DM of the Rings LXX:
The Needs of the Many

 By Shamus Mar 2, 2007 111 comments

Forced march.

Forced march.

This is exactly the sort of behavior you get when players stop role-playing. Metagame thinking is poison. I played this for a joke, but from my own experiences and from comments others have made I know this isn’t that far-fetched. I’m beating up on the players here, but you could make the case that stuff like this is the result of a DM who is strict about rules and lax about role-playing, which is about the surest form of self-sabotage a DM can do. If you adhere to the rules with meticulous authority and fill the world with generic NPCs, then soon enough you’ll have players treating your world like a place to mine treasure and farm experience, and not like a place where an epic story is taking place. The last thing you want is to end up DM’ing a game of Diablo.

A Hundred!11111 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!


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  1. CryptoKnight says:

    Wooo-Hooo!! First!!

  2. You know you’ve made it when someone shouts “first” on your comic going up.

    Just saying.

  3. Mysti says:

    HAHAH “The last thing you want is to end up DM’ing a game of Diablo.” I think all the gamers I’ve played with were metagamers…When I DM I’m very strict about it. I simply don’t allow it. Well sometimes…if they role play it…

  4. Woerlan says:

    Some players will use the roleplaying as a justification for the meta-gaming. It should be the other way around. Sometimes, the BEST thing to do in a situation isn’t the RIGHT thing to do.

  5. Clyde says:

    Now wait a second, Shamus! If the players really wanted to milk the game for all the experience possible, they’d want to slow the march down, not speed it up! As they noted, there’s that hourly chance of encountering orcs, and that means combat for our heroes, as well as the possibility (a long one, I’ll grant you) of some loot other than the standard orc-trash. So what am I missing here? They know that the bad guys are massing and they have to get the civvies to Helm’s Deep ASAP. A forced march actually would be in character, or so it seems to me.

  6. Steve says:

    Being first isn’t everything you know! I speak from experience here! :o)

    While many will feel that the ‘metagaming’ comments are nothing new and write them off as ‘more moaning’ I think that framing this in a comic as has been done here really does shine a light on the problem.

    And as you all probably know by now, I agree 100% that this sort of thing stems from ‘lazy’ DMing.

    Nice one, Shamus. Score.

    Steve.

  7. Arbaal says:

    Heh, I remember 1st ed D&D when Swans were the bane of any NPC village and a common house cat could kill a low level PC with ease.

    I found that the easiest way to deal with PC’s and the foolishness of the above was to fudge the NPCs a bit as well as the monsters. Then when the PCs wanted to metagame, they quickly learned that the frail old man accompanying the young child could very well be the Grand Master of Flowers (Gods I hated the old Monk titles) with his predecessor/teacher/advisor.

    I also remember this one session where the Paladin was acting contrary to his alignment, and kept trying to be a rules lawyer about how he was actually acting withing his alignment. He wound up being beaten savagely by an Avatar of his Patron God who had taken the form of a 6 year old girl. The entire encounter went along the lines of:

    “It’s a 6 year old girl with a twig? I ride her down since she is impeeding my progress.”

    “Your warhorse stops and you are thrown from the sadddle.”

    “What?! Fine I kick her off the roadside then.”

    “She whacks you with the twig, take 30 points of damage.”

    “What? I’m in full plate!”

    “I know. Take an additional 20 points as she whacks you again against your bottom.”

    “This is outrageous! She has to be a demon! I detect evil!”

    “No evil detected. Your ass is welting nicely as she whips you again with the twig. Take 21 points of damage.”

    “Mother of god! It’s an illusion! I disbelieve!”

    “You focus on the little girl, she turns into a blazing avatar of your Patron God.”

    “Oh F…!”

    “Now, shall I thrash you some more, or should I just revoke your gifts?”

    “No no! I’ll be good. I’m sorry.”

    “Simple words are not penance enough. You shall perform a task in order to raise your standing with me again.”

    “Damn. Er, I mean yes, I will gladly do as you ask!”

    It is funny how quickly a small amount of abuse and humiliation can humble a player who is getting way out of line.

  8. Retarded Rayne says:

    HAHAHAHA! OMG….that is funny!
    ROFL!

  9. Fickle says:

    Why doesn’t Legolas just check Aragorn’s Leather Tardis? He’s probably got a whip in there along with everything else.

