DM of the Rings LX:
The Madness of King Whatsizname

 By Shamus Feb 5, 2007 71 comments

The Players must disarm.

On one hand, taking away their weapons is a dead giveaway that they will need them. On the other hand, by the time conflict starts the players will already have opened the rulebooks and found the parts that deal with bare-handed combat, performing disarm moves, and using improvised weapons.

Players may blunder through dialog with shocking ineptitude, forget the name of the country they are in, or get confused about which side they are on, but once it comes time to roll for initiative they all turn into Sun Tzu.

2020201171 comments. (Seventy-one is the largest supersingular prime!)


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  1. Steve says:

    First again. What a triumph for Steve the unacountable unbusy.

  2. Steve says:

    I never noticed until DM of the Rings allowed me to view the images in High Definition, but Theoden’s Thugs look like the Ice Warrior commander form the 1980s vintage Dr Who.You know, they used to publish a Dr Who roleplayer…

  3. Steve says:

    and form==from. Thank You Mr Brain.

  4. Richard Dragonbane says:

    Careful Steve, you’re going to trigger the spamming filter. :P

  5. Alias says:

    “Players may blunder through dialog with shocking ineptitude, forget the name of the country they are in, or get confused about which side they are on, but once it comes time to roll for initiative they all turn into Sun Tzu.”

    Best. RPG quote. EVAR!!!!1one

  6. Julia says:

    Having fun, Steve? :)

    (I ran the scenario in my mind, what I would have to do to have “firsties”, and it’s not worth it to me this year. I applaud you in your effort!)

  7. Thomas says:

    “Now then like it says on page 34 of the combat section to use a disarm I have to amke an opposed grapple check, then an attack on his weapon, then a hardness check, and then-”

    “Dude, your character is dead, you rolled bad initiative.”

    “Crap!”

  8. Senalishia says:

    Heh. I know whenever *my* GM takes away my weapon, the first thing I do is start looking for something of the same approximate size and shape…

  9. Browncoat says:

    I’ve got a feeling our players are really going to have to have another chat with the DM soon. In fifteen episodes, they ran a lot, just missed a battle with orcs (dispatched for them by NPCs), met and accepted as de-facto leader an NPC they hated the first time they found themselves under his heel, and rode across Rohan. While the journey can take only moments in game-time, the next big adventurous thing they get to do is watch the aforementioned NPC perform an exorcism, talk, and journey (!) to Helm’s Deep where they will be besought by the strength of Isengard. Oh, and maybe a little battle with the Wargs on the way.

    Can I be a jedi?

  10. Carl the Bold says:

    Sure Buddy. You can totally be a Jedi if you want.

  11. Jedi are for wusses. Smugglers and bounty hunters, baby.

  12. Fenyx says:

    My character once got kidnapped, was stripped of all his gear and locked in a room. My character made a surprisingly good strength roll, ripped the door out of the wall and proceeded to use the door as a weapon to fight his way out of the compound.

    He still has the door for sentimental reasons.

    P.S. I

  13. Steve says:

    [Julia] Actually, both times I simply happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was expecting to get beaten to the wire while I typed (I use two fingers to type – the others just get in the way).

    It’s a shame Merry and Pippin went off (presumably to play Mech War) since they will miss the whole ‘Treebeard’ thing. I was sorta looking forward to seeing how Shamus would have them wriggle off the tracks during the Entmoot.

    I just realised. When asked what he was sitting on, Merry could legitimately answer ‘Walking Stick’.

    Steve.

  14. ChristianTheDane says:

    Very true. If the badass npc gets to keep his überstaff he is going to duke it out with someone.

  15. Selki says:

    No battle with the Wargs on the way!

    Or have it, but let the players mock the DM for a gratuitous injected scene that should have been relegated to the DVD (Extended Edition). Hmm, maybe that’s out of char for the players in this game (protest about action?). Maybe the DM will set the Wargs on ‘em when they’re complaining about the journey.

    “Wait, what does this have to do with anything?”
    “I’m the DM.”

  16. Carl the Bold says:

    “Pardon me, is this the right room for an argument?”

    (or am I on the wrong page to do that?)

  17. Dave says:

    This is the reason that all my D&D characters try to get their hands on a pair of “Gloves of Storing”. Makes it a lot easier to carry that sword past a bunch of guards…

  18. Telas says:

    Players may blunder through dialog with shocking ineptitude, forget the name of the country they are in, or get confused about which side they are on, but once it comes time to roll for initiative they all turn into Sun Tzu.

    Don’t forget the twenty minutes of planning and conversation that goes into each six-second sequence of events, perfect knowledge of the battlefield, perfect knowledge of the capabilities of themselves and their opponents, the ability to tell each other what to do without the opponents hearing, etc…

    But a good DM can shut this down. Hard.

