DM of the Rings CIV:
Girl Trouble

By Shamus
on May 25, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings

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.

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  1. Doug says:

    The Witch-King was prophesied not to die by the hand of man – that’s predestination for you, I guess, kinda like Macbeth having nothing to fear from anyone “born of woman”, and then getting his clock cleaned by the product of a Caesarean birth, Macduff. But the book makes it clear that it was the Barrow-blade that Merry stabbed him with that broke his spell of lichdom, whereupon a plain ordinary sword whacked into his head did what it usually does, and the Witch-King expired without even a chance to say “G*dd*mn prophecy loopholes…”.

  2. perlhaqr says:

    This is some astonishingly hilarious stuff. My wife keeps looking into my office like I’ve lost my mind, I’m laughing so hard.

    I, uh, neglected to explain exactly what was so funny about this particular comic to her… ;)

  3. perlhaqr says:

    BTW: Your comment numbering system is awesome. :D

  4. JD says:

    I’ve known the very small, 1/1000th percent who will actually say ‘no’ to them. This is a rarity.

  5. Is it a sign of my nerdiness that my average character would in fact have THOUGHT about the fact that she might be needed to rule her people… but at the same time I really don’t believe in rulers that much, and it’s not like she has an amazing leadership record, and I’m sure she could easily find yet another proxy for the king in her stead… but at the same time, I could just seduce her here since she clearly wants my balls… but then again that’s a bit underhanded, and fuck didn’t she give me an STD, and now that I think about that why haven’t I backhanded her? Oh, yeah, and I do like allied NPCs, but then again she is going to be taking my loot and shit, but we are apparently going into an army of ghosts so it might be nice to have a little more backup, especially since NPCs often have miraculously useful items to deal with something like this.

    But yeah, in general you can’t do it :D

  6. Sorry for the double post, but…

    “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.”

    The problem is that this gets very boring very fast. For one, it’s 100% predictable. It means that everything you see will matter. Every room one can enter has treasure or a trap. Every NPC is a spy, enemy, useful ally or shopkeep. There’s a few levels of how this occurs:

    1) 100% conservation of relevance. Everything is important, even if it varies in why and how. Players get pretty savvy to this.

    2) Some red herrings. You deliberately play with their expectations of what’s important, and some things you describe just aren’t. The most classic example is a room. Some of the furniture is trapped, true, but most of it is just part of the room (though, of course, in line with #3 it can BECOME important when the players need to improvise, say to bar the door or grab something nasty). One of the best tricks, even though it’s a bit cheap, is when listing to include the important thing somewhere in the middle. For example: “In the room you entered, there’s a bookcase with a few dusty almanacs, a wooden table made of mahogany, a suit of armor that grips a spear, a small bonsai tree (appears the necromancer really likes his calming rituals), some preserved rabbit corpses in jars and a lot of shrunken skulls and various chemical stuff in jars.” You’d be surprised at how many times the players miss the armor, and even if they find it they learn some interesting things that make your BBEG seem a bit more human, if still creepy.

    3) Free exploration. Some of the most beloved characters I’ve ever made were random guys. Like a dwarf shopkeeper in an otherwise pretty sober Modern Earth-based RP. Or a Headhunter Brutal Killer who quickly revealed his ability to have incredibly nasty torture and is becoming a “quirky” mentor character. If you have an RPG where a group of people on a train can do something interesting just hearing someone on a cellphone, THAT’s a great time. I think it’s important just to be ready to have every NPC have one or two interesting things. Random Peasant #23 is cheating on his wife with the barmaid who is actually an underage runaway. Hilarity ensues. This can be created on the spot when they talk to him, but it still makes the game feel real and creates sidequests immediately. The great part about THAT is that players get to feel accomplishment for the stupidest things. I felt like a god after killing a bum as a magician serial killer just due to the time it took.

    “The Witch-King was prophesied not to die by the hand of man – that’s predestination for you, I guess, kinda like Macbeth having nothing to fear from anyone “born of woman”, and then getting his clock cleaned by the product of a Caesarean birth, Macduff. But the book makes it clear that it was the Barrow-blade that Merry stabbed him with that broke his spell of lichdom, whereupon a plain ordinary sword whacked into his head did what it usually does, and the Witch-King expired without even a chance to say “G*dd*mn prophecy loopholes…”.”

    Actually, that DID come from Macbeth. See, Tolkien purportedly watched Macbeth, really eager to see trees walking and an elf kill Macbeth. When Shakespeare used an incredibly cheesy loophole, it helped him decide once and for all to make a book where trees DID walk and where a non-human DID kill a great king of evil.

