#15 A Truly Random Encounter

By Shamus Posted Friday Apr 12, 2019

Filed under: DM of the Rings 41 comments

Why do they call them “Random encounter tables” when there’s nothing random about them? It’s just the same stupid monsters over and over. You want random? Fine, make it really random. A hampstersaurus. A mucus salesman. A toenail golem. A troupe of fornicating clowns. David Hasselhoff. If your players don’t start crying the moment you pick up the percent die, you’re just babying them.

Shamus Says:

When I wrote this one, the displacer moose originally had some other text. I don’t remember, but it was something similar. Probably “Rar.” (The period at the end is important. It implies Casey is delivering this roar in a monotone deadpan, which makes it even more absurd.) When the comic showed up, Shawn had changed it and I had no idea why. What’s the point of replacing one guttural sound with another?

I asked, and Shawn explained that the “Grrr. Arrg.” in the last panel is actually a reference to Mutant Enemy Productions, which is the organization Joss Whedon is using to try to take over the world. (Progress so far: Disappointingly slow.)

I love references like this. They sail right by people who (like me) aren’t in on the joke, but act as a secret handshake or an in-joke to the people who do. I love to work in details like this whenever I can. With two of us, we had twice the number of brains searching for obscure nerd culture references.

I also want to point out that I’d originally written this as a “Dire Moose”. The whole “Displacer Moose” was Shawn’s idea, so he deserves credit for one of the most popular jokes in the series.

Shawn Says:

I think this strip is a good example of our two brains coming together to make something better than if either of us had done it solo. It’s true, the original script had a Dire Moose in the last panel. Now, it’s a well known fact that Moose Are Funny (like pants). For some random reason the idea popped in my head that it should be a Displacer Moose, a tentacled beast that warps space around itself and does, um, moose stuff.

Then I had the idea to tweak the last panel in to a long time running joke between myself and my best friend. For years, she had found the idea of a moose eating Kiera Knightley’s head hilarious, and I would Photoshop such images for her whenever possible. (Don’t ask.) I really wanted panel 3 to feature Sapphire’s head in the Displacer Moose’s mouth. Shamus eventually vetoed the plan, which looking back was I think the right idea. I think the Displacer Moose is funny enough as it is, and the added bit of absurdity probably would have made the strip less funny to most people, and overly hilarious to a very, very small minority.

Also, if anyone has the original Chuck’s Random Encounter Table that ran as a bonus feature to this strip, could you please send it to Shamus or myself? Shamus put that thing together, it was hilarious, and I don’t think either of us have a copy.

EDIT 2019: I think the random encounter table is gone forever. Nobody had a copy, and I couldn’t find it on the internet archive. Alas. I’d love to see it again. I don’t even remember any of the jokes.

I used to have a monster book for D&D 3.5, and I remember it was filled with some really silly, broken monsters. A dogsnake and displacer moose were only just a little bit more absurd than what was in the books.

EDIT: No! Less than an hour after this post went live, someone found it…. ON THIS SITE. I had it here the whole time. I’d just lost track of it.


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41 thoughts on “#15 A Truly Random Encounter

  1. Arkady English says:

    Erm, Shamus, do you mean this random encounter table?

    1. BlueHorus says:

      On this very website, no less!

      In other news, A GM could have a LOT of fun with a Mindflayer that has ADHD.

      And I quite like the dogsnake.

  2. Content Consumer says:

    Is this it?

    EDIT: Ninja’d. :)

    1. Shamus says:

      Thanks to both of you! I realize it’s a small joke and not that important, but I am still really glad to see this thing again.

      1. Sartharina says:

        It was hiding behind the couch the entire time!

  3. Mephane says:

    This episode is the first one that made me actually chuckle IRL, and (probably not) coincidentally the first one which has some genuine DMOTR vibes.

