#8 Live Action Ramgar Pummeling

By Shamus Posted Sunday Mar 17, 2019

Filed under: DM of the Rings 69 comments

LARPing is no laughing matter. If it gets to the point where your players would rather exercise than roleplay, then something has gone seriously wrong with your game.

LARPing is bad for your game and poisonous for the hobby in general. The last thing we need is to introduce elements to RPGs that would allow the Jocks to dominate and despoil our once-great hobby.

“If you stand up, you’re LARPing” – Adam PinillaEdit 2019: For context, Adam was one of the hosts of Fear the Boot, the site where this comic was hosted back in 2007..

Shamus Says:

The end of ZOMG RAPEGATE. Whew. Glad that’s over.

Note that in the previous strip Chuck said it was “more of a second base thing”. Now he’s saying she’s lost her virtue. Again, this ambiguity as to what happened exists because, as far as the story goes, nothing happened. They’re inhabiting a white void because the GM hasn’t placed them anywhere. Josh’s character doesn’t take part because he doesn’t exist yet.

If you jam the ZOMG RAPEGATE strips together they more or less form a coherent exchange. (Notwithstanding whatever changes I made to cut the thing up.) This is the entire conversation. But when we cut it up, some people assume we’ve skipped something between strips – most likely the “worst” of it.

So ends this series of over-thinking and under-entertaining. I’m really glad we didn’t have another meltdown this time. And now we go from one of the least popular strips to one of the most popular ones. Yay!

Shawn Says:

During the week and a half between when strips #6 and 8 originally ran, we’d won back a number of readers by discussing our intentions, and then we lost them all again with Chuck’s dialogue in strip #8. Oh yeah.

I do like how this one ends though. Both Marcus’s retaliation with a feeble attempt at physical violence and Josh’s reply. “Die Fatbeard!” and “Hey! No LARPing!” are two of my favorite lines from the comic, regardless of how we got there.

Anyway, we’re now done with the low point of the comic, it’s all up hill from here! (At least until Steve stays around way too long, wearing out his welcome both among the characters and the readers.)

See you next time, where we meet xXKillStealr69Xx. Oh yes.

EDIT 2019: Whew. Glad that’s over. Again.

Like I said last time, if the entire three-strip exchange had been in a single comic… well, I can’t claim it wouldn’t have been controversial. Lots of people have made it pretty clear that this subject matter wasn’t going to fly regardless of execution. Having said that, I still think it would be less outrage-inducing if viewed as a whole.

First, the breaks between strips create a time gap where the reader might assume more unpleasant things happened. If you moosh all the strips into a single conversation, we eliminate the problem of closureFrom Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics”, closure is the process where the audience fills in the between-panel time. Panel 1 shows the axe swinging downward. Panel 2 shows a scream echoing over the city. But between those, the reader filled in the axe landing on the victim. making things worse. We also get Chuck being brought to “justice” in the same comic as his crime, rather than leaving the audience feeling angry for a week.

Lots of people suggested how they would change the previous two comics. That’s pretty understandable. If you really hate them but generally like the rest of the series, then you’ll probably wish you could just patch the bad spots. If you see a way to make a huge improvement with a small change, then it’s natural to be frustrated with the author. That was a big part of my Mass Effect Andromeda series.

More than one person suggested that the exchange should be inverted. Perhaps Marcus gets the upper hand when they roll the dice, and then his character kicks Chuck’s character in the balls. I can certainly understand why some people would have preferred that (and it certainly would have been less controversial) but that option doesn’t work here because the goal is to build up to this final panel. “Die Fatbeard!” and “Hey! No LARPing!” are the punchline to the whole thing, and everything else is setup. This means having Ramgar kicked in the balls wouldn’t work, because we need him to become a villain in the middle so he can be punished in the end.

But in the spirit of trying to fix things like I did for Andromeda, maybe let’s see if we can do better than what we have…

If Chuck rolls to grapple Marcus’ character and loses, then Marcus could turn the tables and (for example) sit on him or tie him up.

But then in the second three panels, it turns out that Ramgar (or perhaps Chuck, whatever) is actually into being tied up / sat on. This is embarrassing for Marcus, thus turning the tables a second time.

Then in the final three panels, Chuck continues to tease Marcus, trying to goad him into more hitting. This continues this until LARPing happens.

That would steer us away from the whole rape debate. On the other hand, Chuck’s crime kind of loses its edge, and so Marcus’ final panel of lashing out doesn’t feel properly justified.

Either way, I’m sure lots of people will still take issue with this premise. It really does seem like the first three panels are a complete deal-breaker for a lot of people, regardless of who wins the dice-roll. Once those dice hit the table, some people immediately reject the entire premise and have complete story collapse. “I would leave the group. I would never play with these people!” That means the story has failed them completely and there’s no getting them back.

But having the tables turned in each strip would make for a more interesting overall structure, and I think it would have made the whole thing less controversial in the end.

Anyway, that’s the end of the controversy. The next comic really is one of the best.



[1] Edit 2019: For context, Adam was one of the hosts of Fear the Boot, the site where this comic was hosted back in 2007.

[2] From Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics”, closure is the process where the audience fills in the between-panel time. Panel 1 shows the axe swinging downward. Panel 2 shows a scream echoing over the city. But between those, the reader filled in the axe landing on the victim.

From The Archives:

69 thoughts on “#8 Live Action Ramgar Pummeling

  1. Thomas says:

    Oh :( ‘she liked it at least a little bit’ might be the most gross part. I was hoping it was over. Even in real life I’d get really really uncomfortable with a friend finishing a joke like that.

    I don’t like anything about this page, because the ‘ginger beard’ guy is really winning. It’s like when Dwight gets mad at Jim or the Generic Anime Protagonist gets hit by Girl. The other person lost their cool.

    1. Zaxares says:

      Yeah, that particular line made me cringe too. Maybe Chuck could have redeemed himself a little bit by saying something like, “I just wanted to show Miss Chastity what she’s been missing out on!”, thus framing it as more of a philosophy/theological conflict where Chuck’s barbarian simply can’t grasp how anyone could find meaning and personal fulfillment in devoting their lives to the cause of a deity, not when his own life is basically centered around immediate gratification and satiation.

    2. Scampi says:

      We also get Chuck being brought to “justice” in the same comic as his crime, rather than leaving the audience feeling angry for a week.

      I guess you didn’t manage to do it thoroughly enough, as apparently even the retaliation can be read as a victory for the guy being retaliated against. Geeze.
      He successfully managed to be violently assaulted in “real life”.

      To be clear: The line is really disturbing, but I wonder what it would take for the comic to satisfy all needs established and brought forth throughout the week.

      1. Thomas says:

        I mean I dont know what to say here. It’s not like I’m making my reaction up.

        The blonde guy looks like an idiot here. When Tom tries to beat up Jerry, Tom is the fool. When Dwight gets angry at Jim, Dwight looks like the idiot. When the Tsundere beats up the protagonist, the Tsundere is the one who’s irrational.

