DM of the Rings CXXXVI:
Knock, Knock

  By Shamus   Aug 17, 2007   179 comments


Knocking is a terrible way to begin an invasion.

Gimli points out a flaw in the versimilitude of the world.

To be fair, I think Gimli is pointing out a problem with the original work: How did all those orcs get enough food to live? I’m having trouble picturing an orcish farm, much less orcs producing all the accoutrements needed to run one. Both the book and the movie depict orcs with their own bread. Can you imagine an orcish miller? An orcish milkmaid? An orcish baker, complete with apron and poofy chef’s hat? Imagine a couple of orcs side-by-side in front of a farm American Gothic style.

Kind of daft, innit?

A Hundred!20202019Many comments. 179, if you're a stickler


1 2 3

  1. Jindra34 says:

    I can imagine all those things though they are quite funny looking.

  2. Zarr says:

    The food came from south, the taxed lands. Frodo and Sam ponder the same question – “where do these orcs get stuff to eat” when they go around Mordor. On those same pages narrator says something “Little did F&S know about the huge swathes of vassal states to the south”…or something like that.

  3. Nathan M. says:

    Perhaps the orc’s’ food was created by some kind of magic…?

  4. FS says:

    Sauron used slaves to grow food in the southern part of Mordor. From the Wikipedia article:

    In the north of Mordor during the War of the Ring were the great garrisons and forges of war, while surrounding the bitter inland Sea of Núrnen to the south lay the vast fields tended for the provision of the armies by hordes of slaves brought in from lands to the east and south.

  5. roxysteve says:

    As the Blackadder said: “They are forced to have children just so they can have an afordable alternative to turkey at Christmas”

    Splendid, as usual.

    Steve.

  6. angora says:

    If I remember correctly, the books talks about huge fields worked by slaves, somewhere in the south.

    The screencap of Legolas smug face is great. :)

  7. drew says:

    Wow. I hadn’t noticed that before. You know, players point out the weirdest flaws.
    Orcs must have bakers.
    Just remember, they are Evil bakers… mwahaha.

  8. asterismW says:

    Mad props for Aragorn’s expressions in panels 4 and 8, and Leggy’s expression in 10. Classic!

  9. MOM says:

    There was clear reference to the southern realms(south of Mordor) where Sauron held sway and people served Sauron. Goods were brought to Mordor from those lands. From memory I recall reference to the land of Harad.
    These people were under his spell. There was a battle between these people and Faramir’s Company in Ithilien. Sam watched part of the battle and saw an oliphant. It was his first look at battle between men.

  10. scldragonfish says:

    Actually, I have that kind of imagination, thus extreme laughter,thank you shamus.

    Black orc in chef’s regalia, with A high born english accent (think oliver twist).

    “Sir can I get you anything else for your Mercenary guard”.

    (growls)

    “Certainly, a baker’s dozen of mint chocolate chip muffins.”

    I think I just make myself hungry.

  11. roxysteve says:

    How lucky that Middle Earthian plate tectonics produce such unlikely collision zones and wall off Mordor from the rest of the world like that.

    Stupid Gandalf. Why on (middle) earth didn’t he tell the fellowship to thwart these mighty natural defenses, avoid both the Black Gate *and* Minas Morgul and simply go ’round the back where there aren’t any mountains?

    Tsk!

    Steve.

  12. Kaz says:

    “Certainly, a baker’s dozen of mint chocolate chip muffins.”

    Thank you, scldragonfish. You made my day.

  13. Nikle says:

    Par for the course, beautiful!

  14. Sewerman says:

    roxysteve:

    I am going to assume that you were sarcastic :) And not mention the fact that those mountains stretched about 500 miles or so- mostly wasteland…

    So our intrepid army would march 500 miles east, hit the end of the mountains, then march close to 500 miles back- a bit extreme, wot?

  15. Arbaal says:

    The end draws nigh, yet no sign of Frodo or Samwise and the destruction of the ring. I have to say it will sadden me to see the end, but I do hope you move on with another movie to spoof…

  16. Sunhawk says:

    Actually, I’m pretty sure the mountains surrounding Mordor aren’t entirely ‘natural’. Melkor’s natural domain was places of violence (including tectonic violence), and Sauron originally served under Aule, whose domain was the matter of Middle-Earth.

