DM of the Rings CXIX:

By Shamus Posted Friday Jun 29, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 94 comments

The players appraise the battlefield. Alomost.
Aragorn is like Napoleon?

Actually this doesn’t happen very often. The DM is most likely going to point to the map, or the minis, and clearly describe which side everyone is on, even if that information really shouldn’t be so neatly defined for newcomers. However, if the DM is foolish enough to let players work out the sides on their own, then a friendly-fire incident is probably a good bet.

Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?


From The Archives:

94 thoughts on “DM of the Rings CXIX:

    1. Zedolor says:

      “Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?”

      They should get negative XP :)

      1. Veklim says:

        I’d argue they still get xp, but face horrifying ramifications which outweigh the relatively low benefit of a new level :D

        We had a similar question once as to what would happen if you polymorph an enemy into a giant rubber duck. The duck is incapable of attacking and therefore technically vanquished, but should the group them get xp for the giant they polymorphed or the duck it turned into?

        Any suggestions should be sent to [email protected] :P

      2. JRG94 says:

        You can’t give out negative XP because no matter what you do you are experiencing it, thus it’s all positive XP, but you may want to bring karma into this.

  1. NeedsToHeal says:

    So what’s the title for this strip? I don’t see it.

  2. Blitzmidfielder says:

    Damn that’s funny. xP

  3. George says:

    Heh, I can’t say that I saw that coming. In the first panel, Legolas looks like he badly needs to sneeze. :D

    Is there supposed to be a title? Because I can’t see one (I’m using IE if that’s any help.)

  4. Cenobite says:

    “If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?”

    Of course they should. A kill is a kill. The xp system is supposed to be imitating real-life experience. And if you get xp for kills, that means it’s a game where killing people is supposed to grant some sort of real-life experience.

  5. haashaastaak says:

    u’r takin advantage o them wit no lives! good, though.

  6. Gary says:

    THAT was GENIUS! Sheer genius! Aragon’s Expression in the second to last frame is just too beautiful for words!

    I love the confusion, the betrayal, the smug look.

    “SAME TEAM!”

    Oh I laughed good and hard at that. Great going Shamus.

  7. patrick says:

    man, that would just suck getting rushed by an army of the undead, especially if you knew they were supposed to be on your side. :)

  8. Keldin says:

    What an utter idiot. “Man-Sized”! This guy kills me, he really does. I also like the DM’s forlorn tone “was that supposed to be in character?”

  9. Al Shiney says:

    @ NeedstoHeal and George: Oops is the title … appropriate, no?

    Of course they should get XP, but it brings up even larger questions:

    1) Do the dead get XP for killing Rohan forces? And if so, what does it do for them … get them closer to being able to rest?
    2) For Rohan, can they kill these ghosts? And if so, do they get the same amount of XPs for each one or do their numbers go up based on what they were when alive?

    These are critically important questions that need answers. Inquiring minds want to know!

  10. Al Shiney says:

    Oh yeah, and where are the damn Rohan Clerics? Get out there and TURN those undead!

  11. Browncoat says:

    Are you sure!?!?!???

  12. JD Wiker says:

    I did something similar in a grand battle my DM ran way back in the early 80s. A player couldn’t make it, and I played her druid, who spent the battle casting call lightning … every ten minutes. Dull.

    So, the DM had described this armored figure flying around on a blue (!) dragon, attacking various groups of troops–but, for some reason, it wasn’t clear to me which side’s troops he was attacking.

    So when the armored guy landed and approached at about the point my next lightning bolt was ready, I let him have it.

    One of the other players, whose character was a paladin, yelled “NOOOO!” Huh? What was the problem?

    “You’re not there,” the DM told the paladin’s player. “Let him do what he says he does.”

    So, the lightning bolt kills the armored guy. Then the paladin comes running up and yells at me: “You idiot! That was the KING!”

    Oops, indeed.

    (Hey, how the hell was I supposed to know the GOOD king had made an EVIL dragon his pony-girl?)


  13. Browncoat says:

    BTW, Shamus, mad props for the last frame. It was so natural I forgot that the movie doesn’t actually have the scene where the undead rush the Rohirrim.

  14. Carl the Bold says:

    Aragorn was amazed the day that he learned that when the king of the undead said, “As you wish,” what he was really saying was, “I love you.” And even more amazing was the day he discovered that he truly loved him back.

