DM of the Rings LXXVII:
An Important Distinction

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 19, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 73 comments

One ale or three?

I tried making a classic “gag” strip. It worked! Not only are you getting less jokes, but I’m doing way less work! It’s almost a win-win scenario. Well halfway, anyhow.

I can’t add much to the stuff on sparse loot. The idea has become a sort of zombie joke at this point. It just keeps getting back up, no matter how dead it is. Sooner or later a cleric is going to cast turning on my loot jokes and half of my material will be obliterated in a blinding flash of holy, humorless light.

I suppose the next joke needs to be Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas standing on a corner with a crude cardboard sign, “Will fight Sauron for food.”


From The Archives:

73 thoughts on “DM of the Rings LXXVII:
An Important Distinction

  1. Must … resist… urge to post “FIRST”

    Oh well. Hey, it made me laugh hard. The horrors of a lootless campaign are not soon forgotten.

  2. Zynia says:

    This reminds me of my own players so much my sides still hurt from laughing.

  3. Woerlan says:

    Aragorn should skin the wargs for hide and leather. Horrible smell though.

  4. Will says:

    What’s a real horror show is that most (D&D 3.5) DMs who have the bright idea of a lootless campaign have no conception how much that fraks the entire game. They also tend to discount the statements of their players to that effect.

    While it bothered me that games devolved into ‘is that a gold toilet seat? Rip it out!’, I found a simpler solution was simply to assume they had ‘level standard’ wealth at all times.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Wait … wait … can’t see image … omg … omg …

  6. Rebecca says:

    Now I can see it! Well, that wasn’t really worth the freak-out.

    Still, it’s nice to see Shamus deploy the old double-silent-penultimate panel gag.

  7. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    HAH! gags work for me. ^_^

    Just a side note. Shamus and/or any of his other minions, do you Second Life?

  8. Shamus says:

    Nogard_Codesmith: SL competes against the company I work for, so… not so much. :)

  9. Caius says:

    Long time reader, first time poster…

    I make my PCs roll up their own gold and items according to the listed treasure type (that way it is their own fault for not having any gold). In most situations, this is more fun for them then the role-playing.

  10. Shamus says:

    “Still, it's nice to see Shamus deploy the old double-silent-penultimate panel gag.”

    And then the next strip Aragorn walks in and asks the same question except… I use THREE silent panels before Legolas and Gimli answer together.

    Very avant-guarde stuff, there.


  11. Corwin says:

    Just this past Saturday, I was playing my loot-obsessed rogue and the DM was describing a dwarven altar I’d managed to uncover. My immediate question when he finished talking about its exquisite workmanship was “So it’s probably pretty heavy, right?” He cut me off before I could ask the party tank to try and lift it, explaining it was part of the floor and could not be moved.

  12. Sartorius says:

    I always liked giving out paper treasure – IOUs, letters of credit, bills of exchange, commodities call options certificates, and the like. After all, if monsters loot caravans, they’re certainly going to end up with some of the papers the merchants were carrying with them. Plus, just trying to cash out can be an adventure in itself.

    DM: At the bottom of the small coffer is a folded piece of paper with gilt edges.
    WIZARD: Here, let me see that. I open it and read it.
    DM: It says that the bearer is entitled to purchase fifty bolts of Turmish muslin, first quality, at the factoring-house of the Iron Throne in Scornubel, for two gold pieces per bolt. The seal looks legitimate.
    PCs: …
    WIZARD: What?
    THIEF: My character attempts to figure how much a bolt of silk is worth in Scornubel.
    DM: Your character thinks that, these days, that material would be worth thirty-three gold pieces per bolt.
    FIGHTER: This is useless! Is there any real treasure?
    NPC HENCHMAN (immediately): If you don’t want it, can I have it?

  13. Steve says:

    Wait, what? We had a format change from “Comic Book” to “For Better or Worse”? I didn’t get that memo! What is this, “DM of the Rings Lite”?

