DM of the Rings LXXXVII:
Hack, and Also Slash

By Shamus Posted Friday Apr 13, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 133 comments

Aragorn takes his turn.
Aragorn takes his turn.. eventually.

Being a turn-based game, D&D allows the player to ponder their every move and the ramifications thereof for as long as they need to, provided they have the real-life charisima to convince everyone else to wait. Studying possible moves is one of the most fun parts of the game (when you’re doing it) but also one of the most annoying and tiresome (when other people are doing it) and so care must be taken by the DM to ensure that in-game combat does not produce actual, real-life combat.

Side note: Boy, the JPG-ing was brutal to the ASCII characters in the Nethack frame. The blue mishmash really is supposed to be “O” (living orcs) and “%” (dead ones). I fussed around with it but couldn’t get it to look right without re-cutting the whole page to make the characters fill more of the frame. Bah.

Ah well. Close enough. People that can get the joke will still get it, and those that can’t get the joke aren’t going to be helped by clear ASCII art.


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133 thoughts on “DM of the Rings LXXXVII:
Hack, and Also Slash

  1. Libresse says:

    Aieee… I get to comment first… what should I say? Something clever about Nethack? or perhaps D&D round sequence? Can I take a hold action and see what others are planning to do? Waaait, I’m not ready yet…

    1. Yes I agree with Chris,
      this is awsome!
      Nelly @ realizzazione siti web

  2. Roger says:

    I am going to delay for Libresse to make a comment.

  3. Rehtul says:

    YES! Finally we know Aragorn’s stats! At long last!

  4. Karten says:

    Oh crap if Liresee is delaying, I move the the front and ready to say something really witty when they do.

  5. Steve says:

    “How many hit points does he have?”

    Make a reflex save

    “What? Why?”

    You just got stabbed at while checking out the opposition.

    “This is horseshirt! Speaking is a free action!”

    You weren’t speaking. You were assessing the tactical situation.

    “You can’t do that!”

    You don’t want to make a reflex save?

    “No, and…”

    Fine. Take eight points of stabby damage.

    This is why I can’t run games any more.


  6. Felagund says:

    Now imagine this player with an animal companion or a familiar…

    It’s painful, trust me.

  7. SongCoyote says:

    I ready an action to interrupt whatever it is that Libresse is contemplating. I get a… [rolls] 18 on Spellcraft, [rolls] 21 on Knowledge: Geography and [rolls] …11 on Spot. Crap. She’s so going to Sneak Attack me….

  8. George says:

    in my campaign the DM tries to not let us have more time then our character would to make a descion,

    which is hard for someone like me when i have so many spells i can cast and easy for others who just run up and smash stuff… although aragorn appears to deny that portion of my theory entirely…

  9. Nick_Soapdish says:

    The obvious solution to Aragorn’s problem is for someone to cast deathwatch and call out targets for him. Now where is mister pointy hat when you really need him.

  10. Browncoat says:

    Someone wake me up when Libresse has said something and it’s my turn.

  11. The Pancakes says:

    I like Steve’s method. I’m a bit less harsh:

    Player: How many hit points does he have?
    DM: He looks strong for an orc. (rolls dice) Maybe 10 or so.
    Player: I attack him!
    DM: You can’t. You spent your action assessing the orc.
    Player: WTF?!
    DM: You can make a single move, if you like.
    Player: This game sucks!
    DM: I’ll tell Monte and Skip the next time I see them. Are you going to move or shall we just advance to the next initiative tick?

  12. trousercuit says:

    Regarding JPG compression: it undersamples blue, because human eyes have fewer blue cones than red or green. If you can get your JPG compressor to not do that, you could fix it without munging with the quality. Alternatively, you could use a gray-on-black terminal or version of Nethack for the screenshot.

  13. Rolld20 says:

    Humph, back when I played Hack, we didn’t have any of these fancy ‘colors’ the kids like to use. We had tripe, and sometimes we didn’t even have that! But we played it anyway, because that’s what you did, back in the day…
    Man, I hated that stupid dog. He was always eating my leprechaun corpses. Now I have an urge to wander through a store, picking up things until I collapse from the weight of my load. ;)

    Gaming incidents like this strip usualy call for one of the actually useful MP qoutes: “Get *ON* with it!!”

  14. vonKreedon says:

    Back in the day, I’d give players a quick assessment for free:
    “The Uruk-Hai are all big and well armored, the one to your right has an arrow lodged in him, you can’t tell if it’s in flesh or armor.”

    If the player then wanted more information they had take the time, and potential damage, to get that information as I’d then defer their action by some amount of my choosing while they did a more rigorous assessment of the opposition. Generally they would not take me up on this option and just go for the orc with the arrow.

  15. vonKreedon says:

    Ooh, you had tripe did you! We would have loved some nice tripe not and then. We had to play Rogue on 8 inch green and white screens using keyboards that didn’t even have arrow keys when I was young, and let me tell you we enjoyed it! Not like the kids these days with their fancy mice and big screen projection screens let me tell you.

    But you try and tell the young people today that… and they won’t believe ya’.

  16. Jindra34 says:

    If Libresse doesn’t speak soon i’m going to cast silence on this area…

  17. Kemayo says:

    Regarding compression, the thing to do would be to have the nethack panel be a PNG all on its lonesome. The difficulty, of course, would be recutting the “you really need to…” dialog box in such a way that there was no visible gap between the two.

