DM of the Rings XXXVI:
Hates the Dice! Hates Them Forever!

By Shamus
on Dec 1, 2006
Filed under:
DM of the Rings

River Anduin, Legolas, Gollum, Critical Strike, Standing Watch

The most terrifying part of any campaign is when the players at last wiggle free of your grasp and escape the railroad plot you’ve devised.

This marks the first time our hapless group has broken from the plot as set down by Tolkien himself. What does this mean? Is the whole thing going off the rails now? Has our hapless DM finally lost control? Will he cheat in order to stick to his predetermined script?

Beats me.

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A Hundred!202There are 122 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

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  1. The Gremlin says:

    I laughed and laughed and laughed at this one.
    *Laughs and laughs and laughs*

  2. Hans says:

    The best strategy to avoid those istuations would be not to have a railroad plot or a definite script after all. It requiers a lot of work, but it would be best just to keep in mind all the npc’s, their trades of character and motivations, some scripted events and all the important locations and let the players find their way through your artificial universe. The GM works with what the players give him, not vice versa.
    It’s really great fun that way I tell you.

    • WJS says:

      To a certain extent. You don’t have to have a grand, overarching plot in mind, but the players must have something to do, and if they don’t have anything in mind the GM has to provide them with something before they get bored.

  3. Filcha says:

    Yep, happened to me as DM recently.

    ‘The characters should not be allowed to kill this NPC.’ Well when they cast Hold Person and he fails his save – he can no longer escape…

  4. JD says:

    We’ve encountered 3 instances of that in our travels into the Forgotten Realms. Talk about utter confusion. XD

  5. Ashlar says:

    Wow…this stuff is fantastic. This one took me back. My first real campaign, I screwed everything up. Somehow ended up with a staff of wishing. In a desperate situation, I used it and wished for all seven parts of this rod thing we were supposed to be finding and to be back where we started. Three perfect rolls later I had the Rod of Seven Parts and was completely free of any danger…except for the very angry DM whose months worth of sessions I had just ruined in one fell swoop. I was soon told that I was very sleepy…so sleepy that I could not even use my newfound powers to protect myself. I woke up when the chaotic neutral dark elf the DM let one of the guys play cut off my hand because he couldn’t stand for someone else to have that kind of power.

    Never played with that guy again.

  6. Grin says:

    I’m in tears. Literally.

    The deep comedy of a core NPC getting snuffed by a natural twenty. Priceless.

    Many moons ago I followed a link to this site, but I had forgotten all about it until today. Glad I found it again

  7. Rhi says:

    Okay, this? I lol’d. Seriously.

    Haven’t tabletopped in ages, but I can so see this happening. It probably has happened only I can’t remember.

  8. Josh says:

    Can’t

    Stop

    Laughing!!

  9. its a bit late (im going through the archives after the series is over,) but shamus, on panel 7 you spelled Absolutely wrong.
    Love the comic!
    -Russell eldrin

  10. Dr. Manhattan says:

    Ah, this reminds me of my first campaign! In one encounter, the party was facing a high level, gnomish rogue and his cronies. The party and the handful of npc soldiers we had with us were making nice work of the enemy soldiers, and the boss had finally appeared. He abandoned his crossbow, drew a magic knife and engaged a player. I, the low level bard, grabbed the crossbow and attacked the rogue, confirming for house-rules instakill (two 20’s confirmed with a 15). The party imediatley erupted into cheers and awarded me the best of the loot, and the DM eventually got his jaw off the floor.

  11. Tiefling Paladin says:

    Haha NICE. In a recent session of mine, the players were fighting a battle they were supposed to lose against not the FINAL boss but one of his advisors. The players are level six, the boss is a level 12 orc warchief surrounded by level 4 to 6 goblins. The wizard gets a lucky fireball and wipes out most of the goblins, the rogue’s crit sneak attack from the damn ceiling thanks to spider climb knocks the orc way down in HP, and the paladin uses one of his smite evils, critting again and killing the orc.
    Now, this wouldn’t be so bad, since they were SUPPOSED to kill him in the room behind them after being captured and used as slaves, forced to come up with a plan. Not essential, but this group sucks at tactical thinking and doing things besides bashing monsters with hammers. Not overly important.

    The problem? They were supposed to interrupt a meeting between the orc and the high priest of Pelor they’d been chasing, who was in reality a priest of Nerull. They were supposed to learn this then. They instead never find this out, so when the priest starts summoning undead they’re all “WTF?” What I wonder is did the priest just sit around in the meeting hall waiting for the orc?

    • WJS says:

      Well surely the evil priest should have gotten irritated at being stood up, and gone looking for the orc. Exactly how it plays out from there is anybodies guess, but it doesn’t seem like it would be that much of a problem to bring them together in a slightly different manner.