    :o) I guess it is a mark of the quality of the work that people demand so much from a hobby strip. I hope Shamus can keep the creative juices flowing in whatever way he can. Er, that didn’t sound right.

    I notice that the dumb rush to post first and announce the fact to the world has been explicitly banned from [another popular D&D themed strip]. What idiot started the fashion on this site? Whoever it was should be snarled in a Blade Barrier, toasted with a couple of Fireballs then roundly Magic Missiled before being Balefully Polymorphed into a frog.

    Oh wait a minute. I think it was me. My bad.

    Aaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhhh! Aieeeeeee! Aieeeeeee! Ow!Ow!Ow!Ow!Ow!


  14. MOM says:

    Your screen shots were a perfect. I could hear their voices. They sounded like Pat and Shamus.

  15. Steve says:

    [Loot-driven Games] I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when your players demand a loot-driven game engine reward them by making dimensionally questionable pokes very rare indeed. Nothing inculcates a genuine appreciation of wealth as the need to carry it to a pawnbroker the hard way.

    “Loot-obsessed rogue”. There’s a definition of “redundant”. :o)

    It occurs to me that you could turn a Bag of Cheesiness into a landmine by stuffing it with suitable submunitions, placing it on the contended ground then shooting it from a distance when the enemy gets close to it. What am I saying? A halfway decent artisan should be able to fabricate a timed device to put a slit into a bag. Said device could be attached to the outside of the bag or the inside (we know time passes in the bag because you can suffocate inside one). An external device could be tripwire-activated like a modern-day Claymore mine is.

    Imagine the effect of a detonating BoH filled with vials of Holy Water on an army of undead. Bruce Campbell-style D&D is only a successful craft clockwork stabby device roll away.

    Steve (I got better)

  16. Steve says:

    [Steven Den Beste] As opposed to a Ronkonkoma.



  17. Tonko says:

    Hee hee hee. I’ve been there.
    When I play games, whether D&D or even WoW there’s always a weird conflict because I like the atmosphere/RP/oooh-isn’t-that-a-nifty-thing part of the experience, but I also want TEH LOOTZ. When my boyfriend was DMing the last game I played in, we scavenged eeeeverything, and checked every nook and cranny for stuff to sell, and then always grumped when the take wasn’t enough to cover whatever fancy magical doo-dad we wanted to save up for. The fancy magical doo-dads being generally inaccessible anyway when we were adventuring, because tiny villages being hassled by [insert monster] don’t make those. Darn logic.
    And the two-panel silence gag cracks me up.

  18. George says:

    hahahaha. My current campaign doesn’t have a huge no battle loot problem, but its usually a weapon or item my sorcerer cant use/doesnt need , except the one time we fought a sorcerer… couple months ago…

    You are all right a loot driven game isn’t what the game is about, but this was a very funny representation of a game that is the opposite. Players always need some form of loot when they kill something to feel satisfied, even if its just the tusk of an elephant.

  19. Susano says:

    I wonder if I should point out that in period a single gold coin would be enough for dinner and drinks for all three….

  20. Steve,

    I’m as irked by the “posting first” craze as anyone else. I was attempting to make a joke because my post, although first, contained a genuine comment about the comic, whereas the posts that annoy me are generally just “first” with no other text.

  21. “What's a real horror show is that most (D&D 3.5) DMs who have the bright idea of a lootless campaign have no conception how much that fraks the entire game. They also tend to discount the statements of their players to that effect.”

    It can be done, but it means you’re screwing the melee fighters at mid- to high-levels. And you’re going to have to ignore CRs, because your group will no longer be as powerful as it should be.

    What I recommend is that, if you want to run a low-loot campaign, you simply incorporate the average wealth into character abilities. Instead of buying magical equipment, the PCs “buy” the abilities they would normally be getting from their equipment. This can either just be part of their character’s natural awesomeness, or it can be something like binding to a chakra point or the like.

    Works pretty well, and shifts the focus away from both gear and treasure.

