DM of the Rings LXXVI:
Our Once and Future Party Leader

By Shamus Posted Friday Mar 16, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 56 comments

Aragorn is in charge.

It’s always amusing when the in-game party leader is a different person from the out-of-game leader. The most articulate player – or the one with the most decisive personality – is usually not the same person as the one with the high in-game charisma score.

I’d often have NPC’s assume things about the party leadership and see how the players handled it. I’d have NPC’s walk right past the party leader and start talking to the guy at the back of the formation as if he was in charge. This was always good for a laugh.


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56 thoughts on “DM of the Rings LXXVI:
Our Once and Future Party Leader

  1. EmeraldTiara says:

    Ooh, first comment!

    Haha, are they always worrying about loot? If it were me, I’d be too.

  2. Varen Tai says:

    Woo! First! And so, so true!

  3. Varen Tai says:

    Dang it! So close… :)

  4. George says:

    haha. we have a large problem in my current campaign and who is the leader.
    Three characters with a 20+ charisma (A Bard, Sorcerer, and a Paladin who happened to roll insane stats at the begginning of the campaign. )

    This is great showing the difference between who really is the leader and who needs to be the leader

  5. George says:

    Darn, missed it by like what 6 minutes?

  6. George says:

    I dont get alot of “loot” per battle, and recently the one fight my party could have gotten alot of loot from we decided to end the confrontation diplomatically!!

    BTW i like how you took scenes from the begginning of Two towers and made them look like they fit into the middle of the movie/campaign

  7. SteveDJ says:

    Ha ha! Loved it!

    Now, I’m still hoping that our party can rejoin the rest of the caravan to Helm’s Deep, and just perhaps we might yet get a comic with the scene where Aragorn tries some of Eowyn’s soup (after their last ‘encounter’, I can only imagine some of the humor that would come from that).

    Oh wait – Shamus, you don’t have the Extended DVDs of Two Towers, do you? Rats, that means no soup scene :(

  8. Shamus says:

    SteveDJ: Right. :( I have the extended version of the other two. I could kick myself for not getting extended version of TT. I’m sure I will at some point, but not in time to really make a difference in the comic.

  9. Rolld20 says:

    Oh, yeah, I know the Player charisma vs. Character charisma problem. My favorite was the Cha 20 who wanted to incite a crowd to rebellion, and asked to roll for it. The GM asked him to extemporize a little speech for the role-playing effect. After a minute of hard thought, the player came up with, “You all should, like, do something about… stuff. Yeah.” From then on, the GM just let him roll. Naturally, his madz bonusez let him succeed every time… :p

    My first long-term campaign was worse, in that *nobody* was qualified to be leader. You know the Weird Al song “Young, Dumb, and Ugly”? Most of us claimed two out of the three. So by default the party spokesman was… the resident NPC. It’s amazing how annoyed the DM would get each time we convinced him to have discussions with himself. But what can one do, in a party of thieves, savages, and idiots? :)

  10. Nogard Codesmith says:

    Remember the good ol’ days when charisma was worthless? If everyone in the party had a low charisma, it didnt matter, because it was the PLAYERS that were really doing the negotiating.

    This flip side of this of course was when the socially inept rollplayer (by which i mean most of us)wanted to haggle or get info from someone and would have to rely on the dice, which since cha was everyones dump stat would be relativly futile and it would have been better to just pay list price.

    Nowadays it seems like EVERYONE has a high charisma, rather than just the DM’s favorite sex-object-who-will-kick-your-character’s -ass-from-here-to-the-Temple-of-Elemental-Evil-if-you-hit-on-her NPC

  11. Wraithshadow says:

    “It's amazing how annoyed the DM would get each time we convinced him to have discussions with himself.”

    Oh god this brings back memories. We had a campaign where we were constantly rescuing this one guy. He was supposed to be a one shot, save him and he’ll disappear type. But the guy running the game ran out of ideas after the adventure, so we kept getting stuck saving this one NPC over and over again.

    So finally we’ve just come face to face with a major baddie. He’s the GM’s favorite- he loves this NPC. A mercenary, evil to the core, willing to do assassinations, kidnappings, whatever. But he’ll honor his contracts. So we find out Joe NPC’s got himself kidnapped. Yet Again. And we’re really, really tired of it. So our one PC who’s really wealthy approached the GM and said, “How much do I have available?” And the GM told him. “How much to hire the merc?” The GM told him- it was roughly the same amount. “Fine- I hire the merc to save Joe NPC.”

    The look on our gamemaster’s face was priceless. He had to choose- either let us do something else (unacceptable) or have his pet NPC fail the rescue (even more unacceptable), and there was no real way for him to get out of it, because it was all perfectly fitting for the characters. Needless to say, Joe NPC disappeared from the game not long afterwards.

