DM of the Rings LXXXI:
Let’s Get Rolling

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Mar 28, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 179 comments

Gimli has nothing to do.

Sometimes initiative is a little odd.


From The Archives:

179 thoughts on “DM of the Rings LXXXI:
Let’s Get Rolling

  1. Shamus says:

    Blast it. “Inititive” In panel 1.

    Dang dang. I’ll fix it when time allows.

    1. Zedolor says:

      heh, nearly 3 years :)

      1. Motenai Ronin says:

        Nice to see I’m not alone.

        1. Shamassu says:

          Right here with you guys XD

          1. Ferretsnarf says:

            Me too! (my third time reading through this)

            1. johanna says:

              This time warp must mean something… Spot check!!

              1. Aldowyn says:

                Just now reading them for the first time, they’re hilarious. And I’m incredibly surprised that there’s a comment that me commenting on ISN’T a SUPER-necro. Like, years afterward. Actually, that’d be kind of funny…

                1. Machdude says:

                  Believe me, I was holding back on commenting for years after this. Brave lads that do that deserve a medal for restarting convos.

                  1. SirR4T says:

                    Just wanted to say it is now Feb 28, 2013 in the Real World. One month more, and it will have been six years to the date of posting the comic.

                    And I expect this to website to last many more years, providing much needed relief and merriment to all the weary souls trudging through this world, seeking the warmth of a tavern hearth on a wintry night. Never you mind the spelling mistakes on the name plate outside, fellow traveler. For once inside, do they not only add to your chuckle, started by the promise of sweet spiced wine and soft beds?

                    (OMFG. Have I just stepped into the Hotel California of RPGs?)

                    First post, only recently started reading it, and already pained at the prospect of having to end reading this series, since it is complete. Absolute Awesomeness, Mr. Young.

                    Or would you rather I call you DM Dude? your fan, eitherways.

                    Standing Ovation

                    1. Billos says:

                      Only just found this a couple hours ago myself…

                      I’ve never played D&D (yet), and I don’t like the LotR movies all that much. But this comic is quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a LOT of comics :)

                      If the author ever reads this, great job mate. Bloody awesome. I would say keep up the good work but considering this was posted so long ago and is still up I’ll presume you got some kind of recognition that you so clearly deserve.

                      Anyway, best of luck with everything :D

                    2. GadgetMan says:

                      Yet another year.

                      I so love this comic. Shamus is awesome!

                    3. Gemma says:

                      From here (now?) it’s been over seven years and four months, and ‘inititive’ is still there.

                      First readthrough for me, and it is already a favorite!

                    4. EvanNave55 says:

                      It is now 2015 and still no correction. I’m starting to think this is the real joke!

                      Also I’m kind of sad I there’s a limit on how many posts deep it can go, I wanted to make it even longer by replying to the above post.

                    5. Coldyham says:

                      It’s still here, and providing as much laughter as it did 8 years ago to a first time reader. Makes me realise how old 3.5 ed is that 5th has come out (still play 3.5 though, as a 17yo DM on a budget I picked the books with the coolest covers)

                    6. Bubble181 says:

                      Nine and a half years; rereading for the I-don’t-knowth time. Initities are still there. I they’re there to stay, really.

                    7. Due to all the comments about necro etcetera I felt the need to finally post. 1 day away from May 2018 and I read this regularly for hours on end.

                      As well as dipping into Darths and Droids and Order of the Stick. But I find the comments on here can be almost as funny(and occasionally funnier) as the comic itself.

                    8. Matthew Downie says:

                      Twelve years have passed. It is now time to accept ‘inititive’ as an acceptable variant spelling.

                  2. JohnnytheXXXIV says:

                    As 2017 approaches in the wake of a global catastrophe of a year, I take solace in the fact that I am not the only new reader of this magnificent webcomic. May it continue to bring laughs to everyone in the years to come!

                    1. Nerdius Maximus says:

                      Still going strong! Love this.

                    2. Léonard says:

                      I am now officially from the distance future. Inititive shall be added to dictionaries post hast!

                2. Hoolygan says:

                  I’m also a comment zombie reading through this for the 1st time. Wonderful stuff!

                3. Inyssius says:

                  I am mightily amused by this little convergence. Hello, Hoolygan!

                  (If you like this, you should also try Darths & Droids. It is also very good.)

                4. Tahaufren says:

                  Fourth time reading through this for me, I just cannot get enough XD This entire line is genius.

                5. Blas de Lezo says:

                  Well yes, and what. The strip is still awesome years later!!

                  BTW, keep thinking what I told you about DMing Willow or DMing Conan!

                6. First time for me! :D

                  1. hhhhaggis says:

                    Over 4 years, and no action taken to correct the spelling.

                    1. V2Blast says:

                      I’ve been reading from the beginning… I only started a day ago :P

                    2. Sam says:

                      SO GOOD! I laugh so hard every time. I really wish I could be part of a Shamus campaign

                    3. Rowan says:

                      Reading it for the third time. It makes much more sense now that I’m immersed in “that” world.

                    4. Irridium says:

                      4th time through here.

                      This comic is comedy gold.

                    5. MRG says:

                      Re-reading it for my 5th time and still here =p

                    6. Steve says:

                      …He says more than a year ago.

                    7. Wewec says:

                      Fourth time I read this and yet I just noticed this train of comments. It’s beautiful, really.

                    8. BlueCanary says:

                      May I just say that, although the misspelling has not yet been corrected six years later, at least the author is aware of the error. Or WAS aware of the error. I imagine something must have come up.

                      Ah, who cares? I love this webcomic! Love love love it! :D I hope it goes even more viral than it has already gone.

                    9. EvanNave55 says:

                      First time read through, it is now 2015 and still no correction. I'm starting to think this is the real joke!

                      Also I'm kind of sad I there's a limit on how many posts deep it can go, I wanted to make it even longer by replying to the above post.

    2. (The Paradox Reopens) Fat Tony says:

      crazy Reply feed is trippy if you add lag-drag

    3. smiley dude says:

      merry christmas!!!

      1. ZAP says:

        And a Happy New Year! First time I’m reading through this. Awesome…just awesome.

        1. Ferretsnarf says:

          1 year later, I am reading it again!