    Aragorn: “Yo, King Tut. . .fetch me that pitcher?”

    KT: [whispers] “As you wish.”

    Aragorn: [blushes like a schoolgirl. You know, like Leggylass.]

  15. NeedsToHeal says:


    I just realized what you were looking at. She-go-lass really does look like a sneeze is coming! Too funny. Again, great screen capture by the master of all masters.

  16. innermoppet says:

    As far as the king on a dragon incident, this is clear case of player/character knowledge. If the character you were playing should have known that was the king but you as a new player to the game didn’t, then it was asinine of the GM to have you rain lightning down without telling you. Now, if you had already been told and just forgot….then it might be fair game, but I’d still give players a warning.

    Something that’s often forgotten by GM’s and players alike is that the characters live in this make believe world. They spend their time there 24/7. The players don’t, and have real world concerns that sometimes bump character knowledge out of their heads. So the players often need to be cut a little slack for laspes in their characters’ memories.

  17. Marmot says:

    Where did you find the scene for the last panel? It’s an awesomeness on a level that you got me used to again! :)

  18. Wraithshadow says:

    This reminds me of a game of Battletech I played once. We all started in space, two fighters, one dropship. Each of us on our own side of the map, dropship flanked by the fighters. Planet’s in the middle. Guy to my left got the first action. He immediately pointed to his dropship and said, “I want to ram my fighter into this.”

    Both I and the other player just kind of stared at him, but he was adamant. He wanted to ram that dropship. So we figured out all the damage, and announced he’d successfully eliminated the ‘mech bays. He was out of the game.

  19. Darkenna says:

    Carl, that was… disturbing. I love it.

    Shamus: If you’re gonna cheat that badly, at least adjust the timestamp so it hides it a little better. ; )

  20. gammahorton says:

    One of the guys in my D&D group told us about another game where his 120-year-old Elf character, who had lived in the same city his whole life, was forced to roll to see if he knew who the ruler of the city was. This, because he did not take the “local knowledge” skill or feat or whatever. That was his last session with that DM.

    1. WJS says:

      Debatable. I dare say a significant number of people don’t know who their mayor is in real life. Or their congressman/senator (or equivalent). Hell, some people don’t even know who their president is!

      Of course, even a low level PC is likely to be a relatively important individual who actually has dealings with local rulers, so it’s clearly dependent on campaign history or backstory.

  21. Silfea says:

    How did you get that last picture of the dead attacking?

  22. Shamus says:

    Browncoat: A cogent point: The DM never asks, “are you sure” during the most critical of blunders.

    Darkenna: I want it to be obvious that I’m cheating. I want everyone to get used to the idea that a FP is unobtainable. :)

    Marmot & Silfea: Photoshop. The undead flowing off the ships vs. The Rohirrim about to charge.

  23. Marmot says:

    Ah! I should have known; thanks for the info. Can’t wait for the Witch King scene too!

  24. Dev Null says:

    The odd thing is, the Rohanites shouldn’t be shouting “Same Team!” they should be shouting “Charge!”. What? The ships of the evil Black Corsairs just pulled up, disgorged an army of undead, who charged you. What exactly made you think they were good guys?

    (But it wouldn’t have been nearly as funny that way; your version is better Shamus!)

  25. Rebecca says:

    I miss Firth. :(

  26. Love it!
    Best one is several strips.

    “Like Nepoleon, only MAN-SIZED!”

    And I am still love’n the ghosts :D

  27. Little Gen says:

    Eevul. Just eevul. =D

  28. Jindra34 says:

    These guys are hopelessly lost in the story… if they listened (and passed SAN checks in real life) they could have avoided this…

  29. Rhykker says:

    “Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?”

    A player I DM is always trying to push for this when friendly fire occurs.

    “Do I get XP for that?”

    “Yeah, you killed three hobgoblins with a fireball, and I gave you the XP.”

    “But John died from the fireball too. Do I get XP for killing him?”


  30. Caius says:

    it is nice to see the dm finally give up on railroading the characters and let them just ruin everything by elimating their allies. at least now I know i am not the only one who has done that…

  31. Anonymous Fan says:

    The great thing about Call of Cthulhu is the “Idea Roll” function (a secondary trait based on your intelligence), which is what the GM has players roll either when the character would know something the player doesn’t OR the player tries to do something the character wouldn’t know (if the player is a physicist, but playing a native shaman).

