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. forgottenimage says:

    Gimli speaks the truth. Nothing like the railroad that never ends.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Susano says:

    I need to stop reading this at work, else I hurt myself from holding all the laughter in.

  3. Cenobite says:

    And on that note…just how hard is it for players to figure out what the DM is going to do next, anyway?

    – silence the joke tangents
    – supervise battles to end with plot hook
    – throw NPCs across their path
    – and of course, railroading

  4. Wtrmute says:

    Ghack! That was the funniest in a while; and the last few were funny as anything. I love Gimli making himself to be all smart and managing to get just about everything wrong… Plus, the pipe!

    The last comment below the comic cinches it, though. I wish I had a tenth of your skill for making pointed remarks…

  5. In Anton Chekhov’s classic play The Cherry Orchard (I didn’t like it much, but it’s in all the lit crit classes), there is an aged servant character named Firs.

    Firs Post!

  6. Nikle says:

    Just caught up on this and while everything has been fantastic, the last few have really been superb, keep it up!

  7. Paulus says:

    You have to worry when the DM’s railroading gets so obvious the players know which NPC is going to be used to get that train back on track.

  8. Browncoat says:

    Frank used to say there was only one railroad; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary.

    The Railroad goes ever on and on
    Down from the door where it began.
    Now far ahead the Railroad has gone,
    And I must follow, [so says the DM],
    Pursuing it with [weary] feet,
    Until it joins some larger way
    Where many paths and errands meet.
    And whither then? [Gandalf will] say.

    Sigh. I hate this campaign.

  9. Doug Williams says:

    Even by the high standards of this site, this is a GREAT panel! The casual nihilism combined with the uncanny accuracy…

  10. john says:

    Poor Gandalf. Such an important character in the books and the movie … so hated in the game.

  11. Charles says:

    I love the way the players keep talking over the DM’s dialogs.

  12. Oorlof says:

    Brilliance. It all sounds so simple right now! I’ve had players do this to me – a number of times, although they use a bit more in-char reasoning to hide the metagaming – and often I change the storyline around because their idea sounds as good as mine…shame to waste that kind of creativity, right?

    “So, what I’m afraid of right now is that this ‘abandoned mine’ has been taken over by something. Kobolds or something.”
    *DM tries to hide nod*
    “Or maybe they dug up a demon.”
    *furious scribbling*

  13. Bookworm says:

    The screencap of Staragorn saying, “Okay then, Nostradamus…” is absolutely, unbelievably perfect! Thank you so much for the laugh–I really needed it today.

  14. Culinte says:

    Oh, man, this just kills me! Most excellent, you’ve captured our conversations just as if you were at the table! Screencaps are most excellently appropriately, too! HA!

  15. Jack says:

    What I hate is when you spend ages crafting a masterful plotline, with twists and turns, and the players just assume that you figured everything out, ad-lib style, just to fit in with their character’s actions.

    No one appreciates a good DM. I wish we didn’t have to have players.

  16. Jack says:

    And why is Gimli sitting in the King’s chair???

  17. Mike says:

    Gimli is sitting in the Steward’s chair. Nobody sits in the King’s Chair during the movies, not even Aragorn.

  18. Wraithshadow says:

    You have to worry when the DM’s railroading gets so obvious the players know which NPC is going to be used to get that train back on track.

    Well it isn’t as if the DM here has used a broad range of NPCs for the purpose. It’s been Gandalf, Gandalf, Gandalf, and, oh yes- Gandalf. If he’s not using Gandalf, he’s usually just telling the players directly, “Look, you’re going here. Period.”

    And as for why Gimli’s in the King’s chair- he’s not. He’s in the Steward’s chair. King’s chair is up a half dozen steps and to the right.

  19. Scarlet Knight says:

    Browncoat – nicely done!

    Face it, the DM is just linking store bought modules anyway. It really doesn’t matter much whether the players follow the DM’s plot or make up their own, as long as they get to the next adventure, it’s all good!

