DM of the Rings XXXVI:
Hates the Dice! Hates Them Forever!

By Shamus Posted Friday Dec 1, 2006

Filed under: DM of the Rings 124 comments

River Anduin, Legolas, Gollum, Critical Strike, Standing Watch

The most terrifying part of any campaign is when the players at last wiggle free of your grasp and escape the railroad plot you’ve devised.

This marks the first time our hapless group has broken from the plot as set down by Tolkien himself. What does this mean? Is the whole thing going off the rails now? Has our hapless DM finally lost control? Will he cheat in order to stick to his predetermined script?

Beats me.


From The Archives:

124 thoughts on “DM of the Rings XXXVI:
Hates the Dice! Hates Them Forever!

  1. Carl the Bold says:

    That’s a good shot…you know, for a girl.

    1. HJORDIS says:

      As a level 17 Female Dwarf Fighter, I take great offense at that.

      1. Techan says:

        Everyone knows there’s no such thing as female dwarves, partially because the beards make them impossible to differentiate from the male ones, and paritally because so few women play DnD and the ones who do never play dwarves or half-orcs, and almost always play elves or half-elves. :-p

        1. johanna says:

          I dunno if there is really a lack of girls playing, or if they just don’t want to play with you. ‘m sure it depends on your personal hygiene. But as a girl I have a goliath, dragonborn, and a diva. So it isn’t necessarily an elf all the time. I mean, when a girl is in the mood to “SMASH MOAR BLOODBAGS” pretty much anything but an elf will do.

          1. JadisKai says:

            Yeah, I made a halfling Barbarian once (3.5) and to this day she was my favorite character!! I wish dearly to take her out of retirement!

        2. NekoLLX says:

          Actually in The Realm I made a Giant (same as half orc) wizard, she had low intell because Giants favor stregth but come on a giant casta Fire Ball and still has enough streth to tak you on hand to hand?

          I laos in a 3rd ed game made a Elf Paladin, she had Frodo’s dice however, in fact she was so unlucky the DM in a fit of pitty had us find a tree that grew +1 swords, she botched the roll that everyone else got fine, was squered and had to SAVE against bleading the rest of the campaign she was at half health…and it wen’t down hill from there…

        3. Akane says:

          That’s funny, I (a girl) finally managed to convince my (mostly male) friends into playing D&D with me. I’m playing a female dwarf, my other female friend is playing a male barbarian. *tsk, tsk* Stereotypes, eh? ;-)

        4. Theia says:

          I’ve actually got a Female Dwarven Fighter at the moment, another friend of mine is playing a female Dwarven Cleric, In other campaigns i have humans and a couple half elves, I have never actually played an elf, i probably won’t be playing a halfling because i’m pretty sure my GM doesn’t like them but at some point i’m definitely playing a half-orc. I usually stick to humans though, I play Pathfinder, and humans get an extra feat at first level. Idk if that is true for any of the DnD editions, I don’t play them. Agreeing with some of the other responses, there are girls in my gaming group that have played just about every race available, and even times when there was a girl playing a guy (which was very hard to keep in mind for gender-specific pronouns) and vice versa. our two groups are made up of three women and four men for the first group, and four women and one man for the second. Trust me, there are definitely girl gamers. I know over a dozen of them in just my area.

        5. Feanor says:

          Say, how exactly did the thing about female dwarves having beards get started? Cause, you know, the dwarf/beard relationship in Tolkien was cultural, not physical. (Looking at you, Jackson :/) Was it a DnD thing before the movies?

          1. Ros says:

            Blame Terry Pratchett.

        6. NoodleKeeper says:

          False. I have journeyed with many a female gamer who play Half-Orcs and Tieflings and the like. They’re more fun.

  2. Contra says:

    I can really see that happening. Hell I’m pretty sure I’d do it too… itchy trigger finger…rolling hand…
    i’ll be going now

  3. AlbinoDrow says:

    Nice shot!

    This is when true resurection comes in handy. :D

  4. Eve says:

    Ooh! Teh thot plickens!

  5. Mark says:

    You’re having way too much fun with these “DM of the rings” comics :D

  6. Lou says:

    Always a tough situation. On the one hand, one of things I enjoy most as a DM is when the party does something completely clever and unexpected, and I need to figure out how the various NPCs react to it, and how events play out. On the other, killing a vital villain and derailing the whole story is a real pain. Sometimes you need to bend the rules (e.g., give the bad guy more hit points) to keep the story on track, but balance that with breaks in the party’s favor sometimes (to keep things reasonably fair).