    I would totally make a character roll to see if they know the name of the ruler of the city they have lived in their whole life. How many kids know the name of their Mayor, or Congressional representative, or Senator? Hell, how many kids even know who the Vice-President is?

    Great strip!

  32. Maggot says:

    Wonderful Shamus! I nearly wet myself when I saw the last panel.

  33. Telas says:

    Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?

    Only if the party’s collective guilt, anger, and outrage at the XP reward would be greater than the GM’s moral distress at advancing someone for a royal screwup.

    Otherwise, no.

  34. Amanda says:

    I love you so much. This makes my day every time I read it.

  35. shaggy says:

    Absolutely love it. “Napoleon, only man-sized”. I need to start using that one.

  36. John says:

    Love it. It does always seem too clear on a board of mini both where people are and what they’re doing. Heck, could Aragorn actually even see from one side of the Pelennor Fields to the other once he disembarks from the ship?

    There’s a reason it’s good to have a commander operating from a high place. And let’s not even get into instantaneous communication amongst PCs when spread all over the battlefield…

  37. Senalishia says:

    Just the title on this one was enough to get a >snerk

  38. txknight says:

    “Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?”

    Offhand, I'd say no. Because that's set a bad precedence that encourages the players to intentionally kill off the wrong guys in future encounters (I’m picturing players going on village slaughtering sprees) . :-)

  39. Hoyce says:

    “Uh…same team! SAME TEAM” had me laughing hystarically!!

  40. ZackTheSTGuy says:

    This is an odd question but, what fonts are you using to do the text in the strips? I like the way they look, especially the undead king’s font.

  41. Rustybadger says:

    @Carl The Bold *snorts milk out my nose*

    The only thing that could top it would be to have Gandalf muttering “Inconceivable!” as the Undead charged the Horsemen.

  42. Vinchenze says:

    Yes they do get XP, just not in the positive range. King Tut, boy that was funny.

  43. Roxysteve says:

    Shamus Says:
    Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?

    Yet another reason to play (D20) Call of Cthulhu instead of D&D. You can give ’em the XP, then sock ’em with a massive SAN loss as they realise the awful truth of their (unintended) perfidious mutiny.

    Heh heh.


  44. Cenobite says:


    “Offhand, I'd say no. Because that's set a bad precedence that encourages the players to intentionally kill off the wrong guys in future encounters (I'm picturing players going on village slaughtering sprees).”

    Sometimes players will do this on their own accord, xp bonuses or penalties be damned. As the DM, you’ll need something stronger to stop them.

  45. Renacier says:

    One of my old DMs had a house rule whereby if you killed anyone through friendly fire or if you killed a noncombatant, you’d lose twice the amount of XP they’d normally give.

    That one made you think twice before saying “I attack him”.

  46. Jindra34 says:

    Renacier: What was your DMs definition of ‘non-combatant’?

  47. Greg says:

    “If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?”

    I’d say not. Back in the day, yes, you get XP for killing anything. Thus the whole “boil an antnest” thing. However these days D20 is supposed to give XP for “overcoming the obstacle” (So you can get points for sneaking past things etc). Since they were on their side, helping them and in no way compromising their objectives either on a campaign or person level, they didn’t comprise an obstacle and thus don’t score XP.

    “One of my old DMs had a house rule whereby if you killed
    anyone through friendly fire or if you killed a noncombatant, you'd lose twice the amount of XP they'd normally give.”

    Damn, there’s a campaign to wear baby armour in if ever there was one. I guess you’d need baby dragons or something to make the XP loss hurt enough.

  48. rosignol says:

    “But John died from the fireball too. Do I get XP for killing him?”

    Back in the old days, yeah… the other PCs were almost always worth a heck of a lot more xp than the actual opposition. And they had much better stuff.

    This is part of the reason most of the DMs I played with banned evil PCs… they didn’t want killing other PCs to be in-character.

  49. Smasher says:

    The 3rd shot that the ghost king dude appears in looks like it was a screen capture from when they were back in the mountain



  50. elda-san says:

    36 shaggy Says:

    June 29th, 2007 at 2:41 pm
    Absolutely love it. “Napoleon, only man-sized”. I need to start using that one.

    alas i cannot use that line for i am short. if i said that everyone would laugh at me and tell me i’m not man-sized…and it would become an ongoing joke at my expense.

