DM of the Rings CXIII:
It’s a Trap!

 By Shamus Jun 15, 2007 135 comments


Skulls!
More Skulls!

Traps are a great way to distract players when they manage to wrest the conversation from your grasp, or when they ask you to pony up for your share of the pizza.

A Hundred!2015There are 135 comments here. I really hope you like reading.


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  1. Eorl de Jonge says:

    this is a great one shamus

  2. baac says:

    A great part of the movie… that made no sense at all. Sigh.

  3. baac says:

    Oh, and “Conan’s Codpiece” was outstanding…

  4. Rob says:

    Excellent! “Conan’s codpiece”, triggered by negotiations, ST vs. ridiculous contrivances… I’m in stiches!

  5. capitain says:

    Well. Now it does make sense.
    Great one!

  6. angora says:

    I loved Gimli’s comment. Too funny.

  7. Stella says:

    Great one! Not my favorite, but my DM used it before too. Keep it up.

  8. TalrogSmash says:

    Only six responses?! I’m up way too early. An UNHOLY bowl of captain crunch!

  9. Darkenna says:

    *snort* Robust… *cough* culture… *wheeze* *dies*

  10. Parzival says:

    Wow. I’ve never posted this close to the top before (currently I’m looking at 6, but it will probably be lower). I must think of something suitably pithy and original to say! Uhm…. Uh… Great comic!

  11. haashaastaak says:

    maybe there is a bin of just finger and toe bones. Or disassociated vertebrae. Maybe there’s a trap door leading down to the room of pelvises.

    I never understood why they wasted so much work shooting a scene that was nonsensical. I know in some movies it is the only kind of scene they have, but the majority of the Lord of the rings actually advanced the plot

  12. Clyde says:

    “Skulls fall, nobody dies!”

  13. Susano says:

    I did spend this scene wondering “What the hell was *that* about?”

  14. Parzival says:

    Okay, serious comment now. (Well, semi-serious.)

    Love the “Granny’s dead. Let’s lop off her head…” bit.

    But my favorite line is…

    “It’s like we’re in a big bowl of Cap’n Crunch!”

    And yes, this sequence in the movie never made sense to me. What was this… a last joke by the oathbreakers? We’ll serve the heir of Isildur to end our suffering, but only after we tried to kill him with an avalanche of skulls?!? Huh?
    As much as the Paths of the Dead sequence was nice and heroic in the movie, Tolkien’s original version where the Dead simply silently follow Aragorn to the Stone of Erech is a lot more evocative and chilly.
    But then, we wouldn’t have had such a great comic if it weren’t for PJ “snazzing it up.”

  15. DocTwisted says:

    Well, granny’s dead… let’s behead her corpse and throw the head into the trap… ::Dies::

  16. Nob the Hobbit says:

    Read this entire comic through a little while ago after a friend pointed me here… brilliant stuff, man. Brilliant stuff.

  17. MOM says:

    I wonder what Peter Jackson thinks of this comic. SOMEONE has surely pointed it out to him.

  18. Cenobite says:

    I am now SO HAPPY that I never spent a dime on the extended version of the trilogy. This is the first that I’ve heard of this scene. Forget all of the charges of railroading that DMs often are accused of. This is much, much worse. This is Hollywood railroading the books.

  19. Wraithshadow says:

    I always figured it was something to the effect of, “Right- we’ll serve you. No use for this place anymore, might as well destroy it. Oh- by the way, we hate you, so we’ll destroy this place in a really passive-aggressive way that might kill you in the process.”

  20. Sarah says:

    Ah, Shamus, you’ve done it again! As others have confirmed, this scene made the least sense of any in the movies. (and it didn’t have a good sword reveal, either) I would have gladly traded it for any of a dozen others omitted, that would have made a real contribution to the story. Thanks for giving it what it deserved!

  21. scldragonfish says:

    Okay. Did not see the skulls coming. Thank You.