          1. Yog-Sothoth says:

            Hello from the future!

            1. Anonymous Person says:

              And hello from even further. I wonder who will end up replying to me. And the typo remains.

              1. Anon says:

                Yup, typo’s still here in early 2017.

    4. Arlborn says:

      Reading for the first time in the past couple of days, this is wonderful, I laugh soooo hard haha! Shame it is over…

    5. Katmai says:

      Closing on eight years here….

    6. VeryPeeved says:

      9 years later…

    7. Nazrezim says:

      Still waiting for that correction.
      Also still reading this after more than a decade later.

    8. William Ethier says:

      Hello Shamus? It’s a message from the future.

  2. Hanov3r says:

    “Melee”, not “meele” in panel 2.

    Great comic once again, though. :-)

    1. smartalek says:

      There will come a time when all webcomix come with spellcheck.
      And curlyfries.

  3. Gropos says:

    I feel that way all the time :(

  4. Rolld20 says:

    Dearest sir, there is a spelling error in your webcomic. This has caused me immesurable discomfort, and prevented me from freely enjoying your website’s content.
    I shall, of course, be suing you. My lawyers shall contact you shortly.

    Yours with warmest regards,

    Have a nice day. ;)

  5. Shamus says:

    Wow. So current count is 5 typos in the last two comics. I really need a comic maker with a spell checker.

    Or maybe I should take a couple of ranks in literacy.

  6. xargon says:

    A fair DM rolls seperate initiative for all 10,000 orcs, right?

  7. AJ says:

    Of course you know, this means war!

    Ok, pithy and not at all funny, but someone had to say it. I love those moments in games where you finally, after years of rolling poorly, get to go first, only to find out there’s absolutely nothing you can do.

    I usually make something up along the lines of “I ready my weapons” or “I check my shoelaces”, or when feeling particularly munchin-esque, “I try to inspire a +1 modifier in the archers by bellowing a war-cry”.

    Yeah…good times…

  8. Browncoat says:

    I’d be happy to proofread your comics before you release them to the public! (The earlier I can see them, the better!)

    BTW, great shot of Gimli asking for a lift on the MP Moratorium.

  9. Fickle says:

    *snickers* The idea of GIMLI going crowd-surfing just made me laugh out loud in a library. If I get kicked out, I’m blaming you. XD

  10. George says:

    yeah he rolls initiative for 10,000 orcs 300 men, the king, and the some 300 elven arches that showed up.

    I play a socerer, so winning initiative is always good, its never any fun when what you fight is in the air or far away and all you have is melee weapons.

    As for the spelling, i don’t mind the errors, just double check before you post. I’ve only caught one grammatical error on all of OOTS,

    don’t start slipping on us now shamus

  11. Robert says:

    “OK, 1000 orcs fire their arrows at you, Gimli…your AC is 19, and their attack adjustment is +3…ok (roll roll roll roll roll roll roll), that’s 203 arrow hits… (roll roll roll roll roll)…ok, you take 721 hit points of damage. Actions for next round?”

  12. Charles says:

    This happens to me every time, even in my own game. I win initiative over and over until I’m actually able to attack somebody, then I drop to the bottom of the list.

  13. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Hurry up, then stand and wait”. Ah,life in the military!

  14. superfluousk says:

    Well, if you have initiative first, can’t you choose to hold onto it and wait for other people to go, and then jump in and exert the right to take your action at any time? That’s a pretty useful bonus even if you don’t get first action in the battle.

  15. Doom Chicken says:

    Great comic…that’s happened to me plenty of times.

    Always carry a ranged weapon.

  16. General Ghoul says:

    superfluousk Says:”Well, if you have initiative first, can't you choose to hold onto it and wait for other people to go, and then jump in and exert the right to take your action at any time? That's a pretty useful bonus even if you don't get first action in the battle.”

    Yeah like ready his battle axe to throw at any unusual looking orc charging with any device out of a Spy Vs. Spy comic.

  17. Lupine36 says:

    how true.

    I’ve had a player (half-orc Barb who would always role last in Inititive roles unless he couldn’t do anything.

  18. Steve says:

    xargon Says:

    A fair DM rolls seperate initiative for all 10,000 orcs, right?

    Although rolling 10,000 initiatives sounds daunting, after rolling 10,000 sets of stats, allocating them, leveling-up 10,000 orcs, allocating skills and feats and equiping them out it is a trivial task, almost enjoyable.

    The bad part is the endless arguing over how initiative ties are resolved with players who can’t remember a rule for two consecutive rolls and those who dumped their DEX without working out all the ramifications, all done over the endless cries of the dimwit yelling “I Cleave!” every three seconds.

    You’d need a big initiative whiteboard and a bunch of pens though. Best to choose the non-solvent-based kind too, lest the cast pass out during the pre-battle sums.


    1. WJS says:

      If you use a computer to aid your games, it’s trivially easy to write a program to roll up huge numbers of initiative values and display a convenient chart.

      …Hmm, I don’t know if this comment thing will support list tags. Better do it manually.

      1: Gimli
      2: 435 orcs
      3: Legolas
      4: 1935 orcs

      Not that it’s a good idea to try and run such a fight even with computer aid unless you want to see Robert up aboves scenario happen.

  19. Katy says:

    Oh man, I so hated when I was a melee fighter standing behind everyone and won Initiative. Had to use my round to get in front. -_-

  20. Tess says:

    A corollary on Murphy’s law: The chances of rolling a natural 20 is inversely proportional to the importance of the outcome of the roll.

  21. The Gneech says:

    He could toss himself!

    -The Gneech

  22. Presence says:

    [quote] George Says:
    March 28th, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    yeah he rolls initiative for 10,000 orcs 300 men, the king, and the some 300 elven arches that showed up.

    I play a socerer, so winning initiative is always good, its never any fun when what you fight is in the air or far away and all you have is melee weapons.

    As for the spelling, i don't mind the errors, just double check before you post. I've only caught one grammatical error on all of OOTS,

    don't start slipping on us now shamus

    What the hell is a socerer?

    Hahah! Judging someones spelling and grammar, and then having that in your text! Where the hell is most of your punctuation!


  23. Thad says:

    Aside from the jokes, would the best way to play this be a mass battle system? Or would it be “there is combat all around you, and your party faces 2d6 orcs”?