  18. Mike says:

    Thanks Shamus. Now I want to play Moria all over again.

  19. SongCoyote says:

    Darnit Libresse – do something! I’m going to lose my action!

    Awh… now I have to wait for next round :/

  20. MOM says:

    I knew what the last screen was all about!

  21. Deoxy says:

    I liked NetHack’s underlying mchanic (the random dungeon, with random descriptions on potions, etc), but I always thought it was just stupidly deadly – that is, you really had to get lucky to get started. Once you got started (and knew about many undocumented features), you could go on quite well, but you might start and die shortly 12 times (or more) before you could get going.

    Yes, yes, it was a more authentic feel, but my, was it annoying (and usually boring) at the beginning. Some kind of base of operations (that is, like a town at the top, or SOMETHING) would have made for a much less annoying start.

    Nice NetHack-erization of the battle, by the way… but wis: 12?!? Try -12…

  22. Rolld20 says:

    “Ooh, you had tripe did you! We would have loved some nice tripe not and then. We had to play Rogue on 8 inch green and white screens using keyboards that didn't even have arrow keys when I was young, and let me tell you we enjoyed it!”

    See, what I meant was, we had tripe *instead* of a screen.
    No keyboard either, it was just me saying what I wanted to do. When my brother got bored of me saying “I search for secret doors! And then I search again!”, he’d smack me around until I shut up. And that was the original ‘full system reboot’, my friends, not this little blinking screen they have these days.

  23. trousercuit says:

    Well, in my day, we didn’t have no screen neither, and we had to play Nethack inside a wet paper bag in the middle of the freeway. You kids think dying by starvation is tough, why back then, you might get hit by a Model T screaming past at 15 MPH!

  24. vonKreedon says:

    Right. I had to get up three hours before I went to bed to build a computer out of highway rubbish so that me and my 45 brothers and sisters could play Rogue. We could never afford the plaid potions and when we died we really died and our Dad would dance around on our graves singing “Hallelujah!”

  25. Scarlet Knight says:

    You had graves? Luxury! Me Mum would sell our lifeless corpses as extras for the “Sean of the Dead” set. But we were happy back then….

  26. Stark says:

    Oooo.. Model_T’s, how *fancy*. In my day we would have loved to have been run-down by a Model-T. All we had was lousy punters riding around in their bleedin’ chariots. These weren’t even nice chariots mind you – they hadn’t yet perfect’d the circle so the wheels was square they was! You don’t know being run down ’till you’ve been run down by a square wheeled chariot! Bah, and we had t’ fight real orcs too… ok, so they were Welshman but it’s hard to tell the difference!

    Please note, I’m of Welsh descent and I have trouble telling some of my family members from orcs at times… well, I imagine orcs probably have better table manners…

  27. Steve Lytton/Deathblade_Penguin says:

    I’m going to refrain from the Monty Ptyhon reference and just ask:-

    is Nethack the same as ADOM? as that last screen looked like ADOM to me..

    although Kids these days, they just wont believe you….

    (sorry i could not resist)

  28. Steve says:

    We had to play Rogue on 8 inch green and white screens using keyboards that didn't even have arrow keys when I was young, and let me tell you we enjoyed it

    Dons flat cap:

    Course, we ‘ad it ‘ard. They ‘adn’t invented nethack OR the colour white back then so we ‘ad t’ play tic-tac-toe on an old ex-Military 9″ green-on-green radar scope. It were difficult, what wi’ screen refresh bein’ polar and the microwave radiation leakage an’ so on, not to mention bein’ periodically dive-bombed by ‘itler’s Stukas in mid-game.

    By gum, them were the days.


  29. Tola says:

    Cha of 5? That’s….literally impossible. Isn’t it?

    And what’s with the horrid AC? -3?! Isn’t the starting AC 10? What HAPPENED to him out there?

  30. Carl the Bold says:

    You had Chariots? Lucky git!

    In my day, we didn’t have these fancy chariots with their fancy geometric wheels. We got run over by wolly mammoths, only they weren’t wolly at all on account of the mange! And the tusks they ran you through with weren’t fancy regularly shaped geometric polygons–they were irregular! So when one went through yer chest it might just take out your appendix on the way, but that’s the way we did appendectomies back then! And we were grateful for it!

  31. Liz says:

    “And what's with the horrid AC? -3?! Isn't the starting AC 10? What HAPPENED to him out there?”

    NetHack doesn’t use the same AC system as Dungeons and Dragons. Rangers generally start out with AC around 7 and then the more armor and protection you have the lower your AC gets. So in NetHack, an AC of 10 would be reeeeeally bad, whereas -3 is rather good.

    And gorramit, this is making me want to play a game as Aragorn the Human Ranger. Wait, too late, I already am…

  32. Tola says:

    Wait. That sounds similar to that senseless THACO thing from the Balder’s Gate games, which were based off Second Edition. I don’t understand it there, and I still don’t.

  33. ladyalinor says:

    So am I the only one who regularly escapes downstairs ASAP while leaving the annoying cat/dog to croak?

  34. Kenny says:

    “NetHack doesn't use the same AC system as Dungeons and Dragons.”
    Yes it does. Or did. D&D changed to a new AC system, some time later.