  10. Daniel The Great says:

    Hey everyone talking about abusing the game in the session of D & D i am playing in i just got to adopt a Kobold Baby cause we chickened out killing it call it a conciense or call it a sick joke we are playing on the DM either way i told him i would post it up here and tell the world of our crazy game.

  11. Browncoat says:

    lol Fickle.

  12. Vegedus says:

    Hm, if the PC’s were of some kind of neutral alignment (which they seem to be), I can’t find fault in their reasoning. Sure, the goody goody paladin wouldn’t sacrifice someone for the chance of less hostile encounters (the way I play mine, he would immediatly volounteer as a meet shield), but a chaotic neutral char that only care for money, that was told he would get paid after how many survive, could do something like that.
    Of course, I agree whole-heartedly that metagame thinking is the bane of all roleplaying and should be punished (I usually shout “minus XP!!” and people settle down), but these PC’s know, ingame, that they are under the threat of Warg attacks.

  13. poppalee says:

    Is it just me or does legolas look kinda evil when he’s talkin’s about the whip?

  14. Tirgaya says:

    Raising a Kobold baby? He isn’t named Pun Pun perchance? You may find a vast number of NPC adventurers headed your way to make sure little Pun Pun never reaches fifth level.

    (If you have no clue what I am talking about Google for, ‘Pun Pun Kobold’)

  15. Ubermosher says:

    I was hoping that the attack of the warg riders in The Two Towers would inspire some commentary on “random” encounters. Nice to see you’re thinking along those lines Shamus.

  16. KarenB says:

    poppalee: Definetly not just you. We all know that Legolas loves the thought of getting to whip some peasant buttocks. The goody good elf guy thing is just an act. Trust me. ;)

  17. Deoxy says:

    Pun Pun – ROFL!

    Quick summary of Pun Pun: D&D character with literally infinite power at 5th level, due primarily to a particular feat, but also dependent upon at least one other badly done feat. Oh, and none of it involves questionable rules abuse, either, other than the existence of the feats themselves, which are from WotC books, not any 3rd party.

    How does one define infinite power? Arbitrarily high stats (as high as you want to bother making them), every ability in the game as desired, infinite usage of said abilities. All of this is achievable in under 1 minute after attaining 5th level and is permanent (actually, in game terms, it would be “Instantaneous” – that is, not a “Permanent” effect that would be dispellable, or anything like that).

  18. Lon says:

    Dunno if this is the right place for this, but I am unable to view the strip. Images are not being displayed in either Firefox or IE.

  19. Nogard Codesmith says:

    [Lon] The reason it turns out is because todays comic is actually an illusion and it seems you made your save while the rest of us failed miseably.

  20. Anonymous Fan says:

    a game of Diablo

    Isn’t that what D&D is? Diablo without a computer?

  21. Elvy says:

    Arbaal, that was absolutely hilarious! I love you dearly now!

    It also reminds me of the time I was playing an angels & demons campaign. We were all angels of various assortments, I decided to play a cherubim but our “friend” decided to play a Malakim. Unfortunately Ken is a lawless “kill first, ask questions later” kind of player, but Malakim are like Paladins in a sense. A crazy old man NPC came up to us and started shouting with a bad Italian accent “You da Popa! I da Popa! Everybody happy!” Ken proceeds to kill the old man (for no reason whatsoever). Then our DM goes “A huge body of light flashes out of the mortal vessel” and returns back to heaven. Ken ‘killed’ Archangel Michael’s mortal vessel.

    After that all hell broke loose (literally) since his previous screw-ups ended up attracting Demon Prince Belial and then other Malakim were sent down to smite us for screwing up our mission. In retaliation, the DM reincarnated Ken’s avatar to look like a big dorky Star Wars fanboy from his big, buff VanDamme badass body. Ken proceeds to comment back “Worst vessel…EVER!”

    Needless to say, we didn’t win that campaign.

  22. Shamus says:

    Anonymous Fan: Only if you really, really mess up. D&D is about roleplaying – imaginging yourself as a character in a story. Diablo is about killing monsters and taking their stuff.

  23. Robert says:

    I’m not certain it’s metagaming. Displaying more knowledge of probability than their characters, maybe. Their job here is to save as many civilians as possible, so if that means marching faster…

    It’s a tough choice, but if you have to choose between granny having a heart attack and a dozen young folk being cut down in battle, what’s the logical decision? Remember Gimli’s rationale for leaving Gandalf…

  24. Takasi says:

    So far I’ve loved your comic, but I disagree with the commentary in this strip. To many players and DM’s, D&D is about killing monsters and taking their stuff. Hack and slash, kick in the door beer and pretzels games are as much “D&D” as heavy immersion, rules-flexible impromptu drama sessions.