  19. Actually, Telas, a good group goes way beyond that to the point that they don’t even discuss strategy. They’re a finely tuned killing machine with no need to communicate OOC to destroy a group of enemies above their CR.

    They’re a group of idiot savants to the truest extreme. Even good RPers have this mistake, having their INT 6 half-orcs able to think of complex battle plans.

  20. Siergen says:

    “They’re a group of idiot savants to the truest extreme. Even good RPers have this mistake, having their INT 6 half-orcs able to think of complex battle plans.”

    Heh – I had the opposite problem in an old Champions campaign. I played my hero so that both his attention span and patience were short, and his intelligence was…debatable. As my team discussed the best way to sneak up on a stronger group of villains, my hero suggested charging in, screaming at the top of our lungs “to un-nerve them”. My fellow players were about to follow my suggestion when they realized who (my character) had made it.

  21. Kitchen Goblin says:

    [Shamus] Brilliant!!

    Only slightly surprised, the others didn’t point out that they can steal the Walking stick off of Gandalf and use it as a club…. That or try to hide a dagger up their sleeves….

    I had one Char that constantly had 12 daggers of various sizes discreetly hidden about his persona, even managed to keep three when I got arrested, (much to the DM’s annoyance) Amazingly a Rust monster turned up in the escape tunnel we had “found”…..

    [steve] Like the way the party always consider the source of advice before implementing it (at the last second), one of mine in a more modern game, had the idea that “Welding a Grenade to an Ascetalyne (sp?) Tank” would make for a bigger explosion…..

  22. Kitchen Goblin says:

    sorry not [steve]…[siergen]…

  23. MarkB says:

    It’s at times like this that the guy playing the monk starts to get a really big grin on his face.

    Oh, and as for the perfect battlefield communication, that’s why my arcane spellcasters always include [i]message[/i] in their list of cantrips. Immensely useful spell, if your group happens to enforce communication limitations.

  24. GEBIV says:

    Welding a grenade to an acetylene tank! Bwahahahaha! I’d love to see someone try that. Prefferably from a safe distance and behind ballistic glass.

  25. Darkenna says:

    Carl, we’ve already told you once.

    They’re a group of idiot savants to the truest extreme. Even good RPers have this mistake, having their INT 6 half-orcs able to think of complex battle plans.

    Thog like battle plans! : D

  26. David V.S. says:

    As a young child, I once tried to get my father to play D&D with me and my friends.

    While just starting to create his character he, being a mathematician, realized that with a 18-percentile strength score a fighter must be able to throw coins at more than terminal velocity. So that’s the character he made: a fighter whose melee weapon was a metal pole (yes, a “walking stick”) to keep foes at bay, and whose missile weapon was his loose change.

    “Don’t you want a sword?” my friends asked. “Copper goes a long way,” he replied.

    The kobolds he met were really wierded out — most adventurers they fought of were invading their lair to get coins and items. This fighter didn’t care about equipment and killed by depleting his purse.

    Later we asked him to play Champions. He made a character that was the plastic surgeon to the superheroes. Just maybe the men had muscles like that, but the women were certainly evidence that there was a plastic surgeon somewhere, and knives that could operate on the She-Hulk must make great weapons.

    Later, my uncle showed us to be very careful with a player who, for his first PC, immediately wants the Department of Water and Power as the PC’s only official “contact” during character generation. That player knows many things about how cities work that teenagers don’t know. Our poor GM was soon miserable.

    • WJS says:

      I’d love to see the derivation of the coin-chucker, because I’m not sure how you convert a Str score into real world units like that.

      If you ever find yourself this way again, I’d also love to hear you elaborate on how the DWP were that great a contact; all I can think of for them in a typical RPG would be calling in a few favours to get them to cut the power and use the tunnels to enter the bad guy’s lair, but I can’t imagine a self-respecting urban villain who doesn’t have his own generators or secure the tunnel access points from his side.

  27. bart says:

    I just found this strip the other day, and am loving it. Some of the lines are so terrific they have me still cracking up minutes later.

    I’m already dreading the day you reach the end of the trilogy.

  28. Corwin says:

    Thanks to you, I always annoy my DMs by referring to any NPC in our party even slightly more powerful than my own character as “Gandalf” and always volunteer him for taking the lead in combat.

    “This for is beyond any of us. I say let Gandalf over there fight the troll and we’ll free the prisoners, then loot the corpse.”

  29. Da Penguin says:

    Ah but you have to remember the simplist plans were often the best… in my Orc Campaign – 3 of the orcs stumbled apon a dragon (by deliberately not falling the map/plot lines)…. The battle plan they came up with was..

