DM of the Rings I:
The Copious Backstory

By Shamus Posted Thursday Sep 7, 2006

Filed under: DM of the Rings 296 comments

Lord of the Rings is more or less the foundation of modern D&D. The latter rose from the former, although the two are now so estranged that to reunite them would be an act of savage madness. Imagine a gaggle of modern hack-n-slash roleplayers who had somehow never been exposed to the original Tolkien mythos, and then imagine taking those players and trying to introduce them to Tolkien via a D&D campaign.

Lord of the Rings, D&D campaign
Lord of the Rings, D&D campaign


From The Archives:

296 thoughts on “DM of the Rings I:
The Copious Backstory

  1. Gothmog says:

    Brilliant. I love it.

  2. BeckoningChasm says:

    Very funny indeed.

  3. Skeeve the Impossible says:

    Whew that sure was funny, and I can HONESTLY say I have never read that before. Nope that bit was completly new to me.

  4. MOM says:

    very funny. Makes me nostalgic for the Lemon

  5. David C. says:

    Funny stuff! I’m enjoying these.

    However, I have a quibble…

    “Lord of the Rings is more or less the foundation of modern D&D. The former rose from the later…” You have “former” and “lat[t]er” reversed; if LOTR is the “foundation” of D&D, then LOTR came first. The sentence should read “The latter rose from the former…”

  6. Shamus says:

    Whoops. Former / Latter Fixed.

  7. shirlee53 says:

    I Love it.

  8. Morcamil says:

    Absolutely hilarious. Reminds me of my crew when we were playing about ten years ago, huh.

    1. Destry says:

      Ya learn something new evyeardy. It’s true I guess!

  9. Vinterdaeck says:

    That’s so funny! More of that please!

  10. Khall says:

    Actually, the progeniator of D&D is/was Jack Vance’s Dying Earth novels. This is why we have things like Melf’s Acid Missile and things. At least according to Gary Gygax. But obviously a lot of the mythos and settings were…inherited from Tolkien.


  11. Erick says:

    Very good! You’re so cruel to the poor players, though. Withholding their mechwarrior ;_;

  12. Joreal says:

    He is right though, Mechwarrior is awesome.

    Who wants to be Clan Widow Maker with me?

  13. VinnyC says:

    I always did wonder what they were thinking while they were shooting =-]

    Verry funny. :):):)

  14. Rex Venom says:

    How do I get a lot of dice next to my comment?
    Rock on.

  15. Arca says:

    Is it normal that the strips don’t show up? Or does nothing ever wrok for me ? :_(

  16. LOL! Its usually a bad sign if the players don’t pay *any* attention to the opening backstory…looks like we’re about to go on an interesting trip. :)

  17. Nicki-Joe says:

    That’s hilarious! I hate backstory myself ‘blah, blah, blah’, when the frig are we going to play?

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  19. This webcomic is awesome. I’ve been reading since one of the first strips came out, and it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable ride so far.

    Thanks Shamus!

  20. the old master says:

    As a Player and GM. This story has compelled me to follow Shamus’writting antics throughout.

    The art of humor is: Exhibiting very funny incidents seriously.

    The old master says:A world is defined by it’s occupants. I am merely here by definition.

  21. Tola says:

    Commenting on the change made.

    It’s interesting that the player of Merry is more…confrontational. Before he was ‘O.K, whatever, sure I wanted to play Mechwarrior, but…’. Now he’s actively calling the group lunatics.

  22. Muttley says:

    “Lord of the Rings is more or less the foundation of modern D&D.”

    Not really. D&D was developed out of Chainmail in 1969-71 by Gygax and Arneson, who were active before the Tolkein revival spawned the vast hordes of 3-or-more volume bad fantasy series and made fantasy overwhelmingly prevalent on the SF shelves. The Tolkien revival was brought about by the availability of the single-volume paperback edition from 1968 coinciding with its adoption by the hippy movement.

    Gygax and Arneson quoted three references in the first D&D rulebook: Jack Vance’s “Dying Earth” stories (where the magic system in particular comes from), Fritz Lieber’s Lankhmar tales of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser (rogues, thieves, sword-and-sorcery adventuring), and Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions, quoted as the place where the alignment system came from, although Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories were published around the same time and develop the alignment system more deeply.

    Poul Anderson was also a founding member of the SCA.

    Lankhmar is also the inspiration for Ankh-Morpork, in the same way that Niven’s Ringworld is the inspiration for Pratchett’s Discworld. Read “Strata” if you need convincing.

    The only obvious Tolkien presence is the halfling class, which Gygax said were an attempt to hitch a ride on the Tolkien-led fantasy revival.

  23. Pagba says:

    And so it begins. I might reveal some very funny things that happen in later strips but that would be spoiling, wouldn´t it? I never watched Titanic because I got so spoiled by people who did watch the film: they told me that the ship will sink. No sense watching the film knowing that, eh?

    Just keep on clicking the Next button. This gets better and better.