  35. WWWWolf says:

    The orcs are lower case o’s in Nethack. It’s been a while since I played, so I can’t remember what colour the Uruk-Hai are supposed to be. =)

    Nethack is based on what *seems* to be a mish-mash of various (A)D&D-inspired and creatively applied rules, including Classic D&D and (pre-3rd Ed) AD&D. It’s not an exact recreation (and I don’t know *exactly* how much it rips previous AD&D editions since I don’t have the rulebooks) and uses a few things that are quite different from D&D.

  36. Fred's Friend John's Friend Gary's Friend Mike's Friend Jim says:

    I’ve found my DM really appreciates decisive action and will reward it. He likes a player to say, “I’m gonna cut this motherf–ker’s head off, right here. I’m cuttin’ it clean off. Here I go. Rolling NOW.”

    If a player’s going to ask a question, my DM wants it to be something like, “Am I in range to hit this one?” or “Can I get you another beer from the fridge?”

  37. houser2112 says:

    WWWWolf: “The orcs are lower case o's in Nethack. It's been a while since I played, so I can't remember what colour the Uruk-Hai are supposed to be.”

    If memory serves, Uruk-Hai were purple, and Moria orcs were yellow.

  38. Mordaedil says:

    Aragorn has really shitty stats. I think I might allow him to reroll at my table. His stats are just above what the DMG allows, which is pretty hard to play as.

  39. Matt says:

    Nethack unnecessarily deadly? What about those good old text based adventures?

    You are in a cave. There are exits to the East and South.

    Go South.

    You have stumbled into a Pit Trap of Arbitrary Doom. You have died.

  40. Matt says:


    you’re supposed to plan your actions while the guy to your left takes his turn. Don’t tell me you people pay attention to what the other players are doing?

  41. Neotacha says:

    Am I the only person who isn’t seeing the comic at all? I see none of them anymore. What happened?

  42. baf says:

    “is Nethack the same as ADOM? as that last screen looked like ADOM to me..”

    Nethack is not the same as ADOM, but they are related. They’re both ultimately based on Rogue, the original ASCII dungeon crawl, and are sometimes referred to as “roguelike” games, a genre that also includes such games as Moria and Angband, which seem like they’d be a better fit to the present work. This is definitely a Nethack screenshot, though: the status bar is exactly right for Nethack, except for the fact that “Helm’s Deep” is not an actual part of the nethack dungeon.

  43. Rich says:

    “Am I the only person who isn't seeing the comic at all? I see none of them anymore. What happened?”

    I dont see any comics at all, either.

  44. Rich says:

    Not working for me in Firefox as well as IE 6.

  45. SiliconScout says:

    Yeah tried FF and IE and get nothing through either.

  46. Yaverot says:

    After refreshing multiple times, disabling noscript & ad blocker it took about 5 minutes for the comic to load. Not having the comic come up quickly (like today, unlike the last month or so I’ve been following) is a good way to have all your bandwidth stolen to people hitting refresh-refresh-refresh-refresh. I’d see what my ISP had done, because it has screwed up the old comics too.

  47. SiliconScout says:

    yeah just went back and tried to see some of the older ones and they are not showing up either.

    Very strange, looks like he’s got a bug in there somewhere

  48. Lanthanide says:

    All of the comics are hosted on, which has recently moved servers, so all of the old DNS records are pointing at the old IP address which is no longer working.

    If Shamus were to find out the new IP address from the guy, he could give us a temporary link we could use to view the comic.

  49. Huckleberry says:

    Same prob. I’m on withdrawal. Make haste ;)

  50. Robert says:

    One reason I like using miniatures is that it cuts down on the time needed to describe a setting.

    As well, as a player I have a hard time visualizing positions from a description, and would end up dropping out of a game where I was penalized for asking about something my character could easily see. (Which actually happened in one campaign: “You see an orc in front of you” “Does he have a weapon ready?” “He attacks — you lost initiative when you spent a round observing him.”)

  51. Cosmofur says:

    Oh Hack….I have such a love hate relationship with that game.

    Have been playing it forever (and rogue)

    Jay Fenlason’s wife was a bridesmaid at my wedding, we used to go out for Dim Sum at chinatown.

    And no, he no longer has the original source.

  52. Heather says:

    Man, I wasted days and days playing Nethack. Then I discovered that changing the date to the full moon gave you all the luck you could want. And then I discovered a hack to save. Woot! And then my brotherr would come in and fight me for my computer so HE could play.

  53. Stormfeather says:

    WOOHOO! I was actually thinking of posting a comment last time along the lines of “you know, if you’re gonna do a third video-game based comic, a Nethack one would be really fitting!” But I didn’t, since I figured the games would already be picked out. Turns out I didn’t have to, anyhow!

    And *sniff* how could you leave your poor kitten or puppy behind to starve to death? Besides, then what are you gonna turn into a Master Lich or Black Dragon or something once you get a wand of polymorph? (Okay okay, the answer is one of the 254 other pets you have a chance to tame on your way down, but feh, it’s not the same!)

    Oh, and THAC0 is the One True Way of dealing with armor class for D&D. ;)

  54. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    The roguelike ref just made my day Shamus!

