DM of the Rings CXXI:
Blasphemy!

By Shamus
on Jul 6, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


No shortage of orcs in this story.
Whoever wrote this story has no imagination.

Everyone has different standards for verisimilitude. I’m often amused by the anecdotes from other players who inhabit crazy gameworlds that are bursting at the seams with preposterous creatures. They think nothing of doing a dungeon where an Ogre will inhabit an unadorned room next to a Black Pudding, who both live next door to a Dire Bear and an Earth Elemental. Stories like this make me laugh because I can’t help but picture what life must be like for these monsters in the dungeon as they sit around waiting for adventurers to show up. Talk about “The Odd Couple”. Actually, that’s a pretty cool idea for a comic: A sitcom-styled story about a bunch of freakish monsters who inhabit a trap-and-treasure laden dungeon, learning to love and laugh… together.

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  1. Shamus says:

    Oh, and the “fi-tor” reference is totally a nod to Fear the Boot.

  2. marrilpet says:

    Wow… great comic, great “fist” post

  3. Silfea says:

    How did you get it before me?
    And the Fi-tor line was probably the best.

  4. Entropy says:

    Another funny one, Shamus! I love the last panel; at least someone is enjoying the melee!

  5. Kaemaril says:

    I hate to say it, but he’s got a point about the “watcher” :)

  6. vonKreedon says:

    The difference, it seems to me, is between people who just want to accumulate loot/experience points and people who want to create a story. If all you care about is playing a multiplayer version of Rogue then the Gelatinous Cube inhabiting the room next to the Troll and down the hall from the Looming Shade works great. But if you are trying to create a story that dungeon menagerie will be difficult to explain.

  7. vonKreedon says:

    PS: I totally love LegoLass’ bloodthirsty focus.

  8. vonKreedon says:

    PPS: I once DMed a game that had a dwarven fighter named Fightcher Ballsov

  9. Keldin says:

    Sadly, I don’t get the joke — is the name of that band “The Skanky Fists” or something? In any event, Shamus’ comments on world verisimilitude are spot on. How on earth these monsters would LIVE if “no one has gone into that tower for years” is beyond me. What would they eat — air? Each other? If that were the case, the after 10 years or so there’d be nothing left but maybe one or two really buff monsters!

  10. Luklan says:

    That’s the reason my dad makes for silly creatures like Digesters, and bizarro creatures like that.

    I mean, what the hell sustains them? And why are they living next to a couple of Ogres, half a dozen Drow, and a Pink and Blue Polkadot Demi-Lich of the Fifth Circle of Doom, in the natural cave next to a farm?

    Stupid ‘random encounter’ rolls.

  11. Shamus says:

    RE: FIST POST!

    That’s “Love Fist”, the fictional 80’s glam-rock band from “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”.

  12. Browncoat says:

    I never knew that D&D had “stories” when I played 20 years ago. Every game was a dungeon with the eclectic group of monsters. There were no “side-quests,” because a quest was just going into a dungeon, fighting monsters who had no business being there, next to the other monsters, or in a dungeon in the first place. And the first time we did a session outside of a dungeon, my fighter goes into a bar in town and is immediately set upon by the *entire* bar patronage who wish to take advantage of him in unhealthy ways. DM thought he was funny. He didn’t DM anymore. I think I had my fighter commit hare karey (sp?) before he was accosted.

    ‘twould be fun to play again with a group that has an imagination and some skills in playing/DMing. Right after my kids move off to college.

  13. Jochi says:

    Shamus,
    You just describe Dungeons and Denizens in you afternote:
    http://www.dungeond.com/

  14. NeedsToHeal says:

    Fi-tor!!! Too funny.

    I still love this comic.

  15. Evilllama says:

    The problem with many adventuring parties is that the absurdity of having loads of different unnatural creatures packed into a dungeon is less important than the fact that those creatures pump out XP and treasure. To hack-and-slashers, monsters are simply terrain, which is cut through and climbed over to move on.

