DM of the Rings XCIX:
Alliterative Antagonists

By Shamus Posted Friday May 11, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 142 comments

Saruon and Saruman are different guys?
The campaign isn’t over.

Just to have a little fun with your players, try switching the names of two characters which start with the same letter and see if they notice.

And by “fun” I mean, “abruptly realize that all your hard work and etymology research is a comical waste of time”.


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142 thoughts on “DM of the Rings XCIX:
Alliterative Antagonists

  1. Roxysteve says:

    My only question is why didn’t the DM see that coming? Every player character would appear to have three or more ranks in no attention span.


  2. Sewerman says:

    They look so disappointed that it isn’t over:)
    They must be using the Director’s cut rather than the Theatrical version :)

  3. Robbbbbb says:

    Good Mario reference. I like it.

  4. first!

    Another awesome one :D

    I too always thought those two names were just too dang similar, what was Tolkien thinking?!?!

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Matrim says:

      He was thinking that in a wide world of characters it’s likely that some of them will have similar names…

    2. RandyJJ says:

      If you think Sauron/Saruman is bad, never try reading the Silmarillion. Finwe/Fingolfin/Finarfin/Fingon/Finrod…

      (though in Tolkien’s defense, names really would follow patterns like that in old European families; and for Tolkien, realism–when it came to words–was a pretty high priority)

  5. wISEMAN says:

    Do I win the cookie?

  6. Roxysteve says:

    FYI: I think Gimli swallowed his beard in frame three there Shamus.


  7. Ogreman says:

    Yeah, this was totally what I was expecting for the next comic. I never realized how many sarcastic looks Gimli gives. Great job Shamus.

  8. Fred Kiesche says:

    I have learned not to have liquids in my mouth when reading this comic. Another classic! “Sorry princess” indeed!

  9. blast!
    That’s what I get for not refreshing the page before posting!

  10. Aaron says:

    LOL I wondered when you were going to have them screw up the names. Nice strip Shamus!

  11. Flexstyle says:

    Would a simple “LOL” suffice for this one? ‘Cause I don’t have anything clever to say.

    Loved this one, I was wondering what would happen after Saruman (or was it Sauron?) got erased.

  12. Librain says:

    So, they’ve had their monthly quota of fighting and xp from Helm’s Deep, now there’s a month of just wandering around the countryside and the GM coming up with ways to convince the players to actually try and recruit the ghoul army before the battle at Minas Tirith. I wonder how long it will take them to switch from complaining about not being able to go up more than one level per session to complaining about the lack of xp again?

    “I’m not arrogant, I really am that good.”

    1. johanna says:

      “Not that I’m bitter or anything”

      Wow, I can actually feel your idealistic pollyanna attitude leaving for good as a DM: the despair, the disappointment, the bitterness. All while gleeful, greedy, mountain dew guzzling players continue the descent into railroading hell. If you weren’t so powerful, I would feel sorry for you :)

  13. Da Rogue says:

    Sorry Princess but the Wizard is in another castle. Great stuff, really.

    That does remind me of one campaign where the DM had us kill a bugger of a orc wizard for the campaign story. We had been searching for a wizard, so naturally when we killed this one we thought that was it. Nope sorry, the wizard you have to kill is elite lvl and there’s no way you can fight him and win… That’s what rogues and explosive devices are for… No more evil wizard; how can anyone of any lvl survive that much rock falling on their heads after being hit by such a large explosion??

    Take THAT DM!!!!!!

  14. Mikko says:

    You know, this strip makes me glad Tolkien never finished the story he started about new Shadow threatening Gondor after Aragorn’s death. After all, he’s going to marry Arwen, a half-elf, so his son and heir will combine the qualities of Aragorn and elves… and just about the only exemplar of elves we have so far had is Leggy-Lass.

    I feel sorry for the future Gondorians.

  15. Andrew Cory says:

    Fifteenth! It’s mine, all mine, deliciously mine!

  16. Aries says:

    watch carefully and you can actualy see the threads of this very hard working DM’s story unravel….mewhahahaha!!

    personaly i have nothing against DM’s there are needed as much as a story need plot and a PC needs treasure.

    but yea the old name cockup bit….argh

    wonder what there reaction will be when theyrealise that the whole story relys on 2 ‘hobbits’ that are no longer in the game!!

  17. Dean Steinlage says:

    One of the best compliments I ever got was the DM telling me I really could derail his game.

  18. 2.5 cats says:

    Possible typo. Should Gimli be saying “Well, I guess that’s it.” rathat than “Whelp, I guess that’s it,” in panel 3?

    1. Joe says:

      2.5 cats, try saying “well” and immediately snapping your mouth shut like you’re really annoyed. That curt word you just said is spelled “welp”, or “whelp” if you say it with an accent.

  19. Tonko says:

    Hahahahah, I started reading the books when I was pretty young, and I had that exact problem. For a few years (I used to read them once a year, it was a thing) I didn’t get at all the difference between Sauron and Saruman.