    A good old dungeon crawl is classic D&D, where NPCs are there to be killed.

    Arbaal’s description of a little girl beating the snot out of a paladin is exactly what many players do not want to see. They want fairness, tactical combat and consistent rules that both the DM and the players need to abide by. Knowing that the DM is fudging rules and rolls will detract from the fun of the game as much as players who use their knowledge of game mechanics to dictate their character’s decisions.

  25. Shamus says:

    Takasi: Fair enough. I undertand that lots of people enjoy that sort of thing. It depends on the group. I could see enjoying being a player in such a game to a limited extent, but I think DM’ing that sort of game would be utterly tedious.

    In fact, most of the humor of DMotR comes from friction between these two types of people.

  26. Blindeye says:

    I can honestly say that forcing a city full of peasents into a forced march is perhaps the cruelest thing I’ve ever heard of. I think that if my players were to do that, there’d be a really good chance of a few of the bolder peasents to refuse and revolt against them. Especially once the first beloved grandparent falls over with a heart attack. Not violent and revolutionary revolt, but more like a peasent strike.
    In the end, the time the peasents sit around ‘resting’ until the players just let the poor farmers go at their own pace will have taken longer than if they just hadn’t bothered with the forced march in the first place.
    Cruelty to the lower class has it’s concequences.
    Also, on the note of random encounters, I enjoy rolling per 8 hours rather than ever single hour.

    p.s. The Paladin going against his alignment was a great story. Having his ass handed to him by an avatar is a great personal way to shape up a character, but I would have handled it more subtly. After I was sure his god was pissed with him, he’d find that the next day he couldn’t pray for his spells. He’d have to figure out why. And of course I’d be waiting for a honest to his god good deed before his power suddenly comes back.

  27. tigerdreams says:

    As ruthless as a forced march would be, I actually think the suggestion shows a bit of improvement on the PCs’ part; it means they actually care about whether the majority of the peasants live or die. Based on the characters’ previous words and actions, that strikes me as *progress*.

  28. Takasi says:

    The friction is IMO the heart and soul of the comic. The same thing happens in our group (see my link), which is why I’m glad we have enough players to host several campaigns.

    As a DM for both epic, story driven immersive games and light-hearted, metagame friendly, let-the-dice-fall-where-they-may hack and slash, I have to put on a different hat when I switch between these two very distinctive roles. In the former, you root for your players, and give them challenges but ultimately do not want to defeat them. The DM of the Rings doesn’t really want Aragorn to die, but he does want him to influence the story. The DM of the Hack (so to speak) needs to be much more adversarial.

    The biggest stimulation in running the good old Dungeon Crawl is in presenting challenges that are able to defeat the PCs while at the same time are able to be defeated by the PCs. There is nothing better for an adversarial DM than seeing a climactic TPK and hearing players lament over the fact that they almost won. Creating and designing interesting dungeons, treasures, traps and monsters in the same way that players are building PCs can be just as satisfying as simply writing story elements and using canned (or even rule-defying) monsters.

  29. EmeraldTiara says:

    Ah, but to do that, they have to get past NPC-Theoden, who, being played by the DM, will surely not let them do that! Or will he?

  30. Patrick says:

    When do I get to do the modeling for the new line of DotR spring collection? And where’s my free coffe mug homo? And these will all be avaiable at Hot Topic in the mall, right?

  31. Hagan says:

    Ahh but if they were really meta gaming they wouldnt say random party of orcs. All players know that the random encounter is the bane of all adventurers. Its so rarely orcs and more often Behirs and other randomly rolled murderous creatures that the party has no chance against. (Grins) at least in my experience.

  32. Oh gods, can I ever relate…

  33. Allan says:

    Daniel, if we’re going to talk about crazy stuff party members do, the group I DM has acquired a “war cow” named Bodesia (originally a runt calf bait for a lycanthrope which they decided to hold onto and are going to train…eventually) and, most recently, a “war wagon” made out of a vampires coffin. Oh, by the way, it’s a convertible (I have no idea how they managed to come up with that one).

  34. Gandalf The Monk says:

    Oh Hagan, you have no idea how right you are.
    My group focuses on character development and story progression an enourmous amount, and deadly combats (deadly for the PCs that is) are rare. Only a handful of our PCs have died, and it has always (except for a couple scripted times) been against random encouters.

