DM of the Rings CXL:
Leave Everything to Chance

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Aug 29, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 137 comments

The last roll. Legolas is excited

When it comes to rolling dice, there are two types of players: One likes to avoid risk, and takes comfort in the cold, hard reality as defined by the shape of the bell curve and their advantageous position on it. The other kind wants to defy death and live against the odds at every possible moment.

These two types almost always end up in a game together. Sooner or later the death-defier rolls badly and dies spectacularly. Odds are that the more reserved, practical members of the team will follow suit moments later.

I find this to be hilarious.


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137 thoughts on “DM of the Rings CXL:
Leave Everything to Chance

  1. Kaz says:

    LMAO!!! Only Legolass, man. “Roll it!” He’s so full of adventure.

  2. Al Shiney says:

    Ahhh, the prelude to the resolution we’ve all been waiting for! Gimli’s expression in the penultimate panel is another priceless example of Seamus’ screen-cap-fu talents!

  3. Kaemaril says:

    I’d love to know what those “special modifiers” are :)

  4. Callaghan says:

    Gimli’s expression in pane 6 is spot on, I can almost here him saying that.

  5. Cenobite says:

    Because classic RPGs are like gambling. Only more meaningful but not as destructive to the budget.

  6. Browncoat says:

    Wait! What happened to the troll!?!?!

  7. Issachar says:

    Yay, more Gimli! I love how he looks singularly unimpressed by the mention of “special modifiers”.

    The contrast between his attitude and Legolas’ is one of the funniest running jokes in the strip. Great one, as usual.

  8. yay!!! says:

    lol! i love these things, especially when they all die ‘cos of one person thinking they’re invincible!


  9. Alan says:

    Wow, as I post this, there are only 6 comments. I wonder how many there will be when I do post…

    So does that mean that in the real film he failed the d20 roll and Golem was a re-roll?

    How will you get around him dying?

  10. Marty says:

    Because classic RPGs are like gambling. Only more meaningful but not as destructive to the budget.

    Speak for yourself, man! I should show you a picture of my “RPG” closet. Half the freakin’ games in there I haven’t even played!

    I’m seeking help (or perhaps I should just give in and open a game store).

  11. Lynx says:

    Amazingly, Aragomless seemed to have grown a brain stem in the last few comics…

    And Gimli actually sounds better than he does in the actual movies.

  12. Arthur says:

    Aaaah yes, having the finale of the campaign depend on a single d20 roll, rolled by the GM on behalf of a character who is now an NPC, with little-to-no way the actual players who’ve stuck with the campaign to the bitter end can meaningfully affect things aside from jumping around inviting Sauron to squash them to provide a diversion. Possibly the worse example of DMing anywhere, ever.

    We’ve all played in games like that, haven’t we? ;)

  13. Knastymike says:

    I usually am the death-defier, and I’ve dragged at least 2 other people to their death one time! : D

  14. Arthur says:

    Oh, and this one marks 4 1-page comics in a row, 5 if you count the two-panel quick gag last Friday. What’s the betting we’re going to see an epic multi-page comic on Friday for Frodo tossing in the ring?

  15. vonKreedon says:

    I’ve come to really appreciate Legomyass’ playing style. I will laugh my ass off if the quest fails because Lego killed Gollum and Frodo fails his roll.

  16. “Sooner or later the death-defier rolls badly and dies spectacularly. Odds are that the more reserved, practical members of the team will follow suit moments later.

    I find this be be hilarious.”

    Yeah, well–usually the reserved, practical member dies moments later *because* the fool risk-taker got themselves killed and are no longer watching the sane one’s back. That’s still kind of hilarious, I suppose, but rather infuriating.

  17. Nira de Toryll says:

    Ahahaaaaa!!! Final panel is awesome!
    But I just wanna know, what happened to the troll?!

    Apart from the lack of troll crushing, *grin* awesome as ever!

  18. Poet says:

    I’ve got to admit, I’m all about edge-of-my-seat playing. Nothing feels better than an all or nothing moment in which you MUST roll a crit or doom the multiverse to a slow death at the hands of chocolate pudding.

  19. Sarah says:

    I was thinking, how funny it could have been if the hobbit players hadn’t left, and the DM had to run, essentially, two separate campaigns simultaneously, with all the players kibitzing with each other. This is funny too, of course, and I’m quite happy with it! If Shamus tackles another storyline, there will I’m sure be opportunities for that as well.

  20. txknight says:

    “Because classic RPGs are like gambling. Only more meaningful but not as destructive to the budget.

    Speak for yourself, man! I should show you a picture of my “RPG” closet. Half the freakin' games in there I haven't even played!

    I'm seeking help (or perhaps I should just give in and open a game store).”

    I’ll second that. I certainly have my fair share of games that I’ve hardly or never have used.

  21. Telas says:

    I love how some players will get risk-averse when they’re playing a fearless, death-defying character.

    Hint: It’s a character in a story. Dying really doesn’t hurt.

    (Note: I’ve fallen into this trap myself, and occasionally need the hint as well.)


  22. BlueJimmie/Valkaun_Dain says:

    Classic! We seem to have the same situation every week!

  23. Wuanslm says:

    Awww seems like this is about to end =(

  24. Carrie says:

    That is by far one of my favorite Legolas expressions XD That look is INSANE.

  25. Wraithshadow says:

    This would be a wonderful occasion for me to explain the time that the rest of the party came upon an orc village they were intent on raiding, only to find the entire place on fire while my wizard slaughtered the inhabitants, screaming for blood while swinging a battle axe and clad only on a bearskin.

    Unfortunately it has absolutely nothing to do with the comic or the subject. So I won’t.

