DM of the Rings CXXIV:
Medic!

By Shamus
on Jul 13, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


Eowyn faced the Nazgul. She won.  Sort of.
The players make their own contribution to the story.

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  1. Simon says:

    First? That can’t be right…

  2. dpmcalister says:

    “Let’s find one and give him a beat down”!!! Excellent :D

  3. Keith says:

    Spot on as usual!

  4. Browncoat says:

    Love Gimil’s faces.

    Y’know, this is the second “Worst Boss Fight Ever”, according to the players. Yes, Saruman counts. He’s still a high level wizard. Or, was.

    Oh, the poor XP’s they’re missing by not being girls who stab the undead in the face. BTW, does the hobbit get any “assist” XPs?

    • me says:

      the man in the party can’t kill them, dwarf and elf presumably can seeing how specifically defined and fraught with loopholes man seems to be in context

      the race of man is almost always referred to as such, the elfven race the dwarven race aren’t.

  5. Elzaban says:

    Gimli’s player has to be fooling himself if he thinks the other guys would want to help them. I hazard that 90% of players would assume them dead for good and loot them, maybe 9% would assume they’re dead but not loot them out of respect, and then that last 1% probably have a DM that wouldn’t throw this situation at them.

    Course, my players would probably bitch about how those NPC’s just stole their kill.

  6. TigerDawn says:

    Come now Gimli… that is exactly what you meant.

    Great comic strip, my compliments.

  7. John says:

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!!

    Great punchline.

  8. Nimble Fingers says:

    give him a beat down… you crack me up, I am officially hooked ;)

  9. okay! says:

    I really love this whole series.

  10. M&a says:

    “How much EXP for a mercy kill?”

    Can’t wait to see their reaction to having to heal Merry and Eowyn… “But we don’t have a cleric!” “Didn’t you read your backstory yet?” “Wait, why do I have to heal her after what she did to me the last time? I’d better get lucky for this!”

    And of course the wounded ego when Faramir (who?!) gets the girl. Poor Aragorn has no luck.

  11. RogerR says:

    I woudn’t say Aragorn’s unlucky. . . you might recall he does get Arwen Evenstar and lives a righteously long life as King of Gondor.

    Of course, there’s no guarantee Stoner-gorn has a hope of living through the first month of being on the throne.

  12. Nogard Codesmith says:

    Nice to see Gimli’s player coming back to his earlier-established “roleplayer” roots… well, sorta… but showing concern for NPCs is a definite sign that one is thinking a little bit in-character.

    This one gave me a good laugh Shamus. Bravo. ^_^

  13. brassbaboon says:

    Of course the story here is more “realistic” than a D&D battle. A Nazgul chief would have, oh, 200 hit points? Damage reduction? Protection from normal weapons? Regeneration?

    The idea that a single blow could kill one in a D&D game is silly. But in reality a single conk on the head can kill any human being. This is why the whole ‘critical hits’ and such rules were created, to try to bring some sense of danger to a character who has a surplus of hit points.

    You see this sort of thing in video games all the time. I’m playing Oblivion right now and there are a number of characters I’ve encountered who can’t die, so the game fudges them into unconsciousness until my character can save them. There are other characters who must die, and they go down at a touch from the bad guys before I can get there to save them. That’s the cost of having a plot line that depends on things like key characters surviving or dying at key points of the game. Of course the player’s reaction is “waitaminute! why can’t I kill someone with one hit?” or “Hold on, when do I get knocked unconscious and then heal back up in a fight?”

    This is why I try to avoid having such things drive the campaigns I run. It’s contrived and unfair. And the players know it. Or any experienced player would know it. In other words, just let ol’ Legolas try to kill a Nazgul with one sword to the face and see what happens. It won’t work out the way he thinks because he’ll be fighting under the rules, where Eowyn was “ordained” to kill the Nazgul in the first place.

    Gimli’s concern for Eowyn and Merry is completely in character. Good for him.

    If I were the DM of this campaign and the “good” players exhibited such a lack of concern for Eowyn and Merry, you can bet they would learn the error of their ways down the road sometime.

  14. Susano says:

    Leggo-lass remembered there’s 9 Ringwraiths? Inconceivable!