        It’s a bad joke, a bad punchline and as the guy doing the beating looks like an idiot doing it, it’s not even clearly Chuck who is the butt of the last bit.

        That’s not me being fussy here. Saying ‘Geeze what will it take for you to find this rape joke funny?’ I dont know what to do with that.

        1. Scampi says:

          To be clear: I’m not asking you to find the joke funny. Thanks anyways for putting these words into my mouth there.
          I don’t like it very much myself, but I don’t need to find something funny or comfortable to accept it has some legitimate reason to exist. I read some deeply disturbing books and watched movies that caused me to go into a midterm depression in the past, didn’t get why someone would want to write it, but apparently, there is an audience for things that are not for my taste, and occasionally, I can stumble into these things.

          What I find strange is everyone asking for Chuck to get his comeuppance and when he gets assaulted, it’s still claimed he’s the winner in the situation. To me, there is no winner here. One person acted like a dick and got a kinda deserved beating from someone who elsewhere would himself be seen as a creepy person who creates an extremely oversexed crossgender avatar for the game. I don’t get how Chuck is the sole perpetrator here, I don’t get how being physically assaulted is the assaulted person winning, I don’t get what anyone is expecting to happen here that would possibly appease anyone.

          1. Thomas says:

            Sorry, I pressed delete on this whole comment because, like you said, I was putting words in your mouth that you didn’t say. But the comment resurfaced. I guess the delete button doesn’t work like I think it did.

            The comment exchange we had below is what I’m more happy saying.

            1. Shamus says:

              This might be my fault. Or the fault of WordPress.

              See, when you hit “delete”, it puts your comment into moderation. The problem is, the system doesn’t TELL ME that the user requested deletion. So I see a comment being held, and figure the anti-spam just flagged a false positive. So then I hit “approve” and the comment re-appears.

              In the old days it would email me: “[username] requested their comment for deletion”. These days it doesn’t even send the email. This problem has been around for a decade and I’m baffled it hasn’t been addressed yet.

              If you want to delete your comment and the edit window is still open, the best thing to do is to replace your comment with “Delete me please”.

              1. Thomas says:

                Thank you! I’ll make sure to do that in the future

              2. Scampi says:

                Me too. I remember the same thing happened to me occasionally.
                Also: Thanks for clarifying, Thomas.

        2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

          I think the intention is “what will it take for this LARP joke to not being even remotely a rape joke”

          1. Scampi says:

            I thought more of: “What exactly could possibly get people to accept Chuck has gotten his comeuppance” or rather “what kind of comeuppance would be acceptable to people for what basically is a really disgusting and tasteless joke?”, because I think every solution that would have satisfied people would have been social exclusion, which I believe is neither funny to anyone nor appropriate. Violence, despite being generally less accepted, has been a staple of comedic writing in a way that social exclusion has not been to my knowledge.
            To be clear: This is the kind of joke that, if it happened at my table (as a GM), I would begin rolling my eyes at and showing my contempt for this kind of joke, and if the player’s behaviour consistently remained this way I’d give him a comeuppance in game by confronting him with NPCs who don’t take that kind of behaviour, reserving exclusion for when the player proves to be irredeemable.
            I believe I’d mostly limit myself to in game punishment, to the point of reducing their advancement (significantly so, if needed), to make players suffering from his behaviour advance faster over him and giving them the opportunity of in game retaliation. Maybe I’d even begin the entire campaign with hints that I establish house rules for griefing behaviour.
            The solution of “temporal exclusion” has been suggested further below, which might work (though I’m absolutely not sure of that), but would, I believe, result in a very different comic over the rest of its run.
            The point being: I think keeping the player at the table and trying to rein them in is more productive than exclusion.

      2. Thomas says:

        When Homer strangles Bart, who is the butt of the joke? Homer.

        At best the end punchline is really ‘they’re both idiots’. Considering Chuck just made a joke about rape victims ‘wanting it really’, it’s just bad comeuppance for a bad joke and a bad subject.

        No larping is a good punchline though. Just use it for a different joke.

        1. Scampi says:

          When Homer strangles Bart, I think they are both the butt of the joke, Homer for losing his cool (to the point where everyone knows that’s how he reacts) and usually having been an idiot before this happens, while Bart is the butt for repeatedly angering a stronger, more powerful person who is known to have anger management issues. Bart is equally stupid for “intentional provoking a dangerous animal”, you might say.
          I’d still not say Bart is the winner for getting strangled violently. He is, in this case, imho the victim of his own stupid behaviour. The same applies here, as Chuck keeps pushing Marcus’ buttons. It’s not a victory for Marcus though, just a draw between two asses.

          As I said in the comments of an earlier strip: This is basically how I read the comic from the very beginning, as I took it to be a kind of continuation of the DMotR ‘theme’ of “roleplayers are generally dysfunctional in lots of ways”. I think there are signs of it all over the place, including Marcus. My sympathy is not with Marcus specifically but with the overall horrible people tied together in this enterprise while at the same time feeling they kind of deserve each other.
          If it wasn’t a general theme, I apparently misread the comic, but it allowed me to approach it from a different angle than it seems it was approached in general (?).
          It’s a recurring theme in media, sitcoms and such, how horrible a group of people is (even towards each other) while still being friends/family, though they each appear unbearable to an outside observer and I believed this was what the comic aimed to emulate from the beginning.

          I’m not sure in which other context “No larping” would come up as a punchline at all, though. At least I have no good idea how to get to this one without it being disturbing one way or another.

          1. Thomas says:

            Theres 100 ways they could disturb each other. Heck, you could just have chuck insult the other guy’s character and make the other guys fuse shorter.

            That’s quicker, funnier and fits ‘they’re both idiots’ way better.

            1. Scampi says:

              I guess you could, but I think in that case I’d have the same issue other people have with the comic now: some “tame” insults ending with Marcus assaulting Chuck would come across as just him being the butt and Chuck possibly even looking like a real victim, making the punchline unfunny in exactly the way it seems to be disturbing to others right not, whereas currently I think Chuck is equally dickish and actually kind of “deserving” of this retaliation for being really awful. Some insults could imho not match his current behaviour.
              I liked Dreadjaw’s suggestion below, since it keeps the general level of assery while avoiding overstretching the issue to unnecessary lengths, but if the leadup is too tame, it takes away from the punchline, imho.

  2. Lino says:

    I liked the entire exchange – from start to finish, especially the payoff in this part :D

    1. tmtvl says:

      Seconded, I like mocking bad people for being bad. After all, if you can’t shame people for lacking moral fibre, what can you shame them for?

    2. evileeyore says:

      Agreed. Also…

      “On the other hand, Chuck’s crime kind of loses its edge…”
      That edge is what made it as funny all the way through, right into the assault. We can laugh at the Fatbeard for getting beat on (he kinda ‘not really but ya totally does’ deserve it), laugh at Marcus for being so uptight and taking sidebar-not-even-ingame-mocking seriously (we all know this type), we can laugh at the Munchkin’s “No LARPing”. It’s all a very glorious and satisfying conclusion.