  22. Jenome says:

    What if you put BoH inside another BoH????

  23. Attorney At Chaos says:

    Even before 3rd edition, I had half a dozen PCs that had taken a Vow Of Poverty in some form or another. The general tradeoff was that the character was allowed to be a level or two higher than others in the campaign. This totally got rid of frustrations about levels of loot. And when 3rd edition and the Book Of Exalted Deeds came out with a defined Vow Of Poverty system, I was quite happy.

    It can also work in the other direction – sometimes you get a DM that hands out so much loot that the abilities of the PCs themselves amount to nothing. The game becomes THE DM SUPER WEAPON vs THE DM SUPER ARMOR and who is wielding the weapon or wearing the armor doesn’t matter. Having a player with a Vow Of Poverty can totally flummox such a DM. ;)

  24. Blindeye says:

    Sartorius, that is by far the most ingenious treasure I’ve ever heard of. I might have to steal that idea from you.

  25. Blindeye says:

    Susano, though you are correct, usually any kind of coinage in a fantasy game can be called ‘gold’ even if it’s only a copper. Or even if it’s platninum, I think everyone by default is going to refer to their coinage as how much gold they have.
    Even if it’s 0.01 gold.

  26. Snowolf says:

    “I always liked giving out paper treasure – IOUs, letters of credit, bills of exchange, commodities call options certificates, and the like. After all, if monsters loot caravans, they're certainly going to end up with some of the papers the merchants were carrying with them. Plus, just trying to cash out can be an adventure in itself.”

    I too, will absolutely be incorporating this concept in my games. I tend to run more L5R than D&D or WhiteWolf these days, and that would fit perfectly! Kudos!

  27. Uri says:

    I found that in a loot lite campaign Weapons of Legacy can come in quite usefull. But don’t have the players come across a stash of conviently each person useful armor and weapons, Have them take there normal starting gear and then have them become Legacy items do to the journey the characters make, I mean average campaign the characters are bound to do a few things of importance or be atleast exposed to enough magic energies that it could happen… right… right… bah yeah I’m right.

  28. nigel says:

    “I suppose the next joke needs to be Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas standing on a corner with a crude cardboard sign, “Will fight Sauron for food.”” lol, i think thats the joke here!

  29. Brian says:

    My players HATE me for this.

    Me: “Congratulations on killing the savage orcish leaders of the Thornback clan! Their reign of tyranny shall-”

    P1: “Search the bodies.”
    P2: “Search the bodies.”
    P3: “Search the bodies.”

    Me: “Er, OK. Player 1, your Sorcerer finds that the burly orc’s armor has a few chinks in it but is otherwise usable, and bears the royal seal of the highly influential Bluebottle Halfling clan to the south. A leather pouch on his side contains five platinum coins.

    Player 2, your Rogue studies the longspear wielded by the scarred orc. It seems inlaid with hideous, undecipherable runes, but a bit of Orcish words written on the hilt proclaim that Gruumish himself has blessed this weapon. The scarred orc’s pockets yield 45 gold pieces.

    Player 3, your Fighter cleaved the orc necromancer in twain, and his blood soaks the bulky pouch he was carrying. Inside reveals a jumbled mess of vials and bottles, some of them scratched but none of them broken. You recognize one as a Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds, but the rest escape your knowledge. At the bottom is a worn, locked book, thankfully untouched by its previous owner’s fluids, and roughly 65 gold pieces in a leather pouch.”

    P1: “…What? Only 50 gold and some stupid armor I can’t use?”
    P2: “…What? Only 45 gold and a stupid spear I can’t use?”
    P3: “…What? Only 65 gold and some magic crap I can’t use?”

    Me: “Surprise! Orcs don’t have crap you can just use out-of-the-box! I’m sure the Bluebottle leader would be extremely grateful for news that his late son’s armor has been found, but probably won’t pay you to take it back. Good luck finding buyers in the peaceful village who want a cursed blade, and have fun trying out strange, unlabeled potions that came from a Necromancer’s pack. Muahahahahaha!”