  26. Aries says:

    Special modifiers for DMotR “ring destruction”:

    on a roll of 2-20 the ring is destroyed the war is over and all is right with the world.

    on a roll of 1 the world is destroyed and everything in in by a 15000ft tall Peter Jackson and instantly recreated at its moment of destruction in a newly packeted “extended” version with commentary on how not to roll a 1 when it means the end of existance by the cast and crew (voiced by the GM)

  27. Woerlan says:

    That last panel is your best combo of dialogue with an image yet. I had to muffle myself to keep from disturbing the guys at work.

  28. Raved Thrad says:

    Gimli obviously just barely made his SAN check :))

    So, is this the point where the DM rolls behind the DM screen, looks at his notes, looks back at the die and consults his notes again, and says uncertainly, “So, how about we roll up characters for a game of Star Wars?” while surreptitiously putting his D&D books away?

  29. Ashpile says:

    I LOVE Legolas look! That’s so right out of life! LoL
    Another great one shamus!

  30. Tanaka Taro says:

    Alan said:
    “So does that mean that in the real film he failed the d20 roll and Golem was a re-roll?”

    I think in the film he failed and Gollum was deus ex machina by the DM ;)

  31. Jochi says:

    Shamus (which I still want to spell Seamus after all this time) always HAS written Gimli better than the screenwriters did.

    As others have pointed out, Legolas crit-killed a vague figure that they thought looked like Gollum, and no body was found/looted. Gollum being alive or dead at this juncture is in the hands of the DM.

    Having the outcome of the campaign depend on a die roll by an NPC is possibly the worst way a DM COULD end a campaign. Except for having that happen somewhere else, where the PCs couldn’t even WATCH the action(s) determined by that die roll.

    Oh, wait…

  32. Nanja Kang says:

    I wonder if Stonergorn is going to want to loot Mordor… it is possible.

  33. Gammahorton says:

    I did not see the “Will Save” roll coming, but it is just so right on. ROFLOL

  34. Vegedus says:

    Hum. If the dice, like we’ve seen before, rolled away, behind a computer or underneath a car or something, every single entity that takes place in that war would become uncertainty liches… What a scary thought.

  35. Gammahorton says:

    “Yeah, well”“usually the reserved, practical member dies moments later *because* the fool risk-taker got themselves killed and are no longer watching the sane one's back. That's still kind of hilarious, I suppose, but rather infuriating.”

    Infuriating to the other players, yes. That’s exactly why the DM finds it so hilarious.

  36. Browncoat says:

    32 Nanja Kang Says: I wonder if Stonergorn is going to want to loot Mordor… it is possible.

    It is probable.

    @ Vegedus (#34)–A Middle Earth of Uncertainty Liches, FTW! I’m imagining a small farming village of Lich-Farmers and both the enemy coming and destroying, and nothing bad every happening again. JUST DON’T LOOK AT IT!!!

  37. AndiN says:

    Yeah, but see, if Frodo fails his Will save, and Gollum isn’t there to be either the Deus Ex Machina or the “re-roll”, then the ring won’t be destroyed, the fight to save Middle Earth will continue, and Shamus can keep making DMoTR!

    I can see Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas REALLY enjoying hunting down Frodo and Sam. :-)

  38. Mike says:

    So, after the Wisdom check, Frodo has to roll to hit the chasm full of lava. Apparently, in the movies, he rolled a 1, which meant he threw it straight at gollum, who of course failed his Dex check and fell in…

    Oops, I gave the ending away…

  39. haashaastaak says:

    message 37: I could see all of that happening, but not using screen caps, so I don’t think it will happen in this strip.

  40. Scarlet Knight says:

    This is where the DM cheats. You roll behind the screen, and no matter what comes up; you call out whatever was needed to keep the game going!

    DM: “Good roll!”
    Gimli: “But the ugly orange die says ‘1’”?
    DM: “That was the, ring’s roll to seduce Frodo, & IT failed!”
    Aragorn: So we all live?
    Legolas:”Cool, what can I stab?”

  41. CarrieICL says:

    Whoa. How did Frodo get there without Gollum?

  42. Vermont Gal says:

    Priceless expression of Gimli in the next-to-last slide.

    I really love how the Gimli in your strip actually seems to have more presence and character than the Gimli in the LOTR movies. I always thought the dwarf was made out to be more sidekick/comedy relief by Peter Jackson than a hero in his own right, as much as Legolas. I guess ‘cuz 13 year old girls wouldn’t put posters of him up in their lockers or something.

  43. CJG says:

    >Whoa. How did Frodo get there without Gollum?

    A DM never has to explain how things happen “off camera.”

  44. the last two frames are AWESOME! :D

  45. Wraithshadow says:

    Whoa. How did Frodo get there without Gollum?

    Why, that’s simple. By railroad, of course. ;P

  46. -Chipper says:

    “well… with special modifiers…”

    What makes this even more funny is that the modifiers are all going AGAINST our heroes! At this point Frodo is so far under the ring’s power, he’d have to roll a twenty. And then the ring would get its own saving throw with good odds and have to roll a 1 to get destroyed.

    Great comic. I think all your fans are now turning into uncertainty net lich denizens while we await the outcome.

  47. Carl says:

    “Whoa. How did Frodo get there without Gollum?

    Why, that's simple. By railroad, of course. ;P”

    Well, Frodo did have an extra 6 days to get there due to Aragorn turning around… of course, Frodo would have starved… oh wait, where’s Sam…

  48. Woot Spitum says:

    I shudder to think of what Frodo and Sam might have done had they not left to play Star Wars.

    DM: Are you absolutely sure you want to go to Barad-Dur instead of Mount Doom?

    Frodo: Yeah, after all, we gotta kill Sauron.

    DM: But he’s to powerful!

    Frodo: Well maybe if you had let me be a wizard this wouldn’t be a problem. If the final boss is too strong for us to kill, you have only yourself to blame for making him too strong.

