DM of the Rings CXXXII:
Wheels Within Wheels, Man

By Shamus
on Aug 8, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


Gilmi explains the plot.  Sort of.
Gimli knows whats coming next.

Nothing is more annoying than when the players misunderstand the plot, the characters, and the events of the story, but they manage to guess what you’re going to do next anyway.

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2020202012There are now 92 comments. Almost a hundred!

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  1. okay! says:

    Pretty funny that the players assume the complicated plot of LoTR is all on-the-fly jerry-rigging by the DM.

    Still waiting to see how the DM handles Golem’s premature death (thanks elf), which will take some jerry-rigging.

  2. Dan says:

    Theno,

    Just what this comic demands – a continuity audit! :)

    Dan

  3. Nanja Kang says:

    However, there must be more to this story because what kind of retail availability is there outside of the material plane in your campaign?

    Marty… You are right there are no shops on that demi-plane, just a dungeon. However there are 7 players, all well equipped, and they hadn’t finished searching the dungeon. It is an altered version of Maure Castle (Greyhawk) that I put in Forgotten Realms. There are so many unique items like potions of immortality and other quasi epic items in there, its unbelievable that their own curiosity hadn’t led them to the most obvious parts of the dungeon… FOR GOD SAKES GO DOWN THE HALLWAY!!!

    (And if anyone is Familiar with Maure Castle, I am only running the initial 4 levels, tell me there aren’t crazy powerful items there.)

    Crazy kids and their greed…

  4. Nanja Kang says:

    Oh and outside of the material plane… I really think being able to buy any item over a +3 just isn’t real… no wizard or blacksmith is going to sell items of any REAL power… plus, what shopkeeper could buy an item worth 150,000+ gold pieces?

    So I guess some would say that I am stingy…

  5. Melfina the Blue says:

    Browncoat, you are full of win!
    And shamus, great comic.

  6. Marty says:

    I have to admit to being confused about the “railroading” thing now (mostly because it seems to have an elastic definition in these hallowed halls)

    As it does in many places… I’ll try not to go into all the railroading discourse we had a month or so ago, but…

    The term “railroading” is usually used when the GM has the whole story planned and nothing the players do really make any impact on the game… It all would have unfolded the same no matter what actions are taken.

    One of the difficulties with role-playing is the fine line walked between letting the players run off to where ever the whim strikes and making them go and do exactly what you wish. The reality needs to be somewhere in between for a successful game.

    Some people prefer a more free-form game, but on the whole, the game is really shared story-telling. As a GM, when you put hard work into coming up with a plot and planning sessions, so there is an implicit contract with the players that they will at least follow the story arc somewhat. The idea is to collaborate to make it fun for everyone.

    The key is that it is collaborative. The GM needs to build the framework for the plot, but allow the players the freedom to fill in details.

    The GM can’t always control how they fill in the details, however, so the plot has to be loose enough to allow the players some freedom and the GM flexible enough to alter the story to fit with the players’ style(s) of play.

    If both the players and the GM have similar goals in the shared story, things tend to go well. The difficulty is when the players do try to take control and purposefully thwart the plot.

    The players are basically saying, “We don’t care about your hard work… we’d rather play something different.” On the other hand, the GM shouldn’t force the players to do everything exactly the way they’ve detailed the whole campaign down to the smallest sub-plots.

    In this case, the GM is breaking the implicit contract by not letting the players contribute to the story.

    A campaign is always somewhat on rails. The players can’t just do anything they want because the game will lose focus and any sense of purpose. There just needs to be enough “junctions” that the rails can lead in numerous directions and allow the players a choice on how they arrive at the destination (which may or may not be the one the GM first envisioned).

  7. Tsetut says:

    That was awesome. Although most DMs would probably change stuff right after the players guess successfully.

  8. Gnarlo says:

    Awesome :) Discovered the comic a couple of days ago, have been reading it and the commentaries since; took as long as the three movies did :) Just can’t believe how close we are to the end; you have to go see how the Star Wars campaign is going now!

    Wonderful stuff, thanks!

    P.S. Why do I keep thinking Legolas is about to do a Mary Katherine Gallagher in the 9th panel…

  9. Tola says:

    Heh.

    “Oh yeah, the dude with the horn!”

    Doesn’t seem to matter what version: Boromir is ALWAYS ‘The dude with the horn.’ Even when it’s being played by a guy they might know(Frank).

    For some reason, I find this very funny indeed.

  10. Tartette (deceased but still my favorite) says:

    Our DM is GOD! I used to hate playing until I met the current crowd. You just know you’ve fucked up the GM’s plan when he mutters “cretins” under his breath after you’ve just killed the ‘guiding’ NPC character in a drunken brawl or sacrificed the magic artifact that was the key to solving the mission. Then, due to a brain the size of a car, still manages to heard the party in the right direction. Truly heroic. The downside is it always gets really dangerous after midnight when the GM keeps rolling 20’s. Usually the party runs away before midnight like Cinderella, and lives to play another day.

  11. Zaghadka says:

    Great cartoon!

    Question: Why is there a Google ad for “Linda Ronstadt ringtones” on this page? There must be something wrong with Google’s context sensors today. LOL.

