DM of the Rings CXXIX:
While You Were Fighting

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Aug 1, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 94 comments

Gandalf makes his tardy and overly verbose return!
Legolas has simple goals. Which are never fulfilled.

During combat, it’s rude to make other players wait by using the bathroom, stepping outside for a smoke, or getting something to eat. Wait until the fight is over to do those things. When the DM says, “While you were fighting, here is what the NPCs were doing…”, that’s your cue that it’s safe to leave the room for several minutes.


From The Archives:

94 thoughts on “DM of the Rings CXXIX:
While You Were Fighting

  1. Cenobite says:

    And no hollering battle maneuvers and combat moves from the bathroom down the hall, either!

    1. Zedolor says:

      “During combat, it's rude to make other players wait by using the bathroom, stepping outside for a smoke, or getting something to eat.”

      And it’s especially rude to attempt all 3 at once.

      1. Yeah, that… That’s not advised.

  2. Lefty says:

    first? nah, couldn’t be.

  3. Joel says:

    First post!

    Also: amusement.

  4. Todd says:

    was Gandalf always that expressionless?

  5. Joel says:

    O_o two comments posted whilst I typed my own :(

  6. Issachar says:

    Heh. Yet *another* talent that Aragorn’s player didn’t know he had.

    “The hands of a king are what, now?”

    Wurst post!

  7. James Bong (Really) says:

    I know this can’t be the first post!

    Another excellent insight in to the world of RPGs!

  8. “Crusty McDoomsayer”… priceless!

  9. Al Shiney says:

    “We’re fine thanks. Good to see you too”

    Shamus, your caps of Gimli’s best facial expressions, even when hidden behind all that hair, continue to be worth the price of admission! Ummm, oh yeah … web comic … make that , “continue to be priceless!”

    Heh … Crusty McDoomsayer indeed :-)

  10. Dave says:

    So.. you just saved the city.. what are you going to do?? I’m going to Disneyland!

  11. scldragonfish says:


    Its really hilarious the way you all jump on writing ‘first post’ like a pack of wild dogs after the same bone.

    also the comic was funny too.

  12. Jochi says:

    Aah, Shamus is back and in true form pointing out RPG foibles, and because he hasn’t had time to set up preemptive strikes, the first posters are back in full feather. Whee.

    Funny as this is — and it is — also funny is the point not made — that Aragorn is now expected to save the life of the man holding the only serious counter-claim to his throne. And he’s more concerned with the lack of kudos and loot, dismissing everyone but Legolas and Gimli as ‘a list of NPCs’.

    Aragorn can’t roleplay for crap.

  13. Al Shiney says:

    OH, I forgot to mention that I too expected to see some variation of “I can heal what now?” from the Great Stoned One.

  14. dtb says:

    I always liked the Faramir from the books. Movie, so-so, not too bad. Until I found out he was also Audrey. Now, I can’t look at him in the same way. Such ‘delicate’ features.

    So, you take some weeds, mix them with boiling water, and “tada”, you’ve gained some xp? Oh no, terrible thought about curing certain diseases, maybe thinking back, “Couldn’t I have healed myself?”

  15. Jeremehovah says:

    First post (for me at this site, anyway). I thought that whenever the DM speaks, it is a different balloon style. I guess I could just look at past comics when Gandalf speaks, so I am probably wrong at this point, but Gandalf looks like he is being played as a PC.

    The “NPCs are doing something, players zone out” situation came to my attention long ago as a DM. I recall that I was getting bored as I noticed that I was just sitting there and having the NPCs fight each other. Since then, I’ve chuckled to myself as a player when it happens.

    Nowadays it is my opinion that anything that doesn’t directly affect a PC can be classified as “story” and therefore can be generated specifically by GM fiat; only roll if it affects a PC. Some do not agree with that view, though, and I do like to hear it from other perspectives.

  16. Karkki says:

    16th post

    I love your comic

  17. Yo says:

    Hey, Gandalf’s speech bubbles don’t have the DM color! What gives?

  18. roxysteve says:

    Ha! First Post*!