  15. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Hillarious!You simply have to love players stance towards NPCs

  16. Quinn says:

    “90% of players would assume them dead for good and loot them”

    I must be playing with the wrong groups: every group I’ve ever been in would be rushing to their side to help them. Of course, most of the players I’ve played with actively RP their characters, to the point of doing things that are actively harmful to their advencement (talking their way out of fights instead of killing and looting, hiring NPCs. fleeing from pointless random encounters). This strip (and the comments) make me appreciate my groups more and more. Thanks, Shamus!

  17. Da Rogue says:

    DM: whoah! Guys STOP!
    Players: What you only said no Ponty Python…
    DM: You’re right; this is worse.

  18. Michael McHenry says:

    I’ve loved the DMotR comics all along. I’ve always been astounded by the amount of time Shamus seems to be able to put into this blog, gaming, his job, and (presumably) his day-to-day life.

    I highly recommend this other Shamus tale to the readers here:
    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=2

    Reading about the exploits of this “unlikely band of heroes” on the island of Mar Tesaro.

    A truly great adventure. I wish I could have played with as gifted a DM.

  19. Michael McHenry says:

    uh… I missed half a sentence.

    Reading about the exploits of this “unlikely band of heroes” on the island of Mar Tesaro…

    kept me occupied for three days.

    It was epic and had a great backstory, but the interaction of real people messing up (or just dealing with) the story really made it fun.

  20. M says:

    Gimli’s expression in the last panel is perfect. Great screencap.

    Teensy typo – in panel three, it should be “…lying on the battlefield,” not “laying.”

  21. DocTwisted says:

    It could be laying, too. Laying would be more consistent with the kind of narrative voice Tolkien would have.

    Great comic. I especially love how they assume their NPC allies would not have decent loot. What princess doesn’t have high-quality equipment on them?

  22. Keldin says:

    I get enjoyment out of role playing myself, as Gimli’s character obviously does, but I’ve known far too many players like Legolas — “lets kill things!”

  23. Browncoat says:

    Nope, it should be lying.

  24. Silfea says:

    grammatically, it should be lying. However,, DocTwisted is right, Tolkien would have written laying.

  25. Arazmuth says:

    See, I give XP to good characters who save NPC nobodies, and take it away if they choose to let them die when they could realistically save them.

    (obvious I don’t do that if they are still in battle or doing so would cause more death, but I do give even more XP for saving them under such conditions)

    Its amazing how much more nobles the players become.

  26. CarrieICL says:

    This is the best. webcomic. evah.

  27. Tim says:

    As for the Witch-King dying from one blow: That would totally work with DnD! Remember that Ghosts (the monster category that Nazgul would belong to somehow, IMHO) can only be destroyed by fulfilling some specific condition. If that condition, however, IS fulfilled, destroying them is a piece of cake.

    Obviously, the condition here was “be stabbed by a non-man with a Nazgul-bane weapon, then suffer a critical hit from another non-man” – voilá! ;)

  28. Eric the Shruberer says:

    Loot the Witch-King, forget the silly NPCs!! Quick, while they are unconscious and the DM can’t find anyone to stop you!!

    Years of role-play gaming helps you focus on the truly important things!!

  29. Fan says:

    It is realistic for DnD since Merry’s dagger of Westernese was meant specificaly to destroy the Nazgul, it probably was an artifact with a special quality like “Nazgul must make DC99 fort save or drop to 1hp and be helpless for one round” or at least with the second part (helpless), a face stab like that while he’s kneeling down unguarded is definately a coup de grace of which he failed his save… obviously…

  30. Rafe says:

    And it all comes back to the looting and pillaging… nice one Shamus!

  31. Scott says:

    Heh… “Nazgol”

  32. Melfina the Blue says:

    I know why Aragorn isn’t going anywhere near them. He’s afraid of getting another disease.

  33. Vinchenze says:

    you got that right.

  34. Woerlan says:

    I sense that Legolas would fit right in with the Knights of the Dinner Table.

  35. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Quinn Says:

    “I must be playing with the wrong groups: every group I’ve ever been in would be rushing to their side to help them. Of course, most of the players I’ve played with actively RP their characters, to the point of doing things that are actively harmful to their advencement (talking their way out of fights instead of killing and looting, hiring NPCs. fleeing from pointless random encounters).”

    Those are not always actively harmful to their advancment.Many GMs(me included)reward players for doing such things(more XP,easier battles,better artifacts,…)

  36. Jindra34 says:

    What? No comment.

  37. Dan says:

    “That Nazgol went down like a punk.” That’s hilarious, both for the careless mispronounciation and the description.

