#17 Setting the Stage

By Shamus Posted Friday Apr 19, 2019

Filed under: DM of the Rings 38 comments

Players expect the game world to make sense. They want verisimilitude. They want carefully planned characters with believable motivations. They want arduous attention to detail.

Unless you’re talking about loot, in which case they think nothing of getting a $1,000 Longsword in exchange for rescuing a $5 pig.

Shamus Says:

Part of this joke was that the sign was supposed to be illuminated by a nearby torch or lantern. It was just one more nonsense trope to make the scene even more absurd. Who lights and refills this lantern and why?

I didn’t make it clear in my notes, and Shawn changed the lamplight to moonlight in the process of drawing the strip. This is the only change Shawn ever made that wasn’t an improvement. Since this was part of the punchline, it sort of took a bit of the “heh” factor out of the joke.

Then again, if it had been at all funny Shawn probably would have recognized it as such and included it in the joke, so…

Shawn Says:

I actually still find this one pretty funny. Not so much for the punchline, but for the dialogue leading up to it. But then, I’m a big fan of comics that just have characters acting naturally and the humor results from that, not neccesarily because you set up jokes and have a punchline at the end. (Get Fuzzy is easily my favorite example of what I’m thinking of.)

Also, people generally reacted very favorably to the silhouettes, which amused me as they’re so much easier to draw. I think after Clockworks ends in like 5 years, I’m going to do the Complete Shadowpuppet Adventures of Silhouette City.

EDIT 2019: No, I wasn’t getting paid by the word. Why do you ask?

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38 thoughts on “#17 Setting the Stage

  1. Zaxares says:

    That’s one thing that I ALWAYS zero on in in RPGs; old, abandoned crypts or catacombs that have been undisturbed by the tread of mortal feet for hundreds of years… And mysteriously they still have burning torches or lanterns that helpfully let the player see where they’re going. :P Who the hell is replacing or refilling these light sources? Certainly not the undead residents!

    1. Scampi says:

      After a recent experience I would probably not mind anymore. I come across a house daily when going to work, which has been abandoned for years-but it has a lamp at the front door that has been constantly lighted. For YEARS. With noone to change the light bulb. I wanna know who produced that bulb and buy them in stock, considering my bulbs usually burn out in mere months, and they don’t burn 24/7.
      I’d probably by now assume it’s magical fire or has some kind of refilling mechanism if I encountered something like that.

      1. kunedog says:

        Years ago on a tech site forum in a discussion about everyone’s experiences with hard drive life span, we reached the rough consensus that hard drives left on last for (many) years, but those faced with a short (daily/weekly) regular power-cycle tend to fail (usually on startup). An older member chimed in to mention that, apart from the rare home electrical maintenance and power outage, the bulb on his back porch had been burning continuously since (at least) when he bought the house in the sixties (i.e. around fifty years), and that it would likely outlive him.

        I’ll speculate that a big part of the reason the bulb you see has lasted so long is because no one is around to disturb it (especially by turning it off in the daytime).

        1. Ivan says:

          Also cos old things are just generally made better. Sad, but true.

          1. Sartharina says:

            … Not really?

            1. Allan says:

              It depends on things in question, time and regulations etc but a whole heck of a lot of things in the last 30 or so years have been designed without any consideration for longevity, or are even specifically designed to degrade relatively quickly after a while, usually around the time the warranty expires and the latest “upgrade” is expected to hit shelves. It’s practically Apple’s whole business model :P

              1. Thomas says:

                Lightbulbs though, are something that last much longer now. Modern LED based lightbulbs have such a long life compared to the old filament bulbs, that it’s almost a sea change in how your house works.

                A £3 LED bulb from a supermarket has a lifetime of 15,000 hours at a fraction of the energy cost. The old filament bulbs had an average lifespan of about 1,000 hours (except in freak incidents like above)

        2. Syal says:

          Yeah, the shock of startup is the hardest bit of wear and tear. Some constantly powered lightbulbs have lasted for decades. The reason to turn them off is because the electricity will cost more than a new bulb.