  35. Tola says:

    Hmm.

    It’s ‘meta’ but…

    Yes, he’s been running the numbers, but given that ‘every hour’ chance, there’s a good chance that they’d all end up killed.

    72 seperate checks. 72. No-one’s luck is good enough to not get multiple raids even if you cut the number of cheacks in half or even quartered it, and there’s no idea of how many defenders there are besides our heroes. Also little idea of what supplies/healing is avalible for the group during this march.

    As much as it’s ‘meta-game’, I can’t fault him for it. Looking at it from the outside, I can only say: This is going to be nasty…

    ….and it was, at that-the ‘random encounter’ was bloody cavalry.

    • WJS says:

      Actually, if the odds of an attack are 1% per hour, they have about a 50% chance not to be attacked at all over 72 hours, which raises to over 60% if they can cut the trip to 2 days.
      If the odds of attack are 5% (1 on a d20), then they can expect 2-4 attacks over 72 hours, roughly 1 per day. Clearly cutting a day off their journey is advantageous here too.
      This is of course assuming that the DM doesn’t increase the chances of attack while they’re resting, which doesn’t seem too unreasonable to me; it’s harder to catch someone if they’re on the move.
      So, there’s clearly nothing wrong with his maths, merely the assumption that there’s a fixed chance of an attack per unit time.
      In reality, the odds of an attack would be increasing the closer you got to the main host, which simply gives you more of an incentive to move faster and stay out of the range of their forward scouts.

  36. Ed says:

    It’s not metagaming. It’s called being a general.

    Every general, every leader in that situation faces the same problem. Do you try to save the whole group, or do you try to sacrifice some to save the rest?

    Let me get this straight. It’s being a weak DM and metagaming when the players actually try to be responsible for hard decisions.

  37. Teria says:

    I can’t see the comic!!!! *weeps* *bawls* *tears hair out* *tears another hair out*

  38. Thenodrin says:

    I remember one Living Death game years ago where the object was to stop a ritual being performed. We had to figure out who the next sacrifice was, protect her and stop the cultists.

    Since we were having no luck finding the cultists, a suggestion was made. There were four potential candidates for the sacrifice. If we go and murder them all early, the ritual wouldn’t be able to be performed.

    Now, this plan had risks. Murder of an innocent was an automatic level of Evil Taint. But, it was pointed out that The Society would magically remove up to two levels of Taint between events. So, if we split up, none of us would be turned Evil by the acts, and we’d have stopped the ritual.

    We didn’t go through with it. But, the look on the Judge’s face was priceless.

    Theno

  39. damien walder says:

    Heh – just read the wizards of the coast article on “Metagaming or Cheating?”. Worthwhil, had a bit of trouble with OOC and In Character knowledge stuff lately. Thanks Shamus.

  40. damien walder says:

    Missed reading this one earleir:

    Daniel The Great Says:
    “Hey everyone talking about abusing the game in the session of D & D i am playing in i just got to adopt a Kobold Baby cause we chickened out killing it call it a conciense (SIC) or call it a sick (SICK) joke we are playing on the DM either way i told him i would post it up here and tell the world of our crazy game.”

    Well Daniel -
    That’s going to be interesting – good for you, if you role-play that situation effectively.
    When establishing backstories and motivations for my PCs to have species-related affinities, as they’re non-humans, but very rare minorities in the non-human category – weretiger and kenku, both of whom wear disguises most of the time. It hasn’t cropped up just yet, but the kenku is keen to adopt a few winged critters (hoping for birds…), it just hasn’t presented yet. The DM is waaay fond of undead things, so who knows if the encounter tables will ever produce a nest of anything with feathers? Zombie-Cranes? Yuck!

    But hey – I truly appreiciate your mention (note my parentheses) of the plot twist – good luck with the Kobold AND the DM.

  41. hendrake says:

    Neverminding my opinion that Aragon & company wouldn’t have had the kind of authority necessary to make their idea happen, that Aragon was “running the numbers” hardly matters when deciding whether to forcemarch a bunch of townsfolk in an effort to outrun enemy scouting / raiding parties (the logical assumption is that they’re incoming, otherwise why are they retreating to Helm’s Deep?) is one of those moral decisions that we need more of in D&D.

