DM of the Rings CXXXVIII:
Another Cunning Gambit

 By Shamus Aug 22, 2007 162 comments


Aragorn employs his own unique brand of strategy.

A Hundred!2020202Many comments. 162, if you're a stickler


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  1. MintSkittle says:

    Total suckage indeed.

  2. tom says:

    wow aragorn is retarded

  3. Jochi says:

    What’s Leggy complaining about? He has a target rich environment.

    Sun Tsu would say this was poor strategy on the ORCS’ part — they should have left a narrow corridor to the north open, and lined it with pikes and archers. So some of the Men could/would/might choose to flee rather than fight. Putting your enemy in Death Country — where they have to fight or die — only increases your own casualty count.

  4. Doug Brown says:

    He’s the Colonel!

  5. Harlock says:

    Heh. Actually, that might be a workable tactic: let them surround you, then punch through the thinned out lines to the Black Gate and close it behind you. Of course, then the orcs go rampaging through Gondor, so that’s a bit of a minus from the _strategic_ side…

  6. Balentius says:

    I ran into this a long time ago… Fortunately, I was the enemy player. :)

    Big naval battle shaping up. I was the “opposing” commander, since my character was lost at that point. All the other PCs were on their “super ship”, with greek fire and several catapults, leading a force of ~60 barbarian ships. I wasn’t available to actually be at that session, so I gave the DM instructions.

    “OK, I have 13 ships, right?” “Yep.” “OK, I’m going to be swamped, so have EVERY one of my ships fire at the PC’s ship until it sinks.” “OK…”

    Sure enough, the PC’s, being confident, were in the front of their forces. They weren’t even ready with defensive spells… 26 catapult stones fired, ~16 hit… Their ship sinks in the first round of the battle. The greek fire all ruptures and spreads out, killing the next ~15 barbarian ships, and keeps them out of ballista range for ~5-6 rounds…

    I got a lot of dirty looks the next day. :)

    • WJS says:

      The problem with that strategy would be that that kind of firepower concentration (everyone shoot at the same thing) wasn’t available to ships until around the 20th century, because their weapon ranges were so small relative to the spacing of ships. To be able to all fire on one ship they would have to be the ones doing the surrounding.

  7. I wasted most of yesterday reading your back issues. I hate this campaign.

  8. Cat Skyfire says:

    Reminds me of a D&D game I once played. The DM had based it on a computer video game. In the game, when you went to fight, all the monsters were lined up, in best battle order, THEN you fought them.

    These kobolds and hobgoblins started to stream in through two doors and get into battle order. I cried foul. No way was my fight just going to wait while they ALL came in, and put the archers and magic users in the back. I wanted to move to the doorway as soon as they started to come in, and hack them so that they could only get in a few at a time, and had to climb over the bodies of their dead.

    She didn’t like that, and ruled that ‘half’ got in anyway, and in perfect battle order.

  9. Lee from Sheboygan says:

    They actually called Aragorn by his role-playing name! I’ll bet the GM was just happy they’re role-playing now.

  10. Mike Mistele says:

    Lee from Sheboygan wrote:

    “They actually called Aragorn by his role-playing name! I’ll bet the GM was just happy they’re role-playing now.”

    Must’ve been the guy playing Gimli who said that…at least he tries to follow the storyline.

  11. 2.5 cats says:

    Jochi, do you really think Sauron cares how many orcs he loses?

    Aragorn’s strategy of waiting until surrounded and charging at the last moment makes sense only in the context of knowing that Frodo was right about to destroy the ring. In the books Aragorn fought a bit smarter and they all stayed in their defensive position.

  12. TezukaDan says:

    Ok, i swear, i want a T-Shirt with All this Strip on it.
    This become one of my Top 3 Strips, with the Death of Golum, and the Death of Saruman.

  13. Diogo says:

    As Sun Tzu had said, “an enemy with no hope of surviving is the worst enemy possible” or something like that… My first post here, I loved this comic, I think I’m one of the few that actually hated the movies and prefered the books most, this comic only makes me remember why :)

  14. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Hark! Thy fate sucketh!”

    Shamus, the ‘silent’ next-to-last panel just makes the comic priceless!

  15. Nikle says:

    wait for it…..

    Ah, used it so many times, and it may as well be, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

  16. 2.5 cats says:

    TezukaDan, I’m with you on the T-shirt, though I think the first two panels could be removed–the joke works just as well if it starts with panel #3.

  17. Arbaal says:

    I am thinking that it was an NPC that cried out “You suck Aragorn!” because if you look at the positioning of the PCs vs the positioning of the person who calls out, you will notice that it is on the far right hand side of the group rather than the left hand side where the PCs are.