          …which leads to the question of who’s paying the power bill for an abandoned house.

          1. kunedog says:

            …which leads to the question of who’s paying the power bill for an abandoned house.

            I’ve seen “abandoned” property owners go to much greater lengths to light stuff, even in the middle of nowhere:

            It must be worth it for some reason.

        3. Decius says:

          Yep. Damage to light bulbs is mostly caused by thermal cycling, and bulbs that are left on or off constantly don’t experience as much of that.

          Note that strobing light bulbs doesn’t add huge numbers of thermal cycles, because the bulb doesn’t cool much in a fraction of a second; it does do some cumulative damage though.

        4. Zak McKracken says:

          For ye olde incandescent light bulbs, both vibrations and temperature changes were* a problem, so keeping it burning might help with lifetime. But the thing they eventually die from is that the filament evaporates, and keeping it hot does not help with that … there’s also no real skill or know-how involved with making them, either (unless you mean halogen bulbs, in which case there is a little bit, at the high end).

          However, what does help with lifetime is letting them run cooler, i.e. not at full power. That makes them even less efficient* * than they are already, but if you took for example one of the bulbs that are used on the inside of stoves, and put it in a regular lamp, that would probably last very long. It would also use twice as much electricity as a regular bulb, so you might not really want to.

          The famous centennial bulb was designed for 60W (or 30? I can find sources for both) but currently only runs at about 4W — which explains its longevity, and also means it’s very very very inefficient.

          * “were” because you can’t even buy them anymore around here. To the typical 10-year old EU inhabitant, lamps come in two types: Fluorescent and LED.

          ** Temperature is roughly proportional to the electrical power you put through, but emission scales roughly with the 4th power of temperature. So reducing power of a regular incandescent bulb by 10% will reduce emission by 35%. and because temperature drops from 2700K to 2460K, that emission will be more biased towards red, and more of it will be in the non-visible spectrum, which means you’ll see even less.

      2. Xeorm says:

        For lightbulbs especially the main cause for failure is the bit around the bottom that keeps the air out. The inside of the bulb needs to be a vacuum, air in means the bulb fails. Each time you turn it on or off the heat difference causes it to flex. Flex enough and eventually it breaks. So a bulb that stays on 24/7 will see very little wear and tear and last for seemingly forever. A bulb that you have in your own room that you turn off and on more than once a day will go in no time.

      3. Agammamon says:

        Bulbs will last a long time if they’re not cycled. Turning them off and on – the thermal expansion and contraction from the filament being heated and cooled (or even anodes and other electronic components being stressed) greatly shortens their lifetimes.


        Has been near constantly lit for over a century.

    2. Bubble181 says:

      You can’t expect people choosing a race without darkvision or low-light vision to face consequences of that choice!

    3. Scampi says:

      Another idea: It’s (well: would be) a necromantically reanimated torch. It has been extinguished years ago, but was made an un-torch, and now it burns with an undead fire for as long as the spell lasts.

      1. Sartharina says:

        That explains why the light is usually blue or green.

        Also – Eternal Flame is a (Cleric) spell in D&D I figure places, especially with religious significance (Such as Cemetaries and Temples) would shell out to avoid risking burning things down or requiring constant maintenance.

        1. GoStu says:

          I’m pretty sure that spell just exists to answer wise-asses who ask why the tomb’s lit up. It makes sense in-universe to save yourself the trouble of needing to make and re-light torches too. It’s just not a spell I expect many adventurers to cast.

    4. evileeyore says:

      And all those traps that keep getting reset…

      Oglaf, Gravity Loves Masonry
      (Warning, most Oglaf’s are NSFW, but this is one of the rare exceptions that’s safe for everyone)

  2. Baron Tanks says:

    EDIT 2019: No, I wasn’t getting paid by the word. Why do you ask?