    War sucks, hard choices must be made and inevitably people die no matter what you do. It’s not pretty, but Spock was right when he said, “The needs of the many…”

    It’s pragmatic, which isn’t necessarily metagaming – now in Legolas’ case, it is probably an Evil act (“Good, let’s get these losers moving”) – though he’s an Tolkein elf, so humans are probably like ants to him. In Aragon’s case, I’d call it a Neutral act. In neither case is it enough for an alignment shift, just a campaign note for future reference.

    As a DM, such a turn of events are a great opportunity to describe the efforts of the old and the young to keep up, the agonizing looks of the ones who slowly fall behind, the hard / guilty looks of those who lose familymembers (Hey, they pressed on too, y’know…), maybe even a chance to introduce a sprightly young lad who was helping others along, right up until he twisted his ankle on the run. Will one of them give up their horse for the youth or does effort count for nothing? Is it even fair to do so? Great opportunity to make the players get into the heads of their characters, that.

    Oh, and force-marching anyone for 72 hours straight (Gimli: “You really want to drive these poor people without rest for three days?”) would probably kill anyone, PCs included (though not necessarily those three Tolkein PCs, who are all essentially superhuman – c’mon, Legolas runs on the top of snow!). Force-marching doesn’t mean constant motion, but you know that so I’ll shut up.

    Finally, I thought having your GM-Avatar knocking the beejeezus out of a paladin was a bit of an overkill. Any Paladin that would ride down a little girl, twig or no, permanently loses his paladinhood and shifts to Lawful Neutral with an evil taint in my game, I don’t care what kind of “arguments” a rules-lawyer brings to the table.

    All that said – you truly rock, Shamus.

  42. Ed says:

    Heh.

    The more I think about it, the more I like having the PCs *stop the peasant right where they are* as orc bait, so the PCs can actually do some fighting and get some XP. I’ve got this image of the refugees a couple of weeks later, starving, with the PCs refusing to let them move. Or spreading the peasants out into a bunch of different groups to increase the odds of a random encounter.

    Now THAT’S metagaming.

  43. Ed says:

    Actually …

    Assuming that the DM is rolling for a random encounter 3x a day (every eight hours) with a 16.7% chance of a random encounter, and assuming that all random encounters are Sauruman’s orcs, then if the peasants are split into 12 groups and each ecounter is on average 100 orcs, this gives an expected orc encounter (and subsequent orc attrition) at about 600 per day. With 10,000 orcs, this gives about 17 days (or a little over two weeks) before Sauruman’s army is wiped out piecemeal.

    The peasants can suck it up for two weeks without food :-)

    • Moridin says:

      What do you mean “without food”? There’ll be plenty of orcs to eat.

    • WJS says:

      I know you’re not being serious, but I’ll point out the specifics of your scenario anyway.
      First, if they split up the peasants they would have to split up the guards too, which would be suicide. You use 100 as a number for orcs, which would TPK them easily. (There were only a dozen or so in the group that they did meet in the film). You also assume that the orcs will play along with this plan, and keep sending small groups at them despite having vastly superior numbers. This would be suicide.
      If my players tried this, they would get a couple of groups of forward scouts, then the rest of the orc army would arrive all at once. This can be the only proper response to the players trying such a stupid tactic.

  44. Ken the DM says:

    Just read through the whole thing in two sittings (interrupted by a dinner party). “What is your name Horse-Fucker” made me laugh for about five minutes, but everything else is pure gold. Please keep this up!

  45. Zippy Wonderdog says:

    Ironicly enough you can actually buy the Diablo RPG rules for d20 and I have an on and off project of adapting Diablo 2 into a campaign :D

  46. superfluousk says:

    Something else to point out is that if they do take the peasants on a forced march, then the peasants will be exhausted and useless if and when they *are* inevitably attacked. And while you might argue that they’re useless anyway, well, Aragorn and Legolas can’t *know* that, can they? I mean, these are the same peasants they’re going to be conscripting into service as soon as they get to Helm’s Deep.

    So when it comes to the questions of being ‘pragmatic’ and ‘realistic’ and being a good general, Aragorn should also consider — since they’re going to be attacked no matter what, does he want to have more time on the road with a group of peasants who may or may not have some utility in fighting off attacks, or less time on the road with peasants who are too exhausted and ill to be any use at all?

    At least one campaign I was in, which featured a cast entirely of paladins, more or less hinged on this question — there were four of us facing a cast of ten villains each as powerful as we were. If the paladin with the oratory hadn’t made successful rolls beforehand to get the crowd of peasants on our side (and if we hadn’t taken out first thing the caster who could do mind control) we would not have survived that fight. Sure, we lost a fair percentage of the peasants — about 10 out of 30 — but as a mob they could do a fair amount of damage.

