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. Aaron Sautter says:

    Firsties!!

    I can’t wait to see how you work the hobbits back into the story. I wonder if they’ve managed to kill off Palpatine yet?? : )

  2. Shamus says:

    New rule: Go ahead and compete for first post, but you have to say something meaningful as well. If all you do is celebrate firsthood, then the comment gets nuked.

  3. Aaron Sautter says:

    Shoot. Almost first. I guess that’ll teach me to write something other than FIRST! before I post. : P

  4. thark says:

    Your postscript caused flashbacks to They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard. I am a sad, broken person.

  5. Cameron says:

    Oh, my god. In the 3 seconds it took me to post, two guys did it first. I’m so dissapoiunted. Good thing I have this kickin’ comic to keep me going! Goodies, Shamus. Simply Goodies.

  6. thark says:

    …and apparently so are you. That’ll teach me to actually investigate links before posting.

  7. Aaron Sautter says:

    Cool, thanks Shamus!

    Too bad Treebeard never made an appearance. I’d have loved to see Gimli’s reaction to a walking, talking tree. : )

  8. Vegedus says:

    Yeah, it’s rarely nice when you hear your players butchered version of your own perfect setting. It’s hard to tell who’s to blame, though.
    Oh, and Legolass’ screens (especially his eyebrows) are just brilliant XD

  9. kenderweasel says:

    Hmmm…The Curse Of The Attention-Span-Of-A-Goldfish Gamer strikes again!!
    Although in this campaign, can you really blame him?

    The films are easier to keep track of than the books though – I had to keep flicking back and forth just to keep track of the endless characters with the extremely similar names (even worse in the Silmarillion!)

  10. Carl the Bold says:

    Tenth!

    (or is this not allowed either?)

  11. Blindeye says:

    I always like to hear the players discuss the story, because then I’ll know what I’m doing right. I’ve not had them outright hate a game, though. Even the stories I’ve hated, at least my players seem to enjoy it.

    Also,
    Carl the Bold = Smartass.

  12. Browncoat says:

    This reminds me of the Shamus Comments below “The Name Game”, episode XLIX, talking about living in a world without Proper Nouns.

    I have nothing witty of my own to say. I just like to remind people of other things that were witty in the past.

  13. Sam says:

    I’m as bad about remembering things like this as my players are sometimes, particularly when I’ve had to invent NPC’s on the fly or have a lot to keep track of. I try not to take my settings too seriously in the first place, so if they come up with some way to lampoon the villains (unavoidable with my friends) I tend to just laugh along with it. it’s entertaining and the alternative is being indignant, and that doesn’t help the game.

  14. Ok, this is one of my favorites!

    Legolas’s faces are some of the best yet.

    “Would it kill you to pay attention once in a while?”
    “Probably not, but why take the risk.”

    Classic!

    Can;t wait to see the final 3rd of the series.

  15. Browncoat says:

    (I feel kind of like I should be hosting a revival of the Chris Farley Show.)

  16. Cenobite says:

    “Probably not, but why take the risk?” Brilliant, bloody brilliant.

    One of these days, you should do a strip where someone asks Why Are We Doing This Again, and the answer is, “Well if ya’d just STFU for a second and actually let the DM finish a segue description without covering it in a speech bubble, maybe you’d already know the answer. I’m just sayin’.”

  17. Rolld20 says:

    [Dudes, we all (well, most of us) know how to count; there’s no need to proove it. :) ]

    Alas, nothing breaks the GM’s heart faster than realizing the players are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons– or worse, for no reason.

    Last time I DMed, I was fortunate to have interested players. Even so, while listening to their characters discuss recent events, I nearly axphixiated with keeping myself from blurting out corrections. At least I knew which red herrings they were fixated on, and could build them up appropriately. :)

  18. Is it me, or does Gandalf look like he’s about to fall off his horse in panel six? Has he been drinking again?

  19. George says:

    perfect screen shots yet again. You can tell from this strip legolas is clearly the youngest player.

    No one likes it when NPC’s steal all the glory. What ya should have done is with the balrog a while back, make it look like the PC’s are throwing gandalf at the balrog after it falls

  20. Scarlet Knight says:

    So our heroes finally get to attack Saruman the way they wanted in Episode LXV: “Gross Misallocation of Resources”. Or will they? Tune in next week: Same Ent time! Same Ent channel!

