#11: You Can’t Lead From The Rear

By Shamus Posted Friday Mar 29, 2019

Filed under: DM of the Rings 28 comments

Groups can have all kinds of leaders, but if the character in charge is running around in their underwear, then you are following the wrong person.

Shamus Says:

Ah. The word “pants”. The lazy comic writer’s instant punchline. See also: Star Wars Lines Improved By Replacing A Word With “Pants”.

In regards to the comic, I’m obviously still using way too many words. The bubbles crowd out the art and confuse the message a bit. If I want my work to improve, I need to work to reduce my usage of pants.


Shawn Says:

I think this was a case where the multitudes of fonts didn’t help anything. There’s a lot of text and it kind of turns in to a mess when you look at it. This is a clear example of why we should have thought about readability and compatibility when coming up with fonts for everyone.

In general I think this strip was fairly ‘meh”, but I’m still amused by Josh hiding in panel 1.

This was also I think the first strip that brought about the Ramgar’s Pants speculation, a question Shamus and I hadn’t actually answered at that point, and wouldn’t reveal in the comic for quite some time.

One of the tricky things about doing a humorous, story driven comic is it can be really hard to balance the two. You end up either telling jokes, or moving the plot along. Sometimes, you do both. Sometimes, like this one, you don’t particularly do either. ;) Since CB Shamus has gotten around this by focusing almost exclusively on jokes with Stolen Pixels, and I’ve gotten around it by making humor an aspect of Clockworks, but by no means the main goal.

Also, come back and look at this comic in like 10 or 15 strips, and just marvel at how quickly the art progressed, especially the colors and backgrounds. My first comic was all in black and white, and rarely had backgrounds beyond a grey broken up splotch. So these earlier strips were a very public crash course in working with color and backgrounds. I like to think that these days I’ve gotten fairly decent at it.

EDIT 2019: Ouch. So many words!

I agree with Shawn that this is generally “meh”. There isn’t enough joke here to make it laugh-out-loud funny, but that’s not always the goal. Panel 1 does some plot stuff, panel 2 establishes some character dynamics, and panel 3 is both the setup and punchline for a joke. My problem isn’t with the lack of funny, but with the wall of overly verbose word bubbles.

Let’s ignore the comic as a whole and just focus on the last panel:

Josh: I vote we let the newbie lead us. And as leader, he should go first in the marching order.

Chuck: Why?

Josh: It will be easy to avoid all the traps once he's set them off.

Marcus: SHE! My Character is a SHE!

As it stands, there are a lot of extra words. Take Josh’s first line:

Josh: I vote we let the newbie lead us. And as leader, he should go first in the marching order.

Just deleting a few words helps a lot, but it still takes too long to get to the point. This is even better:

Josh: Let the newbie lead us. He can go in front and set off all the traps.

Marcus: SHE! My Character is a SHE!

This doesn’t make it any funnier, but it would be more fun to read. My advice here is similar to the advice I have for the Archon: If you don’t have anything clever to say, you can at least be concise.


From The Archives:

28 thoughts on “#11: You Can’t Lead From The Rear

  1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Shadowrun solves the high charisma != leader material problem by having one runner be “The Face”, in charge of speaking for the group but not necessarily be the one who makes the plans.

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      not necessarily be the one who makes the plans

      Not necessarily the one wearing the pants in the party, you might say.

      This sort of thing is so much easier in single player cRPGs.

    2. Hector says:

      More than that. You can have different characters with different skills for different situations/people/groups. “Face” is an archetype to a degree, but it’s optional as a specialized role and probably a bit boring to only do that.

  2. Joshua says:

    I’ll agree that the comic really didn’t land for me. I think Chuck’s commentary at the end doesn’t really work as a capper, either. Inside the comic, there’s potential for hypocrisy comedy by pointing out that he doesn’t have a shirt, but it doesn’t work at the end to give him the last word.

    1. Agammamon says:

      There’s a big difference to wandering around without a shirt on and wandering around without pants on.

      The former is a ‘Cops’ episode waiting to happen, the latter is ‘Alzheimer’s’.

      1. Sartharina says:

        Ramgar’s not wearing pants, either

  3. Hector says:

    Star Wars Episode 5: The Pants Strike Back. Or is it the Empire Strikes Pants? Perhaps the Empire Pants Back?

    1. Syal says:

      Star Wars Episode 4: New Pants.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Episode 2: Attack of the Pants
        ‘Your pants are very impressive, you must be very proud.’
        ‘The Pants of the Dark Side have fallen. Begun…the Pant War has.’

      2. Agammamon says:

        Ep VI – Return of the Pants.

        Ep VII – The Pants Awaken

        Ep VIII – The Last Pants

        Pants One – A Pants Wars Story.

    2. Scampi says:

      “Search your pants, you know it to be true.”

      1. Blue-NINJA'D! says:

        ‘Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your pants.’
        ‘He told me enough! He told me you stole them!’
        ‘No…*I* am your pants!

        1. Scampi says:

          “You don’t need to see our pants.”
          “The pants can have a strong influence on the weak minded.”
          “I have the high pants.”

