DM of the Rings CXXXVIII:
Another Cunning Gambit

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Aug 22, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 167 comments

Aragorn employs his own unique brand of strategy.


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167 thoughts on “DM of the Rings CXXXVIII:
Another Cunning Gambit

  1. MintSkittle says:

    Total suckage indeed.

    1. Nacata says:

      Nice picture!

  2. tom says:

    wow aragorn is retarded

  3. Jochi says:

    What’s Leggy complaining about? He has a target rich environment.

    Sun Tsu would say this was poor strategy on the ORCS’ part — they should have left a narrow corridor to the north open, and lined it with pikes and archers. So some of the Men could/would/might choose to flee rather than fight. Putting your enemy in Death Country — where they have to fight or die — only increases your own casualty count.

  4. Doug Brown says:

    He’s the Colonel!

  5. Harlock says:

    Heh. Actually, that might be a workable tactic: let them surround you, then punch through the thinned out lines to the Black Gate and close it behind you. Of course, then the orcs go rampaging through Gondor, so that’s a bit of a minus from the _strategic_ side…

  6. Balentius says:

    I ran into this a long time ago… Fortunately, I was the enemy player. :)

    Big naval battle shaping up. I was the “opposing” commander, since my character was lost at that point. All the other PCs were on their “super ship”, with greek fire and several catapults, leading a force of ~60 barbarian ships. I wasn’t available to actually be at that session, so I gave the DM instructions.

    “OK, I have 13 ships, right?” “Yep.” “OK, I’m going to be swamped, so have EVERY one of my ships fire at the PC’s ship until it sinks.” “OK…”

    Sure enough, the PC’s, being confident, were in the front of their forces. They weren’t even ready with defensive spells… 26 catapult stones fired, ~16 hit… Their ship sinks in the first round of the battle. The greek fire all ruptures and spreads out, killing the next ~15 barbarian ships, and keeps them out of ballista range for ~5-6 rounds…

    I got a lot of dirty looks the next day. :)

    1. WJS says:

      The problem with that strategy would be that that kind of firepower concentration (everyone shoot at the same thing) wasn’t available to ships until around the 20th century, because their weapon ranges were so small relative to the spacing of ships. To be able to all fire on one ship they would have to be the ones doing the surrounding.

  7. James Barlow says:

    I wasted most of yesterday reading your back issues. I hate this campaign.

  8. Cat Skyfire says:

    Reminds me of a D&D game I once played. The DM had based it on a computer video game. In the game, when you went to fight, all the monsters were lined up, in best battle order, THEN you fought them.

    These kobolds and hobgoblins started to stream in through two doors and get into battle order. I cried foul. No way was my fight just going to wait while they ALL came in, and put the archers and magic users in the back. I wanted to move to the doorway as soon as they started to come in, and hack them so that they could only get in a few at a time, and had to climb over the bodies of their dead.

    She didn’t like that, and ruled that ‘half’ got in anyway, and in perfect battle order.

  9. Lee from Sheboygan says:

    They actually called Aragorn by his role-playing name! I’ll bet the GM was just happy they’re role-playing now.

  10. Mike Mistele says:

    Lee from Sheboygan wrote:

    “They actually called Aragorn by his role-playing name! I'll bet the GM was just happy they're role-playing now.”

    Must’ve been the guy playing Gimli who said that…at least he tries to follow the storyline.

  11. 2.5 cats says:

    Jochi, do you really think Sauron cares how many orcs he loses?

    Aragorn’s strategy of waiting until surrounded and charging at the last moment makes sense only in the context of knowing that Frodo was right about to destroy the ring. In the books Aragorn fought a bit smarter and they all stayed in their defensive position.

  12. TezukaDan says:

    Ok, i swear, i want a T-Shirt with All this Strip on it.
    This become one of my Top 3 Strips, with the Death of Golum, and the Death of Saruman.

  13. Diogo says:

    As Sun Tzu had said, “an enemy with no hope of surviving is the worst enemy possible” or something like that… My first post here, I loved this comic, I think I’m one of the few that actually hated the movies and prefered the books most, this comic only makes me remember why :)

  14. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Hark! Thy fate sucketh!”

    Shamus, the ‘silent’ next-to-last panel just makes the comic priceless!

  15. Nikle says:

    wait for it…..

    Ah, used it so many times, and it may as well be, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

  16. 2.5 cats says:

    TezukaDan, I’m with you on the T-shirt, though I think the first two panels could be removed–the joke works just as well if it starts with panel #3.

  17. Arbaal says:

    I am thinking that it was an NPC that cried out “You suck Aragorn!” because if you look at the positioning of the PCs vs the positioning of the person who calls out, you will notice that it is on the far right hand side of the group rather than the left hand side where the PCs are.

  18. roxysteve says:

    Now is the time for all orcish archers to come to the aid of the party (in a particularly target-rich environment).

    TPK for King Mordor’s side in about two rounds!


  19. Wtrmute says:

    Ok, this is the perfect oportunity for the DM to spring his surprise “nyah, nyah, fooled ya, the PCs of the guys who left to play Star Wars destroyed the Ring and defeated Sauron. Lucky for you all, since you were about to become a principal component in Orc war drums in 10 rounds or less”.

    The players can’t complain the now-NPCs kill-stole the end boss from them, since they’d made a terminally stupid decision and were about to be killed and lose the campaign anyway…

  20. Jochi says:

    Maybe, it just sounded like Legolas’s vocabulary.

    THAT reminds me of a spaceship miniatures game a buddy of mine once played — I forget the rules system. He and a friend used all the points they were allotted to build one huge battlewagon, lined with gun ports and with a big hole in the front. The other players built a standard swarm of little ships. They strafed the big ship on their first turn, reformed and did it again, drawing minor fire from the side turrents (which they were merrily destroying) but no real action. As they were gathering in front of the ship again, an passerby asked the players of the fleet what that big thing they were fighting was.
    “I dunno, they call it the Yamato.”
    “WHAT?! What’s it doing?”
    “Mostly just sitting there.”
    “HOW LONG?”
    “About three turns now.”
    “Oh … you see that bunch of ships you have clustered right there?”
    “They’re all dead.”
    Sure enough, that turn the Wave Motion Gun finished charging.
    He said the shrieks of horror and surprise were beautiful.

  21. roxysteve says:

    [Su Tzu’s theory on leaving an exit ramp for your enemy]

    I once owned a Simulations Canada wargame themed on the unification of China under the Chin that used this piece of waffle as a combat resolution mechanic. Surround your enemy and they fought literally five times as well as they did last turn.

    That game sucked almost as badly as Aragormless does, but has a warm place in my heart because playing it was how I met Paul the Globetrotting Wargamer, possibly the best F2F RPG player in the world. Certainly the most entertaining.

    Sun Tzu = Master of Cryptic Waffle and Stating the Bleeding Obvious.


  22. Takkelmaggot says:

    As Chester Puller said fifty-odd years ago, “…they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us… They can’t get away this time!”

  23. Jochi says:

    Ack — I was replying to Balentius, not Cat. Sorry.

    And no, 2.5, I don’t. Forgot to say so.

  24. lifethelemon says:

    now I have them precisely where I want them.

    surrounded from the inside!