    Personally im an Angband man, but i have a special place in my heart for all things ascii.

    anoyne up for some TOMEnet? multiplayer, realtime, Tolkienian based, ascii fun for one and all!

  55. Liz says:

    “So am I the only one who regularly escapes downstairs ASAP while leaving the annoying cat/dog to croak?”

    I didn’t like my cat/dog at first either. Until I started leaving it alone and then I’d come back and it had managed to polymorph into some sort of demon or dragon. Then I was very much HELLS YEAH! However, I still don’t like horses as I can never keep them alive. Either I get food or they do. But yeah, seriously, an awsome strategy is taming as many crappy pets as possible and then polymorphing the hell out of them until you come up with something useful. Throw in a magical whistle, and you have your own personal army at your beck and call.

  56. wrg says:

    So nowadays there are people who read a D&D comic but don’t know about negative AC and THAC0? I feel even older now than when I realized that most of my students were toddlers, if that, when Monkey Island was released.

    Anyway, in the AD&D days default AC was 10 before modifiers, such as armour and dexterity. The difference is that bonuses would reduce AC, so that your typical armoured fighter would be in the low single digits, while someone with good dex and some magic equipment could have negative AC, which was a good thing. Although the system was counterintuitive, it became sufficiently familiar that I knew some players who became suspicious when they heard 3rd Edition would change it.

    Now, you might ask, how did we use those AC figures to compute combat results? That’s where the abstraction of THAC0 proved very useful. It stood for “To Hit Armor Class 0” and was the roll a character would need to do just that. (This might not strictly be true, since a sufficiently penalized character might have a THAC0 over 20 even though a 20 would be an automatic hit.) Most 1st level characters would have THAC0 of 20 before bonuses, which would decrease as you gained levels, stat bonuses, proficiency bonuses, etc.

    In combat, you would simply add your THAC0 to your opponent’s AC to find how high you’d need to roll to hit. Even though players find the systems oriented opposite to their expectations at first, the computation was pretty convenient. In 3rd Edition, you subtract your attack bonus from your opponent’s AC to determine the required roll, which isn’t too bad either, but some might prefer addition to subtraction. Still, the new system’s “big numbers are good” philosophy tends to seem more natural.

    Sorry, Tola, but if you read this I hope you won’t get to say you don’t understand THAC0 any more. You certainly may say you don’t like it, though. And the system of decreasing AC isn’t exactly the same thing as computing THAC0, because I used a version of D&D back when that didn’t say a word about THAC0 but had the traditional AC. However, THAC0 is an excellent way to make computations with that AC system decent, once you get over the learning bump.

    P.S. I didn’t spend all that much time with AD&D per se, mostly old D&D and some 3rd Edition nowadays (Get your 3.5 off my lawn, you kids!), so I may have mangled some details. Correction is welcome.

  57. Pixy Misa says:

    All of the comics are hosted on, which has recently moved servers, so all of the old DNS records are pointing at the old IP address which is no longer working.

    We haven’t moved – the Apache server on the machine where Shamus has the comic files decided to lock up today for no apparent reason. I reset it and all is well. Why none of the automatic processes either (a) restarted Apache like they should or (b) alerted me like they should is still unclear. :(

    Pixy, the guy. :)

  58. Pixy Misa says:

    The new server cluster I’m setting up does load balancing and automatic failover, albeit in software rather than hardware because I’m on a budget. So I’m hoping that hiccups like that will become less common. We’ve been mostly good the last six months, after a couple of bad patches last year with DDoS attacks and network problems at our old hosting company.

  59. Harlock says:

    Umm…no, you did not add your opponent’s AC to your ThAC0 to figure out how high you needed to roll: that would give the result that negative ACs were a _bad_ thing. Subtracting your opponent’s AC from your ThAC0, _that_ was the ticket. Or rolling the d20 and subtracting your ThAC0 to see what AC you hit. Personally, I prefer the 3ed system of roll the d20, add your bonus, and tell the DM “I hit AC 27, did I hit?”

  60. Tom Zunder says:

    I take my opportunity attack and pounce..

    I always count down from ten when this happens, and if they do not choose their character dithers. It makes for a much more exciting game.

    ..and miss..

  61. Steve Lytton/Deathblade_Penguin says:

    is it wrong that my friends and I still play Ad&D with Thaco… we just love the i guess now “old” system… although we have modifed some of the rules…

    and in reference to Harlock’s comment, I hit AC27, did I hit… love it.. although we use to havea player who would say , nearly every battle.. I rolled a 14.. did i hit?

  62. Danzaemon says:

    Long time reader, first comment.

    The main problem I had with THAC0 and negative AC was that while a low AC was good, and a low THAC0 was good, a _high_ hit roll was good. If you’d had to roll _under_ your THAC0 to hit, I would’ve understood. And, of course, you wanted the highest damage roll possible as well.

    With 3rd ed. and above, high everything is good, and low anything is not so good. Much more intuitive, so it’s a lot easier for new players to wrap their heads around.

    Anyway, love the comic, keep up the great work.


  63. Stormfeather says:

    Oh, and to add a comment I originally meant to make (and think needs to be said)…

    With THAT charisma, no wonder Aragorn’s so desperate to score, and fails so often.

