DM of the Rings CIV:
Girl Trouble

  By Shamus   May 25, 2007   148 comments

Eowyn wants to come along.
Eowyn wants to come along.
Eowyn wants to come along.

A lot of tension in a story happens when the characters do something against the wishes of the audience. This isn’t really possible in the context of an RPG, because the characters ARE the audience.

It pretty much means you can’t create moments like the one where (in the books, mind you) Eowyn begs Aragorn to let her ride with him into battle, and he refuses because he has no right to accept. If you try, you’ll end up with nonsense like what you see above, because 90% of the players out there will simply let her join without a second thought. The other 10% will try to have sex with her first.

A Hundred!20208We've got 148 comments. But one more probably won't hurt.


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  1. Rashala says:

    WOHOOOO First comment

    • Menakles says:

      “WOHOOOO” isn’t actually a comment. Surprised noone has noticed this in the past 7 years.

      Great strip btw. I’ve spent most of the afternoon reading it. One of the benefits of living in the future. Now excuse me while I read on. Enjoy your wait ’till the next strip People of the Past!

  2. Kaen says:

    lol that’s too good, I’ve known too many of the 10% in my games.

  3. Browncoat says:

    Brilliant. If this was the cause for the delay, I am well mollified!

  4. Jeff says:

    And sadly he did that too (the having sex with her first part…)

    Loving the story.

  5. Rollie says:

    Yet another gem.

  6. Karkki says:

    “If you try, you’ll end up with nonsense like what you see above, because 90% of the players out there will simply let her join without a second thought. The other 10% will try to have sex with her first.”
    I do acree with that.

  7. DB says:

    Maybe Eowyn should of went along the lines of “Don’t throw away your life” on the paths of the dead. Funny, though.

  8. Myxx says:

    Man, Eowyn was all too real. A bit creepy in fact. I’m sure her inherent female rationality will somehow lead her to the conclusion that Aragorn is to blame for whatever decision she made.

  9. Brian says:

    This is the 14 years of my marriage in a nutshell.

  10. Sartorius says:

    Well… now nobody can say that fantasy role-playing games don’t depict women realistically.

  11. Florian says:

    Shamus, your frame selection is just awesome in this strip. You manage to have the picture tell things… it didn’t want to.

  12. haashaastaak says:

    can’t wait till they find nothing but dry bones, albeit armed with swords, in the dungeon. The problem is, the roles called for heroes, and these guys aren’t heroes. If they were, they wouldn’t be wasting all their time playing Dungeons & Dragons; they would be out volunteering in retirement centers or working double shifts as firefighters.

  13. Morte says:

    Just the thought of the DM twisting himself in knots role playing Eowyn makes me giggle.

  14. John says:

    Brilliant! Worth the wait!

  15. Asil says:

    It is a shame that two-thirds of the women in this story spend so much time waffling about what their fate should be. Especially since they both seem to be trying to figure out how to tie themselves to Aragorn forever. Haven’t they read this comic?

    • Kanerou says:

      To be fair, that didn’t happen in the books. IIRC, Arwen sat at home waiting for Aragorn to finish his business so he could come back and marry her; she also made a rather nice banner for him to fly as the rightful king. Eowyn was in love with what Aragorn represented (honor, glory, etc) as opposed to the man himself. After stabbing the Witch King in the face, she met Faramir and eventually got over this. They didn’t waffle over their fate at all. They knew what they wanted (or thought they wanted) and worked toward that end–perhaps a little less so with Arwen, but at least she did something.

      On a related note, I’m always amused to see how people approach the subject of Eowyn and “girl power”. She did do something great, but it seems like people gloss over the fact that she later settled down with a nice man (who was freaking awesome in his own right) and decided she’d rather heal people than skewer them.

  16. Wraithshadow says:

    There’s a simple solution to this of course: make sure you outline both sides of the moral dilemma, why each should be chosen and why each shouldn’t. Your players will inevitably break character to tell you which side is right. So argue the other side- until they agree, then switch.

