DM of the Rings XCIII:
Impervious to Information

By Shamus Posted Friday Apr 27, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 112 comments

Legolas doesn’t pay attention.
Legolas doesn’t pay attention.

So here we are, at the end of the second movie. This means I spent 46 strips in Fellowship, and 47 in Two Towers. I didn’t plan that, it just sort of worked out that way. Fellowship occupies 58 total pages, while Two Towers is 74 pages long.

So they are finally going to Isengard. There was a rumor that the Hobbits might have been taken there. I guess we’ll find out.

Sure, it can be bad when you realize that one of your players has been zoning out during crucial moments. But, the real horror sets in when the players who have been paying attention try to explain, and their perception of your gameworld is so different from your intention that you almost don’t recognize it as your own.

 


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112 thoughts on “DM of the Rings XCIII:
Impervious to Information

  1. Aaron Sautter says:

    Firsties!!

    I can’t wait to see how you work the hobbits back into the story. I wonder if they’ve managed to kill off Palpatine yet?? : )

  2. Shamus says:

    New rule: Go ahead and compete for first post, but you have to say something meaningful as well. If all you do is celebrate firsthood, then the comment gets nuked.

  3. Aaron Sautter says:

    Shoot. Almost first. I guess that’ll teach me to write something other than FIRST! before I post. : P

  4. thark says:

    Your postscript caused flashbacks to They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard. I am a sad, broken person.

  5. Cameron says:

    Oh, my god. In the 3 seconds it took me to post, two guys did it first. I’m so dissapoiunted. Good thing I have this kickin’ comic to keep me going! Goodies, Shamus. Simply Goodies.

  6. thark says:

    …and apparently so are you. That’ll teach me to actually investigate links before posting.

  7. Aaron Sautter says:

    Cool, thanks Shamus!

    Too bad Treebeard never made an appearance. I’d have loved to see Gimli’s reaction to a walking, talking tree. : )

  8. Vegedus says:

    Yeah, it’s rarely nice when you hear your players butchered version of your own perfect setting. It’s hard to tell who’s to blame, though.
    Oh, and Legolass’ screens (especially his eyebrows) are just brilliant XD

  9. kenderweasel says:

    Hmmm…The Curse Of The Attention-Span-Of-A-Goldfish Gamer strikes again!!
    Although in this campaign, can you really blame him?

    The films are easier to keep track of than the books though – I had to keep flicking back and forth just to keep track of the endless characters with the extremely similar names (even worse in the Silmarillion!)

    1. Steve says:

      Gimli thinks it’s bad, but at least he doesn’t have to put up with Jar Jar.

  10. Carl the Bold says:

    Tenth!

    (or is this not allowed either?)

  11. Blindeye says:

    I always like to hear the players discuss the story, because then I’ll know what I’m doing right. I’ve not had them outright hate a game, though. Even the stories I’ve hated, at least my players seem to enjoy it.

    Also,
    Carl the Bold = Smartass.

  12. Browncoat says:

    This reminds me of the Shamus Comments below “The Name Game”, episode XLIX, talking about living in a world without Proper Nouns.

    I have nothing witty of my own to say. I just like to remind people of other things that were witty in the past.

  13. Sam says:

    I’m as bad about remembering things like this as my players are sometimes, particularly when I’ve had to invent NPC’s on the fly or have a lot to keep track of. I try not to take my settings too seriously in the first place, so if they come up with some way to lampoon the villains (unavoidable with my friends) I tend to just laugh along with it. it’s entertaining and the alternative is being indignant, and that doesn’t help the game.

  14. Ok, this is one of my favorites!

    Legolas’s faces are some of the best yet.

    “Would it kill you to pay attention once in a while?”
    “Probably not, but why take the risk.”

    Classic!

    Can;t wait to see the final 3rd of the series.

  15. Browncoat says:

    (I feel kind of like I should be hosting a revival of the Chris Farley Show.)

  16. Cenobite says:

    “Probably not, but why take the risk?” Brilliant, bloody brilliant.

    One of these days, you should do a strip where someone asks Why Are We Doing This Again, and the answer is, “Well if ya’d just STFU for a second and actually let the DM finish a segue description without covering it in a speech bubble, maybe you’d already know the answer. I’m just sayin’.”

  17. Rolld20 says:

    [Dudes, we all (well, most of us) know how to count; there’s no need to proove it. :) ]

    Alas, nothing breaks the GM’s heart faster than realizing the players are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons– or worse, for no reason.

    Last time I DMed, I was fortunate to have interested players. Even so, while listening to their characters discuss recent events, I nearly axphixiated with keeping myself from blurting out corrections. At least I knew which red herrings they were fixated on, and could build them up appropriately. :)

    1. Sunny says:

      Furrealz? That’s marelvoulsy good to know.