  64. sithkhan says:

    This one is in 1080p!!! Woo-hoo! Well, it’s page 1080 on the website … *sigh*

  65. Ace says:

    In my campaign, when a player asks what the Orc’s/Uruk Hai’s HP is, I usually answer the same way “You can’t tell, but since you stabbed your sword through his chest four times already, he doesn’t look quite well. On the other hand, the other orcs all seem very able to you.”

    I usually don’t fuss too much on people taking their time for their turns. As a DM who barely ever prepares any campaign but just wings it, I usually don’t really know what my encounters can do either so I usually take time rolling things myself.

    I always encourage my indecisive players to roll a d# to randomly hit an enemy. I usually give them about 20 seconds to decide an action, then remind them that their characters wouldn’t even have this much time. I give them another 20 seconds, then force an action. If no action is forthcoming, then the initiative round passes on.

  66. Luke says:

    Shamus, have you ever considered publishing the comics in PNG format? Can your software output them as PNG? If you do, make sure you try something like PNGOUT.exe ( The other day I took a large 865 KB image and shaved it down to 520 KB just by running it through the app. It almost cut the image size in half – and the compression was completely lossless without loosing any sharpness in the image.

  67. Alasseo says:

    Aragorn really isn’t thinking properly- cleaving through from the left means that when the bigger Uruk attacks, he’ll already be in the best position to fend it off. The archers have probably begun their withdrawal from that area of the wall because it’s obvious the gatehouse is gonna fall pretty soon, no matter what miracles Aragorn and Gimli can pull off, eventually they’ll get pulled down, especially if the DM starts introducing fatigue modifiers. And as for throwing his knife- forget it, the balance is wrong, and he’d just be giving up his backup weapon for when the sword breaks- plus IIRC, drawing a weapon counts as a move-equivalent action.

    I’d say something witty about nethack as well, but I’ve never played it.

  68. Stranger says:

    I played with THAC0 rules. Confusing to learn, non-intuitive to run with, but if you spent the time to learn it, you could move along with it well enough. The new system is a little easier to teach, and more people can understand it.

    Also the way of the dodo . . . the “Saving Throw” tables which were really quite stupid to work with.

  69. Stranger says:

    Also, your anti-spam word is often broken and will not accept the word . . . I had to refresh four times in order to get it to post :(

  70. kenderweasel says:

    Great comic – I’m just about old enough to remember Nethack, and some of the crappy text based games too.

    It took me ages to figure out how THACO worked (usually just asked one of the guys what I had to roll)- then they went & changed to 3rd ed.
    It confuses me sometimes as NWN uses 3rd ed rules where AC gets bigger, and BG uses old AC rules where AC gets lower.
    Why they had to do that I don’t know.

    1. WJS says:

      …Because Baldur’s Gate came out 2 years before the 3e rules did?

  71. Animayhem says:

    My good this is a funny coincidence, last night our DM picked up an egg timer just for this reason, some of our players take up to ten minutes to come up with their action. (High level game) It's not really our fault that the player just before your turn killed all the guys that you were planning to…

  72. Valley says:

    By the time Aragorn picks what actions to do the orcs should be napping. Can’t he just push them off the ramp?

  73. Patrick says:


  74. wrg says:

    Sorry, thanks for the corrections. I reckon part of my reaction is envy that reecnt players won’t have to deal with a system that makes it easy to say some foolish as I did above. I’d about agree with Danzaemon’s opinion.

    Indeed, although I took a bit learning the new saves, I’m just glad I can actually compute save bonuses without a table. I’ve got some old books with hit tables, too, for various character level and class vs. various AC, as well as various monster HD vs. AC. THAC0 is pretty convenient compared to that. I’m not quite sure where I have them, though, so I can’t check to see whether the books just have THAC0 computations wrapped up in a table or if they’re a bit different.

  75. the old master says:

    As a GM. I write the turns down on a time chart. The time it takes for me to write their declared action…is the time they get to complete their action. (rolls, Dmg ,etc.).If they can’t talk faster than I can write(non script), then they are forced to hold their action till next turn, then the next,and the next. Until they feel ready to say what they wnat.. It’s mean but, it also has trained our players to be quick and that generates excitement.

  76. Carl the Bold says:

    Okay. Libresse still hasn’t made his comment. I vote we kick him out of our game and move on to the next guy. Or, we could just make him buy the pizza tonight.

  77. Pixy Misa says:

    Aargh. And now all but one of my servers are down. Apparently a 2500 amp breaker blew at my hosting company, and I went offline. Splat.

  78. Juice says:

    I think the Wisdom and Charisma stats must be the wrong way around.

  79. Libresse says:

    Sorry, I had to answer the phone. What did I miss? Is it still my turn?

  80. Otters34 says:

    I suppose the title is a reference to ReBoot’s Hack and Slash.Or is it simply a variant of hack-and-slash?

  81. Doom Chicken says:

    Great comic.

  82. Prawninator says:

    One thing: I absolutely LOVE the Anti-spam word I was given.
    I have an addiction to Icosahedra.

    Next; this is the best comic EVER. But Aragorn can’t have a CHA of 5! He’s not THAT less handsome (or pretty) than Legolas! Viggo = t3h hotness.