  24. spyder says:

    i am playing the hobbit the moment and it is called lead the quest that started it all not a bad game is there any games that i can download as i brought this one have not seen any more in the shop here can you please help me

  25. habbibte says:

    How about adding an index so I can leave, come back and not have to flip through a jillion episodes!!

    I love it, miss playing D&D on all the time. Keep up the good work.

  26. Seph says:

    lol, try using your favorites or clicking the ring at the top of the comic ;-)

  27. This pure genius! I haven’t laughed that hard in a while! LOL!!!

  28. hobb3 says:

    Hmmm… I would like to read this comic, but where it is? Maybe my browser blocks some links, but I cannot see the link. Anyone willing to help without making harsh comments?

  29. FlameKiller says:

    The start of a legacy!
    Man Tolkin would be turning in his coffin if he knew of this!
    i also hate looong intros. give me a cliff notes any time!

  30. Chris says:

    Yo, love the Dm of the rings thing, but where have the pics gone? I don’t see any of the work you’ve done one here now. NO hobbits or nothing.

  31. Chris says:

    Seems to be back now, Thanks :)

  32. FlameKiller says:

    did anyone know that there is a Lord of the Rings Roleplaying game?

    its true . it is produced by Decipher and is played with d6s.

    instead of classes it has orders. they include barbarian(Extra survival), craftsman(Bonus ranks in Craft), loremaster(More ranks in Knowlage), Magician(Spellcaster damage or healing), Mariner(Bonus for using ships), Minstrel(Bard), Noble(Bonuses on some rolls), Rogue(Bonuses for Hide), Warrior(Fighter).

    each of these Orders have “packages” which give different skill and stat bonuses. then there are “Elite Orders” which have even more bonuses but require higher stats.

    al in all, your idea of LotR D&D is not all that original. someone already did it.

  33. FlameKiller says:

    Though i have read through this and have tremendously enjoyed it. the story puts just the right twist on a great legacy.


  34. Allen says:

    I absolutely love it. As a former avid D&D player this was both nostalgic and enlightening. Just freaking fantastic.

    I am sure this is in some FAQ of yours, but I can’t seem to find it. What program did you use to catch the frames from the movie and what did you use to create the comic?

    Doc Swan

  35. Doug says:

    Tolkien influences have been all through D&D since the three little rulebooks in the beige box back in the Seventies, though. D&D elves aren’t *quite* like Middle-Earth elves, which are generally superior physically to Men, but the inspiration’s obvious, doubly so for the dwarves, and until the Tolkien estate got sniffy there weren’t “halflings” and “treants” and “balors” in D&D – there were hobbits, ents and balrogs, and proud of it!

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  37. Sanjay says:

    This picture is very funny I like this his all fnny picture of the Rings The Copious Backstory.

  38. Fred says:

    I have discover and read your fabulous history on the french ludiste site, ah ah ah hilarous, great, nice …
    Happy to see your site

  39. Misadventurous_Mely_O says:

    OH MY CHRIST! You are hilarious and totally capture bored gamers with lower level characters and a chatty Story teller. I really think this is fabulous.

  40. Lily Springs says:

    I love the whole series of Dm of the rings Shamus, you did such a wonderful job at creating it.

    P.S. I hope you do the hobbit when it comes out. :)

  41. Codeman says:

    Well.. good stuff first off.. but really it seems to me that early d&d was more based off conan and early cheesey fantasy pulp as opposed to lotr.. from what i have read about the origins of the game this seems to be more and more the case the hobbits and ents etc. where mainly thrown in there intially as more reconizable figures in a fantasy world or really just an example i guess.. the original rules where a framework and just do not not feel like lotr at all to me.. on the on the other hand once 1e came around and certainly by 2e the lotr cliches became more dominant as the rules and the world of d&d became more standardized and cohesive as they struggled to try to bring together not just a generic fantasy framwork for a game but a whole new fantasy mythos…

  42. Gabriel says:

    I just finished the last one. Absolutely hilarious! Thank you so much! If you’re just starting to read this strip, I envy you. My sides still hurt.

  43. Sebastian Redl says:

    Why is it that every so often, the server holding the images goes down?

  44. shervin says:

    so cool dude

  45. LotR fan says:

    very funny, did you make this with comic life?

  46. Kel'Thuzad says:

    This is now the default page when searching for “lord of the rings comic.” Congratulations.

  47. Ming says:

    LOLS! I’ll be wathcing this space..glad i found this comic!

  48. minx says:

    I think that this so cool

  49. Saoirse Young says:

    You should make an “archive” option if this is a finished comic, make it easier for those of us with a computer that habitually freezes and we end up clicking “next” 30 million times until we find our place again ^_^

    but this is HILARIOUS. I used to play D&D in college abut my DM was HILARIUS and very laid back. XD

  50. Sadohov says:

    This picture is very funny! Thanks!

  51. Poet says:

    I liked Tolkien! Thanks for this cool pictures!