    Also, I love the punchline.

  20. Marmot says:

    I was waiting for a long time to see this “similarity” used. I have my players confusing even worse things than that so I guess I’m a happy man :)

  21. ZackTheSTGuy says:

    Not to be overly picky, but isn’t the scene in frame 5 from a COMPLETELY different part of the movie? I mean… where the hell did those helmeted guys come from?!?

    Still, great strip. I’ve been reading this comic since before you started updating the older comics to the ‘new style.’ Hilarious stuff!

  22. Sarah says:

    “Anti-climatic” means you’re against the weather.

  23. mom says:

    Ditto on the ” I got those characters confused the first time through too!”
    It has been 40 years since my first reading and I had forgotten about that, so you got a guffaw from me today:)

  24. Shamus says:

    “Whelp” vs “well” – That was on purpose.

    Zack: Yes. It’s from the trip to helm’s deep. This part of the movie is annoying. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas have almost no lines in this part of the movie, and when they do speak it’s usually with a grim expression and looking “up” at Saruman. Those shots don’t work as stills for them speaking to each other.

    I gotta use what Pete Jackson gave me.

  25. brassbaboon says:

    Heh, I think I learned a long time ago that the role of the DM is to provide the players an opportunity to advance their character’s up the level train and give them cool stuff to parade around with.

    Everything else is just atmosphere.

    So that’s pretty much how I run a campaign. Lots of encounters to get the XP up and keep the players in fear for their character’s lives, but fairly simple plot lines and an endless supply of NPCs for them to practice their swordplay on.

    In one of our recent sessions, I had an opportunity for one of them to describe their recent activities to an agent of the king of the country they live in. It went exactly as Shamus describes:

    “Well, we were looking to rescue whatsisname’s brother from something, was it goblins?”
    “My name is Belvin, and yes, we were heading to rescue my brother. I think it was goblins.”
    “That was in that other town, not the one we started in, hey Belvin, what town are you from?”
    “Lemme check my notes…. hang on..”
    “No matter, so we were on our way there when this guy here, this ranger dude comes out of nowhere after we were ambushed by kobolds.”
    “No it was baboons that ambushed us.”
    “No that was first, then it was kobolds.”
    “Whatever, anyway this guy here, he asked us to help clear out some kobolds, so we did.”
    “Yeah, we killed them all.”
    “Oh, and some big nasty bugs too.”
    “Right, we killed a bunch of kobolds and some nasty bugs.”
    “OK, and did you discover any reason for the kobolds being here?”
    “What? I mean they’re kobolds right? They just live here.”

    And on and on. By the time I allowed the King’s agent to be satisfied with the explanation of the party’s activities, it was clear that not only did the players not remember a single name of a single NPC, they did not even remember the names of their own party members. In one case the player did not even remember his own character’s name. Forget about the reason for the kobold invasion, the secret letters they found explaining how the uprising was just a portion of a larger campaign against the humans and elves. All that background story was exactly that… background story.

    What they wanted to do was kill a bunch of kobolds and get a lot of loot.

    Which is what its all about in the long run right? I mean they aren’t going to be running for Mayor or anything. And this is a pretty good group of players we are talking about.

    So my expectations are pretty low when it comes to their following of the plotline. I consider it my job to keep them prodded to go in the right directions to advance the plot, and if they decide not to, oh well, it’s a big world out there. I’ll find something for them to do.

    But they are having fun, and that’s all that matters.

  26. DocTwisted says:

    Yeah, I think we all saw this coming. But that didn’t make it any less funny.

    I especially love when Gimli asks if Sauron is in this tower so they can wrap up the campaign tonight.

  27. Haviland says:

    It confused hell out of me the first time I read the book as well.

    About the same point as well.

  28. Jim in Buffalo says:

    I figured that “Whelp” was an amalgam of “Well” and “Yup.”

    Damn funny one today… the Shadowrun line really got me.

  29. Hanov3r says:

    Panel 7, isn’t the bad guy’s name “Sauron”, not “Saruon”? :-)

  30. Lukelightning says:

    Hah! When I first read the Lord of the Ring series as a kid, I confused Saruman and Sauron as well.

    And I still can’t remember which one is Merry and which one is Pippin.

  31. txknight says:

    Lol! Ironically in my games the players tend to remember the names better that I do!

    “…countryside and the GM coming up with ways to convince the players to actually try and recruit the ghoul army before the battle at Minas Tirith.”


    I’m wondering how the DM is going to convince them not to kill the ghouls for extra XP!

  32. KGrape says:

    Right now, I’m looking ahead to Monday and thinking, “What could he do at this point in the story with something shaped like a giant letter ‘C’?”

  33. Sarah says:

    Either there are 2 people named Sarah or i managed to send a post telepathically from the bakery where i work…hmmm….nope, i was thinking about chicken at 12 o clock, couldn’t have been me, no. oh well.