      Also, I feel like everyone on the “OH NOES! You can’t make the rape jokes!” side is missing the look on the Fatbeard’s face. That isn’t smug satisfaction. That’s the look of someone who just realized he took it too far and pushed a friend into violence. That’s also part of the payoff for the whole joke.

    3. Bookwyrm says:

      I also enjoyed the whole exchange.

      I was expecting the second panel on this strip to involve Chuck going back to why he started griefing Marcus in the first place: Marcus’ character is wearing a literal chainmail bikini for armor.
      “Your barbarian has something in common with my elven priestess? Like what?”
      “They’re both mostly naked.”

      I’m not sure how you get from there to “DIE FATBEARD!”, though.

  3. There are other ways to build this joke with the “Die Fatbeard”/Hey! No Larping!” punchline WITHOUT resorting to any allusion to sexual assault.

    It’s easier to abstract and find humor in physical violence because generally everyone is in universal agreement that violence is bad unless it is properly sanctioned in advance.

    But the same cannot be said for sexual assault because there is an unequal power dynamic involved that is not addressed, is not universally condemned, and which disproportionately affects women.

    THAT is why this joke makes me uncomfortable and why I equate it to being as inappropriate as using blackface as the basis for a joke.

    1. Fon says:

      I’m not trying to start an argument, or make light of sexual assaults, but I think it’s a little unfair to compare this to using blackface as a joke. With blackface, I assume people are supposed to laugh at the blackface, because “blackface looks funny”, and making someone’s race as the subject of the joke, even indirectly/via allusion, is, well, not cool.

      But here, we aren’t trying to laugh at Sapphire or making her the subject of the joke. We aren’t trying to find humor in Sapphire’s plight. Instead, Chuck is the subject of the joke– he is being set up to get comeuppance, and the comeuppance will be in slapstick form and completely deserved, thus in theory, funny.

      However, I suppose the allusion to sexual assault alone is so unfunny that you won’t find any humor, even if Chuck gets decked.

      1. Mephane says:

        he is being set up to get comeuppance, and the comeuppance will be in slapstick form and completely deserved, thus in theory, funny.

        A “slapstick comeuppance” doesn’t work as retaliation for such a serious act, however. For a cathartic outcome, Chuck would have to either learn and understand why what he did was wrong (to repeat: 1. misogyny 2. rape joke 3. griefing another player) and show genuine remorse afterwards, or if he cannot or doesn’t want to change his mind, be shown the door, because the least he could learn this way is that his behaviour is not accepted everywhere.

        Instead, what’s likely is that Chuck will think himself the victim after this whole exchange – “I just made some lighthearted fun, and he punched me because he doesn’t understand humor” is the kind of thing people like him would say afterwards. If the DM then were to enforce some rule to prevent any further behaviour like Chuck’s, he would probably comply but only grudgingly, never to understand and accept that he was in the wrong all along.

        1. Biggus Rickus says:

          Here’s where this whole thing loses me: “…such a serious act.” It’s a fictional character’s fictional character groping another fictional character’s fictional character. There is no “act”. People are acting like these are actual human beings when they’re parodies of human beings behaving in exaggeratedly bad ways.

          1. Liessa says:

            Agreed. There is no actual sexual assault taking place here, none at all – just a couple of rather obnoxious and immature RPers being dicks to each other. I don’t think the joke was particularly funny, and I don’t think it was presented well for all the reasons enumerated by Shamus, but I personally felt the reaction was over-the-top at the time and I still think so now. The whole point of the strip (as in ‘DM of the Rings’ before it) is that these are all pretty unpleasant people; having everyone react in a right-on way to Chuck’s assholish behaviour would totally undermine that.

          2. Drathnoxis says:

            Don’t you know that making tasteless jokes is one of the most serious transgressions you can make? There’s no room for such monsters in civilized society.

        2. Scampi says:

          A question that just came to mind: Do you think your suggestion fits the genre? I think comedy (and a dark one, at that) doesn’t really have the same requirement of catharsis as, say, a serious drama or other. A character in a comedy, satire, farce or other doesn’t necessarily need to learn any lesson at all, and it’s often sufficient if the character in question is either depicted as a despicable person, regularly or at least in the end suffers in comedic ways. Being thrown out of the group strikes me as an extraordinarily “uncomedic” turn of things, unless Chuck was the main character and we’d follow his misadventures in some other way.

          the least he could learn this way is that his behaviour is not accepted everywhere.

          But what if he already knew this kind of behaviour is accepted at Casey’s table? It apparently is, and you demand he is penalized by people who do accept this behaviour because somewhere there exist people who don’t accept it. You want the group to penalize him for not living up to someone else’s standards. I know some people who don’t live up to certain standards of mine, but I don’t think they need to adhere to those when not interacting with me personally. I never get this idea of enforcing a standard this rigidly.
          I can see that Marcus is not happy with Chuck’s actions, but I think there might be a kind of silent agreement that, if they play together, they have to put up with each other’s misbehaviour. If Chuck is not evicted and Marcus stays nevertheless, I take it this agreement is given in the case at hand.

        3. DHW says:

          >because the least he could learn this way is that his behaviour is not accepted everywhere.

          Perhaps the problem is that some people approach pop culture as if it’s supposed to be a didactic Sunday school lesson where we are all given instruction on how to be better people in the eyes of God. When in reality this particular bit of pop culture is a comic strip about dysfunctional role-playing gamers.

          I’ve noticed this sort of attitude at the heart of a lot of recent internet blowups.

    2. Scampi says:

      As I said below: I’m not sure there are ways to build towards this punchline in any way that wouldn’t be harsh and disgusting to anyone.

      I’d also not buy into the idea that there is a general agreement on the badness of violence but not of sexual assault.
      I don’t think anyone has ever managed to (intersubjectively) justify sexual assault to the degree that physical violence as such has been justified on a large scale.
      Socially, there seems to be a rather robust condemnation of violence against women and children, leading to them being generally seen as protected groups.
      Violence is considered funny/funnier than the latter, because there is a general acceptance of the concept and maybe some underlying catharsis in observing it, because it might happen to anyone and is often set up specifically as something the victim deserves. This is something I believe can’t be done for sexual assault in the first place specifically because we do universally condemn it, thus not being able to find a justification for anyone being subjected to it for laughs.
      I.e.: I think general physical violence is way more socially accepted than sexual assault could even begin to be.

      Of course, you’re well within your rights (sorry, it sounds really stupid to put it like that, but I don’t know how to put it better) to be uncomfortable with the joke, as it is rather obnoxious, and find it inappropriate, but I think your argument doesn’t really bear close examination.

    3. The Nick says:

      I would hardly say everybody agrees about the appropriateness of violence.

      Looking at crime statistics and recent acts of publicized and politicized violence, there are lots of people who seem to relish in real world violence. Even without them, there’s definitely an undercurrent of people who approve of violence but don’t approve of the ‘getting caught’ bit, which is good for society so long as society is good on keeping an eye on those potential troublemakers.

  4. Fon says:

    I think the revision would be better.