  16. Telas says:

    I’m often amused by the anecdotes from other players who inhabit crazy gameworlds that are bursting at the seams with preposterous creatures.

    To cover a gap in my campaign, I once ran a module from a “Living” campaign. It looked a bit cheesy, but it kinda-sorta fit, and I had nothing prepped at the time, so…

    The players absolutely despised it. Comments ranged from “Railroad!” to “It’s the Random Critters and Templates Table!” to “Just how many low-charge magic items can a GM give the critters and still respect himself in the morning?”

    In hindsight: NEVER AGAIN.

    And Love Fist (Post)? Creepy, man… creepy.

  17. Marmot says:

    This one also fits into the top ten category. You’re getting better and better, Shamus (truth be told I expected jokes to degrade over time but they’re actually improving!). Good job!!!

  18. Lady Labyrinth says:

    First time posting a comment. I have been reading this for ages and adoring it all the way. Thank you, Shamus, you make 3/5 of my workweek worthwhile. :D

    Now about them creatures – It really depends on the story. If we’re talking about relatively intelligent creatures (relatively, as in, could probably understand a^2+b^2=c^2 faster than a carrot) with their own society, then yes, the number of different creatures you encounter will likely be limited. But if you’re talking about one smart dude (wizard, mage, lich, whatever) and a dungeon, well, then it makes perfect sense that he/she/it would have 1,983,275 different creatures for the adventurers to fight. If they beat the Bugbears, they might not survive the Gelatinous Cubes. If they beat the Cubes, there’s a good chance the Shadow Cats will kick their asses, yes? There’s still a story in there, but it’s about the freaky menagerie/pet-owner vs. a band of roving adventurers instead of being about a country (or countries) at war.

    That is all I have to say. :)

  19. Dan says:

    Fi-tor. That is really funny, but the subtle punchline with Lego-lass’s expression is the best.

    Uh, nineteenth post.

  20. Jindra34 says:

    so this is why legolass did the jump on the whatever and ride it down trick.

  21. brassbaboon says:

    On verisimilitude in role playing games….

    A major issue for my campaigns is whether the ecosystems portrayed in the environments I create are plausible. Thus it is not common for my players to find vampires living next door to kobolds. Nor do gelatinous cubes roam freely around goblin lairs.

    But this presents a quandary, and Shamus has neatly capsulized it in this comic. How do you provide an engaging diversity of challenges for your characters if you are trying to also create a plausible ecosystem or culture?

    Are goblins likely to share their homes with mindless devouring beasts who would chow down on little goblin imps at will? Goblins are not stupid, or not that stupid anyway. Plus they are not that bad in a fight. So it’s unlikely that they would not either clear out their homes or else move to a new place if they couldn’t get rid of the Beholder down the hallway.

    The best I’ve come up with is to have the kobolds and goblins use “pets” of varying sorts to protect their home, much as humans might use dogs. Plus the inhabitants of the lair frequently have visitors from other lairs, some of the same species, some not.

    But I have to be honest and admit that a steady diet of kobolds and goblins gets old after a while and I start wondering how I can introduce something more exotic without the immediate reaction of “how do the goblins live next to THAT thing?”

    Tonight, in fact, I have something special planned for precisely that reason, so this is very good timing for me Shamus….

  22. It’s kind of ironic, actually, because the guys riding the elephants were actually Evil Humans from the south. I don’t know whether or not that was intentional but it was even more amusing.

  23. Love it!
    No imagination indeed.

    This and what you covered in your after-comic comment are things I have shrived to avoid in the world I am building.
    I try to have the location of creatures make sense and to keep consistent in my adventures. But I also try to keep plenty of variety, each region should have at least 2 or 3 common creatures.

    :D

  24. PhilTheBald says:

    Was that supposed to be “They think nothing – Nothing! of doing a dungeon… or more like typo typo?
    (Tho’ I’m being pedantic, I love this series…)

  25. Reverend JIm says:

    One of the best adventures I have read or run was one where an old powerful wizard knew his days were numbered and he didn’t want to become a lich.