  34. Scarlet Knight says:

    Let’s see, Arwen is 3/4 elf, Aragorn is human so their son is …hmmm,carry the one….5/4 human , uh, , can’t be right…forgot to divide…

  35. Clyde says:

    Don’t feel bad, Sarah. If we can have a Saruman AND a Sauron, we can certainly have more than one Sarah as well. The more S names, the merrier!

  36. John Ross says:

    I’ve been following this series for a bit, and I just have to add my own good job here.

    Of course, it may just be that is it game’s night and I’ve just heard that half my players can’t come and the other half want the game to go on and I needed to see someone elses game getting derailed in much the same way…

  37. brassbaboon says:


    Pippin is the blonde one.

  38. Aaron says:

    John: It sucks when half the crew can’t come. When I had a regular game going I usually had my full compliment. It made my life soo much easier as a GM for various games.

    Sarah: Have you been playing with the “Shiney Treasure” in the last strip? ;)

  39. Proteus says:

    Yup… another episode shockingly familiar to a real campaign.

    DM: “OK, you found the mystic armor.”
    Us: “Good. We go home.”
    DM: “Wh– why?”
    Us: “We found the armor. Don’t we hand it over to the Emperor and get a reward or something?”
    DM: “NO! You’ll need that to stop the Succubus!”
    Us: “Succubus?”
    DM: “Don’t you remember why you began your quest for that armor? It was only three sessions ago!”
    Us: “Right. And we meet once a month, so that was three months ago. We’ve had finals since then!”
    DM: “Mmmrph!”

  40. George says:

    Aragorns face is perfect in number 5.

    Lol. i remember when i was young reading the books i was confused for the longest time that there was a difference beteween saruman and sauron

  41. Michael says:

    For the record, in tolkien’s universe when an elf and a human have children, the children themselves choose whether they will be elves or humans (not that that makes very much sense, genetically) Although even if they choose to be humans they live a lot longer than normal humans.

  42. Harlequin says:

    “I don’t suppose he’s in this tower?”


  43. That was pretty much my reaction to the books when I read them. I’m terrible with names.

  44. Lisa says:

    Elrond is half-elven, but he obviously chose to be an elf when he married Celebrian and had cute little elf-babies with her. Arwen chose to be human when she married Aragorn, so even though she’s going to live longer than humans, she’s no longer immortal like an elf. Their kids should technically be able to choose to be elves, but I don’t know if it works that far down the line.
    Also, the time of the elves is fading. I know ’cause my Minstrel’s fate is crap (LOTRO reference). Silly elves.

    Been lurking here a while, my GURPS DM linked me, ’cause we play LOTRO together (we also play D&D and Shadowrun together, but that’s not really the point). And yeah, hilarious.. I show each new page to my boyfriend ’cause it makes him laugh :)

  45. Jaquandor says:

    I’ve been watching the movies with my daughter, and I’ve pretty much had to explain the difference between Sauron and Saruman every twenty minutes or so while we’re watching them. Oy.

  46. Oona says:

    Well, I admit, I never had a problem keeping Saruman and Sauron straight. Then again, I didn’t read the books until my early 20’s. Love the bit about the is the wizard in the tower so we can rap this up?! You know, my players don’t even remember each other’s real names sometimes, nevermind the characters’. :/

  47. Fickle says:

    “I don't suppose he's in this tower?”

    Fantastic! I love how pragmatic Gimli is. XD

  48. Alasseo says:

    @Scarlet Knight-34: Arwen is, I believe, closer to 5/6ths elven (Elrond is not (as his title suggests) Half-Elven, but 3/4 (check the genealogies- the both his mother and paternal grandmother were elves, meaning that his father was truly half-elven, so he is 3/4 elven, Arwen 5/6 elven and any of her children would be what, 6/7ths? 7/8ths?)

    1. WJS says:

      If Elrond is 3/4 elven and his wife is fully elven, Arwen is 7/8 elven, not 5/6. Her kids with a full human (are Dunedain fully human?) would be 7/16 elven. That is, of course, very close to 1/2 elven.

  49. Bosstone says:

    Trivia I Learned Today:
    When Ralph Bakshi was creating hi version of Lord of the Rings, the studio execs found Sauron and Saruman to be too confusing, so they made Bakshi change Saruman to Aruman.

    This is my first post, so I’ll throw in the obligatory Love The Site comment. Good stuff.

  50. Tanka says:

    Yay, Shadowrun reference! (Even if not even remotely vague.)

    Next up: 6-Sided: GM of the Chrome.


  51. Alasseo says:

    Oops, my bad. Having just checked the genealogies, I find that both of Elrond’s (and Elros’, of course) parents were half-elven. Which means they themselves are half-elven. That means Arwen is 3/4 elven, as you said Scarlet Knight, and her children by Aragormless would be 2/3 elven. I think. However, this means nothing in terms of whether they get the virtual immortality, as the children of Elros (Elrond’s brother and Aragorn’s great-to-the-nth-power grandad*) weren’t given the choice of being elves or men, although they did have ridiculously long lives.