  38. Shandrunn says:

    Doubt they have anything worth looting? They sure thought otherwise when they were still pursuing Merry and Pippin, or they wouldn’t have searched through a huge pile of orcs for their bodies.

  39. Telas says:

    You’re looking at these players for consistency?

    :P

  40. John says:

    just excellent stuff by leggy-lass

  41. John Thompson says:

    Ah yes, the essence of D&D: “They’re down, what a loss… dibs on the boots.”

  42. Damien Walder says:

    Hm, yes – yes nothing like the putative “leader” of a group of PCs failing to play in character. This comic is yet another example of why I like the players and DM I play with. Yes, the characters are extensions of our real personalities, but we can stretch out a bit and go the extra mile barefoot over broken glass to play a chaotic good guy, drag someone over that glass to play chaotic evil, or try to avoid the glass altogether and attack with a plan (lawful anything). The farther Aragorn gets from the shabby but noble guy we know from Tolkien/Jackson’s tales, the more we come to see the laziness that would doom any campaign, never mind Middle Earth.
    I’ve modified the old axiom: All that needs happen for Evil to triumph over Good is for good men to do nothing (except hook up with random babes and loot everything that isn’t nailed down.
    Shamus, you’ve been rocking the Rings for so long – do you have brainstorming sessions with other gamers, or are you hammering these ideas (AC 18) out on your own?

    Either way, you’ve truly nailed the dark underside of Role Play Gaming, without soiling the source. I also appreciate (along with dozens of others here) how you can cram so many sidelong, glancing blows at other sub- or pop cultural values or conceits.

    Any freeze frame inserts of Dumbledore (No, um – Gandalf!) coming up?

    Laughing myself to sleep,
    D

  43. Lars says:

    15 Susano Says:

    July 13th, 2007 at 12:00 pm
    Leggo-lass remembered there’s 9 Ringwraiths? Inconceivable!

    ——————–

    Why is so inconcievable he’d be keeping track of how many things there are he has to kill?

  44. rosignol says:

    “90% of players would assume them dead for good and loot them”

    In my experience, around 10% of players would ensure that they’re dead and loot them.

  45. Nob the Hobbit says:

    Brilliant stuff as usual.

    Speaking of alignment issues, when I did this sort of thing (AD&D) my DM wouldn’t let any of us be Chaotic- or Evil-aligned, and none of us could be bothered to try roleplaying Lawful or Good alignments. So we were all True Neutral; in other words, we would’ve looted them while they were unconscious (or at least unable to stop us), and then healed them.

  46. Author says:

    I don’t understand. In the beginning of DMoTR, the halfling four were the playable characters (e.g. “This all-halfling team does not cut it! We need a cleric!”). But this looks like they were demoted to NPCs. I am confused now.

  47. josh says:

    grammatically, it should be lying. However,, DocTwisted is right, Tolkien would have written laying.

    Huh? The guy was an Oxford professor of English. Is there some joke here I’m not getting?

  48. Nob the Hobbit says:

    Author said: “I don’t understand. In the beginning of DMoTR, the halfling four were the playable characters (e.g. “This all-halfling team does not cut it! We need a cleric!”). But this looks like they were demoted to NPCs. I am confused now.”

    Read through the thing; around the time when Boromir dies, the four guys playing the halflings decide to go off and play Star Wars or Mechwarrior or something else. Since Merry and Pippin needed to be brought back into the story when Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli reached Isengard, they were brought back as NPCs (especially seeing as how Pippin would soon leave with Gandalf and Merry would stay behind with the Rohirrim when the other three went to summon the Dead). It’ll be interesting to see how Frodo and Sam come back, and then how the “You bow to no one” scene in the film is handled.

    Aragorn: “Now, bow to me, your king!”
    DM: “Um, they just saved the world. You could show a little gratitude.”
    Aragorn: “Oh. Okay, everyone else, bow to the hobbits!”

  49. David Brown says:

    I bet Stonergorn calls dibs on the Nazgul’s ring.

  50. Dernwine says:

    Josh, Tolkien was a professor of English. However he had a habit of trying to revive older and more irregular versions of words. (e.g. the plural of Dwarf, grammatically speaking is Dwarfs, however Tolkien decided to make it irregular in his stories, so he writes it Dwarves [which has now become the standard spelling in RPG and Fantasy] he also had another form of Dwarfs, which was Dwarro [as seen in Dwarrodelf {Moria}]). So he probably would have used Laying rather than Lying.

