DM of the Rings XLVI:
The Hunt Begins!

By Shamus
on Jan 3, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings

Aragorn the Ranger tracks the orcs. Keen ranger senses.

Players complain so much about having to walk long distances. You would think they were actually, you know, walking there.

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  1. Telas says:

    Well, I see that you’re recognizing the theory of lit crit that claims LotR was just one big travelogue…

  2. haashaastaak says:

    not much of a travelogue. Plenty of cool places they never went to. What about the spires of Gondolin? We never saw those. Oh yeah, they were gone already.

  3. xargon says:

    The first half of RotK (the book) was almost more of a nutriton log: “..then Frodo and Sam got hungry and ate some more Lembas…but they were out of water, so they had to look for some, but by then they were hungry again so they ate some more Lembas…”

    And of course players hate it when DM’s do this, too. :)

  4. mom says:

    This one made me gaffaw. Congrats on getting Attacked.

  5. Carl the Bold says:

    Anyone else get tired just reading about Frodo and Sam’s journey through Mordor to the Mountain? I feel exhausted just reading it. Hmm…maybe my Keen Ranger Senses just need a tune up.

  6. GEBIV says:

    Wouldn’t his keen ranger senses have been telling him that he was going to have to run?

    And I can’t wait to see what they do when they get to the edge of Fangorn and find that they’ve run all that way for nothing.

  7. My lasting, nitpicking impression of the Frodo & Sam Show was that they would give their FINAL effort, and collapse unable to move. But then they would get up again! They would get somewhere using their FINAL, ULTIMATE effort… and then collapse unable to move. Then they would have ANOTHER final, ultimate effort before collapsing unable to move. Okay, I got that they were resiliant and that The End was Very Freaking Nigh, but final, maximum efforts are FINAL maximum efforts, not the first of a SERIES of final efforts.

    It’s like the movie title “Final Destination – THREE!” If it’s the third movie the first two weren’t really FINAL destinations now were they? And the likelihood that THIS is REALLY the final destination is not high. Maybe that’s just me though.

  8. Roger says:

    The dwarf is agreeing to take a boat? WTF?

    (In all seriousness, this series continues to bring the awesome.)

  9. what a world says:

    I don’t see why they’re complaining about walking — seems every time a character of mine gets in a boat we meet some huge sea monster who either eats us out of the boat, or smashes the boat to splinters and eats us out of the water. And you can either have your armor on and sink like a rock, or not have your armor on and run around at AC 10. Nope, as long as I have a “fast forward to the next random encounter” button, give me overland any time.

  10. Beregond says:

    Wait… south??? Not northwest? I take it Aragorn didn’t bother putting any ranks in survival.

  11. Kamikazegerbil says:

    Been reading for a while. Love every strip.

    Just had to sat that “Your Keen Ranger Senses also tell you that the river is not going south.” made me laugh my head off. Pure gold.

  12. drow says:

    hmm… the DM is veering from the book some more? on my map, the river does go S-SE from the falls of rauros, and fangorn is definitely to the NW.

    i mean, it was bad enough that the adventure completely skipped tom bombadil… ;)

  13. Phil says:

    “The dwarf is agreeing to take a boat? WTF?”

    Quite – or indeed any character in mail. Boats are nothing but a DM’s excuse to explore whether you can take your armour off before you drown!

    I trust the next strip will start with the DM telling the players “You walk NE”, their saying “Weren’t we going South?”, and the DM coming back “Ah, I found an errata on the web – the map was printed the wrong way round in the adventure”… :-)

  14. Pants says:

    Ok who ever mentioned Tom Bombadil needs to get shot… I mean lets meet this total random guy that just happens to be the most powerful being in Middle Earth, yet does nothing. :-) why did they not give the ring, he would have had it all done by tea time.

    We have also missed the hobbits falling into barrows, and all sorts of trouble.

    When i re read the LoR I just skip and chapter that starts.. “Frodo and Sam”, also skip songs and other silly bits like that.