    Anyway, great strip Shamus.

    *Which brings up some weird, vaguely incestuous issues between Arwen and Aragorn, quite apart from the age gap- yes he’s in his nineties, but just how old is she? Several centuries old iirc. Talk about Harold and Maude…

  52. Keldin says:

    The whole name issue realLy burns my butt whenever an author throws about a zillion of them at you. When I was a kid I tried to read an Andre Norton book (Sargasso of Space, IIRC) because everyone told me that OLD Andre rocked the house. Well, three of the characters had names that were about one consonant off of each other, and after 50 pages of flipping back and forth in a vain attempt to remember who was who I bagged it.

    While Tolkien set wonderful precedents in his etymological precision and creativity, he really mucked things up for a lot of readers trying to read the less talented authors he inspired. Although, to be fair, in practical terms even Tolkien can drag on for a little too long with the names and the genealogies (I find it amusing that there are people out there who can recite Tolkien’s genealogies back to the freaking Silmarillion and don’t know the full names of their own flesh and blood Grandparents.)

  53. Keldin says:

    Please pardon the random capitalization, my caps lock was on while I was editing.

  54. James says:

    Ye gods, anyone remember the awful animated movie? Where they re-named Saruman to Aruman to get around the confusion, BUT ONLY CHANGED THE NAME HALF THE TIME.

    So there’s someone called Aruman and someone called Sauron, and then they mention Saruman as well… And anyone who doesn’t know the story has precisely no idea if Saruman is meant to be Aruman, Sauron, or a third bad guy.


  55. eccles says:

    TwiddleStooch, if you think LotR was confusing for names, never read the Silmarillion(sp?). Feanor vs Feanil vs …. oh gods. I’ve never got anywhere near through it.

  56. Joshua says:

    Ah well, someone beat me to the Bakshi reference at the last minute. That’s what I thought of when I read this strip. :)

  57. Cenobite says:

    Aragorn? Arwen? You know what. Too many A’s as well.

    If they had children, what would they be named?

    Astrider? Arevenstar? Astriderstar? Aragoronawen? Arwytheryet?

  58. orcbane says:

    Just imagine play The Hobbit!

    Thorin, à“in, Glóin, Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Fà­li and Kà­li, Dori, Nori, and Ori. Talk about forgetting which NPC is which!

  59. ladyalinor says:

    I loved Shadowrun, there’s nothing like big guns, spells, and cybergeeks all the same time….

  60. elda says:

    33 Sarah Says:

    May 11th, 2007 at 1:12 pm
    Either there are 2 people named Sarah or i managed to send a post telepathically from the bakery where i work…hmmm….nope, i was thinking about chicken at 12 o clock, couldn't have been me, no. oh well.

    actually my true name is sarah. with the h and everything. (stupid teachers never spell it with the h. no matter how many times i say “it has an h” grrr) anyways i generally use a penname. because elda is far less common a name than sarah.

  61. Dan says:


    HAHAHAHA. Are-we-there-yet. HAHAHAHA
    Gotta love it!

  62. Gadelle says:

    I never had trouble with the names, but that may be because my father read the books aloud to me (I was 9). I guess when you hear the name everyday, it sticks more than when you skim over it while reading it to yourself. Though somehow, I don’t think I ever noticed the name changes in the animated LOTR (saw it at the same time I was reading the books, back in the 80s when there was no internet to get my fandom fix) but so little in that movie makes sense that I probably blocked it out. >:D

  63. Kristin says:

    Elrond is not truly half-Elven.
    Earendil’s father was pure human, his mother was pure Elf.
    Elwing’s mother was Nimloth, a pure Elf, but her father was Dior, who was the son of Beren (pure human) and Luthien, whose father was Thingol (pure Elf) and mother was Melian (pure Maia). Interestingly in early versions of the tale of Beren and Luthien, Beren was a Noldor Elf.
    So Elrond works out to something like 9/16 Elven, 3/8 human, and 1/16 Maia.

    While Arwen and Aragorn’s daughters are not ever given names, their son was called Eldarion.

    Yes, I’m a huge geek. I’m proud of it! If the names aren’t confusing enough in LotR and the Sil, try reading History of Middle-earth sometime, where not only do the names change, sometimes one guy takes on an abandoned name of someone else.

  64. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Thorin, à“in, Glóin, Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Fà­li and Kà­li, Dori, Nori, and Ori. Talk about forgetting which NPC is which!”

    Right! Now in real life , when you walk into a classroom ( either as a primary school teacher or as a noun), all the names are totally different. Like: Jimmy, Timmy, Tommy, Ted , Ned, Fred, Ed, Don , Dan, Jan, Jill, Bill & Phil! Piece of cake to someone not familiar to the language…and don’t even get me started on Italian names!

  65. Rick says:

    Someone beat me to the Aruman comment and the anti-climatic comment. I really need to work less.

  66. Dirty Dan says:

    “So Elrond works out to something like 9/16 Elven, 3/8 human, and 1/16 Maia.”