    1. Glenn says:

      Our group had the task of killing a quota of orcs in order to get money and information from a ruler. My character carried the pairs of orc eyeballs and earlobes as trophies. Later, being chased down a dark tunnel by angry orcs, he grabbed a few eyeballs from the bag and threw them on the floor behind the group. DM didn’t see that coming… Turns out you can trip (and seriously injure) orcs doing that – I believe one died outright, falling on its own weapon as it slipped.

  7. Deoxy says:

    Not even a reponse to the oh-so-subtle hinting yesterday?

    Oh, and this comic is less funny than some of the others, but probably even more accurate than most, unfortunately. I wait (im)patiently to see what you do with the plot now…

    Oh, and you should have had him check for concealment. Of course, in that situation, he would probably pass that, too. You know, like the arrogant player of a paladin who walked straight up to the massive dragon, said he would kill it (at level… 5, was it?), then proceeded to roll 3 natural 20s in a row (house-rule auto-death)… with the DMs own d20, no less. Oops.

    1. Eric says:

      I had a player do a similar thing at lev 6 to a balor… Grabed a sword from the guy’s own loot pile, threw it at the balor and got the 3x 20. Still nearly killed the party with the death throes. One blind bard and a psudodragon who was just out of the room were all the concious party members left

  8. I bet Gollum has a twin brother!

  9. Mom says:

    This one got a good laugh from me. Wins the funniest Title award from me.

  10. Mom says:

    Funny funny title. Got me giggling going in.

  11. David Thiel says:

    This one cracked me up. Reminded me of a game I ran in which I’d set up an encounter with two NPC goblin slaves: weaponless, dressed in rags and there solely for plot exposition. At first sight, one of my players shot one of unfortunate wretches through the head and killed him dead. After a moment of stunned disbelief, I had the other goblin shout, “No, not Morty!” (the best name I could come up with at the moment) just before he was killed as well. For their trouble, the players got a single gold coin as loot.

  12. Evil Otto says:

    OK, that’s the best one yet.

    I’m guessing the DM has just decided that Deagol survived being strangled by Smeagol and had spent the last 500 years *also* trying to get the ring. Guess who just got shot?

  13. Tirgaya says:

    First off, this is funny, and it happens even to good DM’s… but it is avoidable.

    First off… all the DMotR stories showcase a singular fault of the DM in question… he never rewards the PC’s for story related role playing. His players need remedial training. Basically, if the PC’s play along with his story they should be rewarded. If you do this enough, they behave better.

    I recently had some fairly low level good PC’s run into a young adult silver dragon who’s father had been killed. Being young he had little experience with humanoids and little emotional control. So he was rampaging around the countryside. The PC’s were rewarded with half the XP the dragon was worth in combat for calming him, at risk of their lives, and getting him to behave more acceptably in his quest for justice. Had they fought the dragon it probably would have resulted in a TPK (total party kill)- if only because he had two younger sisters hidden nearby watching his back and ready to jump in the fray. The party might have managed the young adult… but there’s no way they could manage a young adult and two juveniles.

    So what about a villain that critical to the plot ? Well, he should be well protected with a skill set to match his role in the story. In Gollum’s case the protection is simple- he stays away from the attack range of the PC’s and he remains stealthy at all times. Give him enough levels in Rogue to accomplish this almost constantly against the party.

    He should also have the durability so that only a concerted effort by the PC’s should derail his role in your plot. There should be no way a single attack should slay this character. Even at 3x critical with Max Damage, plus any spell stored magic the characters can muster or their most powerful slaying magic. Of course, if the PC’s come up with a cunning plan to lure him in and capture/kill him it should have a chance of working… don’t frustrate them just for your own story thrill.

    All this aside… this sort of an event is a planned encounter, and should be run as such. With the DM cautious to control the thing. Always engineer encounters so they can further the plot as planned… but so PC’s can’t gain too much of a boon.

    The DM’s purpose for this encounter is exactly the same as Tolkien’s… to inform the audience/PC’s that they are being watched. The puzzle for them is to figure out who is tracking them, which should tell them why, and maybe how Gollum is tracking them and why they can’t get away.

    In the telling of the tale above… Legolas never did check the range.

    “You shoot a prefect precise shot…. but the arrow falls into the water well short of your target. Its just out of range. Who or whatever was trailing you disappears below the waters and you lose track of their location.”

    The shot should be beyond extreme range. Gollum isn’t stupid and he knows how tricksy elves can be. He’d also know how good elves are with bows… and he might even know that Legolas seems better than average even for an elf. He’d stay at maximum observation distance, and out of attack range.