  17. Cenobite says:

    Orcs eat each other.

    “Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!”

  18. Berowne says:

    Amateurs study tactics; practitioners study operations; professionals study logistics; geniuses study assumptions.

    If you get a higher level wrong, you increase your difficulties by that many orders of magnitude.

  19. Benevolence says:

    You all know this comic is almost at it’s end? :( I can’t wait to see how the players react when Frodo gets all the credit for defeating Sauron. Talk about DM’s revenge.

  20. Morgainlafeye says:

    So, i beleive that you are all, in part, correct. Obviously, as more than one of you has pointed out, there is some form of food supplie to the south. Further, i’m pretty sure they hunt, although they say during this book – right before the whole “looks like meat’s back on the menu boys” bit, that they eat rations. I’ve always made the assumtion they the Orcs raided/hunted at least a small bit wile they were out.

    As for Sewerman’s point, I’m not exactly sure how much the actual characters would know about that. Gandalf might. Aragorn MIGHT, but i doubt it. So, if during a campain my DM said “the door will not open” with the stop-being-dumb look on his/her face…i would definatly try to find another way around. However, if us as readers were reading this point, well than, we can just flip to the front of the book and use that conviant little map. Or go back through the book, wher we remember someone talking about Mordor, and try to find something there.

  21. Al Shiney says:

    At the risk of sounding like a complete geek (as if that is a problem here), I point out that the whole purpose for Gandalf’s attack on the black gate was to draw the Eye of Sauron away from Mount Doom, Frodo & Sam, and The Ring. That’s why there was the dramatic “eyeball roll” and Nazgul recall when Frodo claimed it for his own in such a precarious place.

    Hence, “going around the back” wouldn’t have even been considered a valid option, even if it were possible, which it wasn’t.

  22. Sewerman says:

    Ah- but thats GANDALF’s purpose… Stareagorn’s purpose is to hammer on him until he cries like a little baby :) (4? strips ago)..

    Of course, I don’t know what point I just argued… but the Knock,Knock worked, didn’t it?

  23. Tom says:

    Remember that this entire operation was a feint and had no hope of succeeding by itself; they had to distract Sauron from the two little hobbits worming their way into the heart of his land, and needed to do so immediately. The whole point was to convince Sauron that one of the captains of the free peoples had the Ring and intended to keep it, and the best way to do that was to brazenly call out the Dark Lord before the Black Gate itself. They didn’t have time to go around the mountains, and even if they had it would have been counter-productive.

    Remember also that even if this had not been their intent, regardless of the Ring, they could not defeat Sauron by military force. Sauron forces were overwhelming.

  24. Stephan says:

    Well… not that strange. Just think of Warcraft 2!

  25. Eric the vengeful says:

    Dude your mom’s totally right. that’s also where their ships came from when aragorn took them with the dead.

  26. John Marley says:

    I think Sauron probably kept slaves for farming and drudge work.

  27. DoveArrow says:

    “Orcs eat each other.”

    My biology teacher from high school said vertebrates usually only retain 10% of the energy in the food that they consume, while the rest goes to waste. Therefore, if orcs only eat each other, eventually, they’re eventually going to run out of consumable energy. Of course, this was from an American high school teacher, so who knows how accurate it is. Still, I thought it was worth mentioning.

    You know, I probably way overanalyzed a statement that was really only meant as a joke, thus ruining the humor factor of said statement. RIGHTEOUS!!!

  28. Tim says:

    @DaveArrow: Your teacher was probably right (ANOTHER reason why the movie “the Matrix” SUCKED), but come on guys, HOW OFTEN WERE THOSE FIELDS OF NURN MENTIONED NOW?
    AND the vassal states of Mordor, of course.