  18. roxysteve says:

    Now is the time for all orcish archers to come to the aid of the party (in a particularly target-rich environment).

    TPK for King Mordor’s side in about two rounds!

    Steve.

  19. Wtrmute says:

    Ok, this is the perfect oportunity for the DM to spring his surprise “nyah, nyah, fooled ya, the PCs of the guys who left to play Star Wars destroyed the Ring and defeated Sauron. Lucky for you all, since you were about to become a principal component in Orc war drums in 10 rounds or less”.

    The players can’t complain the now-NPCs kill-stole the end boss from them, since they’d made a terminally stupid decision and were about to be killed and lose the campaign anyway…

  20. Jochi says:

    Mike:
    Maybe, it just sounded like Legolas’s vocabulary.

    Cat:
    THAT reminds me of a spaceship miniatures game a buddy of mine once played — I forget the rules system. He and a friend used all the points they were allotted to build one huge battlewagon, lined with gun ports and with a big hole in the front. The other players built a standard swarm of little ships. They strafed the big ship on their first turn, reformed and did it again, drawing minor fire from the side turrents (which they were merrily destroying) but no real action. As they were gathering in front of the ship again, an passerby asked the players of the fleet what that big thing they were fighting was.
    “I dunno, they call it the Yamato.”
    “WHAT?! What’s it doing?”
    “Mostly just sitting there.”
    “HOW LONG?”
    “About three turns now.”
    “Oh … you see that bunch of ships you have clustered right there?”
    “Yeah.”
    “They’re all dead.”
    Sure enough, that turn the Wave Motion Gun finished charging.
    He said the shrieks of horror and surprise were beautiful.

  21. roxysteve says:

    [Su Tzu's theory on leaving an exit ramp for your enemy]

    I once owned a Simulations Canada wargame themed on the unification of China under the Chin that used this piece of waffle as a combat resolution mechanic. Surround your enemy and they fought literally five times as well as they did last turn.

    That game sucked almost as badly as Aragormless does, but has a warm place in my heart because playing it was how I met Paul the Globetrotting Wargamer, possibly the best F2F RPG player in the world. Certainly the most entertaining.

    Sun Tzu = Master of Cryptic Waffle and Stating the Bleeding Obvious.

    Steve.

  22. Takkelmaggot says:

    As Chester Puller said fifty-odd years ago, “…they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us… They can’t get away this time!”

  23. Jochi says:

    Ack — I was replying to Balentius, not Cat. Sorry.

    And no, 2.5, I don’t. Forgot to say so.

  24. lifethelemon says:

    now I have them precisely where I want them.

    surrounded from the inside!

  25. roxysteve says:

    I wonder how long it took to set up all those plastic figures on the grid, and what they ended up using for orcs since you never have enough of any one race to suffice?

    Now what is called for is for various individual orcs to “hold their action” so that the initiative ladder gets to be about fifteen feet long and the scene is set for a realistic D&D combat session for once!

    :o)

    Steve.

  26. Arthur says:

    Arbaal: I’m pretty sure it’s not an NPC who says “You totally suck”, because Shamus has always been damn consistent about keeping NPC dialogue in the “DM-yellowed” speech bubbles.

    It’s one of the other PCs. I guess he made it look like the person talking was quite distant from Aragorn because otherwise it might look as though Aragorn was telling *himself* that he sucked.

  27. Charles says:

    Maybe Aragorn’s deliberately trying to get the players killed so they can go play something else?

    Nah, probably just a moron.

  28. Mikko says:

    This reminds me of a game of D&D I DM’d some 20 years ago. The players were in a similar position. But that ended with the players killing all the orcs — and the mandatory evil-to-the-bone halfling then proceeded to eat a wagonload of them. (The players were on level 20+ so it wasn’t that miraculous a victory).

    BYW, why is it that some 90% of all PC halflings are evil b*stards?

  29. Mikko says:

    BYW –> BTW

    Note to self: next time proof read your contribution.

  30. Aries says:

    So…your surounded, outnumberd 50-1 and have no way to escape & your best chance for victory is in to form of a half insane midget and his ‘very VERY friendly’ buddy that at present a DM with a twisted sense of humour and a wicked streak three miles long is presently in full controll of due to there players naffing off…i would say your chances of comming out of this as a brand new pair of Orc bongos is pretty damn high.