    I still think it is good to portray the hostile kind of LARPing and actions that would lead to that kind of LARPing in a not totally serious manner, to at least raise some awareness of how tabletop can be like if the players aren’t savvy enough about things (without making the whole accounting of it into something completely serious), but I guess some of the actions that would lead to LARPing (or the allusions attached to those action, or at least this specific kind of action portrayed over these 3 strips) just cannot NOT be taken seriously.

  5. Scampi says:

    EDIT 2019: Whew. Glad that’s over. Again.

    Well, I’m looking forward to the next time.

  6. djw says:

    “Hey! No Larping!” is a really good punchline.

    But… I do think the rest of the joke is unrecoverable. I think that using an alternate form of conflict to set it up, such as Chuck uses Marcus’s special dice, Chuck writes something stupid on Marcus’ character sheet, maybe even some more jokes about the titular chainmail bikini (though care must be taken), would have made for a very funny joke, rather than a controversial one.

    In any case, its hard not to be defensive when your back is against the wall, and I am sure I would have handled it worse than you did, so I am not being critical here.

    1. Scampi says:

      I’m not actually sure these would be reasonable setups for this specific punchline.
      Writing something on a character sheet (even before the actual game starts) or jokes about the assumed or maybe drawn outfit of a character are pretty tame and would, instead, make Marcus into an overly aggressive prick instead of someone whom many readers (though I wasn’t one of them) did have sympathy for.
      The “No Larping!” punchline relies upon a very crass and harsh setup imho. There might be other ways to set this up, but few if any come to (my) mind that don’t require an act on par with disturbing a character’s assumed integrity and continuing to be an ass about it.

      An inquiry to any actual roleplayers here: what would another player have to do to get you to fly off the handle like this (or coming even close to it)? Or, if you say you’d never attack another player at all: What would another player have to do to get you to, say, yell at them in anger at the table?

      As a GM or a player, I’ve seen griefing at the level displayed in the comic, both between players or between GMs and players, but I can’t remember a single instance of anyone ever laying hand on another player, and can’t personally recall a voice being raised above the general noise level at the table (which, often, was intense in the first place).

      1. kincajou says:

        As a GM and a player i’ve never experienced anyone completely losing control enough to shout at each other or get to physical violence. There were two instances off the top of my head where it may have come close…

        I’d tell you of those in a second, first i think it’s worth pointing out that in my very limited experience of 1 it’s very rare for people to lose their cool even outside RPGS. Sometimes i have seen people getting close to shouting at each other over board games or ideology (be it politics, vaccines, global warming, … pick your divisive issue and you can get people excited about it) but never people getting physical about things. That is to say that from the social contexts and norms in which I exist, it is essentially unthinkable for people to become particularly physical with each other even over “serious” issues (in small groups, mob mentality is a whole other discussion), if someone does react like that, then they have some big issues (and would be considered an unlikable personality)…
        But, i stress, this is only a very limited context and experience (middle class, western EU) and it may be that outside the confine of my bubble of friends and acquaintances it is easier (more acceptable) for tempers to flare up and for people to get in fights even for things that are essentially as inconsequential as RPGs.

        Now to my story:
        When i used to GM as an adolescent i was running a standard D&D campaign with a couple of friends. I wasn’t an experienced GM and they weren’t experienced players… we were all dabbling and pissing about, essentially. So i allow the players to create a party which included a good aligned paladin (played by, we shall name him keith) and an evil aligned *something* (i honestly have no recollection of what he was playing, played by “steven”). One particular session, i only had Keith and Steven along and it was supposed to be a calm session, go round the village, restock from the last adventure spend some gold/xp, do some guild quests etc.
        This is when Keith decides that he’s going to go all out and prove that steven’s character is evil (steven’s character had been “hiding” his alignment from the start) – It’s worth noting that Keith’s character would have had no real inclination to go all out unless the player knew that the other character was evil- . So Keith goes off and buys the worst poison he can find in whatever rulebook he had access at the time and sets Steven to have it with his dinner that evening at the inn. Steven gets poisoned (no, i don’t know why i was stupid enough to go along with all of this and narrate it for them) and ends up in bed with his insides dissolving unless he can get the antidote which Keith waves in front of his eyes demanding “Tell me who your god is!”.
        Fun ensues, with both players being stupidly block headed that neither will budge (either Steven admitting he is evil or Keith just admitting his plan isn’t great and just giving the antidote) Steven ends up dying in miserable agony. The two players were furious at each other (steven for obvious reasons, keith because his “amazing plan” didn’t work) and we ended the session essentially there (i don’t remember what exactly i pulled out of my a- to get things to a sort of closure…). After the session i wrote an email essentially saying “guys remember you are different from your characters and as things go on you should let it all be water under the bridge. But i don’t think that party ever continued their mission and Keith and Steven never played at my table again at the same time.

        In this case i think it’s important to remember that we were all in our mid teens and everything felt like it was the most important thing in the world. Our D&D chars were power fantasies, projections of ourselves (in some ways) and killing a character would have felt like a massive deal. Amongst “friends” i imagine it felt like a betrayal for one of the other players to turn around and poison you because they had decided they were playing their paladin as an “unwavering bastion of good”… Keith showed no understanding of the connection between player and character (or didn’t care) and was unable to have enough empathy towards other people to understand where the limits were and when he’d gone overboard. But it’s essential to remember we were adolescents, with little concept of the separation between players and characters, with only basic understandings of social norms and empathy…. I don’t know where Steven and Keith have ended up but if i like to think that if the situation were to happen again they would both be mature enough to avoid it (and i would be skilled enough to not let it happen).

        My second story is still with Keith, sometime after the first story i had another party playing a 1 shot of “in nomine satanis, magna veritas”. All was going fine until keith decided that he was group leader and started bossing the party around. The players were much more mature in this case and just had none of Keith’s antics and ignored him / took the piss of the “mighty leader” every time he failed a roll (which was often as he desperately wanted to do everything even though he was only suited for one specific thing)… eventually keith had his character go back to the pub where they’d met their quest giver and got wasted demanding to see the quest giver so they’d give him authority again.
        The quest giver came out once and told his character to grow a pair , considering everyone else was working well towards the completion of the quest. Keith spent the play session in the pub, i came back to him every so often to give him chances to go back to the team but he evidently wasn’t interested.
        So, even in a situation where a player was marginalised, we never got to shouting or fights, which is good…
        However, don’t be Keith kids, keith at the time was an asshole who didn’t care about other people’s fun.