  25. roxysteve says:

    I wonder how long it took to set up all those plastic figures on the grid, and what they ended up using for orcs since you never have enough of any one race to suffice?

    Now what is called for is for various individual orcs to “hold their action” so that the initiative ladder gets to be about fifteen feet long and the scene is set for a realistic D&D combat session for once!



  26. Arthur says:

    Arbaal: I’m pretty sure it’s not an NPC who says “You totally suck”, because Shamus has always been damn consistent about keeping NPC dialogue in the “DM-yellowed” speech bubbles.

    It’s one of the other PCs. I guess he made it look like the person talking was quite distant from Aragorn because otherwise it might look as though Aragorn was telling *himself* that he sucked.

  27. Charles says:

    Maybe Aragorn’s deliberately trying to get the players killed so they can go play something else?

    Nah, probably just a moron.

  28. Mikko says:

    This reminds me of a game of D&D I DM’d some 20 years ago. The players were in a similar position. But that ended with the players killing all the orcs — and the mandatory evil-to-the-bone halfling then proceeded to eat a wagonload of them. (The players were on level 20+ so it wasn’t that miraculous a victory).

    BYW, why is it that some 90% of all PC halflings are evil b*stards?

  29. Mikko says:

    BYW –> BTW

    Note to self: next time proof read your contribution.

  30. Aries says:

    So…your surounded, outnumberd 50-1 and have no way to escape & your best chance for victory is in to form of a half insane midget and his ‘very VERY friendly’ buddy that at present a DM with a twisted sense of humour and a wicked streak three miles long is presently in full controll of due to there players naffing off…i would say your chances of comming out of this as a brand new pair of Orc bongos is pretty damn high.

  31. Aries says:

    Mikko Says:BTW, why is it that some 90% of all PC halflings are evil b*stards?

    oh thats easy:
    if you are by a twist of nature to look 90% of the people you meet in the crotch your gonna crack eventualy…its just a matter of when and how.
    ods are worse if they make short jokes, or the DM refuses to drop reasonably sized weapons and armour…goddamn meadium sized creatures lording there hight and ability to ride proper sized mounts over us…WE MAY BE SHORT BUT WE HAVE FEELINGS TOO! now come here i wanna stab you in the kneecaps.

  32. Sal says:

    That Yamato story is priceless LOL

  33. Cenobite says:

    Well if they were REALLY roleplaying, then it would have come out as:

    “You totally suck, my liege.”

  34. Starsong says:

    I’m with you on the short jokes, Aries. My first D&D character (1st gen AD&D) was a halfling fighter/thief that bottomed out on the size chart at 2’6″. The party cleric was pretty burly, so he rigged a harness and carried her on his back while they were travelling rather than wait for her to catch up all the time. It faced backwards and left her arms free, so she kept a bow ready and served as rear guard for the party.

  35. Tango says:

    isn’t it amusing how if you abbreviated “Deus Ex Machina” it would be “DEM”, which I would so read “DM” ?

  36. Valley says:

    Gimli had to have said that…only he would remember Aragon’s name.

  37. Lukelightning says:

    “Putting your enemy in Death Country “” where they have to fight or die “” only increases your own casualty count.”

    Far better to put your enemy in Marlboro Country, where they slowly kill themselves of lung disease.

  38. SteveDJ says:

    Wait for it…



    Ok, now – post the comment! That was just awesome! LOL, and all that good stuff. Keep up the great work!

  39. Mikko says:

    About the shorty jokes that halflings have to put up with…

    One of the many guys who played an evil & murderous halfling in my games was himself 206cm (~6’9″) tall. So he at least wasn’t channeling any personal frustrations into his ~3’6″ tall character.

    And even Belkar Bitterleaf of OOTS postdates all these chaotic evil halflings, so Belkar is just a symptom, not the origin.

  40. Now, THAT is freaking brilliant! I’ve run scenes so similar to that myself, and have chided my own players for being so dumb.

    Of course, then my players usually pulled some weird trick out of their hat that completely trashed my entire beautifully constructed scenario. Stupid players.

  41. Jochi says:

    It goes back at least as far as the old Finieous Fingers comic — he had to deal with a bunch of troublemaking street urchins being recruited into the thieves’ guild, who turned out to be a rival guild of evil halfling thieves bent on replacing his guild entirely.

    And that was (cough) years ago.

  42. Midrealm_DM says:

    I ran a campaign way back where the psychopathic halfling was reincarnated as a troll. This drove him insane, but he was still a psychopath.

    Ahh – good times.. good times.

  43. Mari says:

    I always figured PC halflings are evil because frankly, they have to be real weirdos to be adventuring anyway. I mean, it’s pretty established that outside of the Baggins family, adventuring is pretty frowned upon. Ergo, you make a PC halfling that is the exact opposite of a “normal” halfling, or evil to the bone.

    That and the fact that it’s just funny as heck to make an evil midget. So much comic hilarity ensues from pure evil in a tiny package (remember those movies from the 70s and 80s with evil children like “Children of the Corn” and “The Omen” and all? Comic gold, I tell you!)

  44. Scarlet Knight says:

    BYW, why is it that some 90% of all PC halflings are evil b*stards?

    Simply, some people don’t want to roleplay a stereotypical halfling from Tolkien. That leaves either hobbits with delusions of grandeur who act like Reechipeep; or bitter ones who are the exact opposite of Tolkien’s.
    Both basically end up as comic relief; the former as slapstick, the latter as dark comedy.

  45. baac says:

    Orcs attack. Everyone dies.

  46. Frank says:

    I love this campaign.

  47. Da Rogue says:

    “now come here i wanna stab you in the kneecaps.”

    Aries,us halflings tend to need some sort of compensation for our lack of altitude, so we often turn to treachery to accomplish our goals against the biased medium sized buggers.

  48. Little Gen says:

    Once again: Priceless.

  49. Mikko says:

    Interesting answers, people.

    I also suspect the ‘evil halfling syndrome’ is a more or less conscious reaction to Tolkien’s portrayal of Hobbits as gregarious pipe weed smokers.

    But personally I feel it’s a cop-out for a roleplayer. IMO it’s far more challenging & interesting to play a halfling who’s basically a good guy thrown out in big men’s world, trying to cope and prosper in numerous un-halfling-ish ways.

  50. Raved Thrad says:

    Isn’t this the point where the high Charisma character is supposed to shout “Surrender!” as loud as he can? Who knows? Maybe the orcs are so confused that while they try to puzzle that one through the PCs and their Gondish (Gondrish? Gondite?) army mow them down?

  51. Raved Thrad says:

    #49 Mikko Says:

    > I also suspect the “˜evil halfling syndrome' is a more or
    > less conscious reaction to Tolkien's portrayal of Hobbits
    > as gregarious pipe weed smokers.

    Reading through the books it’s obvious that Hobbits have disproportionately large appetites, compared to hunams. Tobacco being seriously addictive (I should know, took me 10 years to quit), we can expect their consumption to be significantly heavier than hunams’. Within a couple of generations they might have smoked off all the “pipe weed” and turned to other forms of “weed.” If that were the case, is it so farfetched that within a few generations they might become murderous and evil caricatures of their former rosy-cheeked face-stuffing selves?

    1. WJS says:

      Yeah, because there’s nothing more dangerous than a stoner, right?