    1. WJS says:

      Probably best to treat the battle like a backdrop, and focus on the PCs. Much like the film, actually. The PCs then get a bunch of chances to affect the course of the battle; in this case, they can try to delay the orcs from taking the wall, then hold them off while the NPCs fall back to the keep. After that they distract the orcs while the gate is braced. These were the major events in the film, and this is exactly what the game should focus on. There’s very little point taking the time to roll for a random mook orc attacking a random mook defender, stick with the ones attacking the PCs.

  24. Will says:

    So what you do, then, is ready to attack any baddie that comes within melee range. You still go before your enemy, your initiative is adjusted to come just before said enemy for future rounds, and you’re a happy dwarf. :)

  25. -Chipper says:

    I seem to remember that old, Rohanian archer won initiative.

    Actually, I’ll watch that part of the film now w/ a smile thinking that all the thousands were waiting for the initiative roll & he just didn’t & let fly! “Bad form, what?” calls out the Uruk Hai captain.

    That part (among man others, though I do still love the films) of Two Towers made me shake my head. Why would the orcs stop in bow-shot range before charging? And why wouldn’t the rest of the defenders take adavantage & shoot a bunch more?

    1. WJS says:

      Well, IIRC the orcs were beating their shields to demoralise the enemy. Historical warriors would sometimes do the same thing. As for why they did it in archery range, they outnumbered the men by dozens of times, and I guess it was their way of showing utter contempt for them.

  26. Blindeye says:

    An interesting scenario:
    Our group of 4 level 13s walk into a courtyard. There are 30 soldiers in front of us with swords and shields, and 20 on the walls with bows and arrows.

    Initiative is rolled and the team’s Warforged Monk goes first. It feels a bit silly to charge in, but he goes “whatever” and does it. He charges right into the first line of troups, getting all of their attention. On the next round, 15 of the soldiers tried to pile aroudn him while the rest attacked us.

    He actually ended up dividing their melee troups in half. He never once took a hit, and had the biggest kill count of us all.

    There’s a situation where winning initiative in a similar situation as today’s actually helped.

    If we faced 10,000 soldiers I’m sure things would have been different, though.

    All I can say to that, since my character is a mage is: CHAIN LIGHTNING!

    1. WJS says:

      …Which hits a maximum of 20 men, even at level 20. No, you want AoE spells for maximum effect. At low levels, fireball will kill hundreds of orcs in dense formation, and wall of fire will block an area for as long as you concentrate. Summon swarm deserves a mention for being “concentration” duration too, although they won’t kill many orcs very fast. Should really mess up formations though.
      At higher levels, you have access to larger numbers of the lower level spells plus a few more goodies. Cloudkill has the same area as a fireball, but hangs around for many minutes killing any who enter it. Symbols of sleep, persuasion, weakness and insanity, although non-lethal, can affect over a thousand orcs in the first burst alone, are uncapped, and hang around for over an hour.
      At really high levels, your caster can easily defeat the army single-handed. A cleric’s Holy Word spell should kill over a thousand orcs outright. Fire Storm can kill up to a thousand at a distance, and the AoE on Storm of Vengeance is so large it can easily wipe out the entire army in one go (Plus your side too if you forget to send them inside first).
      On the wizard side, Incendiary Cloud is similar to Cloudkill but you can reposition it each round, and Sunburst and Meteor Swarm can each affect up to 5000 orcs in dense formation. Of course, by this point we’re talking about a guy near the level cap, so it’s not really surprising.

  27. Skeeve the Impossible says:

    Am I the only one that noticed that the DM’s response to the request for Monty Python quotes, WAS a Monty Python quote.
    And to Blindeye YAAAAAY Warforged. Probably my fav. type of character in the Ebberon series.

  28. Wyrm says:

    Thats awesomes. :)

    I found your comic the other day from a link form the wotc boards.. i’m loving it! Its all so true.. haha, i can place my group in there in so many comics..!

  29. I don’t know if “I won’t” really counts as a direct quote :p

    and woooo!!!

    First comment!

    Love the comic BTW ;)

    Best use of the LOTR movies I have seen yet, including the actual movies :p

  30. The Pancakes says:

    Initiative would be the least of your Dungeon Mastering worries in this kind of DnD scenario. You could roll once and then adjust that number according to the initiative bonuses of your monsters. Or you could have a computer do it. Computers love to count to 1 from 0, but they can do it really fast.

    The biggest issue is that if you end up with a level difference of 6 or more between opponents, you may as well not fight the battle. Gimli is a fairly powerful hero, likely 10th level but possibly higher. Orcs in DnD are rated at CR1/2. Uruk Hai are likely CR1 and maybe CR2. Commanders may have up to 5 levels of warrior on top of their challenge rating adjustment. Translating all of this out of DnD-cant and back to Common: Gimli the 10th level DnD dwarf fighter could theoretically take out the Host of Mordor by himself, slowing only because he would have to hit some of the Uruk-Hai commanders twice before they died. In DnD, if the entire Fellowship focused on the Host the saga could be re-written as a 12-page short story.

    Now all this is pure speculation on my part. I’ve seen the Fellowship a few times, read the books and run a DnD game or two over the past 30 years, so I know some things, but we’re talking about the difference between a movie and an Pencil-and-Paper RPG. Any attempt to convert one to the other is going to be a best-guess on the part of the converter. Maybe Gimli is only 4th level and the Uruk Hai are all 9th level warriors, but I doubt it.

    I don’t think you could do a faithful reproduction of the Lord of the Rings in a DnD campaign. I think that’s part of the reason I find your comic so amusing, Shamus. It humorously points out the many places DnD falls short in delivering on its high-adventure fantasy gaming promise while simultaneously poking fun at the stories that led directly to its creation, the Lord of the Rings saga.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. WJS says:

      You are kidding, right? Each orc is going to get at least one attack before they die, and will hit on a 20, maybe less. Against 10000 orcs, that’s at least 500 hits, or thousands of points of damage. The only way you’re going to survive that is enough DR so they can’t hurt you at all, and Middle-Earth is a low magic setting.