  15. Zippy Wonderdog says:

    Perhaps the DM shoulda have used this script-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP-aKSiPibo
    or even keep his finger on the FF button the whole way ;)
    http://www.marcellosendos.ch/humor/LordOfTheRings.gif

  16. Carl the Bold says:

    You skip the songs, Pants?!? I did too, when I first read it when I was in my teens and wanted to read the cool action/adventure parts. Now, I find them some of the best parts! One of the many reasons Tolkien’s works are so popular is the thought and care he put into this universe he created–the story of Luthien; the songs about the Green Dragon, the Man in the Moon (Brilliant!), and the Seven Stars that the Kings of Old brought from Westernesse; the history of the elves and Amon Sul and a dozen other people and places. These are the bits that give the narrative such depth and realism.

    Silly bits indeed.

  17. Telas says:

    Tom Bombadil? There’s a reason he was left off the screen.

    Short tanned guy in funny clothes, who sings at stuff, yet is one of the most powerful beings in the land? Yeah, that’ll go over really well… especially in the middle of the first movie.

  18. Curufin of the bow says:

    Tom Bombadil is the bees knees. I don’t see why no one likes him…he is a maia (no different than Gandalf or Saruman or Sauron for that matter) who lives with another maia(?). And they want to be left alone…By the way..what about Radagast?

  19. ChristianTheDane says:

    Aaaw, i love Tom Bombadil. He is some kind of Uber person who lives in a hut. And his superpower is to sing at stuff… still i wanted him in the movie because no matter what he was cheery.

  20. Tola says:

    Actually, no-one’s sure WHAT Bombadil is. If you believe his words, he was the FIRST being on Middle-Earth. And if he were a Maia, Gandalf would know more of him.

    Anyway…Heh. This is going to be interesting. It’s this trek that has The Three Amigos setting a new land-speed record…wonder how that’ll play out?

  21. Sartorius says:

    The question of “why don’t we just give the ring to Tom Bombadil” was actually raised and answered at the Council of Elrond.

  22. Carl the Bold says:

    RE Tom Bombadil: I never cared much for him until I heard “Sweet Goldberry” from Glass Hammer’s Middle Earth Album. (Great buy.)

    As for the ensuing chase we’re about to be treated to, it will be interesting to compare the level of exhaustion the players feel after two days of running to the “very specific level of tired” felt by the five characters in Episode IV, “Uphill Battle”. (“Oh no,” thinks Shamus, “Now I’ve got my fans–or are they groupies?–holding me to a stupid joke I made forty goram episodes ago when I didn’t even know I’d be writing this long! Geez, I wish they’d get a life!”)

  23. xargon says:

    IMO Tom Bombadil is the closest thing to a god in Middle Earth. And he’s not the stereotypical god of many mythologies: instead of watching over humans, elves, and dwarves, he simply goes about doing whatever he pleases, leaving the rest of the world to live life for themselves. A non-interfering-yet-personal god of Middle Earth. I like it.

    • Feanor says:

      Nnrgh…

      Ok, I’m not going to tell you to read the Silmarillion. Nobody should be forced to do that. However. In the very beginning of that book, the very literal God of Middle-Earth is introduced with a story very similar to the Biblical creation story. He creates other beings who end up being, basically, gods on the level of Zeus and his family. (Including Sauron’s Master) Then there are lesser beings ala demi-gods, such as Sauron and the Five Wizards. And Eru, the God, is an “interfering” God. You know those places where Gandalf or Galadriel or someone like that says something about other Powers besides Sauron? They’re often referring to Eru or his servants, those Zeus-like people. Or where Gandalf tells Frodo he was meant to have the Ring? It’s not Sauron’s will that meant him to have it. /rant

  24. -Chipper says:

    I love this comic. I am amazed at the great selection of screen shots that have just the right character expressions for the dialogue. The tie to the screen shots does put a constraint on the comic, and doesn’t tend to allow the characters to go way off script – I could easily imagine these players attacking Eomer’s group or doing something else as foolish, but screencaps for that would be hard.