  52. SonicStorm says:

    Oh come on what can lvl 1 orcs do against lvl 20 army? :D

  53. Woerlan says:

    This is what happens when you don’t watch ‘300’ like normal people do.

    *slaps Aragorn*

  54. Maverick says:

    Wait for it…attack! *tumble weed rolls by*.

    Priceless shaums. Also, this is an apropriate moment to bring up, in the film at this exact point when Aragorn runs forward, no-body moves, the halflings run forward after aragorn, and THE WHOLE ARMY follows them… Most likely so they wouldn’t stab them in the back of the knees whilst charging…

  55. Zaghadka says:

    Good one, Shamus. That made me laugh a good long time… ;^)


  56. Jaye says:

    Lee from Sheboygan? Wisconsin? If so, this world is way too small…

  57. Lil'German says:

    what happened to that “For Frodo” Scene… i’d have imagined, that this stuff alone (the deleted Boss fight with Sauron-Glowwormy) would have given three dozen very hypnotic screenies for Aragorn ;)

  58. Christian / Suloyapla says:

    Actually, although they are surrounded, the rest of Aragon’s aramy can set-up a defensive position right there via shields, this would keep of the arrows, and allow for a porcupine like defense strategy, so they could pull this battle off. also note that the orcs in this game have crap-ass equipment, and the fact that they are most likely underpowered, due to the sheer size of the army (a lot of lvl 1 orcs in there I bet). There odds of succeess, with a decent plan is actually, very very high.

  59. Khazar says:

    So…is Aragorn Five-head going to fight the gorgeous Sauron from the deleted scenes?

    And whatever did happen to the horses? Or are they the onky ones with enough sense to leave??

  60. Scarlet Knight says:

    Jaye Says: “…this world is way too small…”

    Not if you’re a hobbit.
    Also, I wonder how fat hobbits would get if they DIDN’T smoke?

    Hey! that’s an idea! The next character I’m gonna’ play is a Rasta-halfling! Jolly, bare-foot, cloud of pipeweed smoke, yet still non-traditional!

  61. Andy says:

    In third ed D&D halflings are far from inferior, they get bonuses to f-ing everything! My first (and only) halfing PC was, hands down, the deadliest character in the group up to level 5 at least. By the time his inherent bonuses became less important his reputation as a tremendous badass was cemented.

    He did stray into comic relief at times though. “I know what you’re asking yourself. ‘Has he thrown six darts, or only five?’ Well, with all the excitement, I’ve kind of forgotten myself…”

    Good times…

  62. Phlux says:

    Anyone who remembers the books know if Aragorn was actually this clueless with tactics? Did his army really just stand in a huddle and let themselves be surrounded?

    They could have at least formed ranks or a phalanx or something. A huddle is about the most useless battle formation imagineable. About the only thing it was good for was in the movie to demonstrate how outnumbered they were.

  63. Steve says:

    Christian / Suloyapla:
    Good idea, but the problem is that a: none of them have spears and b: Aragorn calls “Charge!”


  64. Aries says:

    COMIC RELIEF!!! god dammit man im a sexy bare footed ninja…on (dont laugh) my little pony…ok who laughed? dont plan on having any children because from the waist down your MINE!… To be honest when i RP’d i was suprisingly even tempered unless short jokes were made…dont get me wrong i wasnt the best ranger in the world but the bonuses more than made up for it. as for my ‘temper’ well i just put that down to the fact the players (who will remain naeless) decided on the day i couldnt turn up to play to put me in his pants as a codpiece / cup / penile extention….suffised to say i was not ammused…still cant believe the DM let him do it… it was a ‘codpiece of holding’ my ass…

  65. Aries says:

    the previous post was typed in boath humiliation and anger ans is thus misspelled, i do not regret this however i would likr to point out that my normal lexicon & punciaution is normaly significantly better…but for gods sake he stuffed my PC down his freaking undercrackers!…ruddy DM’s with a sense of humour, i cast doubt on all your parentages.

  66. Lev Lafayette says:

    There’s many reasons why I think “Return of the King” is the worst film of the trilogy. This scene is one of them.

  67. From the standpoint of the Tolkien plot, given that the goal of the warriors is not to win, but to distract/delay as much as possible, their little huddle is a rather sound strategy.

    First of all, with no other chokepoints to work with, it ensures that they are always engaging the minimum number of infantry (perimeter of outer circle times linear density of orcs) and the orcs are engaging a minimum number of them.

    It also is more conducive to relieving infantry at the front with less weary infantry from the inside ranks.

    If the band lasts long enough, the dead orcs may provide a demoralizing and even a defensively useful perimeter.

    And, obviously, the initiation of the battle is delayed by, amazingly, not initiating battle.

    You of course sacrifice your ability to maneuver, to escape, and give your enemy free tactical reign, including simply entrenching around you until archers, siege, etc., can be movied into place, but with survival a foregone conclusion, I don’t think maintaining the tactical ability to flank/divide/retreat from/etc. division X of orcs is all that important… or even helpful.

  68. comicshorse says:

    And its still more tactically sound than Faramir at Osgilliath. I swear he could not have handled repelling the Orcs crossingthe river worse if he’d tried to. No wonder his dad prefered Boromir.
    Sorry, pet peeve.

  69. ArchU says:

    Aragorn was a decorated general in another life, he swears it.

  70. Mejo says:

    First post to this great comic.

    One of the things that really annoyed me about the films was that Aragorn, Gandalf, Faramir all turned into suicidal idiots with all the battle sense of seriously depressed lemmings.

    Like at Helm’s Deep: when dramatically outnumbered, hole up in a good defensive position until reinforcements arrive. Good plan. Aragorn’s response: let’s ride out into the open and fight! Yeah, right…

    In the book, outside the Black Gate, the army formed up into defensive huddles on top of two hills, as I recall. Fairly good defensive move, under the circumstances. A position they held until the end.

    It worked for King Harold against the Normans at Hastings: it was only when the Normans managed to goad the Saxons into breaking ranks and chasing them down the hill, the Normans suddenly turned around, and hey presto: lot’s of dead Saxons.

    So: if you’re in a good defensive position surrounded by a large force, what’s the worst possible move you can make? That’s right: chaaaarge!!!!

  71. ruleant says:

    Very funny. :-)

    I believe Braveheart used similar lines, but his plan seemed to have more succes. ;-)

    (English horsemen approaching)
    (English horsemen getting closer)
    (English horsemen nearly there )
    (English horsemen right in front of them)
    (Scots pick up wooden poles and spike the English horses)

  72. trigear says:

    Hmm, I wonder what the CR is on this encounter… if the orcs are low enough level, and the PCs are high enough level, they might get through this in one piece and then end up with very little by way of experience. That would be funny.

    1. WJS says:

      Eh, they did that already at Helm’s Deep.

  73. dtb says:

    Ah, Reepicheep…

    Aren’t the characters all level 2 now? They haven’t complained about XP since Helm’s Deep, but they haven’t done anything either. Those green guys did all the fighting.

    Excellent work of course, but “and they keep falling for it” is one of my most favorite lines, right behind “hi”.

  74. Althanis says:

    Honest to God quote from a D&D game I played in:

    DM: “You’re surrounded by giants. What do you do?”
    Player: “I surprise them”

    1. WJS says:

      “Surprise them with what? A surprise rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan? Or were you just planning to drop your pants? That would certainly be a surprise for them. A surprise attack? Not happening.”

