up on the roof they went. What part of the keep had I never even considered? Never even drawn? Never even thought about?

    The roof. Sigh. And there they were, on the roof. All of my week’s worth of notes and nothing to guide me. On my first outing as a DM.

    Magic story. One way to reward this sort of thing is to make the roof the most boring place on the face of the planet of course, but a few possibilities open themselves for a mean DM.

    The roof is not typically as robust on a building as many like to think. Some medieval rooves were only just strong enough to support the weight of the covering. Step on the wrong part and through you go. WHo knows how far the fall will be, or what waits beneath the thatching?

    Wet slate offers a boot about the same amount of traction as wet soap. I know, I used to climb on the stuff. Allow the players to be woken from their rest by a light rainfall, tile the roof in slate and the game is afoot. Dislodged slates are also razor sharp and can (and have) decapitated people. Now that’s a good game.

    A tower roof is an ideal place for a roof aquifer. Imagine the possibilities for players wasting their own time upon coming across a brimming tank of water as the roof surface. “I disbelieve it”. “I cast water breathing and go for a (pointless) swim” (no-one puts trapdoors in the bottom of the drinking water tank). Not only that, with the correct tone of voice the unbroken, placid surface of the rooftop lake will sound far worse than any open door.

    Or just take the easy way out and once they are all on the roof have them dimension doored to the front entrance anyway.

    Take heart. First time DMs always have these sort of things happen to them. Players sometimes take malicious glee in taking a new DM somewhere he didn’t plan for. I’m not sure why. I always played on the basis that the faster a new DM became an experienced DM the faster the game would become more satisfying for me, but maybe I’m strange.

    Steve.

  32. okay! says:

    Another great one. I could add this every day, so let’s agree I’ll just tell you when it sucks (still waiting).

  33. Flatline says:

    Hi everyone. Firstly congratulations to Shamus on this fantastic comic. It has had me giggling for hours. :)

    I thought I’d share a couple of my experiences with plot collapses. The first was in a game we played recently. It was a Hunter style game set in Victorian England. Great setting and we had loads of fun with the stereotypes. Problem was that our GM likes his complicated plots. We don’t mind the odd bit of investigating, but we still like to shoot things and blow stuff up. Anyway after a fair bit of trouble (and wandering about completely confused) we ended up with this enchanted sword. My character got volunteered to look after it. Then the GM starts describing how its giving my family nightmares and generally being creepy. Well we knew there was at least one enemy faction after it so we decided to get rid of it and it ended up getting dumped in the middle of the Atlantic. The GM later revealed that we were SUPPOSED to use the sword to kill the big bad guy at the end of the campaign as he was more or less invulnerabe. That involved a bit of rewriting of the plot!

    The other tale was where I was running a sci-fi game based on the Firefly series. The party finished their mission and had a few of days to waste before their starship picked them up again. The party then decided to assassinate a local gang leader, who they hadn’t met, because they had threatened to kill him when beating up some of his gangers. Que a whole session where they plotted out what they were going to do and carried it out. After taking the guy out and making a clean get-away they still had 2 days left to wait.

    One of the party asked “Are there any holiday resorts on this planet?”

    I told him there was.

    “We’ll go to one of those.”

    At which point one of the other players asked “Why didn’t we do that to start with?”

    Why indeed.

    • WJS says:

      The players dumped the sword they need to kill the villain in the Atlantic? That’s easy. Just make them capture the villain, chain him up with some lead weights, and send him down to look for it!

  34. brassbaboon says:

    To those who responded to my DM story, here is what eventually happened.

    The roof turned out to be somewhat unsteady, and since they were careful adventurers, they made their way slowly around a series of potential pitfalls, only to eventually find themselves crashing through the roof into the keep’s chapel. As they were moving about the roof, rookie, DM though I was, I decided several of the denizens of the keep were alert enough, sensitive enough and smart enough to follow their progress. So when they eventually crashed through the roof, they were now stuck in the middle of the keep with no easy way out, and an alert and prepared bunch of critters.

    They did eventually fight their way back out. But the rubble of the roof in the chapel hid the chest which contained the item they needed to find, forcing them to go back to town and hire a seer to find it.

    In the end it worked out, and I did my best to have the keep’s roof behave as a decrepit keep’s roof should have, and not have it simply drop them down in such a way as to make their inventiveness pointless.