    1 fighter charges down the middle drawing attention to himself.
    The other 2 fighters charge down next to him…
    Then we fight the Dragon until is dead..

    as a GM, i kinda admired the simplicity of the plan :)

  30. Fernmonkey says:

    Steve: First post is nice, but I still want to get twentieth post. That’s a nice little Easter egg there.

  31. Skeeve the Impossible says:

    Oh yeah! Well my comment is number 29. Take that Steve, at slot one or Siergen in slot twenty.

  32. zeffy says:

    I haven’t been in the D&D realm for a long while now but reading this takes me back to my first campaign where everything that could go wrong /did/ go wrong. Ah, the good old days.

    Anyways, thankies for the most hilarious parody (kinda) since ever.

  33. Carl the Bold says:

    Darkenna – no you haven’t.

    Remember Jim West in the (TV Show) Wild, Wild West. He had a cool blade attached to his boot that, if he clicked his feet together, would pop out of the front of the boot, enabling him to cut the ropes that bound his feet. I convinced two separate DMs to allow my thief to do that. One thought it should cost seventy-some gold and the other gave it to me for a handful of silver. And while I was also able to convince them that I should be able to have a hollowed out heel on my boot (like Jim West), I was unable to convince them that I should be allowed to decide _at the time of need_ what was in it (like Jim West). I was always impressed that in some episodes it was C4 explosive, and in some it was a length of string. Whatever it was, it was always exactly what he needed. Maybe it was magical. A magic Hollowed Out Boot Heel of Holding.

  34. Medium Dave says:

    The Sun Tzu comment made me laugh so hard I expelled an internal organ. I think it was my spleen.

  35. Alasseo says:

    It doesn’t really matter that they’ve given up their main weapons. A simple scene comparison will show why; watch Balin’s tomb- Gimli has how many throwing axes? And he doesn’t give them all up at Edoras, does he? Of course, you never see him carrying one unless he’s about to throw it, so perhaps he has a Bandolier of Holding under his jacket…

  36. Kit says:

    Bloody funny, this is — all of it!

  37. damien walder says:

    Steve Says:
    February 5th, 2007 at 12:04 pm
    I never noticed until DM of the Rings allowed me to view the images in High Definition, but Theoden’s Thugs look like the Ice Warrior commander form the 1980s vintage Dr Who.
    ______________

    Ho Ho Ho.

    I thought you’d used clips of the Cybermen, Shamus. But now, I see what you did there.

    I’ve had a demonspawn NPC to do a lot of the tough stuff, take the big hits while allowing my humble rogue to do his thang. And you know the NPC isn’t going to kill you off unless the DM shows signs of dejection and weariness with the concept of gaming… I hope?

    Fenyx: I admire that your character was able to respond by taking out (off) the door. For my guy, having lost everything but two pins, picking the door was enough. Carrying it would have impeded a lot of the ensuing conduct of my rogue, I think.

    /I’m a little mixed up up but I rolled 20 on my “move silently”.
    Can you hear me now?

  38. Ralph O'Brien says:

    Just read comics 1-60, given in as my gaming group won’t shut up about them!

    Very very funny stuff Shamus!

  39. Andre says:

    Just a thought: is the DM also unaware that his campaign is ripped off from The Lord of the Rings, or is it just the players who are clueless? Are we presupposing that The Lord of the Rings never existed, and thus this is it’s first incarnation, or that the players never experienced Lord of the Rings so the DM thought he’d get an easy out by rehashing that story in campaign form?

  40. Steve says:

    [Andre] I assumed the second option was in play: This was the first time anyone had experienced the story aka Tolkien Wrote A Module.

  41. Steve says:

    On another front, why is it tah so many “Role Players” follow Shamus’s Gimli when pretending to be a dwarf and swing in and out of “pirate crab talk” mode?

    The last game I played I was one of two dwarfs and at one point things got so bad in that respect I asked the other one outright where he kept the secret formula for his famous Crabby Patties.

    I, for my part, was doing an overblown “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Eastender” accent, which the other guy found to be sub-par even though I was (on paper) an all-muscles-and-no-brains PHB fighter.

    Steve.

  42. Steve says:

    Tah? Tah???? I meant “that” of course. Sorry.

  43. Robert says:

    Don’t come around here talking about your tah-tahs. This is a family site.

  44. SteveDJ says:

    [Andre & Steve] Go back to DM of the Rings issue #1 – Shamus explains the whole premise there at the start. DM knows, players don’t.

  45. Steve says:

    [SteveDJ] No confusion here. Tolkien wrote a module.

    Steve.