  18. Is it me, or does Gandalf look like he’s about to fall off his horse in panel six? Has he been drinking again?

  19. George says:

    perfect screen shots yet again. You can tell from this strip legolas is clearly the youngest player.

    No one likes it when NPC’s steal all the glory. What ya should have done is with the balrog a while back, make it look like the PC’s are throwing gandalf at the balrog after it falls

  20. Scarlet Knight says:

    So our heroes finally get to attack Saruman the way they wanted in Episode LXV: “Gross Misallocation of Resources”. Or will they? Tune in next week: Same Ent time! Same Ent channel!

  21. Michael says:

    Shamus, I’m curious: are you planning on trying out Lord of the Rings Online any time soon? I’d be interested in your commentary on the game.

  22. Henebry says:

    I’ve been meaning to ask: why are the movie scenes always slightly distorted, making everyone look thinner? Is this some side-effect of the app you’re using to take stills from the DVD?

    Sorry if this has been asked before. I’ve not read the entire Q&A from every strip. Not yet, anyway.

  23. SteveDJ says:

    I enjoy this comic so much, I really hate having to be the one to point out nit-picky spelling errors. Alas…

    Sixth frame: controled –> controlled

    Anyway, back to the praise. I love it, love it, love it!

  24. james says:

    Man, I remember a whole bunch of hobbit action in TTT.

    Were those guys participating in the campaign via PbeM or something?

  25. Nazgul says:

    Legolas = Otto from A Fish Called Wanda

    “What was the middle thing?”

    In our gaming group, Mr. Short Attention Span is the guy that is off reading the latest Maxim, Dragon magazine, or comics books, three seconds after he’s taken his action for that combat round.

  26. hank says:

    Bonus points for Call of Cthulhu reference.

    In Call of Cthulhu if you don’t pay attention to the game, the DM will invariably put you into a situation where your character has to do a sanity check. On the other hand if you do pay attention to the game, your character might come out unscathed but *you* have to do the sanity check.

  27. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    First!

  28. LethalSpoon says:

    I, too, would like to hear your opinion of the Lord of the Rings Online.

  29. Sauron says:

    23: The distortion most likely occurs because the panels are not the same aspect ratio as the DVDs, so there’s going to be have to be some stretching or contracting. I’m guessing Shamus has a widescreen version, so in most panels, people are necessarily too thin.

  30. Ryan says:

    Yay! I’m so glad the hobbits are (maybe) coming back! I love the strip, but I loved it even more with the bigger group. There were so many nice one-offs and side comments. Ahh, nostalgia.

    Anyway, I can’t wait to find out how our (Jedi? Scoundrel? Surely not Scout?1?) hobbit friends are doing.

  31. “the real horror sets in when the players who have been paying attention try to explain, and their perception of your gameworld is so different from your intention that you almost don't recognize it as your own.”

    Oh boy have we been there. We once devoted an entire game session to catching up on what the players were actually SUPPOSED to know by now in one particuarly intricate campaign. :)

  32. Thad says:

    There was a campaign I was in that I’m still not sure about what the heck happened in the larger plot arc. It didn’t help that we were also stuck in the “goofy character name” problem. At least the GM enojyed knowing what was what…

  33. Browncoat says:

    Don’t forget: The players playing Frodo and Sam went to play Star Wars. The players playing Merry and Pip had jobs and school and, possibly, lives. (See Episode XLIV). I too look forward to their return. I’m not sure how much Aragormless, Leg-o-Lamb, and Gimli will react.

  34. MintSkittle says:

    I don’t think the hobbits are coming back, at least not the players. They’d probably have to be NPCs because the third movie has all those diverging story arcs, and it would be hard to be constantly shifting back and forth between them.

  35. John says:

    “But, the real horror sets in when the players who have been paying attention try to explain, and their perception of your gameworld is so different from your intention that you almost don't recognize it as your own”

    Er, yep have been GM in this many times….

  36. Tess says:

    That’s one of the reasons I like playing kenders, halflings, etc. I admit I don’t take notes on what the party is supposed to know, but not paying attention to what’s going on in the game is PERFECTLY in character.

  37. Jindra34 says:

    FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY but starting to slip downward….

  38. “their perception of your gameworld is so different from your intention that you almost don't recognize it as your own.”

    You said it, brother. I run an intrigue-rich Diceless Amber meets Dune game, where there are wheels within wheels and plans within plans, and so I expect gamers to miss a clue now and again.

    But I am shocked, absolutely shocked, when guys who have been playing for years say things that tell me they have not been paying attention for years. One guy did not realize, for example, the city of Amber was on a mountain, even though Your Friendly Moderators gives him the same visual discription of what it looked like each time he sees it. Another guy thought that Azathoth, the infinite gods of madness and evil from the abyss beyond the Courts of Chaos, was harmless.