        (i’m happy to say that in many many other d&D games i played since i’ve never had issues like these. Even when playing Paranoia where everyone is at everyone’s throat by design, i always get laughs by the barrel rather than any anger between players…. I chalk this down to people growing up and understanding how to interact with each other in more civilised ways and get less emotionally invested in their characters, but it may just be that I have been lucky enough not to play with Keiths since and i have become a decent enough master that i can avoid player conflicts rapidly as they arise…)

        1. Scampi says:

          Keith sounds like fun to play with as a GM…the kind of player who seems to need a lot of reining in.
          I’d not have played too well with this kind of player in the past, I guess, though I’d have tried to be impartial as much as possible.
          In the first story, I think my first reflex would have been to remind him that poisoning a person is not very paladin-like and doing so might likely cause him to lose his powers. It’s in my book both an act of evil (hurting another person for your aims) and deviousness, which I think might be interpreted as a very chaotic act. In the best case, it’s the equivalent of torture to poison someone to get a confession out of them. That might be the work of an inquisitor, who I think is kind of a model archetype of a lawful evil character, at the very least tending away from good.

          1. kincajou says:

            Oh he was, i still am friends with people from the second group and that session with keith comes up often :P

            Now with the hindsight of experience there are so many ways that i could have stopped that first situation from happening:
            – the simplest is probably just don’t make a miked alignment party
            – your way which also would be good as keith, whilst a pain at times, was quite disciplined when it came to following rules (pity young me wasn’t good at improvising or pulling rules out quickly… older me has an established rule at the start of every game which goes in the likes of “the rues are a framework for us to have fun, i will bend abuse and even ignore most of them at our leisure such that the game remains interesting and fun for all” … most people are ok with it, some people aren’t but i’ve never had issues)
            – not allowing him to find the poison (after all, why would you know the underworld of a village as a paladin… why would the village’s underworld even stock this poison?)

            or possibly my favourite,
            – Make it into a quest. Ok, you want the poisong you need a)someone who can prepare it and b) the ingredients
            so keith gets to feel special because he has his sidequest for the next umteen play sessions as he desperately tries to finid an alchemist and the ingredients without people finding out (and also struggles with his underclass contacs, maybe even getting screwed over for trusting that the underworld is true to a code of honour), meanwhile the story can go on and by the time he does get to the poisoning then player and character interactions will have changed enough (or the cat will be out of the bag) that the poison itself is essentially pointless. Sprinkle with some xp here and there … and serve warm!
            (of course this doesn’t solve the existence of Keith and we’d stumble into some other problem soon enough, but it would be a nice way of dealing with this sort of situation)

            1. Scampi says:

              why would you know the underworld of a village as a paladin…

              Well-THAT part might imho be excused the same way cops in movies know the underworld. They are the ones supposed to bring these guys in, so they may know who has had skeletons in the closet in the past.
              Not sure about the rest though.

              1. kincajou says:

                Huh, put like that you’re right… it also opens potential for some cool side quests and all. Hell, just setting up a paladin to infiltrate an evil underworld would be cool to investigate as an adventure…
                – you could go the action cop movie and have wires and heists
                – you could really focus on the alignment violations he needs to to and have a decent character study (with a good player) on coming to terms with “doing things for the greater good”
                – you could go the scanner darkly route which i won’t discuss to avoid spoilers (yeah, i’ve forgotten how to put the spoiler text :p )

                so much potential!
                This is why i love RPGs, if i had more time i’d be tempted to launch a new D&D campaign now

                1. Scampi says:

                  In case you haven’t seen it, the 3rd Dungeons & Dragons movie (The book of vile darkness) deals with a kind of related topic, of a paladin inflitrating an evil adventuring party to save his obducted father from an evil cult.
                  The movie is kinda okay, not more I think, but is imho actually watchable if you can accept it for being a B- or C-movie.

          2. Sartharina says:

            Axe Cop is Lawful Good, and he poisons bad guys all the time.

        2. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Regarding the first story, your best chance at reigning this in would have been to INSIST that the players not act with out of character knowledge. The paladin should only act suspicious if the storyline had given him reason to act suspicious. You also could have threatened his alignment if he poisoned someone with a deadly poison that he was ONLY suspicious of (but not sure about). If he went through with the poisoning, you should have then stripped his powers from him entirely until he repented (most obviously by rezzing the person he killed). Another good way would have been to have someone sell him a “deadly poison” that was totally fake because why would they just happen to be carrying a super deadly poison? Then the paladin would work himself into a frenzy waiting for the “poison” to take effect and that would give the evil player a chance to realize what was going on.

          1. kincajou says:

            Whilst your options work well (like the others discussed above) i think it’s important to remember that the GM in question had basically 0 experience in the field, this was probably the first time i encountered player conflict and i certainly didn’t have control or a good enough knowledge of the rules to understand exactly what a paladin was and how they played (or are supposed to play). I wouldn’t have been able to improvise any sort of rules based response to the situation.

            In this context, imo the mistake was to let the party have opposed alignments in it, no one was mature enough to deal with the subtleties of it.

            Nonetheless what i could have done (provided i had the experience of an accomplished GM) is a wide variety of things, as discussed in this thread. All these options have their fun parts and technicalities, imo there isn’t one “better” than the others and whilst i’m a “story first, rules second” GM and would prefer some story techniques to solve it all, the “use the rules to set things right and get characters to be coherent” approach would work perfectly fine too.

            After all, hindsight is 20/20 and with a good dose of experience on top it’s cool to analyse what we would have done if we brought ourselves as we are now into that situation. :)

            But let’s be kind to all these players and remember that in the end “they didn’t know any better”. Keith, myself, or steve… we all did silly things which wouldn’t happen a decade and a half later. It was a big learning experience for me, for the others… well you don’t walk away from that table without taking anything with you ;)

  7. Zak McKracken says:

    Hmm.. would it help to not stretch the whole thing over three episodes? Ramgar doing a grapple roll in one, then Marcus grappling IRL in the next one could have worked just as well, I think.

    And it might have helped to have the DM step in to try and tell the two that that’s not “actually” happening in-game, which the two would completely ignore (which should be in keeping with the general theme of the strip).

    That said: I’m male but if I’d been in Marcus’ place, this kind of exchange would have probably ended the game session. But then this is a cartoon, and it’s about a dysfunctional RPG group, and I do know that Chucks do exist IRL.

    If you’re a Chuck: No, this kind of joke is not funny. It will not help you make friends. Even if it’s really really just meant as a joke. This is the equivalent of stomping on the other kid’s sandcastle (but “in a really funny way”). It’s not made better by the fact that the sandcastle was ridiculous and you didn’t like it, either. I know it wasn’t a real castle. Still not funny.

  8. Groboclown says:

    Thus comes the first of the two punchlines I stole in my web comic.

    I was also reminded that the Chainmail Bikini site also had a storefront for shirts, including this punchline.


    I wonder if anyone bought that, or if anyone still does.

  9. Mephane says:

    Well, that punchline leaves me rather cold, so much that I almost feel like putting the word punchline in quotation marks. Definitely not worth that build-up. And Chuck’s comeuppance, well, not sure about that. It’s not useful at showing up (let alone make him understand) why what he did was wrong, he’ll probably just be all self-righteous about it and consider himself the victim in this entire exchange, while the DM just intervenes to the “larping” (haha…), but not to actually do something about Chuck’s behaviour, as he let it all play out up until this point.

    I stand by my original point in the comments to panel #6 – DM should throw Chuck out of the roleplaying group altogether for his perfect storm of asshole behaviour – griefing a fellow player, joking about rape/sexual assault, and his brazen misogyny.