  12. cheesebunny says:

    it seems to be the same for us. see it move, shoot, ask the corpse questions, if it dosnt answer shoot it again

  13. Trae says:

    I had one that’s pretty much the reverse. We had a small party in our game, only three player characters plus a DMPC as a healer mostly (Our first encounter we almost died from 6 lizardmen because we didn’t have any healing. The DM had to cheat and the warlock “remembered” he had a wand of healing.), but we had a few special abilities to make up for it. However when we killed a ogre a few levels later, his brown bear buddy became enraged and hit my character for both claw attacks, and the bite attack. 44 damage. My character at the time had 44 total hp, minus the 7 taken by the ogre. Very nearly killed me and the warlock before our monk punched it out.

  14. Serenitybane says:

    This one had me laughing for a long time :)
    “Ahhhh! Precious!!”

  15. GONCOL the cleric-godling says:

    I was DMing a game once where the party of 5th or higher characters found my white dragon, in his lair. Eyes open, it was staring, unmoving, right at the party’s most powerful fighter. The party attacked. Massive damage (hundreds of hp) from spells, range weapons, and melee weapons in the FIRST round, and the white dragon was not alive.
    Then the party discovered the white dragon was really a large, carved rock “statue” of a dragon laying on its hoard as if preparing to fall asleep, painted white with large crystals set as eyes.
    The REAL dragon, hiding near the upper reaches of that cave, caused a massive cave-in that killed one of the PCs, but the cleric had a scroll with “Resurrection” on it. The dragon’s hoard was buried under tons of rock.
    That dragon was the head boss, and I needed it as a recurring villain, so I “cheated” to let the dragon survive.

  16. Pat says:

    My solution? Never let the players rolls matter :-)

    Game moves much faster if you reward skill and ignore dice.

  17. Shuby says:

    You know?
    I really want to see one dice more :)

  18. Fyulf says:

    Okay this was Golden, absolutely Golden. I seriously about peed myself when I read it. I just thought you should know, this is brilliance.

  19. ComfyDenim says:

    I just discovered your site today — and this… THIS .. is one of the best bits of writing I’ve read today. It’s a total score. I literally laughed until I cried.

    This gamer mom is totally laughing with glee.

    you rock.

  20. Michael says:

    I have not seen the movies, and it’s been too long since I read the books. What happened here in the books, and in the movies?

    (Did the movie really kill off Golum at this point? Makes no sense if they did…)

  21. Robin says:

    “Let’s see… using the D&D rules for NPCs, Gollum should be near-epic levels. He’s a few thousand years old, and has lived a life of danger and fighting that should be worth a few thousand XP a year at least.”

    Not at all. He killed one hobbit (Deagol), then spent the next few thousand years in a cave, never killing anything above the occasional single goblin. When he reaches the point where a single goblin isn’t a threat, he’s done advancing.

  22. Nick Craig says:

    The look on Legolas’ face when he says “I killed it, didn’t I?” is priceless! Smug sonnovabitch. Poor Gollum, “Precious!” LMAO

  23. […] why, when I see a comic strip like the one here at DM of the Rings, while I’m laughing I’m thinking “Oh, what a glorious bunch of bastards those […]

  24. […] I had managed to charm Cruguer had a nice party conflict building up…. Oh well so much for interesting plot twists! See Lillee’s take on it […]

  25. […] on the joy of the unpredictable pen & paper RPG (the linked comic is […]

  26. DrAndrewAnderson says:

    WAOHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!
    Legolas expression on the pictures is so cool!!!!!!

  27. eljacko says:

    Ugh…this was one time a huge issue for me. I had developed this huge developing plotline that occured over a span of years. My players had to roll all new characters just for use on this one campaign. It was essentially the life story of their new characters, from birth to death. It was the most ambitious thing I had designed so far and was heavily modified (some might go so far as to say ruined, although I was intrigued by the results). They were in the late teenage stage of their character’s lives and they were in an archery competition against a friendly rival named Erik whom I had planned to become a major villain and perhaps even the big bad. My players had other ideas: when Erik beat them in the competition they grabbed him, strung him up by his knees, and shot him with arrows, starting from the toes and going down. His HP was all gone by the time they reached his neck. I was stunned. The eventual result is that the players were pretty much now up against the entire town. To my surprise and horror they managed to cut a swath through the waves of mooks I set before them and they moved steadily throught their village, burning everything in their path and becoming impossible agents of pure destruction. They eventually perished in the blazing inferno of their own creation. I now always include a worst case scenario fall-back in case of such an epic derailment.

  28. Rose says:

    Poor Gollum. Go Legolas. lol

  29. lunjan says:

    sure, most decent groups of roleplayers can deril the adventure in a way that is unrecoverable…. the true epic feat is having some of the PCs distract the DM while the others reroute the tracks to go where teh players want, then stat the train back up with the Dm helpless to follow your path :-D

  30. Tyciol says:

    This was my hardest lol so far

  31. Melda says:

    This is my second time through this comic. I laughed the first time, and I’m laughing now! Seriously, you need to do another webcomic like this. PleasePleasePlease?

  32. Nanorider says:

    This reminds me of a complete campaign derailment that one of my friends once told me about.

    My friend was taking part in a campaign some years ago. The GM was the little brother of one of the other players and this was his very first stint as GM – ever. So naturally the boy was very excited about it all. I believe that he wasn’t much older than 15 or 16.