    So… how did Legolas see him ? His spot range is only so far after all. Well, Gollum did something that caused a light to reflect towards the PC encampment. It wasn’t the PC camp fire or any such that illuminated him, but rather the moonlight. You might even rule that what Legolas really saw was the water moving unusually near the log.

    OK. So what about XP rewards ? The PC’s should be rewarded for figuring out it is Gollum, for figuring out how he’s tracking them, why they can’t get away. I’d assign a fixed XP reward for the encounter of between 250 and 500 for each part of the mystery they solve. If you are playing with higher level characters… then you might grant as much as 1000xp per piece of the mystery. Remember this is a task more for the players than their characters abilities… as such it gets no easier at high levels.

    In this case, Legolas by shooting at Gollum, has prevented the party from finding out any of the above… so the PC’s gain no experience. If they didn’t know there was XP to be had by solving a minor mystery… well tell them as blatantly as your table style allows.

    Finally always have a back-up plan. If Gollum is killed or otherwise prevented from destroying the Ring in the Mt. Doom scenes… then have another method ready to accomplish this. The mountain could start the earthquake thing. The ring might fall off of Frodo… or Frodo might fall to his death as Gollum would have. You may also have another of Sauron’s lieutenants get involved.

  14. Teloric says:

    Ummm… right. Anyhoo, nice shot Lego-Lass…?;o)

  15. Tirgaya says:

    Teloric Says:
    December 1st, 2006 at 4:23 pm
    Ummm… right. Anyhoo, nice shot Lego-Lass…?;o)

    Yeah, um, sorry about that. I didn’t realize I typed so much!

    Oh for the ability to edit my post… in this case for brevity. Next time I’ll save it for DMG III

  16. Proteus says:

    I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten a belly laugh out of these… well, actually it’s been three, but I’ve really needed them at the time!


  17. theonlymegumegu says:

    This is actually one big reason I really like the DM I’ve been playing with for the longest time. He lets his campaign world be totally fluid, so that it adapts to whatever actions the characters take.

    That being said, this strip was totally hilarious. Always the perennial question; “How much XP?” ^_^

  18. Chucky says:

    This has soooooo happened to me. Sounds to me like a good time for the King Ring Wraith to make a power play near Mount Doom, about the time Frodo shows up.

    And for Legolas to have his bow break :)

  19. SteveDJ says:

    I just LOVE the hand poking out of the water as Gollum goes down…

  20. Myxx Olydian says:

    Man, I laugh at just about all of these. Always lookin forward to the next one. Can’t wait to see what’s coming after FotR.

    Of course, I could do without the mechanics lessons in the comments…

  21. I know I shouldn’t say this in a room full of Tolkein fans, but if the characters had been a little more forward thinking like LegoLass here, we could have been spared the entirety of The Two Towers. Shields up!

  22. That’s great.

    Steven: EVIL twin. You gotta remember the EVIL.

  23. Alex says:

    BeckoningChasm: but how would Frodo have thrown away the ring?

    Jeremy: In that case, wouldn’t this twin have to be the good one? Or are you saying that “Gollum is twisted and misunderstood, but his twin is genuinely evil”?

  24. ngthagg says:

    Clearly, Gollum is the good twin.

    If he’s evil, where is the goatee?

    BeckoningChasm: “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” How’s that for a shot across the bow?


    1. johanna says:

      Not only is he missing the goatee, his name is also clearly not Chad. This means only one thing: gollum is clearly the good twin!! I have charts and graphs to prove it. ;)

  25. Serafina says:

    Priceless, a great choice of frames too for this one! And oh so true. *grins*

  26. ChristianTheDane says:

    Well since Gollum is a skitzo, does smeagol count as his good twin/half?

    Also, one of the best ones yet. Keep em coming ;D

  27. smilydeth says:

    …I think I’ve managed (with help) to totally de-rail the plot of every RPG I’ve ever played in. No matter how well a game is scripted, the plot outlined for all occurences, or how much the players might enjoy the story….sooner or later they are going to find a way to escape from the box. They can’t help it! About the best thing I’ve found to do as a GM at that point, is too suck it up and start making the game up as I go. Then things really get fun!!!

  28. From tests on the board game:

    Summon Eagle.

    Pick up Frodo.

    Fly to Mt. Doom.

    Drop Frodo (with ring) into crack o’doom.

    Go to sleep soundly.

  29. freefall says:

    Sometimes things do get out of hand like this, but that does not mean that weird and unusual things can happen. (Like Boromer gets so greedy that he turns into a second gollum and Frodo does not want to kill him because he knows who “Gollum” really is).

  30. nigel little says:


  31. Marmot says:

    This one was really amazing. Solution: give Gollum the Diehard feat :) Your rock as always! Keep up the good work!