    The worst part is whenever my player characters come across someone, like Lancelot, who is honest and brave, but who is simply NOT a modern liberal North American with modern liberal values. They were amazed that Lancelot (KING ARTHUR’S LANCELOT, gang, the GUY LOOKING FOR THE FREAKING HOLY GRAIL FER GOSSAKES) was a catholic Christian who took religion seriously, and did not think pagans and paynims had a right to destroy the faith.

    Some players Just. Don’t. Get. It.

  39. Nigel D says:

    10 kenderweasel Says:

    The films are easier to keep track of than the books though – I had to keep flicking back and forth just to keep track of the endless characters with the extremely similar names (even worse in the Silmarillion!)

    I still struggle with keeping track of who’s who in the Silmarillion. Doesn’t help that so many of the elves have similar names (was that Fingolfin, Finarfin or Finrod?). And the humans have Hurin and Huor and Turin and Tuor.

  40. Nigel D says:

    D’oh. I forgot to put the quotes in there. Anyhoo, that first parag was kenderweasel’s comment, the second is mine.

  41. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    First!

    (for Monday’s comic that is)

    ;-)

    Actually, I never come here to be first. The comments are too interesting to miss them as well.

  42. Roxysteve says:

    Meriadoc Brandywine is at this very moment engaged in a no-holds-barred Mech Warrior game with Peregrin Took.

    It’s interesting that not one of the deserters wanted to play Heroclix. Now there was a game with legs. No, not really.

    Loving Lego-less’ ADD.

    Steve

  43. MOM says:

    This was exactly the point in the books when I realised how “lost” I was.

    things never did clear up until I reached this point again on my second reading. Or was it the third? Kind of amazing how the books were so enthralling even when the characters and geography were clear as calculus to a freshmna

  44. scldragonfish says:

    I like cheese!

  45. Jindra34 says:

    scldragonfish:HOW IS THAT PREVELENT?

  46. John C. says:

    Heh, if the hobbits are now NPC’s, just imagine the frustration of our plucky adventurers when, just as they are about to have TEH EPIC BATTLE at the Gates of Morannon … Frito the NPC drop-kicks the ring, and … GAME OVER!

  47. Gbyron says:

    John C.:[i]Heh, if the hobbits are now NPC's, just imagine the frustration of our plucky adventurers when, just as they are about to have TEH EPIC BATTLE at the Gates of Morannon … Frito the NPC drop-kicks the ring, and … GAME OVER![\i]

    Most likely thsi will happen because the DM would have gotten bored of the game, he got a job or found a girlfriend.

  48. harrowed1 says:

    Speaking of Call of Cthulhu, I once was GMing a group trying to play a 1920s, New England setted, CoC game as they play D&D. Before the game was even half-way over the whole lot of them were arrested for carrying deadly weapons without license, firing said unlicened weapons within city limits, breaking and entery, grand theft robbery of an archeological site, attempted selling of priceless historical artifacts at a pawn shop, fraud, solicitating prostitution, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, assaulting members of local police force with a deadly weapon, unlicened hunting of local wildlife, bootlegging,….. oh yes and statutory rape.

    1. WJS says:

      You needed a license to carry a weapon in the 20s? News to me…

  49. Jindra34 says:

    harrowed1:They seem to have caused a lot of havock in the first session

  50. Jim says:

    Looking forward to the RotK section.

    “Ah, old grey beard. I have a token I was bidden to show thee.” (pulls out mithril shirt)

    HACK!

    “Dibs on the magic armor!”

    “It’s Hobbit sized you idiot!”

    “I’ll just strap it on the front. What’s my AC go up to?”

    ***********************************************************

    “Sing us a song master Hobbit.”

    “A song? I don’t know any of this place’s songs!”

    “And why should your songs be unfit for my halls? Come, sing me a song!”

    “My humps, my humps, my humps my humps my humps!”

    “On second thought, never mind.”

    “My lovely lady lumps!”

    “Gaaaahhh!!!”

  51. Attorney At Chaos says:

    Roll20 said:
    “Last time I DMed, I was fortunate to have interested players. Even so, while listening to their characters discuss recent events, I nearly axphixiated with keeping myself from blurting out corrections. At least I knew which red herrings they were fixated on, and could build them up appropriately.”

    I pretty much stopped offering red herrings a long time ago. It wasted too much game time and the players didn’t like it when they realized how much time they had wasted following some false lead that =I= had provided them. It turned out better for enjoyment all around if the timewasting things they got stuck on were all of their own devising.

  52. Jindra34 says:

    Last time i DMed i sent players on a rescue quest…
    in their eagerness they forgot to ask any questions as to what the person they were rescuing looked like… i decided not to plant a moleish type charecter but if i run into somepeople like that again they are going to get stabbed in the back… reckless idiots…

  53. Katy says:

    I watched through all three extended movies a month back and because you posted that “They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard!” video, I can’t get through that scene with cracking a smile and thinking, “Yeah, it does sound a bit rhythmic, doesn’t it?”