    So, one of the party’s first encounters is a dwarf riding a pony, and you could understand from the GM’s elaborate description of the dwarf that this must be a very important plot character.

    So what does the party’s chaotic evil (or something like that) fighter choose do??? Attack the dwarf and kill him before anybody can do anything about it! Bad move! They found out that the whole campaign had been set up so that this dwarf was instrumental in not only getting the campaign off the ground, but also as a patron for the party and as a source of missions later on.

    As I recall the poor kid had spend literally hours writing stats, background and other stuff for this single NPC. The boy was in tears afterwards! They had to call it day and go home. I don’t know if they ever got the campaign started again.

    You know, the worst thing about this incident was that the player who did this was the oldest and most experienced in the group.(he was in the mid-thirties) So much for oldest player being the wisest in a group. :-/

    (This story was confirmed at a later date by two others from the group.)

    • WJS says:

      Ugh. I hate people who play chaotic evil like that. The kind of fighter that’s that psychotic tends to be the kind of fighter that gets quietly murdered in his sleep by the rogue who doesn’t want to spend each day guessing when it’ll be his turn on the receiving end of the axe.

  33. Nanorider says:

    Oh, I just remembered another story from way back when.

    Another one of my friends told me of a time when he was playing a hobbit in a role master campaign set in Middle Earth.

    He was scouting ahead for the party inside the maze a dragons cave complex – much like Bilbo in The Hobbit. He emerged on a small ledge at the top of the dragon’s main chamber. What does the dragon do? It lifts its head to the same level of the hobbit and inhales (it likes it’s meals fried you know). What does the hobbit do? Fire off an arrow from it’s short bow. Now what happens?

    Anyone who ever played role master knows of the open ended crit tables. Guess what the hobbit player rolled? More than 500 on his to-hit roll. A very frustrated GM announced that the arrow had pierced the dragon’s eye and lodged itself in it’s brain. Result: instakill dragon!

    A bit later an anstonised party witnessed a smiling hobbit walking out of the main entrance of the cave complex carrying a huge bag of gold.

    (This one mind you hasn’t been confirmed by anyone other than the player in question. Is funny though.)

  34. Aeon says:

    Insane funny… XD

    Dice arguing is really great. Just when Frod… ehm… Dave got a 1 in the dwarf hall. Hilarius

  35. […] a long time since I played a paper-based RPG, but a recent BigBearButt blog post lead me to this comic. Source: DM of the Rings by Shamus […]

  36. James D. Gray says:

    I’ve got bronchitis, so it hurt quite a bit when I laughed my ass off at this.

  37. […] First, there’s Syl’s post about Why Storytelling in MMOs is Overrated.  I love her article, and I’ve wished for a long time now that MMO devs would ease off the reins and let players tell the story.  (Tangentially, Brian “Psychochild” Green’s work on Storybricks looks like a good step in that direction.)  The developer-driven narrative in these MMO things is a mismatch for the game design from the conception, and the devs seem to cling to their sense of authorship too much.  I can understand that, as a creative sort.  I’ve done a bit of Game Master work in tabletop RPGs in my day, though, and ultimately, the game always seems to run better when the players feel like they are in control.  The GM has to keep everything together, but player agency is the heart of games.  Even if it means they do things the GM doesn’t anticipate or even desire. […]

  38. Scott says:

    Okay, I stumbled across this EPIC adventure back in 2007. And once or twice a year, I dust off my bookmark and re-read it from start to finish.

    This is probably my 10th time reading this…and this page fucking kills me EVERY SINGLE TIME. This has to be one of the single funniest things I have ever read. Period.

    While gaming, it never got more interesting than when someone rolled a critical hit or a critical fail…

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5 Trackbacks

  1. […] why, when I see a comic strip like the one here at DM of the Rings, while I’m laughing I’m thinking “Oh, what a glorious bunch of bastards those […]

  2. […] I had managed to charm Cruguer had a nice party conflict building up…. Oh well so much for interesting plot twists! See Lillee’s take on it […]

  3. […] on the joy of the unpredictable pen & paper RPG (the linked comic is […]

  4. […] a long time since I played a paper-based RPG, but a recent BigBearButt blog post lead me to this comic. Source: DM of the Rings by Shamus […]

  5. By Filling in the Gaps | Tish Tosh Tesh on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 10:17 am

    […] First, there’s Syl’s post about Why Storytelling in MMOs is Overrated.  I love her article, and I’ve wished for a long time now that MMO devs would ease off the reins and let players tell the story.  (Tangentially, Brian “Psychochild” Green’s work on Storybricks looks like a good step in that direction.)  The developer-driven narrative in these MMO things is a mismatch for the game design from the conception, and the devs seem to cling to their sense of authorship too much.  I can understand that, as a creative sort.  I’ve done a bit of Game Master work in tabletop RPGs in my day, though, and ultimately, the game always seems to run better when the players feel like they are in control.  The GM has to keep everything together, but player agency is the heart of games.  Even if it means they do things the GM doesn’t anticipate or even desire. […]

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