    As for the convenient mountains of Mordor, well, as was said, we are talking about a world were deity-like beings are shaping the land as they want it to be…

    • Chessmaster says:

      While it’s true that in the Matrix humans would make shitty batteries, that also wasn’t the original backstory. As I understand it, The machines intended to use human brains as processors, as they were still massively beyond anything that could be replicated with technology. But the producers thought this idea was too techy/complicated for the average viewer to wrap their head around, so they dumbed it down to what you get in the movies.

  29. Rick says:

    “Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!”

    I wonder how orcs knew what a menu was? Were there orcish restaurants as well?

    • WJS says:

      Why shouldn’t there be? Maybe not fancy upscale places, sure, but I can totally see an orcish greasy spoon or diner. (Adjusted for period, of course)

  30. Morgainlafeye says:

    Well, i’m lazy, as such, do any of you guys remember the DM saying that Aragon and the gang were only going as a distraction? I don’t remember it. I remmeber it in the book – of course. But i don’t remember the DM mentioning that rather importent fact to the adventures in this comic strip.

  31. Falafel says:

    wasn’t it aragorns idea?

  32. Tola says:

    Gandalf tried to mention it in the previous strip. He was countermanded by Aragorn, who had….the same plan in different words. Read it again.

    What do Orcs eat? Man-flesh(Or Elf-flesh, or dwarf-flesh) is a delicacy, but they DO have farms. There’s a massive inland sea in Mordor, and surrounding it are the lands of Nurn, where humans constantly work the land to keep the war machune going.

  33. txknight says:

    Hmmmm… Maybe they got food ala Warcraft II style. You know, get a super talented grunt to build an entire pig farm, complete with pigs, in less than 30 seconds. :-)

  34. RogerR says:

    More analytic drivel.

    Recall from The Silmarillion; the Misty Mountains themselves were raised by Melkor (Morgoth) to guard the rear flank of Angband and Thangdordrim. Beleriand was the obvious frontal assault point as the Elves barely left Beleriand & the Valar would approach from the West. It isn’t far out of line to think of the Mountains of Shadow as another ‘convenient terrafom’, though this implies Morgoth did it. How’s that for foresight?

    On another note: Not far from Rohan, and just North of the Dead Marshes, are the Wastes of Rhun and Harad, subject kingdoms to Sauron’s rule. These are probably a lot like the American Mid West,which was once called the Great American Desert mostly because there were no trees… Boromir’s famous horn was a prize from a huge bull (Tolkein called them kine) from this very area. This makes Rhun and Harad the stockyards of Mordor.

  35. elda says:

    great comic. i love (i know this has been said before) leggy’s smug face in pannel 10 (i think it was ten…)

    i got confused yesterday and thought it was friday. i was very dissapointed when there was no new dmotr until someone told me what day it was. *sigh*

  36. Scarlet Knight says:

    drew Says:Orcs must have bakers.
    Just remember, they are Evil bakers…

    I can imagine them singing: “Four & twenty hobbits, baked in a pie” Hence the warning in the movie that “These are NOT for eating!”

    Also,remember that this is D&D. Sauron has trolls. Simply line up the bakers, slice up some troll, bake slices in a pie for the orc troops, & by lunchtime the next day the troll will have grown back his “donated” limb!

  37. Drezta says:

    naa its just proof that Tolken was the original lazy DM because srsly how many DMs here enforce the food rules?

  38. Dan says:

    “Come on you losers! Hand over Sauron!”

    A phrase more antithetical to the spirit of Tolkien was never spoke.

    Er, wrote.

    Er…wrote as spoke.

    [Man, oh man, I can almost see the players rubbing their hands at the prospect of going mano a mano with some big, armored warrior wizard to finish the campaign. This is going to suck so bad for them!]

  39. James says:

    As somebody pointed out above, look at Warcraft — orcish farmers abound. They mostly slaughter pigs, IIRC. Also, look at the LotR strategy games for 360 or PC — the Mordor side runs farms and slaughterhouses.

    Also, there’s a game coming out, Dungeon Hero, that’s going to focus on the day-to-day life of dungeon dwellers, especially goblins, orcs, etc. They hold all sorts of occupations. Have a look at http://www.xbox360fanboy.com/2007/06/08/dungeon-hero-brings-subterranean-life-to-360/

  40. Little Gen says:

    As everybody said. About the screencaps, and Lake Núrnen, and all.