    Frankly I was pleased that they showed such initiative and made me think on the spot. I found myself having as much fun figuring out what was going on in the keep as they did. And the end result was probably better than the elaborate trap I had set for them, a trap they encountered on their way out anyway.

    What I *think* I learned from that experience is that a good dungeon might be planned to the last detail, but a great dungeon is one that is alive and which reacts to the players as much as they react to it.

    So these days when I DM I am much more fluid and reactive than I was on that day. Instead of trying to get the players to do what I want, I work as hard as I can on making the world behave as if it were a real world, not some pre-determined course that the players have to follow or else there is no point to it.

    I am currently running a low level (the party is currently 3rd level) campaign with a few newcomers to the game. They are all adults so we have very little of the whining and bickering that is common to these games. The party originally set off to rescue the wizard’s farmer brother after the town was overrun by goblins while the wizard was off at wizarding school. But the landscape all along the path is populated with all manner of interesting things, and I try to keep the area just around the party well enough defined so that I am not creating things like hills or rivers on the fly, but not so well defined that I had to spend all my evenings every week working on it.

    As it turned out, they ran into a kobold ambush on the way and this angered them so much that they agreed to help a local ranger clear out the kobold lair. I wove this into the overall story line of an evil uprising of kobolds, goblins and other critters trying to take their ancestral lands back from the interloping humans and elves so it all fit together. Then, on an airplane trip for business, I created a simple kobold lair that fits on a single page of graph paper, and we spent the next several sessions clearing out that lair, getting lots of XP and pushing the plot closer.

    But, eventually the wizard remembered that his brother was still captured and they are now heading back on the original quest. The gameplay time in the lair was only a few days, but they are now battle-hardened and ready to tackle a goblin lair to rescue the brother. So it worked out better than if I had planned it.

    That’s not uncommon for my campaigns. If the party decided to turn south, they’d find an increasingly wild landscape with more opportunities for hack and slash against the roused kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins, etc. If they turn north they will find a large lake (almost an inland sea) which has been infested with pirates. To the west is the main populated areas with cities, taverns and intrigue, and to the east, a brother to rescue.

    I don’t really care what they decide to do, although if they abandon the brother to his fate, the paladin in the group will probably regret it.

  35. Hydro Globus says:

    … 100 comments!

    (ok to add some content, it’s a great – and true – one.

  36. Thehee says:

    They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard! Ga-gagagaga-Gard!

    Come on, you all know the song!

  37. Andrew Jensen says:

    Yes, the way D&D compairs with the horrors of Call of Cthulhu is how the players forget everything! I’d rather face a gruesome horror covered in pustuals, decaying skin and many tentacles all combined into a slimy mass of horrendous apendages and flesh that no mortal man should gaze apon and retain any part of who he is, than face forgetful players.

  38. Michael says:

    The treasure would be a key with the property that it would cause anyone who touched it to turn into a Unicorn. Jerry would do his usual trick of waiting for someone else to take poison damage form the lock on the casket in which the treasure lay, then dash forward and grab the key. He would then undergo a glorious transformation into the noble hornéd beast. Since unicorns only suffer the company of maidens, the changeling would then put as much distance between it and the party as it could. Jerry’s ticket would have been fairly punched and he would have been hoist on the petard of his own greed.

    The next day I saw my friend glumly drinking coffee and I joined him.

    “How’d it go?” I asked him.

    “Not good. Everything went as envisaged until Jerry went into his Loot Lope. Then John coshed him from the rear and while he was stunned, pushed Jerry out of the way and siezed the treasure for himself. Jerry escaped.”

    So this is where you CHANGE that treasure from a key of purity to a key of door unlocking. Or something.

    Don’t give the good player the bad treasure.

  39. Kisame says:

    IA! IA! Cthulhu R’lyeh fhtagn!

  40. Knittingmoose says:

    Not only is the strip funny but it also has one of my fave screen caps. Karl Urban (the guy who plays Eomer) was supposed to be put in but never was. His stunt double is sitting proudly in the film for all the world to see!

  41. Samuel Bronson says:

    Hmm, the tooltip (title attribute) on this one seems to have a double-escaped apostrophe in it…

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