DM of the Rings CXXXIV:
Hold Your Horses

 By Shamus Aug 13, 2007 161 comments


Aragorn recovers the party horses via rules-lawyering.

Players tend to treat horses like motorcycles: They are vehicles which can go anywhere you can walk, will never wander off, have no fear, feel no pain, and can travel at top speed for as long as you like.

And if you think players abuse the rules surrounding backpacks, just wait until they get their hands on the greatest of all interdimensional containers, saddlebags.

A Hundred!2020201Many comments. 161, if you're a stickler


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  1. Browncoat says:

    I find your lack of pants disturbing. . .

  2. Caitlin says:

    The DM should know better than to try to part a player from their loot, even if it defies all logic for them to still have it.

  3. Karkki says:

    Hilarious

    I love this

  4. Felagund says:

    Once my DM actually gave me a magical teleporting device, just so everyone could avoid the inconveniences of mundane cross-continental travel.

    I miss that little magic box.

  5. Mordae says:

    Riverdale? Far more likely he left his pants in Edoras…

  6. drezta says:

    it gets worse in campaigns were there is loot and the party is carrying a city sized pile of gold coins between them

  7. roxysteve says:

    When I play I often refuse to ride (and put no points into the skill), and insist on travelling by cart. The players hate me right up until it comes time for an encumberance check, when I become the bestest friend everyone ever had.

    Steve.

  8. Evrae says:

    Every Dm should know that when the time arrives all players are Guybrush Threepwood and have all the loot they could possably ever want on them when they see a merchant.

  9. roxysteve says:

    I think the next comic should be a screen-cap one based on Citizen Kane.

    Yes, this is my “Hearst Post”.

    Steve.

  10. Invictus says:

    Man, ain’t that the truth? They either abuse horses and saddlebags, or they go through horses like water, buying one at each town they come to, since they always seem to be going into places that are inaccessible to horses (and yet, they buy them to travel TO these places…then end up leaving them at the entrance). Amusingly, as a result, the players in my current campaign have a rule: never name your horse. Hehehe.

    Spot on comic, as usual, Shamus

  11. Beckyzoole says:

    Gondor has no pants. Gondor needs no pants.

  12. Victor says:

    Perfect, I once played a BESM campaign where i was a gnome mage with “hammerspace” or literally, the area behind my back underneath the trenchcoat was a garage sized area that could hold a car (modern setting) and all the weapons and gear that we could need. saved us time and worries, but we abused it horribly.

  13. Zynia says:

    My DM does fear checks on the horse. Getting bucked off in the middle of battle while the horse runs off to save its own hide is always fun.

  14. Marty says:

    Aaahhh… The “we didn’t leave the horses behind” argument. It’s like a rite of passage every DM must suffer through.

  15. azureknight says:

    Always hilarious Shamus!
    The hardest I have laughed yet in the series was the “wearing enough metal to make a buick” so if he could swim it so could the horses. Caught me off-guard. I look forward to reading it every MWF.

  16. Uri says:

    I laughed myself silly; my wife asked what’s so funny. The pants… the pants… Jesus, this was one of the best strips ever.

  17. El Capitan says:

    Just as a side note, I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that was “Rivendale”, not “Riverdale”. I don’t recall seeing a member of Archie’s gang in that section.

  18. Lune says:

    Ahaha saddlebags. They transcend RP phenomena. Anyone remember the magical saddlebag (permanently attached to horse) in Harvest Moon: Back to Nature? Anything you put in the saddlebag would automatically go into the sales bin. It didn’t matter how many squishy tomatoes you stuffed in it.

  19. BillionSix says:

    Um, El Capitan? You do know that it’s a running gag in this strip that the players can’t remember the names of any of the people and places, right?
    The author knows it’s Rivendale. The player probably can’t remember his own character’s name. ;)

  20. Calmypal says:

    It’s a joke, Capitan. The name of the city is Rivendell.

  21. Calmypal says:

    Ooh, ninja’d!