    That’s all well and good, but the next step is to compute the number of generations that led to Aragorn in order to determine precisely how diluted those bloodlines are. And then do Arwen’s. From there, the only thing left is to figure out the exact degree of relation between the two and pinpoint the blood content of their kids.

    And no, I will not do that, even though I assume it would be possible using just RotK (w/appendices) and the Silmarillion.

  67. Kristin says:

    Arwen’s easy.

    Celebrian was pure Elf.

    Therefore Arwen, daughter of Elrond and Celebrian, would be 1/32 Maia, 3/16 human, and 25/32 Elf.

    Aragorn’s a little harder since we don’t know the direct line of descent from Elros to Elendil, but from Elendil it was 40 generations to Aragorn. Assuming there were an equal number of generations from Elros to Elendil and Elros to Ar-Pharazon, there were 24 generations. (Not necessarily true but the margin of error wouldn’t be too much.)

    So as that line would be completely human aside from Elros, whose blood percentages would match Elrond’s since he’s Elrond’s twin brother, Aragorn would be 1/2^69 Maia, 6/2^69 Elven, and (2^69-7)/2^69 human. (69 derived from each generation representing an additional power of 2, 64 generations, and 32=2^5.)

    Aragorn and Arwen are first cousins 64 times removed.

    1. WJS says:

      64 times removed? Whoop-de-doo. It’s been estimated that everyone on earth are cousins less than 30 times removed.

  68. Kristin says:

    Sources: RotK appendix A and the Silmarillion.

    Forgot to do Eldarion and his sisters:
    1/64+1/2^70 Maia, 3/32+6/2^70 Elven, and 25/32+(2^70-7)/2^70 human. Clearly, they wouldn’t be too much more Elven or Maia than any other pureblood Dunedain.

  69. Kristin says:

    …Except that I did the Elf and human backwards. I also neglected to double the denominator of Arwen’s Elven blood.

    25/64+6/2^70 Elven, and 3/32+(2^70-7)/2^70 human. Oops. So a significant increase in the Elven blood.

  70. Richard says:

    25/64 + 3/32 is 31/64. What’s the rest — spam? :)

  71. hikari says:

    I’m reminded that in the abortive 1978 animated LoTR they changed Saruman’s name half way through making it, because they thought people would get confused. They changed Saruman to Aruman, as I recall.

    Mind you they went under before they finished it, so half the voice dialogue had his name as Saruman and half had it as Aruman.

    Shame they never got to make “Return of the King” for that animation really; they only got “Fellowship…” and “The Two Towers” done before they went under. The rotoscoping was funky.

  72. Joshua says:

    Hikari, you should probably read other peoples’ posts before posting, as that has been mentioned at least four times prior to yours.

  73. Margaret says:

    I can’t wait until they find out that they don’t actually get to kill Sauron…….

  74. Snowolf says:

    Best.. punchline… ever.

  75. Kristin says:

    The missing 1 to get it up to 32/64 is Maia. The other half of the equation is what he gets from Aragorn’s blood.

    Given this comic… spam would be better. :)

  76. orcbane says:

    Wow… I know Tolkien’s mythology is cool and everything, but its sad when you know more about a fictional character’s lineage than you do your own.

  77. Kristin says:


    It’s a heck of a lot easier to go to two books, look at lists of kings/rangers/cool people, and have a list 40 generations long given to you than to sort through records kept (or not) in several different countries, that may or may not have been made in the first place, dealing with alternate versions of spelling, incomplete information, or downright lies made up.

    Believe me, I’m interested in my own family tree, but realistically I don’t think I’ll ever be able to know anything about my ancestors from 70 generations ago…

  78. Scarlet Knight says:

    So we have elf and spam; elf spam, human, spam; elf, spam, maia , spam , spam & human; spam, spam , spam , spam , spam , & spam; and or Lobster Turambar with a Mordor sauce served in a Pukil manner with spam.

  79. Isoyami says:

    @Scarlet Knight (#78): Then where are the big Viking guys with the funny helmets singing about “Wonderful, Loverly SPAM”?

    *Ducks* Sorry, but when you’re handed a straight line like that…. ;)

    For me, I didn’t really mix up Sauron and Saruman.

    Sauron is the big evil guy with the BIG, EVIL mace, and that crazy helmet that looks like the skull of a dead horse. I can just imagine Elrond (in that one battle where Isildur cut the Ring off Sauron’s finger) taking one look at Sauron and going: “Hey, why the long face??”

    Saruman, on the other hand, is the old wizard who lives in a tower in the river basin, breeds orcs, and gets his butt kicked by the big trees.
    I can always picture that orc he bred (the mini-boss fight that Aragorn has in Fellowship) hissing: “SAAAAA-ru-MAAAAAAAN!”

    See? Easy.