  31. Aries says:

    Mikko Says:BTW, why is it that some 90% of all PC halflings are evil b*stards?

    oh thats easy:
    if you are by a twist of nature to look 90% of the people you meet in the crotch your gonna crack eventualy…its just a matter of when and how.
    ods are worse if they make short jokes, or the DM refuses to drop reasonably sized weapons and armour…goddamn meadium sized creatures lording there hight and ability to ride proper sized mounts over us…WE MAY BE SHORT BUT WE HAVE FEELINGS TOO! now come here i wanna stab you in the kneecaps.

  32. Sal says:

    Jochi,
    That Yamato story is priceless LOL

  33. Cenobite says:

    Well if they were REALLY roleplaying, then it would have come out as:

    “You totally suck, my liege.”

  34. Starsong says:

    I’m with you on the short jokes, Aries. My first D&D character (1st gen AD&D) was a halfling fighter/thief that bottomed out on the size chart at 2’6″. The party cleric was pretty burly, so he rigged a harness and carried her on his back while they were travelling rather than wait for her to catch up all the time. It faced backwards and left her arms free, so she kept a bow ready and served as rear guard for the party.

  35. Tango says:

    isn’t it amusing how if you abbreviated “Deus Ex Machina” it would be “DEM”, which I would so read “DM” ?

  36. Valley says:

    Gimli had to have said that…only he would remember Aragon’s name.

  37. Lukelightning says:

    “Putting your enemy in Death Country — where they have to fight or die — only increases your own casualty count.”

    Far better to put your enemy in Marlboro Country, where they slowly kill themselves of lung disease.

  38. SteveDJ says:

    Wait for it…

    Wait…

    Waaaaaaaait…

    Ok, now – post the comment! That was just awesome! LOL, and all that good stuff. Keep up the great work!

  39. Mikko says:

    About the shorty jokes that halflings have to put up with…

    One of the many guys who played an evil & murderous halfling in my games was himself 206cm (~6’9″) tall. So he at least wasn’t channeling any personal frustrations into his ~3’6″ tall character.

    And even Belkar Bitterleaf of OOTS postdates all these chaotic evil halflings, so Belkar is just a symptom, not the origin.

  40. Now, THAT is freaking brilliant! I’ve run scenes so similar to that myself, and have chided my own players for being so dumb.

    Of course, then my players usually pulled some weird trick out of their hat that completely trashed my entire beautifully constructed scenario. Stupid players.

  41. Jochi says:

    Mikko:
    It goes back at least as far as the old Finieous Fingers comic — he had to deal with a bunch of troublemaking street urchins being recruited into the thieves’ guild, who turned out to be a rival guild of evil halfling thieves bent on replacing his guild entirely.

    And that was (cough) years ago.

  42. Midrealm_DM says:

    I ran a campaign way back where the psychopathic halfling was reincarnated as a troll. This drove him insane, but he was still a psychopath.

    Ahh – good times.. good times.

  43. Mari says:

    I always figured PC halflings are evil because frankly, they have to be real weirdos to be adventuring anyway. I mean, it’s pretty established that outside of the Baggins family, adventuring is pretty frowned upon. Ergo, you make a PC halfling that is the exact opposite of a “normal” halfling, or evil to the bone.

    That and the fact that it’s just funny as heck to make an evil midget. So much comic hilarity ensues from pure evil in a tiny package (remember those movies from the 70s and 80s with evil children like “Children of the Corn” and “The Omen” and all? Comic gold, I tell you!)

  44. Scarlet Knight says:

    BYW, why is it that some 90% of all PC halflings are evil b*stards?

    Simply, some people don’t want to roleplay a stereotypical halfling from Tolkien. That leaves either hobbits with delusions of grandeur who act like Reechipeep; or bitter ones who are the exact opposite of Tolkien’s.
    Both basically end up as comic relief; the former as slapstick, the latter as dark comedy.

  45. baac says:

    Orcs attack. Everyone dies.

  46. Frank says:

    I love this campaign.

  47. Da Rogue says:

    “now come here i wanna stab you in the kneecaps.”

    Aries,us halflings tend to need some sort of compensation for our lack of altitude, so we often turn to treachery to accomplish our goals against the biased medium sized buggers.

  48. Little Gen says:

    Once again: Priceless.

  49. Mikko says:

    Interesting answers, people.

    I also suspect the ‘evil halfling syndrome’ is a more or less conscious reaction to Tolkien’s portrayal of Hobbits as gregarious pipe weed smokers.

    But personally I feel it’s a cop-out for a roleplayer. IMO it’s far more challenging & interesting to play a halfling who’s basically a good guy thrown out in big men’s world, trying to cope and prosper in numerous un-halfling-ish ways.