  22. Nikodemus says:

    Rivendell *groans*

  23. Kristin says:

    “Gondor has no pants. Gondor needs no pants.” – someone’s watched the Bakshi cartoon lately?

    (Aragorn, for some reason, forsook pants in favor of a leather loincloth for that movie.)

  24. Cenobite says:

    There is one way to get around this: have 1 player make a character that is completely attached to his/her horse at the hip. A knight with a lance. A peddler with a cart. Etc. This guarantees that (1.) all horses traveling with the party get considered in methods of travel, and (2.) nobody violates encumbrance rules. It’s a win-win situation for players and DM alike.

    Best of all, (3.) dead horses can be rendered down for emergency food rations.

  25. Telas says:

    “Rivendell” says the fanboy…

    Ah, the horse – source of more RPG arguments than anything but Diplomacy. Having a player with some horse experience is invaluable in a game.

    Aside: I once got flamed on the WotC boards for suggesting that a person would move slower through shin-deep mud than a horse would. I was told that deep mud kills horses; having grown up in a rural area, this was news to me.

    (Yes, horses can catch some pretty nasty conditions from deep mud, but that’s like saying that a cut from a rusty nail kills you instantly.)

  26. roxysteve says:

    Cenobite Says:
    There is one way to get around this: have 1 player make a character that is completely attached to his/her horse at the hip.

    Force players to be centaurs? Radical, but it might just work.

    Steve

  27. roxysteve says:

    [Telas] Silly boy. You must know by now that facts and actual experience are of no importace in a net brawl.

    Steve.

  28. oldschoolGM says:

    Always…ALWAYS ask the PC “What are you doing with your horses”. If you forget and you can’t convince they players they shouldn’t have them, kill the horses off at the next most inconvenient for the players.

  29. Maverick says:

    Did Aragorn just used logic?? 0.o. I’m shocked Shamus! You should know better than to have him use logic!

  30. Reverend Jim says:

    My gaming groups will beg/borrow/steal/buy a portable hole as quick as they can. NOT ONLY will it hold all the loot. It can carry the dead/petrified PC’s and even be an offensive weapon.

    Two characters, an illusionist and a bard, found themselves in a treasure room with a statue of a rather nasty dwarf with a hammer for one hand and a spike for the other. Spidy-sense told them it was a guardian.
    Knowing they would get pulped if they activated it, they opened up the portable hole immediately in front of the statue. One character touched a chest while the other stood by the hole. The golem animated and fell into the hole where he was wrapped up.

    The illusionist and bard made off with the loot and the golem was saved for the following week when the party’s fighters would rejoin the game.

  31. Browncoat says:

    Of course Aragorn is using logic now. Ever since he found out he was king, he’s been going to night school to learn how to be a king. (Next week, he learns the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow. The week after, he finds what he had learned the previous week is only for African swallows.)

  32. scldragonfish says:

    Ahhh the bag of holding! I managed to stuff a cooler of body parts in mine. Don’t ask…

  33. Mattingly says:

    Consulting this map should remind them where they left the horses.

    http://www.ooblick.com/text/tomordor/

  34. Al Shiney says:

    The “Whose side are you on” line is paraphrased differently in our group. The absolute, never-forget, don’t do under penalty of character death A#1 rule above all others is:

    “Don’t help the DM!” (usually yelled loudly in chorus)

  35. Sorely McFister says:

    OldschoolGM “If you forget and you can’t convince they players they shouldn’t have them, kill the horses off at the next most inconvenient for the players.”

    I definitely agree with oldschoolGM, if a player abuses a rule and gets away with it, I usually make them pay in spades later. It’s a karma thing :)
    P.S. – I once had a player cry when I killed her dapple grey gelding she named Shadow Mist. She spent 30 minutes writing its description and personality, I think I killed it the first five minutes of game play. C’est la gare

  36. roxysteve says:

    Sorely McFister Says:
    C’est la gar

    “It’s the station”????

    Steve.

  37. willk_1230 says:

    “We leave the horses behind.”
    “We leave the horse’s behind.”