    Keep the work up, waiting for you to upload the next one. I’m refreshing the page…

  83. !n00b says:

    THAC0? Wimps. An Attack Matrix is the One True Way. Page 74-75, the real DMG. Opponent AC down the left, character level across the top, check the spot on the table for the number you need to roll. For example, for a fighter of levels 1-2:

    AC Roll
    -10 25
    -9 24
    -8 23
    -7 22
    -6 21
    -5 20
    -4 20
    -3 20
    -2 20
    -1 20
    0 20
    1 19
    2 18
    3 17
    4 16
    5 15
    6 14
    7 13
    8 12
    9 11
    10 10

  84. Auke says:

    First, let me give jubilation and praise for a great webcomic.

    Next, I seem to be an exception as a DM, in that I always allow my players ample time to think of an action. Not that I especially like the endless pauses, but it’s so much fun to wait patiently for my players to think of the best action possible, and then carefully and deliberately show why it was such a bad idea.
    Then again, I have players who think that when your car has just head-on crashed into a car containing villains, the best course of action is to blow up said car with a grenade…
    Well, at least the villains died…

    Besides, in my experience, ‘hacking of the orc’s head’ is only the start of an agonizing, time-consuming process, at least when you’re playing in a high-level campaign. “OK, I have a +2 bonus of my magic sword, a +1 from the cleric’s blessing, another +1 from the bard’s song, but the orc shaman has cast a spell on this orc, so that’s a -2… What were the rules on racial enemies again?”

  85. Telas says:

    In D&D (v3.5), a round is six seconds long. I normally give the players five times that to make a decision or delay; I’d like to cut that to six seconds.

    As DM, I have to run a bunch of critters, make on-the-fly rules interpretations, remember everything about the encounter, and use a lot of “color text” to describe everything. The players just have one character to worry about, so they shouldn’t gripe too much, should they?

    (Yes, that was rhetorical.)

    And Shamus, I’m stealing that for a user icon elsewhere…

  86. Deoxy says:

    “my server weaps for mercy” – heh.

    Only on more comment:

    In combat, you would simply add your THAC0 to your opponent's AC to find how high you'd need to roll to hit. Even though players find the systems oriented opposite to their expectations at first, the computation was pretty convenient. In 3rd Edition, you subtract your attack bonus from your opponent's AC to determine the required roll, which isn't too bad either, but some might prefer addition to subtraction. Still, the new system's “big numbers are good” philosophy tends to seem more natural.

    Actually, while you can do that, the system was designed such that you add your roll to your bonus and see if that is equal to (or large than) your opponent’s AC – still addition, and, as you said, MUCH MUCH more newbie friendly.

    Let me say that one more time:

  87. superfluousk says:

    This is why DMs should encourage players to ponder their actions while other players are taking their turns. Then play the “Jeopardy” music at increasing volume when their own turn comes. :)

  88. Marty says:

    You said it! AD&D1 in the hiz-ouse. We didn’t have no steenkin’ THAC0 back in the day. Anyone remember the “Combat Wheel” from a REALLY old Dragon Magazine (somewhere around #50) that had the AC/Level/To Hit numbers before THAC0 was invented?

    It makes one long for the days when your hardbacks had a giant demon-efreet dude holding some chick like Faye Raye in King Kong.

    Speaking of THAC0… I have a long standing argument with my girlfriend about the pronunciation (yes, girlfried — I got a gamer girl; you know I’m hanging on to this one).

    Anyway, she say “thack-Oh”, like “hack”… I say “Thay-kOh” like “hay”. My reasoning is that “AC” is pronounced “Ay See” so THAC0 should be a long A.

    How do you all pronounce it?

  89. Deoxy says:

    like “hack”. “AC” is just a listing of the letters “A” and “C”. “THAC0” is a full-fledged acronym, and thus gets pronounced as a word. If AC were treated as an acronym, it would be “ack”, not “ache”.

  90. Parzival says:

    THAC0, schmacko. I started playing D&D from the blue box with [i]chits[/i], boys and girls. We had no problem at all understanding that low AC was good and high AC was bad. We just read it, said “Well, that’s odd, but okay,” looked at the charts, pulled the stupid chits from the cup and determined whether we hit or not. And regardless of weapon, we rolled a d6 for damage, ’cause the stupid box rules treated a dagger same as a longsword. [i]And[/i] if a character died (which happened three times in the first dang hallway of our first dungeon), another character came running down the hall to join the party and off we went on our merry way, not caring if it made any *bleep* sense or not. We also fought nearly every dang monster in the book in that dungeon, from kobolds (who kept killing us in the hallway) to a red dragon. All at first level, ’cause what we [i]didn’t[/i] grasp that first time around was the difference between character level and dungeon level. And we [i]liked[/i] it!

  91. Erin Storts says:

    Marty Says:

    Speaking of THAC0… I have a long standing argument with my girlfriend about the pronunciation (yes, girlfried “” I got a gamer girl; you know I'm hanging on to this one).

    Nothin’ wrong with gamer girls, I am one.

    Anyway, she say “thack-Oh”, like “hack”… I say “Thay-kOh” like “hay”. My reasoning is that “AC” is pronounced “Ay See” so THAC0 should be a long A.
    How do you all pronounce it?

    I’ve always said “thack-oh”. I could ask my mom, she’s a D&D gamer from way back when.