    You managed to make me laugh while I wait for my ebay auction to end.

    *drooling* game systems…

  22. Tamsyn says:

    I’ve read them all and this is the funniest yet, 5 laughs out loud!

  23. Carl the Bold says:

    I laughed at the “I wonder how long it takes them to reset the trap every time it goes off” line.

    And am I the only one that thinks it looks like that line was spoken by Cap’n Barbosa?

  24. Count_Zero says:

    I must confess, the only proper response when a trap that will drop thousands upon thousands of skulls on you (or a similar sort of trap), is “Oh Crap,” or some minor punctuation related variation thereof (like “Oh. Crap.” or “Oh, Crap.”)

    Don’t believe me? Just ask Hellboy!

  25. … Wow. I am so glad I never watched the Extended Edition of ROTK.

    I mean, this isn’t as stupid as a flaming Denethor running the length of an entire city before plunging off a cliff, but it’s right up there in the same league.

  26. Gary says:

    Long time reader, first time poster. I must say that I adore this strip of yours Shamus. You take humor and storytelling to new heights.

    I had to struggle SO hard not to laugh out loud SEVERAL times during todays strip! I’m at work Shamus, you’re killing me! LOL! My head nearly exploded from holding in the laughter.

    This was a work of true genius completely explaining a rather oddball scene, much like you did with Aragorn recieving Narsil reforged in the middle of the war camp. Both priceless bits of movie mocking.

    Keep them coming, I’ll never get bored.

  27. elda says:

    well this brightened up my day. thanks shamus. no matter how crappy my day is, i can atleast take comfert in the fact that i’m not getting thousands of skulls dropped on me.

  28. Tuccy says:

    Long-time lurker, first-time poster…

    Have to admit two things – 1) I have never played Dungeons and Dragons or alike (though similar moments can be found in strategies etc. as well)
    2) I haven’t found the courage to watch LoTR III. The battle for Helm’s Deep somehow ruined it for me, with all those Elven archers, shieldsurfing, ents and Faramir completely out of character, Eomer banished etc.
    Now, I am determined to watch the movie – as soon as this great comics series ends. I will watch all three movies in fact and I will be laughing my head off insanely – dot only due to this comics, but also thanks to things as “They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard” clip.

    Keep up the good work!

  29. jbrandt says:

    Well, they DID ask for “all the stuff.”

  30. Roxysteve says:

    Dear Mr Young,

    Re: Today’s comic: V. droll!

    Yrs etc.

    Steve.

  31. Madalch says:

    Quick! Grab them and put them in the Horadric Cube! We can reroll our rare items!

  32. Marty says:

    I’ve always found dungeon-based traps to be totally contrived in D&D… This comic just puts the icing on the cake, tying together how it’s silly in both movies and adventure modules.

    Very funny.

    PS – On a side note, why does everyone love Tomb of Horrors, anyway? Worst. Module. Ever… (for those of us old enough to remember).

    By the way, the Dungeon Crawl Classics line (Goodman Games) is really wonderful. They combine the nostalgia of playing those old TSR-style modules, but with actual plot, NPC motivations and realism (ie- No asking why a displacer beast would be hanging out in some random dungeon room…)

    I never really liked kick-in-the-door style role playing, but Dungeon Crawl Classics actually makes it fun!

    I have no affiliation with Goodman Games other than being a satisfied customer.

  33. bruce says:

    Between us all, we must cover every panel of this episode. Did one one else like the “maybe they have another trap which just drops arms and legs”. That’s the one that got me the most.

  34. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Marty Says:I’ve always found dungeon-based traps to be totally contrived in D&D…”

    What!? Do you have no sense of tradition man? Why, some of my fondest memories are of being trapped underground with water, or sand, or pudding pouring in & slowly filling up the room…

  35. jperk31260 says:

    I thought the dropping skulls were shot for the vidio games and just put in the extended edition because they had the footage and someone said “Why not?”.