  49. James Barlow says:

    In retrospect, perhaps you’re lucky the players didn’t try this:

    ( – Lord of the Rings

  50. Daza says:

    i loved the last two frames – excellent screen caps.

    “sooner or later the death-defier rolls badly and dies spectacularly. Odds are that the more reserved, practical members of the team will follow suit moments later.”

    a guy we played who was always conservative had a method to deal with the death-defier pc. his character was always a bit evil and if the player took too many chances, he would kill him out of hand, usually with the statement, “i warned him”. as most of the other characters were usually a little evil too, no one really cared, except the guy who got whacked. actually, that result is usually pretty funny too. :o)

  51. theonlymegumegu says:

    I think this strip only helps affirm that Legolas has been my favorite character in this strip. He’s so excited to game ^_^

  52. YaVerOt says:

    Don’t worry. I’m positioned just off-screen. If the hobbit doesn’t toss the ring, ++Dumbledore++ ++Merlin++ our kill-stealing-wizard has told me to shove the hobbit off the ledge.

  53. Ceresk says:

    I am just too unlucky with my die (Rogar-style unlucky (“The Gamers”)) and usually invest too much time in characters to be a “death-defier” but we once failed a scenario by being too successful ;)

    At that moment, most GMs usually know how their campaign will end but the problem is that some of them do not care if the players enjoy it. Ex: in the last two campaign I played in (1 and 2 year long respectively), once the GM introduced a new brand of enemies at the last scenario who killed everybody and the other the GM invented the most frustrating ending ever where the bad guys decided to spare us and go home, showing how noble they were after butchering 80% of the world’s population …

    Well at least we know their campaign will end well … won’t it ? ;)

  54. Nira de Toryll says:

    “Whoa. How did Frodo get there without Gollum?”

    *puts on funky accent*
    Sea turtles mate.

    (wrong film I know, but it does have Orli in it)

  55. Zaghadka says:

    Yeah. A will save vs. the One Ring. Roll pi on a d20 please.

    LOL. Beautiful.

  56. Joran says:

    Only thing that makes me sad is that the end is in sight for the fellowship.. And for the comic? Tell us the story will go on in one way or another Shamus! :P

  57. Lil'German says:

    Well I’m astounded that Gimli notices the Dice but not “so it sums up to a NPC solving our whole tiresome campaign?” ;)

  58. Scarlet Knight says:

    Telas Says:”Hint: It's a character in a story. Dying really doesn't hurt.”

    Oh c’mon! Does anyone ever forget the pain of their first character’s death? True, twenty years later, it’s a dull ache. But that’s only because of the consolatory trip to the pub afterwards….stupid type one demon…

  59. Rasmus says:

    The level-headed guy (me) usually volounteers to try and save the action-junkies (a lot of the other players) because it is the right thing to do (sorry, im with the good guys). Ok, many of those deadly situations is caused by rashness and death-defying lack of judgement…
    BUT, on the good side is a ot of goodwill and decent magic items as this increases the chance of rescue-succes!!!
    On the downside, i usually end up playing some sort of cleric to be able to heal/ressurrect those who sprint into action…

    I need a game system, where death is a lot more irrevocable…

    Duh, who am i fooling ?? I once had my character eaten by a vampire barmaid the one session i was’nt there to play my undead-exterminator-cleric… thank God for ressurrection and restoration, literaly. It’s good to be alive! :-)

  60. Janwynn says:

    “Whoa. How did Frodo get there without Gollum?”

    Frodo suddenly appears at the top of Mt. Doom.

    Frodo: “Hi.”

    (BTW, the strip where Gollum is killed by a critical hit is one of my all time favorites. :)


  61. Steven Lake says:

    I have been enjoying this comic since it was featured on G4 TV’s Attack of the Show.
    An interesting thing I’ve noticed. The first comic was published on Sept. 7th, 2006.
    It stands to reason that Shamus will finish DM of the Rings around the 1 year mark.
    IIRC, Frodo stated in RotK that their journey lasted a year.
    Very Interesting.

  62. grundunne says:

    This is gonna be great….
    A picture of a d20 in mid-roll then one that shows a number of one less than what the DM said was required, as the characters start going off about random chance, tied together by perfect screencaps…enter gollum…lol

  63. Lev Lafayette says:

    Actually I love it when that happens. I ran a cyberpunk game where there were about twelve preceeding steps to get to the objective and then everything hinged on a final roll (as in, success versus irrecoverable and utter failure). As Legalos says… “Actually, that sounds intense”. It was!

  64. Samir says:

    I ran a couple games in Clarksville tenn where the final outcome was hinged on a roll of a single d6 verse the players die 6. The players won and then forbade me to run world spanning end of life that came down to a roll of the dice campaigns ever again.

  65. Davesnot says:

    I find this be be hilarious .. er.. If find this be.. uh.. huh?

  66. SteveDJ says:

    61 – Steven Lake:

    To you, and everyone else — you really should read the rest of Shamus’ site here, esp. this page:

    In it, he clearly states that DMotR will end on Sept 7. What we don’t know is, does this include a strip on Mon, Sept 3 (Labor Day), or will that be a day off w/o a strip?

    Either way, as much as I dread the arrival of Sept 7th, I eagerly await the start of whatever new strip will replace it. :) (Though, its start hasn’t been given a date yet, that I’m aware of…)

  67. Shamus says:

    Labor day will have a regular strip.

    I’m thinking the new comic should start on the same day as this one ends, but that is not yet certain.

  68. Cake says:

    Poet Says:

    August 29th, 2007 at 11:21 am
    I've got to admit, I'm all about edge-of-my-seat playing. Nothing feels better than an all or nothing moment in which you MUST roll a crit or doom the multiverse to a slow death at the hands of chocolate pudding.