    Sooner or later they’ll shut up, actually think, and then come to a decision.

  17. -Chipper says:

    Shamus,
    I’m trying to figure out whether you post these at noon eastern us time out of kindness so it will not cut in to many people’s work time, or out of a dark streak that causes you endless laughter as you think of all the monitors with spewed food on them.

    This strip is in the top 10% of your strips. … along with most of the other strips. … errrr. Well, top notch lad, top notch.

  18. Steve says:

    “Oh my gosh, I did not need this”
    Eyes closed in dejection, perfect!

  19. Dal says:

    Rashala wrote:
    >WOHOOOO First comment

    Technically not a comment; thanks for playing though.

    Awesome strip today Shamus. Long-time reader, first-time poster. Good job.

    d.

  20. The_Mighty_Brain says:

    oh man this was well worth the wait! I was really looking forword to this part to im glad you did it. great work.

  21. Marmot says:

    Your comment below the comic was the star feature this time. Only 10%? Way underestimated :)

  22. Librain says:

    Oh man, I think I’ve spent most of my characters in the 10% bracket :(

    Although my current one would fit into neither. He would probably do something insanely crazy like kidnap her and take her down the paths of the dead as cannon fodder. Of course providing a reasonably logical explanation of why he was doing it, which would be quickly seen through by the GM, who would let it happen anyway because it’s just too good to not. Man I love my character :)

    Librain
    “I’m not arrogant, I really am that good.”

  23. brassbaboon says:

    Masterful. The shot of Eowyn at a loss for words as the DM tried to figure out how to handle Aragorn’s invitation to join them in a dungeon crawl is just too sweet. Excellent job.

  24. Lil'German says:

    The title of the comic sounds familiar… :D recycling after just one week must be a new record in webcomic numbers, mustn’t it? :D

    And i think this rather is what you get when you’re not flexible enough with your storyline. Why should the players know how to act when you give them some rather hilareous situation ? Whole thing about RPG is that the DM puts them into surprising situations and they try to get out of them the best way they know their characters could manage.

    Honestly this situation would have called for Eowyn to remind Aragorn of the little “souvenir” he got from her – last time they saw one another… That should have worked the way our uncrowned Master-DM wanted it to… (so that Eowyn has to stay behind and can sneak into the army like the book calls for).

    So another booo for the Union Pacific Railroading Company and a hooray for bored Aragorn :D

  25. Thiago says:

    Nice, really nice

  26. DocTwisted says:

    “Whatever, do what you like. I don’t care.”

    I’ve actually heard that phrase uttered by PC in various games where the DM tried to pull a similar style in presenting a NPCs personal dilemma. It’s one of the tenets of casual role play: The PCs don’t care what the NPCs are up to, so long as they don’t get in their way when it’s time for exp and loot.

  27. Aaron says:

    The ‘cap of Eowen is fabulous … just a standard “duh” look that tells more of the story than words could have. Screencap-fu ftw.

    Speaking of the 10%, I actually had a couple of players download (I have no idea from where and never went looking) Sex and D&D as a supplement to the standard 2nd Ed rules. Everything seemed ok until the Human Female got pregnant mid campaign and wouldn’t say how …

    The campaign ended very shortly thereafter.

    Awesome strip!! :D

  28. Anonymous Coward says:

    Hmm, sex.

  29. A Minor Ommision? Again?

    “A dungeon! We may see exitement yet ere this adventure is over.”

    Good to see the players still lurve the campaign :)

  30. okay! says:

    Peter Jackson and anybody else affiliated with the LOTR movies needs to be reading this series.

  31. Proteus says:

    That last panel was *awesome*!

    And having been mugged by Women’s Studies majors, it’s extra funny…

  32. Ward Hall says:

    I think you’ve got your percentages backward. 90% would try to bag her first, the other 10% would just let her tag along (and half those would let her come so they could bag her later).