    In my opinion, the bestest expression cap ever was Gandalf’s during the “walking stick” brilliance. Closely followed by that of the Rohirrim door keeper, what’s-his-face.

    Naturally, you may feel differently. You would, of course, be wrong.

    On another tack, Aragormless seems to be taking up more and more of the comic, relegating the others to supporting roles. I for one feel that this is a good move when it comes to the wilfully dim Legolass, but a sad mistake when it comes to the erudite, charismatic and knowledgeable Gimmi.

    More lines for the veteran roleplayer I say!


    * – Today**
    ** – On this site

  19. Telas says:

    “We don’t need another clueless egomaniac trying to lead us.”


  20. SiliconScout says:

    natural 20

    WOOT! 20 FTW

  21. SiliconScout says:

    Also, great work as usual Shamus.

    Keep Makin’ me laugh.

  22. Shamus says:

    Gandalf chat bubbles: Fixed. Sheesh.

  23. TnT says:

    Yeah, the rules of etiquette during combat. I alway love when we have a big battle scene, and everyone is getting into it, and as we go around the table initiative arrives at sleepy. Who either:

    a. Wakes up and asks a million questions. All of which have been asked;

    b. Wakes up and decides it is time to;
    i. use the facility,
    ii. get a drink,
    iii. etc

    c. Sometimes we let him sleep and move on :-)

  24. Jindra34 says:

    Legolass on a quest for loot and a fair fight. Neither of which they have gotten.

  25. brassbaboon says:

    Waitaminute, the battle’s over and the PCs are not desperately scrounging among the dead (and dying) looking for loot? Who are these PCs, and what have you done with the real Aragron, Gimli and Legolas?

  26. AngiePen says:

    The expression on Legolas’s face matches his dialogue so perfectly it cracked me up. Great job! :D


  27. jperk31260 says:

    Gandalf The hands of the king are the hands of a healer.

    The PC’s later that night. Gimli, pounding on door, “Aragron whats taking you so long in there.”
    Aragron: I’,m ummm healing myself.
    Legolass: What again?


  28. NeedsToHeal says:

    I know I’ve said how much I love this comic. But for some reason, as I scrolled down the comments to Shamus’s (is that grammatically correct???) comment #22, I laughed so hard.

    D&D geeks tend to be super detail oriented and creatures of habit. Well, concering this comic at least.

  29. roxysteve says:

    Isn’t it about time the DM either lost his place again or remembered some item or event that should have taken place but didn’t?

    “Now you take the potions that Tom Bombadil gave you and…what?”


  30. -Chipper says:

    It’s great how the NPCs dialogue is so obviously scripted. Gandalf is just going to say what he must & pretty much ignore what the PCs say.

  31. Sorely McFister says:

    “We don't need another clueless egomaniac trying to lead us.”

    As a card carrying clueless egomaniac who tries to lead his group, I think I’m offended :)

    And it’s definitely all about the Benjamins. No need for applause, just throw money.

  32. Poet says:

    First post after the guy that just posted.

    Something about the look on Gandalf’s face in frame six makes me think he’s been hitting the pipe a bit too hard. Old Toby, indeed…

    Hey, Shamus, have you considered setting up forums for the comic, instead of just comment boxes?

  33. Reverend Jim says:

    DM: “Okay you guys search the bodies and find 123,903 suits of leather armor, 90,908 wooden shields, 23,101 halberds, 13,933 longbows, and one giant morning star.”

    PC’s: “We sell them.”

  34. Can I change my name to Mister Crusty McDoomsayer?

    Too late.

  35. brassbaboon says:


    That’s 1123,903 suits of DAMAGED leather armor. You left out the 75,235 bent or nicked iron swords and the 43,198 helms made of animal skulls.

    But the “We sell them” is spot on.