    I played in a campaign where we got toxic gased in a storage cavern. We all climbed the crates to safety… Except for the rouge who failed his climbing throw. He died. I lol’d. He was qouted as saying at the begining of the campaign “Rougues don’t need strength.”

  69. ArchU says:

    This is brilliant and really defines the whole DMotR story to date XD

  70. brassbaboon says:

    Well, the DM has been spectacularly incompetent for the entire campaign, so letting the outcome of the campaign come down to a single d20 roll on a die he rolls behind a screen is completely in character.

    There are two kinds of DMs. The kind who religiously adhere to their scripts, especially where a die roll has to be made to advance (or end) the script, and the kind who want to create a fun gaming experience for the group, and who reward good behavior and punish bad behavior because that’s what makes gamers improve their gaming skills.

    I’ve no doubt which kind of DM we’ve got here.

    On the subject of a single d20 roll deciding the outcome of a campaign….

    So I was in a campaign where a bunch of first level characters ended up fighting an Ogre Mage. I was playing a gnome rogue, and I was playing him as a wholly unwise, but spectacularly confident character. At one point a group of kobolds had pinned down our fighter, our cleric and our wizard. The kobolds were behind a row of barrels. My rogue snuck down in front of the barrels without being noticed by the kobolds, which had managed to hit two of our party in spite of cover bonuses. My rogue tumbled over the barrels, landing amongst the kobolds and proceeded to single-handedly kill four kobolds as the rest of the party fought off a dire weasel. Barely. My rogue literally did not get a scratch.

    At another point in the campaign my rogue charged up a 20 foot sheer wall on a rope while being shot at by a group of kobolds. He took some damage but managed to get to the top, where he engaged the kobolds hand-to-hand, allowing the rest of the party to climb up the rope where we dispatched the kobolds. After the campaign I counted up the kills in the campaign and that little rogue single-handedly dispatched 40% of the opponents we faced.

    Now to the Ogre Mage….

    So the Ogre Mage cast a darkness spell on the party. My rogue immediately scampered in a straight line as far as he could, eventually getting outside of the darkness spell limit. The rest of the party attempted to engage the Ogre Mage IN the darkness. My rogue searched around in the cave until he found a large stone pillar (sort of a huge stalagmite) he could climb, where he waited for the darkness to end. In the meantime the Ogre Mage dispatched every other party member, and was untouched in the darkness himself. When the darkness ended the entire party, except my rogue, was unconscious and bleeding to death.

    As it happened, the pillar I had climbed was the Ogre Mage’s storage area. When the darkness ended, my rogue started firing arrows as the Ogre Mage as the OM had to work his way around the mound to get to a place he could climb it. As he did this I hit him with five successive arrows. As the OM climbed the rock pillar, my rogue hit him twice more. That was seven successive hits where I rolled above a 13 on my d20. By now the rest of the players were getting psyched. I had done almost 30 points of damage to the Ogre Mage, single-handedly. But it still came on. As it reached the top of the pillar, it’s move ended one square short of reaching me. My rogue, about 25 feet above the cave floor, decided to leap and tumble off the pillar, landing in a shallow stream. The tumble reduced the damage my rogue took enough to keep me alive, and I took as second move action to move 20 feet into the cavern.

    At this point the DM announced that the Ogre Mage had dropped his axe and had picked up a crossbow from somewhere. He solemnly rolled a d20 for a shot from the crossbow, and then announced to the party, “A hit, right between the eyes. You are dead.”

    Now, I will always have the memories of that brilliant, unwise, spectacularly reckless rogue and how he almost single-handedly dispatched an Ogre Mage while the rest of his party was bleeding to death on the floor of a forgotten cave.

    But, putting yourself in the DM’s shoes in that case, what would YOU have done?

  71. Shamus says:

    brassbaboon: What a crushing story.

    If I were a DM, I would not have so casually crushed such a thrilling moment. Have the OM rummage through his gear to find some healing. He MUST be in pain. I still can’t understand why a MAGE would resort to a crossbow. Assuming he even owns one and has it close by (doubtful in my view) it seems more in character for him to try and use his mojo.

    And if he was out of mojo, I would have him grab some healing, whatever valuables are handy and light, and run for it. He should be danged scared of this ninja that just perforated him, and it would make no sense for him to engage anything that “powerful” (he shouldn’t know how lucky the dice were) with no magic juice.

    It would have been a thrilling moment when everyone lived through the encounter, and it would have been a lot of fun when the OM popped up later for a little revenge.

    Sounds like the DM was trying to “win”. Pity.

  72. Matthias says:


    Troll is offscreen in combat with Aragorn, who is also offscreen.


    When a party of PCs comes across the bodies of some dead guys in robes and armor, what do /you/ think happened? :)

  73. Telas says:

    Well, the OM would go gaseous and fly up there, explaining the many ways in which he would dissect the rogue.

    Unless I forgot that Ogre Mages can go gaseous and fly… (which sounds like your GM). In which case I’d let you win since you displayed courageous and intelligent tactics.

    I feel sorry for the GMs who thinks it’s a competition; they’ve got to go through life with such a small, um, ego.

  74. brassbaboon:

    Bad DM. No more snacks for him.


    You rock, as always. I actually find myself wondering how the DM of the Rings planned for things to go if the hobbits hadn’t gone off to play Star Wars. I mean, surely he hadn’t planned to split the party, and clearly his script followed Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli’s path, so in the original plan the ring should have still been with them. So were they supposed to fight through to Mount Doom or what?

    The fact that I forget this isn’t some D&D game is a tribute to you.

  75. DocTwisted says:

    Oh man, I’m going to be laughing about this one for weeks. I know already who in my gaming groups are on each side of that fence… me, I’m usually one of the guys saying “Let’s roll!”