    1. Joshua says:

      Same. I must confess, I haven’t really enjoyed the series very much to this point. The DMotR humor is so much better. This one seemed like a nice return to form, and a true utilization of being able to custom design the artwork to the jokes.

  4. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Wow,I like the idea of a Mutant Enemy reference but I would never have gotten it. Maybe Shawn should have made one of the moose’s appendages look like the mutant itself?

    Loved the discount rack joke though.

  5. BlueHorus says:

    Now, it’s a well known fact that Moose Are Funny (like pants)


    A New Moose
    The Moose Strikes Back
    Return of the Moose

    ‘Governor Tarkin. I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s Moose.’

    ‘I cannot teach him. He has no Moose.’

    *threatening voice* ‘Moose business. Move along.’

    ‘Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your Moose.’
    ‘He told me enough! He told me you killed him!’
    ‘No…I am your Moose!’
    ‘That’s not true! That’s impossible!’
    ‘Search your forest – you know it to be true.’

    Not as good as ‘Pants’, but still good.

    1. Baron Tanks says:

      Oh man, I was not feeling it until that last exchange.

      Search your forest, Gump, you know it to be true.

    2. Scampi says:

      I think “Moose” works better on a different basis, like word similarity.

      “Moose the force.”
      “A moose hope.”
      “He told me a moose killed my father.”
      or maybe
      “The moose awakens”

      and who could ever forget the amazing meeting at the Moose Eisley cantina?

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Personally, I was most sad to see Moose Windu die, during Revenge of the Sith. But then again, he did lock horns with a Sith Lord…

    3. nobody says:

      I laughed at pants. “Search your pants – you know it to be true.”

  6. Forty-Bot says:

    If he lets the dogsnake eat him, then he’ll be “The guy who got killed by a dogsnake”

    1. Scampi says:

      Considering my girlfriend almost fell victim to a 3 months old kitten, it sounds not all that bad.

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Most people would fall victim to a 3 months old kitten.

        1. Syal says:


      2. Studoku says:

        The bane of level 1 commoners everywhere.

      3. Drathnoxis says:

        I’m having Nethack flashbacks.

      4. default_ex says:

        The cat my girl fell victim to was 3 months old. She is now a 3 year old cat that thinks she’s a 3 month old kitten. Nightly acupuncture with a taste for my goatee. It’s no wonder my sleep has gotten worse.

  7. Jack V says:

    Excellent. I think “Grrr. Arrgh,” is a lot funnier even if you don’t know the reference, because it’s Casey not just doing the minimum, like, vocalising a whole attack — still in complete despairing monotone.

    Yeah, I love creative projects with someone, or just with a cheerleading squad to give ideas — more ideas in means the greater the chance for best possible outcome.

    And I just love random monsters like that, I do stuff like that a lot, although I do them around a theme, “many displacer beasts of different species” or “many half-X half-Y beasts” not just random unconnected ideas.

  8. Hector says:

    What if the party encountered a hostile Evil Pants?

    Probably best if they didn’t. It might cause a very put-upon party wizard to have a mental breakdown.

    1. BluePants says:

      No, no, what you REALLY have to fear are the Displacer Pants! Are you wearing them? Have they disappeared? Quick, check again!

      Well, those or the Pantsnake*. That thing’ll mess you up!

      *The question is, how many eyes has the Pantsnake got ;) ?

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        A single Beholder eye.

        Alternatively: many eyes, for the Pantssnake has many heads, each of which can turn a man to stone with a look.

  9. Karma The Alligator says:

    Funny how the brain works. I didn’t get the reference for “Grrr. Arrgh,” at first, until I got to the “Rar.” bit, when I looked back at the strip, actually tried to say “Grrr. Arrgh.” in a monotone voice, and it ended up sounding like what it was referencing, meaning I got the reference before reading that part of the article.

    And in that table, I especially like the “A Starbucks. Danger level: Expensive”

  10. Dev Null says:

    The Rolemaster RPG – which I played a lot of back in the dark ages, and which had more tables than an IKEA warehouse – had a critical fumble result which was (something to the effect of) “You stumble over an unseen, imaginary, deceased turtle. You are very confused.”