  33. brassbaboon says:

    “90% of the players out there will simply let her join without a second thought. The other 10% will try to have sex with her first.”

    A couple of issues.

    Most of the characters in the games I play would almost certainly refuse to let any NPC “tag along” in a dungeon crawl, mostly because they would be afraid that would cut down their XP and loot percentages.

    In an interesting coincidence, in my current low-level campaign a very similar scenario has come up. An ex-girlfriend (NPC) of the party wizard has joined the party temporarily (because she knew the way to the bandit lair they were looking for), and pretty much the first question that was asked was “will she reduce our XP values?” My response was “if she fights that will reduce your share of XP.” That led to an interesting discussion where the party tried to reconcile their loss of XP against their likelihood of success of finding the bandit lair without a guide.

    In the meantime she has repeatedly tried to pull the wizard aside for “romantic liasons” and so far the wizard has pretty much refused to take her up on it.

    So I guess my party is in that 10% you are talking about….

  34. Isoyami says:

    Agreed, the shot of Aragorn going: “OMG, I SOOOO do not need this” are awesome.

    Great to see the comic back.

    Seamus, I noticed one thing. Both this comic (CIV) and a previous comic (CII) have the same title: “A Minor Omission”. I don’t know if you did that intentionally or not.

  35. ZackTheSTGuy says:

    You know, I think in all my years of gaming, not once have any of my players attempted to sleep with any female NPCs in my games.

    Maybe it’s because *I’m* the one portraying the females….. and my facial hair stretches the imagination beyond the breaking point.

    Either that, or all my friends are secretly gay. Hmmmm….

    • Bluesophia says:

      Well, in one campaign, I did the opposite and created an elf that has the benefit of being able to shift between male and female at the drop of a hat. Said benefit was also compounded with the character being quite literally the kind of person to do “anything that moves”. i had a lot of fun with that character. XD

  36. Isoyami says:

    And the shot of Eowyn giving Aragorn the big puppy eyes in panel 11 is brilliant.

    (BTW, I was going to say: “big brown puppy eyes”, but I couldn’t tell if they were brown or blue. D’oh! *facepalm*)

  37. Isoyami says:

    And in my comment #33, its supposed to be Shamus. I know it’s Shamus. Sorry.

    Blargh.

    *Gives Mr. Brain a kick in the pants and a big mug of espresso.*

  38. Sewerman says:

    Hey just think! Gimli will soon get his chance to bash some skellies!

    I wonder how they’ll complain next…

  39. DB says:

    @37 Gimli would probably complain next that there are no skellies (at least, that are animated), and that his axe doesn’t work on the green guys (maybe they are aliens?). The only one who has a chance of gaining XP will be Aragorn with the “hi” sword, which should be greatly discouraged.

    Do they even know why they are going on the paths of the dead? I guess that makes sense to all PC’s who go into the dungeons, it’s what they are supposed to do…

  40. The real problem is that players, conditioned to seize at any plot-threads dangled before them like a cat lapping up a saucer full of milk, will assume that any time anyone ever asks them to do something they’re “supposed” to say yes.

    It takes me some effort to convince new players to my campaign that, no, really, you don’t have to follow-up on every single thing in the campaign. Until I figured out what was going on I was utterly baffled by conversations where players would complain about the campaign going in a particular direction when they had been the ones who had chosen to take it in that direction.

    This actually ties into the railroading discussion from the past couple of days: These players were so conditioned to accept the railroad that they were seeing imaginary tracks. Thus, I saw them making choices, but in their own minds they had no choice.

  41. Scarlet Knight says:

    No one would want to have sex with Eowyn since there are no clerics in the party. However, the position of monster decoy is still open…

    Also, & I know I’m gonna’ regret this,…but this reminds me of the line from “As Good as it Gets” :
    Q:How do you write women so well?
    A: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.