  76. rosignol says:

    But, putting yourself in the DM's shoes in that case, what would YOU have done?

    Remembered that Ogre Magi can fly.

    If the PCs aren’t smart enough to run when they’re outmatched, they deserve what they get. There are very few things I despise more than the “We’re the PCs, our victory is inevitable” attitude.

  77. Jacob says:

    I like that whatever happens, happens attitude that Legolas has. This comic has been really great. I am currently in South Korea and this comic has been my gaming fix, since it is a bit difficult for me to game in Korean. Thanks a lot!


  78. Cagiar says:

    “Whoa. How did Frodo get there without Gollum?

    Why, that's simple. By railroad, of course. ;P”

    Well, Frodo did have an extra 6 days to get there due to Aragorn turning around… of course, Frodo would have starved… oh wait, where's Sam…

    Because of you, Carl, I nearly had my computer taken out of my room. I’m grounded at the moment and not supposed to be on the net and that comment made me laugh so hard my mum came in to check out what was happening.

    I closed explorer just in time and opened a joke book so I had a reason to laugh. Still a close call but…

  79. Zaxares says:

    brassbaboon: Your DM obviously wasn’t running the Ogre Mage correctly. ;) Were I the one running the combat, as soon as the Darkness spell wears off:

    1. The Ogre Mage casts invisibility upon himself (which he can do at will, I might add).

    2. Then flies, and moves into a position adjacent to the rogue

    3. Grapple the rogue (and because he’s flat-footed, the rogue does not get an attack of opportunity or his Dex bonus to AC. Well, unless he had the Uncanny Dodge ability.)

    4. Choke-hold the rogue into submission.

    5. Toss the rogue into a cell to be interrogated/tortured OR feed him his own entrails, depending on how sadistic I’m feeling that day.

    Oh, and Gimli’s expression in Panel 6 is absolutely priceless. :D

  80. superfluousk says:

    Wow, Legolas is really into it, isn’t he? :) Awww, such a cute little brainless twit.

  81. Bruce says:

    58 Scarlet Knight Says:
    August 29th, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Oh c'mon! Does anyone ever forget the pain of their first character's death? True, twenty years later, it's a dull ache. But that's only because of the consolatory trip to the pub afterwards….stupid type one demon…

    My first character accidentally sacrificed himself to the Eldar Gods. We were trapped in a collapsing temple and had been told the way of escape was through the altar. Anything that was placed on it disappeared and I was convinced it was a teleporter to get out and jumped on. A few seconds later, someone found the secret door below the altar…

    20 years ago and I still remember it like yesterday. Poor Bork the Weak…

  82. MrDeodorant says:

    One game I played in, a character screwed up by fulfilling a preset condition (that he didn’t know about), requiring the entire group to make a DC 50 level check.

    The highest level player was level 32. He rolled a six.

    The DM defends it as a fair challenge to this day.

  83. Thenodrin says:

    And, you’ve summed up my dissapointment of the ending of one of my favourite campaigns.

    The final, climactic mission is to guard Super-Bad-Ass NPC to confront the big bad guy. At the final battle, we also had 12 SBA NPC wizards and 1 SBA fighter giant.

    Our so-called role was to guard the SBA NPC from enemies who never attacked him, only attacked us, while we watched the 12 SBA NPC wizards get picked off by magical attacks from the big bad guy, and our giant fought a dragon.

    Well, we helped the giant kill the dragon, and then healed him, so the waves of attackers never really threatened us. So, the DM … well, to be honest, he cheated.

    We put the SBA NPC that we were supposed to be guarding in a Forcecage, so that he wouldn’t be harmed, but his spells would still have effect. The dragon cast Disintigrate on the cage (I saw the adventure a few months later, the dragon didn’t have Disintigrate as one of his spells.)

    Also, the DM doubled the amount of enemies he’d prepared to attack us with. Again, I saw the adventure, and this raised the combat from an EL 21 to 23 against our APL 18 party.

    Finally, the DM gave the big bad guy the ability to cast two spontaenously quickened spells per round. So, when I attempted to attack him, I had to save against both a Baleful Polymorph and a Flesh to Stone. This was my punishment for going against the script.

    Even with the disappointing death of my character (I was willing to lose her in battle, but I always prefer to lose a character while playing within the rules, not by a cheating DM) the worst part was when the authour of the event called my friendship into question because I didn’t like the fact that the entire campaign came down to a D20 roll made by an NPC in a situation that the rest of us couldn’t meaningfully affect.


  84. Tim Keating says:

    Uh, slight correction. The shape of the “bell curve” of a single d20 roll is a flat line :-)

  85. Shamus says:

    I was thinking of the 4d6 drop-the-lowest bell curve, although I can see how that was totally unclear since the rest of it is talking about d20.

  86. Arthur says:

    Thenodrin: AAAAH! That really is one of my pet peeves – when people are so thin-skinned that they take any criticism of their GMing as a personal attack on them. I’m very much of the belief that a real friendship can survive – and can even thrive on – a bit of well-intentioned criticism.

  87. my friends made a bonfire under my first char after she got a village to hate our party. Got pretty annoyed bout that as i had just finished a 3 pages long background history!

  88. Jochi says:

    Tim and Shamus —

    I took it as the bell curve resulting from MANY d20 rolls.

    But then I’m one of the players that really tries hedging things so failures and victories are incremental, sacrificing spectacular successes to avoid failures.

    When I can. The bard I’m playing now suffers a lot from the lose-a-level-when-you’re-raised rule.

    1. WJS says:

      What bell curve from multiple d20 rolls? Multiple rolls only make a bell curve if you’re adding them together, if they’re independant the result is still flat.

  89. Ceresk says:

    First character death was when another player decided to reveal his true allegiance by backstabbing my char with the local equivalent of a silent vorpal lightsaber. Instant death, no detection check, no die roll, nothing… (Shortly after the galaxy was destroyed).

