DM of the Rings XCVII:
Gets Me Right Here

 By Shamus May 7, 2007 115 comments

Just like that one Bon Jovi song.
Saruman falls to his death.

The only way to keep players from doing something stupid is to Just Keep Talking.

Sadly, there is no way to keep the DM from doing something stupid, although offing one of his favorite NPCs might shut him up for a couple of minutes.

A Hundred!15115 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!


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  1. Carl the Bold says:

    I love this campaign.

  2. Mysti says:

    Great, as always, just the chuckle I need :D

  3. Mattingly says:

    Now, the characters will decide to move in to Orthank.

    “Hey, a coat of paint, some new curtains… We could live here.”

  4. Mysti says:

    I love the long tower shot, that must have been a bitch to piece together.

  5. Rason says:

    Very nice, The big spikey thing never really made sense to me. Nor does Legolas being a jerk in the movie. In this situation it makes total sense, Easy XP! (Possible First)

  6. Polk says:

    Always hated that scene in the movies… I couldn’t believe they did away with the Scourging of the Shire. On every read through it was one of my favorite chapters!

    • Valhalya Caelinal says:

      I so agree! I hated that they cut the scouring of the shire. In the book, it was the culmination of the hobbits’ stories. Everything they did on their various quests taught them what they needed to know to be able to reclaim the shire at the end. IT’s the point of the book! And to have the audience assume (by cutting the scouring of the shire) that the Shire somehow manage to last through the war of the rings without so much as one burnt shed is just beyond unbelievable. And…. this scene was cut from the theatrical release. The whole Saruman storyline is completely dropped without completion unless you watch the extended edition. And the random spiky thing…. geez, could it be anymore “well, we gotta kill him somehow. How about a big spiky thing that is there just to kill him in the inevitable circumstance that he falls” Am I right? >>> I love the Lord of the Rings, the books that is, and from the point in the two towers where Eomer is a complete jerk face, (where in my opinion the films go from reasonably following the books for the most to part to I have no idea where they got any of this because it has nothing to do with the lord of the rings) I get really frustrated with the movies. I haven’t watched them in years……. it’s too aggravating.

      On another note: I love these comics! I only recently started playing D&D (elf ranger with a panther) and so some of the more D&D specific jokes I don’t quite understand just yet, but the ones I do get are hilarious! And honestly, this explanation of why Saruman dies here makes way more sense than any other rationalization of why they screwed up the film so badly….

  7. Reggy says:

    Long time reader, first time poster.

    leggolass shows some real skill here! The timing!

  8. Ice says:

    lol one time I rolled a one when i was attacking an orc and my DM said i hit my friend standing right beside me because i had missed the enemy horrably.

  9. Da Rogue says:

    Legolas must have taken a level in opportunist.

  10. haashaastaak says:

    I totally agree about that change in the movie. It was the very worst one. the scouring of the Shire tied everything up in a neat package as a journey of maturation for the hobbits. And, it was a really satisfying revenge. Having Legolas shoot him was simply stupid.

    Of course the movie would have been too long with that scene in it, but it was already too long. How much could a little more hurt?

    The only thing I don’t understand about your treatment of this is why Gandalf doesn’t just incinerate them all with his staff and start over with some other adventurers.

  11. Purple Library Guy says:

    Cuz they’re the PCs. Duh.

  12. Halo says:

    I’m not certain but as far as I recall Grima kills Saruman in the movies and Legolas shoots Grima.
    But it’s still a stupid change.

  13. Halo, if you want to watch the movie, the DVD rental place is just down the street.

  14. Roxysteve says:

    This is why Call of Cthulhu is better than D&D* (from a DM standpoint).

    Elf shoots Saruman, Saruman shrugs off damage (being some contra-terrene horror from the stygian depths of another dimension and only taking minimum damage from impaling weapons as a result) and reveals his True Aspect, causing aforementioned elf’s brains to ooze out of his pointy ears.

    You can also lard on the treasure too.

    You finally drive off “Saruman” and enter Isengard. On searching the rooms you eventually find six books, some sort of glass lens, a twisted wooden staff, a couple of stone idols and a potion.