  46. Jiggily says:

    When it comes to interparty communication, nothing beats a psionicist. Simply cast mind link with everyone in the party, any you are good to go! Even if someone gets “transported” half way around the world, you got the hook-up!

  47. Darkenna says:

    Carl, yes I have.

    Jiggily, that’s exactly what our gith-zerai does. Quite effective. Liek a mental two-way radio. Only disadvantage… that’s exactly how it works. Everyone in the link can hear everything. Makes it reaaaaaally difficult to plot practical jokes against one’s fellow party members…

  48. Amanda says:

    This is….truly hilarious. I’m not an actual D&Der myself, but this is so wonderfully presented that I now…dare I say regrettably…feel like I am. My friend Scott linked me. So glad he did. Hysterical.

  49. Andre says:

    [SteveDJ] I’d read the premise several times over, and once more before I posted. I just don’t think it clearly states, one way or another, if the DM is aware of Lord of the Rings as it exists in our world, or if he thinks he’s come up with his own elaborate story (that just happens to match the plot to the LotR movie perfectly). Certainly, if it’s the former, his frustration at the players trying to derail his plot would be greater, since it seems he couldn’t even be bothered to write his own campaign. With the latter, though, his attachment to the story is stronger, since he probably spent a good deal of time plotting this thing out. I guess in the end it works either way; it was just a hypothetical question to get us all pondering and discussing the premise.

  50. Alyc says:

    I linked here through the fandom wank report, and couldn’t be happier. This whole strip is hilarious. As much as I enjoy OotS, I have to say that this is more painfully funny to me because I’ve either played in or run this campaign multiple times over. Excellent job and I look forward to the mack-fest that will occur over Eowyn (or the atrocious way that the DM ends up playing a female…I’ve seen both situations and both are very mockable).

  51. Jperk says:

    I used to carry around and wooden sign that said elder one mile in my portable hole. I later had one made out of metal to beat on things like gibbering mouthers. It was nice of the DM to give me what I asked for but not what I wanted. I did have to wonder how many town signs got taken before the town gave up and changed its name.

  52. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    [Jperk] That was a little difficult for me to parse at first. Perhaps “I used to carry around [a] wooden sign that said ‘elder one mile’ in my portable hole.” Frankly, the term “portable hole” is bad enough, but trying to figure out the point of a sign which reads “elder one mile in my portable hole” nearly gave me an anurism. :)

  53. Dune says:

    Yes, always lean on the uber-powerful NPC its a classic

  54. Rikku says:

    good name for the chapter, yet it should been put with a chapter that featured the king.

  55. Rev. Tentacles says:

    “Players may blunder through dialog with shocking ineptitude, forget the name of the country they are in, or get confused about which side they are on, but once it comes time to roll for initiative they all turn into Sun Tzu.”

    This is possibly the most astute comment I have ever read. Ever. That includes commentary at UF, OOTS, and fucking everywhere else.

    Dear God, sir… how do you do it?

  56. Toil3T says:

    Ah, improvised weapons are the best. Like when our druid/wizard ran out of spells and used a skeleton’s leg as a club. After the battle she remembered she had a quaterstaff. She still has the leg.
    Intricate battle strategies fail immediately, at least for us. Now we just charge in.

  57. Aragorn says:

    lol :) “if the king trys anything gandalf can chuck a fireball at him and fry the men too” or somethin like that, a bit long anyway u rock shamus!

  58. General Spambo says:

    This is why in most D&D campaigns i have come to use monks and love them to death, i could be stripped naked and penniless and woken from a drunken stupor in the middle of the night inside a jail cell with my hands cuffed behind my back…. assuming i get the initiative, or at least not dead last, i can make a showing of myself

  59. WeLikeShadowrun says:

    @ Carl the Bold on 33rd post: In the supplement complete scoundrel you can have a boot fitted with both a blade and a hidden compartment as well as having numerous secret blades stashed around various parts of your body. For a long time my party were very confused by the fact I sank faster than our fighter… and eventually I had to be told OOC to stop using my super lethal knee-blade to the groin maneuvere

  60. [...] difficult process, mostly because the possibilties are endless and it can be difficult to get it [...]

  61. Chen says:

    The footnote’s hilarious. Comic be damned, but don’t get rid of those footnotes.

  62. (The Long Awaited 10th Class) Fat Tony says:

    Unless It’s A Farm!

  63. joesolo says:

    “On one hand, taking away their weapons is a dead giveaway that they will need them. On the other hand, by the time conflict starts the players will already have opened the rulebooks and found the parts that deal with bare-handed combat, performing disarm moves, and using improvised weapons.”

    and if they keep there weapons,that almost cerntaly theyll try killing the king just to take his crown for the gold and jems its made of.

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