    • WJS says:

      No, the question is if you’re going to be attacked anyway, would you rather it be before or after you take up positions in the stone fortress and arm and armour all your men. In the film, Eowyn did take the peasants straight to the keep, remember? If they’d continued on at the same pace they were going on the first leg, they would probably have been caught by the whole army, not just the forward scouts.

  47. Matt says:

    “Google for, ‘Pun Pun Kobold’”

    This page is the third result (and the first 2 are both from the same website)

  48. Osric says:

    I Googled for “Pun Pun Kobold” and the third result was http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?feed=rss2&p=995. :oD

  49. Phil says:

    Yeah, I don’t think this is quite as clear-cut a moral issue as the commentary implies. I think my viewpoint would be that *some* degree of forced marching would, as others have noted, simply be pragmatic leadership. But at some point it moves beyond “harsh but necessary” territory and into “if we do this, we’re no better than those we’re fighting” – and the PC’s “crime” here is that they obviously don’t recognise (e.g. whips) that this line exists, and with their supposed alignments, they should.

    As for the metagaming, that’s mostly the DM’s fault. If the players “know” the adventure will depend rigidly on encounter die rolls, you can’t really blame them for treating that as a tactical factor.

  50. John says:

    Heh, that’s exactly the kind of though moral choice some GMs would love to throw at PCs. Force-march the peasants, risk the old and frail dying, but more of them live to make it to the keep (and thus fight the greater evil). Then whichever choice they make, you get to make them regret it by having them face the consequences – every young boy run down by raiders is their fault if they don’t force march, and every old woman collapsing at the side of the road is their fault if they do. Plus then they get to burn all their precious healing magics on peasants to compensate and try to get everyone through either choice.

    Cleric’s Player: “Okay, if I cast ‘Bear’s Endurance’ on young Timmy’s grandfather he can march 6 more hours and make it.”
    Fighter’s Player: “Yeah, but then *I* might not make it if I get cornered by the raiders.”
    Cleric’s Player: “Well, you’re a hero, that’s the risk you take – just don’t get cornered.”
    Fighter’s Player: “And what do you mean you’ve already used all your cure light wounds to get rid of the forced march’s subdual damage?”
    Paladin’s Player: “Okay, and I can put 1 point of lay-on-hands to the weakest looking 20 people. That’ll hold them a bit more.”

    That’s the OOC conversation, then the IC description can be a bit more compressed, the paladin moving through the crowd praising his god and encouraging each person with a strong, uplifting pat on the back.

  51. Ranchoth says:

    “No better than those we’re fighting”? Eh, personally, I’d say that dipping into an ethically “gray” tactic to keep an overall “good” civilization from falling is probably a better route than keeping your hands clean, and letting yourself be overrun by guys who use skulls for hats.

    I for one would rather, say, be remembered by future generations of free (well, OK, they’re probably serfs.) peasants as “Sir Bors the Cruel” than have them grow up as branded thrall on a skeleton farm.

    In other words…A choice between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless distinguishable postwar enviroments. We must destroy the peasants in order to save them!

  52. I’ve been readin this for a while, and I usually don’t comment, but this pushes a couple of my buttons.

    As a number of posters have already pointed out, there’s actually not much “metagaming” going on here, and what there is mostly comes from the players’ need to discuss complex in-character concepts in a way they can understand.

    Actually wanting to get to Helms’ Deep ahead of the Orcs is a perfectly legitimate decision. Besides, as other posters have pointed out, *proper* metagaming would be slowing to a crawl to *maximise* the number of XP-worthy encounters you come up against.

    That said, I’m glad to see that Shamus still treats the DM as sharing responsibility with the players for the situation. One of the reasons I’m still enjoying this strip is because it’s not degenerated into player-bashing.

  53. Shamus says:

    The angle I was taking – which I didn’t really make clear – is that the players don’t KNOW what the odds of an attack are. Obviously you wouldn’t force-march these people without a really good reason, and even then it would be something done with much regret. You certainly wouldn’t do something so clearly lethal based on vague guesses on how you expect the DM is running things, which your character shouldn’t know. I suppose I should have make it more obvious that Aragorn had no idea what he was talking about. (And of course, we all know that in the movie they ARE attacked.)