    Or maybe its just I have a prodigious memory for useless, silly trivia.
    I can quote MP at the drop of a hat, and I have memorized Pi to 2,000 digits. It’s 1. (*wink wink, nudge nudge*)

  80. Ethan says:

    I just wanted to be #80 and get 4 20’s. Great comic :)

  81. Dave says:

    Damn.. that’ll teach me.. man.. you guys are fast!

  82. Tola says:

    He should have used the symbol ‘nicknames’.

    Saruman=The White Hand.
    Sauron=The Great Eye.

    Then again, even the heroes were initially confused in the book. Gimli had thought that Saruman’s orcs were Saurons:

    Gimli:”S for Sauron. That seems to make sense.”

    Aragorn: “No, Sauron never goes by his proper name. He’s usually referred to by ‘The Eye’ by his troops. And they have an odd mark…a white hand.”

    Something like that.

  83. Rick says:

    “Shame they never got to make “Return of the King” for that animation really; they only got “Fellowship…” and “The Two Towers” done before they went under. The rotoscoping was funky.”

    Heh. My personal favorite observation on Bakshi’s LotR is this: his movie corresponds pretty well to Peter Jackson’s first two. Let’s put that another way: he crammed into two and a half hours what Jackson took six hours (over seven with the extended editions) to tell. Given that, it’s hardly any wonder his movie is hard to follow even if you’ve read the books.

  84. Tom Simon says:

    I’ve never quite understood the capacity of some people to mix up any two names that happen to begin with the same letter. If people can’t tell Saruman from Sauron, heaven help them when they figure out that Sam also begins with an S!

    (Cue ‘The Meaning of Life”: ‘Did you know that Saruman was a wizard? Yup, he’s the one that begins with an S!’)

    And if Saruman is too much like Sauron, where does that leave Aruman and Aragorn? Same first AND last letters, same number of syllables. What kind of drugs must Bakshi have been on not to notice that the cure was worse than the disease?

  85. jabberwocky says:

    “brassbaboon Says: it was clear that not only did the players not remember a single name of a single NPC, they did not even remember the names of their own party members. In one case the player did not even remember his own character's name.”

    In my party we remember the names but get the people they go with confused, just like in the comic, except for one fanatic who remembers the plot word for word and can spell the NPC's names. Worst of all however is the dm, when we ask the name of an insignificant person he gives them ridiculous names like “Dick Rench” and then promptly forgets, so that the next time we ask he has another terrible name.

  86. Richard says:

    Please don’t mock the disabled. I also have this problem. When two names start with the same syllable, I tend to mix them up. In some cases this can be life-threatening, such as when mixing up Star Wars and Star Trek at a convention.

    It’s not really a matter of confusing them, it’s just that when I speak, my forebrain seems to give rather vague directions (“that one that starts with Star, you know the one I mean’) to whatever parts of me that do the speaking. It doesn’t surprise me if some people have this problem on the ears -> forebrain route.

    I find it amusing that while the DM was in despair about the PCs randomly killing a key NPC, the PCs thought they were completing the campaign :)

    I’d still have killed Saruman even if I knew who he was, though. Go Legolass. Some people are just too dangerous to leave alive behind you. Of course that category usually includes the PCs, which explains why they have so many enemies.

    One thing I’ve noticed about players is that they’re either in “kill mode” or “shop mode”. If you want them to actually talk to an NPC, you have to flip that switch before they meet him.

  87. Jon says:

    Gah. A while back I dug myself into the worst GMing pit of alliterative names ever when I decided to name a recurring NPC “Cormac MacConnell.” The good part is the players sort of remembered the name, the bad part is they spent the entire campaign trying to remember what iteration of C___ MacC____ his name was. (Cormac MacConnell? Colin MacCormac? Connall MacCullough?)

    And I seriously love the way Gimli is itching to play anything not D&D for a while – as a character detail, it fits with the way he was tempted to leave for Frodo’s d20 Star Wars game.

  88. brassbaboon says:

    My worst problem as a DM isn’t names so much, I have character sheets for any NPC that has any real purpose in the campaign, and I have “monster sheets” for most of the random encounters, and those usually also have names (thanks to some really helpful online random NPC generation utilities.

    What I have trouble with is the items my players find.

    Paladin: “Hey guys, I’m pretty banged up here and need to heal before we go on.”
    Rogue: “We still have some of those yellow potions, right?”
    Wizard: “I think so, what does the yellow do now? Was that cure disease? Or was it minor healing?”
    Cleric: “I’m not sure, I’m still lugging around this chain mail armor that won’t fit me and I don’t have room for any of that stuff in my backpack. Just give me one and I’ll drink it and we’ll see what happens.”
    Rogue: “Right, I’ve got a couple of blue ones, here you go, try this.”
    Paladin: “OK, I drink the small bottle with the blue liquid in it, what happens?”
    DM: “…… [frantically checking notes for blue potion in half-sized bottle]…. hang on….. [mental note to actually quantify and organize all loot given out to players for the twentieth time]…. hang on…”

    So, for shorthand I’ve decided the following:

    yellow potions are healing.
    blue potions are cure poison.
    red potions are alchemist fire.
    green potions are cure disease.