  30. Julia says:

    In one campaign I played in, ages ago, one of the rogues would check all the dead very thoroughly. After about the third time, the DM let him shorten the whole list to, “Check all orifices.” (And even though that was his SOP, he had to specify it. And when someone else took over his character for a session, when it got to that point, everyone chanted it in unison. Whee!)

  31. Thomas says:

    You know zombie jokes might not be a bad idea. Keep up the good work sir

  32. Namfoodle says:

    With all of the books that WotC is churning out, there might be more feats available than magic items in 3.5 at this point. You could sort of combine Justin and Uri’s ideas and pass out feats like candy. Link the new feats to the character’s accomplishments, or the plot, whatever. So instead of the characters scrounging for magic items and gold to spend at ye olde local item shoppe, they just keep customizing their character. It would be kind of like Iron Heroes. (I have the book, but I haven’t been able to play yet).

  33. Kevin says:

    My gaming group was complaining that I didn’t give out enough money…so I started to….

    *rolls on the standard treasure tables…* 200 Gold…OK, now to have fun….

    33% was in copper.
    33% was in silver.
    22% was in gold.
    11% was in plat.

    Sure, they got their gold…if they could carry it out.

    So what did they do? Bury the stuff they didn’t want to carry and then sold authentic treasure maps when they got back to town. *shrug* Worked for me…except no one really would buy them at “guaranteed to find X coppers” prices. So they lost money.

    Why the variation? Dig out the coins in your pocket. What’s the breakdown? ;)

    Yeah, I can be evil.



  34. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    heh… sorry Shamus, didn’t mean to plug your competition. I figured with SL’s total lack of customer service and 3 year old bugs that they didn’t really “compete” with anyone.

    What company do you work for if you don’t mind my asking?

  35. Fernmonkey says:

    I don’t care about the first post, I just want that natural 20.

  36. Shamus says:

    I work for Activeworlds. It’s almost unheard of, despite the fact that the main universe has been running since 1995. It is not everything I wish it was, but it’s a good gig and I work with some wonderful people. Also in competition with SL: IMVU, There, and a bunch of lesser “virtual chat” contenders.

  37. ravells says:

    I liked the interruption bubble…never seen one of those before


  38. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    I am familiar with AW, just never got into it since i had friends in SL when i joined. Maybe I’ll give it another look since SL is rapidly going down the virtual toilet.

  39. Alia says:

    Yeah. We just had that occur. Raided a giant dungon. Walked out with 150 gold EACH. We are halfway to level 4 and can’t afford squat. Some I blame on the adventure pack (as the DM puts it “Either you get lots of treasure or you get one) and some on the DM (cause he could always make sure we got more).

  40. Thenodrin says:

    Loot-less campaigns can work, if the story is interesting and the players interest is engaged.

    I suspect that the players of this particular campaign wouldn’t be so focused on looting bodies if they could get satisfaction out of other things. Things like providing direction for the campaign.

    The Living Death campaign, for example, very rarely supplied loot to the PCs. But, in ten years I think that only one player (out of around 500) objected to that aspect of the campaign format.


  41. George says:

    20 Susano Says:
    I wonder if I should point out that in period a single gold coin would be enough for dinner and drinks for all three….

    My reply:
    maybe horribly made ale, we all know when adventueres are seen approaching a town all the prices increase 10 fold, as seen by episode 122 of OOTS

    34 Kevin
    Giving the group money in copper and silver isnt a problem if you have a sorc with shrink item and a large container to keep them in.

  42. Quicksilver says:

    This joke IS pretty funny, but I prefer it when the players upset the DM with their greed, quotations or general commenting on the insanity that makes up a fantasy world. Anger, rage, frustration and despairing about the state of the campaign is always funny…

    when it happens to someone else. (See what I did there? AVANT GARDE!)

  43. Skwyd says:

    Can I just say that this is the first time I’ve posted here?