    Actually none of my character ever died in “fair” combat (I mean against NPC who doesnt have “Protection of the GM” cast on them). I am not sure if that marks me as “lucky in combat” or “unlucky with GMs” …

  90. hoyce says:

    The Gimli capture on the second to last frame is perfect!

  91. Reggy says:

    “While you guys were doing your stuff”

    One of the awesomest lines ever.

  92. Improved Initiative says:

    “Well…with special modifiers…”

    It’s the stuff that Win is made of, sweetheart.

  93. Aries says:

    I iz in ur volkanoz meeltin yur ringz and messin yur Role Play with mi leet rollz!!!

  94. Fickle says:

    I am dying to see how this is going to play out when Gollum’s ALREADY dead. XD

  95. Animayhem says:

    Not long ago I was running a Star Wars game set during episode 2. The PC's arrived at the hanger where Count Dooku and Anakin Skywalker (The PC's were the heroes and Ani fell to the dark side early) waited. I described the setting; the PC's allowed the bad guys their speech's and them they attacked. One PC got the highest initiative and attacked Dooku, her former master. The player nat 20'ed Dooku and followed through. Dooku laid on the ground dieing, and Anakin lot his arm, (funny how the dice work sometimes) and gave up. (2 Hit points left) The plot was torn asunder, and I could have railroaded the PC's but I went with it. Dooku turned back to the light side and died in his former padawans arms, and Anakin joined the PC's. (Though how long it would last only I knew) Sadly the game ended there due to real life. But it was fun.

    I would like to think that it was a good DM move. The game is about everyone having fun. Sadly I have had to many DM's who thought it was DM vs PC's, 1st ED feel…

  96. Riley says:

    In many game systems other than d20, there is a mechanic for PC die-fudging, such as “spending Edge”, “spending Karma”, etc., usually limited to once per session or some such. Gollum’s bite could be either PC or GM choice, if Frodo were a PC.
    And yeah, key Will saves have been a downer for me. I played a paladin, it was time to get a magical mount, it appeared with a temptingly fancy saddle, and obviously it was a moral test to take the mount and not take the saddle (paladin’s vow of poverty/simplicity). It came down to “roll this die” without any substantial role-playing.
    Clearly there’s a good supply of stills of Legolas looking like a frenzied, adrenaline-junky teenager, and lots of stills of Gimli looking skeptical.

  97. Melkarion says:

    >I took it as the bell curve resulting from MANY d20 rolls.

    That’s just it… rolling a single die *doesn’t* generate a curve (assuming the dice is perfectly fair, and we ignore the seesaw conjecture). It should be a straight line (equal chance of any number coming up) and the more you roll, the closer the line gets to actually being straight.

    Physical dice are a bit wonky, and programmed dice only simulate randomness, but one die over a reasonably high number of rolls will be pretty evenhanded.

  98. Maverick says:

    Lets hope frodo can roll natural 20s ftw. =3

  99. Maverick says:

    Oh and 100th post ftw (and now 101st) ^-^

  100. bruce says:

    Have to say. Awesome comic and it really hit home that it’s almost over. Gimli’s “so it all comes down to a d20 roll” is so typical of the campaign. Legolas’s excitment over this is so typical of his character – superb!

    They’re probably lucky the DM is rolling it as opposed to the original player of Frodo’s character as he sucked at dice rolling (see Weathertop fight with Ringwraiths and Moria fight with Troll)

  101. Jochi says:


    The bell comes in like this:

    On a single roll, 1-5 failure and 6-20 success, you have a 25% chance of failure.

    On a set of such rolls where you have to ‘succeed’ twice before you ‘fail’ twice to succeed, your odds of failure go down to 5 out of 32 (better by 3 out of 32). You lose 1/16 of the time on the second roll and 3/32 of the time on the third. You win 9/16 of the time on the second roll and 9/32 of the time on the third.

    If you can hedge things so it takes 10 ‘failures’ before 10 ‘successes’ to lose, it’s even better, but I’ll let someone else do the math.

    1. WJS says:

      That has nothing to do with a bell curve at all.

  102. Jochi says:

    It goes without saying that the conversis also true. If your odds are only 25% of success, you’re better off getting it over with in a single roll. It improves your odds AND gets the agony over with quicker.

    If you are more likely to gain with each exchange, many small ones are better, and if you’re more likely to lose, one big one is best. I’m sure Sun Tsu AND Scarlet Knight would agree. :)

  103. Jochi says:

    “converse is” also true. Stupid fingers/keyboard.

    I have to wonder if this isn’t part of the origin of the two types of players Shamus describes. The careful ones expect to win, the all-or-nothing types at heart expect to lose.

    But that’s probably too simplistic.

  104. MIG says:

    Haha! The last panel reminds me so much of Gabe from Penny Arcade.

  105. Matt` says:

    I’m thinking that a “you lose” ending could be put together with screenshots from what Frodo saw in the mirror pool dealy.

    Equally, random reintroduction of Gollum >> players call BS >> “rocks fall, everyone dies” (the gate/tower collapsing provide the images)

  106. brassbaboon says:

    Hmmm… Ogre Mage is CR of 8. Clearly it wasn’t a fully powered Ogre Mage, such a thing would have made mincemeat of us. I think it was a nerfed Ogre Mage of some sort then. It used up quite a bit of magic in the darkness killing the other characters. Now I’m embarrassed, is there an “Orc mage” or something like that? I got the impression from the battle that the thing was a real challenge for four first level characters, but not something that could have sneezed on them to wipe them out.

    Believe me, my character was ready to run. Actually I DID run, and was telling the rest of the party that we should at least scamper out of the cave and regroup, but they were well into the fight, and I just couldn’t leave them and run away myself.