    /snicker

    what a difference an apostrophe makes! :)

  38. Hanov3r says:

    drezta Says:
    it gets worse in campaigns were there is loot and the party is carrying a city sized pile of gold coins between them

    In the campaign I’m currently part of, a significant amount of gold was stolen from the town coffers. We managed to find it… only to discover that 30,000 gold pieces in a large-ish chest is just a *bit* more than the Earth Genasi Barbarian with 20 STR was able to carry.

    At least he was able to push the chest to where the horses were. Quadrapeds get that extra bonus for bein’ 4-legged, dontcha know.

  39. Gary says:

    Absolutely Brilliant!

    I was hard pressed to keep the laughing to a low enough level that my fellow cube-farmers were not disturbed/curious/jealous. :D

  40. Sevenhills says:

    My players have never let me forget the time they left their horses securely hobbled so they couldn’t wander off while the PCs were in the dungeon. Shame they forgot they were in stirge country…

  41. Melfina the Blue says:

    The ultimate soln to the horse problem…
    a flying horse that turns into a human that also serves as a squire. I have no idea how our paladin got this person/creature’s loyalty, but it works.

  42. corwin says:

    I was in a campaign recently when the departure of a player happened to coincide with our party entering a dungeon. Throughout our dungeon crawl, I kept voicing my fear that Alestor was sitting up there in his camp, eating our horses. When we made it out of the dungeon, discovering that several months had passed, we discovered the DMs had been listening; Alestor had indeed eaten the horses.

  43. Romanadvoratrelundar says:

    @38, I think that was “c’est la guerre”, spelt American. You probably new that, but you know, compulsive pedant here.

  44. Carra says:

    Cheers, lovely comic with a great clou :)

  45. melchar says:

    But horses can also be fun for a referee. I have a player in one game who has a horse that faints whenever it feels threatened. Now sometimes the horse is actually fainting – especially when blood splashes nearby – but most of the time it has learned that if it falls down that #1, his owner runs over and kills all the monsters nearby and then #2, the horse then gets a big food treat when it ‘wakes up’.

  46. Ambidexter says:

    “Enough metal to make a Buick” was one of the best lines ever, Shamus.

  47. Remus says:

    Great, Tardis backpack, Tardis Saddlebag.

  48. Scarlet Knight says:

    roxysteve & Cenobite Say:”There is one way to get around this: have 1 player make a character that is completely attached to his/her horse at the hip.

    Force players to be centaurs? Radical, but it might just work.”
    I once played a centaur (well, a polymorphed dwarf to be technical.) It was great fun until I was faced with a ladder…

  49. Scarlet Knight says:

    Browncoat, I believe you made a spelling error. To learn how to be King a ranger goes to KNIGHT school…

  50. Kaz says:

    To #35 – Thank you for Quest Map, which apparently gives better directions than Mapquest. :-D

    And to #31… It’s not that he’s using logic. More like he hit the merry-go-round and kept it spinning until he figured out the best way to push the DM off. It wasn’t well-reasoned arguments, it was grasping at straws and actually grabbing the correct one.

  51. BlckDv says:

    Oh; you called me out.

    A week ago yesterday at our D&D game my Gnome Paladin declared that he was going to cram the clockwork spider we had just defeated into his saddlebag to sell to mechanics back in the city.

    The same saddlebags he had crammed all the metal ingots in from the workshop earlier.

    The same saddlebags that on an earlier quest we stuck the secret book in, dismissed the mount while the guards trying to keep the book from getting home searched the PCs, and then re-summoned in the sanctuary of the church that wanted the book… at least that led to RP with the priest outraged at a camel in his church.

    My PCs’ Divine Camel must be about fed up with being FedEx by now.

  52. Namfoodle says:

    Horses aren’t worth the trouble unless the campaign is set up to avoid problems. You’re okay if all the encounters happen in or near towns, on the same continent, etc.

    If your adventures require you to cross oceans, hang out in floating castles, or go to other planes or other such nonsense, horses are right out.

    In my current campaign, we’re 11th level and our butts have only touched the backs of horses once since 1st level. The horses were provided to us by our employer and we dropped them off at our destination town.