  21. Michael says:

    Shamus, I’m curious: are you planning on trying out Lord of the Rings Online any time soon? I’d be interested in your commentary on the game.

  22. Henebry says:

    I’ve been meaning to ask: why are the movie scenes always slightly distorted, making everyone look thinner? Is this some side-effect of the app you’re using to take stills from the DVD?

    Sorry if this has been asked before. I’ve not read the entire Q&A from every strip. Not yet, anyway.

  23. SteveDJ says:

    I enjoy this comic so much, I really hate having to be the one to point out nit-picky spelling errors. Alas…

    Sixth frame: controled –> controlled

    Anyway, back to the praise. I love it, love it, love it!

  24. james says:

    Man, I remember a whole bunch of hobbit action in TTT.

    Were those guys participating in the campaign via PbeM or something?

  25. Nazgul says:

    Legolas = Otto from A Fish Called Wanda

    “What was the middle thing?”

    In our gaming group, Mr. Short Attention Span is the guy that is off reading the latest Maxim, Dragon magazine, or comics books, three seconds after he’s taken his action for that combat round.

  26. hank says:

    Bonus points for Call of Cthulhu reference.

    In Call of Cthulhu if you don’t pay attention to the game, the DM will invariably put you into a situation where your character has to do a sanity check. On the other hand if you do pay attention to the game, your character might come out unscathed but *you* have to do the sanity check.

  27. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    First!

  28. LethalSpoon says:

    I, too, would like to hear your opinion of the Lord of the Rings Online.

  29. Sauron says:

    23: The distortion most likely occurs because the panels are not the same aspect ratio as the DVDs, so there’s going to be have to be some stretching or contracting. I’m guessing Shamus has a widescreen version, so in most panels, people are necessarily too thin.

  30. Ryan says:

    Yay! I’m so glad the hobbits are (maybe) coming back! I love the strip, but I loved it even more with the bigger group. There were so many nice one-offs and side comments. Ahh, nostalgia.

    Anyway, I can’t wait to find out how our (Jedi? Scoundrel? Surely not Scout?1?) hobbit friends are doing.

  31. “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.”

    Oh boy have we been there. We once devoted an entire game session to catching up on what the players were actually SUPPOSED to know by now in one particuarly intricate campaign. :)

  32. Thad says:

    There was a campaign I was in that I’m still not sure about what the heck happened in the larger plot arc. It didn’t help that we were also stuck in the “goofy character name” problem. At least the GM enojyed knowing what was what…

  33. Browncoat says:

    Don’t forget: The players playing Frodo and Sam went to play Star Wars. The players playing Merry and Pip had jobs and school and, possibly, lives. (See Episode XLIV). I too look forward to their return. I’m not sure how much Aragormless, Leg-o-Lamb, and Gimli will react.

  34. MintSkittle says:

    I don’t think the hobbits are coming back, at least not the players. They’d probably have to be NPCs because the third movie has all those diverging story arcs, and it would be hard to be constantly shifting back and forth between them.

  35. John says:

    “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”

    Er, yep have been GM in this many times….

  36. Tess says:

    That’s one of the reasons I like playing kenders, halflings, etc. I admit I don’t take notes on what the party is supposed to know, but not paying attention to what’s going on in the game is PERFECTLY in character.

  37. Jindra34 says:

    FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY but starting to slip downward….

  38. “their perception of your gameworld is so different from your intention that you almost don’t recognize it as your own.”

    You said it, brother. I run an intrigue-rich Diceless Amber meets Dune game, where there are wheels within wheels and plans within plans, and so I expect gamers to miss a clue now and again.

    But I am shocked, absolutely shocked, when guys who have been playing for years say things that tell me they have not been paying attention for years. One guy did not realize, for example, the city of Amber was on a mountain, even though Your Friendly Moderators gives him the same visual discription of what it looked like each time he sees it. Another guy thought that Azathoth, the infinite gods of madness and evil from the abyss beyond the Courts of Chaos, was harmless.