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    I think the major problem with these strips is that they take a only-just established character and they make him into a complete, disgusting jerk. Had this kind of exchange happened with characters already known the impact wouldn’t have been so bad. But when a character pretty much introduces himself as “Hey, I like to molest women only because they wear skimpy clothes”, then that’s an issue that can’t be overlooked.

    In any case, I’m not sure the punchline works here. The problem comes from the first comic, with this exchange:

    Chuck: Well then, you better hope you make your opposing grapple roll.
    Marcus: Please tell me you’re joking.
    Chuck: Ha! Nineteen.
    Marcus: …. …seven.

    The problem is that the last dialogue by Marcus shows him accepting the situation. Why would he do that? Instead, he should be instantly using the punchline from this strip, or maybe saying something like “You want grapple? Here’s my grapple!” while proceeding to grab Chuck’s neck.

    Overstretching the situation to three comics is definitely a major issue. Marcus just doesn’t react quick enough but rather than doing it out of incredulity (i.e. “This can’t possibly be happening!”) he inexplicably follows Chuck’s lead. Meanwhile, the other characters don’t seem to react to this situation at all, which might also make it look like they’re accepting it.

    If you want my opinion, and even better exchange would have been like this (reworking the panels so the dialogue ends at the second one):

    Chuck: Well then, you better hope you make your opposing grapple roll.
    Marcus: Please tell me you’re joking.
    Chuck: Ha! Nineteen.
    Marcus: ….

    Next panel: Chuck is outside the house, holding his figure and perhaps a backpack, as the door slams behind him.

    And then the next comic, a different player replaces him.

    1. Scampi says:

      But when a character pretty much introduces himself as “Hey, I like to molest women only because they wear skimpy clothes”, then that’s an issue that can’t be overlooked.

      I can see your point, but still believe we need to separate from a player doing a thing and his character doing it.
      While Chuck’s character does molest a woman (in character creation, nonetheless), he himself hasn’t yet done any such thing. In roleplaying I’d do a lot of things I’d not do in real life, going so far as killing people if it appears they “need” killing, though I have more limitations even then than many of my peers. Chuck is definitely an asshole player in my book, but not to the extent that I believe he needs to be unfriended if his friends approach his level of dickishness.

      The problem is that the last dialogue by Marcus shows him accepting the situation. Why would he do that? Instead, he should be instantly using the punchline from this strip, or maybe saying something like “You want grapple? Here’s my grapple!” while proceeding to grab Chuck’s neck.

      Still, I agree that you provided a significantly better punchline right there that would have sidestepped a lot unfortunate implications.
      Your last suggestion, though many people would agree with it, would be overkill imho, unless we give Chuck time to “prove” he is just using his character as a way to behave this way. If we claim it’s an issue the character has just been introduced, I believe we also need to “allow him” to redeem himself before discarding him. If he doesn’t, well, that’s part of the story, isn’t it?
      I just think the recurring argument that he isn’t established enough to make such a joke doesn’t work because I might equally well say we don’t know enough about the character to know if this IS a central character trait (under the assumption of a first read).

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        I can see your point, but still believe we need to separate from a player doing a thing and his character doing it.
        While Chuck’s character does molest a woman (in character creation, nonetheless), he himself hasn’t yet done any such thing. In roleplaying I’d do a lot of things I’d not do in real life, going so far as killing people if it appears they “need” killing, though I have more limitations even then than many of my peers.

        I agree with this, but you gotta understand that sexual assault is a far touchier subject than murder. Whether it should be or not is a whole other discussion. The fact is that it is, and so it should be handled more carefully.

        Something else to take into consideration is that there’s a difference between roleplaying against NPCs and roleplaying against player characters. People develop attachment to their characters (even if they were just created), and they take it personally if you attack them. Granted, in this particular example the readers don’t have any attachment because they aren’t their characters, but they understand that a player assaulting another player’s character makes the former a dick.

        Your last suggestion, though many people would agree with it, would be overkill imho, unless we give Chuck time to “prove” he is just using his character as a way to behave this way.

        Well, there’s no reason for why Chuck couldn’t go back into the game later for one reason or another, and they could build from the incident. Maybe all of this could be mentioned, and Chuck could try to call them out on kicking him out for doing something to an inexistent character, while they could point out it doesn’t make him any less of a creepy jerk. It could kickstart an interesting conversation about the nature of characters in a role playing game.

        Granted, the three-panels format of the comic is probably not the best way to convey all of this.

    2. Ashes says:

      First, the other player is the one saying “No LARPing” and looking all shocked in the first part of the exchange.

      Second, part of the joke is that Marcus did actually make a ridiculous character. She’s hypersexualized but a paragon of chastity and virtue?

      If we ejected Chuck from the game, we’d have to eject the whole party. I would play with none of these characters (the players and DM) which is kinda the point of the entire strip. This is a deeply dysfunctional role playing group, and that’s where the comedy comes from.

      Agreed, though, that if the whole thing had been

      Marcus: “I make a ridiculous character.”
      Chuck: “I attack your character because I’m bad at social skills.”
      Marcus: “I attack you in person because I’m also bad at social skills.”
      Josh: “Hey, no LARPing!”

      it would have worked reasonably well. It still probably wouldn’t have fit in a 3-panel strip without looking like a wall of text though. I think we can put most of the issue down to Shamus being new at the whole drawn comic medium where panels have cost. There’s also the part where paring down a joke to its bare essentials is really hard.

      Also, some people don’t like jokes that get even remotely near certain subjects. That’s fine.

      Another part of the issue is that comment sections tend to filter for people with strong opinions. If you saw any of these and thought “heh, not super funny but whatever” you’re not likely to comment. I didn’t even read the comments in 2007 when the thing came out the first time. The few people who left forever certainly didn’t tank this site or Chainmail Bikini.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        First, the other player is the one saying “No LARPing” and looking all shocked in the first part of the exchange.

        The “No LARPing” line is fine as a joke, but makes light of the situation and is not relevant to the issue. And his shock looks to be more directed at the fact that Chuck won the roll than at the attempt at molesting.

        Second, part of the joke is that Marcus did actually make a ridiculous character. She’s hypersexualized but a paragon of chastity and virtue?

        But that doesn’t work because Chuck never calls that into question. He simply doubles down on his jerkassery.

        If we ejected Chuck from the game, we’d have to eject the whole party. I would play with none of these characters (the players and DM) which is kinda the point of the entire strip. This is a deeply dysfunctional role playing group, and that’s where the comedy comes from.

        There’s a difference between being a dumbass, like the other two are, and an all-around disgusting asshole, like Chuck is. Again, the characters are only now being introduced, and from what we’ve seen in these few strips, none of the other people come even close to Chuck’s levels of asshattery.

        1. DHW says:

          Everyone involved is a) fictional and b) not being portrayed as an admirable person who is setting an example for us to follow. This is like being upset about how Darth Vader never got arrested for killing all those people.