  75. waaaaaaaait indeed!
    I will say this, Aragon is a ‘unique’ “leader” :D

  76. Nik the Pirate says:

    I was really hoping for the scene where the Mouth of Sauron chucks Frodo’s uber-expensive mithril shirt at the party. Gimli’s player should have known the worth of that, at least. I was expecting that.

  77. Nik the Pirate says:

    and, where I am at the moment, it is only 1:48pm, not 10:48. Just so you know.

  78. brassbaboon says:

    There should be plenty of XP for the group at Helms Deep. Gimli himself killed nearly two dozen orcs. Legalos was right with him. Aragorn didn’t keep count, but he felled his share. Gandalf’s charge killed hundreds.

    From there they should have gotten good XP from the Paths of the Dead (remember Aragorn’s great role-playing there?).

    And don’t forget the fighting outside of Gondor. That’s three good solid encounters with lots of dead orcs.

    I’d guess they are pushing level six by now.

  79. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    This reminds me of a guy I played with a few times.We were battling in some war against the orcs,and had the advantage of fighting from the top of the hills.One of us (the fighter) was down there leading one of the companies,while the rest of us PC’s (mages and archers) were up with the armies range support.It was quite an easy fight,even though the orcs outnumbered us,since we had better equipment and better position.

    So,the first round orcs charge,and we shower them with arrows and spells.Yet this guy just waits for it.The second round,orcs clash in melee,and the fighter down there manages to command his company to kill half of the company attacking them.We kill quite a few more orcs from the above,yet the guy still waits.GM warns him that everyone starts to eye him suspiciously and he should do something,so next round he throws his crossbow,takes his sword and yells:”Brethren!Lets charge for our kingdom!!”,and charges down to the orcs all by himself!Sure,some followed him,but all they managed to do was trample his corpse that died quite a few times in a single round.

  80. Samir says:

    I was in a rolemaster game playing a halfling archer, came late to the game and found we were surrounding in a keep by 17,000 orcs. I was rolling unbelievable success’es on my attack rolls until I realized I was the only character still fighting the orcs. Everyone else was hiding in the underground portion of the castle waiting for me to die and were getting frustrated that the halfling was playing errol flynn and not dying. THEN I found out that the keep was rigged to blow up once all the orcs were inside the keep. The other players would not let me join them underground so I had to escape on my own. Which I did with I think about 4-7 hit points left. I never had a game as fulfilling as that one.
    My best roll was 2 open ended rolls against shooting a flaming tar ball shot from a catapult. (like d20 if you roll a natural high end you roll again, unlike d20 you add the two numbers plus your skill to determine the quality of the hit)
    those were the days, a 2 ft halfling that had to carry his own ladder to be able to shoot his longbow.

  81. rosignol says:

    BYW, why is it that some 90% of all PC halflings are evil b*stards?

    The surprise value, of course.

  82. Fickle says:

    Totally had to be Legolas saying it because it sounded like his vocab. XD Gimli’s too good a roleplayer to have his char say something so anachronistic.

    …Even though I think it would be justified in this case. XDDDD

  83. Laithoron says:


    Your Star Blazers/Yamato tale put me in my happy place and for that I thank You. *goes to break out the DVDs*

  84. Phil says:

    “Anyone who remembers the books know if Aragorn was actually this clueless with tactics? Did his army really just stand in a huddle and let themselves be surrounded?”

    Yes and no. Remember they went as a distraction, not with *any* hope of being able to win – indeed they left behind many troops they could otherwise have taken were the attack actually meant to win.

    What they actually did was to retire and form “in what order could be contrived” on two nearby hillocks where, as you say, they let themselves be surrounded.

    I suppose one could argue that once the gate opened they should have made a fighting retreat, skirmishing and delaying, but frankly that’s a tactic which is hard to pull off with a veteran professional force – and remember most of what Aragorn had was a rag-tag collection of multinational militia. ‘Stand and defend’ was the right order. (But ‘charge’ was a bloody stupid one!)

  85. Hmm, looking at that I remembered some facts about compression.

    Generally, spear hedge formations aside, a force that gets compressed (i.e. they end up all together like the P.C.s without space on the inside), gets slaughtered. That formation should have maintained space (so that it looked like a donut, rather than a donut hole).

    On the other hand, if the orcs are mostly first and second level and the men are 5th level and up, then the odds are not as bad as they look. Your goal is to get them where they have to come at you face to face rather than being able to gang up on you.

    So that being encircled isn’t so bad (though classically a commander in that situation would have let himself be pushed back in a half circle formation against the mountains nearby, establishing room for his troops to cycle the reserves in and out, put the crippled and the wounded in the interior, etc.

  86. Zanfib says:

    Given that Aragorn is about level five himself, I doubt that the avarage soldiers in his army are any higher then level two.

  87. Medium Dave says:

    “Generally, spear hedge formations aside, a force that gets compressed (i.e. they end up all together like the P.C.s without space on the inside), gets slaughtered. That formation should have maintained space (so that it looked like a donut, rather than a donut hole).”

    Yah, put your archers and cav in the center with the spears facing outwards, it is called a schiltron, and the Scots used it. Works great as long as you aren’t outranged by the foe. The Scots kicked buttocks muchly with them until the English brought along some Welsh longbows and just massacred the schiltrons.

  88. Scarlet Knight says:

    brassbaboon Says:”I'd guess they are pushing level six by now.”

    Nah, they must be name level (9th?) Isn’t that the level where you can get followers & a keep? Can’t become the King before reaching that.

  89. Zanfib says:

    Nah, they must be name level (9th?) Isn't that the level where you can get followers & a keep? Can't become the King before reaching that.

    Aragorn is about 5th level.

  90. Jochi says:

    Glad you liked it. I always have.
    FWIW, the miniature they were using was a same-scale mini of the historic Yamato with a black circle painted on the front for the WMG port and a few other minor mods.

    They did have a choke point, if they had rushed it immediately. The gate itself. Barring that, and lacking any natural formations to give them a safe back, a (thick) ring formation lined with pikes is probably the best they could have done.
    Except, they DID have this high level wizard who could have covered their actions or slowed/thinned the enemy or created some UNnatural back protection or…

  91. dtb says:

    @Zanfib Aragorn’s Level…
    Interesting article, read some, then skipped to Aragorn part. I don’t play, so don’t know what to think. Skill-wise, perhaps, it is on track.

    Aragorn, though, is much more then he seems. Like his ability to sail and ride horses. Both of these come from experience (back story) not related to the Fellowship.

    Aragorn is a mighty captain of Gondor and Rohan, plus probably a hundred other things I can’t remember (the sailing, Umbar, etc.). I mean, doesn’t he have to be better then lvl. 5 to marry Arwen?

    But, in DMotR, he totally sucks. I don’t know how it can be denied.

    1. WJS says:

      Yes, if you were statting up Aragorn you would need to give him ranks in Sailor and Ride, but would he need an exceptional level in them? He certainly knows how to ride, but is he really a world class horseman? The same for Sailor. Does he do anything that would require more than a couple of ranks and an ability bonus? If we accept the Rgr1/Ftr1/Pal3 and let him have above average Int(12), that’s 34 skill points, easily enough to max out Survival and Heal and have plenty left over for the various other skills he displays throughout the books. And, I’m pretty sure level 1 commoners are allowed to get married…

  92. Casper says:

    I doubt than most of the soldiers had any levels. Most of them where inexperienced recruits.