  51. Raved Thrad says:

    …and once again the players speak, and the DM is quiet. That, or quietly trying to brain himself or scratch his eyes out. :))

    “Honestly, I doubt they have anything worth looting.” Didn’t see that coming. Leggo-lass beating Stonergorn to the “I search the bodies” line? Tch, Mr. New Menorian is slowing down >:)

  52. Gelatinous Cube says:

    Shouldn’t they get XP from a kill performed by an ally. They helped her you know… by eh, killing those elephanties that would have disturbed her seriously.

  53. brassbaboon says:

    I may be old-shool or something, but the “I loot the bodies” line should be all based on alignment. That’s why alignment is part of the game, and why it is tied to many spells and spell-like effects. For a lawful good character to say “too bad, dibs on the boots” would be out of alignment and would most certainly come back to haunt them. But that’s exactly what you would expect an evil character to say, and even in some situations a neutral one.

    It’s never been clear what alignments these players have chosen for their characters. I don’t think it’s been stated in the comic. Based on their role in the game, it seems that they should be lawful good, or perhaps chaotic good in Legolas’s case. But the players frequently behave outside of alignment and are never penalized for it, so why should they stop?

    The Nazgul chief at the very least should have some seriously magical armor, a mace and that magic ring. And if Aragorn was actually trying to play his character, he should immediately make his way to the “body” to try to recover the ring, if only to keep any unsuspecting fool from finding it and falling under Sauron’s influence.

    Excellent comic again Shamus, as others have said, I don’t know how you find the time.

  54. Luke (Thrythlind) says:

    Well, when the nazgul died, essentially the magic on the ring creating him was destroyed. Everything about him sort of just crumbled to dust and uselessness.

  55. brassbaboon says:

    Luke:

    Actually, if I recall the copious back-story notes of LOTR published over time by Christopher Tolkien, the rings of the Nazgul eventually became unnecessary as they became full wraiths and Sauron keeps them now. The Nazgul don’t wear them at all.

    But Aragorn doesn’t know that, not even Gandalf knows that.

  56. Jindra34 says:

    brassbaboon: So Sauron was really after the ring to complete his bling collection?

  57. brassbaboon says:

    Jindra:

    No, that was the companion piece that Christopher Tolkien’s son is working on called “Lord of the Bling”.

  58. Radiant117 says:

    “Course, my players would probably bitch about how those NPC’s just stole their kill.”

    And within rights. No kill-stealing. The DM who runs a module to have the players bear witness to the grand victories of his own characters had better play a computer game while locked up for good.

  59. Narmoth says:

    Some one wonders why the dm is so quiet? Wan’t to know what he is doing? Well, I’ll tell you, cause I had such a dm. He made a game with lot of backstory, but had most boring quest and villains that we weren’t even supposed to attack.
    Anyway, whenever things weren’t going his way, he started to hit himself with the rulebook, and that’s what I imagine the dm here is doing also, only he is smashing his head with “the ornamented and illustrated special gamenerds edition of Lord of The Rings with comments by Cristopher Tolkien”

  60. superfluousk says:

    “Then Ganbalf, seeing the madness that was on him feared that he had already done some evil deed, and he thrust forward, with Beregond and Pippin behind him. But there they found Faramir, still dreaming in fever, lying upon the table.” P 329, The Pyre of Denethor, Return of the King. Professor Tolkein used “lying” as it was appropriate. :)

    I do like the interchange between Gimli and the others here — Gimli has always been my favorite character for his hints of role-playerness, and he was the natural choice for this part of the routine for that, even if he personally might have preferred to loot em himself. :) Under the excuse of honoring his friends’ memories, of course!

  61. Shamus says:

    I think superfluousk has settled the laying / lying debate. Fixed.

    I do try to imitate the archaic language and arty style of the original whenever I can, although I seem to miss more often than I hit. I suppose if I was a writer on par with Prof Tolkein I would be writing popular fantasy novels and not making a screenshot webcomic.

  62. sleepyfoo says:

    brassbaboon. It’s perfectly reasonable for Lawful characters to loot their friends. The reasoning is (for Lawful Good) “I shall take your stuff and use it in your name to avenge you and continue the Good Works you were doing while a companion of mine”. This is assuming that for some reason the character can’t be brought back, which in Tolkein’s world could be attributed to the apparent lack of clerics.

    I will direct you to a list of generic reasons for looting a corpse, per alignment. http://wulftheyounger.vox.com/library/post/justifications-for-looting-a-corpse.html

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