  12. Badger says:

    Send him back over that cliff this instant! ;)

  13. Bard says:

    Because the rest of us are either roll-players or fairly green to RP, the de facto leader in our Exalted game is a big slow guy who can’t keep his mouth shut and has insanely high Integrity and Resistance, which foils any spells I might invent. I’m looking into Peacock Shadow Eyes as the next-best thing.

  14. Woerlan says:

    As long as there’s a leader. The worse thing you can do is let a bunch of roll-players handle all decisions democratically. One of the biggest time wasters in these games.

  15. Biggles says:

    Decided to finaly make a post. Awesome stuff. Keep it up! Reminds me repeatedly of things I and my other players get up to during our D&D games :)

  16. Thastygliax says:

    I’ve definitely had some experiences with the player/PC Charisma mis-match. In one of the longest-running campaigns I’ve played, the paladin was played by the *player* with the lowest Charisma (and debatably the lowest Int).

    And then there was the player who got stuck playing the planner/leader type in any game he was in, because he had less lame-ass solutions than anyone else did. He even tried playing low-Cha characters, but the others STILL looked to him for a clue when things got difficult.

    At least in the Buffy game I’m co-GMing now, the setting makes it easier for everyone to be on the same page about who’s in charge: it’s a game about Slayers, so SHE is. (From a metagame perspective, the hard, angsty side of leadership is part of the price of being the lead hero.) OTOH, we have a part-time spinoff game where my PC was a sidekick in Season 1, but then that group’s Slayer started college (where the main campaign is set), leaving my PC as the lead in Season 2, because she’s the only experienced hero left in the high school gang. It’s an odd twist, to say the least.

  17. I’m just glad to be reading the comic…
    Happy St. Patrick’s, Shamus – some Jameson’s (at the very least) will be poured in honour
    of your fine satirical web literature.


  18. I’m just glad to be reading the comic…
    Happy St. Patrick’s, Shamus – some Jameson’s (at the very least) will be poured at our game tomorrow eve,
    in honour of the mad cleric (yeah, erm – “Snakes”, eh Patty?) and his high charisma… and in tribute to
    your fine satirical web literature. Dram of the rings!


  19. Blindeye says:

    You know… I realise the Leadership feat uses Charisma, but that doesn’t mean whoever has the highest Charisma is the leader…

    It should just fall to whomever manages to roleplay their chracter the most like the leader. And besides being the ‘leader’ doesn’t really matter either, since the party ALWAYS deliberates on every detail.

    It can be surprising though, my girlfriend is usually a Wallflower when she plays. She takes little initiative (ironically she also rolls the lowest due to bad luck) and rarely argues her opinion very strongly.

    However, she once played a character who was supposed to be sassy and all of a sudden her attitude changed. She became the party leader all of a sudden, just so that the concept she had for RP could fit. I think it helped her self-esteem some.

  20. Blindeye says:

    Hey Bard, how about putting him against a Fair Folk with Appearence 7 (reducing his MDV by lots) as well as using his Intimacies and Motivation against him if the MDV drop doesn’t work.
    If the social attack twists truths to make it sound like it matches his Intimacies or Motivation then by resisting the attack he’d be forced to do what the Fair Folk wants.

    Would that work?

  21. Jacob says:

    Not as good as the other comics.

  22. Woerlan says:

    Oh yes, let me not be remiss in admiring how you used screenshots of a completely unrelated scene for the “post-warg battle scenario.” If my memory serves me, these shots come from when the 3 were chasing the Uruks across the Riddermark, also in Rohan.

  23. Hal says:

    Perhaps it’s my non-DnD playing ways speaking, but is there a difference between role-playing and roll-playing? I’m assuming it’s between players who actually take on their role vs. players who are just trying to maximize experience and loot and solve all problems through stats?

  24. Clarifon says:

    Basically it Hal

  25. Shamus says:

    Yeah Hal. “roll” playing is sometimes used as an insult, implying the player doesn’t take the game seriously and is only concerned with leveling up and amassing loot. They are often trying to “win”.

    ROLE players are more interested in having a good time, and in creating an exciting or interesting tale. At least, that’s usually the stated goal. :)

  26. Albert Rose says:

    My favorite: “Look at that. Greg Louganis has joined the party.”

    “Oh, you’re hilarious. Did you take a level of Bard while I was down there?”

    Perfectly captures the smart-ass banter that the players will engage in from time to time. If they’re funny.

  27. RollD20 says:

    ‘Roll’ players tend to work their character’s numerical attributes so they can solve problems with mechanics and (preferably highly modified) die rolls.