  54. Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness says:

    Red Herrings are what a game is all about..

    Back when I was GMing a game of Dragon Mountain (add box set- basically a big fat lot of traps with kobolds worth virtually no xp and a dragon at the end)..

    The players were suspicious of all the NPCs they found in the mountain that would willingly join the adventure. They (correctly) assumed one of them was the dragon in disguise (and also correctly assumed he would have magic resistance).

    So – what was their solution? They would magic missile everyobody who joined their group.

    This, however spread, to ANYone including party members who was separated for the merest of seconds.. oh you were in a differnt room to us – you could be the dragon.. magic missile him…

    oh you fell behind in the corridor – magic missle

    oh you had to do guard duty by yourself – magic missle.

    you can see how it got out of hand…

    Great campaign though. The party did more damage to themselves than te traps or kobolds could ever do.

    1. WJS says:

      And it never occurred to them that a shapeshifted dragon could just pretend to be injured by a magic missile? IIRC, dragons have pretty good Cha, and one that likes shapeshifting probably has ranks in Perform or Bluff too.

  55. DocTwisted says:

    Heh heh.

    This is why Paranoia was and still is my favorite RPG to be GM during. If the players aren’t paying attention, well… they’re not going to get the info a second time, and if they mis-remember it they could wind up going to the wrong area, and getting disciplined for not going straight to their mission.

    That, and the chance to give player characters private goals like “One of your team members is an unregistered mutant. Find it and kill all of its clones.”

  56. Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness says:

    DocTwisted

    try the paranioa card game.. it’s not bad

  57. Matt` says:

    “Heh, if the hobbits are now NPC's, just imagine the frustration of our plucky adventurers when, just as they are about to have TEH EPIC BATTLE at the Gates of Morannon … Frito the NPC drop-kicks the ring, and … GAME OVER!”

    If Gandalf swooping in with the horse-f***ers pissed the players off then having the massed orcs at the Gates disappear into the ground will really make them want to murder something small and hobbit shaped

  58. Matt` says:

    and it appears that the italicisation didn’t end where I intended it to… must have forgotten the / in the second tag

  59. Gelatinous Cube says:

    I just love the fact that the players are always talking over the DM’s monologue. Why take the risk indeed.

  60. Dannerman says:

    I love it when I let my players describe my plot to eachother. They sometimes come up with stuff that makes me go “Oh crap! That’s such a good idea I’m going to have to steal it! It makes so much more sense for that NPC to actually be evil\blonde\a werecow\whatever instead.”

    So I steal their ideas (without letting them know of course), and they get to feel really clever for ‘figuring things out’.

    In one game I ran, I had an NPC apprentice to a major NPC who in my notes was literally just a 1st level Sorceress that followed my major NPC around.
    My players managed to convince themselves that she was actually a Dark Elf spy in a really good disguise and that they had to come up with really clever ways to exclude her from events until they could find evidence to expose her.

    Best adventure my players ever DM’ed, that one. (I eventually let them ‘out’ her as a spy.)

    Of course, this would be pretty hard to do when your plot is already there for you like the LotR or a published adventure. But then again, they’ve already killed Gollum…

  61. Zippy Wonderdog says:

    I don’t know why Legolases player needs to be paying attention anyway since the the Lord of the Railways campaign started :)

  62. Raved Thrad says:

    Hehe… finally a Call of Cthulhu reference, but (slightly) disappointingly there are no blank-looked NPCs indicating a SAN check. Maybe even a failed SAN check.

    Leggy-lass’ expressions don’t count as a SAN check, I think. It’s more of the player’s bad choice in choosing INT as his dump stat. :D

    Hmm, does this mean that if the Hobbits come back from playing Star Wars we’re going to get a lot of bad Star Wars quotes? Hehe maybe even something from “Backstroke of the West?” :P

    “Our dichotomy opens the combat”

  63. Tola says:

    It occurs to me that pretty soon we’ll be meeting Faramir.

    I do hope Frank(Boromir’s player? Remember him?) took the DM’s offer in the end.

    1. WJS says:

      It’s been a while since I watched the films, but I don’t think The Trio meet Faramir, just Sam & Frodo. Well, they do meet him, but he’s not in any shape to actually do anything by that point.

  64. Richard says:

    I love the way Gandalf, who ostensibly leads the expedition, becomes part of the scenery as soon as the players start talking :)

  65. Tola says:

    Is it me, or does Legolas’s expression never change?

    In all the shots(Not just here, but in the other comics, he’s had this similar expression.)

    …Am I imagining it?

  66. Woerlan says:

    Excellent Cthulhu sanity check reference. Legolas seems to switch between two expressions: murderous psychotic and utterly confused. Aragorn also seems to have two primary expressions: stoned drowsy and wryly cheerful. Gimli as well: jolly and annoyed. All in all, a very wacky bunch.