  51. Fickle says:

    Of course you get XP for killing people, no matter what side they’re on!

    You just also get negative Charisma points, or whatever the equivalent is. XD

  52. Half XP for PKing! (Sorry, I play Urban Dead)

    Tales from the Floating Vagabond may be a comedy game, but it has a stat called “Common Sense” and a skill “Notice Obvious”.

    Both may be needed here…

  53. Alexis says:

    Double XP for TKs! You have to fight BOTH teams that way!

    btw I loved reading the Tales from the Floating Vagabond book.

  54. Mik says:

    Someone I Game with recounts how during their Shadowrun playing days they had a similar thing to the XP. The only way the party ever made money was by selling all of the trick new cyber gear from the other dead characters. The aim wasn’t to beat the bad guys so much as to be the last good guy standing when the battle finished…

  55. Mitey Heroes says:

    Only man-sized? Ace line.

    And that’s a cool picture in the last panel, good stuff!

  56. Samir says:

    In a sci fi game I ran:
    GM: Spirit Ancestor says to player 1 “Never strike from ambush, always accept surrender”

    Player 2 to player 1 “Ok, stop this incoming fleet and add its might to our own.”

    10 mins later; GM to player “Ok, You have a chance to 1. Face the enemy in traditional open space fleet to fleet battle. 2. Lure them into the asteroid field and ambush them. 3. flee. 4. Surrender. 5. something you can come up with. 6. parley

    player 1: “option 2”.

    GM: “?…. ok”

    2 hours later GM: ok, you have the upper hand in the battle and your intellgence officer locates the enemy commanders ship, what do you want to do?


    GM: …. ok.. You obliterate the commanders ship, no life pods are seen.

    Player 2 observer (not near the battle but watching from the sidelines) “You do know that we sent you to make an alliance with the enemy fleet and that we cannot hope to win the final battle with out this fleet being added to our own.”

    player 1 “WHAT?!! No one told me!”

    Player 2 “It’s in the notes.” (referring to the hand out of the prev four games interaction I gave out to bring everyone up to speed) “and you were the one that gave us the prophecy.”

    Player 1 “I quit this campaign sucks!”

  57. brassbaboon says:

    We encountered a small room with several skeletons inside. The door was open and the rogue seemed to have successfully snuck up on them. He came back to the group and we decided to chuck a vial of alchemist’s fire into the room, hopefully killing a few, but at least softening them up for the attack.

    The rogue, having the best dexterity and therefore missile weapon bonuses, was given the vial. He reared back, rolled a 1, and promptly dropped the alchemist fire on my druid’s wolf companion, knocking it unconscious and nearly killing it outright.

    If he had asked “Do I get XP for that?” I might well have put an arrow in his back and asked the same question.

    I think the current approach to XP is better than the old rules. But then I used to always adjust the rules anyway, even in the old rules. If a group had managed to avoid a dragon by cleverness, they would certainly have gotten XP, but not as much as if they confronted and killed it. And even with the new rules, I would not give as much XP for sneaking around a guard as for confronting and neutralizing him.

    Friendly fire really hasn’t been that much of a problem in our campaigns, but then again, we don’t normally have entire armies to command.

    To the person who suggested that Aragorn isn’t completely at fault for sending the army to attack the “mounted units” of course he should have recognized the Rohirrim instantly, at pretty much any distance. If he had any trouble, Legalos should have instantly said “Isn’t that Theoden?” with those wonderful elf eyes of his.

    As usual, I blame the DM in this case more than the players. The description as the ships pulled into port should have been clearly explained to the group. And I don’t know of any real DM and/or group that would have accepted that they began walking into town not seeing a literal army of orcs in their way, and then simply accepted being surrounded by those same orcs. But then again, that’s why the strip is funny.

    1. WJS says:

      So, punishing the players for not always resorting to bloodshed, then?

  58. Dave says:

    He knows whos on whos side.. remember.. he hates this campaign.. Maybe he just wants to break out the Battletech.

  59. Scarlet Knight says:

    Whenever a player character gains control of a powerful NPC such as a genie or leprecaun (or, oh, I don’t know, an undead army), the DM ALWAYS messes with the player’s words, following the letter, but never the spirit of the instructions. Why, it’s tradition!