    ‘Role’ players prefer to seek solutions relying on the player’s own innovative ideas and people skills.

    Both camps have their followers. And each tends to look down upon the other. Both have their uses. :)

    (PS: Thastygliax: Hi, from Two Horses.)

  28. Kenny Celican says:

    It’s kinda funny – I tend to be a roleplayer, but the group I run with tends to mix both types of play indescriminately. We also have some hardcore min max sorts. Thing is, my math skills are not significantly worse than those of the other characters, and when you min max for a character concept rather than to be a combat monster, you come up with some surprising combinations. Not the classic munchkin ‘locks’, but stuff that just makes other players get really weird looks, like ‘how did you think of that’ kind of stuff. Wolf Packs. Genius Inventors. All manner of weird, wild, and wacky.

    Of course, the only time I DID min max for combat, I went for Mathilde from The Professional. Surprised some people, that did.

  29. Mathilda and Leon were just on the air last night… I forget the excellence of that film. If only Gary Oldman was a bit more finessed; but then, he reminds me of cops who watch too much Al Pacino for their own good.

    Also forgot to wish other readers & posters Happy St.Pat’s Day.
    Cheers – may your hearts and livers never fail you!

    The Jameson’s awaits…D&D&D&D*

    Princess Bride was rented – I’ll have to buy it.

    *Dungeons & Dragons & Dining & Drinking – it’s not just for kids!

  30. Alyx says:

    I always love when you play a character and somehow you wind up leading the party. Now…OOC you really have no leadership skills but IC you somehow develop some. Makes you wonder :p

    I often have bard characters who do that and some how roll luckily enough on Bardic knowledge or diplomecy and BS their way through something when OOC I have no clue whats happening.

  31. Fickle says:

    I’m amazed nobody pushed him back off the cliff again. XD

  32. Luke says:

    For some reason I can’t see the comic. All the other images seem to load fine… Is it just me?

  33. Mike says:

    Charisma mismatches are bad, but intelligence has to be my least favorite score for this…I hate coming up with complex battle tactics and plans only to be informed that my fighter’s “8” intelligence makes him stupider than the average farmer…
    On the flip side, what do you do if a guy who isn’t the “sharpest bastard sword in the PH” plays a character with a high INT? Can he make an int check to see if he comes up with a good plan?
    *sigh* Cursed mental stats…

    1. WJS says:

      Argue that while a fighter’s low INT would mean he’s poor at critical thinking, as a professional soldier tactics and strategy are something that he’s trained for, so he should be better at it than his INT allows. Conspicuously fail to mention that critical thinking is a key component of strategic planning.

  34. Furey says:

    Great Job adding the “Last” button Shamus…saves me lots of time. :)

  35. Sarah says:

    *chuckle* I too was wondering about roll playing vs. role playing! :)

  36. Blindeye says:

    Hey Mike,
    The Intelligence trait should really never be used to stifle your player’s own creativity. The Intelligence ability can be attempted as a guideline for roleplaying, but it’s usually best to leave it as a mechanical system for Skills and Spells.

  37. George says:

    Yeah and the other way around, intelligene in the character shouldnt define intel of the player. The crusader in my current campaign acts like he has an intel of 10 or 11, but the stat is actually 16

  38. RollD20 says:

    Sometimes I laugh at PCs with super-high Int or Wisdom. You’re one of the smartest/wisest people on this continent… and you’re mucking about in the swamp with a bunch of mercs, looking for a bandit camp. Is this really the best use of your time? :D

  39. SimeSublime says:

    @ Mike:
    If your DM is not going to allow your excellent plan due to your character’s low intellegence, but the same logic you should be able to explain it OOC to a friend playing a high Int character, on the basis that with their higher int they would be able to come up with it. Additionally, if your DM would usually award some XP for coming up with a good plan, they should then write in something extra for your character to do in the battle to gain them the XP from the plan.

  40. Angela Christine says:

    Unfortunately, mucking about in a swamp with a bunch of mercs, looking for a bandit camp is the best use of their time, because they level much faster doing “field work” than they would doing anything else. Apparently you learn more about they mysteries of the arcane arts frying giant rats than you would studying in a university. Some typical smartypants things, like scribing scrolls or making potions, cost XP so by practicing their skills they actually become more ignorant. After an intense semester of merging chemistry and magic in Advanced Potions 401, all of the students _and_ the instructor are farther from actually leveling (and learning new things) than they were before they started.

    Meanwhile, the the fellow following the mercs around in his muddy and tattered robes has gained two levels and a pile of gold. Post-Grad work is for suckers!