    “We’re not even thinking of touching any of it,you twisted goon!”

    Moi?

    “And I for one am not even looking closely at those statues!”

    Oh, go on!

    “Never!”

    Steve.

    *No, not really.

  15. Cenobite says:

    Another great installment!

    However I do fear for the sanity of this DM. It looks like [i]he’s[/i] the one who needs a break from this campaign at times.

    Having said that, if you ever need to bring back any of the slaughtered characters, zombies are always a lot of fun.

  16. Jindra34 says:

    Dude Legolass needs to take a chill pill… though it is starting to make sense… any epic scene gets interuptted by an arrow…

  17. Scarlet Knight says:

    I wish my characters could kill a high level wizard with a single arrow…

    Mattingly is right, why set up a place when one is ready made? There was no loot on Weathertop, but this place must be crawling with magic items!

  18. Ace says:

    Taking time to write dialog for your NPCs is like arguing on the internet.

    No matter what you do, it’s always useless in the end.

  19. Proteus says:

    Gimli’s expression is perfect! And right now this campaign reminds me of nearly every D&D game I’ve played in the last five years:

    DM: “So, do you want to know the plot?”
    Us: “Just the part about who to kill.”
    DM: “Want to know why?”
    Us: “Do we get more XP if we know?”
    DM: “Maybe.”
    Us: “Explain it to us until you feel better. We’ll be at the other end of the table eating chicken or downloading crap to our laptops. Let us know when you want us to roll something.”

  20. giant explosion says:

    Like the animation, it rocked! Giant spikey thing? how about wheel of torturous spikes?

  21. Randolpho says:

    > Mattingly Says:
    > May 7th, 2007 at 11:02 am
    >
    > Now, the characters will decide to move in to Orthank.
    >
    > “Hey, a coat of paint, some new curtains… We could live here.”

    You know, that’s so true. And I think maybe stuff like that is where the cliche of the building suddenly falling apart on the defeat of the villain came from — it was DMs trying to prevent their players from moving right in.

    I suppose Shamus could do something along those lines for the next comic… maybe have Orthanc fall down by using a well-cropped screenshot of Barad-dur falling in Return of the King.

  22. giant explosion says:

    Another question, why does aragorn say “2 points!”?

  23. gahazakul says:

    Honestly Shamus, the tower shot is really nice. Was that a single shot you found then put the big S into from his fall takes? i don’t remember there being a falling scene from the sid elike that.

  24. DB says:

    I just hope they find out that the doors are locked, and the key is still inside. I would hate for the DM to extract some petty revenge. The players might have a really bad day if the DM was out to get them (fall off cliff). Instead of having a the usual bad day, in which they don’t get XP or loot.

  25. Shamus says:

    giant explosion: “Two points” is a sort of expression meaning “nice shot”. It originall rose from basketball, but has come to be used in many situations where someone demonstrates skill at hitting a target. It is also used in a sarcastic sense when someone does something profoundly clumsy. (Like, crashing your bike is regular clumsy, but if you crash your bike into a mailbox, go over the handlebars and knock it over, then someone might rudely say “two points”)

    I have no idea how widespread this useage is. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen “two points” used like theis on the net. It could be that it is a local saying.

  26. mom says:

    Polk says: Always hated that scene in the movies… I couldn’t believe they did away with the Scourging of the Shire. On every read through it was one of my favorite chapters!

    Ditto on all points

  27. Susano says:

    Funny thing, when the GM speaks in my current game, we all listen, ’cause we know it’s going to be important.

    On there other hand, the last session did see the party leader give the unconscious bad guy the Lincoln treatment.*

    (* – the back of the head from 6″)

  28. Shamus says:

    gahazakul: In the special edition the camera follows Saruman down as he falls. (After grima stabs him in the back.) The image above is a composite of about six different images, with the other instances of Saruman removed in photoshop.

  29. Susano says:

    IIRC — Peter Jackson didn’t like the Scouring of the Shire and did admit it would add an extra 20 minutes to the movie.