      1. EvanNave55 says:

        See, this is (kind of) why I don’t like (nor play with) auto hit on 20. I think rolling a natural 20 followed by a natural 100 on a % die could work though. Similar for natural 1s, however as blunders would be more common than utter lack of skill hitting a mega tank I think I’d make it 1 followed by another natural 1.

  31. Vegedus says:

    I almost always love winning initiative with my current char. See, he’s a level 8 Paladin, and has personality that makes him take every possible chance to jump in front of the rest of the party and be the meatshield. It creates plenty of trouble, but hey, that’s the way of the Lawful Good… Or something.

  32. Varen Tai says:

    Actually, in the old LotR roleplaying game, orcs could level up exactly like the PCs, so you face orc chieftans who might be 15th-20th level. Yeah, most of them are 1st level grunts, but there were plenty of the tougher fellows, too.

  33. Steve says:

    Presence Says:

    What the hell is a socerer?

    Hahah! Judging someones spelling and grammar, and then having that in your text! Where the hell is most of your punctuation!


    Imagine judging someone’s punctuation without doing it right yourself.



  34. Shamus says:

    Geeze peolpe, cutt each oter some slack on thes pelling and grammer its not leik yuo can’t edit yours com ment afters you the “submit buttun!

    I’m just sayin’.

    1. BlueCanary says:

      Feel the burn, guys! Feel the burn.

  35. Ben Finkel says:

    Will the sarcasm arms race continue? WILL THERE BE A SECOND COLD WAR?!?

    Time will tell… so tune in in a couple minutes!


  36. Web Goddess says:

    In my experience, the DM is God. Therefor, it’s the English language that has failed the DM.

  37. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    ignoring the language lessons, i have to wonder… if he did roll init for 10,000 orcs what are the odds that a PC actaully ended up first? I think the GM is fudging!

    1. Robin says:

      Actually, about 1,667 orcs rolled a 6 on their initiative, and went first. Being melee fighters, they did nothing, just like Gimli.

      But being NPCs, they didn’t waste time complaining about it.

  38. Woerlan says:

    DM: Okay Gimli, you won initiative. Actions?
    Gimli: I COWER!
    DM: …
    Gimli: Fine! (ahem) I cower… BRAVELY!

    On a more serious note, Gimli only managed to do something useful when the wall finally got breached. Dwarven fighters on human walls are there to repel siege ladders and towers.

    And yes, taken strictly, it’s difficult to simulate realistic battle conditions using d20. It’s not impossible, but it takes work. Especially since standard d20 doesn’t have rules for battle-fatigue and being overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

    1. BlueCanary says:

      Brave, brave Sir Gimli
      Sir Gimli, brave was he…

  39. Rickster says:

    You should of let Gimili taunt go into Monty Python mode. I reckon it would of been hilarious imagining him standing at the wall of Helm’s Deep, shouting in a french accent and taunting the orcs!

    1. Robin says:

      I do *not* want to hear a player’s idea of a French / Dwarvish accent.

  40. EmeraldTiara says:

    I say he throws Legolas down on the orcs. Hey, you never know.

  41. The Heroes of Battle supplement is good. Not great, but good. Gives a fair amount of flavor for ways that the PCs can interact with and affect a battle, and also gives good rules for PCs as commanders of squadrons of the army. But there’s no perfect solution; D&D just isn’t a wargame despite its ancestry.

    Doesn’t the “Gimli runs wipes out the host of Mordor” argument always run into the “5% of all rolls are natural 20s, and no one survives 100 arrow hits” objection? A high-level party with spellcasters and such might be able to wipe out an army of thousands if they convenientlhy line up, but one fighter or even a grup of fighters can’t. The only chance is to close to melee range immediately (so you’re never faced with 10000 archers), win initiative, and always be able to Cleave your way through every enemy within range before they can move. Still won’t work if the bad guys remember that they can Charge…

  42. I remember reading that when they animated this battle, it was impossible for them to manually animate all the orcs, so they wrote an AI to take care of it. Problem was, the orcs kept routing. At a certain point the AI started screaming “Run away! Run away!” They had to change the AI algorithm to prevent that so that the orcs would stay and let themselves be slaughtered.

    On a different point, a well-designed medieval fortification is an unbelievable force multiplier. During the crusades, there was a Crusader fort in Lebanon which stood against siege for years with only a few dozen defenders.

  43. Long time fan, first time poster says:

    One thing I’ve realized is that a big horde of low level warriors could challenge any level to some degree. They’re not just going to stand around a high level PC and make an attack, just look at Amon Hen, Aragorn literally has to punch and struggle out of grapples. I usually have the first half-dozen/dozen orcs try to grapple a single PC, the next half-dozen/dozen attack, the next half-dozen/dozen overrun and etc. Plus if none of this works there is tripping, sundering and many other means of putting even a high level character in check.

    A single PC of high level might cut down quite a few enemies but he alone is not going to cut down an army since mostly it can just plow right past him and hold him at bay while the rest of the army fights the rest of the other army.

  44. Laithoron says:

    Woerlan Says:
    And yes, taken strictly, it's difficult to simulate realistic battle conditions using d20. It's not impossible, but it takes work. Especially since standard d20 doesn't have rules for battle-fatigue and being overwhelmed by sheer numbers.


    First off, where pray-tell, is the reply-to or quote function on here?

    Secondly, while D&D doesn’t have a combat-weariness system (fatigue in the Wound Point variant is from taking damage, not the act of fighting) I would say that there are indeed rules for overbearing: The Aid Another Action.

    There’s 8 squares adjacent to a medium-sized player character and (with reach weapons) another 16 outside of that. The enemy delays their actions to ready-up and charge as one, with half of them using their +2 bonuses to increase the AC of the monster with the best grapple modifier (preventing a great cleave from wiping them out) and the other half using their +2 bonuses to improve the lead grappler’s attack bonus. Most of the enemy will be capable of hitting AC 10 (don’t forget the attack bonuses for flanking and charging) so that’s a pretty hefty bonus to both surviving any AoOs and also to pulling down Mr. Conan over there.

    Even thru attrition, with enough enemies coordinating on the Aid Another actions, the warrior will get scratched up and when the finally need to pop a potion that’s a whole world of AoOs on their hide. With enough numbers even low-CR enemies can pose a serious threat “” just consider rush-hour traffic. ;)

  45. Telas says:

    To all you D&D-haters out there…

    Assist Other – Hit AC10 to give your buddy either a +2 to Attack or AC.