  36. Marmot says:

    I recall having watched the Extended Edition of Return of the King, but somehow this scene didn’t stay in my memory! Did skulls really happen on them or Shamus seized some other scene for his own purposes?

    Otherwise awesome :)

  37. Tola says:

    …I’m sorry, you’re going to have to enlighten me on this scene. This is not one I’ve seen.(They showed LOTR on TV some time back.)

    Help?

  38. anachronist says:

    Hey, has anyone else noticed that the Aragorn character has actually been trying to role-play more than usual, and Gimli less than usual? His comment “This is the first trap I’ve ever encountered that could be triggered by negotiations” indicates he was trying to get immersed in the game-world, but the silliness of this trap ejected him back into the meta-game world.

  39. Awesome, simply awesome.

    And I am so going to use that skull trap :D

  40. -Chipper says:

    Shamus,
    My appreciation is growing for your talent at taking the strange movie departures from the book & turning them into comic gold. Let’s see how many that you skewered that I can name: Aragorn’s fall of the cliff, Elrond presenting the sword in Rohan, shield surfing, of course the skull avalanche, Sauruman’s death… I’m sure there’s others & when pointed out I’ll go D’oh!

  41. Nick_Soapdish says:

    forget the comic the post script commentary is the highlight for me. Damn stingy GMs never pony up for their share of the pizza!

  42. Da Rogue says:

    Why I didn’t see this coming I don’t know. Great job Shamus; oh and about the flaming Denethor comment, He didn’t run the entire length of the city, the tomb was actually semi-close to the edge that he ran off of.

    • WJS says:

      You’re kidding, right? The great spire of rock runs from the mountain all the way to the walls, and the mausoleum was on the other side of the mountain. We saw earlier in the film how far they traveled away from the palace. They cut to just before he jumps off, but if they had shown him going all the way back it would have taken over ten minutes! (100d6 fire damage under d20 rules, fyi) Even just the spire looks to be hundreds of meters long.

  43. Mike says:

    To me, this nonsensical plot device came about because the legions of dead had been saving this trap for generations. They had never sprung it on anyone, so when faced with the prospect of cooperating with Our Heroes and never using it they decided to let it fly to get their money’s worth.

  44. james says:

    my first post: absolutely hilarious!

  45. Catri says:

    Hee! Poor Granny.
    “I wonder how long it takes them to reset the trap every time it goes off…”
    :) I just about woke the baby laughing!

  46. Al Shiney says:

    Loved it, Shamus … I totally snarfed thinking about what the “sorting room” scene would have looked like for the dead:

    Shift Supervisor: “Ok, heads go in this bin, arms and legs in that one over there, and torsos in the big one in the middle!”

    Dead Guy # 2: “Why we gotta chop up all these arms and legs, parts is parts”

    Dead Guy # 3 (in his best Joe Pesci voice): “Hey, I got a wing!”

    Brilliant strip, I too failed to remember the skull scene and now I’m glad.

  47. Colin says:

    Absolutely pimp!

  48. Shamus, that one was brilliant from top to bottom!

  49. Roger the Shruberer says:

    OH, NO!! Not traps triggered by negotiations!! We’re screwed for certain this time!!

    Whatever would players do if they actually had to watch what they said to NPCs.

    Hilarious stuff, Shamus! Keep it coming.

  50. James says:

    Actually, Shamus gives the scene much more meaning with Aragorn’s demand for their treasure. It would not be surprising if the Dunlendings were head-takers, like the Celts:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celts#The_Celts_as_head-hunters

    Thus, their greatest treasure would be the severed heads of their enemies. The Paths of the Dead in which the Army of the Dead reside probably were part of an ancient temple complex where the whole of the Dunlending people brought the heads of their enemies (not all of them, mind, just the really important ones).