  25. Megi says:

    Curufin- Hey, at least Radagast showed up in the movie for like 2 seconds :)

  26. Sartorius says:

    Where was Radagast in the films?

  27. Bugz says:

    The DM needs to invest a few skill points into map reading – the River Anduin flows south, and Orthanc is West of Cair Andros.

    No wonder Aragorn is confused, given directions like that…

  28. Bombadil was the Tolkien equivalent of an angel (Ainur), one step up from the Wizards. He was more powerful than Gandalf (hence, he was unaffected by the ring, while Gandalf had to fight its influence). If you know your LOTR lore he was equal in power to Morgoth, the bad guy who was Sauron’s boss. He was not just some goofy fellow with a hot wife, he was a serious power to be reckoned with… but one who kept to himself.

  29. namo says:

    Hmm, where does it say he’s an Ainur ?
    I think the right answer has already been given :
    “Actually, no-one’s sure WHAT Bombadil is. If you believe his words, he was the FIRST being on Middle-Earth. And if he were a Maia, Gandalf would know more of him.”

    IMHO, he’s the spirit of the Earth/Arda.

  30. James says:

    Indeed, Namo is pretty much right on there. Even Tolkien was unwilling to admit to what, exactly, Tom was… and IIRC, he himself was unsure. He’s big mighty mojo, any way you cut it, though.

  31. Deoxy says:

    Basically, if they could just have convinced him to, Bombadil could have single-handedly kicked Sauron’s pathetic hid all around Middle Earth, then tossed the ring into the big hot spot just to be sure he was really done this time.

    But he wouldn’t. If that’s good or bad is up for debate.

  32. Shamus says:

    I postulate that his careless / carefree nature is what made him both ideal and unsuited for the job.

    In other words, if he had ambitions of accomplishing things (such as destroying the ring) then he would have been interested in power (which is needed to have ambitions and accomplish new things) which would have made him prey to the power of the ring, just as Gandalf was.

    The story forms a nice picture of those which have ambition desire power, and are thus weak to the ring. But only by having ambition could one hope to accomplish something as difficult as destroying the ring of power.

    That Sauron guy was a clever sod.

  33. Annagail says:

    There’s definitely a problem with the map- Gondor etc. is down south. Fangorn and Isengard are northwest. If they keep going south, the hobbits will be orc food long since by the time they go, “hey, what are we doing in a human city when we’re tracking orcs?”

  34. Ethan says:

    “They’re taking the hobitts to Isengard!”, anyone?

    http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/hobbits

  35. Curufin of the bow says:

    I always assumed he was a maia…there is no mention of him in the silmarillion

  36. Steve says:

    “Keen Ranger Senses”. Excellent! Coffee sneezed all over expensive LCD flatscreen monitor.

    Luckily I am at work.

    Steve.

  37. Zelest says:

    My greatest worry as a GM whenever players walk is “What he heck do I fill the walking with??” I am good with making up main plots, but small nice sidequests and events along the road I’m bad with. Especially if the game is improvised/psuedo-improvised.

    Thus, long walks are often fast-forwarded…to my players delight, since they can train skills and read books to learn spells and what not. To my dis-delight since I wanna keep them small and low in power =P

  38. Dune says:

    It’s so true that we complain about walking all the time, the part about that which I find funny is that the DM will always point out our not actually having to walk and call us complainers or something of the sort when we are actually staying in character for once, I mean no adventurer, especially one wearing plate armor, is gonna want to walk half way around the world.

  39. Rikku says:

    Why would Aragorn be complaining about having to walk if they already walked before they all split up? You might want to do something about that one.

  40. Cassandra says:

    “Players complain so much about having to walk long distances. You would think they were actually, you know, walking there.”

    And you complain about them being out-of-character!

  41. JJR says:

    I was often fond of playing Rangers but I’d sometimes forget/miss the obvious hooks the DM was tossing me to use my character abilities…

    “there seem to be some tracks, leading away from the ruins of the camp”

    Ranger stands around, twiddling his thumbs

    NPC says “gee, look, aren’t those tracks? Sure wish we had someone expert at following, y’know, TRACKS”

    “Oh–right, um. yeah, I uh, try to follow the tracks”

    RUPTURE OF MOCK APPLAUSE GOLF CLAPPING.