    And who has an army of orc miniatures, you ask? David Morgan-Mar has!
    See here:

  93. Cenobite says:

    Remember kids…

    “Charge!” is just another word for “Banzai!”

  94. Scarlet Knight says:

    Jochi Says:”… they DID have this high level wizard who could have covered their actions …”

    Bah! What was HE gonna’ do? Cast “Sunbeam”? Chuck burning pinecones? Where’s the “cloudkill” when you need it?

  95. Wraithshadow says:

    Sun Tzu = Master of Cryptic Waffle and Stating the Bleeding Obvious.

    Oh, sure, it’s obvious now. But that’s akin to complaining how all the characters in LotR are so cliche..

  96. roxysteve says:

    Casper Says:
    And who has an army of orc miniatures, you ask? David Morgan-Mar has!

    Oh BWFD*. Anyone caught up in the Wonkhammer thing can claim much the same thing. (Speaking from experience here: I had well over a thousand figs in my collection before I managed to break the GW habit and I was regarded as a “part-time” painter in my gaming group). Wonkhammer is like pewter crack. I credit D&D and Reaver Minis for letting me see that I didn’t hate painting minis. I had just come to hate painting truckloads of minis every time a new release of the rules came out.

    Now if we consider the plassy D&D “collectables”, that’s a different kettle of Nazgul. Everyone knows that with them you never have enough of any one race to conduct the most important battle of the game. I think it’s even written on the side of the boxes they come in.


    *Big Wonkhammer Fantasy Deal

  97. Caius says:

    Obviously Aragorn never played the original diablo game. Just stand in the doorway and engage them one at a time.

  98. roxysteve says:

    Wraithshadow Says:
    Sun Tzu = Master of Cryptic Waffle and Stating the Bleeding Obvious.

    Oh, sure, it's obvious now. But that's akin to complaining how all the characters in LotR are so cliche..

    Ah grasshopper, but have read Sun Tzu’s tedious tretease for myself and am speaking from personal experience of the great one’s “strategies”:

    Sun Tzu (paraphrased): Don’t forget to bring food to the battle or your soldiers will get hungry and dessert.

    Sun Tzu (paraphrased): If you deny your opponent food and shelter, he will become demoralised.

    Sun Tzu (Paraphrased): It’s cheaper to talk than fight.

    Sun Tzu (Paraphrased): If you must go to war, make sure you study the opponent’s homeland, then invade them there before they invade you. That way, it’s their farms and transportation infrastructure that get kicked to matchwood, not yours.

    Sun Tzu (Paraphrased): Make sure you get a look at your opponent’s homeland, make maps and so forth, *before* you invade.

    Pop quiz: How many of these didn’t make you say “Well duuuuh!” when you read ’em?

    I’ll sell you my annotated copy of “The Art of War” if you like, at cost. Right now it stands as the second most useless book on my shelves, right up there with “5 Rings”.

    Just because it is cryptic and comes out of Far Cathay doesn’t mean it isn’t twaddle (for the most part). Nor do I feel that a general who formulated his working philosophy at a time before most of the people he wanted to talk to were able (or indeed, allowed) to read has much to teach the tactician who must deal with literate troops, GPS guided artillery and orbital observation platforms.

    Next up – von Clausewitz: Genius with astute perspectives on the challenges facing a modern commander or outdated windbag mired firmly in the days before telegraphy, internal combustion and the telescopic sight?

    Sample Wisdom de von Clausewitz (paraphrased): People make war on you because they want something they don’t have that you do. The trick is to make them not want it so badly, such as by kicking them in the nuts ASAP, then they’ll stop and go home. Unless it’s you that is doing the invading, of course, in which case kick ’em in the nuts hard from the get-go so they’ll give you what you want quickly. Either way, a good plum-kicking is the path to a speedy resoloution of hostilities.

    Actually, that sort of works.


  99. Luke (Thrythlind) says:

    The thing is, Sun Tzu’s stuff looks like common sense to us now, but at the time it wasn’t.

    Lots of “armies” tended to be the equivalent of small roving gangs of bandits that often only consisted of warriors carrying whatever food they thought they could get away with.

    Sun Tzu was a great strategist because he ESTABLISHED common sense.

    Before him and similar peers in other regions, the “Common Sense” probably would have looked like the following:

    “Bring as many weapons as possible.”

    “Carry only what won’t weigh you down.”

    “Loot when you have the opportunity.”

    Armies before Sun Tzu would have scoffed at the idea of bringing a large number of slow moving wagons that had to be guarded by a decent-sized percentage of your warriors.

    They would have insisted on raiding and returning to home in, perhaps, a week.

    etc. etc. etc.

    please don’t judge Sun Tzu’s genius on today’s standards.

    Every house needs a foundation and Sun Tzu is the foundation that took us from roving bandit gangs into professional armies

  100. Luke (Thrythlind) says:

    Oh, haven’t read through 5 Rings much, but still…

    In most cases the sort of mistakes that are made are of the common sense variety.

  101. brassbaboon says:


    Of course you can cherry pick portions of the book to make Tzu seem a simpleton. But the proof of his wisdom is in the application of his advice. Even the simple advice.

    I was able to almost completely wipe out a superior party of adventurers simply by following two of Tzu’s most simple aphorisms:

    1. “If the enemy is superior, you must fight on your terms.”
    2. “If the enemy is unable to rest, they will become weak.”

    So to combat an invading party of adventurers, I had a group of three goblins simply wear them down, make them use up their spells, and then, when they attempted to rest, pestered them just enough to keep them from resting. Eventually they realized that they would never get the rest they needed and managed to force the goblins into a stand-up fight, but by then they were so depleted themselves that it was a very close fight. In the end a single party member was still standing, and he barely managed to save the others from dying.

    So simple they may be, but effective too.

  102. Aries says:

    Luke (Thrythlind) Says: The thing is, Sun Tzu's stuff looks like common sense to us now, but at the time it wasn't,
    Sun Tzu was a great strategist because he ESTABLISHED common sense.

    i had what i believed was the perfect Sun Tzu comment typed out and was about to copy and paste when i spotted this…

    …sadly i cant think of a better way of putting it, well played sir…well played

  103. roxysteve says:

    Luke (Thrythlind) Says:
    The thing is, Sun Tzu's stuff looks like common sense to us now, but at the time it wasn't.

    Fair enough. What about the approximately 3/5ths of his writing that are unintelligible pap to this day? Is there an explaination for that or was he just, you know, totally barking?

    Even the annotating team of my copy couldn’t make any sense of it, and they were trying hard.


  104. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Every house needs a foundation and Sun Tzu is the foundation that took us from roving bandit gangs into professional armies”

    Hmmm, I wonder if the world would have been a better place without Sun Tzu?

    Anyway, will someone send a copy to the White House, please?
    *For anyone in the government who’s listening, I’m joking. No,really, I’m loyal! I’ll even send a donation!*

  105. Lukelightning says:

    Within a couple of generations they might have smoked off all the “pipe weed” and turned to other forms of “weed.”