  92. Bugsysservant says:

    “[THAC0] stood for “To Hit Armor Class 0″³ and was the roll a character would need to do just that. (This might not strictly be true, since a sufficiently penalized character might have a THAC0 over 20 even though a 20 would be an automatic hit.)”

    Maybe they changed it in a later edition, but I don’t believe 20 was always a hit.

    -“Hit Rolls exceeding 20 require the presence of some bonus to the Hit Roll. A natural 20 without bunuses will not hit creatures that require a Hit Roll of greater than 20” -D&D Expert Rulebook 1983

    This means that a 3 level fighter with no additional bonuses would need a natural 20 to hit Aragorn, and a natural 21 to hit someone with an AC of -6.

    1. WJS says:

      Since when has there been such a thing as a natural 21? A “natural” number specifically refers to what you rolled before any modifiers.

  93. Lev Lafayette says:

    Excellent, this is still going. w00t!

    Steve at comment $6. I’d have you as a GM anyday. Make those turn-based single-unit wargaming grognards cry. Also, if you get a chance, have a read of Paranoia 1st ed combat rules. It will make you laugh with joy.

  94. Drawing your knife is a free action only if you have the quickdraw feat, Aragorn

  95. bobniborg says:

    Man, you should get some google ads on this thing. It is so great you should be making a bit off of it (copyright my ass) :)

  96. Max says:

    Right about frame three, the DM should just say, “Okay, you spend your turn contemplating your options. Next.”

  97. MH says:

    Just a comment, when you’re posting pictures of characters (nethack, a mud or whatever), you should go for PNGs. They’re occasionally smaller with characters and don’t mishmash.

  98. Sam says:

    Whooooooooooooot. Nethack rules! Also, awesome comic!

  99. Thomas B says:

    “I've always said “thack-oh”. I could ask my mom, she's a D&D gamer from way back when.”

    I think that’s one of the most entrancing comments I’ve read in years!

    I’m still feeling young, but I don’t have Fast Heal 3 anymore. It’s nice to see my friends (and obviously other folks like this young lady’s parents) raising their kids and the kids getting into the same sorts of games their parents enjoyed when they were younger (and still do).

    Makes me think maybe it won’t all be a fad that fades and is killed by MMOs or VR. There is still something to be said for the F2F gaming experience you get at a table with your friends. I’ve been GMing one campaign now for 19 years (and a for around 35 or so players in that time). I do Skype games sometimes nowadays, but nothing beats sitting down at the same table as any of my 3 gaming groups (university friends in another town, old work friends, new work friends).

    And to be vaguely OT, I have to say this webcomic has been the highlight of my day and has already been shared around with a goodly few other gamers as a result. Outstanding work!

  100. Ed the Higg says:

    *grows slightly annoyed with all the “I can’t see the comic” posts. Shamus is a (damn good) webcomic creator, not your computer brand’s tech support office*

    Sheesh…Aragorn’s Charisma is only a 5? Good thing rangers base their spellcasting on Wisdom instead of Charisma, huh? Not that Wisdom 12 will get him TOO far with the ranger spells…. :-P

    And I used to play Rogue on my old Color Computer. It was kind of like Nethack, except there weren’t any fancy colors; Everything was either white or kinda-orange, IIRC. And the jabberwocks, ur-viles and griffins used to have me for lunch EVERY frickin’ time! Man, I feel old all of a sudden. :-(

  101. Toil3T says:

    This is why we all decide what we’re going to do at the beginning of each round of combat, without much discussion between players, which makes it slightly more realistic. We can, of course, change what we said we’re going to do as opportunities arise, (like the hobgoblin you were going to attack gets killed by someone else, so you attack a different hobgoblin instead), but mainly we do what we say we’ll do. That way, when it gets to someone’s turn they don’t spend ten minutes deciding what they’re doing.

  102. Toil3T says:

    Also, while I know how Thac0 works, I prefer the d20 system’s way of rolling to hit. And in response to post # 69 by Stranger, I also dislike the older saving throw system. I prefer d20 there, too- so simple.

  103. TheDeepDark says:

    Not as an insult or anything, but I’m actually kinda surprised I even know what THAC0 is. Like Erin (though not female, but you know what I mean) I was raised as a gamer, by gamers. My Dad has been my longest running GM…

    But in that vein – I’m currently in Manhattan, and my family (and gaming group) are all in Utah. Where can I go around here? Anyone?

  104. Gray says:

    Just a small nitpick – -3 is not per se a good AC in nethack. Depends on the level you are on. On deeper dungeons an AC of -20 or -30 cannot hurt. Now, numbers ‘more negative’ than -30, that I would call a rather good nethack AC :)

  105. Morambar says:

    Yeah, I’m with those who take the position “you can’t have an hour long investigation of the battle site and all its contents while your character draws his sword. ” Since all the kids like to do their RPGs with keyboards now, think how that works in real time strategy games. I’ve only just NOW managed the hardware for Battle for Middle-Earth, and already lost track of how many times I’ve been screwed because I needed to be on opposite sides of the screen at once, before we even consider the whole “let’s take time to FIGURE OUT how to play this…. ”

    Oh, and I’m still convinced gamer girls are a myth made up by posters here to taunt me; I’d never heard of them till I came here. Hmmm, never encountered an illusion where I needed a save to BELIEVE….

