#23 Barbaric Salesmanship

By Shamus Posted Friday May 17, 2019

Filed under: DM of the Rings 30 comments

If you want them to solve a puzzle, they flee. If you want them to flee, they try to negotiate. If you want them to negotiate, they attack. If you want them to attack, they try to puzzle their way around the fight.

Shamus Says:

It really does take guts to grief the GM.

Shawn Says:

There’s a lot of little bits in this one I love. From the Portal reference in panel 1, to the signs outside the goblins’ cave, to Marcus sleeping in the last panel, to Ivy’s comment, and then of course Josh. Because he’s not only griefing the GM, he’s screwing with all of the other players. $20 says if he was called on it, the reply would be “It’s what my character would do!”


From The Archives:

30 thoughts on “#23 Barbaric Salesmanship

  1. Dreadjaws says:

    I gotta confess, I would have never taken the mere mention of cake as a Portal reference if it hadn’t been pointed out. I would have seen it as a variation of the classic “We have cookies!”

    1. Destrustor says:

      I think it’s the fact that…

      ThE cAkE iS a LiE

      …that makes it a Portal reference. It’s admittedly one layer removed from the usual lazy style of internet references, and the extra effort does make it a lot better.
      But it also does make it harder to really count as a Portal reference. Is there a point where a reference becomes so obtuse and obscured in layers of obfuscation that it stops being a reference? Because I feel “someone lying about cake” is getting close to it.

      1. Sartharina says:

        It’s less a reference to the “The cake is a lie” meme, and closer to directly referencing GlaDOS’s false promise of cake to try to entice the player through the tests, and ultimate destruction

  2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    The reference would have worked better if he had said “That’s a lie!”

    1. Joshua says:

      That does seem better.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      I think it’s good that they made it a joke in itself as well as a reference (though agreed that Gargamel’s revised comment would have worked better at the ‘reference’ part).

      I got heartily sick of ‘The Cake Is A Lie’ back in the day, because most people just parroted the line with no context. ‘It’s funny because it was in Portal and Portal was funny!’
      Much better that Shamus & Shawn* came up with a separate joke and worked in the reference as an afterthought.

      *Let’s call them S&S. Why? Because then I can say that S&S’s comic strip about D&D helps me with my R&R, that’s why.

      1. Syal says:

        Yeah, I dislike references to other works*. It’s either “Don’t remind me of better things” or it’s “I didn’t like it the first time”. Much prefer the obfuscated versions where you only notice it if you’re looking.

        *(unless you’re all-in with them, like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure naming swathes of characters after rock bands and song characters, or Erfworld where you name someone Charlie and progressively reference every Charlie in history.)

  3. BlueHorus says:

    I’m totally with Marcus on this one. Now the others are now joining in too?

    So one, it’s a mean-spirited thing to do – but I’ve been in games before where most of the time was spent watching a few attention-seekers have a dick-swinging competition at the DM’s expense and man, it’s boring.

    I’d have sat through most of the rest of this group’s shenanigans, but this for me would be the breaking point.

    1. Joshua says:

      Much earlier for me, but yep, at some point the DM will just ask, “Remind me why are we playing this game again?”

    2. tmtvl says:

      Oh noes, a player comes up with a creative solution to avoid a battle. How terrible, game ruined.

      The only player who seems to be into the whole “kill a lot of goblins” thing is Josh, and he seems fine with taking a third option. If Casey’s entire plan for the night is ruined because the group chooses to not fight a cave of goblins, well, then that’s a lesson for the future.

      1. Matthew Downie says:

        At this point it’s not clear to me what they’re doing at the goblin cave. If the adventure goal is to acquire money that’s currently in the hands of goblins, then they’ve found a creative solution. If they had some other objective that requires them to defeat the goblins or explore the cave, then selling food to the goblins doesn’t advance that goal at all. (Unless they poison the food or something.)

        1. Kylroy says:

          They were supposed to be retrieving a farmer’s livestock that the goblins had stolen. Waiting two weeks (and *specifically* until goblins starve) basically ensures the livestock have been eaten, and the farmer is now either doing very poorly or is dead. If the farmer and his wife are alive they won’t give them the promised reward, if they’re dead…I guess the party can take the loot from their corpses? Either way, that would provide plenty of reason for the party reconsider, at least if they’re attempting to play *moral* murder hobos.

        2. Nessus says:

          The ostensible objective was to retrieve the pigs that were stolen by the goblins, and return them to the farmer who hired them to that end.

          Problem is they’re murderhobos in a dungeon crawler: their actual goal is loot/xp, with no regard to the source. This is both an in-game and meta-game problem. In-game they have no reason not to betray the farmer if extorting the goblins will be more profitable, so the DM has to keep that in mind when designing the scenario if they want any hope of controlling things. On the meta level, these players are clearly expecting/wanting short-term continuity-free (except for the loot/xp they accrue, of course) dungeon-hopping to be the core loop, not an unfolding campaign or a story based game. This means they may often choose to do things like betray the farmer to extort the goblins even if it’s less profitable, because they tend to think too in the moment. Anything outside the immediate room ceases to exist to moment it’s “off screen”, including the reasons they’re in the room to begin with.

          Note how you fell prey to that meta problem as well. Games (and movies and TV too now, unfortunately) have trained us well.

          These people are especially terrible though. Their problems are all common and workable IRL, but here are amplified and combined for comedic potential. It’s only a total Charlie Foxtrot because we’re dealing with the gaming equivalent of the “Always Sunny” gang.

          1. Decius says:

            The solution, of course, is to have things continue to exist when offscreen.

