DM of the Rings XCIV:
For The Shorties

By Shamus
on Apr 30, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings

Merry & Pippin are back.
Merry & Pippin are NPCs.

(As some people noted, it would not have made sense to re-introduce Merry & Pip as players. Each of them goes off on his own. It would have made a three-way party split, which is confusing enough. Worse, most of the humor comes from the players ignoring NPCs and talking to each other – something the Hobbits wouldn’t be able to do. I could have made them players, but I couldn’t make them funny.)

NPCs do enjoy such an odd status as second-class beings. Players will talk amongst themselves as if the NPC wasn’t there. Players will walk away in the middle of a conversation if they realize an NPC is of no use to them. Players expect NPCs to be available at their whim to provide information and dispense rewards. This applies even if the players are nobodies and the NPC in question is a King. In fact, if NPCs ever turned the tables and treated players as they treated others, it would most likely lead to violence.

This is as it should be. Imagine how tedious a story would be if every extra and minor character you encountered tried to shove out in front and make themselves into a main character.

Nobody wants that much realism.

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  1. Gothmog says:

    Yay, first!

    Welcome back Merry and Pippin!

  2. Ken says:

    We NPCs should unionize! We’s got nothing to lose but our, uh, chains…

    We demand to be treated as people! Really!

    Hey, why’s that big scruffy fellow sharpening ‘is sword?

    OK, OK, the treasure’s under the bed!

  3. esox says:

    That is just like every game I have ever played in…

  4. John says:

    Ah, but wait until Stoner Aragorn realizes what the hobbits have found…

  5. Knastymike says:

    I’m still curious about that Battletech game.

  6. Susano says:

    And once again PC arrogance foretells trouble later on. I wonder what these three will say when Merry helps kill the Witch King of Angmar (or will he?).

  7. Oh man you missed a good one. Don’t get me wrong this strip is funny. You had the campaign split with one part of the group going to play another game and the other staying. So two of the players that went to play star wars (merry and pippin) found that campaign was just as bad or worse (Jedi Sam hogging all the time perhaps). So they returned to the merriment of all.

    Just a suggestion. But it is enjoyable as is.

    • WJS says:

      That doesn’t address the problem that they aren’t going to join the others. IIRC, one heads south to Gondor and one stays in Rohan while our trio of PCs run the Paths of the Dead.

  8. haashaastaak says:

    oh! Looks like I could be first!

    there’s a grammatical error in your first explicatory paragraph. When you say each of the two hobbits goes off on their own you meant to say each goes off on his own. There, I’ve contributed something.

    You are right that these bozos would ignore the hobbits. When I was playing we didn’t do that very often. The NPCs didn’t talk that much and when they said anything it was usually something we really wanted to know about. But why don’t the NPCs get angry about being treated so rudely and try to arrest the player characters and throw them in jail and things like that? I guess the GM hasn’t gotten that angry yet.

  9. haashaastaak says:

    that was quick! There were no comments when I started typing.

  10. Mrs T says:

    But they were players at one time. I guess they left their character sheets behind when they abandoned ship.

  11. AngiePen says:

    I was actually lucky enough to play with a large group of roleplayers. [wry smile] Player characters who were putzes got thumped, and NPCs who were companions were listened to. If one of them got in trouble, we helped them out, we rescued them if they got captured and once we used a charge from a Rod of Resurrection (in an incredibly magic-poor game where 98% of the time, if a character died the player just rolled up a new one) to raise an NPC, because he was our friend and our characters didn’t know he was played by the DM.

    Angie

  12. DB says:

    I would think bringing back the players wouldn’t have been too bad. They quit to play Star Wars, got bored of that, and decide to shuffle back in to see if things were going better. Wouldn’t they be supprised to see some XP and leveling? Might actually *think* that the campaign was beginning to get better.

    • Darth Beta says:

      Its kind of fun to read comments that try to predict what will happen in the future years after they were made, mainly in the chance that their right, but also sometimes to laugh at how sooooo wrong they were.

  13. The Gneech says:

    Well, Pippin goes off with Gandalf (NPC), and Merry goes off with Arweowyn (NPC) … so ya, they only way they could be PCs at this stage was if the players came back to sit in on a game.