    Nah, they’d turn to smoking crystal meth.

  106. roxysteve says:

    Luke (Thrythlind) Says:
    Every house needs a foundation and Sun Tzu is the foundation that took us from roving bandit gangs into professional armies

    Can’t agree with this. If anyone showed Europeans how to make and keep standing armies in business, it was Gaius Marius. I’m not sure when Sun Tzu’s writings actually got translated and became available to my ancestors, but I’d lay real money it was after that.

    I doubt Aragormless has even heard of Sun Tzu, let alone tried to read his book.


  107. Within my circle of friends it’s known as “I wait for range zero”. Stems from a Star Fleet Battles game where one player wanted MAXIMUM effect from his weaponry by being at absolute minimum range. Unfortunately the player in question miscalculated his own ships speed and rather than firing at minimum range instead performed an unintended ramming maneuver. Needless to say both ships were destroyed in the ensuing carnage initiated by Captain Obtuse.

  108. roxysteve says:

    Back to the comic for a bit:

    I wish the trolls on the gate in the last frame had had something pithy to say, but then again, they would have blocked the magnificent view of the tactical situation our genius King Aragormless has engendered with his “plan”.

    Time for a quick switch to “Zulu” for the Fight Against Stageringly Overwhelming Odds While Singing “Men of Harlech” scene.

    “Men of Gondor, stop your dreaming
    Can’t you see our king’s pants steaming?
    Seems we’re in for a good reaming
    On this battle field!”

    Notice also how the last few frames are a viral product placement for Target.

    I think Shamus is selling out, lads.


  109. Jochi says:

    It DOES look like a Target bullseye. I was thinking it looked like an eye…

    Since we’re talking Sun Tsu to death (sorry I got THAT started) I should point out Aragorn still has an option, to emulate ANOTHER master tactician:

    Whips out Palantir and chants into it:

    “To all Gondorian forces still advancing on Mordor. We are surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered. We have infused all our armor and shields with the substance known as Corbomite. At the first contact with the enemy a chain reaction will render this field and all land with in 200 kilometers unsuitable for any organic life for the next 200 years. Avoid this area in your assault.”

    Problem is, of course, that Sauron would order the attack even if he bought it.

  110. txknight says:

    I’m not a tactician, but it doesn’t seem as though Aragorn’s forces had much alternative anyways. They chose to pick a fight on open ground with an enemy that outnumbers them AT LEAST 10 to 1.

  111. SUN-TZU says:


  112. Mejo says:

    roxysteve Says:
    >Ah grasshopper, but have read Sun Tzu's tedious tretease >for myself and am speaking from personal experience of the >great one's “strategies”

    I hate to be a grouch, but one might feel compelled to reply:

    You didn’t read Sun Tzu.

    You read a translation of Sun Tzu.

    A translation into a modern European language of a 2,500 year old Chinese text, written at a time when China didn’t even exist as a unified entity.

    Have you tried to read an untranslated 1,000+ year old English text? Like Beowulf? You need a master’s degree in middle english to even understand Chaucer in the original. Plus a master’s degree in medieval European history to understand the context, metaphors, allusions.

    You think you read Sun Tzu? You may as well have read a 12-year-old’s book report on the subject.

    1. James Harrison will taste Manflesh says:

      I have a regular Bachelor’s in regular English and I can understand Chaucer just fine, although you could make the argument that this is a coincidence of geography rather than a point against you or a point in favor of my reading ability. If Chaucer had come from the north of England, he’d be harder to read.

      I can’t read Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon/Old English, but when I was in college, I could. And if someone was reading Chaucer to me aloud, I’d be SOL, what with Middle English being on the wrong side of the great vowel shift.

  113. Mejo says:

    ps. to be fair, roxysteve, you are completely correct that Sun Tzu had about 0% influence on the development of European military strategy. It was first translated into a European language in 1722.

  114. Mejo says:

    pps. and the fact that the Chinese still treated Sun Tzu as state of the art military strategy over 2000 years after it was written may have had something to do with how easy the Europeans rolled over them in 1860 (and in this case you can’t even claim it’s because the Europeans had gunpowder, cast iron or professional standing armies as the Chinese had all of them first)

  115. Mejo says:

    > 116? OVER A HUNDRED COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?

    erm… Sun Tzu? Sorry.

  116. Mejo says:

    OK, so this isn’t about Sun Tzu, promise!

    It’s about that other tactical genius, Gandalf. Now, we know Gandalf’s plan was to march a very small force against Mordor, that was so clearly insanely outnumbered that Sauron could only believe that it was lead by someone wielding the Ring, and so would concentrate all his forces and attention on them, thus clearing the way for Frodo (assuming he wasn’t already dead/insane/captured/ran away). And having committed to that plan, pretty much the only tactic available at the Black Gate was: find a good defensive position and hold out until you’re all dead.

    Now unless you get really lucky with the timing (like they were) it’s pretty much a suicide mission. Which brings up two questions:

    1) Why send *all* your important kings/generals that aren’t actually incapacitated (Gandalf, Aragorn, Eomer, Imrahil) on a suicide mission?

    2) Just how many people did they bring into the whole “we sent a couple of halflings to sneak into Mordor with the most powerful weapon in existence” plan? I mean without that knowledge, just how did they persuade Eomer and Imrahil to join the suicide pact?

    1. James Harrison will taste Manflesh says:

      Regarding point #1, it was presumably so that Sauron would have to wonder which important guy had the ring instead of just focusing all of his forces on one important guy and exposing the ruse too quickly. Probably the same reason that they assembled on two hillocks instead of just one. Then not only do you force the orcs to kill several important guys and search them all thoroughly, but you force them to divide their forces in half and then take the time to communicate that neither half has recovered the ring.

      Also, if everyone important stays home, it looks more like a ruse. If you assume you’re going to win (which is what an army wielding the ring would likely have assumed), you show up. The only reason to stay home is if you know it’s a suicide mission.

      Regarding point two, Eomer is the type of guy to make a cavalry charge into two rows of pikemen while shouting “DEATH” at the top of his lungs, so likely the kind of guy who is up for suicide missions. Although my recollection of the books is fuzzy, and he probably only did that in the movie.

  117. Cresenne says:


    1) If Sauron gets the Ring, they all die anyways.

    2) Eomer and Imrahil do know, considering that Gandalf says this to them “Considering [the Ring], my lords, you all know enough for the understanding of our plight, and of Sauron’s.”

  118. Mark says:

    Sun Tzu may have been ahead of his time: but so was Archimedes. Maths has moved on since then, and so has military theory.

    I don’t mind accepting that Sun Tzu was relevant in his day, but I baulk when people tell me that his aphorisms are STILL state of the art.

    Then again, it might have helped Aragorn (comic version) to have read and thought about him.

