DM of the Rings CV:
A Subtle Hint

  By Shamus   May 28, 2007   134 comments

I hate this campaign.
Me Too.

Communication between the Game Master and the players is crucial to keeping the game fun. Solicit feedback from your players from time to time and see how they feel about the experience. If they curse, spit, or stab you with a pencil, it means they probably aren’t happy with the direction the game is going. Sadly, there isn’t much you can do about this, unless you want to give them their way. And honestly, what’s the fun in being the GM if you’re just going to let players have their way?

UPDATE: Ah. So THAT’S where the “rocks fall” joke originated!

A Hundred!2014There are 134 comments here. I really hope you like reading.


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  1. baac says:

    You can’t please everyone. Especially if they are role players…

  2. Adam says:

    Well I have been there sooo much. Both sides so I know this one and have to deal with it.

  3. Melandry says:

    Excellent job with the capping, as always. Screencap of Gimli in the antepenultimate panel is perfect.

  4. I thought the preantepenultimate panel expression was the best, myself.

  5. Serafina says:

    Ooooh, need to post as long as number of posts is still a one-digit figure! Long-time reader, second time poster – I love this. And I am looking forward to how the GM extracts himself from the “Rocks fall, everyone dies.” answer …

  6. Cadamar says:

    That is why role-playing is refered to as *collaborative* story telling. The DM provides the setting, antagonists, and a framework of a plot. The Players supply the protagonists and are responsible for keeping them in character and reacting appropriately. It’s the responsiblity of both the DM and the Players to make the game fun and the story interesting.
    If everyone isn’t having fun or the respective players are having trouble keeping their responsibilities then talk about it. Make new characters, change the direction of the campaign, start over. The point is to have fun and tell a good story.

  7. Minced Meat Cannibal says:

    In fact, the correct term is role playing GAME, so when run perfectly, a RPG provides the fun of a story and a game at once. It’s like this:

    Roleplaying & Rollplaying > Roleplaying OR Rollplaying > listening to a tale.

  8. Wraithshadow says:

    >>The point is to have fun and tell a good story.

    And this series is a perfect example of what happens when the players focus on the first half, and the DM focuses on the second half.

    That said, it’s hilarious. And excellent use of the ‘Rocks fall’ line, Shamus. Though I have to admit I was sort of hoping it’d get used when Pippin meets the Steward of Gondor. Perfect setup to recreate that webcomic…

  9. Luke (Thrythlind) says:

    I was playtesting a campaign setting last time I ran a campaign. Unfortunately, I also started on my teaching certification and looking for a job the same summer.

    The result was not planning for the campaign week to week.

    I still hear comments along the lines of:

    “You mean it’s actually something we can crit? It’s not undead animated plant ooze elemental or something?”

    -_-

    “No…”

    “Yes! All those sneak attack and precise damage abilities will finally come into play.”

    “It’s a golem.”

    “GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”

  10. Luke (Thrythlind) says:

    Oh yeah….then there was the one time they managed to find some bandits that were supposed to ambush them.

    We still make occasional mention of not discussing how the arachne (drider-like race of diviners) favoured soul applied what has forever been branded:

    “death by ass rope”

  11. Mysti says:

    I had a DM who had one of those huge metal d20s that he would threaten us as “falling rock” damage if we got out of hand.

  12. Yahzi says:

    Boots of +3 hating! :D

  13. mark says:

    so the ending of NWN2 was intended humorously? I wasnt laughing…

  14. Wolfheart says:

    Our current GM has a reputation of killing players with a lightning bolt if they behave badly, so every time we get carried out or are going to do something stupid, we can hear the phrase: “you can see dark clouds gathering..” It’s already become a joke for our group =).

  15. ubu roi says:

    Gaaaah! There have been some terrifically funny strips lately, that have gotten little more than a chuckle out of me (A Minor Omission). But this one made me bust my gut…the bitter player sarcasm and final exasperation of the DM are what do it for me.

    Of course, I once had a player complain, “Dammit, all your NPC’s are smart-asses! That’s why I just want to kill them all!”

  16. Rolld20 says:

    “And honestly, what’s the fun in being the GM if you’re just going to let players have their way?”