    Seriously though, SOME of them orcs had to be carrying some gold. Or silver. Or some dead elf booty. (not that kind of booty Aragormless…)

  36. Dannerman says:

    Jeremehovah; On the only rolling (NPC vs. NPC) when it affects the PC part – I do that up to a point. If the players actually seem interested in the die roll, it’s happening in the same combat, or it’s minion vs. minion (Someone’s henchman going for an NPC or something.) – then I roll. I like my players to believe that the NPC’s gotta play by the same rules that they do.

    Of course they don’t, but I like to present the illusion of it, regardless. When the players are not in the area or the attention is off though – I go with DM fiat.

  37. Another great one Shamus, I think that break did you some good .

    Legolass is the hero of the day once again :D

  38. solemndragon says:

    You finished the battle. What? You want to stop o search the dead? You find four thousand two hundred fifteen rocks, three thousand forty-five clubs of uselessness +5, three thousand badly constructed leather jerkins, and some pocket lint. Also, a badly drawn map to the fortress written on what appears to be a piece of bloody shirt.

    “What? I’ll sell the lot.”

    “Good. You have to carry it all to a town with shops, first.”

    “How much room do I have in my pack, again?”

    “If you don’t know, then none.”

  39. Hendrake says:

    NeedsToHeal: Shamus’

    What’s that about detail orientated? :)

    Great comic, Shamus. Thank you.

  40. Jochi says:

    OK, I admit it, I personally find the posting of a single four-letter word for panderer (or in period, whoremonger), like a toddler shouting a dirty word into a room full of adults and then running away giggling, MORE irritating than the race to post first.

    They are an equal waste of space and I’m at a loss to say which is more indicative of a lack of either cleverness or maturity.

  41. Sphinxfeather says:

    That’s odd, I’ve always found the exact opposite to be true…in our games the LAST thing you want to miss is what the NPC is telling you, and the best time to go to the bathroom is right after your turn in battle, when you’re not doing/needed for anything and there’s 4-5 more people to go through before you’re up again. Granted, you want to do this RIGHT after your turn, but as long as you’re snappy about whatever you need to do, you’ll usually get back in time…

    Other than that though, amusing comic as always ^_^

  42. Joshua says:

    It’s amazing the lengths Shamus went to to try and reveal how much he disliked “first posts”, and yet so-called fans still attempt to race to do it anyways.

  43. Jaja says:

    I’m gonna go out and buy me a Crusty McDoomsayer RIGHT NOW!

    Whaddya mean you can’t eat it?

  44. Scarlet Knight says:

    I can see it now. They’re finally at a city, and they can’t sell anything because suddenly, EVERYONE is selling orc weapons, orc armor, & oliphant tusks!

    Gimli: “C’mon! Grond has to be worth something! It’s an artifact! How many hammers of a god do you have, eh?”
    Aragorn:”Want a siege tower? Pre-owned?”
    Legolas:”Tell him we’ll take shop credit… “

  45. Matthias says:

    I have to applaud the DM for staying in character in spite of Glamourgorn’s and Flimsy’s refusal to (role-)play along.

  46. Raved Thrad says:

    “We’re fine, thanks. Good to see you too.”

    One of the best comeback lines ever :))

  47. Retarded Rayne says:

    “The last thing we want to hear about is the list of NPCs you couldn’t save.”

    Don’t you just love how all powerful Gandalf can defeat a Balrog, but not heal another NPC? Railroad anyone?

    Also loved the “I hope you’re not trying to get back into the party” line. Who would want another clueless, albeit powerful, egomanic in their party? Priceless!

  48. Attorney At Chaos says:

    “Don't you just love how all powerful Gandalf can defeat a Balrog, but not heal another NPC? Railroad anyone?”

    In 1E AD&D terms they once figured out that Gandalf was approximately equal to a 7th level Magic User as a spellcaster. It’s just that spellcasters of ANY kind were so rare that he appeared so powerful. But your typical 7th level MU doesn’t do healing. And in fact, the Tolkien universe is almost completely devoid of Clerical spellcasters anyway, so Healing proficiencies become a LOT more important.

    I don’t think that’s changed much in 2E AD&D or 3E D&D.