    Not being familiar with the run of the series, I do wonder if things will get a little bit less verbose as we go. Shawn keeps talking about how his art style improves and grows as the series goes on. I know Shamus alluded to having to transition out of DM of the rings, so I’ll stay tuned to see what’s next. There’s chuckles to be had in here, but it is at times drowned by the sheer volume of text.

    1. LCF says:

      “the sheer volume of text”
      Come on, there is barely three paragraphs in the whole lot.

  3. Modran says:

    2 drinks !
    Or is that 3 ? 1?
    Is it per page? Character? Case?

    It’sh unglear…

    1. BlueHorush says:

      No, it’s 1 drink per speech bubble. Shamus is trying to kill us!

      Actually, y’know what?….thatsh another one of the rulezz! If itsh unglear, you take annudder drink – that’ll make it more – *hic* – glear.


  4. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Honestly in worlds where necromancy is a thing, it’s absurd that cemeteries are a thing at all, no matter where they are. All the world’s cultures would have switched to systematic cremation a long time ago.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Well, either that or you get the bodies themselves to do the maintenance.
      Maybe the cemetary has a racket going: if you can’t afford the extra ‘grave fee’ you get to be the undead caretaker after you die.

    2. Sartharina says:

      Cemetaries are supposed to be sacred places that prevent necromancy and ambient magic from working. I suspect the magic often gets corrupted by more skilled necromancers, though. (Or malevolent deities). Also, they’re Undead Containment fields. All the bodies are in one place far enough from town that a warning can be raised if there’s undead or necromantic activity, and it’s all contained if it’s detected and dealt with early.

      As far as Cremation goes – do you want your dead to come back as simple skeletons and zombies that can be dispatched by a bum with a mace when they get restless, or do you want to deal with flaming ethereal phantasms or whirling life-draining Ash Clouds?

    3. Xeorm says:

      Or take it another way. Without a steady supply of undead then there’s no way to level up adventurers. Hence gods making it required to bury the dead instead of using other containment methods.

  5. CrimsonCutz says:

    I don’t get the big fuss. Every time I go to the grocery store I pass by three graveyards, a decrepit Scottish castle, two haunted towers, an ancient Egyptian tomb and a bleak field of moderately frustrated petunias. Why wouldn’t there be dungeons full of horrific fiends everywhere?

    1. The Wind King says:

      And I bet you walk uphill both ways… ;p

      1. Syal says:

        Through a swamp on the way there and a desert on the way back.

    2. Droid says:

      Your criteria for acceptable grocery shopping must be very strict indeed.

  6. Joshua says:

    “Part of this joke was that the sign was supposed to be illuminated by a nearby torch or lantern. It was just one more nonsense trope to make the scene even more absurd. Who lights and refills this lantern and why?”

    My wife and I just started replaying LOTRO again, on one of the Legendary servers. It always kills me that in one of the Prologue quests, you’re going down into an old crypt and the Ranger escorting you says “Why are all of these torches out? I swore I lit them yesterday….”

    1. Shamus says:

      Funny fact:

      I wrote about that exact quest years ago:

      And in that post, I referenced this comic.

      It’s all connected!

  7. WWWebb says:

    I think after Clockworks ends in like 5 years…

    Well … it ended, I just wish it finished. My per-page Patreon pledge is still active, though, just in case.

  8. Rack says:

    The text actually mentions the sign is illuminated by moonlight. I think that might have undercut the punchline even if it was drawn illuminated by a lantern.

    1. Shamus says:

      Shawn changed the text so that the drawing would make sense with the image he drew.

      1. evileeyore says:

        Oh sure, throw Shawn under the bus 10 years later… :P

  9. Decius says:

    I get that the graveyard is a couple days’ travel from the town, but how is it also a couple days’ travel from the farms? What do the dead eat?


  10. I love the silhouettes because of how they make the party look like they move as a single conjoined mass, and for some reason that struck me as a PERFECT visual for what happens when one of the players says “we do X”.

    Kind of like the cartoons in the middle of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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