    I LOVE the comment regarding Mr. Plot Exposition. Nasty job, but some NPC’s gotta do it.

    The return of the hobbit players intrigues me. I’m wondering how their taking
    prestige class levels will be worked into the story (given that one rides with the Rohirrim and the other becomes a guardian of the citadel).

  67. Tola says:

    Do they even count as Prestige classes, though? They could easily become another ‘standard’ class. Knight exists as a class, and certainly one could also say they took Fighter levels.

  68. orcbane says:

    I agree. As a DM, its scary when one player summarizes the painstaking storyline you’ve worked up in one or two sentences. Where that novella of your plat and personnas becomes “We’re supposed to go in the castle and kill everything.”

  69. Shadowluck says:

    I’m completely new to this thread, but I’ve been hearing it second hand for months now. I just wanted to say thanks and to let you know it makes me feel not quite so A.D.D. … *Love the furrowed brow on Legolas*!

    Let me also say that Sanity checks should be made by all players the second they sit down at the table…
    It just might save you from a slightly deranged Barbarian making a dragon magnet out of a old woodcutters shed and 7 kegs of Stout Dwarven ale… Go figure.

  70. Rayne says:

    Yeah, and I would have to agree with Shadowluck…I am in that campaign and now my ranger has twitches because I failed a sanity check…really makes it interesting when you are trying to shoot something.

    We honestly did not think she would blow up the shed, but her character is insane, so go figure. It only brought out the uber-dragon and all its minions. Fun fun!

    Oh, and the barbarian ended up gettin knocked out by her own party members and shoved into a portable hole.

    We had to tie her up so she wouldn’t kill us; she went crazy (well crazier than ususal). At least my insanity wears off after a few days….

    Btw….love the comic. It has made many of my bad days good ones. Thanks!

  71. Shadowluck says:

    Umm.. Oh yes I did fail to mention that I am the Barbarian? And yes I have A.D.D. So it is really very difficult for me to read straight through all the posts and what is really up with Gandalf he does appear a bit inebriated.

  72. Naughty Girl says:

    I just found this strip about a week ago and have it on my ‘morning pages to open’ on a daily basis. I’m so glad you are still working on it. So many online comics have stopped recently and it has been depressing.

    My hubby reads ‘order of the stick’ which you mentioned near the beginning. I hate it, its pretty boring to me. BUT THIS… this is GREAT! I’ve even shared it with a few friends who I think will become regular readers too!

    Keep up the good work and don’t listen to the ‘nay sayers’ too much.

    Jokes are hit and miss, you can’t please everyone all the time.

    I know I end up in a giggling mess every 3rd to 5th strip. Hubby came over to see what I was doing when I was reading the archieve all at once, I was giggling so much!

    Oh, and btw, I was never into playing D&D / AD&D that much. Played maybe 3 – 5 times in my life. So your strip certainly works for those who aren’t into D&D / AD&D as well.

  73. Jerremy says:

    End of the movie? Where are Frodo and Sam? Gollum? Faramir?

  74. Wilson says:

    Gollum was killed by Legolas, awhile back. But this was an awesome strip, i think it’s my new favorite.

  75. Tola says:

    APPARENTLY killed.

    Remember: they’re not dead till you see the body. And even then…

  76. Jindra34 says:

    tola: Law of Dming: Your description of the world is 1000% percent accurate… like anyone would listen though…

  77. Godfather Punk says:

    John C. Says:
    Heh, if the hobbits are now NPC's, just imagine the frustration of our plucky adventurers when, just as they are about to have TEH EPIC BATTLE at the Gates of Morannon … Frito the NPC drop-kicks the ring, and … GAME OVER!

    And to add insult to injury:

    “THE EAGLES ARE COING! THE EAGLES ARE COMING!”

  78. Scott says:

    I have suffered from clinical depression for years. The last 4 months have been a real decline, and the last two weeks in particular have taken a very nasty downturn. Today, though, I was pointed to this satire, and have just finished reading it, start to finish. During that time I laughed out loud no less than 5 times.. which is literally more than I have in the last several months put together.

    This probably doesn’t mean much coming from someone you don’t know, and in a comment you will in all likelyhood never read… but…

    Thank you.

  79. WheatKing says:

    Now given that the first movie took 46 strips and the second 47, we can say the last will probably take 48. 48 strips divided by three a week equals 16 weeks which logically means this strip should end sometime in August/September.

    PLEASE DON’T MAKE THIS COMIC GO INTO 2008!!!

  80. Jindra34 says:

    scot: are you suggesting using this site to help depression patients?

  81. Rickster says:

    Hey dudes, when are we gonna get Frodo and Sam (The Jedi Knight wannabes) and GOllum in the picture? I would love it if Sam went to Minas Morgul, banged on the doors and used his Jedi mind trick tell the Orc Guards “You don’t need to see my identification! These aren’t the halfings you’re looking for!”