  107. brassbaboon says:

    Actually my first character death was my first fighter. And it’s probably a familiar story. After bringing him up to about level four or five and ending a campaign, our group sort of broke up for a while. Out of pure boredom I agreed to take him into a store-bought campaign my brother had bought for a single character game session. He battled through a fair share of skeletons and other low-level nasties, but was felled in the end by a giant scorpion. When we got the playing group back together, his best friend (also a character I played) who was a wizard, went into the same dungeon alone and recovered his body (and killed the scorpion, in what is still perhaps the most difficult and nerve-wracking battle I’ve ever had in a role-playing session). The wizard took all his loot and gave it to a local cleric to raise the fighter from the dead, but had a critical failure on the constitution check (if I recall). He was too poor to try more powerful magic, so he carried the bones around with him for a while until he saved up enough money for a resurrection attempt. During all this time the wizard’s alignment shifted slowly from lawful good to lawful neutral. The DM ruled that the spirit of the dead lawful good fighter would not return to earth at the behest of a lawful neutral wizard, and so the resurrection spell failed. Which pushed the wizard over the edge to lawful evil, where he still is today…

    1. WJS says:

      Yeah, that kind of arbitrary ruling about a player’s character is totally within the bounds of DM authority. Not to mention that it’s the spellcaster’s alignment that the dead guy senses, not the guy paying for it.

  108. Rasmus says:

    Don’t think i ever had to sufer the loss of a character in-game… (well – permanently, at least… had that one that got eaten by a vampire barmaid while i was somewhere else!)
    Does that make me lucky or maybe i just had GM’s that was good at making a game that was thrilling and *potentially* deadly but always with that chance of the characters making it through?

    But belive me – the mere mention of character death is getting to me – i HATE the concept… It is in my opinion unnessecary to kill the characters… capture and torture them, but leave them with a chance to survive!

  109. FIRST POST!

    I can’t wait till they find out he fails his Will save.

  110. Gadush Kraun says:

    The Legolas Screen Shot is brilliant!

  111. Matthias says:

    Aragorn’s player’s response in the second panel is exactly the sort of attitude I hate to see in players: that every enemy must eventually be attacked and killed in combat with the party.

    DMs are often accused of railroading PCs and sometimes the railroading is done by the PCs themselves.

  112. Arthur says:

    @Matthias: it’s true that that’s an irritating attitude, but if the DM of the campaign has presented every other enemy the party has faced it doesn’t seem so ridiculous that they’ll extend that to Sauron. The problem comes when the DM regards an NPC as a faceless villain who should never actually come “onstage”, because to force him into the light would lessen his impact, whilst at the same time the players regard the same NPC as the Big Bad, who the PCs are destined to ultimately face down and defeat in a face-to-face battle. The first post in this thread: gives a great example of a campaign ruined by just such a mismatch of assumptions.

    The solution, of course, is for the GM and players to establish such ground rules from the get-go.

  113. Browncoat says:

    95 Aries Says: I iz in ur volkanoz meeltin yur ringz and messin yur Role Play with mi leet rollz!!!


  114. Tim says:

    “The DM ruled that the spirit of the dead lawful good fighter would not return to earth at the behest of a lawful neutral wizard”

    … which is exactly why I refuse to use alignments in any of my D&D campaigns. Too big a crutch, too many silly assumptions.

  115. gravyrug says:

    The Cult of the Invincible Player vs The Cult of the Malevolent Storyguide. You must decide at character creation which religion you belong to.

    Yes, I totally stole that from a gaming buddy who both GMs and plays. It is possible to switch from one to the other, but not within the same campaign.

  116. Scarlet Knight says:

    Rasmus Says” It is in my opinion unnessecary to kill the characters… capture and torture them, but leave them with a chance to survive!”

    Unfortunately, characters must always believe in the possibilty of death. They will play differently if they feel “The DM will never kill us” Or “Don’t worry if you die, we’ll just get you rez’d”. Victory over a fierce creature is sweet only if failure is bitter. That’s why I love D&D…no save/reset button!

  117. Errol says:

    LMAO God but Legolas’ expression in the last panel was intense! ‘twould be a shame for DMotR to end but all good things come to pass :D

  118. Rasmus says:

    In responce to Scarlet Knight (118), and the “possibility of death” – i agree…
    But the possibility of death is not nessarily getting your head popped by an Ogre Mage while the rest of the party is bleeding to death…
    As a player, i invest my creativity and caring in a piece of paper. If a player cares nothing for the fate of his character – “i can allways roll up another” – ditch him!
    As a GM i must honor that investment, and present thrilling and potentially leathal situations to test the resources and creativity of the players. I personally favor to take players down and not kill, and also to allow the others to rescue downed characters to stabilize them so they will not bleed to death.
    The “close call” is a usefull tool for drama, and i belive it builds the connection between player and the character, to have survived near-leathal situations.
    I don´t need cocky “i’m invulnerable”-players, but risk-cautious players tend to be better attached to the well-being of their character!?

  119. brassbaboon says:

    Of course there needs to be a sense of danger for the players to get their adrenaline flowing, and that adds greatly to the enjoyment of the game. But I believe that the DM is responsible not just to run the game, but to guide the players and teach them the values of good game playing. Which means, in my opinion, rewarding good game playing when it is demonstrated.

    I know it sounds like blowing my own horn, but the entire party started calling my character “Wil the Wonder Gnome” during that session. Yes I got lucky with a string of awesome rolls, but that string pulled three characters who were dying slowly back into the game, each one seeing the real possibility that if my gnome could just put the Ogre down, that I might just have time to save them, or at least some of them. In fact, I was beginning to think that I was going to have to choose between them due to lack of time to save them all.