    At which point, they should complain that everybody else gained two levels while they were gone.

    -The Gneech

  14. Welcome To Isengard indeed, hehe.

    Now I am curious to see how they will work as NPCs.

    And maybe the players for Merry and Pippin will come back in from time to time.

  15. orcbane says:

    I played an NPC once… I don’t know how that works, but that’s what my DM told me, so it must be true! Also, everyone ignored my character, so that proves he was an NPC.

  16. Jindra34 says:

    Too true though not very funny…

  17. Blindeye says:

    I hope Shamus isn’t getting annoying with everyone telling him how to write his comic.

    Ignore them, man! March to your own drum! It’s a very funny drum!

  18. Blindeye says:

    You know what Jindra? Stop complaining or stop reading the comic.

  19. Shandrunn says:

    Panel 4 looks like Legolas’ horse is talking.
    It’s funny.

  20. SteveDJ says:

    Very funny! When they started thinking that the hobbits might be spies, I almost expected Lego-lass to immediately fire upon them like he did Gollum.

  21. Browncoat says:

    Thanks, Shamus. Another winner.

    SteveDJ, thanks for the image of Leggy putting arrows through the hobbits eye sockets. I’ll be laughing about that all day.

    DM: You see the two hobbits on the walls of Isengard.
    LL: I attack!
    DM: What? Why on earth. . .?!?!
    LL: They’re alive–ergo they are orc-spies. I shoot them both.
    DM: No, you can’t!
    LL: Too late! I already rolled for both, using my new Arcane Archer abilities.
    DM: But, but, but. . .
    LL: Oh, c’mon. They’re just halflings. How important could they be?

    hee hee hee hee

  22. Woerlan says:

    Similarly, most NPCs honestly wouldn’t give a damn about the PCs as well. It’s a player’s job to intrude on the otherwise peaceful lives of these characters. From anyone’s perspective, the only time anyone is of importance is how they relate to YOU.

    In the case of this particular iteration of LOTR, the players never got to know Merry and Pippin as characters. And they never went looking for them. So the paranoia is warranted.

  23. Phlux says:

    Five bucks says that Aragorn wants to use the Saruman’s Palantir to look into the girls locker room.

  24. Rich says:

    Please excuse the following OT link:

    [url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciG-Xs7mBwU[/url]

    Sorry. Carry on.

  25. Wulfwen says:

    I love the way someone has to lead Legolas by the hand to each new conversational point…and then he *still* doesn’t get it! “Ooo…tricky!” Classic. I swear I’ve played with that guy.

  26. Raved Thrad says:

    Makes you wonder why Stonergorn isn’t happy to see these two. If anyone looked like they found strange mushrooms and stranger tobacco substitutes in the forest, it’s these two :D

  27. Melfina the Blue says:

    Ah, but then he’d have to make a fort roll. There’s nothing more humiliating then failing your fort roll and overdosing on ‘shrooms and pipeweed. And you know this DM would do that.

  28. Habenath says:

    Shamus, I’m with Blindeye.

    I’ve been following this strip from the beginning with total admiration for what you’re doing, and loving the cross-pollination between the Tolkien universe and D&D one. The fact you’ve been able to come up with three strips a week at such a consistent level is awesome, and good on you for not (so far) cracking under the constant Star Wars RPG-related needling. There’s a great story still being told here, and for those of you impatient for someone else to create story for you about another RPG universe? Stay patient!

    Rearding today’s strip – I did actually try to teach my players a ‘lesson’ once by having their depleted party encounter a larger NPC group who swallowed them into their ranks as they would have any smaller NPC group. It was a lot of work for me as a DM and pretty much only had an effect for one session, but it was priceless at the time.

  29. Roxysteve says:

    Without wanting to raise the rancour index of this fine site, and without any intention of getting in anyone’s face I would like to make an observation and a suggestion on a recent trend in the comments to this webcomic.

    Although I am by no means an arbiter of Good Taste and Manners, and have absolutely no authority of any kind when it comes to this site, I would like to respectfully ask all those who feel moved to bemoan the lack of “funny” in the comic to please keep it to themselves, on the following grounds:

    1) A person’s views on what does and does not constitute humour are totally subjective. “This isn’t funny” is a statement with little meaning and absolutely no constructive value.