    Just read the entire archive today…super funny. I look forward to more updates!

    On the topic of loot-low games, I’m currently playing in a “low-magic, high-cash” campaign. At least this is how two of the four players asked the campaign to be. So we were given huge sums of cash. Huge. No, bigger than that.

    At around 6th or 7th level, it became difficult for us to face off against most monsters of our “appropriate” CR because our weapons and armour couldn’t keep up.

    Then, our wizard and cleric, with the appropriate cash and item creation feats, proceeded to make a massive amount of scrolls and wands. They bought potions and other expendable magic items. Essentially, this turned it into a “normal-magic, normal-cash” campaign.

    So, it is a difficult task, at best, for a GM to run a game that doesn’t conform to the “typical” balance of loot. At least, in my experience it is difficult. But I think that if a GM does accomplish this, it is probably a pretty good game.

  44. Da Penguin says:

    I want “will fight Sauron for food” on a t-shirt.
    For me, that was the real joke.

  45. eccles says:

    I want “will fight Sauron for food” on a t-shirt.
    for true nerdiness, you should put it in some of the elven scripts as well, under the english :>

  46. Carl the Bold says:

    I concur on the “Will Fight Sauron…” Tee. Though it may infuriate you to know it, Shamus, my two favorite moments from DMotR don’t occur in the strips.

    1) “Right! I can’t let you in to see the king while we, or anyone else, is armed!” and now,
    2) “Will fight Sauron for food.”

    (Now let’s just hope that my requoting parody of a MP line doesn’t start a whole new slew of quotes in the rest of the comments below.)

  47. Just wanted to briefly weigh in on the concept of loot-driven/non-loot games. It is absolutely true that D&D “breaks” if you don’t adjust for the PCs not getting standard loot during their experiences.

    However, it is entirely possible to run a game that is driven by other goals and is not dependent on the acquisition of money and items. I’ve been running my Shaintar campaign, Raven’s Quest, for well over a year now, and the characters have never really even known how much money they specifically have. Just like actually happened in the LOTR trilogy movies, there was always enough coin for basic needs, and special items cropped up strictly as the story demanded.

    It does help, of course, to use a set of rules where magical items do not dominate the game play, where player assets can be measured in terms of natural skills and abilities as equivalent or better.

  48. Scarlet Knight says:

    Uh, Brian, did any of your players figure out that they could trade stuff?
    Wizard: “What am I going to do with this armor?”
    Fighter: “Hey, I’ll trade you these potions for it!”
    Wizard: “Sure, where are they?”
    Foghter:”Right here in my pa…”
    Rogue:”Don’t look at me!”

  49. Four Color says:

    Does anyone else notice how the party consistency matches that of the video game Gauntlet? So, how about it, DMotR? Got any Gauntlet jokes up your sleeve?

    Love the strip!

  50. Steve says:

    Crusader Corim Says:


    I'm as irked by the “posting first” craze as anyone else.

    I’m not irked by it. I thought your version was funny. I am amused that the practice irked the organisers of Large Person in the Recess Yard so much they added it to their List O’ Things That’ll Earn You A Draconian Punishment.

  51. DN says:

    Hrm. I can’t get this one’s image to show. Anyone know how to fix that?

  52. Dannerman says:

    Jenome, (“heeey!
    What if you put BoH inside another BoH????”)

    When you do that the BoH’s magic is disrupted and both bags are destroyed in a massive anti-magic explosion which creates an interdimensional rift which sucks in the characters and leaves them in a strange dimension from which they must somehow engineer an escape whilst battling both with bizarre cthulhu-esque horrors and a law of physics which doesn’t quite make sense.

    (Well, that’s what I’d have it do if my players were ever dumb enough to try that…)

  53. Miral says:

    Actually I remember reading something about almost exactly that (at least both bags being destroyed and their contents lost, along with an explosion. I don’t think the rift came into it, though) in an official sourcebook. Somewhere.