  49. Joshua says:

    Well, as it’s been discussed in other threads, in 3rd Edition Gandalf comes out looking more like a Druid/Bard then a Wizard. His magic deals more with influencing people, casting minor enchantments, and interacting with nature than your typical Evocation spells. He also has a much higher fighting ability than your typical wizard.

  50. KCbakeneko says:

    Love Legolass’s rolling eyes in that last panel.

  51. Telas says:

    Well, since LotR was written a good quarter-century before roleplaying games were invented, it’s pretty easy to say who’s in the wrong here…

  52. damien walder says:

    Funny how this strip shows up the week after a near-death experience for my gaming party’s characters. I actually had to leave before the game was over for a date (two events on one night?!) – I wouldn’t want gaming interfering with that, would I?

    As it pans out, I left after everyone else in the party failed a saving throw against some kind of evil warding that had them all attack each other (my rouge/ninja was happy to disappear from the scene, with the DM’s consent). The only actual casualty was the DM’s NPC companion to the party, a cleric. But earlier that night I was also holding water during a melee…

    “It’s funny cause it’s true”. H.Simpson

  53. Kayan says:

    Actually the D&D universe was obviously created by LoTR fans
    who wanting to better experience their passion turned it into a game. So talking about evocation and bards etc,etc,
    kind of misses the point.Besides those who have read the the books as well as sylmarilion know that Gandalf as well as Saruman and the other eight or so wizards in Middle-Earth were much more than simple hard-studying humans or elfs like your average D&D wizard.

  54. Gadush Kraun says:

    Right on cue gandalf. Perfect timing. He should be an actor. :P

  55. matt says:

    It really does seem like Gandalf is having this conversation completely independent from the characters. Another funny one. Glad you’re back, Shamus.

    ‘Nowadays it is my opinion that anything that doesn't directly affect a PC can be classified as “story” and therefore can be generated specifically by GM fiat; only roll if it affects a PC. Some do not agree with that view, though, and I do like to hear it from other perspectives.’

    I’ve been debating this recently in my mind. I’ve got a situation I want to create in my campaign by having an NPC die . This will set up future plots. I’ve been trying to decide whether to just announce to the players that they find his corpse, at which point they will then be faced with the monster that killed him, or whether I should play out the combat between the monster and NPC, maybe behind the screen or before the session. The NPC in question is higher level than the PCs at this point so I want to avoid the players immediately thinking, “How can we kill it if it wasted him?”

    I suppose I could play out the combat a few times just to see if it’s feasible for the monster to do it and maybe give it some wounds from the fight before it attacks the party?

    I’m curious what other people think about how closely the DM and NPCs should follow the same rules as the PCs and when a DM should break them to further the story.

  56. Zippy Wonderdog says:

    I find it incredibly irritating and childish on the part of the posters, to see that the first 10 or so posts are just thinly disguised attempts to make a grab for the dubious honour of “first post”.
    As the post count rises the posts get longer, detailed and actually worth reading.
    Frankly I don’t think anything would be missed if you deleted the first ten posts half an hour after you post the comic.
    @Matt, maybe the NPC “fails” his fort save for taking 50+ damage in a single blow :)

  57. Doug Williams says:

    I really chuckled at “I need you to stop trying now!”

    Gandalf’s casual disregard for the well-being and demeanor of the PCs was also hilarious! One can sense that even the DM is becoming disenchanted, and wants to JUST MOVE IT ALONG (so we can play Crazy Taxi and argue about which is the “authentic” Traveller universe).

  58. Cagiar says:

    That was great, Shamus. Aragorn’s first line was perfect.

  59. Doug Williams says:

    And matt, my two cents are that it’s the DM’s job to set up and advance the plot, and that rules are only there to help the PCs navigate their universe in a way that is both predictable and random; just like real life, except that in the game girls will occasionally talk to you.

    Your solution of having the players find the NPC dead and have to fight a somewhat-weakened monster makes sense. Otherwise you may have to go through one contrived, railroaded scenario after another to kill off the NPC and advance the plot.