  32. What can I say ??

    Excellent Comic…keep it up ! :D

    Players often kill things they shouldn’t, but normally their second in command turns out to be equally as hard…..but thankfully you’ve described it as “think” it’s gollum, could just be an orc scout…..

    Keep up the good work !

  33. Shamus says:

    33 comments and nobody took a shot at me for my obvious and goofy typo “Toklein” instead of “Tolkien”.

    I have very polite readers.

    1. Ell Jay says:

      Sadly, this only makes me more inclined to point out the “absoloutly”…

  34. Telas says:

    Let’s see… using the D&D rules for NPCs, Gollum should be near-epic levels. He’s a few thousand years old, and has lived a life of danger and fighting that should be worth a few thousand XP a year at least.

    Even a critical from some elf-chick wouldn’t kill him.

  35. Kevin says:

    LOL! I fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard! Good thing Im the only one at work! :P

    Oh gods… Once, I put a party against a lich and someone threw a helm of opposite alignment on his head that he happened to have carring around. Completely screwed up my story line.

    1. WJS says:

      Aren’t undead immune to mind-controlling effects?

  36. Antiquated Tory says:

    Do you know the first Eberron adventure module, part of that Grasp of the Emerald Claw or whatever? There was a villain central to the plot who was a shapechanging magic user pretending to be a vampire. The PCs were supposed to figure he was much too powerful for them and attempt to surrender or bargain while he went on a long villainous exposition of his dastardly plans. If they did attack, he was supposed to cast Obscuring Mist and drink an invisibility potion to mimic the vampiric gaseous form ability. This is what actually happened:

    Turning from his brainless skeletal servants digging in the cemetery, the necromancer faced our heroes. Red eyes glaring in his white skin, he smiled, revealing pointy fangs.
    “Ah,” he said. “Look what we have here…”
    “OH FUCK, A VAMPIRE!” Alim cried in a panic. He waved his hands and muttered something, and two little white balls of force streaked out to hit the villain.
    “Ow!” the necromancer cried. And again “Ow!”
    LX011 charged in as quickly as his heavy metal body would allow, bringing his enchanted longsword down on the necromancer’s shoulder.
    “Ow!” the black-clad villain exclaimed. He muttered something and the area became filled with fog.
    Ever-quick Sandefur decided this would be an ideal moment to find someplace to hide.
    Meanwhile Aldemar voiced an imprecation to the Pantheon praying that divine force would hold the foul vampire in his tracks, but to no avail.
    Alim could no longer see the dreaded foe. He sent his snake, with which he communed in arcane and eldrich ways, to seek him in the fog.
    LX brought his sword around to strike again. Despite the fog obscuring his target, he felt his sword connect with flesh.
    “Ow!” cried the now familiar voice of the necromancer. There was a strange clinking and glugging sound from the fog, and the vague form of the villain disappeared altogether.
    Aldemar decided that the skeletal servants should be dealt with. She called on the power of the gods to disperse their blasphemous forms, and they shattered into fragments.
    Alim could feel the presence of the vampire through his snake, but could not see to attack him and did not want to get too near the rather dim Construct still swinging his massive blade.
    LX could not see the vampire but took a swing at where he would be if he had started to run away. Once again he felt his sword impact unseen flesh.
    An eerie, bodiless voice called out from the mist: “Bastard!” Then there was the sound of a body hitting the ground.
    “Cut its head off before it recovers, it’s a vampire!” the still panicked Alim called, dropping to his knees and groping around in the fog. “Where’s the head?”
    LX011 probed around with his sword, finally finding an invisible form on the ground. He raised his arm, causing Alim to scurry backward, and brought it down with all his force, splattering himself and all around him with warm fluid. A brief and unusual glimmer of intelligence flickered in his metal and flesh head. “Something’s not right about this.”
    Meanwhile Aldemar had managed to find the head and began sawing it off with her own sword. Alim bespoke a spell to detect enchantments and found a vague enchantment coming off the area where the invisible body lay. He started searching it and found his hands inside a warm body cavity, not unlike a freshly butchered pig. Thoroughly repulsed, he withdrew his arm.
    Several minutes later the fog lifted and the body became visible shortly thereafter. All the heroes were covered in blood and gore. The headless body of the necromancer lay before them, with the head crushed beyond recognition by some warhammer blows LX had added to be on the safe side. Viewing the copious amounts of flesh and blood and reflecting on the ease with which he had been defeated, it started to occur to the heroes that perhaps he had not been a vampire, after all. Surely vampires don’t say ‘ow?’ Or have warm blood? And it also occurred to them that he had merely started to speak to them, giving no sign of attacking. Perhaps he had been about to tell them something useful?
    Sandefur came back over, mouth agog. “What in the Abyss have you people done?”