  52. Aragorn says:

    I playz Mechwarrior! SHAMUSYOUNG FUCKING FTW

  53. Niley says:

    Oh my God… those players are a DISGRACE to all RPGers.

  54. Iksarmonk says:

    LOL That was hilarious.

  55. Jenna says:


    I love me some nerds!

  56. DuendeChema says:

    OMG this is amazing, I’m loving it ;)

  57. Wrathchild says:

    Congratulations on being Boing Boinged!

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  59. devochkam says:

    Thank you! Very funny!

  60. Zafrina says:

    omg, ive read all of this and im like ROTFL pretty much every single one. and going EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!

  61. count says:

    Hey Shamus, I don’t know if you’d do this or not, but I figured it would be worth a shot… I just finished reading this comic and I found it hilarious. I was wondering if you had a downloadable packet of all the comics? I know you said you couldn’t publish them because of copyright issues, but I’d just like to be able to show a few people who are internet-lacking.

  62. Maxim says:

    Wery interest comix :)

  63. Rose says:

    I just thought I’d let you know I made a post on my own blog suggesting people look at this one. :)

  64. admin says:

    Very nice. I love it!

  65. Admin says:

    by Shamus Young's popular and LOL-able DM of the Rings

  66. Марк says:

    DM of the Rings cool!!

  67. forzalove says:

    When all this work is done, a GM tends to want to share all this (it's only natural, when you pour a lot of effort in something,seeking validation is normal). Thing is, the tendency of many GMs is to present this in the form of non-interactive presentations… (which often leads to this type of reaction from players)

  68. says:

    Tak takà½to prsteň by asi dobrovoľne nechcel nikto…

  69. Crossed upon your website, awesome article dude!

  70. ZenjiaoSan'noIthron says:

    I’ve read through this epic journey twice now, and still have not found the courage to peruse the final strip on that fateful friday. Someday, perhaps, I shall look upon it; but I hope not to, for then at length will the closing fully come to pass.

    I plan yet to review these early times anew yet further, and along the way I have to say thank you Shamus for all the work dedicated to such a piece of humor.

  71. Kanerou says:

    Still recommending this comic. I <3 it so much.

  72. joey says:

    Images seem to want to come from which does no longer exist…

  73. Brice says:

    Hi! This really is my 1st comment right here thus i i would like to provide a quick shout out and show you I absolutely love reading your blog posts. Could you recommend some other blogs

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  75. scorpioneldar says:

    lol i love mechwarrior so i get where he is coming from
    great first page think i will read this now

  76. pedestrian says:

    I’m not sure but the MechWarriors wouldn’t have been a trope to Tales of MU by any chance? I’ve only been reading it online the last few months and I think it Alexandra Erin began it back in ’05 or ’06 if I remember correctly.

    demongirl Mackenzie Blaise does enjoy her MechWarrior “action figures”.

  77. Silverwing says:

    Good lord, this is hilarious! I think it’s especially entertaining for me because I get all the refs and jokes. I may be a girl but I’m the D.M. of my local D&D group and I’m a huge LOTR fanatic. Great job!

  78. Darcy Perry says:

    Oh, this is even better now, years after reading it the first time! The Hobbit is out now… has anyone started on that trilogy?

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  80. 4ier says:

    There is a bunch of messed up character encoding in the comments, but they’re almost all trackback comments, so might not be worth fixing.
    The three “real” comments I found were by:
    Pagba (wouldn´t) [page 1]
    Admin (Shamus Young's) [page 3]
    forzalove (it's) (presentations…) [page 4]

    A quick search says that ' should be an apostrophe, and … should be an ellipsis.

  81. Grognardius Maximus says:

    Going to throw out a bit of a nitpick here – D&D didn’t rise from LotR. It rose from fantasy wargaming, which rose from historical wargaming. D&D is much more the product of wargaming and sword and sorcery novels like Conan or Elric than it is LotR. Gygax has gone specifically on record saying that he dislikes LotR and would have preferred to not include those elements in D&D, but was subject to the massive popularity of the books in the early 70s. There is no doubt that LotR has had a lasting influence on rpgs, however.

    1. Scott R. says:

      Part of the reason Gygax went on record to say that is because lawyers from the Tolkien estate were sending friendly little warning letters about their intellectual property. The original version of D&D included Hobbits (later Halflings), Ents (later Treants), and Balrogs (later Balors), all of which had to have the serial numbers quickly filed off.

      Yes, it did rise out of fantasy wargaming, and works like Conan, Elric, Three Hearts and Three Lions, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, and so on, all had strong influences on it. They may have even been Gygax and Arneson’s preferred sources. But Tolkein’s influence was more than incidental. Part of the reason that fantasy wargaming had even become popular was because of the lasting influence of Lord of the Rings – more than one gamer wanted to re-create the Battle of the Five Armies, or the Pelennor Fields, or some similar conflict.

  82. someone from the internet says:

    2019 and rereading this for the Nth time. Still hilarious as i remember it! Goddamit this is such a classic.

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