  42. Brian Pendell says:

    In the book, the river does go south, while the orcs go west.

  43. Robin says:

    “Eldest, that’s what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn. He made the paths before the Big People, and saw the little People arriving. He was here before the Kings and the graves and the Barrow-wights. When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless — before the Dark Lord came from Outside.”

    This is actually a meta-statement, going beyond the confines of the fictional Middle-Earth. He was a character Tolkien invented to tell stories to his children, long before he started the creation of Middle-Earth. He doesn’t fit into the cosmology of Middle-Earth because he doesn’t come from it.

  44. Tomoko says:

    In the last panel, Aragorn looks like he has a hideous orange tan.

  45. “Tom Bombadil is the bees knees. I don’t see why no one likes him…he is a maia (no different than Gandalf or Saruman or Sauron for that matter) who lives with another maia(?). And they want to be left alone…By the way..what about Radagast”

    Radagast is sick, but he has little role even in the books.

    Bombadil is NOT Maiar, at least not for sure. Not even Tolkien knew what he was. Even Gandalf was vulnerable to the ring. Bombadil was not.

    “I postulate that his careless / carefree nature is what made him both ideal and unsuited for the job.

    In other words, if he had ambitions of accomplishing things (such as destroying the ring) then he would have been interested in power (which is needed to have ambitions and accomplish new things) which would have made him prey to the power of the ring, just as Gandalf was.”

    That is certainly an element. There’s another part. Sauron represents a new evil rising. Bombadil, for all his powers, is a relic of old natural power.

  46. Morambar says:

    Yah, listen to the guys with Silmarillion (not Trilogy names) (he said humbly…. ;-p )

    I’ve always bet on Bombadil being a senior Maia (though as noted already the Professor was VERY clear he WASN’T clear on Bombadils true nature. ) Probably not senior enough to have single handedly matched Sauron though; Sauron was first among Morgoths servants, heir apparent. The guy all the orcs and trolls followed in preference to folks like Gothmog and Scatha. I suppose it’s POSSIBLE (though IMHO unlikely) he could have been a Vala (both Valar and Maiar collectively were Ainur) but I wouldn’t expect it because the Valar who entered Arda did so as its defenders and protectors, while Bombadil seemed a bit more like MEs version of Switzerland.

    But as far as being the closest thing to a god figure in ME… not hardly; that title is exclusive provenance of Eru. Stuff like this is why I say if you’ve only read the Trilogy you’ve only gotten half the story (at best) and missed the best part; it never reaches the level of his good friend Lewis in Narnia, but the (Roman Catholic) Professor is a lot more overt in his theology in the Silm, because it was compiled by Chris and Guy Gavriel Kay from notes so far from a finished product the Professor had pretty much abandoned them well before his death. The Trilogy is the work of a mature middle-aged man who doesn’t want to be too preachy rather than the furious creation of an enthusiastic grad student. Or put another way, the Silm was written while the Professor had friends at the Somme and the Marne; in the letters compiled by Humphrey Carpenter he says he took a break at Bree because the Blitz was at its height and his SON was fighting on Europes battlefields (no, the Last Alliance/Second War of the Ring isn’t an allegory for the World Wars, but very well could be, from Watchful Peace to Return of the Shadow to the super weapons mushroom cloud over the enemy stronghold. )

  47. Oh, God, those “Ranger Senses” exchanges were really, really funny ^_^

    Mmm… but if I recall the book correctly, the concept of fatigue was never really in the calculations (as it were) of the three remaining members of the Fellowship. As Tolkien would illustrate in Two Towers, Elves, aside from not sleeping like everyone else do, are essentially tireless (which poses a question: just how LONG did Fingolfin and Morgoth duel for the former to BE tired?), and Dwarves are, too. Aragorn, after all, is Dunedain. Again, if I recall correctly, the concern of the three were if they could catch up with the Orcs, given the lead time and the lack of horses.