            Three days later, the farmer tells some other party “I told a group of people about my lost pigs, and they went up to the goblin warren three days ago promising to get them back but never returned! They are all surely dead by now, but I would like closure on how my plight resulted in their deaths before I starve.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              ‘Four more adventurers turn up with the same quest! They hear out your plan and declare it stupid, then head in to fight the goblins themselves.’

              You just know that Josh and Chuck would murder the other adventurers, and then demand XP for doing so.
              It’s exactly what Josh’s character would do!

              1. Joshua says:

                And then it’s perfectly possible for the DM to have meta-gamed and set the adventurers to be much more powerful than the PCs. If the PCs whine about “proper challenges for their level”, the DM can point out that that’s what the goblins were supposed to be.

                1. Syal says:

                  And then the players are like “hey, instead of making new characters ourselves, let’s use these super-powerful ones the DM just made! Thanks for the upgrade!”

            2. Nessus says:

              Didn’t want to get too deep in the weeds (a lot of the issues these guys have are intertwined, so it’s hard to get comprehensive about ONE problem without ending up dissecting the whole comic), but my first thought was similar. I.e. make the world persistent even if the players/PCs insist on not noticing ’till it bites them.

              My approach though was to have them merrily betray and destroy their way through the world as they like… till eventually they start noticing wanted posters, and smallfolk who increasingly run away instead of offering them jobs. Maybe upon looting the bodies of the “bandits” that just ambushed them, they find heraldry and/or badges. And that’s when the real game starts.

              The risk is that players who actually want continuity-less excuses for mindless dungeon-hopping might see anything that doesn’t paint them as the heroes as a DM betrayal or railroading. They want the same kind of experience that the kind of video game writing Shamus lambasts is built around: where you’re never asked to think beyond the immediate moment, and you’re always told you’re the great awesome hero no matter how destructive, ineffectual, or even just plain basic your character’s actions are.

      2. BlueHorus says:

        Oh sure, part of the problem is that Casey can’t adapt to what the players are doing. He could have made it more of a roleplay thing, reacted to what the players did (the goblins tunnel out, they have a back door, or one of the other ideas from last week), and simply couldn’t. Which is of course part of the point of the comic; he’s a bad DM…

        Nevertheless – there’s still four people at the table and one of them is asleep, ‘cos he’s not doing anything. Chuck and Josh are stealing the show, mostly by wrongfooting the DM, and look set to keep doing so.
        I’ve been in a similar position to Marcus, before now. Watching other player showboat or troll is lame.

        Again, I get that the point is there aren’t a good D&D group, etc.

        1. Kylroy says:

          I think the important thing is that they, *plural*, are not a good gaming group. Nothing any one person does here is unsalvageable, but the end result of their interactions is.

  4. Nimrandir says:

    Moments like the first panel are why random encounter tables exist.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Don’t say that, they’ll get attacked by another Dogsnake! Or maybe a Dire Hamster…

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I was hoping for a high roll pitting them against a Calzone Golem.

    2. hewhosaysfish says:

      I feel like we should see a second group of adventurers approaching the goblin cave.

      They have been enlisted by a farmer to same his pigs from the goblins, with the promise of a magical sword as a reward. But the farmer is an honest man and did warn them of the dangers of the goblin cave… for you see: the last group of adventurers he sent there NEVER CAME BACK.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        This reminds me of an old comedy movie I watched with my friend a while back: the main character’s father had gone on the Crusades years early and never returned. For plot reasons he has to get his father back – so he sets out, prepared for an arduous journey to the Middle East, tracking through the desert…

        …only to find out that the ‘Crusades’ are, in fact, a tent someone has set up about 50 metres from the docks. All the missing knights are just partying inside with a load of beer and scantily-clad women.

    3. evileeyore says:

      Bah! Why trifle with a Random Encounter Table, I go straight for the Wandering Damage table for groups like this.

  5. shoeboxjeddy says:

    This isn’t a criticism of the strip, which is fine and does not have the problems I’m about to discuss. “The Cake is a Lie” is a good example of how gamer memes have a pretty annoying lack of subtlety. Which is probably true of all memes, I’m just not talking about all memes right now. In Portal, “The Cake is a Lie” will make the player laugh or at least smile because it’s the culmination of the “Rat Man” subplot. Basically, it confirms to you that other people have run this gauntlet and died doing it. Framing this SPECIFICALLY that the (promise of a free gift of) cake is a LIE is unusual enough to provoke a surprised laugh. It’s not that saying the words in a vaccuum is funny. The word “cake” isn’t inherently funny in any way. Yet because that was a memorable moment from a memorable game, suddenly every gamer thing on the internet was just plastering that phrase all over. It’d be like if people just started going “Puny God” over and over and over again because the Hulk’s beatdown of Loki was extremely memorable IN CONTEXT.

    A joke based ENTIRELY on a reference needs to have something extra to it in order to be funny. Like, in Borderlands 2, the extended TMNT joke sidequest is funny because the turtles are just… little turtles, baring no resemblance to the actual TMNT in any way. The idea of a tiny turtle somehow rolling explosives at your face is hilarious and the quest text ORDERING you to murder them all in revenge is just funny. They didn’t just plaster a JPEG of the TMNT character poster and call it a day.

    1. Syal says:

      The word “cake” isn’t inherently funny in any way.

      Incorrect; ‘cake’ features not one but TWO instances of the hard ‘K’, one of the funniest sounds in the language. It’s right up there with ‘oo’.

    2. Jbc31187 says:

      Far Cry Blood Dragon has something similar, where you crawl down into the sewers and hunt the only four turtles in the game, all painted in familiar colors…

      While the turtles themselves were helpless, the traps were lethal as hell, even when the layout told me to expect them.

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.