    Yep, I regret it already…

  42. someone says:

    “The real problem is that players, conditioned to seize at any plot-threads dangled before them like a cat lapping up a saucer full of milk”

    And here I thought you’d be dangling string in front of the cat too…

  43. Roxysteve says:

    [Justin Alexander] After reading your posts in the railroading threads I can’t say I’m surprised you were baffled, or that your players were unhappy. Players often need the subtle structure you have been so vocally rejecting for days.

    Its also interesting that you see this as a player problem, rather than a group one.

    However, I wasn’t there and I don’t know you or your players, so I will refrain from virulently assigning blame and imposing my personal playbook on you. I will say (again) that when I allowed players in a Traveller campaign I ran to follow rumours (a game term for plot/red herring seeds) without any sort of guidance they thrashed around and ended up complaining much the same way you report yours did. When I stopped doing that and emphasised the good leads (with subtlety) they and I had a much better time and my games had waiting lists. This experience has informed my choices of DM style ever since.

    Steve

  44. Aragon’s face in panel 12 is BRILLIANT!

    Pure, genius!

    I can’t wait to see how they do in the path of the dead.

    :D

  45. Roxysteve says:

    Brian Says:
    This is the 14 years of my marriage in a nutshell.

    Really? Mine resembles the bit at Helms Deep where Everyone thinks they’ve got it all under control only to have some interferring sod set off the mother of all M80s under their feet.

    Steve.

  46. pdwalker says:

    “Hey just think! Gimli will soon get his chance to bash some skellies!

    I wonder how they’ll complain next…”

    Oh, I imagine it will have to do with the dead being incorporeal so they cannot get any xp because they cannot re-kill them.

  47. Marc says:

    “This isn’t really possible in the context of an RPG…”

    Absolutely not true. In the context of D&D, maybe, or in the context of players who are only after XP and lewtzorz – in which case, why aren’t they just playing World of Warcraft or something?

    There are totally decent (where “decent” = “badass”) role-playing games that have dilemmas like this at the very core of the gameplay – Dogs in the Vineyard, for example. Well, okay, dilemmas like these, and shooting demons in the face. But you get the idea…

  48. moonglum says:

    funny comic, but I think shamus missed a little on this one…I am supposed to beleive that aragon would invite a NPC along to steal xp and tresure….sorry can’t suspend my disbilife that far :)

  49. Rolld20 says:

    Actually, given my experience, 50% would assume the GM is trying to plant a spy/double agent in the party, and either refuse violently, or allow the NPC to come, but write the GM a dozen notes about how they were guarding their valuables and never sleeping.

    Another 20% would *force* the NPC to come in case a sacrifice were needed. (Although if it needs to be a virgin, this girl ain’t gonna cut it…)

    The rest would try to metagame what the GM really wanted, and do that.

  50. Gandalf The Monk says:

    Hilarious, and worth the wait

  51. Improved Initiative says:

    “The rest would try to metagame what the GM really wanted, and do that.”

    They’d just mutter “she’s a spy” over and over just to make sure the DM doesn’t turn her into a spy (i.e. spoiling any potential drama).

    I think DMs should impose XP penalties for trying to yomin his intentions.

  52. Ishmael says:

    Excellent comic. Also, it probably shouldn’t surprise me that so many of the commentators (that IS a word, right?) have such skewed views of women, but I still find it disturbing.

  53. Lanthanide says:

    Worth the wait :)

  54. Shadow_Wizard says:

    Yeah!! I finally caught up and can’t wait for more!

  55. Aries says:

    ah the old sex before combat route, and i gotta say im realy not suprised.
    but yea nonsense NPC banter is always fun especalyif you manage to talk in circles

  56. Steve says:

    I think Aragorn should have refused point blank – they already have one hot blond woman in the fellowship (Legolas).

  57. brassbaboon says:

    Actually the player behind Aragorn would probably have gone more like this:

    Eowyn: “But I am a shieldmaiden of Rohan and can both ride and weild sword and fear neither pain nor death.”