  119. mac says:

    “They're all dead.”

    oh that brings back so glorious memories……
    i once ran an all evil campaign that went pretty much like shamus’s strip, the evil PC’s had an army of countless forces under thier control, didnt utilize them, the goal was to kill the big powerful goodguy, and the PC’s found out where the good guy’s base was took about 500 guys with them, all the commanders under thier control, no troops, just leaders,they got to the good guys base, broke the gates down not relizing that they wernt being attacked by archers, found out after 3 gaming sessions not a soul was in the good guys base, rode back to thier own base only to find an army of about 2,000,000 good guys rode right into the evil base killed all the evil leaderless troops, and subsequntly surrounded the bad guys on thier return.
    now the whole time they were in the good guys abandoned base, i had them rolling percentile dice, they called low bad, and kept rolling between 10-49% except for like 4 rolls each which were above 50%
    only reason the goodguys had 2,000,000 troops was in the first few games, they acctually acted evil and sent troops to good kingdoms and slaughtered all, then around the 5th game the PC’s decided to stop playing seriously, they stopped all raiding and decided to just sit in thier base.
    all the while all the kingdoms of the world united and sent troops to end the bad guys before they got too big.

    the PC’s decided to enter the threat range of the good army…..

    they died after 7 rounds of combat, then just for shits and grins i rolled attacks against the evil npc leaders.
    not one evil soul made it out alive.
    the players were pissed off to the point where they yelled and threw stuff. then i explained what was going on.
    when they had found out how badly they fucked up they sat down and went quiet. they left all their dumb as dirt troops without a leader so the troops never fought back.
    the 50% and higher rolls were the beholders and various other inteligent monsters attacking the goodguys.yes, i gave PC’s control of beholders, and they never used them once.

    2 weeks later i was voted out of the D&D group lol and it was my house we gamed at. and they wanted me to leave the group. the next day they begged me for use of my house to game at but didnt want me to game with them anymore lol.
    i havnt seen or heard from that group sence and am glad about it.

  120. Luke (Thrythlind) says:

    agreed Steve, I should have said “Sun Tzu and the peers he had in Europe.” And actually, I’d probably say Alexander was the start off of European Strategy and Tactics.

  121. Prio says:

    Cunning solution, “sire.”

  122. Doug Williams says:

    Damn, that is freakin’ funny. I always wondered about this part in the movie… I mean, they’re off of their horses, standing there, waiting for the orcs to surround them. The comic is really almost exactly like the movie, except in the film no one points out what a douchebag Aragorn is!

  123. RobbieRob says:

    But seriously Mac (post 121), maybe you shouldn’t just snicker at how stupid your PC’s were, not doing anything with the great army you had provided them with.
    If the PC’s systematically ignore the campaign hooks you are providing, it might be time to think about if your type of campaign is what they want. Like if you provided them with a great army and expected them to conduct grand campaigns against the forces of goodness, and all they they wanted was to go out adventuring with a small gang of fellas, killing princesses and saving dragons, it’s no wonder if their gaming became a bit lame after a while. After all you usually play for fun, not for result.
    At that point it’s time to think about what’s most important for you – your way of gaming or your player group.

  124. Aries says:

    In reply to Mac’s post (121) i say: ZOMGWTFLOLOWNED! but what were you thinkinh giving them control of beholders? and on that note what the hell were they thinking not using them? and to further there idiocy they voted out the bloke who’s house they played at! what the hell were they thinking? did they expect you to bring them milk and cookies while they played at your place and refused to let you play the game?…OH I DONT THINK SO!..the world is full of morons you sir should feel privilaged that you found a group quite so retarded.

  125. DistractoGirl says:

    Ok, I can’t be the first person to make this comment. I really can’t. However, in light that I just can’t see it anywhere, and that there was a “Rocks fall” joke just a couple of strips ago…

    Orcs fall… everyone dies.

  126. Scarlet Knight says:

    Roxysteve, is it my imagination, or do you get more British in direct proportion to the number of posts?

  127. Jochi says:

    Mejo, you may be right about the translation date of Sun Tsu, don’t know, doesn’t matter.

    Subedei studied Sun Tsu, and every Western general after his campaign took out the two strongest militaries in Europe studied Subedei.

    Influences aren’t always first hand.

  128. roxysteve says:

    Scarlet Knight Says:
    Roxysteve, is it my imagination, or do you get more British in direct proportion to the number of posts?

    I nevvah fort ubaht it before, squire, but now you comes t’ mention it…Blimey! I fink you’re right!

    Chim-chimmery-chim-chim, Cherree, chim-cheroo!

    I think what happens is that as the comments pile up they begin to explore non-comic territory and call for illustrative examples. Half my life was spent in the UK so once I need to go back more than 20 years you get Union Jack bleed-through.

    I will do everyone a favour and wait until the next comic has posted before answering Brassbabboon’s baseless “cherry picking” charge.

    Brassbabboon: Outside the school gates after the bell, you! (Translation: Come here not today, if you dare, to see how I, by means of cunning argument and illustrative examples drawn from the text of “The Art Of War (and other claptrap)” itself, refute your base canard, sirrah!)

    Sir Steve Effington-ffoulkes III (Retired).

  129. roxysteve says:

    Mejo Says:

    I hate to be a grouch, but one might feel compelled to reply:

    You didn't read Sun Tzu.

    You read a translation of Sun Tzu.

    But it still works out because (and this is the really clever bit) so did everyone else who is trying to say I’m wrong. If I can’t fault the work because it can’t possibly be accurate in translation (to paraphrase your own words) by the same token the work cannot be used to support the contention thet Sun Tzu = Clever Git.

    There’s probably a clever philosophical term for this sort of connundrum like “tautology” or somesuch, but I have no idea what it is. I call it the level playing field effect.

    Not only that, I don’t need a degree in anything to hear Beowulf read in it’s glory (although in all fairness you should have noted yourself that the version(s) of Beowulf available to us today are in fact transcribed versions of what is undoubtedly a much older oral tradition).

    All I need is the assistance of one of my former girlfriends, Dr Amanda Namewithheld, who would read it to me and explain the things I didn’t understand about the rhyme, meter and content.


    1. James Harrison will taste Manflesh says:

      It’s Anglo-Saxon poetry. It uses alliteration. Poetry in England didn’t rhyme until the French showed up.

  130. schatur says:

    ya know, thats a pretty snazzy looking crop-circle going on in thost last two panels.

    just an errant observation…

  131. hotsauce says:

    Okay, Aragorn may be stupid to let his army be surrounded, but how smart is it to build a virtually impregnable defensive wall, then *open the gate* the instant an army shows up to attack you? Seems like it would be a lot smarter to leave the gate closed and throw things at the enemy outside. Big heavy things, like boulders. Or cows.

    1. James Harrison will taste Manflesh says:

      Sauron assumed that they had the ring, since otherwise it would be pretty stupid to stand outside his impenetrable gate and demand his surrender.

      “That’s the problem with our opposition – they keep thinking nobody could possibly be as stupid as we are. Fools ’em every time.”

      – Lando Calrissian

  132. Scarlet Knight says:

    Barnacles! I bet if I had a British accent, I wouldn’t be stuck in a low-level minion position…I mean, I don’t need to have somebody lob a scimitar at me, but c’mon, hand me a kris, or katar, or somethin’!

  133. brassbaboon says:


    A lot of the book I read called “The Art of War” is all about the fundamental tactical and logistical needs of fielding an army, and that certainly doesn’t fall into the category of “common sense.” (I hear you now, “Oh, come on brassbabboon, EVERYONE knows that an army of 100,000 men will cost you 1,000 silver pieces per day, get real!).