    On the other hand, the extended Hall of the Dead sequence was terrible, and let’s not talk about Legolas’s Oliphant surfing.

  30. Roxysteve says:

    Ace Says:
    Taking time to write dialog for your NPCs is like arguing on the internet.
    No matter what you do, it’s always useless in the end.

    No it’s not. (oblig.)

    Steve.

  31. Shamus says:

    Yeah, if we reclaimed the time spent on Arwen and her father, the part where Elrond (wince) hikes the sword over to Aragorn, the Gimli vs. Legolas drinking game, the skull avalanche, and the part where they hijacked the boats from the pirates, we would have another half hour to play around with, plus we’d be rid of the worst parts of the movie.

  32. Roxysteve says:

    I believe one reason Jackson gave for leaving out the Scouring of the Shire was that the movie already had one ending too many, and in many ways he is right even though I would have liked to see Sharkey’s End.

    Many movie-savvy types think the Grey Havens should have been given the heave-ho too, and the movie ended at the crowning of Aragon. There is a case to be made for that if you haven’t read and loved the books.

    Steve.

  33. Roxysteve says:

    [Shamus] the Gimli vs. Legolas drinking game? It is a deleted scene on my four-disc buttock-snoozer edition copy. Are you working from the third attempt to milk cash from an admiring public?

    Personally, I think the market can’t stand yet another cut of LOTR. Even Lucas only had one set of do overs.

    Steve

  34. Rebecca says:

    I’m actually on Peter Jackson’s side about the alteration of the movie. You don’t put a long action sequence twenty minutes after the climax of the movie. You just don’t. George Lucas stopped “Return of the Jedi” after the second Death Star blew up, not after Luke and Leia deal with disbanding the Galactic Empire and hunt down the remaining Star Destroyers. Okay, maybe Lucas isn’t the best example here, but keep in mind that most reviewers were already complaining that the third act of “Return of the King” was too long. Movies and books are different media.

    Oh, and great comic, Shamus. I’m loving Legolas’s hyperactivity. I can just see him taking down the Oliphaunt. “Now I CLIMB UP THE SIDE USING ARROWS EMBEDDED IN ITS SKIN! I can do that, right? Right? Awesome!”

  35. Shamus says:

    Roxysteve: In the version I have, it’s actually part of the movie.

    It hurts.

  36. Hee. Shooting Gollum was an in-game plot divergence. But this is an in-*movie* plot divergence that Shamus adapted to an in-game plot divergence– presumably the DM was trying to run the plot from the books. I think this is the first time we’ve seen strips that get their humor from divergences between the movies and the books. (Our trio of PCs don’t bring us to moments like Faramir dragging the hobbits to Osgiliath or the Ents acting like lazy cowards who can nonetheless be easily manipulated into a fight.) I’m amused.

    More like that, please. I’m imagining the players fast-talking and loop-holing their way out of the DM’s intention that the army of the Dead fulfill its oath at the fight with the Corsairs so they can keep the army until Pelennor. “Fine, fine, you get to bring your invulnerable undead army to the CLIMACTIC BATTLE OF THE WHOLE CAMPAIGN THAT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO WIN YOURSELVES.”

  37. Carl the Bold says:

    33 Roxysteve Says: … Even Lucas only had one set of do overs.

    You mean “so far”.

    aside: speaking of Lincoln (see comment 27 above), I found this shirt amusing: http://www.starslipcrisis.com/lincoln.shtml

  38. Habenath says:

    Shamus, you may be interested to know (if you didn’t already) that there has been talk over on TheOneRing.net about one of the community there putting together a more ‘faithful’ Pantom Edit version of the LotR movies.

    I understand synching the music is a big hassle, but they remain positive.

    Still won’t get me my Barrow Downs back though :/

  39. Selki says:

    “Yeah, if we reclaimed the time spent on Arwen and her father, the part where [...], we would have another half hour to play around with, plus we’d be rid of the worst parts of the movie.”

    So true.

    I’d add the Gollum-frames-Sam-as-lembas-thief bit and the tears to that list, though.