    Had I been the DM at that moment, that last crossbow shot would have been a “miss” no matter what. Or at the very worst it would have done minimal damage, allowing one last chance for the rogue to pull off the miracle. The DM confided to us after the session that the Ogre was down to three hit points. One more arrow could have easily done him in.

    The chance for such a heroic, miraculous victory and the additional drama of choosing which characters to save would have made for a story worthy of Bardic magic in the local taverns. I’d have made sure that such a story had a chance to be told.

    As the DM, I think that’s my job. Now, if the rogue missed with his final, game deciding shot, then I’d play it straight and let the dice have their day.

  120. Rasmus says:

    Right you are!
    The enjoyment (for both sides of the screen) is not rolling up new characters, but making the ones you have survive!

  121. Raycheetah says:

    Oog… Well, since we’re sharing tales of killer-DM woe, here’s mine…

    Over twenty-five years ago (yes, I have been RPing for that long, and, a little longer), I played in the campaign of a DM whose stated philosophy was “If at least one player character doesn’t die each session, I’m not doing my job right.” Of course, he didn’t provide me with that little gem of information until much later.

    Meanwhile, I lovingly crafted character after 1st level character for his AD&D 1st Edition campaign. This DM was of the sort to roll random wilderness encounters right out of the DM’s Guide, as soon as you set foot out of town, with no consideration of logic or PC level. Armies of bugbears went right past the town walls as you exited the gate, if you were unlucky. Not that the town encounters were too much fun, either.

    I had a bard (old style) who had a couple of NPC hirelings. The old DMG had some interesting random character trait charts which the DM was compelled to use as judiciously as the encounter charts; my followers ended up as psychotic dipsomaniacs at worst, apathetic at best. One drunken follower attempted to kill my PC when I attempted to separate her from her bottle; the other was uninterested in assisting me. I gave up in disgust, and, went out into town to go about some errand or other.

    That’s when, in this town of fisher folk and woodcutters, I was attacked by a (randomly encountered) werewolf in the street. I was fortunate in that, of the small group I was with, I had a magic weapon to fight with. I was unfortunate enough that, of all the members of that small group, the werewolf chose me to attack, when all any of us were doing was trying to escape with our lives! Note that it chose to pursue and attack the only character who could hurt it.

    I ended up rolling 11 characters in nine consecutive sessions of play. At one point, the DM kindly suggested that I roll up an extra character, so that I would have him ready in case(!) something happened to the previous character. Well, with two character sheets in my hands, the DM then said I could just play both characters, as, there were two PC groups in the game.

    He then maneuvered things so that my characters ended up meeting… And, fighting. One (a berserker) killed the other (an assassin), a very odd thing to have to RP, following which, a wereboar killed the survivor, who (this time) had no weapons with which to even harm it.

    So, yeah, I eventually smarted up and quit playing with this guy. The experience taught me a lot, though.

    My philosophy as a DM is that any goob with dice can kill his players’ characters. It’s an art form to torment them in an entertaining enough manner to keep them coming back for more. If a PC dies, it’s either because the player screwed up, or, from sheer dumb luck of the dice. Yes, the threat of character death is real, but, not an absolute certainty.

    -Raycheetah =^[.]^=

  122. TheDeepDark says:

    I gotta make a comment on the whole “avoid risk” vs. “death-defying” player types. Almost always a timid player, my most memorable moment was in a Star Wars campaign where I was about to get nailed (like, her fingernails in my eyes) by this NPC that w/ NO ARMOR was unaffected by 3 solid blaster rifle hits. So I pulled the trigger of the loaded grenade launcher on my hip – by sheer luck, the dice were w/ me, and my armor completely absorbed the dmg. Conversely, I’m currently playing a dragon-hunting Paladin (Lv. 6). Died once so far.

  123. Cynder says:

    Somehow I wish Dave (aka. Frodo) and his hobbit buddies hadn’t quit so early in the campaign…then again, it’s funny just as it is XD

    Well done :)

  124. JD says:

    I just run like hell. XD I’ve survived two party massacres like that. Noble, no. Courageous, no. Kept me alive, you better believe it.

  125. Laufi Surturfaxi says:

    Oh, man. I am TOTALLY Legolas here! I live on the edge when it comes to dice.

    That is, when I have the luxury of playing as a PC. I’m usually DM for the gang of hooligans in my immediate proximity. Right now we’re playing an Underdark campaign, wherein my NPC (a trog cleric who prefers to grapple his foes and eat them alive) and a gang of warriors freed them from Drow servitude. The NPC plays the long shot every time!

  126. I’m a huge fan of DMotR… this is my second time re-reading it, and I just wanted to mention (via thread necromancy of course… <_<;; ) how much I appreciate it.

    More specifically, I wanted to point out how awesome the screen cap for Legolas is. Fits perfectly. :D

  127. Andrew Jensen says:

    I am just posting to make the post count stop being a power of 2. Mwahahahahahahaha!!! Great comic, this one was one of my favorite episodes.

  128. Robin says:

    “Whoa. How did Frodo get there without Gollum?”

    He was captured by orcs, brought into a Mordor orc stronghold, and rescued by Sam after the orcs started killing each other, just as before. The only difference is that Frodo was caught by a different group of orcs, and wasn’t poisoned by a spider.

    One would almost think you believed that Gollum was actually trying to *help* Frodo, rather than leading him into an ambush.

    To misquote Shamus, “An NPC is never late. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when the plot dictates he should.”

  129. DenverT says:

    and the other makes a level 1 theif who, while he dies in two its and can barely do any damage gets a +17 to bluff… level 1

  130. Nami says:

    That sounds INTENSE!

    Another perfect screen cap.

  131. LazerZ says:

    According to the book at least, Sauron isn’t supposed to be a disembodied eye-thing. He actually had a physical form as witnessed by Gollum.

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