    If you’re going to do that, why not just make it fun? Say to the PCs “You all have a dream that great adventure, glory, and riches await you. But the price shall be the death of [random NPC dude].” Let the PCs decide whether the life of a beloved NPC is worth saving at the cost of the campaign.

    Jesus, I almost choked on my Diet Coke while I wrote that…

  60. BenSquig says:

    Having to read all the people talking about first post is really annoying. Make a useful comment or don’t say anything at all. Gah!

    Having got that out… I love this series, it’s awesome. I may be the opposite of most and actually just am a TLoTR fan, and have never played D&D at all! I can relate, because I deal with people a lot and the personalities I enjoy. That’s easily the best part of this series.

  61. Annon says:

    I usually roll up thje first round or so of mobat, and have whatever BBEG I have gun for the NPC. After that point, it is up to the dice. This allows me to run combat between two NPCs without boring the hell out of the players, and it is my firm belief that they should have some say in the matter, othewise I’m just railroading.

    For example: in one party, I had a dwarven druid NPC that was starting to function much like Gandalf is in DMoTR. I decided it was time for the master of the domain (a pit fiend) to reveal himself. Pre-rolling everything, the beast had abysmal damage rolls and only managed to bring the dwarf down to -3 HP.

    The players actually managed to run away (alternative was being enslaved by said fiend) with the injured body of their comrade. To this day that darned dwarf is still breathing, but the experience has humbled him to the point where he will take the backseat in most encounters, never speaking unless spoken to. [i]That[/i] is how I think it should be done.

  62. Jochi says:

    Point taken. No more comments about asinine juvenile postings.

    The first attempt to assign Gandalf a D&D level based on his actual spells cast predates AD&D, it appeared in The Strategic Review, TSR’s first organ, before Dragon. IIRC, the number was five, but it might have been seven.

    The DM’s job is to advance the story, and which path to take depends on how you want it advanced. If you want this NPC dead, and the PCs thrust into the role of avengers, it makes sense to set the scene for them. Playing it out ahead of time will help make the scene more believable, since you’ll be sure that you’re being reasonable for how beat up (and ability-used-up) you set the monster for them.

    But if you want the players deciding on whether to honor their friend’s shout of “This one is MINE! Stay out of it!” even when he starts losing, then pre-rolling the fight is just a time-saver. Be ready to discard the pre-generated results if they decide saving their friend’ life is more imprtant than honoring his request — and write the scenario so that it will survive either them allowing their friend to die in honor or saving him and (for instance) him deciding to go walkabout until he’d purged himself of the shame of failure.

  63. Al Shiney says:

    I know Damien’s “rouge/Ninja” in post #54 was a typo, but I can’t help wondering if this wouldn’t be an awesome character to play … deranged former-Geisha turned stealth warrior, sort of “Pretty Woman” meets “Kill Bill”.

    Hey, wait a minute … I yell “dibs” on the copyright!

  64. Lukelightning says:

    deranged former-Geisha turned stealth warrior, sort of “Pretty Woman” meets “Kill Bill”.

    Hey, wait a minute … I yell “dibs” on the copyright!

    Heh, like the “deadly femme-fatale geisha ninja” thing hasn’t already been done to death.

  65. Caius says:

    Player rule number 1
    NPCs are good if they give you items
    Player rule number 2
    They need not be alive to do this

  66. Tola says:

    Aragorn can't roleplay for crap.

    He’s tried, he honestly has. There’s Caradhas(spoiled by EVERYONE, DM included, going out of character), and more recently with the Dead. But given the bloody BOOK of a backstory he’s been given, which he understandably hasn’t read(200 pages?!), is it any wonder he’s playing it by ear most of the time?

  67. Tola says:

    Actually, it’s true of most of the characters…they’ve been given little reason to get emotionally involved. They don’t care much about their characters, they don’t care much for the situations(especially as they’re being forced about by the DM), they don’t care at all.

    And I don’t blame them.