    Somehow, for me it’s ever been hardest to imagine a female orc… but maybe it’s just me. ;D

  41. Lynx says:


    Rick Says:
    August 17th, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    “Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!”

    I wonder how orcs knew what a menu was? Were there orcish restaurants as well?


    Probably Orcish bars. Though, IIRC, the movie version was more of an Orc eating a Goblin.

  42. RibbitRibbit says:

    Not only do they win by starving them all to death, but – check this – as they’ve defeated the entire army of Mordor, they get ALL THE XP for it. Sauron included.

    Shamus, you might have missed this point. Or you just didn’t manage to find a frame where the look on Lego-ass’ face was THAT smug.

  43. xbolt says:

    “Knock knock, who’s there? ME! ME ME ME ME ME!”

  44. Robert De Neo says:

    Wait…did someone say “The Matrix” sucked?
    bwa?

  45. Dralasite says:

    The PCs won’t get any xp for killing Sauron and his army: we all know that some hobbit kill-stealers will snuff Big Red Eye and his whole army before they get the chance to kill any orc…
    Technically, they shouldn’t even get any XP at all for defeating Sauron…

    I can imagine how the player will be pissed: “weeks of playing this bloody campaign and when we finally reach the end-level boss, he and his whole army dies of an heart attack because of some NPCs we don’t even remember??? What kind of campaign is this?”

  46. SteveDJ says:

    Soylent Green is Orcs!!! :)

  47. Ceomyr says:

    Too bad they didn’t take their army by fleet to the south end of Mordor then and be in position to attack Farrad, move into Mordor, or starve them out.

    Not that it mattered anyway since either way Sauron’s forces were overwhelmingly huge and would surround and start crushing Aragorn’s army anyway.

    I guess they reasoned that Sauron would have to be an idiot not to take advantage of the stupid situation they were putting themselves into. The gambit worked because of the hobbits, and this great risk taken to keep Sauron distracted, but this easily could have been a horrible, horrible move.

    Because, “gee I hope the hobbits destroy the ring this afternoon and thats the end of all this evil, cause in another hour we’ll all be orc food. If those two hobbits fell or got lost, or took a break, I guess Sauron will kill us, and then he’ll go back to keeping a lookout for the ring.”

  48. roxysteve says:

    Sewerman Says:
    So our intrepid army would march 500 miles east, hit the end of the mountains, then march close to 500 miles back- a bit extreme, wot?

    Pah! A mere bagatelle to someone who can ride three days out, turn round, ride three days back, heal three people, ride three days back again and still have the inner reserves to face the Might of King Mordor.

    Sunhawk Says:
    Actually, I’m pretty sure the mountains surrounding Mordor aren’t entirely ‘natural’. Melkor’s natural domain was places of violence (including tectonic violence), and Sauron originally served under Aule, whose domain was the matter of Middle-Earth.

    Even easier then. The entire army disbelieves these illusiory mountains. If that doesn’t work, they dispell them. If that doesn’t work Dumbledore can jolly well get busy with Mordenkainen’s Disjunction (the others will take cover behind some natural rocks while he does it).

    Al Shiney Says:
    At the risk of sounding like a complete geek (as if that is a problem here), I point out that the whole purpose for Gandalf’s attack on the black gate was to draw the Eye of Sauron away from Mount Doom, Frodo & Sam, and The Ring. That’s why there was the dramatic “eyeball roll” and Nazgul recall when Frodo claimed it for his own in such a precarious place.

    Hence, “going around the back” wouldn’t have even been considered a valid option, even if it were possible, which it wasn’t.

    NonononoNO! They go ’round the back from word one, adlepate! Dave, Sam, Aragormless, Frank, everybody. All round the back for a quick ring melting ceremony. None of this farting around in Ithilien or mooching in Moria. Get the Eagles (they’re between gigs at this point in time remember) to fly them over the mountains before that nitwit in a dress Saruman even knows they have the ring, nip ’round the back of Mordor while Sauron is still busy clicking on the “build orc” and “build troll” icons and the ring could’ve been melted down by page 350. 320 if they forego supper at that dingbat Tim Benzedrine’s pad.