  4. Pax says:

    I assume the “Ramgar’s Pants speculation” is in reference to whether the barbarian is wearing much either? Because based on what we can see, he’s got suspenders and shoulderpads. I almost expect a loincloth below the belt, which doesn’t put him much further along the underwear -> clothing spectrum than a chainmail bikini.

  5. Lino says:

    I actually really like this strip – I laughed at least twice :D

  6. Matt says:

    As a frequent reader of Order of the Stick, this comic doesn’t have nearly ENOUGH words.

  7. You can even remove the “He can go in front and . . .” part in the last edit, and just have “Let the newbie lead. He’ll set off all the traps.”

    Or even replace “set off” with “find”, just like that, in quotation marks. So, something like this, maybe:

    Josh: “Let the newbie lead.”
    Chuck: “Why?”
    Josh: “He’ll ‘find’ all the traps.”
    Marcus: “SHE will find all the traps!”
    Marcus and Chuck: *snerk*

    1. Kyrillos says:

      I like this joke the best, although I might change the emphasis on the last Marcus line to “She WILL find all the traps”.

      1. Could, but that’d be missing the point that Marcus was more focused on his character being female than the threat of greasy death.

        1. Kyrillos says:

          True. Perhaps an all caps into a bold will would work. I feel like him insisting his character WILL find all the traps, without considering what that means is the true hilarity of the joke.

        2. If I were going to re-write the whole thing (as a challenge–keep in mind, I don’t write comics. Writing is OMG SO MUCH HARDER than tweaking something someone else made, I’d do something like this:

          Casey (As DM): “You just arrived in the quiet village of Calm Meadows. A farmer gestures for, um, Sapphire to speak.”
          Josh (aside): “I’m going to hide.”
          Chuck: “Whoa, who said MARCUS was the party leader?!”
          Marcus: “Sapphire has the highest charisma score.”
          Chuck: “One, Charisma does not equal Actual Experience. Two, you have no pants.”
          Josh (aside): “Tell me when to sneak attack.”
          Marcus: “See, Josh agrees.”
          Josh: “Sure, let the newbie lead.”
          Chuck: “Why?”
          Josh: “He’ll ‘find’ all the traps.”
          Marcus: “SHE will find all the traps!”
          Chuck and Josh: *snerk*

          Although, instead of “He’ll find all the traps” I might change Josh’s line to “He’ll give us flanking bonus” because that would tie Josh’s aggressive hiding behavior in to the main thread. So it’d be more:

          Josh: “He’ll give us flanking bonus.”
          Marcus: “SHE will give us flanking bonus!”
          Chuck: “Chainmail DOES grant fortification . . .”

          Maybe. Like I said, writing and tweaking are so radically different that it’s not really any kind of functional criticism.

          P.S. Also, you could enhance the joke by having a tiny picture of Josh’s feet sticking out of a barrel in panel 2 (hiding) and then in Panel 3 have the distant barrel say Josh’s lines.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            I feel like you need something about Sapphire being in front to connect what Josh means by “find.” You’re trimming off too much for clarity

  8. Ramsus says:

    Huh. I actually like the lines better with the words you striked out than without. It gives it more nuance and the general feeling of how people actually talk.
    “I vote” is a very common phrase in roleplaying games in discussion, so it provides more verisimilitude.
    “As leader” gives the justification for *why* they’re supposedly going face first into traps. And cutting the word diminishes the mental connection with the previous lines that set up the joke.

    For example, take a look at an option you didn’t suggest cutting. The first “SHE!” is technically unnecessary. But it gives it much more punch to the punchline.

    “Let the newbie lead us. He can go in front and set off all the traps.” to me is actually a less fun read. Sure the other version might take up more space, but I feel it’s worth it for the extra detail and feel of actual people talking.
    It also makes it less clear they’re talking about the character and not the player, which could diminish the impact of the punchline. As the reader assumption is not going to be that the player is “the leader”, but the way people talk and think about words could certainly come across as “He (the player) can (have their character) go in front.” The SHE objection would of course clarify it, but you typically want to do everything you can to avoid the chance of people having to puzzle out the subject of the joke for it to land well.

    1. Syal says:

      Yeah, I think the only panel that might have a space problem is panel 2. Panel 3 works fine.

      (Also I’m just noticing the missed opportunity of having Josh deliver his lines while crouched behind one or both of the other players.)

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Yeah. If he’s serious about hiding he should be speaking from inside a barrel or something, MGS-style.

    2. Sartharina says:

      I prefer the original as well. “Let the newbie lead. He can set off all the traps” isn’t a joke – it’s just bald-faced mocking asshattery.

      As the third panel is written, the comedic timing is MUCH better than the offered efforts to make it ‘concise’. Yes, the punchline is “He’ll set off all the traps” … but there’s no comic intention in there without the set-up of Josh appearing to support Marcus in the vote to establish party leader. The ulterior motive should be dragged out of Josh, not thrown out immediately.

  9. Decius says:

    “If you don’t have anything clever to say, you can at least be concise.”

    But then how are you going to get your Youtube video to ten minutes long?

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

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

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

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

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.