    Let’s see… There are eight spaces around a character, if we’re not assuming any reach weapons. Four attacks at +4 (Flank + Assist) are already looking good. Double up, and it’s two attacks at +8 for those really hard to reach places.

    Did somene say “reach”? Assume reach weapons, and you can have up to 24 attackers for each target… That’s eight attacks at +2 and four at +4. Or really max it out for four attacks at +12 (Flank and five assists each).


  46. Rattastic says:

    I always laugh at my warrior players when they don’t bother taking a ranged weapon of any kind. This situation is precisely why lol. Even when you take a penalty to hit … 10,000!! It’s like firing into a lake and expecting to hit … air? duh!

    I’ve seen many references to DnD and other popular D20 systems concerning mass combat (yes i realize the idea is based on DnD). For something like this I’d try to convert from the Roll/Keep system AEG uses. Much faster and easier. Not to mention the rediculous amounts of rediculousness you can get your players into. Gimli wants to surf? Go for it!

  47. George says:

    Presence Says:

    What the hell is a socerer?

    Hahah! Judging someones spelling and grammar, and then having that in your text! Where the hell is most of your punctuation!

    this isn’t here to make fun of my lack of time to check for spelling errors.
    comment the comic or comment nothing at all

    1. BlueCanary says:

      Pshaw, no duh! Obviously, someone who soces! ;)

  48. sexyskank says:

    why does everyone care so much about typos?? this isn’t english school..

    great comic btw!! i’m playing a dwarf fighter and that situation is so true it hurts..

  49. I think my DM offers us a chance to defer if we choose not to act on high initiative (basically you can choose to attck as opportunity arises and interrupt a foe’s strike), or use it to roll play alerting the other paty members. Also good for sneaks who can set traps quickly…

    ExcellNt wRk, Shmus! LooooL

    /Kelis raises another point:
    My initiative brings the Orcs to the yard
    – damn right, it’s lower than yours –
    I could roll twice, who’s keepin’ score?

  50. Jeff says:

    That’s part of the rules as written, actually…

    When you don’t want to go immediately, there’s two things you can do – Delay, or Ready.

    Delay won’t let you interrupt anything, and Ready lets you select an action (Standard Action) that will go right before a predetermined trigger condition.

    The benefits of Delay is that you’ll be able to do something regardless of if the triggered condition goes off.

    For example, if you Ready an attack for when the orc charges you, right when he gets in range but before the orc gets his attack, you get to strike. From that point on, your init is right before his. However, if he chooses instead to (for example) cast a Summon Monster spell, you’ll have to wait until your normal init comes around again before you can act (thus wasting a round). If you had delayed, you would simply go after the orc then during that round, and hopefully disrupt his spell.

  51. Hotaru says:

    EmeraldTiara Says:
    I say he throws Legolas down on the orcs. Hey, you never know.

    welllll… i say he should put a cow in a catapult and launch it…maybe he could launch a bunny into the 10,000 orcs… if he could manage to capture said bunny

  52. Laithoron says:

    Er? is the comment engine b0rxed or something? I made a reply to #38 when there were only 43 posts on here and it didn’t show up. When I tried to redo it the site said duplicate post and so I just assumed it was a moderated list and had to await approval. However, now I see that it never took. :(

    In any event at least Telas managed to get a post up about flanking w/ reach and Aid Another. Like I *tried* to say before, lots of low-CR creatures (even with low Int) can be dangerous… just look at rush hour traffic. ;)

  53. Parzival says:

    “5% of all rolls are natural 20s”

    That’s incorrect. The correct statement is that *each* roll of a d20 has a 5% chance of rolling a 20. But that chance remains the same for *every* roll. Your statement implies that if you roll a d20 twenty times, you will roll each number once (as, if 5% of all rolls are natural 20s, then 5% of all rolls are *also* natural 1s, 2s, 3s, etc., etc.). This is clearly a fallacy (actually, it’s called “The Gambler’s Fallacy,” and casino owners make a lot of money off of people who are *certain* the next roll must be a seven because they haven’t rolled a seven all night). In short, it is entirely possible for 10,000 orcs to attack Gimli and never once roll a natural 20. It’s not *likely*, but it is possible. In any case, rolling a d20 10,000 times does not automatically mean you will roll five hundred 20s. (Though it might mean you’re at risk of a repetitive strain injury…) Probability can catch you napping, if you don’t think about it carefully.

    By the way, the Games Workshop Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game: The Two Towers boxed set includes skirmish scenarios for the attack on Helm’s Deep”” and some killer photos of an incredible 28mm scale reproduction of Helm’s Deep. The game’s approach is indeed to treat the battle as isolated fights surrounding the heroes, rather than a match up against 10K orcs. For the latter, you’d want something like Warmaster or Hordes of the Things. AD&D used to offer Battlesystem, which was designed for large scale miniatures wargaming (though not 10K individual Uruk-hai!), while the “Basic” D&D Companion Rules (circa 1984-91) included a system called “The War Machine” for conducting battles on an abstract level.

    More than anyone probably wanted to know, eh?

    1. WJS says:

      That’s a nitpicky distinction. Out of 10000 rolls, 500 20s is the most likely result, and it’s just as likely to be more as it is to be less. You can be 95% certain that it will be in the range 456-544, and 99.7% sure it will be in the range 435-565. The odds of no 20s out of 10000 rolls? 1.7E-223. That’s as close to impossible as makes no difference.

  54. Talitha says:

    When I play with my ranger, she takes a elven court longbow, astral blade longsword +1 and namarra neversleep rapier +1 (she has ambidexterity when wearing light armour). First shot is always with the longbow from maximum range (normally with an acid arrow), then as the enemy starts running toward her she switches to longsword and rapier in time to get an attack of opportunity when the enemy runs into melee range. If she spots the enemy before it sees her, she gets at least two attacks in before anything has a chance of hitting her, and frequently more if the original distance was greater than the enemy can cover in a single round. This is in NWN1 rather than a pen and paper campaign, but I’m pretty sure NWN1 runs on the D20 ruleset so it should still apply.