    But as other people have pointed out, this is valid if they had real data to back it up. If a scout said, “Orcs are coming” then I agree this would be a great chance to encourage the players to roleplay and face some tough choices.

  54. anachronist says:

    For those of you here trying to find the canonical information on Pun-pun (a character build with infinite stats), it’s here: http://boards1.wizards.com/showthread.php?t=491801

    Any DM worthy of the title will already know about it, and prohibit certain aspects required to make it – such as the Manipulate Form ability, or the Master of Many Forms class.

    Pun-pun is a thought experiment. Actually playing such a character in a game would be no challenge, and no fun.
    -A

  55. Gandalf The Monk says:

    “As for the metagaming, that’s mostly the DM’s fault. If the players “know” the adventure will depend rigidly on encounter die rolls, you can’t really blame them for treating that as a tactical factor.”

    So…it’s the GM’s fault for the players using out-of-character knowledge at every opportunity? Bull – thats just the players being poor RPers.

  56. Dremmen says:

    110% with you there Gandalf. About time someone points out that in a D&D game the players *DO* have some responsibility. Yes, the DM is responsible for setting the scene, the monsters, the NPCs, etc, etc, etc. But the Players should *at the very least* be responsible their characters are RPed somewhat in character, and try to blend with the game the DM is running instead of trying to abuse it. DMs put a lot of time into getting games together and it can be heartbreaking to have players abuse the game like an underage thai hooker. They need to man up and take the time and thought to play their characters within the context they are given, making it a group experience (because lord knows that whatever investment they put into that is still just a fraction of the investment the DM put into the game), instead of abusing the system, abusing the story, and most of all, abusing the DM all for self-gratification through their characters.

    ahem. oh yeah and great strip. I’ll go lie down now.

  57. Steve says:

    Well said Shamus.

    Not only that, but calously writing off a few deaders like Aragormless does would be the cue for a forced alignment adjustment to Evil Evil Evil. There isn’t a good argument to not do this. History has many fine examples of the kind of thing Aragormless is proposing and without exception the proponents of such “solutions” are regarded as the epitome of evil. Gimlet’s player – the alignment lawyer of the group after the fiasco at the bridge of Khazad Dumb – would concur heartily.

    ‘Sides, it would royally p*ss off Aragormless’s player. Reason enough for the DMotR to do it.

    Steve.

    • WJS says:

      Yes, history has many examples of leaders who had to make hard decisions, but no, they aren’t all viewed as the epitome of evil. Churchill sacrificed the entire city of Coventry for the war effort for god’s sake!

      It’s only leaders who sacrifice their people for their own personal gain such as Stalin that are seen in such a negative way.

      If the orcs catch up with them, they will kill or enslave them all. Leaving those who can’t keep ahead of the orcs behind is sacrificing them to save the rest. Sticking with them is sacrificing everyone for no reason.

      Of course, forced marching them if the orcs are several days behind them is just stupid, but there’s a difference between stupid and evil. Doing something wrong because you thought it was the right thing at the time is totally different from knowingly doing something wrong for personal gain.

      P.S. I’m defending the decision simply from an ethical perspective. I don’t dispute that Aragorn is using metagaming thinking to figure out what the best course of action is.

  58. Steve says:

    [Dremmen] I agree (mostly) with what you say. The subject of the one player who wishes to depart from the script and beahve like a visigoth on crack came up in a Call of Cthulhu forum I frequent. I’ll paraphrase:

    Person A: “How do others deal with a game that is too slow paced for them? Should they suck it in or should they take it up with the DM?

    Person B: “If I ever got fed up with the pacing of a game I wouldn’t bother discussing it with anyone. I would just burn down the village and let the DM deal with it. The ensuing chaos would send the message.

    Me: “Well, if I were running the game in question, you certainly *could* try doing what you suggest. The town would probably burn and the game would end sooner than planned. That would be okay with me. I could turf out all the players hours early and wouldn’t need to barbecue afterward. However, the town would be there unharmed next week, the clues and people unharmed. The players would still be able to get what they were supposed to from the visit. The only difference would be that you would not be there and invitations to my game would mysteriously stop getting to you. None of the players would tell you either. they like the barbecue at the end of the game.

    If you were to tell me the pace was too slow for you we could discuss it with everyone. If your view was shared by all, and if I had somehow not picked up on it beforehand, something constructive could be done.”