  50. Raved Thrad says:

    Isn’t this the point where the high Charisma character is supposed to shout “Surrender!” as loud as he can? Who knows? Maybe the orcs are so confused that while they try to puzzle that one through the PCs and their Gondish (Gondrish? Gondite?) army mow them down?

  51. Raved Thrad says:

    #49 Mikko Says:

    > I also suspect the ‘evil halfling syndrome’ is a more or
    > less conscious reaction to Tolkien’s portrayal of Hobbits
    > as gregarious pipe weed smokers.

    Reading through the books it’s obvious that Hobbits have disproportionately large appetites, compared to hunams. Tobacco being seriously addictive (I should know, took me 10 years to quit), we can expect their consumption to be significantly heavier than hunams’. Within a couple of generations they might have smoked off all the “pipe weed” and turned to other forms of “weed.” If that were the case, is it so farfetched that within a few generations they might become murderous and evil caricatures of their former rosy-cheeked face-stuffing selves?

  52. SonicStorm says:

    Oh come on what can lvl 1 orcs do against lvl 20 army? :D

  53. Woerlan says:

    This is what happens when you don’t watch ’300′ like normal people do.

    *slaps Aragorn*

  54. Maverick says:

    Wait for it…attack! *tumble weed rolls by*.

    Priceless shaums. Also, this is an apropriate moment to bring up, in the film at this exact point when Aragorn runs forward, no-body moves, the halflings run forward after aragorn, and THE WHOLE ARMY follows them… Most likely so they wouldn’t stab them in the back of the knees whilst charging…

  55. Zaghadka says:

    Good one, Shamus. That made me laugh a good long time… ;^)

    (Thanks)

  56. Jaye says:

    Lee from Sheboygan? Wisconsin? If so, this world is way too small…

  57. Lil'German says:

    what happened to that “For Frodo” Scene… i’d have imagined, that this stuff alone (the deleted Boss fight with Sauron-Glowwormy) would have given three dozen very hypnotic screenies for Aragorn ;)

  58. Christian / Suloyapla says:

    Actually, although they are surrounded, the rest of Aragon’s aramy can set-up a defensive position right there via shields, this would keep of the arrows, and allow for a porcupine like defense strategy, so they could pull this battle off. also note that the orcs in this game have crap-ass equipment, and the fact that they are most likely underpowered, due to the sheer size of the army (a lot of lvl 1 orcs in there I bet). There odds of succeess, with a decent plan is actually, very very high.

  59. Khazar says:

    So…is Aragorn Five-head going to fight the gorgeous Sauron from the deleted scenes?

    And whatever did happen to the horses? Or are they the onky ones with enough sense to leave??

  60. Scarlet Knight says:

    Jaye Says: “…this world is way too small…”

    Not if you’re a hobbit.
    Also, I wonder how fat hobbits would get if they DIDN’T smoke?

    Hey! that’s an idea! The next character I’m gonna’ play is a Rasta-halfling! Jolly, bare-foot, cloud of pipeweed smoke, yet still non-traditional!

  61. Andy says:

    In third ed D&D halflings are far from inferior, they get bonuses to f-ing everything! My first (and only) halfing PC was, hands down, the deadliest character in the group up to level 5 at least. By the time his inherent bonuses became less important his reputation as a tremendous badass was cemented.

    He did stray into comic relief at times though. “I know what you’re asking yourself. ‘Has he thrown six darts, or only five?’ Well, with all the excitement, I’ve kind of forgotten myself…”

    Good times…

  62. Phlux says:

    Anyone who remembers the books know if Aragorn was actually this clueless with tactics? Did his army really just stand in a huddle and let themselves be surrounded?

    They could have at least formed ranks or a phalanx or something. A huddle is about the most useless battle formation imagineable. About the only thing it was good for was in the movie to demonstrate how outnumbered they were.

  63. Steve says:

    Christian / Suloyapla:
    Good idea, but the problem is that a: none of them have spears and b: Aragorn calls “Charge!”

    TPK FTW

  64. Aries says:

    COMIC RELIEF!!! god dammit man im a sexy bare footed ninja…on (dont laugh) my little pony…ok who laughed? dont plan on having any children because from the waist down your MINE!… To be honest when i RP’d i was suprisingly even tempered unless short jokes were made…dont get me wrong i wasnt the best ranger in the world but the bonuses more than made up for it. as for my ‘temper’ well i just put that down to the fact the players (who will remain naeless) decided on the day i couldnt turn up to play to put me in his pants as a codpiece / cup / penile extention….suffised to say i was not ammused…still cant believe the DM let him do it… it was a ‘codpiece of holding’ my ass…

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