    1. WJS says:

      Loosely. Probably close enough in this case, although you shouldn’t get an AoO when someone charges you.

  55. Mark says:

    First time comment. First off – great strip. Thank you very much for all the hard work.

    Secondly – all this talk of what Gimli’s possible actions could be against a horde of orcs reminds me of a small flaw in the old Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay system. For those that don’t know, that system allowed you to move from career to career along a decision tree (i.e. one of the Rogue tracks was rat catcher to cutpurse to highwayman, etc.). Each career move would give you the opportunity to also level up some of your stats. Well, Dwarves had the chance to start the game with a high Toughness stat, making them hard to damage when hit. Given enough longevity, and a selection of just the right career choices, and a Dwarf character could achieve high enough Toughness that almost no normal melee weapon in the game could wound him. Naked, he’d be better protected by his hign Toughness than most human fighters decked out in full plate mail. And WHFRP was not a world exactly overflowing with magical armor-piercing weapons. Hence, “the Naked Dwarf Syndrome”. Your Dwarf character, a la Gimli on the walls, could strip down and launch himself into the horde of Orcs, and have a good chance of coming out relatively unscathed on the other side, given the Orcs not having any magical Toughness-reducing or auto-wounding weapons.

    Granted, the WHFRP was so deadly that most player’s characters rarely made it through their second career before losing some vital body part, or going mildly insane, and needing to retire to a small hovel in the country to tend a turnip patch.

    So, “The Naked Dwarf Syndrome”. My small contribution to these pages…

    More info… (scroll down halfway) (again, about halfway down)

    Good times…


  56. Raved Thrad says:

    Considering that dwarves are supposed to be masters of stonework and fortifications it’s always seemed wrong to me the way they’re always portrayed as predominantly meleé fighters. Sure they’re great in meleé — one GM I played under ruled that a single dwarf, being 4′ high by 4′ wide by 4′ deep (his milieu), could hold a 10′ wide corridor — but no one builds a fortification just to wait behind it for the enemy to either get bored, break through, or die of old age (remember that D&D orcs live ~40 years to a D&D dwarf’s ~300).

    A few sheep bombs would have probably made interesting inroads on the orc horde (baa! Baa! BOOM!) but considering the low level of technology I’d have expected a dwarf to come up with some way to while away the wait: some largish rocks, maybe some boiling oil or lead, maybe even a crossbow.

  57. Salen says:

    Hurry up and wait. Ah, I can relate to that, although how the dwarf won initiative, I’m not sure. Does he have that feat that gives him +4 to init. rolls?

  58. Darkenna says:

    “The Naked Dwarf Syndrome”

    Dear gods, I remember that old system. The most common phrase heard at my table was “cough up a Fate Point”…

    As for the battle, strictly by the rules… with Great Cleave–and the accompanying 5-foot step that 3.5 allows–a single warrior could make quite a swath as long as he never rolled a 1. The moment he did it would pretty much be over, especially if the orcs had some feat like Spring Attack or Run By Attack.

    Of course, any DM who stays strictly by the rules without a little tweaking for scenario once in a while deserves exactly what the dice give him.

    1. WJS says:

      What does a 5-foot-step have to do with it? You only get one of those per round, and you specifically can’t take it between Cleave attacks. With Great Cleave, you can kill the 8 orcs in your reach, then 8 more will move into range and attack you. And they will score some hits. (If attacked 8 times, there’s >33% chance for one or more 20s)

  59. Azaria says:

    This is the reason I love to play archers. Gotta love the ability for ranged combat with the option for melee with certain feats.

  60. Dune says:

    Gotta love it when tanks win init. and can’t get to the action.

  61. Steve says:

    The obvious problem with all these strategies: The XP will be for a defeat of the army, not for killing a few orcs. Shooting wildly will kill orcs but will be a waste of ammo since the arrow-to-XP ratio is zero. Ditto the dash-and-great-cleave ploy. All great fun for a bit but no player worth their salt would get tricked into such a poor rate of return, XP-wise, even in this reward-starved campaign.

    Best idea: Everyone hunker down and play Mechwarrior until the orcs get dysentery and go home. After all, 300 Elfburgers just arrived, so the fortress larder supplies will last for quite some time.


  62. Woerlan says:

    Elves are too high quality to waste on burgers. Go with something a little more satisfying.

    Some elf flank steak, some olive oil, salt and pepper to season. Grill over high heat, 2 minutes on each side. Superb with a side of herbed potatoes or buttered corn.


  63. Gbyron says:

    About what Parzifal said about rolling 10.000 times without getting a 20.
    It’s true that there might be an infinitensimal probability that this might happen. However, there is also the “law of great numbers” (I translated directly from Greek, so I don’t know how it’s called in English).
    Anyway, this “law” states that if a repeating experiment that has outcomes of some specific probability is carried out a very large number of times, the percentage of each outcome will be very close to the corresponding probability.
    Therefore, assuming the die is not “balanced”, rolling it 10.000 times will provide with 200 plus/minus “something” natural 20s.

    As for the comic. Keep up the good work! I expect a fight about xp during the Legolas/Gimli bodycount.

  64. Jeff says:

    It… sort of runs in the d20 rule set.

    You don’t get AoOs from someone approaching you, for one.

    NWN is a horrible thing to base any knowledge of D&D on. We had a formerly competent player corrupted by it. (For example… Color Spray through the front ranks. “You what?” “What, it effects enemies only!” “No. NO. No it doesn’t.”)

  65. Blindeye says:

    NWN is a great adaptation of DnD, but it’s hardly something you should reference or rely upon to give advice for the pen-and-paper game. You should totally try it, at least to see what the game was based on.

  66. Talitha says:

    Jeff: You do when you turn on the D20 hardcore rules at the options screen. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m seeing when I’m watching the ‘dice’ rolls. It’s true that AoO don’t apply against the player in the normal difficulty setting, though.

    NWN1 is (unfortunately) my only experience of D&D play. I’ve never had the opportunity to play a game with actual other people.

  67. Hotaru says:

    eh… my source of D&D left after my first game (buddy with the dice and rule books moved -___-)… so NWN1 is also my only source at the moment… and ya talitha is right on the difficulty setting thingy… Harcore D&D rules in NWN pretty much makes it pen and paper ish… if i remember right if you die in the hardcore you have to reroll your character (or reload a save point)

  68. PK says:

    As far as the question of Gimli wading through the orcs by himself, all you have to do is treat the orcs like a swarm or a mob (DMG2). Suddenly when ever he is “engulfed” by them he takes constant damage.