  40. theonlymegumegu says:

    Tell me you’ve seen The Gamers. There’s a great scene in that movie that makes another good “I shoot him” during parlay joke ^_^

  41. David says:

    Great comic as always. I could see it coming when he asked how long the dialogue was, and confirmed it when he asked about 6 seconds.
    I saw a great B movie that did something similar about PCs shooting the bad guys while the DM was trying to read dialogue. You all need to check out the movie “The Gamers” by Dead Gentlemen. A friend brought it 1 day for our D&D group to see at teh end of the night any D&D players or anyone who knows D&D players has to see this hilarious spoof on gaming. I think it’s less than an hour long (the website is deadgentlemen.com I’m not selling them, just think everyone should see this hilarious movie; I’m waiting for their 2nd D&D spoof which should be out in the near future). In addition to the arrow during dialogue, they also spoof trusting new beings who happen to be other PCs even when found outside evil castles, backstabbing damage, and thieves stealing things:
    PC: “I steal his pants.”
    DM: “Why do you want to steal his pants?”
    PC: “I don’t want the pants; I just want to see if I can steal them.”
    It shows how anything can be accomplished or failed because it is based on dice rolling, not common sense.

  42. John says:

    Yeah, they should totally move into the tower. But with no shops, no taverns, and no wenches? They’d soon find that “this town sucks.” There’s that, and the risk of Dutch Elm Disease.

  43. Tom says:

    Love it!! Laughing like a maniac. I discovered this and read them all in one sitting – this is so funny because it’s so true. Thanks for giving the nameless GM a voice. Great work. Please keep it up.

    -Tom

  44. Anon says:

    Around here we use “Three points!” as “Nice shot!”, as it happens. I’m in the UK, but it’s a baskteball term – the three-pointers are the tricky long-distance ones, right?

  45. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Hah! I love it! Only problem is, Shamus, you’re likely to get me fired. Got any WFH positions available at your company? I’d be willing to relocate. Michigan (?) can’t be that different from Alberta…

    Polk Says:…the Scourging of the Shire. On every read through it was one of my favorite chapters!

    I can’t in good conscience agree with your opinion. (I recognize it is your opinion and respect that. I just don’t agree with it.) I understand from a literary point of view the impact which this chapter is supposed to have – the end of innocence, you can’t go home again, change is inevitable, yadda yadda. The problem I have is that I want to go home again!!! I love the idylic view of the Shire from the opening of the story and it breaks my heart when they go home to find that progress has ruined their peaceful utopia. I loved this chapter from a symbolic sense when I first read the books (about half a million years ago, I think), but the next time I read them I was practically in tears at the beginning because I knew what would happen to that lovely place. I hated that!

    That said, the Scourging of the Shire would have been a better way to end than the morose Walking Away of the Elves. I love looking at Liv Tyler (shallow, I know), but I found myself wishing that part would just end so I could pee.

    Keep up the good work, Shamus!

    Richard

  46. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Aw rats! Forgot to end the italics tag!

    Curse these unthinking boxes! =)

  47. Matt says:

    Doesn’t Sam see the Shite being pillaged by Saruman in Galadriel’s Mirror? What was the point of that if it doesn’t happen? Also, it shows Jackson shot at least some of it.

  48. Morits says:

    Hilarious!
    I only discovered this site today from a link in Wizards of the Coast.
    PCs never pay attention.
    PCs are a bunch of Thugs who want to murder people and steal their stuff.
    PCs hate NPCs who have speaking parts.
    The dice that fell behind the computer.
    Conversation is always about computer geekery and pizaa, never about the Game-World.

    It is all so true!

  49. Marmot says:

    This is getting seriously out of hand. I wonder if they’ll decide to burn Denetho…..
    oops. Gandalf gets to do that.
    Amazing one, as always!

  50. Attorney At Chaos says:

    “Around here we use “Three points!” as “Nice shot!”, as it happens. I’m in the UK, but it’s a baskteball term – the three-pointers are the tricky long-distance ones, right?”