    So, when Aragorn demanded their treasure, the Dead obliged…

    In the movie, it represents the collapse of the temples, filled with the taken heads from millennia of warfare, as the Dead abandon their accursed home…

  51. Mrs T says:

    I’ve actually watched the whole trilogy with the directors commentary turned on, and the writers actually made fun of this scene too. I can’t remember if any of the three took the blame for it.

  52. gahazakul says:

    HA HA HA HAHHAHAH HA AHHHA AHHAHAHAHAHA…

    OMG…lol…

    when i came came to the “bowl of capn crunch, i burst out laughing, so much so that i scared the crap out of my daughter…

    lol…lord help me…

  53. Telas says:

    One of the best yet, Shamus.

    “Save vs. ridiculous contrivances”…. beautiful.

  54. harrowed1 says:

    Come now, you should of had them botch that negotiations roll! Having something random, and stupid, nearly kill the players, due to a totaly unrelated skill roll botch, is a fine tradition in gaming going back decades! Where’s your sense of nonsensical GM tradition boy?!
    For shame shamus! FOR SHAAAAAAAAAME!!!!

  55. Dannerman says:

    Marty Good shout out to Dungeon Crawl Classics! The ‘Forest of Lanterns’ module is hilarious! You get to turn the characters into kids and have them attempt to survive a fairy tale – it’s just brilliant.

    On the Tomb of Horrors, though – I think although it was utterly, blatantly unfair it’s still a great laugh to tell stories about it with other gamers afterwards. “So how did you get killed?” kind of thing.

    Oh, and Shamus – good one with the comic! Although I did actually enjoy alot of the extended versions of the films all I could think of in that scene was; ‘Whoa! They seem to be in a computer game now…’ I was expecting a countdown timer to appear in the corner of the screen. (Those were load-bearing skulls!)

    (I fell for the ‘Crown and the Sceptre’ thing, by the way. The DM actually had to show me the module at the point because I refused to believe I wasn’t allowed a saving throw of some kind. Don’t think anyone in the group survived to the Demilich bit.)

  56. Phlux says:

    So a skull is worth what, a couple of coppers? how far to the nearest shop again? The players have a fortune on their hands and don’t even realize it!

  57. Scarlet Knight says:

    NOW we know where the “Bring out your Dead” collection guy from Monty Python’s Holy Grail brings his deposits.

  58. Vrym says:

    Every panel of this one was gold. I want to pick a favorite quote from it, but I can’t decide.

  59. Vrym says:

    Oh yes, and as far as the subject of Aragorn starting to roleplay more…

    I would venture that it’s directly related to the moment when he realized he could get loot by doing so. :D

  60. Shamus, I just wanted to take a moment to let you know I got here through a link in one of your comments on buzz.nm, and I’ve spent the better part of this afternoon reading your whole DM of the Rings comic. Holy crow, it’s hilarious. My son and hubby are adamant D&D geeks (and so it has leeched into my skin through proximity), and we are all big LOTR fans. Which is why I’ve been laughing so hard. :) Keep up the great work! We’ll all be checking back for new installments.
    See ya ’round the internet. ~ Fae

  61. oldschoolGM says:

    RE: The extended cut of LoTR. Yeah, this scene was pretty lame, but there was a lot of other good stuff in there that made it worth getting IMO. Off the top of my head, the extended Treebeard scene and extended Aragorn palantir scenes were nice. The Annatar scene was off-putting to me though, since Sauron is supposed to be permanently unable to take a “fair form” after the fall of Numenor.

    RE: Tomb of Horrors. I’d never run it with characters in an ongoing campaign, that would just be unfair. But it’s kind of fun running it with one-shot throwaway characters played by players who have never done it before.

  62. oldschoolGM says:

    Oh yeah, and great comic again Shamus. The Cap’n Crunch bit, especially, had me snickering.

  63. Tsetut says:

    Sheer Brilliance. And I liked the last part, distract the players when they ask for your pizza money. Heh. Good times.

  64. Romanadvoratrelundar says:

    @Bruce, I did like that line, too. And he says it with that perfect puzzled Orly face.

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