          More generally, if we’re not allowed to “make light of” unpleasant situations we might as well just roll up and die as humans. Humor is how we cope.

      2. Mephane says:

        Second, part of the joke is that Marcus did actually make a ridiculous character. She’s hypersexualized but a paragon of chastity and virtue?

        This kind of defense is used in real life after sexual assault/rape/etc sometimes to shift blame onto the victim, e.g. “she shouldn’t have dressed like a slut”. It’s likely that Chuck was thinking like that, or would bring forward such a comment in his defense, but it doesn’t justify nor diminish his actions.

    3. Brendan says:

      The problem is that the last dialogue by Marcus shows him accepting the situation. Why would he do that? Instead, he should be instantly using the punchline from this strip, or maybe saying something like “You want grapple? Here’s my grapple!” while proceeding to grab Chuck’s neck.

      Oh, that’s fucking brilliant. And then the GM could still deliver the “Hey, no LARPing!” punchline in the last panel.

      Chuck: Well then, you better hope you make your opposing grapple roll.
      Marcus: Please tell me you’re joking.
      Chuck: Ha! Nineteen.
      Marcus: ….

      Next panel: Chuck is outside the house, holding his figure and perhaps a backpack, as the door slams behind him.

      And then the next comic, a different player replaces him.

      Also good.

    4. RBarr says:

      I like the idea of collapsing the exchange to make the punch line punchier. E.g.:

      Chuck: Well then, you better hope you make your opposing grapple roll.
      [Josh suddenly looks up in shock, finally paying attention instead of figuring out the math.]
      Marcus: Please tell me you’re joking.
      Josh: Wait-
      Chuck: Ha! Nineteen.
      Josh: No-no-no it doesn’t work like tha-
      Marcus: Oh, yeah? [leaps over table and grapples Chuck] Well, here’s my twenty!
      Josh: Hey! No LARPing!

      In any case, I’m finding the different reactions to this comic fascinating, and worth preserving as a sociolinguistic study.

  11. kincajou says:

    If i didn’t follow the blog for the articles then i would certainly have been in the “lose them at #6, get them back at #7 and lose them again at #8” crowd.

    For me the punchline isn’t funny, “die fatbeard” isn’t a praticularily catchy line (and isn’t a creative enough insult for me to get a giggle) whilst (as others have explained) the “no LARPing” line just falls flat (i get why it “should” be funny, but the subject matter precedinig it deserves more dignity IMO than being just used as a vector to deliver the punchline).

    my 2c: if you were set on the no larping punchline then why not go simpler and have chuck outright kill Marcus’s Character and then Marcus punching him for it (i mean, in my book that still wouldn’t be a funny joke but at least you still get an explanation for your over-the-top reaction without making people uncomfortable with the rape joke)

    This being said, since the start of chainmail bikini i’ve gone to read DM of the rings (i never had before) and … well, it doesn’t work for me… the legolass jokes, the players being dicks, etc… i mean, i get where the humour should come from, i just don’t find it funny. There are some jokes that i like but they are few and far between (and are not the ones where the players are griefing each other ). Which is interesting as i really enjoy “full frontal nerdity” which is mostly about character/DM interactions…. I think the griefing in DMoTR just comes across as too “real”, i never get a feeling that these people are friends or the “butt of the joke” ever enjoys being there, it’s pure bullying from my point of view… and that pulls me totally out of it.

    All this to say that I guess we have very different relations to humour/what we find humorous and whilst i think your analysis skills are often spot on and insightful, your comedy doesn’t really “click” with me. To each their own.

    1. BenD says:

      I agree. It doesn’t feel like the players were friends — or strangers — before the game began. They are antagonistic and mean not just in the game, but in real life, across the table to each other. It sometimes kind of hurts to be here with them and that’s very different than most of GMotR.

  12. Syal says:

    For minimal changes I think making a Charisma check instead of a grapple check in 6 would have helped a lot, and for this one adding “well she can still cast Divine Strike” followed by Marcus punching Chuck.

  13. William Beasley says:

    I thought the joke was fine. After all, these characters who are the subject of banner literally don’t exist yet as the game isn’t even finished the beginning part of starting. I also like that it showcases some of the players’ particular brand of awful. But to each their own I suppose.

    Anyways now that we are leaving Mustafar and the question of who has the high ground (metaphorically speaking) I look forward to conversation returning to role-playing games and their conventions.

  14. BenD says:

    Whatever went before this, I do love “no LARPing.”

  15. Blue-NINJA'D! says:

    I think ‘No LARPing!’ is a great punchline. ‘Die, Fatbeard!’, not so much – though it’s very much in-character for Marcus.

    Anyway, I’ll be glad to be done with ZOMGRAPEGATE as well. It all seems to have been said by this stage.

  16. Philadelphus says:

    Just realized the joke in the post title, nice.

    I do think “No LARPing!” is a pretty funny punchline on its own, but there are a multitude of ways it could be set up for. (Could almost have been funny as a running gag where the players frequently fly off the handle and comedically assault each other over minor provocations, only for “No LARPing!” to ring out.)

  17. Jack V says:

    ** Ambiguity **

    I think there’s a whole bunch of stuff, not only what Chuck’s character notionally did, but the stuff that happened to the players, that brings up quite a different understanding in different people, that led to this whole mess.

    Like, what actually happened. What Chuck did was roughly the equivalent of, say, verbally describing a sexual assault. We don’t know either how serious a one, nor in what detail he described it, but even if there weren’t any dice involved, Chuck talking about Marcus being sexually assaulted, either a little or a lot, is going to make him uncomfortable (either a little socially awkward, or incredibly awful if he experiences things like that, or somewhere between).

    I think one of the difficult things is that a lot of people don’t see it that way, because the assault happened to a fictional character, and think that the real characters are safe from that sort of thing — but based on Chuck’s description, I don’t think he would have acted the same way towards a ridiculous potentially-sexualized character he wasn’t attracted to, so his choice of how to react to Marcus’ character says “this sort of thing is ok if you want to” as much as “this sort of thing is ok if someone deserves it”. Like suppose cosplayed at a con in a costume similar to the one described. Chuck talking like that makes it more likely someone will think it’s “funny” to assault them :(

    So part of the ambiguity is in how much detail Chuck described everything. It sounds like it was only a few words, but that could be read either way.

    Also a dnd comic often we do have some understanding of the world beyond what the players would have, just to be able to depict it for the readers, so if the players have different ideas what happened, it’s hard to see that unless it’s explicitly shown (characters acting against a blank background might have done that well).

    I think S&S had a fair idea of what they intended, but all these related problems meant that some people saw it that way, and others saw something different or ambiguous.

    It’s also like, if a player has a character do something really inappropriate or not-rules-supported, the correct thing to do is not just accept their assertion, not to react to what the character did, but assume that the player spouted off but nothing happened in game because it couldn’t. But most people are slow to react to this in a roleplaying situation because you don’t usually reject what a player says their character does. So Marcus is already a bit “behind” in how he looked to readers, even though most people wouldn’t expect him to react differently.