    The problem is that every so often you actually get one of those caricature stereotypical players turn up to a game. They are not supposed to really exsist, but they do. Biological age measured in double digits, maturity index measured in terms of shoe-size.

    You can either do unto them as they do unto you, or you can try and help them achieve a new plane of game experience. Just unerstand that some people truly never learn.

    Steve.

  59. Proteus says:

    I tried to come up with a game structure that would play like “DM of the Rings” but without a DM going through the trouble of mounting a large campaign (which the players proceed to blow off). What I came up with is too much to post, so it’s at: http://www.starrhorse.com/rpg.txt

    LMK what you think.

  60. Andi says:

    Shamus,

    I understood exactly what you were getting at. It was right in the first panel: “I’ve been running the numbers,” and all the discussion of random encounter frequency. While the player knows all about random encounter rules, Aragorn (the character) doesn’t. He just knows that he was tasked with getting the peasants to safety (ie, Helm’s Deep).

    And, FWIW, Aragorn did do a forced march once (at least in the movie), right after they lost Gandalf in Moria and he told everyone to get the hobbits up and get them moving. He even overruled Boromir’s (?) pleas to let the hobbits rest. Why? Because he knew that once darkness fell, they’d be swarmed if they were still there.

    If that same kind of motivation had existed in getting the peasants to Helm’s Deep (ie, being chased by orcs and seeing them on the horizon), then a forced march wouldn’t be metagaming. But relying solely on your knowledge of the rules to know that in a situation like that the DM will role once per hour for a random encounter? That’s metagaming.

    In the gaming groups I’ve been in, when a player starts metagaming, the other players shut him down — fast. The DM doesn’t have to do a thing. It’s not fun for us if, for example, someone playing a ranger uses his real world knowledge of, say, chemistry in the game. So everyone quickly tells the person, “Your character wouldn’t know that”, and refuses to use the knowledge or let him. Problem solved.

  61. VermontGal says:

    Well, one of the weaknesses of D&D is the insane amount of rules, tables, and so forth. But one of the cool things about it is that in your own gaming group, there can be an AMAZING amount of leeway.

    That’s why it’s important to have a DM that’s fair and will put the overall needs of the game before the rules. If the DM decides 72 random wandering monster roles during a forced march is lame, he or she is under no legal obligations to do so.

    If the DM thinks getting a wayward paladin’s attention with a little superpower girl is the way to go (and/or more fun, appropriate, or just whimsical), then if it works, go for it. Gary Gygax isn’t there.

    If the characters really enjoy hack and slash, and romantic sub-plots end up pathetic…go more “Diablo-esque”. It’s OK, really. Or the other way…it’s your game.

    If one tries to play STRICTLY by the rules, one will find that not only can the game be bogged down, but you won’t find a rule, table, or answer for everything. Besides, the difference between D&D and a computer game is the amount of personal experience…

  62. Echo_Hotel says:

    Do you mean this stuff
    DM Guide
    http://www.amazon.com/Diablo-II-Dungeons-Dragons-Accessory/dp/0786918314
    Player Guide
    http://www.amazon.com/Diablo-II-Diablerie-D-Accessory/dp/0786917601
    Looks like a fun “one-night-stand” in between serious campaigns.

  63. Scarlet Knight says:

    Ah! Nothing gets D&D’ers yapping like a good ol’ alignment debate!

    True, basic D&D is hack & slash, especially for beginners. We all cut our teeth that way. But 20 years ago, computers games like Diablo didn’t exist. Today, just pop in a disk & you can play “Go in room, kill creature, collect loot” a hundred different ways. D&D’s true big advantage over the computer is the roleplaying between real people.

    Remember, intent is always the answer to alignment. Killing the enemy trying to cross a bridge to defend fleeing comrades is good. Killing the enemy trying to cross a bridge to surrender because they are not fighting back is evil. Killing the enemy after they surrendered because you can’t let them go & can’t keep them alive is neutral.
    I think the word “losers” belies “it’s for their own good” .

  64. tk210 says:

    Reminds me of the strip from Knights of the Dinner Table where the players were calculating the cost of farm animals from the PHB so they could drive them ahead in a dungeon and set off all the traps. Wow. Can you see that? Or the time I played with a cavalier who insisted on robbing the dungeon of any furniture he found. Yeah, that’d make a great story. A knight carrying a headboard around…

    That’s when the rules get put to the side for a minute and the storyline gets a shot in the arm. Players yell ‘foul’ for a while, but then realize they’re beholden to the story.

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