    It is the perfect way of making your 14th level PCs actually afraid of a mob of villagers with their torches and pitchforks.

    By the way, love the strip. Wonderful.

  69. I abhor the idea that the Royal Retreat of Rohan is a haven for CANNIBALISM!

    We all know that’s much more common in the realm of Gondor…

    Perhaps I can suggest a recipe for horse?

    Monty Paraphrase, not yet banned!

  70. RollD20 says:

    Well, you know, just because Gimli’s a straight fighter doesn’t mean combat is his only option. There’s *lots* of things he could do.
    Use Indimidate to scare off the army.
    Bluff check to convince the orcs they’re at the wrong stronghold.
    Knowledge check to see if he knows the uruk-hais’ weaknesses.

    Yep, lots of possibilities. Just heaps.

    (Ok, ready for the next comic, Mr. Shamus, sir…)

  71. Roger says:


    Bluff check is a great idea.
    “Um excuse me are you looking for the Rohirrim? No no you have the wrong place. This is a fortress, no horsemen here. You want the stables the next valley over. Large white tower, cant miss it. Thank you, good luck, off you go then”

  72. Susano says:

    “I remember reading that when they animated this battle, it was impossible for them to manually animate all the orcs, so they wrote an AI to take care of it. Problem was, the orcs kept routing. At a certain point the AI started screaming “Run away! Run away!” They had to change the AI algorithm to prevent that so that the orcs would stay and let themselves be slaughtered.”

    Incorrect. The AI told a figure to charge the enemy and engage. If there was no enemy in sight, then the AI had the figures move until they found the enemy. The problem was, the AI didn’t/couldn’t account for logic “we know the enemy is over there” or unit communication “we have met the enemy! follow me!” So… you’d fire up the AI and certain units who couldn’t see the enemy would run off looking for someone to fight… and go in the wrong direction.

  73. Rashala says:


  74. Steve says:

    damien walder Says:
    I abhor the idea that the Royal Retreat of Rohan is a haven for CANNIBALISM!

    Keep yer quiver on. Elves != Humans and != Dwarves. The only one who can’t eat without guilt is Legoless. Seres him right.


  75. Aaronium says:

    Found DMotR this week, thanks for great bunches of LOLs Shamus!
    All caught up and now bummed I have to wait.


    “What? They’re here about a Ring?”

    *snicker* “I told them, ‘We already got one!'”

  76. vonKreedon says:

    Seriously, Let’s Get Rolling, I’m jonesing hard for a new strip!

  77. RollD20 says:

    Hey vonK, keep your hard j*hnson to yourself! :O


  78. sleepyfoo says:

    Indeed, in statistics, when dealing with n approaching infinity (10,000 being close enough) attempts at something independant with set probability, ie. “balanced” (read: legal/unweighted) d20, will net you data with a distribution approximately equal to that of the original percentage.

    That said, for most statistics, 10,000 is way, way too many attempts, at 100 you should be able to see the numbers showing up in appropriate proportions, and if by 1000 you aren’t, then something is wrong with your die.
    Also 5% of 10000 is 500.

  79. Valley says:

    Hello. First time poster, long time reader.

    Having played AD&D on so long ago in college I find this webcomic brings back memories. Mostly of forgetting the characters’ names, debating who goes down the dark, smelly tunnel first, and, of course, shopping.

    What I am looking forward to is when the battle is over and they all go to Orthanc only to find the two Hobbits, Merry and Pippin, have destroyed it, taken all the XP and are looting the place.

  80. Osvaldo Mandias says:


  81. George says:

    wher is todays post?

  82. Cheryl says:

    [64] Gbyron : In English, one term, possibly the term, for the law you cite is “Regression to the Mean.” In this case “mean” in the sense of average. That is, with more instances or events, once the number of events gets large enough, the % of a particular outcome should move toward and settle on the probability of that outcome for each event.

  83. Tola says:

    “Um excuse me are you looking for the Rohirrim? No no you have the wrong place. This is a fortress, no horsemen here. You want the stables the next valley over. Large white tower, cant miss it. Thank you, good luck, off you go then”

    Send them to GONDOR? You’re cruel, man.

  84. Natdaprat says:

    Really nice comic so far pal, I look forward to the rest. It’s ashame that we’re only following one side of the story, and not Frogo’s and Sam’s – That would be a little odd with the game at hand.

  85. Blindeye says:

    I wonder if Frodo and Sam will ask to come back into the game once they’ve had their fun with Star Wars.

    Or maybe it’ll be like “We must put our faith into Frodo” and then the DM’s like “Mordor explodes! Frodo must have destroyed the ring!”

    Players: “Yay… I’ll go call his player up and tell him ‘thanks for saving the world’ even though he’s not even playing anymore. That’s like, Epic killstealing right there”

  86. Jim says:

    This is for george up in #10, who was saying something about spelling errors. Its a good thing your forgiving. What was that you said you played again? A socerer? What kind stuff do they do?

    Shamus! This is one of the funniest things i’ve seen in years. I can identify most of my gaming group! Sad really.

  87. Salen says:

    Funny. What gets me about the Helm’s Deep fight is the lack of Fireballs from wizards and Healing spells from clerics though. Its like the players have no clue how to cast spells or roll for saving throws against them. Uh… no, wait… thats just my gaming party. Nevermind.

    Seriously though, a few meteor swarms would have been great to soften up the enemy forces.

  88. Shade says:


  89. Phobos says:

    I think the other players will be fed up because Dave(Frodo) is a lousy DM for Star Wars, and the Hobbits all come back, the lack of skill turning Dave into the little whiner Frodo was

  90. Jeff says:


    Err, no. Don’t use NWN on Hardcore as a basis to debate my nitpicking, m’kay? I’d think my previous nitpicking should have established my grasp of the rules.

    You never provoke an AoO when approaching a threatened square – ONLY when LEAVING a threatened square.