    2) If you think you can do better, and by saying “this isn’t funny” you are implying you can, then show us by example. “Those that can, do*”. I look forward to a flood of imitators trying to find their groove. The possibilities are rich, given the indecent haste that any movie gets turned into an RPG. (Serenity, Red Dwarf (ok, that’s a TV show), Star Trek, Judge Dredd etc etc).

    3) It is hard for me to think of anything less constructive than to complain about the humour content of something one gets three times a week for free. Aside from the fact that Shamus does these for fun, for personal satisfaction (his, not anyone else’s) I can’t see how someone can support a job, a family and a hobby and put out this thing at the rate it happens.

    4) If you keep it up, the chances are Shamus will take you at your word and simply stop writing the comic. I’m sure there are people who would feel some sort of empowerment from causing that, but I would hope that we see a better class of person here.

    As Grover would say: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. One to grow on.

    Steve.

    * – those that can’t, DM

    • Billos says:

      I know you’ll probably never see this (steve or author). But I agree wholeheartedly. Excellent work. I only found this comic hours ago nut I think it’s masterfully done. I read a LOT and don’t laugh out loud much. However, I’ve had Dad awake for the last 3 hours apparently from my laughter…

      Any parts in this that ‘aren’t funny’? Pffft! Just read on! The guys churned out an unbelievable effort here. Regardless of your humour tastes, if you don’t like it, try and help him improve. Well, not anymore. I take it from the post dates this comic is long since finished. I’m just not at the end yet :P Lmao love the tickbox under ‘Post Comment’ too.

  30. Woosh says:

    What’s worse than someone who posts “not funny”? Someone who posts why that guy isn’t funny.

    Mr. Long Poster, I find this comic very humerous, but I’m preeeeetty sure people are entitled to their OPINION, or did you grow up in some third-world country without rights? Like we haven’t seen your kind of post a billion times. Reading these things, Jindra hardly sticks out as “OMG BLASPHEMOUS!” “Dont say anything nice at all?” Are you 3?

    Think about a world of art where there was no one brave enough to stand up and say “It’s just a painting of a soup can! This sucks!”

    I dont play DnD but lego reminds me of just about everyone in my Gurps group. Imagine the chaos when no one knows the story.

  31. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Phlux Says:Five bucks says that Aragorn wants to use the Saruman’s Palantir to look into the girls locker room.”

    Great idea! Shamus, you can splice a shot from “American Beauty” so it looks like he’s peaking into Arwen’s bath!

    Gimli: What are ya doin’ with that globe?
    Aragorn: Nothing…
    Gimli : Wait; who’s that? Elrond’s daughter!
    Legolas: Lemme see!

  32. Mr. No Imagination for Clever Names says:

    Steve,
    I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve been reading these comics and comments for a long time now. Lately I’ve noticed that your comments just aren’t as funny as they used to be. Please try to improve on that, will ya?

    Scott

    p.s. To everyone, and Shamus especially, thank you so much for my life a little better with your efforts. I love this site.

  33. Bugsysservant says:

    “Five bucks says that Aragorn wants to use the Saruman’s Palantir to look into the girls locker room.”

    Now why would Aragorn need to do that when he has Legg-o-lass as his constant traveling companion? I imagine that he would merely be the kind who would watch him sleep.

    “I’m preeeeetty sure people are entitled to their OPINION, or did you grow up in some third-world country without rights? Like we haven’t seen your kind of post a billion times.”-Woosh

    Having a right is not the same as being obligated to continuously exert it to the irritation of all else. I live in a state where public nudity is legal, but this in no way means that I should never wear clothes. Also, “like we haven’t seen your kind of post a billion times.” Ummmm… so Jindra can express his opinion, but you find fault in the logical statements of Roxysteve? At least he was neither hypocritical, nor wantonly negative.

    Ignore them all Shamus!!! Your comics are hillarious, and if you ceased production the vast majority of your readers would feel the loss deeply.

  34. Roxysteve says:

    [Woosh]

    Well, I was only asking.

    I’m quite a bit older than 3. So old in fact that I’ve seen this “not funny” trend several times. I know how it ends, but I won’t tell since I don’t believe in spoilers.