    Right! After all, ‘GM’ stands for ‘Game *Master*”, and since when do Masters need feedback? You ever hear He-Man say “Oh, by the way Man-At-Arms, what do *you* think of this plan?’ ;)

  17. Mrs T says:

    I can’t blame the players myself. This campaign has been full of ‘you go hear and listen to this NPC say stuff’, which is about as deadly boring as they come. To the players. To us, it’s hilarious.

  18. Marmot says:

    Rocks fell indeed… oh the joys of the gaming table. An’ the old days when people would refuse to leave the DM’s house…

  19. Ben says:

    that is fun im pretty sure that this campaign won’t see to the end

  20. Locri says:

    *laughs* good comic.

    I remember getting pissed off at a particular player in one of my games because his character wouldn’t give up the very thing that the party had set out to find for the “king” of a local farming town. He started rushing out the door so I had him run full force into a guard with a pitchfork at the ready… ^_^;;

    He did survive, barely.

    Later the player in question apologized for being such an arse. Although, had I thought far enough in advance I might have been able to handle it a bit more delicately, but the entire game plot was created in all of 30 minutes.

  21. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    I laughed out loud after this(I love that phrase).But players being bored is nothing compared to GM being bored.In one campaign our GM decided suddenly that the whole world exploded and we all died.

  22. Ben says:

    i think this campaign won’t last any longer b/c of the players bu it is pretty funny that the campaign has gone this far

  23. Aaron says:

    Feat: Improved Hating This Campaign.

    Brilliant!

    The silent screenies of them being chastized by the GM are great … general looks of disgust that really drive the point home. That was so funny my assistant came in wondering what I was laughing about. I had to shoo her!

    A

  24. brassbaboon says:

    “Rocks fall, everyone dies.”

    Hmm…. Do I detect a bit of “I Hate This Campaign” coming from the author on this strip? Especially after the last strip’s diversion into angry social commentary?

    I hope not. I’m guessing the DM was “just kidding” and the game will slog onwards.

    Sometimes when I read this strip I get a sense that I better rethink my own campaigns to make sure my players aren’t wearing their own “+3 to hating this campaign” boots…

    It’s all about having fun, or it’s supposed to be.

    I did play an RPGA game last weekend and I have to admit that was the most railroaded I have felt in a long, long time.

  25. The_Mighty_Brain says:

    now what book do these items/feats/skills come from? is the tome of hating this campain?
    hehe i love this campain :)

  26. Fickle says:

    “Death comes raining from the skies!”

  27. Kaemaril says:

    To be fair to Gimli, I’d probably take that feat too :)

  28. Browncoat says:

    Oh yeah? Well, I have Gaunlets of Abject Abhorrence, a Shield of Tremendous Detestation, Breastplate of Acute Odium, Helm of Extreme Revulsion, Knee Pads of Intense Loating, Shin Guards of Finding Insufferable, and, um, … , a Thesaurus of, er, Synonyms. Magic Synonyms…

    +1 Magic Synonyms…

    And some antonyms.

  29. James says:

    “Skulls fall. Everyone is already dead.”

    Is surely the correct way to phrase the next encounter…

  30. finntastic says:

    What a great way to spend the past four hours! Just finished reading your comic all the way through from the start. Shamus, your a genius! :)

    Can’t wait for the next strip!

  31. Karn Necros says:

    Since it hasn’t been said yet. . Congrats to baac (and those few before him) for actually posting something other than his position in posting.

    Shamus. . . love this comic. . . . but most of all I love how much I see of myself and those I game with, in each and every comic. Represented in such a way as to bring out fits of laughter and great memories.

    Very Well Done.

  32. phobos says:

    For those who don’t spot the reference, ‘Rocks Fall, Everybody Dies’ was the climax to one notoriously dysfunctional campaign, which also featured possibly the worst abuse of druid powers ever imagined:

    http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp05032002.shtml

  33. James says:

    Aha! Do I detect an S*P reference?

    At least a rock fall would be plausible under the circumstances here…

  34. John Thompson says:

    The old 1.0 Dungeon Master Guide (God, how I’m dating myself) recommended keeping Ethereal Blue Mummies — which were naturally invisible and always attacked by surprise. Never quite used them as a DM but there were times as a player, I wished the DM would on another player.