  7. WeLikeShadowrun says:

    My last druid kept ending up having sex whilst drunk stoned or hypnotised, so he only knew what happended because someone else told him. Then he jumped off a two mile-high cliff because he dropped his (expensive) magic sword over the edge. Which thought is more depressing?
    Marlin you will be missed

  8. Clinto says:

    “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.”

    Arg! This is what NPC’s are for! They are the ones who do the opposite of what the character expects! They are the turncoats, the well-meaning counter points, the tearfully abandoning! What kind of games are you playing if the NPC’s aren’t the bread and butter of your drama?

  9. silver Harloe says:

    It’s fair to try to set up circumstances which give PCs a dilemma, but to ask a player to moderate an NPC’s dilemma? Especially a player who has established that he could give two flips about NPCs?

    She’s noy crazy because she’s a woman — she’s crazy because the DM is crazy to think the player behind Aragormless would really try to help her reach a decision.

  10. FreddeX says:

    I don’t know what i would have done becuase when i roleplay i try to keep as many people alive as possible (both NPCs and PCs) and more than once i have voted to leave soldiers and possible allies behind becuase the party is about to enter a place where we will most likely die “oh so terrible!”
    Sure i know that it is sort of stupid but i figure that if nothing else then it will decrese the damage done to the good guys team.
    Meeh i guess it is just the way i am! :)

  11. nocata says:

    eowyn was so intense. i don’t know why, but her sudden change of heart when she was told she could come made me scared.

  12. Reddik says:

    Good lord, I can’t get over the stupidity displayed in the comments section. Anybody who thinks this strip is sexist needs to get a clue and stop sucking it up to feminists. Seriously.

  13. Durak says:

    I’d have thought the Paths of the Dead would go something more like this (unfortunately I can’t remember the relevant place names):

    DM: “King Theodin musters the Rohirrim horselords from across the land. They gather in the valley below the haunted mountains, the king’s pavilion atop a cliff overlooking the great encampment, and guarded from assault by shear cliffs and the dread Paths of the Dead. The eorids of thr Westfold arrive at last, and the army sets out on the long-”

    Aragorn: “Did he say ‘Paths of the Dead?'”

    Gimli: “Aye, a dungeon!”

    Legolas: ” Won’t we need a cleric for this?”

    Aragorn: “We’ll be fine. We’ve leveled up, and I’ve got this new magic sword. Lets go. ”

    DM: “What?! You’re just abandoning the army as it sets out to fight the main enemy?”

    Gimli: “Can our horses fit down this passage?”

    DM: “No. Your horses run away, braying in fear at the terrible, HIGH LEVEL evil down this narrow cleft in the mountains.”

    Aragorn: “If it’s so dangerous we’ll take the army.”

    DM: “No! No mortal man dares set foot in the passages.”

    Aragorn: “Ok, if the army’s too scared, we’ll do this dungeon ourselves.”

    DM: “No sane man, anyway.
    Ok, you reach a doorway which says ‘THE WAY IS SHUT. IT WAS MADE BY THOSE WHO ARE DEAD, AND THE DEAD KEEP IT-

    Gimli: “Are we sure those Rohanese didn’t have any clerics?”

    Aragorn: “I walk in.”

    DM: “THE WAY IS SHUT!”

    Gimli: “I kick in the door.”

    THE PARTY WALKS IN TO THE MAIN ROOM AND GETS SURROUNDED BY GHOSTS.

    Gimli: “Assuming they’re the obvious profile, times the approximately two hundred we can see… This isn’t remotely level appropriate!”

    DM: “HIGH LEVEL evil, remember? Anyway, the King of the Dead looms before you, saying-”

    Legolas: “I shoot him! And… Crit!”

    DM: Sigh “Your arrow strikes him between the eyes and passes clean through his head. He-”

    Legolas: “Yes!”

    DM: “-looks at you with disdain.”

    Gimli: “There are too many of them! Aragorn, diplomacy check, now!”

    Aragorn: “Err, lets stop and talk about this. Modified 34?”

    DM: “How-”

    Aragorn: “My new level was in the King prestige class.”

    DM: Thinks for a moment “You’ve got nothing to offer them. The king attacks you.”

    Aragorn: “I block him with my magic sword.”

    Legolas: “And wasn’t he, like, their rightful king or something?”

    DM: “Fine!”

    HE GIVES ARAGORN’S SPEECH.

    DM’s note to self: resurrect the nazgul and give them dragons.

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