    Worked for the Germans in ’39.

    Steve

    • WJS says:

      “So we’re taking lessons from the losers now?” :P

      Disbelieving or dispelling the mountains is not going to work though. Stone Shape is an Instantaneous effect, as would any epic variations thereof.

  49. roxysteve says:

    Now I come to think of it, wouldn’t it be easier to get a bunch of clerics to “Poison” the water and food while it is in transit, and “Curse” the people and animals carrying it into the bargain?

    After all, there’re only two routes into Mordor (if you don’t count my brilliant and totally misunderstood “back door theory”), one of which is manifestly unsuitable to passage by oliphaunts and carts, it being narrow and infested with Nazgul. The vittles probablyt have to go in through the Black Gate, so the route is pretty easy to figure out and set up ambushes on.

    This King Mordor bloke doesn’t seem to have muchh on the ball. Luckily he is up against the equally braincell-challenged Aragormless.

    Steve

  50. roxysteve says:

    SteveDJ Says:
    Soylent Green is Orcs!!!

    You don’t wanna know what Soylent Red is made of.

    Steve.

  51. Black Hand says:

    Shamus said: “”Imagine a couple of orcs side-by-side in front of a farm American Gothic style. “”

    Looks to me you got your wish. A magic card has that exact image you were wondering about…Behold: the ORCISH SETTLERS!!

    http://www.evocacion.com/magic-the-gathering/vientoligero/mimg/colonos-orcos.jpg

  52. Scarlet Knight says:

    You want to distract Sauron? Recruit Moe of the 3 Stooges. Face it, what Sauron fears most is a poke in the eye! Nyuk Nyuk!

    Also , 100xp to Roxysteve for using “adlepate” in a sentence…

    And 200xp to SteveDJ for his “Soylent Green is Orcs!!! ” joke!

  53. Dopple says:

    he he! Nice comic strip Shamus! Very fun to read!

    Yea, this thread does kind of point out some failings in this whole story. How many here wondered why Gandalf did not enlist the help of the great eagles way sooner to ferry the ring (or a ring carrier) right up to Mount Doom?

  54. Zephyris says:

    [quote](Tolkein called them kine)[/quote]

    I should point out that “kine” is the actual name of that animal; “cow” and “cattle” are actually both generic words for livestock and thus technically are not inaccurate to use for sheep, pigs, and other livestock. So it’s no surprise that an English Language professor would display such pedantism ^_~

  55. James Blair says:

    Several reasons why the Eagle Plan might not work:

    1. Nobody there thought of it. They didn’t have ten million brains and an Internet to work out the details like we do. Among all of us, there are likely several people smarter than J.R.R. Tolkien on the subject, and thus would come up with a better plan than he or his “inner circle” could.

    2. The Eagles were very careful about doing things that might kill them. For instance, in the Hobbit Gandalf could not even convince the Eagles to do a quick fly over Mirkwood and drop everyone off at Lake Town! The Eagles expressed a fear of humans with bows. I imagine they’d be a bit more scared of Sauron (note the Eagles did NOT go in before Sauron was already defeated).

    3. Gandalf can only contact the Eagles when he’s in serious trouble. The few times the Eagles were available in the LoTR series, Gandalf generally didn’t even know where Frodo was (or was way too early to think of the Eagle Plan).

    4. Perhaps Someone Wise did think of it, and also thought of what the Ring might do if it were brought into its element suddenly rather than gradually. Whoever had the Ring at that point probably couldn’t drop it when the Eagle was in position.

    5. Sauron has a lot easier time spotting Eagles than, say, a pair of sneaking hobbits. Perhaps he had contingency plans in place for just such an occasion. Maybe he could shoot them down himself.

  56. KW says:

    Can’t open the Door? What? You mean, in all of that vast army from Minus Tirith, there’s not a single NPC with skill in ‘Open lock?’

    Sheesh.