  35. AngiePen says:

    Another vote for Legolas’s expression in the second-to-last [cough] panel being THE best. :D You rock serious truckloads of socks!

    Angie

  36. Gandalf The Monk says:

    Luke (Thrythlind) Says:
    “It’s a golem.”
    “GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”

    I get accused of this sort of thing all the time, but because in the system we use (HERO) those types of creatures don’t take Stun damage, which makes it seem like its much harder to defeat them.

  37. Isoyami says:

    *Giggle*

    Great strip. I especially loved the: “I just rolled a 1 on my saving throw vs. hating this campaign” by Gimli.

    I think I’m sensing a bit of a recurring theme here. ;)

    Don’t be a hate-a’! Don’t be hatin’!

  38. Porphyrogenitus says:

    Hoody-hoo!

    A friend clued me on DMotR and I spent the afternoon reading it start to finish. I haven’t laughed so much in *years*

    Umm…prolly shouldn’ta done it all at once then, I guess…But I couldn’t stop.

    Keep-on keepin’ on!

    Too bad Legolas didn’t say “I waste him with my longbow” in the middle of the “parley” though. :P

  39. LethalSpoon says:

    Wow. Nobody claimed first. This may be a first.

    Porphyrogenitus….I did the same thing about 2 months ago =D.

    Keep up the good work Shamus.

  40. George says:

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAHA…. improved hating this campaign

  41. Nate Jones says:

    Wow! And the hilarity of that panel was increased 100-fold for anyone who has been inordinately frustrated by that inane “Paths of the Dead” level in the EA’s Return of the King game.

  42. Rask says:

    I’m going to predict that at the end of this “game”, after all the grumbling, the players are going to ask for more.

  43. Vegedus says:

    Heh, multiple references in this one. “Rocks fall, everybody dies” and I believe I heard about stabbing with pencils over at fear the boot.

  44. Rich says:

    Shamus,

    Good strip. Is that “me too” tag on the cursor if you let it sit on the comic, coming from the DM or the cartoonist?

  45. Destroy Gundam says:

    I can’t wait to see how they handle this. Perhaps their hatred will prevent their death, or destroy the rocks.

  46. Salen says:

    “Rocks fall. Everyone dies.”

    Best line ever! Ah, that made me laugh a lot. Poor guys deserve it. DM deserved it too though. ;)

  47. Daniel says:

    Nice strip. I hope it is not a reflection of your feelings about the strip. I really enjoy it.
    Never played in a real railroad campaign for more than one session. Considering all the toys you gave Aragorn he should have a least a little bit of appreciation.

  48. Jonathan Usmar says:

    Are you kidding me?

    There’s no way “Rocks fall. everybody dies.” originates from some comic published in 2001.

    Perhaps that comic made it famous, but I first encountered this joke somewhere in early high school, and it was told to me by an older roleplayer who had heard it happen to a friend – and he gave the impression it wasn’t an original idea. Now since I graduated in 2000 (a year before that comic was published), I’m pretty sure the Joke predates the comic.

    I’d hazard a guess that the gag has been around since 1st edition D&D.

  49. Attorney At Chaos says:

    “I’d hazard a guess that the gag has been around since 1st edition D&D.”

    I can’t give an exact date or source, but I’ll agree that it was old long before that S*P comic strip.

  50. Scarlet Knight says:

    The award for best “Use of A Running Joke” goes to …”I Hate This Campaign”!

    #28 Browncoat, perhaps a “Codpiece of Contempt”?

  51. Sage_Brush says:

    I’m thinking the “Rocks fall, everybody dies.” may originate from Knights of the Dinner Table. The first time I ran into it was when a former DM referenced it some four or five years ago, and she was a KODT addict, had an ENORMOUS archive of the things.

  52. orcbane says:

    Pretty soon, I’m going to have to alter my character to conform to the “I hate this campaign” racial sub-type!

  53. brashieel says:

    I like the idea that neither the players nor the DM are having any fun at this point. They’re all just glumly marching to the inevitably dismal conclusion of the campaign out of sheer stubbornness and perversity. Unless the DM snaps and crushes everyone with rocks, that is.