    You have to imagine our DM laughing until the tears rolled down his face during this. He later said that this was the most stupid NPC tactic and plot rail device he’d seen and the NPC deserved everything he got.

  37. Tirgaya, all is forgiven, your lengthy scrivening is utterly diminished by yon Antiquated Tory.
    I also happen to appreciate a lucid reality (um, D&D, I mean) check, such as you provided.
    Alas, due to alignment issues I haven’t resolved, I MUST side with Evil Otto.
    Dead Deagol, yes – Smeagol lives!

    Imagine seeing that ^ as graffiti on your way home from a game?

  38. tigerdreams says:

    Antiquated Tory–

    I think I played in that module… that was the campaign where one of the other PCs ended up freeing the elemental from an airship and setting the whole bloody thing on fire… we then decided that a little adventure to Xen’drik was in order, until that little incident blew over.

  39. Greywolf says:


    I have this RPG I’ve been beta-testing for a quarter-century, off and on (lately off – I just can’t seem to get into it again), in which I had a close friend who was confident enough to GM my game. So I rolled up a character, and we went at it. Okay, I *wrote* up a character (his stats), and then rolled the rest of the stuff as appropriate, which was cool. No, it’s me as a character, so the stats weren’t outrageous — the physical strength sucked, the wisdom sucked, but the dexterity and intelligence were acceptable.


    So here I am, armed with a $LIGHTSABER and a laser rifle, trying to go after this idiot in a Saab 9000 Turbo (white). I jump on top of the car.

    “He starts to drive off.”

    “I plunge my $LIGHTSABER through the roof.”

    “It’s deflected. You fall off the car and he speeds off into the distance.”

    “Okay, I roll and grab my laser rifle. I get a round of attacks — two shots–”

    “ONE. You get a pot-shot.”

    “Okay…” (Rolls a d30:30 (we use d30 for hit rolls)). “SUPERCRITICAL HIT!”

    “Argh. Roll on the SuperCritical Hit With Missile Weapon table.”

    *rattlerattlerattle* “Double zero! INSTANT DEATH! YES!”

    “Arggghh! This isn’t supposed to happen! Well, ” *sigh* “the car explodes. And…” (d30:1) “All the shrapnel misses you.”


    “The creature comes at you.”

    “How big?”

    “He’s about eight feet tall–”

    “JEEZUS! Okay…um…I cast Create Pit!”

    “roll a d10…”

    (d10:6) “6 feet.”

    “Well, he falls in, but he’s getting to his feet.”

    “Fill Pit With Cement!”

    “Roll a d30 for how long the Cement takes to set…”


    [*smacks forehead*] “In One Second…the creature is trapped in cement before he can get up all the way.”

    And like that. Good times.

  40. inara says:

    ah, i laughed so hard the walls rang

  41. Juice says:

    Excellent choice of screen caps.

  42. izzy says:

    This stuff is just too good! As a regular gamer, I’ve seen this happen a few times. Usually ticks the GM off no end :)) Keep this up Shamus! It’s great!

  43. craig says:

    I just started a campaign, and the first thing the guys do is go to the local inn and bash in the head of the old lady working there… sigh… at least it got them out of the starting town pretty quick

  44. The Bear says:

    To Craig – that is how all our quests began when I did this stuff years ago. There was also a woman with a herd of poodles that diminished in ever amusing ways every time we arrived in town.

    To Shamus – The way your characters act is just how we did, I’m getting all my old roleplaying mates to read this for happy memories. this strip in particular? I’ve only just stopped crying with laughter…

  45. Destroy Gundam says:

    “Outstanding. How much xp?” Well, at least he cares about what’s important. I can’t blame him for killing the 1st thing he saw, though. Given the lack of monsters that they can kill, I’d be trigger-happy too.

  46. Lou says:

    ROFL @ the screen caps, it’s perfect.

  47. drop a nazgul on the pointy-eared git.
    how many xp do you get for that, nancy bow-boy????… and somebody get tirgaya some proportion in which he can keep things

  48. Gadush Kraun says:

    You killed him??? :( You jerk legolass! How could you. *Shakes head* I love it when dice screw up.

  49. Kay Shapero says:

    “No battle plan every survived five minutes contact with the enemy.” The same goes for detailed rpg plots. Make ’em simple and open, and then run with whatever pops up.

