DM of the Rings Remastered LXI: Words Get in the Way

By Peter T Parker Posted Sunday Mar 3, 2024

Filed under: DM of the Rings Remaster 9 comments

If you’re having trouble with wayward players derailing your carefully designed plot, you can always fix this by making the game non-interactive.

Let me know how that works out for you.

-Shamus, Wednesday Feb 7, 2007

Sometimes these comics reference aspects of TTRPG culture that died long before I ever entered the scene. But it’s always fun to find how many issues truly are timeless.

I think at a certain point you have to ask yourself, ‘do I want to DM because I want to play a fun game with my friends, or because its easier than self publishing’. If it’s the latter, i’d say just write the book. It’s the same amount of effort, but if you’re lucky you might get some cash out of it instead of estranging a bunch of your friends by forcing them all to roll dice at a one man show every other month.


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9 thoughts on “DM of the Rings Remastered LXI: Words Get in the Way

  1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    The whole “VM vs Players” vibe is mostly gone sure, but railroading GMs aren’t. A lot of GMs still see a TTRPG scenario like an adventure game. There is a plot to unfold and the players’ job is to find the right way to move it along. Any deviation will either be ignored or punished. They don’t do it on purpose most of the time mind you.

    1. Fizban says:

      I’m watching Loading Ready Run’s newest “DnD” campaign, and have codified some more of my thoughts in this vein. I use quotation marks, because as far as I’m concerned they aren’t really playing DnD: they’re certainly doing some collaberative storytelling for the character’s perspectives and world building and some light in the moment roleplaying, but the game mechanics are if anything less important than they would be in games with more narratively focused mechanics, and combat exists on occasion basically for its own sake among corridors of rooms. It is, essentially, an adventure game with a plot that is to unfold whilst the players’ job is to find the lever to push to move it along.

      And that’s fine if that’s what you want to play, they’re clearly having fun and it is entertaining, but I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that’s not really DnD. The mechanically focused dungeon-crawler that grew out of tactical wargaming is meant to rather heavily feature those things, whether you’re improvising it or have the whole kingdom mapped to the 5′ square. They’re constantly surprised when the obviously low-con rogue is nearly one-shot by a boss, or when someone uses a level-appropriate spell and deals level-appropriate damage, and people forget things like basic skill bonuses and how to roll attacks all the time. You don’t need to be say, Dark Souls hardcore about it (or more appropriately, Rogue style roguelike hardcore about it), but it’s basically the difference between an action game and an adventure game. Even if the action game is mostly linear, you have to play the game to get to the end. If you’re got a linear plot and no real variance in gameplay, you’ve got. . . an ‘adventure’ game.

      Which is what I have to keep repeating to myself every time they (mostly fail) to break out the DnD mechanics. It’s fun partially collaborative story time, it would be fun if it wasn’t DnD, just ignore when the mismatch on game mechanics grates my nerves.

      1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

        They’re definitely suffering from “thinking D&D is the only TTRPG” syndrome.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Yeah, particularly when Kathleen or Cameron are running it’s much more a case of heavily guided improv than actual game. Dale and Jacob are more “talbetopy” or at least better at hiding the rails and strings. Although at the end of the day they do it much more as a show for the audience than “a group of friends recording their game”.

          Also, I doubt it’s the case that LLR folk think DnD is the only tabletop game, they did play, for example, Dusk City Outlaws in the past although that is still more structured than most tabletop. More likely they favour it because they have a lot of business ties to Wizards of the Coast these days. This (second) season of Bylaw and Order in particular sponsored by someone (not WotC but I don’t remember who exactly) and there’s actually a giveaway of sourcebooks in some digital format or other at the end of each stream so the sponsorship probably locked them to this particular setting and/or system.

          1. Fizban says:

            In particular, the Magic: The Gathering setting books (which the series in question is based/spun off from) WotC has put out are for DnD. And with the adaptable/generic/kitchen sink-ness of MtG, the scales of power often in play (and even the cut and dry “that’s exactly enough to put me at 0, gg” of MtG), DnD is a plenty appropriate game to align the setting books with even if it wasn’t owned by the same company.

            It’s just kinda ironic that LRR will point out themselves that you don’t even have to play DnD to use the setting stuff, when their own gamestyle would work better with a different game. But while this season isn’t directly sponsored (just the affiliate code and giveaways -Edit, and Dragonshield I suppose, but they’re accessories you could use with anything), I think the first one was directly sponsored by WotC, so it’s understandable.

  2. Alberek says:

    As GM you have to frame the scenes from the players perspective, “what are the PCs going to do?”…
    Not that your NPCs can’t talk with each other, but you can shorthand the whole thing with “Gandalf presents the group to the king, it’s clear he isn’t welcome here” or something like that.

    1. MrGuy says:

      Ideally you’d have some kind of perception check on Wormtongue vs hearing him prattle on to give you the “I’m evil” vibe.

      1. Fizban says:

        Ideally whatever checks involved would have their DCs and information for ranges of results figured out ahead of time, with at least three clues the players cannot fail to find due to mechanics (and absolutely no red herrings), so that the players actually have a good chance of finding and latching onto one of the real clues to lead them to what’s going on.

        Of course, these clues can be part of basic visual information (the king looks older than he should for his age, you can’t hear what the king is saying but his attendant speaks for him, etc), which the comic here portrays effortlessly by being a screencap comic, while many DnD games include things like “there’s a room, roll perception” like you can’t see more than 6 inches in front of your face.

        If there’s one thing that drives me as nuts as players forgetting how to make basic attacks, it’s DMs saying “roll perception/knowledge/some skill I clearly haven’t even considered” in response to. . . heck basically any question, particularly as an obvious cover for not having prepared an answer. For one, knowledge/perception/etc checks are supposed to be secret, because the players shouldn’t know if they pass or fail. But even more importantly, you should already know what skills the PCs have, and any relevant knowledge they can get from those skills, the same as you should know what the room looks like so you can describe it when they open the door.

        Because those are the same things!

        One thing I’ll give some credit to 5e, while they’re essentially destroyed the entire skill system, I do hear things like “this ability means any time I roll less than 8 on this skill it’s treated as a roll of 8”. Someone realized that a 20-point die range, particularly when they’re reduced the size of modifiers, and when you set 10 as your base DC so that randos don’t know everything but then have world information that proficient PCs should always know. . . yeah. Making it so that the minimum roll is 8 fixes some of that problem, while still keeping particularly high DC bonus knowledge just as rare as it was before. Pretty decent mechanic.

        Which makes it even easier to know exactly what “DC” of information your PCs cannot mechanically fail to get, whilst texturing it in such a way that it feels like their character abilities and bonuses matter (because they do). Which in turn means that you can describe more of the world in terms of their individual character’s knowledge, and have legitimate ‘clues’ that normal people wouldn’t get but which their skills mean they can follow without painting your game into a corner with a bad roll.

      2. M says:

        But then the GM wouldn’t get to exercise his inner frustrated thespian.

        No idea why it’s frustrated, but perhaps there isn’t a nearby theater group. Or he wasn’t picked in the casting call.

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