    Now THAT would be a laugh!

  82. Rickster says:

    Or how’s this, Gollum IS the mini version of Emperor Palpatine, but they mashed up his brain!

  83. Scarlet Knight says:

    Don’t listen to WheatKing. He barley makes sense (heh heh – get it? Barley …never mind)

    Keep going until we stop having fun, and from the sound of the comments, that’s not happening anytime soon.

    Besides, we have all those anticipated events; such as Faramir & his father engaging in dueling Shakespearean quotes: “Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child!” “Oh, yeah? Well, wouldst that thou were wise before thou wert old!”

  84. brassbaboon says:

    Great online comic Shamus. I can’t read it at work, I laugh too much.

    I also DM campaigns, and have been doing so off and on for over 20 years. There are too many times I find myself nodding in agreement at Gimli’s comments.

    You’ve done an excellent job in creating personas behind each character. Keep it up.

    The comments are great too.

    One of my first DM sessions I had this beautiful plan all laid out for the PCs to come into the abandoned keep in the wilderness. I had spent a week carefully and meticulously laying out the hallways and pathways and populating them with denizens of the dark. Finally the party hacked their way through the dense woods and found the old and decaying bridge across the river and to the front door of the keep, a door that was old, rotting and hanging on its hinges, just begging to be walked through.

    Then the players got involved.

    “I’m not going through that door.” the thief (this predates “rogues”) said.
    “Me either.” Said the wizard.
    “I tie my grappling hook to my rope and toss it on the roof.” Says the thief.
    “Um… it falls back down.” I tell him.
    “Great, hey, wizard, you’ve got spider climb don’t you?”
    “Well, not memorized.”
    “OK, we’ll camp out so he can memorize spider climb.”
    “Um.. guys, the door is virtually wide open.” I say.
    “Right, there’s no way I’m going through a wide open door.” says the thief.
    “Uh, uh, me either” responds the rest of the party.
    “If you camp out, you’ll likely get attacked by random monsters.” I say.
    “No problem, as long as wizzie here doesn’t wake up, we’ll be fine.”

    In the end, the thief got tired of the DM trying to game the game, said “Screw this, I’m just going to climb the wall.” rolled a natural 20, and that was that. Up on the roof they went. What part of the keep had I never even considered? Never even drawn? Never even thought about?

    The roof. Sigh. And there they were, on the roof. All of my week’s worth of notes and nothing to guide me. On my first outing as a DM.

    I learned a lot that day (I hope).

  85. Shamus says:

    Scott: Sorry you’re not feeling well.

    I read ’em all. I really do.

  86. Shamus says:

    Brassbaboon: That is classic.

  87. Tess says:

    Scarlet Knight: Great quotes, but… not to be nit-picky but they’re actually “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child,” and “Thou shouldst not have been old til thou hadst been wise.”

    Denethor would have made an excellent King Lear, he was certainly mad enough. (I may be a kender, but at least I’m a well-read one.)

  88. Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness says:

    Scott: Welcome aboard… Now you just need to read through 88 odd comments of people who love Shamus’s work so much they relate it to their own experiences (I am guilty of that as well)….

    now where can i sign the “we want Eomer as a regular PC” petition?

    Personally I’d love this to go into 2008 but we could always do a new webcomic (Note WE means Shamus, my involvment is posting about it and waiting for my ring to arrive – STEVE!!!!!)… I suggest Pirates of the Carribean (I’m a pastafarian, so it appeals to me)

  89. Bugsysservant says:

    YAYYYY Pastafarians!!! Fight Global Warming!

  90. Lundorff says:

    “The roof. Sigh. And there they were, on the roof. All of my week's worth of notes and nothing to guide me. On my first outing as a DM.”

    Couldn’t the roof have caved in under the strain of their weight and thus having them fall just inside, next to the door, slightly brused and dusty?

  91. Scarlet Knight says:

    Tess : Thanks for the corrections. It’s a fault of mine; I blame it on the translation to common…

  92. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    Pastafarians. heh.

    “Pirates are cool”

  93. Roxysteve says:

    My favourite DM Plan Gone Wrong story goes back to the “white box” edition.

    My friend ran a campaign in which the players were none-too cooperative with each other, but one guy – Jerry – was in a class of his own. Everyone was in a state of near mutiny because the team would defeat a puzzle trap to get some treasure (greatly compressing the narrative here) and then Jerry would dash to the front and grab the item for himself. The DM’s best friend John was beginning to be particularly ticked off and the DM had started that campaign primarily so John could adventure. It was A Problem.