  60. Nob the Hobbit says:

    I quit roleplaying about 10 years ago, mostly on account of having nobody to do it with, but this strip has made me want to take it up again, even if only for the chance to use such lines as “I’m like Napoleon, only MAN-SIZED.”

    Great strip, Shamus!

  61. Margaret says:

    I’m wondering if you’re going to work in the dreaded “I’m in ur_____”

  62. Late Comer says:

    Someone pointed me to this last week, and I’ve just caught up. I’m very impressed by the imagination that went into this and that you’ve kept making these. It seems very accessible every for people who never played table-top RPGs, and will probably get more than a few people to dust off some old rulebooks.

    Not sure about the IP issues with all the screen shots, but you should really consider trying to publish this once it done.

  63. JC says:

    Another great one Shamus!

    Your apparently never ending wit is truly inspiring.

    Damn straight!….

    I could see it now, “That Aragon is ooonnee baaadd muuth— SHUT YOUR MOUTH…..I’m just talking ’bout Aragon….”


  64. Scarlet Knight says:

    I can’t wait until monday! Will we have a “Furst” post from either Stephen Furst the actor or Alan Furst, the author? Maybe a “Forrest” post from Gump or Tucker? Maybe a Sally Forth post? Nooo, then the first post will be the fourth post…

  65. damien walder says:

    Seems very few if any comments deal with “mounted units” as being the elephants… that would come back to PC Aragorn’s imprecise language. A horse is a mounted unit, an armoured “Oliphant” is a mounted unit too.
    Then again, by PC Aragorn’s reasoning, if it’s got long blonde hair, it’s a girl he should try to mount.

    Making mountains out of…?

    Can’t keep from wishing all the Canuck readers a Great Canada Day – and Americans, Happy Independence Day.

    Toronto gots all the beers

  66. Doom Chicken says:

    XD “The players appraise the battlefield. Alomost.”

    Great comic.

  67. Simon says:

    Oh i love your serie.. I haven´t had this much laugh since ages..:D

  68. Alia says:

    Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?

    We are dealing with this question at our D&D game. We were goaded into a fight by the other adventuring group. They wanted to make us look bad, and we killed one of their party members, after which the remaining three fled.

    The DM said No Xp because we accomplished what they wanted. We are trying to argue that we still killed him, and even though he was resurrected, he wasn’t our friend. And we did beat the other team.

  69. Thenodrin says:

    I once ran a campaign where I allowed evil aligned PCs. Because of this most of the group was neutral, with two evil and one good aligned PC.

    I developed a story-arc that began with a stranger in a marketplace happening upon the party and begging them for help. I targeted the single good aligned PC, and the scruffy, wounded man staggered up to her, begging for her help.

    The player had his PC ninja-flip the man onto his back, and then stab him. Since the backstory I had developed for this plot required him to be wounded and recently tortured, this killed him. One of the evil PCs was worried that the local authorities might object to a random killing in the marketplace, so he cast disintigrate on the body.

    The player’s claim was that he thought the guy was attacking or trying to rob him. I pointed out that I clearly described him as being injured and desperate and that I had started into a plea for help. The player insisted that his character interpreted this as being phoney and that the guy could have been a con artist.

    Upon further discussion, the player said that while adventuring his character had lost his faith in humanity and no longer trusted others. He said that his character had adopted more of a shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude, more in keeping with the rest of the party.

    So, I tried to salvage the plot and shifted his alignment to neutral. He complained that I was “punishing” his character because he “accidentally” hurt my planned plot. I still think that I shifted his alignment to more closely represent how he described his character’s changed world view.


    1. WJS says:

      What an idiot. I mean, a “Shoot first and ask questions later” attitude isn’t really compatible with a Good alignment anyway, but to take it so far as to use lethal force on an unarmed civilian who is asking for help? Screw Neutral, that’s Evil with a capital Eev. It was generous to let him call his character neutral after that.

  70. Input Jack says:

    Thenodrin, I think you made the right call.

    This strip just gets funnier and funnier! :D

  71. Medium Dave says:

    Long shot of Theoden getting mowed down by the Undead King. Camera zooms back to gobsmacked Gandalf on the battlements of Gondor.

    “I hate this campaign.”