    I am fairly certain that I will have made this comment every single time you have posted this comic.

    1. Scampi says:

      I know that one. Though mine is in my issue of MERP, which is, of course, based on the Rolemaster rule set. That one will still be on my mind when I’m old and senile.

  11. ccesarano says:

    I dunno why it never stood out to me before, but in this strip Marcus refers specifically to his character’s actions rather than speaking in the first-person, whereas Josh speaks in the first-person. Suddenly thinking I stumbled onto a tiny detail I never noticed before, I went back to examine some of the prior strips. I’ll still be paying attention as the future ones are reposted, but I found it interesting that the two players would refer to character actions in different ways. Josh using the first-person would communicate the power fantasy while Marcus referring to Sapphire alluding to that divide between himself and the character he’s playing.

    However, in some of the prior exchanges Marcus clearly uses first person, saying “I will be party leader” effectively. So maybe this was just coincidence! Or maybe something taking shape! I’ll be keeping an eye out regardless.

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      You reminded me of this ancient post of Shamus’ about using voices while running tabletop RPGs. So I tracked it down, because I thought it was interesting how as GM (at the time) he said he would usually roleplay male NPCs in first-person but female NPCs in third-person.

  12. Dave B. says:

    This is my favorite strip in this comic, and possible any comic, anywhere. The dogsnake makes me laugh uncontrollably almost every time I see it.

  13. eaglewingz says:

    2019 update – Joss Whedon’s attempt to take over the world : still slow.

    Disappointingly so? YMMV

  14. Ravens Cry says:

    Ever since I saw this on Fear The Boot, I’ve always cracked up at Displacer Moose. It’s just one of those things that are just funny in and of themselves. ‘Moose’ is already one such word, and Displacer just pushes it to the next tier. To this day, I’ll sometimes just randomly say Displacer Moose in a goofy cvoice, and no one ever has a clue why.

  15. Tonich says:

    Ohhh, I laughed so hard at this strip!
    Also, Shamus, I’ve remembered recently that the first time I saw CB it was in Russian! So I did a quick search and yep, here’s the translated comic: https://acomics.ru/~chainmail-bikini/1
    I don’t know whether these guys actually asked your permission to translate it, or what assets they used, but it might at least be a lead when looking for missing stuff. Hopefully so.

    1. BlueHorus says:


      Well, in a sense, whether Shamus/Shawn gave permission or not, it IS quite flattering that someone liked your webcomic enough to steal and/or translate it.

    2. Shamus says:

      While I can’t judge the quality of the translation, they did a good job on the other stuff. They tried to find fonts that matched the original and the spacing looks really good. The latter can be a huge pain in the ass. The original bubbles are designed to be as small as possible and still fit the English text, so making any other language fit without sacrificing readability while also using fonts like the original, is pretty impressive. Nicely done.

      1. unit3000-21 says:

        Wow Josh’s font is even less readable in Cyrillic, although I have to admit I haven’t practiced my Cyrilic reading skills for a long time.

        1. Tonich says:

          Haha, I thought just the same thing – and Russian IS my native language.

      2. Tonich says:

        Oh, so true. Russian is, statistically, a bit spacier than English (both in word length and font width). As for translation quality, I’d say it’s pretty solid for an amateur job. They missed some of the more subtle jokes, but I thing they got the tone right – which is more important, in my opinion.

  16. Miki 'Tryllebanjo' Andersen says:

    I dug through the ancient-er parts of my harddisk and found my tribute/spin-off of your Truly Random Encounter Table.
    Link’s here, hope you like it :) https://i.imgur.com/bX5xeGa.png

    – Miki

  17. Pell says:

    “A troupe of fornicating clowns” would make a good final boss for a Call of Cthulhu game….

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