  68. Terran says:

    I think comment #67 is my favourite. My sides hurt. Caius, I think *you* now need to make a shirt…

  69. RogerR says:

    In reposponse to the “. . .in fact, the Tolkien universe is almost completely devoid of Clerical spellcasters anyway, so Healing proficiencies become a LOT more important.”

    To the best of my recollection, notable healers were strictly limited but did include Elrond. Something stirs in my memory about him being the greatest healer in Middle Earth.

    Clerical healers from AD&D never existed in Tolkien, as there existed no patron deities to grants spells. The Valar wouldn’t have gone in for the ‘worship’ claptrap. Only the followers of Morgoth would accept such adorations.

  70. Matthias says:

    Player rule number 3
    There is no such thing as enough XP

  71. Jillzmom says:

    The rouge/ninja posting reminds me of a Conan book that was obviously only proofread by Spellcheck. Conan was attacked by a pack of rouges, instead of a pack of rogues. Perhaps they were Avon ladies in disguise.

  72. I like how 5 people think they got the first post and the one that did didn’t boast “First Post”.

  73. Jochi says:

    Tala —

    I mostly agree with you — and I learned this game from others who were coming straight from Monopoly or Risk. Power Gaming, Monty Haul and you-vs-me mentality was all they knew. (The hobby got better.)

    I was just quoting Shamus. That’s the title of the first page of episode CCXXVIII. Funny then, and funny now.

    And yes, part of the joke is that this DM didn’t think about the player, he handed him a character he is not ready to play and has no desire to play. Now, GIMLI’S player could pull it off — but he was cast in the role of sidekick along with Legolas.

  74. Jochi says:

    Gimli’s player was probably cast in a secondary role because he came to the campaign late. The plum roles were already all gone.

    Part of the problem with letting/forcing the GM to create the setting, the story AND the characters. The game works best if the players CRAFT their characters and CHOOSE their roles.

    Not that that’s any secret.

  75. Cenobite says:

    Lukelightning @ 66:

    Absolutely agree. Done to death.

    (This was a hard list to find. The original page has been deleted off Wikipedia.)

  76. comicshorse says:

    Missed out the brother and sister in ‘Zatoichi’.

  77. Scarlet Knight says:


    Best version: “Berk Breathed’s ‘Night of the Mary Kay Commandos.'”

  78. Terran says:

    We just broke down and picked up the core rules.

    Shamus…this is *your* fault!

  79. leon666 says:


    i just wanted to be populaqr i am sorry

  80. Medium Dave says:

    “Denethor has an heir? I kill him.”

    You are the uncrowned king.

    “Can’t be too careful here.”

    Mark my words.

  81. the grandaddy says:

    last post! great strip shamus, but pleeeeeease, once you finish with dmotrings, do a star wars dm. i look forward for you’re view of the anakin/palpatine relationship

  82. Jindra34 says:

    grandaddy never say you have the last post.

  83. damien walder says:

    I really have to stop typing in the dark. Rouge on a Rogue – actually just a disguise for my Ninja, yeah, that’s right. Rouge is the new black.

    Thanks, everybody. I guess it’s a good sign that no Electra references surfaced (especially after two stinky movies), and praises to the Outland/Bloom County plug.

    I love this webcomic…

  84. TalrogSmash says:

    So, how much trouble is the party in when their best healer is the ranger?

  85. Robel says:

    Pure gold! :D
    Also, you guys with the first post are really lame. Especially those that write “omg first post, i OWNED joo!” and you`re actually the third or something…

  86. Mythias says:

    Man I wish my players would get distracted AFTER the fighting… We once broke for an hour and a half to eat TOAST when we were supposed to be fighting a red dragon. (If I recall correctly, we were actually in the middle of someone’s turn, and about three turns away from killing the thing when the dwarf jumps up and exclaims “I want toast!”)

  87. barnee says:


    … or not…

  88. pirate34 says:

    second last caption, vampire legolas, I mean seriously, he should be burning in all that sunlight

  89. Luke says:

    Anybody else notice Gimli in the last panel?

  90. Lilly says:

    Why do I read all of Gandalf’s posts in his voice? But none of the others get their actors voices?

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.