    Also, Tom Bombadil can’t be Vala because all the Valar were named in the Silmarillion. He COULD be on par with the Valar, since many of the Ainur went to Arda after Eru Illuvatar showed them the physical result of their Song, but he wasn’t named among the Powers.

    And (omg, my geekiness is beginning to show), although susceptible to corruption, even the Maiar could be really, really powerful. Remember Melian, or the power that Luthien – who was half-Maiar herself – wielded even against Sauron and even Morgoth. Hell, the Elves of the First Age could duel Morgoth, and harm him big time, too.

    Gandalf and the other Istari were made more vulnerable to the One Ring because of the… unique conditions imposed on them. They were Maiar, but they had to be, ah “embodied”, thus making them susceptible to the “weaknesses” that flesh entails. They couldn’t recall much of the knowledge they had as Maiar when they agreed to become Istari, and even their angelic power was muted and had to be channeled through their Staves.

    Of course, Gandalf had an ace-in-hole for resisting the influence of the One Ring, as well as in gathering the forces against Sauron. He had Narya, after all XD

  48. Moridin says:

    Well, he could be a vala going by another name. There’s no reason he couldn’t Oromë, for example.

    • MisteR says:

      Though it seems rather unlikely that he’d be Oromë himself, since Oromë was one of the more warlike and active Valar, while Bombadil is essentially pacifistic and has his power in a completely different area.

      Given the way he explained himself I don’t think Tom Bombadil was one of the Valar. He was not one of the female Valier, simply because he was married to an elven woman, and he wasn’t either Ulmo, Manwë, Oromë, Aulë, Mandos, Lorien, or Tulkas, since he didn’t resemble any of them.

      I echo the earlier posters in always thinking that Bombadil was one of the unnamed Ainur who came to Arda. It makes sense to me that, of the Aiur, there would be guys joining up with Melkor, guys to work directly with the Valar, and guys like Tom who would say sod all and I’m doing whatever I want, marrying elven beauties in the process.

      It is also possible that Bombadil never was one of the Ainur, but more a personification of the Secret Fire, or a special agent of Iluvatar to be there before anyone else. But that seems unlikely to me, since Tom doesn’t seem to have any real purpose to his doings, which would disqualify him as a special agent. And a personification of life itself would’ve been powerful and the centerpiece of Arda, not at all complementary with the happy-go-lucky Tom Bombadil.

      It is the weakness of any writer that his work is only human in nature, and Bombadil might be the best example of this in Tolkien’s work. As already stated, the jolly fellow was not a regular part of the story, but rather an immigrant from another place. The writer never did come round to fit him properly into the system, and it adds to the mystery of Middle-Earth that he doesn’t.

  49. ERROR says:

    Man in the Funny Hat:

    (This is unrelated to DMotR or LotR, but somewhat related to what you said.) And don’t forget FINAL Fantasy. If it’s a FINAL fantasy, then why do they keep making more of them?

    As a side note that is related to nothing but what I said (Somewhat), each new Final Fantasy they make has nothing to do with the previous ones. New characters, new story, new world. Oh, well. There’s a lot of complaints I have ready for those games, but they’re still my favorite, up there with the other Square games.

    I wonder if his “keen ranger senses” are telling him how far to walk/run?

  50. Serenitybane says:

    This one is definitely something that would happen during a campaign in my group. Hehe

  51. Ciryandor says:

    Note on Final Fantasy: It was named after that since it was supposed to be the last game that one of the lead designers at Square Enix was supposed to head before his retirement. It turned out that he would stay on board up until FF IX, involved in one way or another with the series’ development.

    @ Moridin
    An impossible proposition, as none of the Valar have set foot on Middle Earth after the Fall of the Lamps except for Melkor, Oromë and possibly Ulmo; even during the War of Wrath, it was only Fionwë, a Maia who led the forces of Valinor against Morgoth.