    Also, leaping on someone and beating them is never a real response to something like, saying creepy sexual things. That’s what happens in a world where it’s annoying, but everyone has agreed to just live with the status quo where some people act out and some people hit them for it. Even though it’s an over the top response, the implicit position of the world and other players is that this is just the way it is, they’ll put up with Chuck harassing Marcus, they’ll put up with Marcus beating Chuck, but they won’t say, “hey Chuck, that’s not cool, we don’t want to play with you unless you can avoid that sort of thing.”

    I know they’re SUPPOSED to be toxic, but I think that only works when the reader can see that, when the immediate bad consequences of the toxicity are obvious to the reader. Like, suppose a woman keep to play, one of the players made an insulting sexual joke, she stormed off, someone said “she probably wouldn’t have been any good anyway”. That’s a bad thing to happen, but the comic is clearly SAYING it’s a bad thing, not saying it’s ok. The players are clearly losing out because they wanted to play with someone new, and fucked it up. It’s implicitly establishing the players as screwed up, and the new player as justified. Now, that might not be a good idea for a strip by itself because it doesn’t say anything new, and as I say below, if you’re talking about a topic where lots of people WOULD endorse the bad behaviour, you need to make it clear you’re not (and because the comic would lose out from not having the new character), but it’s the sort of thing where toxic players talk about a toxic topic and don’t lead to a toxic comic. That balance doesn’t really happen here because it’s not clear whether people reject Chuck’s behaviour or just write it off as “that’s Chuck” even if they don’t really like it.

    ** Comics about difficult topics **

    I think it’s playing with fire to make a comic about a topic that lots of people are going to find really personal. That doesn’t mean “don’t” — for instance, most people agree that killing people is bad, but that shows in fiction pretty commonly. But it does mean, people are going to have strong reactions, and even ambiguity about whether this is ok is likely to come across very badly to at least some people. If the joke is about how the thing is clearly bad, it’s still sensitive, but I don’t think it counts as what people would call a “rape joke”.

    Like, a comic where people TALK about sexual assault is different to a comic where people DO sexual assault, but in both cases, it brings up stuff to the reader.

    1. Scampi says:

      Like suppose cosplayed at a con in a costume similar to the one described. Chuck talking like that makes it more likely someone will think it’s “funny” to assault them :(

      The sad thing to me is: There ARE actually people who think it’s funny or enjoyable, even if they are in the “victim” position themselves. Allow me to share some first hand experience.
      A few years back, I saw some youths “reenacting” a sexual assault during carneval. I didn’t know they were and decided to step in, only to be verbally assaulted by a pack of people (I think 4 or 5 teenagers) including the assumed victim for being a killjoy.
      At another time I met a bunch of guys in a student’s dorm getting girls/young women drunk and (I shit you not) “deciding on their distribution” in their attendance in a tone that left me only to believe the girls wouldn’t actually get a say in the matter. I decided to speak up for the girls and step in, only to find the supposedly drunk girls (some could barely walk without being supported) were apparently fine with how things went (they began insulting and attacking me, when I even so much as questioned the turn of events) and there was no stopping it without calling the police (who usually won’t step in, since student dorms are known for being extraordinary and unruly places) or resorting to violence myself.
      That’s what I usually get for even trying to prevent this kind of stuff.
      If I didn’t have a history of speaking up for and in turn being shat on by the people I try to defend, I wouldn’t defend people whom I personally loathe instead, as there seems to be way less cultural opposition to the kind of matter than I’d hope for.

    2. DHW says:

      >Like suppose cosplayed at a con in a costume similar to the one described. Chuck talking like that makes it more likely someone will think it’s “funny” to assault them :(

      I’m pretty sure this social priming theory (media making light of a crime = people thinking it’s OK to do that crime) has been thoroughly debunked, so turn that frown upside down!

  18. shoeboxjeddy says:

    The MAJOR problem I have with this one is that the DM’s first response to this whole situation has been to the physical altercation. Which yes, he does need to restrain that situation before it gets (more) out of control. But it also makes him and all the other players accomplices to the “sexual assault purely for the LOLs” situation that just played out. Because the strip gave them no dialogue about it at all. So… I hate all of the characters except one with a passion right now. That’s… not a good way to start any story. “But the characters are ALL jerks!” Sure, but usually you’re not meant to hate them, just find them despicable as a moral example. I LIKE the characters in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” because they’re well written examples of misanthropic idiots. I would be terrified and disdainful of them in real life, but as characters in a story, they’re aces. Meanwhile in this story, we have a table full of the WORST kind of nerds, the ones who knee jerk react to a hypothetical woman with “HILARIOUS rape jokes.” And apathy about said rape jokes. Maybe in the next strip, they can all complain about how women never go for “nice guys” like themselves and how every woman they know is a b***ch or a s**t. That’ll be hilarious!

    This whole exercise has been DIRE.

  19. Xapi says:

    So, I have a question. If you believe the three strips taken as a whole are less problematic than each strip running with a few days interval, why didn’t you run them together this time around?

    Presumably you are posting them so that new people will see them. Why not give them this benefit, while at the time test your hypothesis?

  20. Guile says:

    It would have helped to disassociate Ramgar’s actions as a fictional character’s fictional character if he only showed up for one panel to be introduced. Instead, we are showing Chuck’s line coming from his mouth, which makes him feel a bit too ‘real.’

  21. Galad says:

    Not enjoyed this, even if I’ve never been close to physical/sexual assault like this, or had much experience with tabletop gaming. Oh well, seems there’s a reason why DMoTR is very memorable and this was not.. Juxtaposing the LotR heroes with goofy tabletop nerds is more fun than “goofy tabletop nerds are losers in real life” as a foundation.

  22. ThaneofFife says:

    Shamus, I’m not sure putting these three strips into a single one would really have solved anything for a lot of people, myself included–and I consider myself a huge fan of yours.

    I just read the three strips back-to-back a few minutes apart, and I think the “closure” problem would continue to exist because of the panel that depicts the barbarian handing over the bikini to the priestess, which strongly implies what happened off-screen. The punchline you’re working towards “Die, Fatbeard!” isn’t that all that funny, either, compared to some of the jokes made before this arc started. That’s not fatal, but when the perpetrator has (IMO) the best joke (“improved endurance”–which I find both funny AND reprehensible) and the victim has one of the weakest (“Die, Fatbeard”–which I mainly just find to be sad), it further shifts the balance of power in the scene toward the perpetrator.

    I know a lot of folks have been discussing alternative punchlines, but my personal favorite would have been to go with the “Do I roll charisma or lockpicking?” angle, a successful lockpicking check, and finally the barbarian having to do a saving throw against some kind of trap in the chainmail bikini. This could have led to a funny sight-gag like a beartrap snapping on his hand, his body hair all getting burned off by a fireball, or similar. It would also have the added benefit of keeping both the assault and the comeuppance on the avatar level, rather than splitting them between the avatar and the tabletop level, which I think further diluted any satisfaction the audience felt with the resolution of the scene.

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