    Sorry I spoke. I’m sure you know best.

    [Mr. No Imagination for Clever Names]

    Cripes, you’re right! What’s gray and comes in pints?

    Steve.

  35. Scarlet Knight says:

    Bad ice cream?

  36. Roxysteve says:

    [ScarletKnight] Nope. A Mûmak.

    Why are Mûmaks all wrinkly?

    Steve

  37. hank says:

    Dammit, I just figured out what’s wrong with my life: I’m an NPC.

    It really explains a lot, now that I think about it.

  38. -Chipper says:

    hank Says:
    “Dammit, I just figured out what’s wrong with my life: I’m an NPC.

    It really explains a lot, now that I think about it.”

    :-D Almost did a spit-take with that one! So not only are you an NPC, you apparently are the plucky comic relief! Oh wait, I should be ignoring you now, shouldn’t I? Unless I’m one too…

  39. Scarlet Knight says:

    Because Haradrim don’t know how to Pack-a-derm?

  40. txknight says:

    This is so true. I’ve had players be downright abusive to my NPCs. And it doesn’t matter if the NPC happens to be the town constable with powers to arrest them!

  41. Jurrubin says:

    Huh. Never had that problem after the abused NPC killed the rude PC.

    But then I run RuneQuest campaigns (3rd edition, not Mongoose’s version).

  42. Ellie says:

    can we please just stop talking about whether the comic is good/funny/whatever or not? if you have an actual comment on the content of the strip, then feel free to post it. otherwise, please, just keep it to yourself. you are entirely entitled to your opinion, but there are times when we’d all rather not hear it. thank you.

  43. Ellie says:

    I love the comic, btw, shamus!

    I’ve been the dm in this situation before. it’s especially irritating when the information the npc is providing is extremely important to the campaign. ah, well, serves those pcs right!

  44. Joshua says:

    Hmm, I’m wondering about this whole making the hobbits into NPCs thing. Most of the Return of the King is dealing with the hobbits and Gandalf. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli muster a bit with the Rohirrim, go down the Path of the Dead(or whatever it’s called), and then don’t show up again until the end of the siege of Minas Tirith. Shamus may have been able to make an almost equal portion of comics devoted to the Fellowship and Two Towers, but that’s going to be pretty darn challenging to do Return of the King with only these three PCs.

  45. L6 says:

    Smart move by Shamus if you ask me. If I were him I’d be utterly sick of making these and would be looking for just that sort of excuse to trim down the remaining number of strips.

  46. Myxx says:

    Steve, I’m with you. Woosh, I’m not. I have the right to not be exposed to people’s opinions, especially bad ones.

    Shamus, there are far more of us who appreciate what you do than those other buggers. Frankly, if people don’t find it funny, why are they here bothering us?

    Thanks for doin it!

  47. Jim says:

    Joshua sez: “Hmm, I’m wondering about this whole making the hobbits into NPCs thing. Most of the Return of the King is dealing with the hobbits and Gandalf. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli muster a bit with the Rohirrim, go down the Path of the Dead(or whatever it’s called), and then don’t show up again until the end of the siege of Minas Tirith. Shamus may have been able to make an almost equal portion of comics devoted to the Fellowship and Two Towers, but that’s going to be pretty darn challenging to do Return of the King with only these three PCs.”

    Ah, but perhaps now’s the time for these three to get sick of the campaign, and the Hobbit players come back. Maybe Gimli’s player sticks around and takes over Gollum.

  48. Yahzi says:

    “We still get XP for finding them, right?”

    LOL!

  49. Phiend says:

    >>This is as it should be. Imagine how tedious a story would be if every >>extra and minor character you encountered tried to shove out in front and >>make themselves into a main character.

    Its called The Wheel of Time.

  50. Rick says:

    I wonder if Shamus reads some of these ideas for plots or jokes and thinks “Damn, I was already going to use that plot/joke/idea! Now I can’t or it will look like I stole his/her idea. First published, copyright and all that!”

    Mind you some of them are very funny – such as Aragorn using the Palantir to spy into Arwen’s bathroom mentioned above.

    So Shamus DO you have the whole thing mapped out and scripted already? If not, are you influenced by what you read here? How far ahead are you of the published chapters?