    He also knew that adventurer types would show up to take his loot after he died. He didn’t particularly like the idea of all his hard earned items waiting in some chest for an adventuring party, so he decided to make a game of it.

    He made up a labyrinth/tomb where his cache of magic goodies were active defenders of the tomb. Then, he advertised in all the nearby towns of a NEW TOMB TO LOOT and provided directions. He then placed himself at the end with the nonmagical loot and drank poison. As long as you did not disturb his body, you would be free to grab everything else. If you messed with the body a nasty demon was summoned to lay some beatdown.

    Now there was a guy who made his wealth work for him.

  26. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Love Fist”, huh? Did they do a version of “Hurts So Good”?

    In the real world, animals move into abandoned buildings quickly. In the D&D world, the animals are just a tad more varied. And what do they eat? Kobolds & goblins, of course! They’re small, they’re everywhere, & they mate faster than Aphrodite priests!

  27. Lo'oris says:

    watcher? I thought it was a kraken.

  28. Destroy Gundam says:

    Didn’t they fight goblins in Moria, not orcs?

  29. Hiark says:

    I don’t know if an english translation exists, but there’s a french comics called “Donjon” that talks about monsters who live in a dungeon. Quite hilarious !

  30. Tsetut says:

    Reverend Jim, thats just evil. Although really funny. Personally, I think one of the best ways to incorporate other monsters in say, a goblin camp would be in a zoo like thing. The gelatinous cube was trapped in a pit, and the goblins use it as a trap, the howlers are mounts, and the hydra is kept in a locked room in front of the cave, the goblins just use the hidden back door that medium creatures can’t fit through. The hydra is also fed from above.

  31. Fickle says:

    I love Legolas. I love him and his player so much for their total and complete disregard to the rest of the party if they have the chance to kill things. Preferably before anyone even knows what the hell is going on.

    *STILL waiting to see what happens with dead!Gollum* Do we get a zombie!Gollum, perhaps?

  32. Gary's Friend Jim says:

    At some point you ought to make a reference to Fear the Boot’s mascot, Baron von Badass.

  33. I have to say, that’d definitely be me. I still have my monstrous manual from the mid-nineties, you know, the one with like twenty different kinds of giant, and I’d definitely be like, “Could you at least throw some Bugbears at us? Maybe just a few Gibberlings?”

  34. Scott says:

    Have you seen the Goblins comic? Some of it covers the life of the monsters when the adventurers aren’t around.

  35. DataShade says:

    “A sitcom-styled story about a bunch of freakish monsters who inhabit a trap-and-treasure laden dungeon, learning to love and laugh… together.”

    Might I suggest http://www.alienlovespredator.com/ ?

  36. innermoppet says:

    quoted from Jennifer Snow:
    It’s kind of ironic, actually, because the guys riding the elephants were actually Evil Humans from the south. I don’t know whether or not that was intentional but it was even more amusing.

    I don’t think Legolas’s player listened to or even cared about the description of the riders.

  37. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Donjon” ? Isn’t that the mustard trolls prefer on their bur-hobbits?

  38. Jindra34 says:

    Donjon means Dungeon.

  39. Knastymike says:

    Bring us home, Legolas! Excellent, as always. : )

  40. txknight says:

    Good comic as usual Shamus.

    While I try to keep some sense to the menagarie of critters I put in my game, I never worry too much about it. Afterall, in a game where a man can throw balls of fire with a few gestures and words, sciences such as physics or ecology just tend to take a back seat.

    • WJS says:

      Why? Why should you throw all the rules out the window just because you’ve got a few extra rules for magic? Unless magic is directly involved, I don’t see that you have any justification for ignoring anything. Even when magic is involved you should still use logic and common sense rather than… well, what is the alternative? Everything is completely random?

  41. Alan Post says:

    *laughs*

    in your previous comment, with legolas giving the same look, i really, really thought the “umm, guys” comment was going to be about the elephants.

    i was completely tickled not to have that expectation met, and i completely forgot about it until i read the last frame here!

    thank you!