    1. Bryan says:

      That’s what I do. Make encounters with loose settings and create the map as you go, and it won’t matter where they go; the encouter (plot, etc.) still happens. Deliberately going the wrong way? Turns out the information you got was inacurate. Ignore the encounter? That’s fine, until you walk into the ambush encounter. Killed their employer? YAY! Now they get the city guard backup encounter I was saving! I recycle like this all the time, feeding it to them on the fly, and my players eat it up because there’s always something to do no matter how far off the map they go.

      Also, I tend to warn them that if they go too far off the map they WILL run into things that are far more powerful than them, and if they get TPK’ed it’s their own fault. That usually keeps them from straying too far, unless they’re TRYING to get killed, of course.

  50. hibbot says:

    I really liked the story so far, but this one is really fantastic!! i had to laugh loudly… in my office!

  51. Kevin says:

    Oh wow, flashback to a scifi campaign where I wrecked the DM’s story line with a lucky sniper shot to the main villain, who I caught monologuing. I think I killed the campaign, cuz we only met one more time after that…

  52. *Laughs* This comic has hit every gaming session our groups have had thus far, as far back as I can remember. It doesn’t matter who’s DMing, or what members of the group have changed, it hits somewhere.

    My parents have been gaming since I was around three or four years old, and my sister and I joined in once we were in our teens. I’m 26 now, and my sister is 23, and we still game with my parents, along with both of our husbands. *grins*

    Our group made the DM scurry to change her outline once. We were in an old castle or tower (or something to that effect) and our DM (who was my mother, at the time) severely underestimaged the greedy gleam in the thief’s eyes.

    She had set up a very elaborate puzzle/lock in one of the rooms. It was set off and started by a certain item, that once picked up, would cause the door to close and the puzzle to begin. You also needed this item to solve the puzzle, to get the door to reopen.

    The thief promptly walked in the room, successfully nabbed the item and quickly scurried back out once the door started closing (successfully making all rolls, even at disadvantages), leaving three of the party members behind, in the now locked room. Needless to say, she had to do a little quick thinking, after much laughing at such dumb luck and derailing.

    –Sorry so long! I don’t mean to be so winded! Anywho, I came across this site from a friend that said, quote, “This is way more than I've *ever* wanted to know about Dungeons & Dragons, but it's still pretty freaking funny… (be prepared to waste some hours with this),” endquote. I ::love:: the comic, and have forwarded it on to all of my gaming group members.

    Thank you the laughs and many conversation starters! Brilliant!

  53. Julian says:

    You know, forcing the players into a railroad plot is bad GMing. Great GMing is when you can go through the story while the players have the freedom do whatever the hell they want without breaking any of the GMs plans.

  54. septima says:

    So… I readed it and I’m sure, that Leggo-of-my-ass shouts perfectly. I feel sorry for that halfling killer Gollum. *shakes her head* Poor guy…

  55. dlantoub says:

    The mistake was telling the player it looked like Gollum. If it was a dark shape in the water, he will still take a pot shot but you can say.

    “Well done. You just killed a log.”

  56. Nadzghoul says:

    Love the pic of Gollum’s hand sinking in the water. Great choices of images, and excellent idea doing this as a blog forum so people can comment – pure genius.

  57. Wulfric says:

    I keep wanting to call him “Leggy-lass”. This reminds me of one campaign I played in high school where my group was going through an “enchanted” forest that was filled with giant spiders. My entire group had basically been slaughtered or incapacitated in some way except me. I was holed up in a tree and making pot shots against the spiders. Several successful rolls in a row and I had wiped out the entire spider population. Even to a point of ridiculousness where my shots were so well aimed that I could sever a spider’s limb at unthinkable distances while in the most precarious of perches. It irked the heck out of my DM, but hey, I saved the whole group from certain doom. And they were his dice….

  58. Moy says:

    I once guest-played an old, weak healer in a group that got sucked to some chaos world. She got an extra-light magic crossbow, because she couldn’t handle a real one, and had nearly no skill points for it. ;-)
    But when we at last encountered the evil overlord, she sent a arrow straight into his eye (d20, 100% luck, max. damage), so he died (or disappeared or the like).
    Our GM only planned for some way to let us escape a bit wounded to our home world, but so the whole world collapsed, we had ruined his plans for a epic comeback of the evil guy (even if there are alway enough of them around…) and nearly died in the world’s collapse… ;-)

  59. Sewicked says:

    Beware of letting my bf get bored in the game. Bad things happen to the plot.

    He has done things like: started his own army, young, by founding multiple orphanages; ignored the three local plotlines to chase after the distant one; robbed a bank (our mage motto: “great reality-bending powers, used for petty crime”); and similar hijinks.

  60. FlameKiller says:

    im doing this next time i play. kill a valubale NPC and see the DM stutter and fume and leave to edit the notes

  61. JJR says:

    Suddenly, the old man changes shape before your eyes and forms into a terrifying adult red dragon; everybody roll for initiative!