    I think I’ll add my voice to everyone else’s in saying that I hope this isn’t how Shamus is feeling about the strip. I’d hate to see it end any sooner than it has to.

  54. Deacon Blues says:

    Woohoo! Fifty-fourth post!!

    (Sorry, but that had to be done…) :)

  55. Retarded Rayne says:

    I also hated the EA games version where you had to escape the paths of the dead before the falling rocks killed you. It took me forever to get out without being squished. I wonder if that will happen to them later on too, hehe.

  56. Andrew says:

    The DM stopping everyone with “Do you mind? Can we get on with this?” just gave them time to think of new phrasings. =)

    @51 — I, too, believe that “Rocks fall, everyone dies” first saw print in KODT. Of course, that only goes back to 1990, and the concept has got to be older yet …

  57. Tola says:

    You ever hear He-Man say “Oh, by the way Man-At-Arms, what do *you* think of this plan?’

    A few times in the newer one(though it’s usually Man-At-Arms who comes up with the plans in any case). I don’t know about the older one.

  58. Dannerman says:

    John Thompson; Actually, it suggested three differing punishments alongside telling the other players that whatever plan they were thinking about won’t work because of the troublemaker: the ‘Blue Bolts From the Heavens’, or permanantly stripping one point of charisma from the offending character (I’ve actually done this – I don’t reccomend it, problem players don’t care about their charisma score) or the attack of an Ethereal Mummy (which naturally always attacks by surprise.) but Gygax did basically say that the best thing to do is ask the player to leave, or do not invite them to play again.

    Also, if you had the ‘Fiend Folio’ there was a creature called something like the “white wolf” (I don’t have the book to hand, sorry!) which is pretty damn hilarious if you read it’s stats and description.

  59. Jouk says:

    Everyone dies? So that’s it, Sauron wins – campaign over? ;D

    Good job, as usual! ;)

  60. Zaxares says:

    The “I hate this campaign” gag is taken to a whole new level! :D That “Rocks fall. Everyone dies.” line was a brilliant punchline too.

    I’m a personal fan of the “Lightning Bolts of Deific Wrath” myself, with a special addition: The character is instantly slain and reincarnated into a near-useless creature, like a three-legged squirrel. Or a blind pigeon. Or a one-legged, blind halfling packbearer with cerebral palsy. Since the character technically isn’t “dead”, they’re forced to continue playing with their now-useless character. :P

    And of course, the Fates always intervene to save the character if he tries to suicide himself. This continues until I (and occasionally the party if they suffered badly as a result of the offender’s actions) decide that the offending player has been punished enough for their misdemeanors.

    Although we usually end up just winding back the clock once everybody has had a chance to vent. :P

  61. Avaris says:

    They say they hate it now, but I’m just waiting for the final comic… (I reckon: DM says, “right, thats it, its over”… cue stunned silence from players before one of them goes, “really? I was just starting to enjoy it”)

  62. Browncoat says:

    Shamus –

    You still have the T-Shirts (“Help! My dice are trying to kill me!”) at cafepress.com (http://www.cafepress.com/buy/my%20dice%20are%20trying%20to%20kill%20me/-/cfpt2_/cfpt_/source_searchBox/copt_)

    Suggestions for new shirts:

    “I hate this campaign.”

    “I’m an NPC.”
    (With apologies to the commentor who made that lament. I went and searched for it, but didn’t see it.)

  63. Bex's says:

    sweet jesus you left it their, I just found this comic, and have laughed myself into a puddel of wetness, and you LEAVE IT THEIR!!! this comic is sooo true of RPG games I’ve played, I LOVE IT :D
    Bex’s
    xxx

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  2. […] Whether or not you’re able to get this information before you sit down at the table, you must be prepared either to think on your feet and guide your players back to the story you had in mind, or, if all else fails, dig deep in the notebook and pull out a plausible encounter or two to make the session worth your players’ time. If you don’t have a notebook with some backup encounters, it’s possible, but not advisable, to totally make one up on the fly (trust me). Worst case scenario, you may have to declare rocks fall, everyone dies. […]

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