    Other than that, we walk, take boats, airships, sleds, fly, teleport, etc.

  53. I don’t know what’s funnier, that the King of Gondor is trying to figure out how to finagle his horse onto a ship when he literally owns entire herds of horses just outside his window, or that the DM has forgotten that a King doesn’t need to carry horses through tunnels and across rivers, a King just needs to say “I need a horse. And two more for my buddies.” I’m pretty sure by the time he got outside, he’d have three horses saddled up. And I’m quite certain that for this character one horse is as good as another.

    It’s good to be the king.

    One reason I enjoy running low level campaigns is that I don’t have to kill myself trying to overcome the game-breaking capabilities of certain magic items. I know a player who turned a bag of holding into an extra-dimensional kingdom where he raises dragons. I guess those were old D&D rules, but his character still has the castle and the dragons, so I guess it was all grandfathered in…

    One of my favorite DM moments was when the group of characters in my campaign finally killed off a major dragon in his lair, complete with the fairy-tale pile of gold and treasure. Oh they were really happy, until they realized that between them they could only carry a tiny fraction of the treasure trove. Undeterred one player came up with the idea of building a cart and capturing some wild goats to pull it. Unfortunately the cart building and goat herding kept getting interrupted by brigands who had somehow heard the news that the dragon was dead. Pretty soon they were besieged in the dragon lair, running out of food and water.

    The lead player finally vented his frustration, accusing me of deliberately thwarting their attempts to recover all the treasure. My response was “Well, for years this treasure trove has been the envy of every brigand, raider, bandit or nearby king, but they had given up on killing the dragon to get it. Now they just have to kill you.”

    They finally got the message, grabbed the choicest loot they could, and scampered out the back secret passage. Behind them they heard the beginning of an epic battle.

    They never really forgave me for that….

  54. Namfoodle says:

    Gnome on a divine camel. That’s sweet.

    My gnome wizard has to constantly fend off suggestions that he ride in the backpack of one of the other (all medium sized) characters.

    Damn my stubby legs (and 20 foot move)!

  55. HuntingDM says:

    Mounts are great in an adventure, its the consistant killing of them by the party that gets annoying.

    OH! Look an owlbear. I’ll charge it and jump off to attack it. What do you mean its eating my horse.

    Remember monsters like to eat the soft squishy animals more than the hard two leggers with the big sharp weapons.

  56. Colin says:

    Oh my god, somebody has noticed me posting and started talking about it. That is just like this comic, it is so…. Pimp!

  57. Colin says:

    FYI “pimp” is the new “awesome”

  58. Kano says:

    Hey, are you really the Purple Library Guy from SFU?

    For those not in the know, Purple Library Guy is (was?) an institution at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby. An eclectic and highly recognizable character. There was an interview with him in the Peak student newspaper (he apparently has a real name too, but it’s less memorable) and even a comic strip featuring him.

  59. Jim says:

    One of the best strips yet!
    Again, the comments after are as good as the comic! Bravo!

  60. Dreamelf says:

    I find myself amazed that most who ride horses, like Roy from OOTS, have 2 or fewer ranks in ride. Why don’t opponents dethrone them then take the AOO as they stand up more often?

    Also, there is another great solution to the horse problem: Phantom Steed. Lost it? It vanished, no worries. Need one again? Recast it. My gnome illusionist (w/Shadowcraft Mage) can make one of those last all day, and it’s a great way to bypass the whole issue of mud, snow, crossing a body of water, etc. I’m surprised more don’t take it.

  61. Kano says:

    Here’s the interview I’m talking about:

    http://www.peak.sfu.ca/the-peak/99-1/issue9/theplg.html

    Oh and yeah, great strip. We have the same issue with vehicles as we do with steeds. Vehicles are less likely to wander off but more likely to be stipped of hubcaps.

  62. Aries says:

    just dont ask how they work…disbelief and denial are the source of the saddlebags power. only through complete lack of logic can 5ft broadsword fit in a 2ft square bag…

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