    True enough – it’s just that “Two Points” as a generic expression predates the change in the rules of basketball that introduced the three point shot. “Two points” was being used in that manner at least as far back as the 60s and probably earlier. The NBA added the 3-pointer around 1980. (Though the ABA and a few college experiments predated that, that’s when it became generally accepted.)

    I heard “two points” moderately regularly on the east coast of the US, but upon reflection it isn’t used much on the west coast (at least around here).

  51. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    Gets better and better.
    BTW Shamus, I really liked your interview. If you decide you want to DM again, I’ll play. Ive got a great setup for voice chat, maps, minis, and dice.

  52. George says:

    are not those pictures of Saruman from the Two Towers when the Ents invade Isenguard?

    Good comics, you should have put the last two into one if you ask me but none the less funny

  53. Nomi says:

    Matt: in the book Sam sees the Shire being burned down but in the movie its Frodo that sees it. Its a forwarning of what might happen depending on the Fellowship’s actions. In the context of the movie its really what would of happened if Frodo hadn’t destroyed the ring.

    And while I’m crawling out of lurker-dom, am I the only one who didn’t think Legolas was a jerk for shooting Grima in the movie? They needed Saurman alive to get information out of him o_o

    The scouring of the shire in the movie would have been awesome, and I still mourn the fact that the Barrowdowns weren’t in it, but I understand Jackson’s reasoning behind it all…

    K – Imma crawl back under ma lurker rock now =)

  54. Siliconscout says:

    Personally it was my favorite part of the book because the boys coming back has some serious whoop a** going on.

    I was really looking forward to seeing an “army” of Hobbits taking on the bad guys and was crushed when I heard he never shot it so it wouldn’t be on a special edition.

  55. Fickle says:

    Out of context, Legolas asking if an awkward silence lasts longer than six seconds is fantastic. XD But Legolas in general is amusing the hell out of me. Mind of a six-year-old, body of a –

    Yeah, let’s not go there. ^_~

    Great job on the stitching together of the tower! That must have taken some heavy Photoshop skills, Shamus.

  56. Sartorius says:

    I think this is important enough to point out:

    The Shire is not burnt, sacked, or pillaged. It is industrialized. Saruman moves in, establishes what amounts to a totalitarian government, and begins setting up factories and despoiling the landscape. He does to the Shire more or less what he does to Orthanc. Nobody came and burnt down all the houses and slaughtered the Hobbits – his group of halforcs merely banded together with some undesirable elements amongst the hobbits themselves, and took over political control.

    Thus, when the hobbits return, it is to an industrial police state, not a barren wasteland. Saruman did not obliterate the Shire; he ruined it.

  57. John says:

    “Around here we use “Three points!” as “Nice shot!”, as it happens. I’m in the UK, but it’s a baskteball term – the three-pointers are the tricky long-distance ones, right?”

    True enough – it’s just that “Two Points” as a generic expression predates the change in the rules of basketball that introduced the three point shot. “Two points” was being used in that manner at least as far back as the 60s and probably earlier. The NBA added the 3-pointer around 1980. (Though the ABA and a few college experiments predated that, that’s when it became generally accepted.)

    I heard “two points” moderately regularly on the east coast of the US, but upon reflection it isn’t used much on the west coast (at least around here).

    Over in New Zealand, this is used in a totally different way that still works. When driving, if a pedestrian is particularly annoying, a passenger will offer the driver a number of points to run them down. The more mobile the pedestrian is, the less points. (Eg. fit adult = 1pt, old lady on a walking frame = 50pts). It should be mentioned that these points arent worth anything, and the driver isnt actually supposed to take them up on the offer.

  58. Joshua says:

    I’ll have to agree with the removal of the Sharkey plotlines, as having a conflict after the climax of the movie is rather, well, anti-climactic. Personally, I never really liked it that much anyways, as it’s a strange business and change of pace for this uber-powerful wizard who was raising an orc army to take over Rohan to somehow make his way over to the shire and run a group of petty thugs instead.