    As Oorlof implied, “Show mea good DM and I’ll show you a plot thief!”

  20. scldragonfish says:

    Unless the DM is a good literary type person. Games can be predictable at times.

    I had the rare luck of playing in a group for 6 months on Vampire the Masquerade with a DM who was a English Lit Major and was an awesome horror writer. Unfortunately, the game broke up when he quit because a douchebag in the group slashed his tires for killing off the guy’s character.

    Once you get caught up in a good story line by a decent writer, you are spoiled for any other DM.

  21. Kendon says:

    @ Oorlof *Furious Scribbling* I have done that soo many times when Dm’ing, unfortunately one of my players always has the idea i had, but somehow ups it one worse. (As soon as i place this gem in this statue this thing is going to come to life and kill us)Well, not kill, more… actaully… (Furious scribbling).
    Then of course, the improv campaign, (we had a bunch of Mage Knights Minitures, and when a player would start messing around with the ones not in use, it would be noted and used in the short future.) Needless to say, the giant flying deamon got used rather often. I loved that deamon.

    My first post, Your Comic is amazing!

  22. Nogard Codesmith says:

    Oh man Shamus… thats *PAINFULLY* funny… this one just made my top 10.. but I’m not sure which one it bumped off the list yet. I’ll keep you informed.

  23. Mrs T says:

    Panel 7. How baked is Staregorn now? I believe in all his stoner caps, that’s the most stoned we’ve seen him.

  24. Ryan says:

    Brilliant. Simply amazing. It was like the entire comic was set up just for this strip.

    On the con side, I’m afraid that the only place left to go from here is down. :)

  25. Caius says:

    Why is it that the characters story is always so much better than the DM’s?

  26. Patrick says:

    The character’s story is always better because they get to work together to be more devious.

  27. Jochi says:

    Jack@16:
    What makes a ‘good DM’ the one who prewrites the whole campaign. Good DMing involves creating a pleasurable game for the players. And making them think they are genious sleuths can be part of that. I have worked a scam multiple times in both D&D and Champions:
    1) Run a few adventures, throwing out meaningless plot threads that don’t lead anywhere.
    2) Listen to the players as they try to link them up. Keep track of the best ideas that link the most ones and would be fun to play, and fit in with your overall background.
    3) Take the one you like best and make it ‘the solution to the mystery’. One or more of your players feel an intense rush of accomplishment and satisfaction because they ‘solved it’ and saved the game.
    4) Keep your yap shut. Never let on to ANYBODY that’s what you did.
    I’d like to claim credit for this, but a husband-and-wife team of DM’s whose name I forgot had the basic outline on a website ten or twelve years ago. It works like a charm.

  28. Mattingly says:

    That DOES make so much more sense now!

  29. Mattingly says:

    Jochi,

    One similar nugget I learned is that when you present the players with a tight situation, let them come up with alternatives. It doesn’t matter what they are, but the first two never work — it’s the THIRD idea that’s the magic bullet.

    Congratulations! You outthought the master villain by masquerading as security guards; he never planned against that brilliant tactic.

  30. haashaastaak says:

    I agree panel seven is just about the funniest screen cap. Coupled with its word balloon it’s definitely in my top 10 panels

  31. Little Gen says:

    Aww, good old Herald Wossname! (the DM’s favourite NPC who always came to us when something needed to be told to us… The one time he showed up and told us nothing left us all very confused.)

    And Big G has a nice long-suffering look on his face. XD

  32. Nanja Kang says:

    I need a railroading Gandalf in my campaign… this freedom of choice crap is killing me.
    My group left a dungeon (on a demi-plane) to go shopping… yeah… freakin` sweet…

  33. hendrake says:

    scldragonfish: Your DM had his tires slashed for killing off one of the player-characters?

    Wow…just…wow.

    Great comic, Shamus. Thank you.

    Gimli rocks – far an away my favorite player.