    The DM was chortling over coffee one day and I asked him what was so funny. He said he had the perfect plan: The treasure would be a key with the property that it would cause anyone who touched it to turn into a Unicorn. Jerry would do his usual trick of waiting for someone else to take poison damage form the lock on the casket in which the treasure lay, then dash forward and grab the key. He would then undergo a glorious transformation into the noble hornéd beast. Since unicorns only suffer the company of maidens, the changeling would then put as much distance between it and the party as it could. Jerry’s ticket would have been fairly punched and he would have been hoist on the petard of his own greed.

    The next day I saw my friend glumly drinking coffee and I joined him.

    “How’d it go?” I asked him.

    “Not good. Everything went as envisaged until Jerry went into his Loot Lope. Then John coshed him from the rear and while he was stunned, pushed Jerry out of the way and siezed the treasure for himself. Jerry escaped.”

    “So John is running around with a horn? Looking for a maiden?” I asked innocently.

    “Shut up”.

    “Explain this plan to me again” I said.

    “Shut up”.

    To this day, when my own games start looking like going off the beaten rails, I console myself with the Jerry story. It serves as a watermark for how badly awry a plan can go.

    Steve.

  94. Roxysteve says:

    brassbaboon Says:
    In the end, the thief got tired of the DM trying to game the game, said “Screw this, I'm just going to climb the wall.” rolled a natural 20, and that was that. Up on the roof they went. What part of the keep had I never even considered? Never even drawn? Never even thought about?

    The roof. Sigh. And there they were, on the roof. All of my week's worth of notes and nothing to guide me. On my first outing as a DM.

    Magic story. One way to reward this sort of thing is to make the roof the most boring place on the face of the planet of course, but a few possibilities open themselves for a mean DM.

    The roof is not typically as robust on a building as many like to think. Some medieval rooves were only just strong enough to support the weight of the covering. Step on the wrong part and through you go. WHo knows how far the fall will be, or what waits beneath the thatching?

    Wet slate offers a boot about the same amount of traction as wet soap. I know, I used to climb on the stuff. Allow the players to be woken from their rest by a light rainfall, tile the roof in slate and the game is afoot. Dislodged slates are also razor sharp and can (and have) decapitated people. Now that’s a good game.

    A tower roof is an ideal place for a roof aquifer. Imagine the possibilities for players wasting their own time upon coming across a brimming tank of water as the roof surface. “I disbelieve it”. “I cast water breathing and go for a (pointless) swim” (no-one puts trapdoors in the bottom of the drinking water tank). Not only that, with the correct tone of voice the unbroken, placid surface of the rooftop lake will sound far worse than any open door.

    Or just take the easy way out and once they are all on the roof have them dimension doored to the front entrance anyway.

    Take heart. First time DMs always have these sort of things happen to them. Players sometimes take malicious glee in taking a new DM somewhere he didn’t plan for. I’m not sure why. I always played on the basis that the faster a new DM became an experienced DM the faster the game would become more satisfying for me, but maybe I’m strange.

    Steve.

  95. okay! says:

    Another great one. I could add this every day, so let’s agree I’ll just tell you when it sucks (still waiting).

  96. Flatline says:

    Hi everyone. Firstly congratulations to Shamus on this fantastic comic. It has had me giggling for hours. :)

    I thought I’d share a couple of my experiences with plot collapses. The first was in a game we played recently. It was a Hunter style game set in Victorian England. Great setting and we had loads of fun with the stereotypes. Problem was that our GM likes his complicated plots. We don’t mind the odd bit of investigating, but we still like to shoot things and blow stuff up. Anyway after a fair bit of trouble (and wandering about completely confused) we ended up with this enchanted sword. My character got volunteered to look after it. Then the GM starts describing how its giving my family nightmares and generally being creepy. Well we knew there was at least one enemy faction after it so we decided to get rid of it and it ended up getting dumped in the middle of the Atlantic. The GM later revealed that we were SUPPOSED to use the sword to kill the big bad guy at the end of the campaign as he was more or less invulnerabe. That involved a bit of rewriting of the plot!

    The other tale was where I was running a sci-fi game based on the Firefly series. The party finished their mission and had a few of days to waste before their starship picked them up again. The party then decided to assassinate a local gang leader, who they hadn’t met, because they had threatened to kill him when beating up some of his gangers. Que a whole session where they plotted out what they were going to do and carried it out. After taking the guy out and making a clean get-away they still had 2 days left to wait.

    One of the party asked “Are there any holiday resorts on this planet?”

    I told him there was.

    “We’ll go to one of those.”

    At which point one of the other players asked “Why didn’t we do that to start with?”

    Why indeed.

    1. WJS says:

      The players dumped the sword they need to kill the villain in the Atlantic? That’s easy. Just make them capture the villain, chain him up with some lead weights, and send him down to look for it!

  97. brassbaboon says:

    To those who responded to my DM story, here is what eventually happened.