  57. Sartorius says:

    Re: Why didn’t Gandalf just get the giant eagles to carry the Ringbearers to Mount Doom?

    Answer:

    Stealth. The point was to sneak in the Fellowship and have them quietly destroy the Ring, not come whizzing over the mountains riding a huge, attention-worthy creature. Which of the two do you think would have attracted the notice of the Eye, or the Enemy’s countless scouts, garrisons, marching armies, etc.?

    In modern times we tend to think of “flying in” as something on the order of hundreds of miles an hour. I’m not sure that a giant eagle could fly a whole lot faster than a galloping horse, giving sufficient time to raise the alarm in Mordor.

    Bonus answer: Flying Nazgul.

  58. oldschoolGM says:

    202053 48 Ceomyr Said:

    I guess they reasoned that Sauron would have to be an idiot not to take advantage of the stupid situation they were putting themselves into.

    More like they played on Sauron’s paranoia. Aragorn showed himself to Sauron in the palantir and stared him down. Then he united Man under his banner and got them to march against the Black Gate with a relatively tiny army. Sauron only understands evil and domination, so he figured to pull this off Aragorn had to have claimed and mastered the One Ring. So, he sent his army out to go get it.

    Oh, and I don’t have my books handy but I’m pretty sure I remember a passage where Tolkien says Sauron had “raised the Mountains of Shadow about his land in imitation of his former master’s raising of Utumno” or some such thing. And as has been pointed out, Sauron was originally a Maia of Aule, so he’d certainly know how to create real mountains from scratch, not illusory ones.

  59. Maverick says:

    ‘Excuse me mister sauron’ Oh dear, nice one shamus.

  60. GEBIV says:

    Um. Getting back to the idea of starving out Sauron’s forces, shouldn’t one point out that the besieging army (Stare-agorn’s) would have even less food? Unless they had a nicely vulnerable supply train following them, they weren’t going to be eating for very long either.

  61. brassbaboon says:

    More reasons not to fly eagles to Mordor to drop the ring in Mt. Doom:

    1. There was no open crater to drop it in. In both the book and movie Frodo had to enter a cave. Eagles don’t do well in caves.

    2. Eagles cannot fly forever and don’t carry spare fuel tanks on their wings. It’s a long way from Gondor to Mt. Doom. It is not likely they could fly the full distance without being spotted, and once spotted, they would likely have to stop and rest, and then they would be at the mercy of the numberless legions of Sauron.

    3. Sauron showed himself able to control winds and weather to a substantial extent. Upon seeing eagles attempting to fly into his domain, it is highly likely that he could create atmospheric conditions that could injure or kill the eagles, or at least drive them to ground where his minions could kill them.

    4. It didn’t advance the plot properly.

    My guess is that #4 was sufficient for Tolkien’s needs.

    • WJS says:

      I love how everyone always counters the suggestion of eagles by saying they dare not enter Mordor. One would think they would realise that the bulk of the journey is not within Mordor. So they can’t take you to Mount Doom. Fine. Why exactly can’t they take you to the Dead Marshes? That would cut about 500 miles off your journey.

  62. Vicky W says:

    simple. Orcs eat meat. Sometimes they eat other orcs, sometimes they go out and hunt down other beings, and occasionally they eat the horses. Let’s see, Stare-agorn and his army are sitting out there. Supply trains are vulnerable. More evil armies are marching toward Mordor. Pick off a few of the army as they try to starve out the orcs, and as we know there is at least ONE back way into Mordor, which means they can get out and get food that way, too.

    Sigh.

    Still damn funny. Knock knock!

  63. brassbaboon says:

    Oh well…

    5. Eagles are known to be rather vain, haughty and mean-spirited, even among the noble races there are some who “go bad.” Perhaps there was not a single giant eagle, not even Gwahir himself, who would not have fallen under the spell of the ring, and delivered Frodo direclty to Sauron with the ring. Remember, a major premise of the book was that even Gandalf was sorely tempted to use the ring, and Frodo was acknowledged to be the least susceptible to the ring’s wiles, and in the end, he too succumbed to it’s evil temptations. Frodo was destined for the task, remember, not Gwahir.

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