  42. Jindra34 says:

    Shamus i hope you are seirously considerinhg propoesed comic about monster ‘odd couples’

  43. Lefty says:

    Yeah, the old RPG books that described 30 different species of sentient, empire-building creatures always irritated me, too — the same way that token beasties aren’t going to end up within dungeon-rooms of eachother, token civilizations of monsters aren’t going to end up within a few day’s ride of eachother without one group’s conquest & eradication…

    (Speaking of which, the website link is an old cheap javascript demonstration of what an Ogre, Goblin, Ghost & Demon hanging out might be like. Moreover, I’ve always thought all the James Bond villian’s sidekicks should rent a beach house somewhere. It would be the greatest show on earth)

  44. Marty says:

    Funny that people should bring up ecology…

    The problem with most fantasy worlds, D&D or otherwise, is that the predator to prey ratio is hugely out of balance. The game books are filled with various large carniverous mammal-like creatures that GMs love to sprinkle about to rankle the PCs.

    Unfortunately, the number of prey animals required to feed all these predators would mean that the adventurers could not walk down the road without trodding upon rabbits (or other small prey species) with every step.

    The reason so many big cats can live in close proximity in Africa is that there are literally thousands of gazelle and wildebeast to hunt nearby. Even so, the big cats don’t live overly close in proximity to one another and prey competition is high (with lions and hyenas often kill-stealing from the other predators who would rather not face them down).

    Where am I going with this? Well, you could try to model reality more closely, but that would really mean the PCs could wander for days before an encounter with a dangerous “monster”, which would probably run away. So what to do? Ignore the laws of reality and throw monsters at them left and right.

    It is just a game, after all. : )

  45. Senalishia says:

    On a slightly different topic from monster ecology–while fighting only a single type of monster is boring (but realistic), what’s really annoying is fighting a single TYPE of monster that interacts differently with different players. Like, say, a campaign full of nothing but undead–lots of fun for the cleric, not so much fun for the rogue…

    • WJS says:

      Only in direct combat. If your Big Bad Evil Guy™ is a necromancer with a whole army of undead, you can’t fight all of them even with a cleric. What you can do is infiltrate his keep and assassinate him, and the rogue will have plenty to do in that scenario.

  46. Dave says:

    “The problem with most fantasy worlds, D&D or otherwise, is that the predator to prey ratio is hugely out of balance. The game books are filled with various large carniverous mammal-like creatures that GMs love to sprinkle about to rankle the PCs.

    Unfortunately, the number of prey animals required to feed all these predators would mean that the adventurers could not walk down the road without trodding upon rabbits (or other small prey species) with every step.”

    And of course, the universal answer: “A Wizard did it.”

    Specifically, the hand-wave answer is that many of these beasties were created by sorcerous means, and as a result actually draw most of their sustenance from the Weave (or whatever your world calls ambient magic). They just eat adventurers for the taste. :)

  47. Anders says:

    >>Stories like this make me laugh because I can’t help but picture what life must be like for these monsters in the dungeon as they sit around waiting for adventurers to show up. Talk about “The Odd Couple”. Actually, that’s a pretty cool idea for a comic: A sitcom-styled story about a bunch of freakish monsters who inhabit a trap-and-treasure laden dungeon, learning to love and laugh… together.

  48. Anders says:

    …and I try again.

    Same quote as above, plus the comment I meant to leave, which was “Yamara did it”.

  49. Robert says:

    Your comments after basically sum up the Keep on the Borderlands module.

  50. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    This is why I rarelly do massive dungeons.Its much easier to have your players go through a few caves and towns during a session,and they wont complain about either having the same monster gazillion times,or about having ridiculous menagerie.But when the story asks for a huge dungeon,I find its best to populate it with undead and or golems,since thats the easiest one to explain.Of course,a few controlers of one race are just a bonus here.

  51. Scarlet Knight says:

    You know this reminds me of an old lizardman I knew. He ate all his opponents, except for trolls. “Don’t you like troll?” I asked. “I love them” he said,” but troll meat repeats on me!