    Aragorn: “OK, I’m assuming your armor is on under your dress then. Let’s get that dress off then and head on out. But don’t even think about kill-stealing our grabbing our treasure.”

    Eowyn: “But my Lord, what of my duty here to lead my people in my father’s absence?”

    Aragorn: “heh… she said ‘dooty’ heh heh.”

  58. H3adlin3 says:

    JA sez “The real problem is that players, conditioned to seize at any plot-threads dangled before them like a cat lapping up a saucer full of milk, will assume that any time anyone ever asks them to do something they’re “supposed” to say yes.”

    A good point is brought up in the Amber RPG, that to make the story work, just like in a novel, there should be no irrelevant NPCs or events. As the GM it is your responsibility to make sure that every person the PCs come across, and every event (not of their own making) that occurs, be somehow relevant to the plot. Of course the degree and timing of relevance should vary, to keep things interesting. ;)

    Great strip, Shamus! Love it!

    And although I know it ain’t gonna happen, I’ll still ask posters to refrain from guessing where Shamus is going next in the strip, you may be screwing up his plot lines, or worse, spoilling his jokes! :O

  59. Arralethe says:

    Now, a group of people I gamed with a long time ago *loved* the emo side of things, and therefore, in this situation, would have spent *days* agonising with the NPC.

    Personally, as a female gamer, I *love* playing a female character. You can get away with so much more as a dodgy female, even thought male gamers tend to view you as automatically dodgy by default :D

  60. brassbaboon says:

    H3adlin3:

    “…there should be no irrelevant NPCs or events. As the GM it is your responsibility to make sure that every person the PCs come across, and every event (not of their own making) that occurs, be somehow relevant to the plot.”

    Heh, so I get this image of the players having to go to the local colliseum to meet someone and finding nothing there but two gladiators and the three individuals they will talk to in the stadium during the gladiatorial events, the rest of the seats would be empty.

    Obviously there are going to be “irrelevant” NPCs. I prefer to treat my campaigns as offering as many real and perceived choices as possible. Usually I will set up the campaign to have a primary goal, but there might be three or four ways for the party to get engaged in pursuing that goal.

    In my current campaign when the party started they could have started by agreeing to do some paid work for some local gnomes, or they could have gone to a town meeting and agree to hire on as temporary deputies or they could have agreed to help some down-on-their luck fishermen whose boat had been destroyed. They chose door #2, but had they chosen door #1 or #3, they would almost certainly have ended up about where they are now, but without having been “railroaded” into it.

    Because they chose option #2, the gnomes and the fishermen have become totally “irrelevant” to the plot, but they could have just as easily chosen one of those, and in that case the local constable captain would have been the irrelevant one.

    To me it is important not only that the players feel they have some control over their fate, but that they actually have options that provide different experiences, even if the end goal is the same. To complete the campaign they have to rescue the wizard’s brother. But how they do that is up to them, within the limits of what I can prepare as alternatives for them.

    From where they are now they still have a number of choices to make, but those choices are narrowing as they get closer to the end goal. Soon they will be left with one choice, enter the goblin lair, or abandon the brother to a hideous death. But until they get there, there are still a number of “irrelevant NPCs” that they will encounter, and depending on how they choose, some of those “irrelevant” ones will instantly become the relevant ones.

  61. browncoat says:

    @57

    well put, sir.

  62. Keldin says:

    Well, That was just freaking awesome. Especially those who mentioned how this mirrored their marriages or other real world romantic / opposite gender relationships. The image of a woman who has already made up her mind and still wants to try to find some way to make a man suffer for what was by no means his fault is a stereotype for a REASON! — the reason being it has a solid basis in fact!

    Keep ‘em coming, Shamus!

  63. Saelwen says:

    “This is the 14 years of my marriage in a nutshell.”

    @Brian:
    Why didn’t she divorce you, I wonder.

    Shamus; this is another great one. Stupid crazy broad indeed :P

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