    But that doesn’t help with the other stuff…. What was that wand again? How many rings did I give them? Thank god identify requires a crushed 100gp pearl to cast….. I’ve still got some time to figure out exactly what it was I gave them….

  89. Keldin says:

    The issues with Sauron and Saruman are that 1: Both are evil (or turn that way) 2: Both are magicians (or arcanists of some sort, I expect that I’ll catch a lot of flack from LOTR purists) 3: Both use Orcs as troops 4: It’s not often we see either of them firsthand — they are both threats that Tolkien keeps in reserve in the books (though of course in the movies we see quite a bit of Saruman.) Come to think of it, in the trilogy, we NEVER see Sauron because he is disembodied. 5: Both names start with “S”, both end with “N” and both have an “R” in the middle. This muddies the waters for those reading the books for the first time, especially if said reader is a 12 year old who is statistically not as strong a reader as someone older. Admittedly, for a strong or experienced reader it’s not that tough to keep names in order, but even then it can lead to a “screw this, there’s billions of books out there that I don’t have to have a frigging concordance to read” sort of attitude.

  90. Woerlan says:

    Note to GMs: Always spoonfeed the bad guy pecking order to players. They’ll thank you for it and it’ll save you a headache later on. Besides, clearly defined bad guys is what defines cinematic epic fantasy.

  91. brassbaboon says:


    True enough, in most cases, unless the purpose of the quest is to discover the pecking order of bad guys in the first place.

    What I like to do is to have the pecking order defined for the level that the players can actually hope to deal with, while leaving higher levels in the hierarchy undefined so that as the players get more powerful, they constantly have new challenges to keep them interested.

  92. superfluousk says:

    My only question is, was Sauron actually the big villain all along, or did the DM just now make that up in revenge for them killing off Saruman? ;)

  93. Dez says:

    First Panel – Funny
    Last Panel – Hilarious

    Keep up the good work!!


    Is this the first post to reach 100 comments?

  94. Alasseo says:

    Not quite yet, by my count we’re up to 95 (including this one), and it is now 00:50 GMT leaving x hours and z minutes before the next comic goes up and Shamus give us something new to laugh at and distract us.

    @Kristin: Thanks for doing that working out- I’ve never really got the hang of family trees and degrees of relation, which is a pity because whenever my family has a reunion, we have to wear a rather large nametag-type thing with a copy of our family tree and an “I am here” point, just so we don’t spend three hours trying to figure out who the other person is

  95. Alasseo says:

    Dang- forgot to mention: it be monday morning

    I really shouldn’t be up this late…

  96. Wubbzy says:

    It’s stiiiiill Sunday here.

    Sauron really should’ve been named Lord Ralph. I bet Lego Lass would’ve remembered THAT one.

  97. aren3 says:

    Ah, the good ‘ol name confusion. I have this problem sometimes, although I’ve never had much trouble with Sauron/Saruman.

    In my last campaign, we had identical twins named Asanis and Arasian who were both played by the same person. We never could keep them straight. In fact, we avoided the issue most of the time by referring to them as “The A-team.” This didn’t work so well for me, since my character had a crush on one of them and I never could remember which one it was. Although, we had problems with names in general. I recall that we spent most of the campaign referring to our cleric, “Lord Nelturn” as “Lord Voltron,” much to the annoyance of the DM.

  98. dr. duck says:

    I am not a player in the D&D world/universe/realm, but this is a work of genius and hilarity. I tell my friends. Their loss if they don’t follow up on it …

    don’t … ever … stop!!

  99. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    (sorry had to be done)

  100. Tess says:

    I admit the first time I read LOTR Saruman/Sauron got me confused, but if you think Tolkien is bad you should try SHAKESPEARE! In one play, “Taming of the Shrew” there’s Petruchio, Lucentio, Vincentio, Litio, Cambio, Hortensio, Tranio, Biondello, Grumio, AND Gremio. GAH!

  101. Tom says:

    Hah!! 102! Very Funny!!

  102. Juice says:

    Best comic to date.

    Hearing Gimli saying “Anyone in the mood for a little Shadowrun” in my head made me laugh.

    “Oh yeah I can’t imagine how we could have confused those two names” ah so many times when I first read the books…

    And “I don’t suppose he’s in this tower” which would work in some games I’ve played.

    Nice one Shamus.

  103. Cenobite says:

    @ Jon:

    “Gah. A while back I dug myself into the worst GMing pit of alliterative names ever when I decided to name a recurring NPC “Cormac MacConnell.” The good part is the players sort of remembered the name, the bad part is they spent the entire campaign trying to remember what iteration of C___ MacC____ his name was. (Cormac MacConnell? Colin MacCormac? Connall MacCullough?)”

    You sure that it was really multiple NPCs, and not a Highlander? :)

  104. Scarlet Knight says:

    Tess: See what I meant about the Italians!