    Come to think of it, all predators in a dungeon can live on troll; as long as the intelligent ones remember to throw the fatty pieces back…

  52. Salen says:

    Yay! Legolas once again becomes blood thirsty for shooting folks with his bow! I can’t wait to see what he does with the elephant and to see how the other team members react to it.

  53. melchar says:

    This is why I have very few ‘dungeons’ on my game-world. Only ones [‘pleasure dungeons’] – that I have were built by incredibly powerful mages that stock the places with monsters and treasure, then sit back with popcorn & scrying devices to watch adventurers come in fight / die / kill / loot. [It’s the closest thing to TV ^_^]

  54. Lil'German says:

    Three Hoorays for the inventor of the “bottle show” :D
    Brings back a lot of memories on the other hundred-odd strips.
    Well done Shamus

  55. Josh says:

    I recall a series of articles in Dragon Magazine, way back when, called “the ecology of “. They explained how things like gelatinous cubes survived day to day, so you could create dungeons that would work as ecosystems. I guess that adventurers could then come along and disturb those ecosystems and, following a process of natural selection, produce weird mutant variants of monsters. That would be pretty cool.

  56. Samir says:

    fi-tor! heh

    when I get board with naming conventions I use..
    Sand-or Malachite and Woody Tumescence.

  57. Devotee of Reason says:

    To evolve a gelatanous cube [1], say, would require either hundreds of millions of years of dungeoneering adventurers or an obscenely high mutation rate. (The latter might explain why the capabilities of even standard creatures and races change quite frequently. This, however, would seem to occur in a manner similar to a grossly exaggerated version of punctuated equilibrium, with long periods of no change punctuated by short periods of very rapid change [3.X, I’m looking at you!])

    That aside, given that most D&D worlds were created by active deities, it is quite possible that some of this was some form of ‘divine guided’ evolution, or even flat up creation in the first state, then direct intervention whenever a change should occur. The fact that no NPCs seem to notice these changes (Green Dragons’ breath suddenly behaving like acid, rather than undefined ‘corrosive gas’ comes to mind) might lend support to the theory of divine involvement, or else simply comment on the observation ability of NPCs.

    [1] The gelatinous cube is even adapted to graph paper, for Thor’s sake.

  58. MH(C?) says:

    The shots of Aragon in panels 1, 2 and 3 are, quite frankly, fantastic.

    (What an inventive debut post. Keep those creative juices flowing, me.)

  59. Lihtox says:

    Are goblins likely to share their homes with mindless devouring beasts who would chow down on little goblin imps at will?

    Maybe they are in the process of cleaning out that gelatinous cube infestation, but haven’t finished yet. That would be interesting: on the one hand, the goblins are happy that you’re doing their extermination for them, while on the other hand….

  60. Marty said: “The game books are filled with various large carniverous mammal-like creatures that GMs love to sprinkle about to rankle the PCs.”

    This is because people are guilty of forgetting that the nastiest creatures on earth are *herbivores*. Herbivores grow bigger, range further, and are often surrounded by hundreds of their brothers, sisters, cousins and aunties. Even your biggest, meanest predators like polar bears try to avoid tackling adult herbivores: they go after the young, the sick, and the otherwise fragile.

    It is interesting to note that in the sea this dynamic is actually reversed. I remember reading an article some time ago indicating that while the late-Cretacous dinosaur die-off started on land with mega-carnivores, in the ocean the carnivores were some of the last to go because they were not bound to localized food sources.

    Okay, I think I’ve reached the realm of “no one cares about this but you”, so I’m shutting up now. :)

  61. Dave says:

    I’d subscribe to that comic.. Maybe “The world of Monty Haul”.. but not a sit-com.. a soap opera. .. that’s it.. “As the Dungeon Turns”… hmm.. maybe I’ll write it.. hmm.. a soap.. yup.. definately a soap.

  62. Telas says:

    RE: Evolutionary diversity, and the D&D worlds.

    There’s a strong background radiation that accounts for the fantastic variance of the average campaign’s flora and fauna.

    It’s called magic.

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