  54. wtrmute says:

    There is a rift to the Astral, actually. Quoting the SRD:

    “If a bag of holding is placed within a portable hole, a rift to the Astral Plane is torn in that place. Both the bag and the cloth are sucked into the void and forever lost. If a portable hole is placed within a bag of holding, it opens a gate to the Astral Plane. The hole, the bag, and any creatures within a 10-foot radius are drawn there, the portable hole and bag of holding being destroyed in the process.”

    There are actually no rules stating what happens if you place a bag of holding inside another bag of holding, though.

  55. Blindeye says:

    wtrmute, I’m sure it would result in a similar scenario.

  56. adam. says:

    nah, I think you just get a bag of holding in a bag of holding.

  57. Proteus says:

    I really, *really* want to see that “Will fight Sauron for food” sign. The characters just stand there, holding the sign, not saying a word as the GM rants on about how they’re not role-playing properly… comedy gold.

  58. chunkstyle says:

    #50: Four Color,

    Legolas shot the food!

  59. Windblade says:

    The joke was good, and it reminded me of a classic RP line from PVP:

    ‘Despite my armour and weapons being in need of desperat repair, I spend the reward money on ale and whores.’

  60. Lug says:

    In period? What period are you referring too?
    The Third Age? Tolkien didn’t write down too many prices lists IIRC…

  61. Minanonn says:

    wtrmute wrote “If a portable hole is placed within a bag of holding, it opens a gate to the Astral Plane. The hole, the bag, and any creatures within a 10-foot radius are drawn there, the portable hole and bag of holding being destroyed in the process.”

    Yep, have had a party member do this in a game. Hey, sometimes you need to escape _really_ quickly :)

    Now, where did we leave that “Gate” scroll…..

  62. DM with little pink bunnies says:

    If I recall correctly, the ‘Bag of Holding within a Bag of Holding’ question was addressed in the Sage Advice column in an early Dragon Magazine (early ’80s?). The suggested solution was that the magic cancels, and that the only extra space that is gained would be enough for a ring-sized object.

    I’ll bet my boss would be really impressed if I could remember JOB related tidbits like this. But, alas, no D&D at work.

  63. TheDeepDark says:

    Steve: Post 13 was awesome. Thank you very much for accepting just punishment for your prior actions (Still undecided how I feel about your “got better” but time will tell)

  64. Cynder says:

    I think they need to rename Legolas’s name as ‘Luckless’. Poor kids.

  65. Mina says:

    LOL, ‘will fight Sauron for food” Man, I LOVE you! One of these days I’ll have to find someone to illustrate that for you. It’s too funny NOT to.

  66. Robin says:

    In my first D&D tournament (Tacticon II, in the 70s), after our party defeated a balrog and looted the room, I said, “… and my thief picks up his whip”.

    Turns out the two coppers that whip was worth lifted us past one other team into first place.

    Years later, I bumped into somebody who told me the story of how he had lost a D&D tourney because the other team had stolen a whip.

  67. Serenity Bane says:

    Very good for a gag strip. Totally funny too!

  68. caradoc says:

    The key, I think, is being able to extract the loot from the party at the same rate that they accumulate it. NPCs require bribes. Thieves and con men move in on the action. Items get damaged in transit.

    The fun is more in the getting than in the having.

  69. Grom says:

    This strip had me rolling. Just the two middle strips there, waiting for the punch line. Perfect! Goes in my top five.

    This is great stuff Shamus, just sorry I found it so late.

  70. spiralofhope says:

    *the ring is destroyed*

    “I search the lava for loot”
    *what? it’s lava*

    “well cmon there’s got to be something, it’s a boss’ place.”
    *no, it’s lava*

    “Can we at least skim the gold off the lava?”

    1. WJS says:

      Skim the gold off the lava? Like you expect it to float or something? Gold is one of the heaviest elements there is, with almost twice the density of lead, and over 6 times the density of rock. You put gold in lava, it’s going straight to the bottom.

  71. Nacata says:

    I laughed so much that i gave miself hiccups!

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