  72. Zippy Wonderdog says:

    You where too easy Thenodrin, I would’ve escalated the matter with multiple witnesses reporting the murder and then the local militia attempting and failing to arrest the guy eventually culminating in the party being branded outlaws and driven out of town.
    Then you could have a band of good adventurers come after the party to bring the villan to justice and this would’ve been a delightful conundrum for the good member and probably swayed the neutral members as well.
    Evil is all fine and good but Evil\Stupid should be stamped on hard and trampled into the dirt :)

  73. Paulus says:

    Evil PC’s are fun! I once played with a group where I was playing a paladin and another guy was playing a cleric. Someone new joind the group and insisted on playing an evil Shaman. We did not know this and the new guy thought he could get away with it by not telling anyone his alignment. Unfortunatly we were on the road at the time, so of course the automatic reaction apon meeting anyone was to detect alignment… It took about three charicters befor this guy stopped trying to be evil…

    Two holy wariors in Full plate, one with a longsword and one with a heavy mace = one very messy blood stain, and no Shaman.

    Such fun.

  74. Jindra34 says:

    Paulus: A bloody smear what were you low level or something?

  75. Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?

    IMHO you have proved that the question is always: ‘but where’s the treasure?’. the bloody rohirrim will have left it at edoras or wherever (and it will only be stuff that real characters won’t use like stupid magic saddles, 24’lances only a fool would try to take down a dungeon (tho we had one…) helmets of pointiness and sugar lumps of horse-taming – utter tat; the undead/treasure issue has already been covered above, so our brave heroes and the girl with the pointy ears and the bow and arrow are once again stuffed by their nasty DM – they should go and play runequest. the only good item on this whole mission was that ring and the stupid halflings took it away. now they are playing star wars, but as it ‘belonged’ to one of their characters we can’t use it any more. unless it’s somehow key to the plot…. hmmmmmm

  76. Jurrubin says:

    simply wondered Says:

    >they should go and play runequest.

    Yeah, right. Those Gloranthan Ducks has sooo much loot.

  77. Anonymous Botch says:

    Brilliant strip by the way, but I guess you know that by now.
    To give XP or not? Surely XP should be awarded for anything that would give the players experience. So even doing something stupid would be a learning experience, probably more so than doing the same old thing. If you want to reward players for following your carefully crafted story then bring doggie treats.
    I think there is a good case for the DM keeping a record of XP and just doling it out at the end of the session, that way the players have no idea what actions were rewarded. This removes that “pavlov’s Dog” reaction, “we get points for killing villagers?, Where’s my axe?”.

  78. hey jurrubin – runequest has one critical advantage over any other game i played – you got xp for getting hit!!! or was that just our dm? certainly appealed to a player like me, and made the old ‘i don’t see why i should be first into the rom/down the corridor/to open the chest etc etc’ debate much shorter – admittedly there was generally a scrum of M-U’s charging over the figters’ backs to get into combat, but isn’t life better that way?

  79. Thandruin says:

    XP gained in a combat sequence would be proportional to the amount of resistance put up by the NPCs, friendly or not.
    Thus, I concur that one would aquire experience – just because they’re allies, doesn’t mean they’d stay their arms or defence moves while getting FF’d to death. Imagine BF2…

  80. Seve says:

    And answer is: Ofcourse friendly kills count too unless they were helpless.

  81. “Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?”

    Well, first of all, in this situation they screwed the pooch. Sending a giant army at something requires no exertion of effort. The only just reward is for tactics. Fucking up WHO YOU’RE FIGHTING is #1 on strategic and tactical mistakes. So, no. That may be experience negative, time.

    Now, if the PLAYERS do it, then I think it’s proportional to the encounter, subtracting the reduced difficulty for people who aren’t fully prepared to fight back, and then subtracting an additional “That was dumb” penalty. So, yes. But then, they gain alignment penalties (assuming they’re good and care about this for whatever reason) for doing something so criminally stupid and therefore immoral. Further, they’ve likely pissed off someone, somewhere. Karma is a bitch.

    So what about the problem of players intentionally beating on people, friend or foe, just for fun and for the reward? Well, unless you’re dealing with wonderful serial killers who do the job right, this shouldn’t be possible. Somewhere, someone should get them by the laws of statistics, and by the force of numbers. Also, it’s rarely in character, so subtract penalties for that and eventually stop the character from doing what the player says. It’s usually ultimately disadvantageous and stupid, so hit some more there. And at some point, it won’t be a challenge, so they’re looking at negative experience. Plus the eventual loss of loot, reputation, access to bonuses, etc. will make people think twice. Remember how in the Zelda game on Game Boy if you stole one item you were called THIEF for the rest of the game? Yeah. That sucks.