    Cavaliere di Scarlatto

  105. Ravenswood says:

    I accidentally put myself into this situation once. In designing the game, I had characters named Zorakson and Vraxin. It never occured to me that when said aloud, those two names almost exactly the same!

  106. M says:

    “Saruon” in the seventh panel…

  107. Thteve Perry says:

    Did you mean for Aragorn to say “anti-climatic”? If so, I don’t get the joke. Is the weather supposed to be the opposite now that they’ve killed Saruman?

  108. Rick says:

    I first listened to LoTR on audiobook (BBC edition) while driving cross country. So hopelessly confused the entire time…

  109. Exclamation says:

    A slightly less than legal version of Two Towers I’ve seen has some very amusing subtitles. Most of the time, they bear little resemblance to what’s being said. Both Sauron and Saruman were frequently referred to as Solomon. Aragorn was Aragorn son of Alfred and Gimli was Gimlet son of Groin.

  110. Toil3T says:

    Eleventy one!

    Great work!

  111. Arawn says:

    I usually thought of “Saruman” as a “man of Sauron”. Kinda helped keep them separate and in the right pecking order.

  112. dyrnwyn says:

    argh i used to always mix those names up

  113. dyrnwyn says:

    and it looks like i’m last again

  114. Aragorn says:

    yay im 115 and last RAH RAH RAH good comic ive read it like 5 times and im still laughing! ;)

  115. Kami says:

    On the other hand, try being in a campaign with a guy with Eidetic memory, and two linguists. You’d be surprised how much that changes things. Although, when one of the linguists has no memory…
    So while Matt remembers every name, I’ll grasp some background to it…and then promptly forget it. Case in point:
    “Na’amah, huh? From the Hebrew ‘Naim’ meaning pleasant?”
    “Wow, exactly right.”
    *Five minutes later*
    “Um…what was your name again?”

    Oh, also relating to names: In one club, we regularly have Nat, Nat, Matt, Matt, and Mac. Also, Josh and Josh. And Josh. And Shannon and Sharone. And more recently, Chad and Chaz. And yes, I do mean all of these at once.

  116. Moridin says:

    Eh, I know four Nikos from same group of people.

  117. Some random guy says:

    I remember when I first read the books when a was a newbie 7 year old, I didn’t mix-up Sauron and Saruman, but I did mix-up Arwen and Eowin (or how ever that Ronanian persons name is spelled).

  118. You know, at least in the campaigns that my extended group of friends runs, most of the time plot details and NPC names are remembered pretty well. I also have to point out that in the real world people forget NPCs (e.g. other people) who only mention their names a few times. Thinking back to D&D campaigns, I rarely remember the names of other party members if they don’t introduce the name in an interesting manner, and while I remember NPC personalities I sometimes forget names if the names weren’t important.

    Also: Sauron and Saruman, as well as Gandalf, are all essentially celestial beings, angels in effect. Sauron is of the same class as Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, etc., but of a much higher strength. So, yeah, Sauron is a wizard.

  119. Yrael says:

    121, wow. just too many. maybe I can break the internets.

  120. ERROR says:

    Sometimes I confuse the two.

    “Oh, yeah, I can’t imagine how we could have confused THOSE two.” :)

  121. Aragorn says:

    Hiya. You probably don’t read these anymore,Shamus, but panel 8 has a misspell.

    Saruon=Sauron. :)

  122. caradoc says:

    I don’t think there were 9/16 elves and such. If I may speculate, the ‘elf’ genes are on one chromosome. If you have a pair of elf chromosomes, you are an elf. If you have two human chromosomes, you are human. If you have one each you are a half-elf.

  123. Nenvolk says:

    Super Mario Quote! Classic! :-)

    (and yes, *I am one of those who confused Sauron and Saruman the first time i read it…)

  124. Rob says:

    Awesome! I’ve always wondered what Tolkien was thinking making the names so similar, even if you know them well it can be hard to tell which they’re talking about in the movie…

    I love how he’s like, “If we can just get him out on the balcony…” completely diminishing Sauron as the scary antagonist. He’s going to destroy the world as we know it? Just snipe him and we’ll be done. We’ve all been in games where it happened, too.

  125. Spike says:

    I love how in all the screen shots of Aragorn he is always half asleep, rolling his eyes, or making funny faces! Good work Shamus.

  126. nocata says:

    etymology research is fun! Smaug the dragon actually comes from the name of the dragon slain by Sigurd in the Wolsungasaga, and the Ring may also be derived from the same set of stories. oh, the magic of storytelling!

  127. Bartimaeus says:

    Hey, when I read the books the first time I got them mixed up, too…

  128. Gjallarhorn says:

    If I remember correctly, No Attention Span is a 5-10 point negative quality.

    Enjoy the extra cheeze!

  129. Mithcoriel says:

    In the LOTR cartoon, they changed Saruman’s name to Aruman, to avoid exactly that.

  130. Amake says:

    What I find weird is how many people I talk to who can’t figure out how to pronounce “Saruman” as anything other than “Sauroman”.

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