  106. Elock says:


  107. Sam-Chan says:

    the ascii-picture reminds me of a seating plan of a cinema. omg, a cinema filled with orcs – what a mess! I wonder wich movie an armee orcs would choose?ó.O


  108. Moonleaf says:

    Thank God 4th edition solved all the ‘how many hp does he have’ questions

    “He’s bloodied”

    “He’s not bloodied”

    Best thing they did in 4th edition!

  109. Trick says:

    Yeah Nethack!

    Hey, has anyone here actually BEATEN the game? I use Explore mode, and I STILL keep ending up reduced to level one by a vampire, or something!

  110. Elijah Meeks says:

    113 comments and I’m the first one to point out that orcs are ‘o’ not ‘O’. Obviously Aragorn is up against a host of ogre lords.

  111. ripjack says:

    Yeah, beaten the game a few times. The Staff of Aesculapius is a nice thing to wish for :)

    Really like this webcomic!

  112. caradoc says:

    The wonderful thing about nethack is the way all the objects take on different functions when enchanted/cursed/etc. And there is a perverse logic behind it all. Add in polymorphing, wishing, and shops and you have something really special.

    Killed by an acid blob on level 1

  113. Friedenmann says:

    Oh really? We play with a stop watch. You get 20 seconds to make up your mind. It’s a damn battle, you don’t have time to sit around and predict all possible movements.

  114. smk says:

    Please, use PNG format for higher-quality images :)

  115. Michael says:

    Loud LoL!

    Ahem, yes, I know Nethack. In far too many variants/versions over far too many years.

    Lets see. I actually was a usenet user when the first modified version of Hack came out. Yep, back when the source to Rogue wasn’t available, and Hack was an attempt to create it, and someone came out with a mod to Hack called Nethack.

    Egads, if you think I’m dating myself, I can name things older. If I see a “warp” screen in there, well, lets just say that some “enterprising” person will be setting up a base in a field …

    (Don’t worry if you don’t get that, it’s not really that good of a joke. But some of the heavy starfields that your starbases would wind up in, and the amazing fact that the Enterprise never starts next to the starbase and often gets destroyed before it can reach the base, …)

  116. HeroOfHyla says:

    Waiting for one’s turn in D&D can be a total pain. In the final encounter of a 4th Edition session I had last week, it took several minutes to go through the turn order.
    The rounds would go like this:
    The Ranger (who got a natural 20 on initiative + 4 from dex) took a long time to position his character in order to get all the good stuff like prime shot. Then he agonized over whether to use careful attack or a standard attack. Then he walked the DM through why he was getting a +7 on his attack roll (proficiency + dex bonus + prime shot) and doing 1d8 + 1d10 + 4 damage (lethal hunter + hunter’s quarry + longbow + dex bonus).

    Then all the enemies got their turn, usually they managed to bring the ranger (who was way to close to the middle of the action) down to about 25% HP.

    Then the paladin would use lay on hands to heal the ranger, usually with some careful maneuvering to get close without provoking an opportunity attack.

    Then the warlord would spend a couple minutes trying to decide which of his not-so-useful abilities to use, while we complained that he didn’t learn the ability (name escapes me at the moment) that allows him to cause a different player to attack instead of him.

    Then I would use magic missile and miss.

    And then we’d repeat

  117. silver Harloe says:

    > Then I would use magic missile and miss.

    Hrm. I haven’t played or read any source material since 2e, but I recall MM being described as always hitting.

  118. Toaadam says:

    Finally! Nethack! What game are you going to do next?!

  119. Der Ami says:

    My first though was actually Dwarf Fortress, in which case the only solution would be to find the nearest pool of lava and flood the place.

  120. Gamerdude says:

    Side note: Boy, the JPG-ing was brutal to the ASCII characters in the Nethack frame. The blue mishmash really is supposed to be “O” (living orcs) and “%” (dead ones).
    the JPG format was designed for photographs and other graphics with thousands of colors and lots of shading/gradients/etc. With large areas of one solid color it leaves a ‘ghost’ where two sections of solid color meet.

    Try GIF or PNG next time. I know GIF will do the job just perfectly but haven’t worked much with PNG.

  121. Aeseihtur says:

    “Losing is fun” that is the dwarf fortress motto and that last strip is a picture of it, its hard to survive 2 years without having crazy dwarfs, and thats before the enemies come, i very long without food over there (there is a screw this trick to get supplies from dwarf traders for free, other traders you get stuff but they get ticked), i wonder how Boatsmurdered did it.

  122. AaA says:

    Charisma 5? :D

  123. o0princessluna0o says:

    How the heck does a ranger have Wis12 and Cha5?!

  124. Belen says:

    you may also re-spec your points at almost any time (for a price).
    I haven’t even mentioned the climbing ability, similar to Shadow
    of Colossus, which allows you to scale these beasts and plunge whatever weaponry you’re housing into their hides.
    You could pick particular creature that you will breed
    and you will get animals demonstrated on moms and fathers.

  125. Kirks Custom says:

    Well, in my day, we didn’t have no screen neither, and we had to play Nethack inside a wet paper bag in the middle of the freeway. You kids think dying by starvation is tough, why back then, you might get hit by a Model T screaming past at 15 MPH!

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