    On Bombadil’s Origins:

    The most likely surmise is one of two things, either that he is a Maia, possibly one of Yavanna’s retinue, who came in with the other Maiar and settled on Middle Earth instead of going to Valinor, and is not entirely inconsistent with his descriptions of Bombadil and the Ainulindalë. The other argument is that he is a creature of the Music, an embodiment of Eä, as presaged by the line “not unless such power to oppose Sauron is in the earth itself”. Both descriptions sufficiently justify his relationship with Goldberry, apparently a Maiar of Ulmo. Nor does it deviate from his level of association with “nameless things that gnaw on the roots of the Earth, even Sauron knows them not” (possibly fallen Maiar of Morgoth’s retinue).

  52. Robin says:

    There is no point to speculating about Tom Bombadil’s Middle-Earth origins. There aren’t any. He’s not from Middle-Earth; he pre-dates Middle-Earth. He was a character in stories Tolkien invented to entertain his children, before he started inventing Middle-Earth.

    He didn’t come from any Middle-Earth origin: “Eldest, that’s what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn. He made the paths before the Big People, and saw the little People arriving. He was here before the Kings and the graves and the Barrow-wights. When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless — before the Dark Lord came from Outside.”

    He’s the Vulcan on Babylon 5, the cowboy on Mars, the Roman in Japan, the robot in D&D. He’s not part of Middle-Earth, and there’s no explanation for how or why he’s there.

  53. Elvenblade says:

    The River Anduin does flow south…

  54. Rose says:

    It’s amazing how the thought of walking long distances actually takes more out of people than actually walking them. Happens to me all the time, even though I know that I really do have to walk those distances so it’s best I don’t think about how long the distances actually are. . . . Anyway, liked the ranger senses.

  55. Bob says:

    All of the characters who know much at all about Bombadil are pretty quick to dismiss him as an option for dealing with the ring. It almost seems like he’s brought up specifically for the purpose of explaining to the reader why that’s not a solution.

    Suffice to say there’s been a lot of debate on exactly how Bombadil fits in; he seems to be a vestige of an earlier, more whimsical time in the story’s development and is hard to reconcile with the more high fantasy aspects, but I’ve seen it argued that he’s actually Aule (I don’t buy it myself, though there are some parallels and as Sauron’s former master Aule is one of the few characters in Arda that could be justified as being powerful enough to withstand the ring).

  56. Robin says:

    “…being powerful enough to withstand the ring”? It’s not about power. Gandalf could not withstand it; Frodo (almost) did.

    Bombadil isn’t “powerful” enough to withstand the ring; it has no power over him for him to withstand. The Ring’s power is limited to Middle-Earth, but Bombadil isn’t a creature of Middle-Earth. He’s a character invented long before Middle-Earth to tell stories to children, and he’s just a happy-go-lucky guy in the forest that nothing can affect. His presence in the book is just an inside joke for those who knew the stories, just like the references to chapter titles in the movies.

  57. JP says:

    The campaign I have going on is still going strong. (The mix of fantasy and modern I initially mentioned in the magic item strip earlier on. Update, they didn’t find the two items I mentioned back then. Oh well.)

    My guys complain about traveling by foot, but they have a GM imposed reason: I am forcing them to eat and drink each day, or they suffer weakness. If they go too long without, they will perish.

    Their characters each outline how much they can carry, as well as how long they go without food/drink before they perish. Each character is different, which breeds some fascinating dialogue. Especially when the guy who will die the quickest, is coincidentally the one who can carry the least.

    Naturally they stole horses on day 1. They also will have to travel water a few times. There are convenient bridges (their first water crossing) and boats for hire, sale, and so forth in some places, but not all.

    They have freedom to invade towns, as well as make allies for supplies. So I am off the hook. If they sack and loot six towns in a row, they were warned the province will probably come after them.

    So far:
    Enemies with the town they stole from.
    Allies with 1 town of acssociates they wnat on their side long term

    Other towns are neutral feels. They did not get too close, nor tick them off. But they have a lot more map to explore.

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