    “Good thing I still have this arrow of red-dragon slaying from a few campaigns back”

    &$@@)*@! OK, OK, ROLL DAMMIT.

    “I won initiative, firing said arrow of red dragon slaying.
    Oh, whaddya know, natural 20”

    He crashes down dead, everybody make a saving throw to avoid D12 damage from the falling carcass.

    “Missed…3 points damage”


  62. TheDeepDark says:

    Okay, these are all good. But this one made me fall out of my chair. This is something that our GM could never completely avoid. You always have to assume characters will have unplanned reactions with unexpected results. It was just such a departure that created our most legendary group to ever campaign.

  63. Toil3T says:

    That is so us… Our DM expects us to ruin the plot. And to ruin our own plans :(. Many’s the time we’ve tried to capture an enemy alive for information we desperately need, only to give up on that and just kill them when they inevitably run.
    And I remember a once-off… I was a level 10 rogue (yeah, 3.5) set up as a sniper. It took one critical to hit the head vampire’s heart. That won us the battle. A night’s session ended after only an hour of play.

  64. The Gremlin says:

    I laughed and laughed and laughed at this one.
    *Laughs and laughs and laughs*

  65. Hans says:

    The best strategy to avoid those istuations would be not to have a railroad plot or a definite script after all. It requiers a lot of work, but it would be best just to keep in mind all the npc’s, their trades of character and motivations, some scripted events and all the important locations and let the players find their way through your artificial universe. The GM works with what the players give him, not vice versa.
    It’s really great fun that way I tell you.

    1. WJS says:

      To a certain extent. You don’t have to have a grand, overarching plot in mind, but the players must have something to do, and if they don’t have anything in mind the GM has to provide them with something before they get bored.

  66. Filcha says:

    Yep, happened to me as DM recently.

    ‘The characters should not be allowed to kill this NPC.’ Well when they cast Hold Person and he fails his save – he can no longer escape…

  67. JD says:

    We’ve encountered 3 instances of that in our travels into the Forgotten Realms. Talk about utter confusion. XD

  68. Ashlar says:

    Wow…this stuff is fantastic. This one took me back. My first real campaign, I screwed everything up. Somehow ended up with a staff of wishing. In a desperate situation, I used it and wished for all seven parts of this rod thing we were supposed to be finding and to be back where we started. Three perfect rolls later I had the Rod of Seven Parts and was completely free of any danger…except for the very angry DM whose months worth of sessions I had just ruined in one fell swoop. I was soon told that I was very sleepy…so sleepy that I could not even use my newfound powers to protect myself. I woke up when the chaotic neutral dark elf the DM let one of the guys play cut off my hand because he couldn’t stand for someone else to have that kind of power.

    Never played with that guy again.

  69. Grin says:

    I’m in tears. Literally.

    The deep comedy of a core NPC getting snuffed by a natural twenty. Priceless.

    Many moons ago I followed a link to this site, but I had forgotten all about it until today. Glad I found it again

  70. Rhi says:

    Okay, this? I lol’d. Seriously.

    Haven’t tabletopped in ages, but I can so see this happening. It probably has happened only I can’t remember.

  71. Josh says:




  72. its a bit late (im going through the archives after the series is over,) but shamus, on panel 7 you spelled Absolutely wrong.
    Love the comic!
    -Russell eldrin

  73. Dr. Manhattan says:

    Ah, this reminds me of my first campaign! In one encounter, the party was facing a high level, gnomish rogue and his cronies. The party and the handful of npc soldiers we had with us were making nice work of the enemy soldiers, and the boss had finally appeared. He abandoned his crossbow, drew a magic knife and engaged a player. I, the low level bard, grabbed the crossbow and attacked the rogue, confirming for house-rules instakill (two 20’s confirmed with a 15). The party imediatley erupted into cheers and awarded me the best of the loot, and the DM eventually got his jaw off the floor.

  74. Tiefling Paladin says:

    Haha NICE. In a recent session of mine, the players were fighting a battle they were supposed to lose against not the FINAL boss but one of his advisors. The players are level six, the boss is a level 12 orc warchief surrounded by level 4 to 6 goblins. The wizard gets a lucky fireball and wipes out most of the goblins, the rogue’s crit sneak attack from the damn ceiling thanks to spider climb knocks the orc way down in HP, and the paladin uses one of his smite evils, critting again and killing the orc.
    Now, this wouldn’t be so bad, since they were SUPPOSED to kill him in the room behind them after being captured and used as slaves, forced to come up with a plan. Not essential, but this group sucks at tactical thinking and doing things besides bashing monsters with hammers. Not overly important.