    I have wondered in some of those cases (like where he describes the infrastructure costs for building, fielding and repairing chariots) if those costs actually are comparable to our modern counterparts. In other words, is it more or less the same impact on the general population to provide, field and maintain a tank as it was to do a chariot 3,000 years ago?

    But as I tried to point out, even his “simpleton” comments are routinely ignored in war by generals who have, presumably, studied every genius since Tzu. Yet still they violate even the most basic of tenets. Why is that? Do you suppose a large part of Tzu’s purpose in writing the book was to reinforce the importance of STICKING TO those bits of common sense, perhaps?

  134. Uri says:

    This is the finest of them all. And, happy birthday Shamus!

  135. superfluousk says:

    >Can't agree with this. If anyone showed Europeans how to make and keep standing armies in business, it was Gaius Marius.

    Because if it didn’t happen in European history, it doesn’t matter.

  136. roxysteve says:

    superfluousk Says:
    >Can't agree with this. If anyone showed Europeans how to make and keep standing armies in business, it was Gaius Marius.

    Because if it didn't happen in European history, it doesn't matter

    No, because Marco Polo didn’t get into China until several hundred years after the Romans showed everyone why a standing army is a good idea, then went on to demonstrate why it is also a bad one.

    Europeans didn’t know for sure China was still there until then, and Americans hadn’t been invented yet. It was several yonks after that that anyone in the West thought of reading Sun Tzu and translating it.

    Atilla didn’t actually bring any copies of “The Art Of War” with him when he paid a visit, mores the pity.

    Jerking the mid-length leg joint suddenly like that without stretching first can cause serious injury later in life, superfluousk.



  137. Jackstraw says:

    Nobody’s saying that something didn’t happen if it didn’t happen in Europe. However, it can’t be disputed that Gaius Marius reinvented the Roman Legion as the fighting unit capable of supplying itself, victualling itself, and conducting a war on its own, at a time when most of Europe didn’t know that China existed.

    That said, I’d have to give the nod to Marius’ nephew as the best general of all time – Gaius Julius Caesar.

  138. DesertDog says:

    >So: if you're in a good defensive position surrounded by a large force, what's the worst possible move you can make? That's right: chaaaarge!!!!

    Generally speaking, you’re right. But Joshua Chamberlain would disagree.

  139. mac says:

    in fact i ommited one small fact and i didnt relize it, (post 121)
    it was the groups vote for me to run an evil campaing and give them an army to control. they wanted it so i delivered. in response to robbierob (post 125) and aries (post 126) they told me what they wanted to control, so i said sure, for me a players group is most important so i let the players some knowingly, some unknowingly come up with the plot hooks and overall design of the world, it usally works, but this one group, got some of what they and some of what they didnt. thats why i sniker at them, and only snikered after the vote to boot me :P

  140. Logan says:

    You suck Aragron! Classic!

  141. Psychosomatic says:

    Always leave your enemy an escape route. Of course, you have that escape route mined or lined with short range guns or whatever, but at least he has a chance (so he thinks) to escape.

    In Total Annihilation I used to always set up anti-ground force traps by creating an attractive corridor into my base. Sadly, when opposing players would come charging down that corridor they found that it T-boned into a gun trap. Then I’d spring a bunch of hovering gunships up behind them, so they’d get crushed no matter which way they went.

    When you have the firepower to reduce your enemy you don’t care about moral or tactics or any of that crud; you just pound the snot out of him.

    [By the way, I love this comic!]

  142. Rob says:

    The D.I. (Jack Webb) to Marine Recruit Rodriguez…

    “Rodriguez, quick, you’re surrounded by 500 enemy soldiers and you’re all alone, what do you do!?”

    Rodriguez: “I kill em, sir.”

    Right answer.

  143. elda-san says:

    while it’s been what more than a month now? i was rereading this, and couldn’t not post that in the first pannel now that i see it still, it looks so glaringly computer generated. like a really good ps1 game…

  144. Chris Arndt says:

    That’s something that bugged me about RoTR.

    The entire Army of Man… fits into a teeny tiny circle like that. THAT’S IT!? That’s all that was willing and able to go and fight Sauron?


  145. Cynder says:

    I have three letters for you, Aragorn – WTF???

  146. Sam-Chan says:

    aragorn really lacks an royal counsel…


  147. Drax says:

    Heh, reminds me of a game once.

    “This is bad, we’re surrounded!”

    “Good! Now we can attack in every direction!”

  148. Shahabooey says:

    Why is Aragorn such and Idiot? Just why? I know his Intelligence isn’t that high, but he should have high enough wisdom to know when to attack shouldn’t he?
    My other question is where is Gandalf when you need him? He is probably high enough level to blow up every Orc/Troll/Goblin in the army of Mordor

  149. silver Harloe says:

    > Fair enough. What about the approximately 3/5ths of his writing that are unintelligible pap to this day? Is there an explaination for that or was he just, you know, totally barking?

    What about all the silly and wrong things that Pythagoreas thought that were later supplanted by better ideas? Does that mean he was a useless, insane, stupid person at his time?

    You’re absolutely right, though, that studying Sun Tzu, like studying Pythagoreas, is something left best to academics who want to get a historical perspective on the evolution of (Chinese) military strategy.

    The popularization of Sun Tzu’s art of war is kind of silly – the exhortation that modern CEOs who fail to read it are clueless even more so. Even modern generals can give it a pass, for the same reason not every mathematician studies Pythagoreas directly – the good parts have been carried on by other authors since.

  150. silver Harloe says:

    > BYW, why is it that some 90% of all PC halflings are evil b*stards?

    Back when I started AD&D, while you could choose many classes for the different races, there were severe level restrictions, and halflings could basically only be thieves if they wanted a life. Plus they got excellent (pimp?) bonuses for being a thief. But being a thief meant being at least chaotic (I forget, but I don’t think it even allowed Chaotic Good). So basically, halflings were “mostly” railroaded into being thieves (and this was also before they were “rogues”). And anyone wanting to play a thief with any kind of min-maxing “mostly” wanted to be a halfling. But if wanted to be a thief, well, odds were good you wanted to play a nasty character that goes along with the good guys because it increases his odds of loot.
    The stereotype stuck. It was a long time before the next edition of AD&D (unlike these days where they want to pump a new edition out every other year to soak your moneys).

  151. yadayadayada says:

    hahaha. oh shut up losers. u dont know anything about RotK.


  152. Chad Valentine says:

    Found this site today read from page 1 – this one made me laugh so hard a bit of wee came out.

  153. Theia says:

    “Aha! The enemy has surrounded us! They can’t get away from us now!”

  154. WJS says:

    Sun Tzu: Yes, things which have thoroughly permeated military strategy for a couple of thousand years will seem obvious to people with the benefit of the last century of information exchange. I would consider this to be, in turn, “the bleedin’ obvious”. Doesn’t mean that being reminded of the basics (from whatever source) is a bad thing…

    Comic: I don’t think we get given a clear enough view of the scene to tell whether they had enough men to hold the chokepoint if the gates were opened fully. If they didn’t, then they will be unable to prevent themselves from being flanked in any case, and trying to prevent it would simply weaken their line. A circular formation would then actually be a good option.

  155. IneptusMechanicus says:

    “They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can’t get away from us now!” “Great. Now we can shoot at them from every direction.” 
    Lt. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, United States Marine Corps

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