    The roof turned out to be somewhat unsteady, and since they were careful adventurers, they made their way slowly around a series of potential pitfalls, only to eventually find themselves crashing through the roof into the keep’s chapel. As they were moving about the roof, rookie, DM though I was, I decided several of the denizens of the keep were alert enough, sensitive enough and smart enough to follow their progress. So when they eventually crashed through the roof, they were now stuck in the middle of the keep with no easy way out, and an alert and prepared bunch of critters.

    They did eventually fight their way back out. But the rubble of the roof in the chapel hid the chest which contained the item they needed to find, forcing them to go back to town and hire a seer to find it.

    In the end it worked out, and I did my best to have the keep’s roof behave as a decrepit keep’s roof should have, and not have it simply drop them down in such a way as to make their inventiveness pointless.

    Frankly I was pleased that they showed such initiative and made me think on the spot. I found myself having as much fun figuring out what was going on in the keep as they did. And the end result was probably better than the elaborate trap I had set for them, a trap they encountered on their way out anyway.

    What I *think* I learned from that experience is that a good dungeon might be planned to the last detail, but a great dungeon is one that is alive and which reacts to the players as much as they react to it.

    So these days when I DM I am much more fluid and reactive than I was on that day. Instead of trying to get the players to do what I want, I work as hard as I can on making the world behave as if it were a real world, not some pre-determined course that the players have to follow or else there is no point to it.

    I am currently running a low level (the party is currently 3rd level) campaign with a few newcomers to the game. They are all adults so we have very little of the whining and bickering that is common to these games. The party originally set off to rescue the wizard’s farmer brother after the town was overrun by goblins while the wizard was off at wizarding school. But the landscape all along the path is populated with all manner of interesting things, and I try to keep the area just around the party well enough defined so that I am not creating things like hills or rivers on the fly, but not so well defined that I had to spend all my evenings every week working on it.

    As it turned out, they ran into a kobold ambush on the way and this angered them so much that they agreed to help a local ranger clear out the kobold lair. I wove this into the overall story line of an evil uprising of kobolds, goblins and other critters trying to take their ancestral lands back from the interloping humans and elves so it all fit together. Then, on an airplane trip for business, I created a simple kobold lair that fits on a single page of graph paper, and we spent the next several sessions clearing out that lair, getting lots of XP and pushing the plot closer.

    But, eventually the wizard remembered that his brother was still captured and they are now heading back on the original quest. The gameplay time in the lair was only a few days, but they are now battle-hardened and ready to tackle a goblin lair to rescue the brother. So it worked out better than if I had planned it.

    That’s not uncommon for my campaigns. If the party decided to turn south, they’d find an increasingly wild landscape with more opportunities for hack and slash against the roused kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins, etc. If they turn north they will find a large lake (almost an inland sea) which has been infested with pirates. To the west is the main populated areas with cities, taverns and intrigue, and to the east, a brother to rescue.

    I don’t really care what they decide to do, although if they abandon the brother to his fate, the paladin in the group will probably regret it.

  98. Hydro Globus says:

    … 100 comments!

    (ok to add some content, it’s a great – and true – one.

  99. Thehee says:

    They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard! Ga-gagagaga-Gard!

    Come on, you all know the song!

  100. Andrew Jensen says:

    Yes, the way D&D compairs with the horrors of Call of Cthulhu is how the players forget everything! I’d rather face a gruesome horror covered in pustuals, decaying skin and many tentacles all combined into a slimy mass of horrendous apendages and flesh that no mortal man should gaze apon and retain any part of who he is, than face forgetful players.

  101. Michael says:

    The treasure would be a key with the property that it would cause anyone who touched it to turn into a Unicorn. Jerry would do his usual trick of waiting for someone else to take poison damage form the lock on the casket in which the treasure lay, then dash forward and grab the key. He would then undergo a glorious transformation into the noble hornéd beast. Since unicorns only suffer the company of maidens, the changeling would then put as much distance between it and the party as it could. Jerry's ticket would have been fairly punched and he would have been hoist on the petard of his own greed.

    The next day I saw my friend glumly drinking coffee and I joined him.

    “How'd it go?” I asked him.

    “Not good. Everything went as envisaged until Jerry went into his Loot Lope. Then John coshed him from the rear and while he was stunned, pushed Jerry out of the way and siezed the treasure for himself. Jerry escaped.”

    So this is where you CHANGE that treasure from a key of purity to a key of door unlocking. Or something.

    Don’t give the good player the bad treasure.

  102. Kisame says:

    IA! IA! Cthulhu R’lyeh fhtagn!

  103. Knittingmoose says:

    Not only is the strip funny but it also has one of my fave screen caps. Karl Urban (the guy who plays Eomer) was supposed to be put in but never was. His stunt double is sitting proudly in the film for all the world to see!

  104. Samuel Bronson says:

    Hmm, the tooltip (title attribute) on this one seems to have a double-escaped apostrophe in it…

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