    • smartalek says:

      I thought a palantir could only let you see through another palantir?
      If Arwen has one, is it because she, like Saruman and Denethor, has come under Sauron’s sway?
      Or do her pre-cog powers tell her that Aragorn will come into possession of one (or two), and it’s a way of keeping him under her…. sway (as it were)?

  51. Rickster says:

    Dude, another classic spread. I remember this happen to me back in my playing days, there was always one chap who was paranoid plus. Can’t wait to see how the three players react to Saruman!

    Keep up the great work dude coz’ I know that story writing can be a brainteaser at times!

  52. Tola says:

    In the case of this particular iteration of LOTR, the players never got to know Merry and Pippin as characters. And they never went looking for them

    Yes they did. By DM forcing at first, perhaps, but they DID genuinely try(And found Gandalf instead). Look back through the strips.

  53. Isoyami says:

    Another good one. :D

    I liked the shot of Merl-err Gandalf almost falling off his horse in panel 6 of the last comic, maybe you could throw another one of those in there somewhere?

    On the one hand, I’m kinda sad cause we’re at the Return of the King, that means the comic is 2/3d’s over. On the other hand, I’m REALLY looking forward to see what Seamus does with the Army of the Dead…those little green dudes rocked!

  54. And once again PC arrogance foretells trouble later on. I wonder what these three will say when Merry helps kill the Witch King of Angmar (or will he?).

    Of course he will, all the great victories go to NPCs in this game …

  55. Valley says:

    Wait, wait, I thought they would at least stop to loot the stores of food and stuff at the main gate? Are they staying In Character? Oh my…

  56. The movie (especially the extended movie) RotK can feel like a substantial story from the perspective of these three because the Path of the Dead is presented as a pretty serious D&D adventure, not a story told to hobbits in retrospect. Down the path, into the lair of the undead, fight the undead, command the undead, bring the undead to have a big fight with pirates, sail the undead-filled boats up to Gondor so that Aragorn can make his big conquering entrance and be king. Seems like a straightforward quest from their perspective.

    I sometimes think that PCs ignore NPCs in direct proportion to how annoyed they are by the special DMPC (Gandalf, in this case). Don’t want to create still more opportunities for other people to steal center stage.

    “>>This is as it should be. Imagine how tedious a story would be if every >>extra and minor character you encountered tried to shove out in front and >>make themselves into a main character.

    “Its called The Wheel of Time.”

    Hah! Love it.

  57. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    I was drifting off to sleep last night and started thinking of my favorite DM of the Rings moments. I was thinking about keen ranger senses and shooting Preciousss in the eye and then I remembered Aragorn trying to expose that sultry temptress elf who came to help him at Hornburg. It was so funny it brought tears to my eyes.

  58. DB says:

    “Wait, wait, I thought they would at least stop to loot the stores of food and stuff at the main gate? Are they staying In Character? Oh my…”

    They don’t need food…PC’s don’t eat, and if they did, they would have plenty in that bag for carrying stuff…Merry and Pippin gathering food, that is out of character for the PCs. Only the DM would make them do that, or course, as NPCs

  59. Scarlet Knight says:

    “DB Says:They don’t need food…PC’s don’t eat”

    I dunno…PC’s like loot, & free food always made my PC’s happy. I believe Gimli was happy to hear what food the hobbits had found…

  60. Erin says:

    Argh, attempt #2. For some reason the first time didn’t go through. Let’s see if I can remember everything I said the first time…

    I also expected Leggy to kill Merry and Pippin in a fit of paranoia. And I think the hilarity just keeps on coming, I’m mindboggled by your continued ability to crack us up, Shamus. Looking forward to more and dreading the end all at the same time.

    I know I had more to say the first time, but it obviously wasn’t important if I’ve forgotten most of it.

  61. bobniborg says:

    Still going strong. Keep it up. Another 45 and your done (until the prequel)

  62. Scarlet Knight says:

    “bobniborg Says:Still going strong. Keep it up. Another 45 and your done ”

    Shamus, when readers get ideas for episodes to come, how do you want them ? Posted here, or sent another way? Do “anticipated events” help or just add pressure; although I figure if you have to think up another 40-50 comics ideas would be welcome…

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