    So a long spear with a ten foot reach, if the enemy runs up next to you, thus entering and then leaving the threatened square, will provoke an AoO. If you have a longsword, no AoO, unless he enters that 5ft radius you threaten, and then for some reason move again, thus leaving a square. If you both have long spears and he just steps into reach (both his and yours), no AoO.

    So, to repeat myself…

    You don't get AoOs from someone approaching you

  91. TX Knight says:

    Lol! Another good one. I can’t count how many times I’ve won initiative but had to hold my action and just twiddle my thumbs!

  92. Lev Lafayette says:

    OK, late post (I’m catching up with a backlog that’s months old).

    But damn, “you won initiative” made me roar with laughter.

  93. Goth'k Graf'x says:

    Tears. Tears! Okay, this is a GREAT strip. It’s funny every time. But this is THE funniest one yet. Oh my god, my face hurts (and not just those around me).

  94. George says:

    I gotta say, I was hoping for a joke about all the elves with bows waiting around for the orcs to get to the base of the walls before starting to kill them, rather than mowing them down from a couple hundred yards. Maybe it’s just too stupid to be funny.

  95. Hydro Globus says:

    … And time still didn’t allow… (see post #1)

    Great one, anyway

  96. Cynder says:

    GIMLI: Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries! I fart in your general direction! *rasperry noises*

    Now Gimli knows how those hobbits felt in one of the erlier posts (the one with the Nazgul at Weathertop)
    Looks like he’s gunna need a stepladder to stem ’em in the knees. Tut tut tut.

    My friend’s joke: What noise does a dwarf make when he falls off a cliff (or in this case, jumps off a wall into a crowd of orcs and fails to flatten any of them)?
    ANSWER: “Ooomff!”

    Sorry, I found that somewhat hilarious when I first heard that *sheepish*

    BTW, you still havn’t fixed the typo in the second frame – ‘melee’, not ‘meele’.

  97. Cynder says:

    There are now 96 comments. My server weeps for mercy.

    Need – to – resist – spam…

  98. Cynder says:

    Must – refrain – from – making – 100 – posts…

  99. Cynder says:

    Gaaahhh! Tempation too strong!! Must spam!! :O

    lol i forgot to put in the number – “Please enter the anti-spam word.” Not stopping me from spamming!! :D

  100. Cynder says:

    Woooo! 100 comments!!

    Lovely spaaam, wonderful spaaaaaammm…spam spam spam….

    Ok, I’m satisfied now. Carry on. ;)

  101. Lance says:

    HAHAHAHA failed…

  102. Majka says:

    Lauging my ass off! This is bloody hilarious!

  103. Rhi says:

    Love it! The whole thing is so Gimli and so amusing – yet another Conspiracy of the Dice – where the people who can do precisely nothing get to act before anyone who actually can do something at that point.

  104. Robin says:

    Yes, you won’t always get exactly 500 natural 20s out of 10,000, but:
    90% of the time, you’ll get at least 473.
    99% of the time, you’ll get at least 450.
    99.9% of the time, you’ll get at least 433.
    99.99% of the time, you’ll get at least 419.
    99.999% of the time, you’ll get at least 408.
    99.9999% of the time, you’ll get at least 397.
    99.99999% of the time, you’ll get at least 387.

    So the chances of getting less than 387 natural 20s is about the same as the chance of rolling a character with 6 natural 18s in a row. All the orcs aren’t going to miss.

    The probability that no orc rolls a natural twenty is 1.7*10E-223 (less than 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

    (What *do* they teach them in these schools?)

  105. Sam-Chan says:


    I just wanted to add, that you can “save your initiative” for later in one beat. so, when gimli is first and can’t do anything, he just saves his initiative to e.g. the end of the beat – maybe he can think of something to do until than!

    I have to admit sometimes your comics remind me of myself. i easily forget names of npc’s or towns – but no ones ever gets mad at me. maybe because I’m a the female player?


  106. d'Antarel says:

    In reference to quoting, again…I’m sure you’re sick of it by now. I suppose I can say that I am lucky enough to have a group of people eloquent enough to quote even Lord of the Rings at some of our campaigns. Roleplaying with Dwarves in particular allows for this. The obvious quote: “Shall I describe it to you, or would you like me to find you a box?”

  107. teri says:

    i guess you never found the time to fix the errors? :-( But then, i never would have noticed them if your first post hadn’t said something about them. lol

  108. Clinto says:

    Initiative is useless. It’s an outdated concept that has no place at all in the modern game. Who ever attacks first simply attacks first; there’s no taking turns in combat! lol

  109. Thepocalypse says:

    I’m a total roleplaying newbie. I played a rudimentary “storytelling game” in my school days and now I’m off to purchase the D&D Basic Game as my first foray into real roleplaying games. I want to thank you Shamus, DM of the Rings is what inspired me to start playing RPGs. I hope you make a “The DM Hobbit” comic of sorts when the new films are released. Thanks!

  110. silver Harloe says:

    > I abhor the idea that the Royal Retreat of Rohan is a haven for CANNIBALISM!

    There is NO cannibalism in the Royal Retreat of Rohan.

    …and when we say “none” we mean there is a certain amount “” more than we are prepared to admit.

  111. R Keene says:

    Ok, I’m here at work and just dying laughing while reading this. Back to work!

  112. Louis says:

    Still didn’t fix the typo. :D

  113. Maklak says:

    To calculate how many arrows will hit a target with what propability use binormal distribution. Number of orks N is 10k. Probability of hit may vary depending on distance, skill, PC’s AC and so on, but if they only hit on 20s use p=0.05. This gives a mean of 500 and variance of 475.

    “Heroes of battle” has a rule for this too. It goes something like Orks have to hit AC 15 to taret PC. PC can make a reflex save DC 15 to halve damage. He is hit by 1/5 arrows, 2k in this examlpe. Uncanny Dodge would allow for an exploit here ofc.

    Either way PC hit by hundreds of arrows is dead anyway.

  114. Toaadam says:

    Yeah! I’m one of the 2010 people! This is my first time reading this, awesome and funny comic!

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  116. Luigifan says:

    See, this is what the delay and ready actions are for.

  117. Bidlo Slaggins says:

    He never did fix that typo. Rest in Peace, DM.

    1. Dwarfwarden says:

      Inititive lives on forever in the archives of the Internet now.

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