    The worst part is whenever my player characters come across someone, like Lancelot, who is honest and brave, but who is simply NOT a modern liberal North American with modern liberal values. They were amazed that Lancelot (KING ARTHUR’S LANCELOT, gang, the GUY LOOKING FOR THE FREAKING HOLY GRAIL FER GOSSAKES) was a catholic Christian who took religion seriously, and did not think pagans and paynims had a right to destroy the faith.

    Some players Just. Don’t. Get. It.

  39. Nigel D says:

    10 kenderweasel Says:

    The films are easier to keep track of than the books though – I had to keep flicking back and forth just to keep track of the endless characters with the extremely similar names (even worse in the Silmarillion!)

    I still struggle with keeping track of who’s who in the Silmarillion. Doesn’t help that so many of the elves have similar names (was that Fingolfin, Finarfin or Finrod?). And the humans have Hurin and Huor and Turin and Tuor.

  40. Nigel D says:

    D’oh. I forgot to put the quotes in there. Anyhoo, that first parag was kenderweasel’s comment, the second is mine.

  41. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    First!

    (for Monday’s comic that is)

    ;-)

    Actually, I never come here to be first. The comments are too interesting to miss them as well.

  42. Roxysteve says:

    Meriadoc Brandywine is at this very moment engaged in a no-holds-barred Mech Warrior game with Peregrin Took.

    It’s interesting that not one of the deserters wanted to play Heroclix. Now there was a game with legs. No, not really.

    Loving Lego-less’ ADD.

    Steve

  43. MOM says:

    This was exactly the point in the books when I realised how “lost” I was.

    things never did clear up until I reached this point again on my second reading. Or was it the third? Kind of amazing how the books were so enthralling even when the characters and geography were clear as calculus to a freshmna

  44. scldragonfish says:

    I like cheese!

  45. Jindra34 says:

    scldragonfish:HOW IS THAT PREVELENT?

  46. 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!

  47. Gbyron says:

    John C.:[i]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![\i]

    Most likely thsi will happen because the DM would have gotten bored of the game, he got a job or found a girlfriend.

  48. harrowed1 says:

    Speaking of Call of Cthulhu, I once was GMing a group trying to play a 1920s, New England setted, CoC game as they play D&D. Before the game was even half-way over the whole lot of them were arrested for carrying deadly weapons without license, firing said unlicened weapons within city limits, breaking and entery, grand theft robbery of an archeological site, attempted selling of priceless historical artifacts at a pawn shop, fraud, solicitating prostitution, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, assaulting members of local police force with a deadly weapon, unlicened hunting of local wildlife, bootlegging,….. oh yes and statutory rape.

  49. Jindra34 says:

    harrowed1:They seem to have caused a lot of havock in the first session

  50. Jim says:

    Looking forward to the RotK section.

    “Ah, old grey beard. I have a token I was bidden to show thee.” (pulls out mithril shirt)

    HACK!

    “Dibs on the magic armor!”

    “It’s Hobbit sized you idiot!”

    “I’ll just strap it on the front. What’s my AC go up to?”

    ***********************************************************

    “Sing us a song master Hobbit.”

    “A song? I don’t know any of this place’s songs!”

    “And why should your songs be unfit for my halls? Come, sing me a song!”

    “My humps, my humps, my humps my humps my humps!”

    “On second thought, never mind.”

    “My lovely lady lumps!”

    “Gaaaahhh!!!”

  51. Attorney At Chaos says:

    Roll20 said:
    “Last time I DMed, I was fortunate to have interested players. Even so, while listening to their characters discuss recent events, I nearly axphixiated with keeping myself from blurting out corrections. At least I knew which red herrings they were fixated on, and could build them up appropriately.”

    I pretty much stopped offering red herrings a long time ago. It wasted too much game time and the players didn’t like it when they realized how much time they had wasted following some false lead that =I= had provided them. It turned out better for enjoyment all around if the timewasting things they got stuck on were all of their own devising.

  52. Jindra34 says:

    Last time i DMed i sent players on a rescue quest…
    in their eagerness they forgot to ask any questions as to what the person they were rescuing looked like… i decided not to plant a moleish type charecter but if i run into somepeople like that again they are going to get stabbed in the back… reckless idiots…

  53. Katy says:

    I watched through all three extended movies a month back and because you posted that “They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard!” video, I can’t get through that scene with cracking a smile and thinking, “Yeah, it does sound a bit rhythmic, doesn’t it?”

