DM of the Rings Remaster: Lootless

By Bay Posted Sunday Feb 12, 2023

Filed under: DM of the Rings Remaster 16 comments

On one hand, it makes no sense for the monsters and encounter areas of the gameworld to come pre-stocked with loot. It also makes no sense for feral beasts and the shambling undead to walk around carrying fabulous cash prizes.

On the other hand, gold coins are shiny and make a fun jingling sound when you have lots of them.

–  Shamus, Monday Sep 18, 2006

I like to offer up things that seem useless in such a way that my players think it might be important later on. No loot? Consider, my dear players, you’re surrounded by old stones. Look! Three are even cut off from the wall, separate from the others! The plays get to feel a sense of accomplishment in the moment, and it leads to one of two of equally amazing outcomes.

One, the player finds themselves three plotlines later actually needing the damned things and gasping at how far ahead I planned for them, amazing and unmatched writing skills! How did you do that?! I didn’t know you’d written that far ahead!

Two, the player realizes three plotlines later they are carrying trash around and laugh at themselves, wondering why and where the hell they picked up three blasted rocks. And, you, the DM, get to giggle to yourself being the one who gave it to them in the first place.

What is D&D, really, if not a chance to gaslight your friends and family?

This weeks French comic can be read here.


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16 thoughts on “DM of the Rings Remaster: Lootless

  1. Noah Gibbs says:

    My D&D character has a specific thing for searching rubble, picking up random clues/trash/etc. I mean, all D&D characters do. But I’m a warlock with a Fey patron, and thus a “create awe in all present” power. Which allows me to hit the local bars and sell “magic” implements to credulous drunk people for huge markups.

    Ghoul claws? Yup, totally. Banshee mirror? It’s not a sourcebook thing, but if she lived in a room that had a mirror, I’m taking a piece. Gnomish workshop full of little gear-laden thingies? I’ll see which aren’t nailed down. Ancient Dwarven Temple? Let me get out my chisel, baby. The world is awash in potentially-profitable rubble.

    The worst times are when it turns out something is actual, recognisable treasure. Then the rest of the party wants a share of the proceeds.

  2. MrGuy says:

    I think Shamus speaks to this somewhere (maybe in the original DND campaign), but boy is it fun to give players an item that is clearly “special” in some way but not obviously immediately useful. They’ll spend mental energy thinking about whether they can use it in this encounter for weeks.

    And when they actually find a way to use it , it will inevitably glitch out some challenging encounter or puzzle you set up, and they will feel super clever. About half the time, they’ll give you credit for having clearly planned this when you gave them the item. The other half of the time, they’ll correctly conclude you’d forgotten they had that item and that they outsmarted you.

    1. Retsam says:

      Maybe you’re thinking of the end of Chainmail Bikini where both the undead-killing-spear and the potion-of-brining-someone-to-life end up being used in the final confrontation, both of which the GM has forgotten about.

      1. MrGuy says:

        Nope – turns out I’m thinking of DMoTR after all, just a dozen or so pages in the future…

  3. Philadelphus says:

    Consider, my dear players, you’re surrounded by old stones. Look! Three are even cut off from the wall, separate from the others!

    I spent the last two weeks of January excavating at an archaeological dig in Jordan, and that describes my experience to a T. “Are these three vaguely-linearly-aligned stones, the tops of which are just beginning to emerge from the ground, part of a Middle Bronze age wall, or are they merely tumble from when this phase of the city was destroyed? Gonna have to take the soil level in the entire square down enough to see if there are stones beneath them or just more dirt!”

  4. Adam says:

    In the book there’s no loot, but they do find a clue (there are some scratches on a stone that look like the G rune, suggesting that Gandalf had visited earlier). I wonder whether that would satisfy these players? And why didn’t the DM put it in?

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Yes, let’s add more exposition and explain at length who Gandalf is and why he is important… to be fair it might have been in the exposition or character backstories and they just didn’t pay attention to it.

      1. MrGuy says:

        I never really got Weathertop in the original books. IIRC it was just a place that had been a watchtower in a previous age. Which I guess is cool and all – making the world feel old. But it also felt like kind of an odd spot for an exposition dump.

        The fact that it was an old watchtower doesn’t really make much difference for the Nazgul scene – it would have been equally effective if they’d made camp on the side of the road. It doesn’t really establish anything new about the world other than “yep, things are old.” Doesn’t reveal anything really special about Aragorn or the Rangers (for example, it’s not an active ranger base where they might find help or anything).

        If anything, camping on top of a hill seems counterproductive when you’re trying to hide – I believe it’s the only tall hill remotely nearby, so either you’re camping without a fire (uncomfortable) or broadcasting your presence to everyone within miles.

        1. AllWalker says:

          A hill is more defensible.

          You know, unless your enemy can fly…

          1. djw says:

            The nazgul didn’t have flighted mounts at that point. Sauron mounted them on fell beasts after they lost their horses at the fords of Bruinen.

        2. beleester says:

          In the books they camp in a dell at the base of the hill, and they do point out that a fire makes them visible, but decide it’s worth the risk. They only go up to Weathertop to have a look around and see if they can meet up with Gandalf.

          It doesn’t establish any directly relevant facts, but I think it’s the first time we actually hear anything concrete about the previous war against Sauron, and it establishes that Aragorn knows a lot of history about that war.

        3. Grandma Sharon says:

          Aragorn felt Gandalf wouldgo there because it provided a broad view of the surround country side. and he was Looking for them! And Aragorn had been watching for them for weeks (?) He saw them go into
          Bree and that is why he was in the Inn.

  5. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Third thing that happens: players haul around the stones eventually finding a use for them (like weighing down a trap trigger, yes, any local stone picked off the dungeon floor would be good enough but these are stones the player had in their inventory making them special).

    Fourth thing that happens: by the time you have completely forgotten about the useless chunks of stone you introduce an unrelated NPC who is a historian and at least one of the players really wants to know what his specialty is and so you pull something out of your behind like “uh… ancient military history” they jump at it with something like “would he be interested in examples of ancient carved masorny from a Dunedain watchtower halfway across the continent and if not could he direct us to someone who would?”

  6. WarlockOfOz says:

    Thanks for these. As good as I remember them (which the originals aren’t any more, due to the march of technology since…)

  7. AllWalker says:

    The comments in the original are all:

    “Shamus, you made a mistake! It’s Rivendell, not Rivendale!”

    False – Shamus doesn’t make mistakes. It’s part of the story. The in-story DM, tormented by player shenanigans, misread his notes.

    As a long-time DM, that’s relatable.

  8. General Karthos says:

    Back when I was running games, I used to put “prophecies” in my game every now and then. They would be little rhyming stanzas, giving extremely vague hints about the future of the game. I’d never make any particular effort to fulfill anything based on them, but the players would ALWAYS find the prophecies coming true, because if you’re vague enough, like with any other prophecies, you can find a way to interpret them so that they’ve come true. But usually not until after they’ve already come true.

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