  12. sir pudding says:

    @ Steve
    RE: Railroading

    It is possible to have a “rail-less” campaign with a defining narrative. In my games the narrative is emergent, I give some thought as to what’s going on in the world, what NPCs are up to, and how they react to the PCs actions. I’ll craft “adventure hooks” and in a mission based campaign give the PCs their jobs or orders or whatever but I don’t direct the PCs in how they’ll interact with any of that. It’s a cooperative art form, IMO, and I expect to be as entertained by the players as they are by me (hopefully). So even if I don’t railroad them, stuff still happens, PCs act and NPCs react, vice versa and a narrative emerges.

  13. Uri says:

    Is it me, or is Shamus’ Aragorn the spitting image of Sawyer from Lost? Shamus also makes him call people names. Nostradamus ;)
    Shamus, I wounder if you want to make a small non Tolkien sidetrack, and feature a Lost episode strip with Aragorn and Sawyer facing off? Or him teasing Freckles. Or anything else out there, like Desperate Housewives.

    Uri

  14. Salen says:

    Woo woo! Time to ride the train! Woo woo! Heheh. Poor players, always being shuffled from one railroad to another.

  15. solemndragon says:

    i’m thinking “undead gollum.” Because really, he wasn’t very far from it to begin with.

    Plus, some kind of extra curse that makes him know the location of the ring, because really, how the hell else would he find them again at this point? Unless he was hiding in a backpack with some of those 99 pounds of leather jerkins and cracked wooden clubs.

  16. roxysteve says:

    sir pudding Says:
    RE: Railroading

    It is possible to have a “rail-less” campaign with a defining narrative. In my games the narrative is emergent, I give some thought as to what’s going on in the world, what NPCs are up to, and how they react to the PCs actions. I’ll craft “adventure hooks” and in a mission based campaign give the PCs their jobs or orders or whatever but I don’t direct the PCs in how they’ll interact with any of that. It’s a cooperative art form, IMO, and I expect to be as entertained by the players as they are by me (hopefully). So even if I don’t railroad them, stuff still happens, PCs act and NPCs react, vice versa and a narrative emerges.

    So for you, the phrase “campaign setting” means “players use the same characters” and nothing more then?

    That explains the confusion. Coming from a wargaming background I expect a campaign to be played towards an explicit goal, and that that take precedence over the cast list if needs must. I keep seeing the reminding of severely inattentive players of the goal as “railroading” when to me such reminders are more akin to reminders towards “not wandering too far off topic”.

    Steve.

  17. sir pudding says:

    [i]roxysteve Says:
    So for you, the phrase “campaign setting” means “players use the same characters” and nothing more then?[/i]
    Campaign setting means “Game world”. It is the backdrop in which the campaign takes place.
    [i]
    That explains the confusion. Coming from a wargaming background I expect a campaign to be played towards an explicit goal, and that that take precedence over the cast list if needs must. I keep seeing the reminding of severely inattentive players of the goal as “railroading” when to me such reminders are more akin to reminders towards “not wandering too far off topic”.[/i]
    Remainders of the goal isn’t railroading, if it makes sense in the context of the game. For example say, the PCs were trying to get to a certain place before the BBEG, and they seem to be wasting a lot of time. I might have some event or NPC remind them that they are supposed to be in a hurry, more likely I’ll just say, “A day passes as you shop in the markets.” and see what they do. If they get to the place too late to stop the BBEG, well then, that’s the direction the story goes in and we go from there. A railroading GM would force the PCs to keep moving on his “story”. He’d have a GMPC forcing them along (like the DMotR’s Gandalf), or maybe they get arbitrarily arrested without any chance of escape and taken by force to their destination. This really isn’t fun, IMO, since you aren’t playing your character in a shared improvised tale, you are playing a scripted part in someone else’s story.

    My way a story still emerges. If you told someone the tale of one of my campaigns the story would make sense, and have the sort of narrative conventions you’d expect but I’ve never scripted it out that way from the start.

  18. sir pudding says:

    Well clearly that’s not how italics work here. Should have used HTML, I think. Oops.

  19. Browncoat says:

    Yes, Colin. He is “pimping” Lord of the Rings. And well.

  20. superfluousk says:

    I like how Gimli gets to be the smart one in this incarnation. Of course, considering his competition, that’s not so hard.

  21. dr. duck says:

    Okay, I started laughing at “wee daft munchkin” and I am still laughing. And even though Mortensen’s Aragorn was one of my favorite characters in the films, you have CAPTURED the essence of stoner obliviosity in those snapshots of blank dumb looks … hoooo-ray, Seamus, much applause and gratitude.

  22. Cynder says:

    I love Aragorn in the 3rd-last frame…he looks REALLY ticked off XD

    Good on Gimli trying to explain everything and telling off Legolas for being a lazy twit. Serves him right for paying no attention to the plot :P

  23. Colin says:

    Did Gimli just call Legolas “Munchkin”?

  24. Rabiesbunny says:

    Heh, wow. I’m just reading through this whole thing now; love it! But I gotta say, if I was stuck Rping with people like these guys, ANY of ’em, I wouldn’t be doing ANYthing with them!

  25. Michael says:

    Manure castle??? Sounds like a … never mind.

    As for the plot summary: I was expecting a wedding to be mentioned. Oh well.

    I have had plot summaries/actions like that, actually. Once when playing Gilligan (yes, on the island) — the GM wasn’t expecting a real role player to play the role properly, and the plot couldn’t advance until someone found that I had done a Gilligan :-). Fun time at the convention.

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