  34. Vinchenze says:

    Gimlli is right for a player that wasn’t paying attation but wrong for those that were.

  35. Miles Tormani says:

    Panel 12 and the look on Gandalf’s face in the last panel are priceless.

    So who would’ve been the king had Stonagorn not been around? Legolass or Gimli son of Groin? I say there’s only one true heir: Elrond.

    Unfortunately, he’s currently ‘not too bright’ as we have seen.

  36. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Wraithshadow Says: It’s been Gandalf, Gandalf, Gandalf, and, oh yes- Gandalf.”

    Well, sure. You can’t stop after one Crusty McDoomsayer…

  37. Isoyami says:

    Another gem.

    The screencaps of Stoner-gorn are absolutely priceless, in panel 7 he looks *really* baked, even more baked than usual. And the: “Ok then Nostradamus”? Beyond perfect. xD xD

    The scary thing is that Gimli’s explanation really does make sense… the DM’s skin must be crawling right now, I know mine it.

    And Gandalf? Come on. Like anyone didn’t see THAT coming from a mile away. Illuminated by the shiney highbeam searchlights from Gandalf’s magic staff.

    Lucky guess indeed. xD xD

    Oh, and if you look carefully at the last panel, you can see the throne Gimli is sitting in is off to the side of the staircase. I’m assuming the King’s throne is at the top of those said stairs. heh.

  38. Isoyami says:

    Bleh, my skin IS crawling, rather.

    And the “OK then Nostradamus” just became my second favorite line EVER.

    The best ever line for me is still the: *Suddenly Lord Elrond shows up at your camp.* “Hi.” That just kills me every time.

  39. Rolld20 says:

    I agree, Isoyami. That’s such a horrible thing to do in a well told story- but I’ve seen times when it was the only way to keep things together. :)

    Oh, and I never let the GM overhear my predictions. If they’re accurate, he’ll be bitter about being predictable, And a bitter GM is dangerous. If they’re not what he had in mind, they’re probably *worse*, so he’ll use them and let everyone know it’s my fault. Lose-lose situation; don’t go there. :)

  40. Namfoodle says:

    What I noticed about the screen caps is that if you look carefully, you can see that Gimli is the tallest actor in the room. He’s sitting and two steps up, but he’s sort of slouching. So his head is lower than Legolas, but if he stood up and stretched his long legs, you can just make out that he would be taller than the elf.

  41. Mik says:

    Or, Isoyami, not so carefully at the first panel, where the stairs aren’t even hidden :-)

  42. Vermont Gal says:

    Slashed tires for killing off a character?!

    Whoa…that’s actually a huge backhanded compliment if you think about it…

  43. Aaron says:

    After the day I’ve had today, this is EXACTLY what the doctor ordered. Shamus you’re and absolute genius! Nostradamus indeed lol :) Thanks for making this entire strip, and I suspect the next idea that rolls out of your fingers and onto the webpage will be just as good if not better! Thanks for brightening my day sir! /salute!

  44. Marty says:

    My group left a dungeon (on a demi-plane) to go shopping

    What is it with players and shopping? Does anyone remember any fantasy novel where the main characters were always hunting around for a blacksmith?

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

  45. TalrogSmash says:

    Sort of like the guy who “discovered” pluto. Wrong orbit, wrong size, and the exact pinpoint location on the day he said it would be visible.

  46. Narmio says:

    You know, with the comic’s font, I can’t tell whether Gimli said “to run the city instead” or “to ruin the city instead”. Which is about perfect.

  47. roxysteve says:

    Wouldn’t it have been easier from the get-go for the Dm to simply “geas” the players into fulfilling their destinies?

    [not trolling, not picking on anyone]

    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). If a group of players and a DM have embarked upon an adventure but the players cannot keep track due to extreme ADD, player unavailability etc. how is them wandering off and freelancing the plot better? If the point of this game (as opposed to that one) is to achieve strategic result “x”, if the players can’t keep it straight (and I’ve been there myself) isn’t it better to adjust the complexity of the intelocking scenarios rather than having the players wing it? I mean, the point of the game is not only to get XPs but to get them en-route to “x”, right?