  41. HypnoticSpecter says:

    On roll vs. role I tend to think of Int and Wis in biological terms; it cuts the mental stats off from the character (and player’s) personality allowing them some room to stretch their character. But I’m a bit of a jerk and love to point out that charisma skills don’t have a mind-affecting attribute, that way it leaves more power in my hands than in the dice.

    Good comic, too! :)

  42. Brackmaar the Siffredian says:

    Man…you’re a genius, your comics just rocks !!! It ranks among the best in that unreachable firmament with stuff like Dork Tower….
    So darn funny and yet so true…keep it going !
    Will there perchance be any Director’s Cut ? ;-)

    You should go for hardcopy release, I’d buy it in the nanosecond !!!

  43. BMGCanuck says:

    Just read the archives up to this point..LOL
    This is the funniest strip ive read in months, you have to publish this when its done, id put it on the shelf right next to my copies of JRR’s.

    Cheers great work!

  44. Tola says:

    Haha, are they always worrying about loot?

    Well, they do have a right to-remember, a certain amount of equipment, of a certain quality, is needed to survive in D+D land. Shades of Diablo and the like, though D+D came first.

    Given what they’re about to get into, it’s doubly damning that they’ve recieved little equipment. Especially given that most of the group is equip-heavy.(1 Fighter, 1 Unknown(What does Legolas COUNT as?), 1 Fighter/Ranger Hybrid.)

  45. Tola says:

    Add ‘As level and challenge increases’ after ‘Survive in D+D land’.

  46. Luke says:

    I noticed people are suggesting to publish the DM of the Rings in some form. I would strongly suggest against that. While I think that what Shamus is doing falls under the parody clause of fair use, I think that publishing these strips in a booklet form that can be sold for profit may be tempting fate. I would hate to see him getting into legal trouble because of this.

    I’m not sure how string New Line Cinema is about this sort of things, but in most cases, the minute you start selling something you are likely to get a C&D letter from lawyers itching to sue your pants off.

    For example, one of my friends got bunch of really nasty C&D letters because she started selling T-Shirts with the logo of her website… Unfortunately, the logo had the word “Farscape” in it, and Henson company didn’t like that.

    I would love to support Shamus and buy a DMotR in a nice booklet, but I don’t think this would be feasible option for this comic because of the copyright concerns.

    1. WJS says:

      It would be quite legal, counting as fair use. However this doesn’t mean that TPTB wouldn’t try to shut him down, and I doubt Shamus would be willing to go to court to fight for his right to sell his work. Sadly, the system is horribly broken, and being legally in the right doesn’t really matter.

  47. Namfoodle says:

    I asked my GM about the apparent contradiction of NPCs not earning any xp for making magic items. I asked him if our party could help out by beating the crap out of the NPCs and then giving up before they die. They would get much xp for single-handedly “defeating” a party of our CR. In return, they would give us a cut of the magic items created with the xp we caused.

    He didn’t go for it. Can’t imagine why, it all makes perfect sense to me! He actually said that NPC item creators get free xp for use with item creation, with no need to adventure. Only PCs have to adventure to get xp and go up levels.

    So unfair.

  48. d'Antarel says:

    I knew they should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque!

  49. Andrul says:

    Our party includes a sorceress with a 28 charisma and many points in diplomacy which should make her the natural leader of the party. Unfortunately the player is chaotic neutral herself and is constantly getting the party into trouble by speaking without consideration. Ex: while talking to a Djinn who had recently been enslaved “Can I have a wish”. Roll for initiative.

  50. Thog son of Grol says:

    Anyone else ever run into the problem of havign the guy with the high charisma score/Diplomacy check try to use it on the rest of the party so as t get thier own way?

  51. Veklim says:

    I have a simple house rule:
    ‘Never play a character with a higher intelligence score than you’
    nuff sed.

  52. Gregg says:

    Thanks to a certain Deck-that-shall-not-be-named, I managed to jump five levels. Although this would normally make me the leader of the group, we have done almost nothing in-game besides adding onto our in-game house we got for free. Oh and laughing at the Half-orc barbarian who was the first to die and the third to die.

  53. Nacata says:

    So, who is the party leader of aragorn legolas and gimli, again?

  54. EvanNave55 says:

    I’ve had problems involving cha. Differentiations too. I play a sorc with 17 cha and was the unofficial party leader in game because I had the highest cha, however all but my character and the cleric (NPC) had died/left and been replaced with other characters several of whome had 20s and 22s for cha. Despite this I remained the leader (I guess I brought them into the quest so it it sort of makes sense?). Now out of character I’m the most experienced and am the one who introduced them to DnD plus it’s held at my house. However I’m quite introverted and several other people are very outspoken.

    So yeah, point behind all this is it often feels very odd to be the leader in our group.

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