    “Surely XP should be awarded for anything that would give the players experience. So even doing something stupid would be a learning experience, probably more so than doing the same old thing.”

    The problem with that is the incentive value it gives, as much sense as it makes in character.

    What really gives more experience: Years of mastering one’s craft in practice and simulations, or a few real runs after one has already had plenty of real runs before? The question answers itself.

    Which does one auto through as a GM? The years of training.

    So what “should” give the most exp is routinely the easiest things for the players to do.

    Which is fine, if you like to encourage your players to do nothing productive and not play the game.

    There are some ways around this, of course. One can construct training scenarios or a variety of challenges if one’s creative that boil down to more than just rolling dice or the GM autoing through the events, requiring creativity and skill. THEN it’s fair to reward exp.

    The maxim is that experience should generally match the effort and creativity exerted in problem-solving. Reason #1 is incentive: If players are rewarded for being involved, trying, thinking, playing in-character, conquering difficulties, etc. they’re more likely to try to do so. Reason #2 is that it also makes some real-life sense. Mistakes may be instructive in the long run, but in the short run they may actually cause one to second-guess oneself or become frustrated, REDUCING efficacy. In that sense, the exp. from later successes can be thought of as payoff. And hard-won success teaches lessons too.

    That having been said, we can derive a corellary that DOES support the “Mistakes give you exp.” conclusion. Even a dumb, thoughtless plan is preferable to a player who says and does nothing (like Call of Cthulhu players who make, say, coal miners – see Twinking Out – so they’re useless and therefore harmless). So giving them some consolation exp is fine. (Especially since the CONSEQUENCES of their stupidity may be fatal). Meanwhile, a plan that was creative but flawed, or ruined by poor dice rolls or bad execution, or was perfect except for information not available at the time, should be compensated pretty well, possibly MORE so than the success, again to compensate for the consequences of failure and to continue to encourage players PLAYING.

    As this comic has successfully identified, incentives are what drive players. Whether those incentives are experience, wealth, allies, reputation and influence, kudos from the GM, etc. is sort of moot, they end up running together for the player. So the incentive needs to be constructed to get what produces the funnest campaigns. This may sound cynical, but it isn’t. It rewards good players and punishes bad ones.

    Might giving some exp. for a mistake encourage mistakes? Eh, not really. Making a mistake, risking your character, feeling like a dumbass and generally not being a badass are more than enough deterrent for pretty much any PC. And the type of munchkin who would lose OPPORTUNITIES TO ROCK just for more exp should be buried alive, not associated with. In any respect, on average with this system successes are still better than mistakes, since a) most mistakes are due to poor planning anyways, so they’ll still get less exp and b) even if they get MORE exp, they’re usually set back in their quest line, lose reputation, lose access to loot, are put into danger and have to retread old ground. All that combined makes succeeding a good thing.

  82. henrebotha says:

    Nice comic, man! Keep them coming.

  83. Yoshi says:

    Haha! One more comment! Lets see if it will hurt!

  84. Michael says:

    Evil PC’s? Ever since seeing Belkar, I now know it’s possible.

    Stupid PC’s? Ever since Thog, I now know it’s possible.

    PC’s who mess up your story line and still accomplish the objectives? Ever since Collage, I now know it’s possible :-).

  85. WarWolf says:

    By the way, I think the oliphants (I think they were called…its a long time since I watched the movies, and I’m still to read the book beyond the 60 or so first pages) are counted as Monsterous Creatures, despite having people on their back to ride them, and as Aragormless spoke of MOUNTED units…. just wanting to point that out (too lazy to check if some one already noticed this…)

  86. WJS says:

    Speaking of strategy, when I watched the films recently I noticed that Sauron was completely blindsided by the Rohirrim getting involved. Whether this was because he never expected them to ride south at all, or he just had too much faith in Saruman destroying them, he clearly made no preparations to fight them.
    1. Despite having decades to prepare for his war, he never destroyed any of the beacons between Gondor and Rohan, which we saw were manned by a couple of peasants, not a garrison.
    2. Saruman’s orcs were equipped with 24′ pikes for fighting the Rohirrim cavalry. Sauron’s orcs were not. When given the order to present pikes, all they have are a handful of bills and similar polearms.

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