    I’ll agree with the part about some of the unnecessary add-ons to the movie. Some of the scenes I could understand, like the Wargs attacking to add an action scene in the middle of an otherwise dry sequence, but some of the others were just strange, unnecessary and rather against Tolkein’s works, like the entire portrayal of Faramir.

  59. Downtym says:

    Player’s Guide to Killing Major NPC’s (who are consistently a pain in your rear):

    1. Lull the DM into a sense of confidence that his NPC will never be defeated.

    2. Wait until said NPC begins a long exposition.

    3. Ask for surprise or just roll initiative.

    4. Shake-and-bake the bad guy.

    5. If the bad guy escapes, try to start over at 1. If he dies, make sure to (in this order): Loot, Demand XP Commensurate for Defeating a Major Encounter (Afterall, the bad guy did give you the slip and you were smart enough to finally defeat him), and then Burn the corpse, pulverize the ashes, vacuum whatever is left up into a bag of holding which you tie off and dump into a volcano which you then destroy with an orb of annihilation – the bad guy is going to be ressed, you just need to make sure that when he is that there’s a great story to go along with it.

    And most importantly

    6. Giggle.

  60. orcbane says:

    Whenever I killed my DM’s favorite NPC, the NPC suddenly gained some secret feat that allowed him to survive all to the way to -21 HP, and remain active for that time… So It took me two more rounds to kill him and shut the DM up.

  61. Rick says:

    Its been said if Tolkein submitted LOTR as a manuscript today he’d be unlikely to get published, and definately not in its current format. Even in his day when he first submitted his manuscript apparently he was advised to make some changes which he refused to do and the manuscript sat in some draw for a few years. Tolkein’s style jars against current trends in writing, and definately against audience expectations of movie plots, especially Hollywood style movies. You just have to see some Hollywood remakes of European or Asian movies to see the differences between them. So I’m sympathetic to the scriptwriters of LOTR movie who had to make some difficult choices between being true to the book and audience expectation (thinking of those who havent read the book which I guess would be the majority).

    But I think he should have bucked the trend and gone for the Scouring of the Shire. Sure it was a mini climax after the main climax, but so what? Only the film/script cognescenti would have complained. And really they could have pared down the 40 minute scenes of reuniting hobbits and the tearful scenes of the ring bearers heading west on the elven ship.

    Still whats done is done, and I’m glad the movie was made. Maybe the remake in another 50 years or so will include it.

  62. Sartorius says:

    Over in New Zealand, this is used in a totally different way that still works. When driving, if a pedestrian is particularly annoying, a passenger will offer the driver a number of points to run them down. The more mobile the pedestrian is, the less points. (Eg. fit adult = 1pt, old lady on a walking frame = 50pts).

    This joke originated from the movie “Death Race 2000″ (1975), wherein contestants in a race actually did earn a certain number of points for hitting different people.

    Personally, I never really liked it that much anyways, as it’s a strange business and change of pace for this uber-powerful wizard who was raising an orc army to take over Rohan to somehow make his way over to the shire and run a group of petty thugs instead.

    There is a thematic point that Saruman is, in the final calculation, petty and pathetic. Gandalf comments at one point that, impressive as Orthanc appears to be, it’s really just a weak, feeble imitation of the Barad-Dur, and that Saruman is somewhat risible for believing that he could contend with Sauron. Witness his final humiliation when he is taken over by Gandalf’s party on the road north from Orthanc, and he is reduced to stealing Merry’s tobacco pouch. At the end of his career, Saruman is puffed up about having become the petty tyrant of the Shire – yet how diminished this is from his dreams of dethroning the Dark Lord.

  63. Isoyami says:

    @Sartorius (#61).

    Yea… but when Gandalf the Grey fights Saruman in Fellowship (when Frodo is traveling to Rivendell [or is that Frito heading to Rivertown? ;) ]) Saruman kicks Gandalf’s pansy bard ass all over Orthanc. Heheh.

    Of course, when Gandalf ressurects as Gandalf the White, that’s a different story.

  64. Isoyami says:

    Whoops… should be (#62), not (#61). Sorry.

    And you make a good point, Sartorius, I’m just being silly. :D

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