  54. Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness says:

    Red Herrings are what a game is all about..

    Back when I was GMing a game of Dragon Mountain (add box set- basically a big fat lot of traps with kobolds worth virtually no xp and a dragon at the end)..

    The players were suspicious of all the NPCs they found in the mountain that would willingly join the adventure. They (correctly) assumed one of them was the dragon in disguise (and also correctly assumed he would have magic resistance).

    So – what was their solution? They would magic missile everyobody who joined their group.

    This, however spread, to ANYone including party members who was separated for the merest of seconds.. oh you were in a differnt room to us – you could be the dragon.. magic missile him…

    oh you fell behind in the corridor – magic missle

    oh you had to do guard duty by yourself – magic missle.

    you can see how it got out of hand…

    Great campaign though. The party did more damage to themselves than te traps or kobolds could ever do.

    • WJS says:

      And it never occurred to them that a shapeshifted dragon could just pretend to be injured by a magic missile? IIRC, dragons have pretty good Cha, and one that likes shapeshifting probably has ranks in Perform or Bluff too.

  55. DocTwisted says:

    Heh heh.

    This is why Paranoia was and still is my favorite RPG to be GM during. If the players aren’t paying attention, well… they’re not going to get the info a second time, and if they mis-remember it they could wind up going to the wrong area, and getting disciplined for not going straight to their mission.

    That, and the chance to give player characters private goals like “One of your team members is an unregistered mutant. Find it and kill all of its clones.”

  56. Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness says:

    DocTwisted

    try the paranioa card game.. it’s not bad

  57. Matt` 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!”

    If Gandalf swooping in with the horse-f***ers pissed the players off then having the massed orcs at the Gates disappear into the ground will really make them want to murder something small and hobbit shaped

  58. Matt` says:

    and it appears that the italicisation didn’t end where I intended it to… must have forgotten the / in the second tag

  59. Gelatinous Cube says:

    I just love the fact that the players are always talking over the DM’s monologue. Why take the risk indeed.

  60. Dannerman says:

    I love it when I let my players describe my plot to eachother. They sometimes come up with stuff that makes me go “Oh crap! That’s such a good idea I’m going to have to steal it! It makes so much more sense for that NPC to actually be evil\blonde\a werecow\whatever instead.”

    So I steal their ideas (without letting them know of course), and they get to feel really clever for ‘figuring things out’.

    In one game I ran, I had an NPC apprentice to a major NPC who in my notes was literally just a 1st level Sorceress that followed my major NPC around.
    My players managed to convince themselves that she was actually a Dark Elf spy in a really good disguise and that they had to come up with really clever ways to exclude her from events until they could find evidence to expose her.

    Best adventure my players ever DM’ed, that one. (I eventually let them ‘out’ her as a spy.)

    Of course, this would be pretty hard to do when your plot is already there for you like the LotR or a published adventure. But then again, they’ve already killed Gollum…

  61. Zippy Wonderdog says:

    I don’t know why Legolases player needs to be paying attention anyway since the the Lord of the Railways campaign started :)

  62. Raved Thrad says:

    Hehe… finally a Call of Cthulhu reference, but (slightly) disappointingly there are no blank-looked NPCs indicating a SAN check. Maybe even a failed SAN check.

    Leggy-lass’ expressions don’t count as a SAN check, I think. It’s more of the player’s bad choice in choosing INT as his dump stat. :D

    Hmm, does this mean that if the Hobbits come back from playing Star Wars we’re going to get a lot of bad Star Wars quotes? Hehe maybe even something from “Backstroke of the West?” :P

    “Our dichotomy opens the combat”

  63. Tola says:

    It occurs to me that pretty soon we’ll be meeting Faramir.

    I do hope Frank(Boromir’s player? Remember him?) took the DM’s offer in the end.

    • WJS says:

      It’s been a while since I watched the films, but I don’t think The Trio meet Faramir, just Sam & Frodo. Well, they do meet him, but he’s not in any shape to actually do anything by that point.

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