    Otherwise, why bother with campaign style games at all?

    I mean, I know why the “Rings” campaign is failing, and I know that Shamus is pointing out the weaknesses of the players on both sides of the screen that have unfortunately met in this train wreck of a game, but I cannot for the life of me understand where some of the commentators over the last year are coming from.

    Steve.

  48. roxysteve says:

    [shamus] Oh yeah, it was a move of sheer genius to have Gimli-with-Pipe doing the exposition for Aragormless.

    Would that Jackson had seen this more meaningful role for the Dwarf to play in the original movie than the comic relief and walking punch-line he settled for.

    Steve

  49. Isoyami says:

    @ Mik #43

    *Looks again* You’re right. I completely missed that.

    I feel sillier than Stoner-gorn now. :D xD

    Oh, and about Gimli’s pipe… why do I think he’s puffing something a lot stronger than bubbles? heheh….

  50. Doug Williams says:

    Also–and I’m not sure why this is true, exactly–but every time the players speak crassly over the NPCs’ (that is, the DM’s) speeches, it makes me really chuckle! I have so enjoyed this comic!

  51. Eric Towers says:

    The railroad goes ever, ever on …
    to the land beyond this tree …
    Any plot point I shall fail …
    To grasp eventually …

  52. Rick says:

    The one Gimli didn’t point out: They got Gandalf to sacrifice himself for the rest of the group, and then everything went to heck (Legolas killed Gollum, and all four hobbits quit). Obviously, the DM needed some way to get his campaign back on (the railroad) track, so let’s bring Gandalf back!

  53. inq101 says:

    As all DM’s know, you should not just railroad your players, you must also make the railroad go through a tunnel, and close all the stations allong the route. If you don’t players tend to start doing weird things, like having FUN!

  54. oldschoolGM says:

    9 Browncoat Says:
    August 8th, 2007 at 11:10 am

    Frank used to say there was only one railroad; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary.

    The Railroad goes ever on and on
    Down from the door where it began.
    Now far ahead the Railroad has gone,
    And I must follow, [so says the DM],
    Pursuing it with [weary] feet,
    Until it joins some larger way
    Where many paths and errands meet.
    And whither then? [Gandalf will] say.

    There should be some kind of award for posts like these :).

    And great stuff Shamus, as always.

  55. xbolt says:

    One of the high points of my day! :D

    Easily one of the funniest in a while.

  56. Jos says:

    Ah, Frank. I liked Frank, he was sane. I was hoping that when, a few comics back, Faramir got mentioned Frank would (possibly very briefly) rejoin the game.

    But this’ll do too, I guess. ;)

  57. CyberGorth says:

    The Gimli moment is one I’ve witnessed tableside many times, someone getting the right idea for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, the inverse is far more common. The player will take the right clues, the right reasoning, and come up with a conclusion that, while reasonable, is so completely different than what you’d thought up that it threatens to upend the plot. Either way, fun times (for us PC’s at least).

  58. Medium Dave says:

    Frank’s dead? I didn’t even know he was sick!

    Crosstalk about plot points and the game our group calls the “What If” game has provided me with some rich plot points.

  59. Thenodrin says:

    Am I supposed to be getting the impression that this conversation is happening while the DM is out of the room, returning as Gandalf enters the scene?

    Because that is the way I’m reading this. It just seems like this is a conversation that the players would be having behind the DM’s back.

    Theno

  60. Acanthoid says:

    These comics are just so much fun! You have great skill of getting the right screen caps for the right lines. Like Aragorn s and Legolas’s expression on the small frames in the middle. Keep up the great work!

  61. Althanis says:

    people at work are looking at me funny because I can’t stop laughing. Another classic Shamus! :)

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