    The problem? They were supposed to interrupt a meeting between the orc and the high priest of Pelor they’d been chasing, who was in reality a priest of Nerull. They were supposed to learn this then. They instead never find this out, so when the priest starts summoning undead they’re all “WTF?” What I wonder is did the priest just sit around in the meeting hall waiting for the orc?

    1. WJS says:

      Well surely the evil priest should have gotten irritated at being stood up, and gone looking for the orc. Exactly how it plays out from there is anybodies guess, but it doesn’t seem like it would be that much of a problem to bring them together in a slightly different manner.

  75. cheesebunny says:

    it seems to be the same for us. see it move, shoot, ask the corpse questions, if it dosnt answer shoot it again

  76. Trae says:

    I had one that’s pretty much the reverse. We had a small party in our game, only three player characters plus a DMPC as a healer mostly (Our first encounter we almost died from 6 lizardmen because we didn’t have any healing. The DM had to cheat and the warlock “remembered” he had a wand of healing.), but we had a few special abilities to make up for it. However when we killed a ogre a few levels later, his brown bear buddy became enraged and hit my character for both claw attacks, and the bite attack. 44 damage. My character at the time had 44 total hp, minus the 7 taken by the ogre. Very nearly killed me and the warlock before our monk punched it out.

  77. Serenitybane says:

    This one had me laughing for a long time :)
    “Ahhhh! Precious!!”

  78. GONCOL the cleric-godling says:

    I was DMing a game once where the party of 5th or higher characters found my white dragon, in his lair. Eyes open, it was staring, unmoving, right at the party’s most powerful fighter. The party attacked. Massive damage (hundreds of hp) from spells, range weapons, and melee weapons in the FIRST round, and the white dragon was not alive.
    Then the party discovered the white dragon was really a large, carved rock “statue” of a dragon laying on its hoard as if preparing to fall asleep, painted white with large crystals set as eyes.
    The REAL dragon, hiding near the upper reaches of that cave, caused a massive cave-in that killed one of the PCs, but the cleric had a scroll with “Resurrection” on it. The dragon’s hoard was buried under tons of rock.
    That dragon was the head boss, and I needed it as a recurring villain, so I “cheated” to let the dragon survive.

  79. Pat says:

    My solution? Never let the players rolls matter :-)

    Game moves much faster if you reward skill and ignore dice.

  80. Shuby says:

    You know?
    I really want to see one dice more :)

  81. Fyulf says:

    Okay this was Golden, absolutely Golden. I seriously about peed myself when I read it. I just thought you should know, this is brilliance.

  82. ComfyDenim says:

    I just discovered your site today — and this… THIS .. is one of the best bits of writing I’ve read today. It’s a total score. I literally laughed until I cried.

    This gamer mom is totally laughing with glee.

    you rock.

  83. Michael says:

    I have not seen the movies, and it’s been too long since I read the books. What happened here in the books, and in the movies?

    (Did the movie really kill off Golum at this point? Makes no sense if they did…)

  84. Robin says:

    “Let's see… using the D&D rules for NPCs, Gollum should be near-epic levels. He's a few thousand years old, and has lived a life of danger and fighting that should be worth a few thousand XP a year at least.”

    Not at all. He killed one hobbit (Deagol), then spent the next few thousand years in a cave, never killing anything above the occasional single goblin. When he reaches the point where a single goblin isn’t a threat, he’s done advancing.

  85. Nick Craig says:

    The look on Legolas’ face when he says “I killed it, didn’t I?” is priceless! Smug sonnovabitch. Poor Gollum, “Precious!” LMAO

  86. DrAndrewAnderson says:

    Legolas expression on the pictures is so cool!!!!!!

  87. eljacko says:

    Ugh…this was one time a huge issue for me. I had developed this huge developing plotline that occured over a span of years. My players had to roll all new characters just for use on this one campaign. It was essentially the life story of their new characters, from birth to death. It was the most ambitious thing I had designed so far and was heavily modified (some might go so far as to say ruined, although I was intrigued by the results). They were in the late teenage stage of their character’s lives and they were in an archery competition against a friendly rival named Erik whom I had planned to become a major villain and perhaps even the big bad. My players had other ideas: when Erik beat them in the competition they grabbed him, strung him up by his knees, and shot him with arrows, starting from the toes and going down. His HP was all gone by the time they reached his neck. I was stunned. The eventual result is that the players were pretty much now up against the entire town. To my surprise and horror they managed to cut a swath through the waves of mooks I set before them and they moved steadily throught their village, burning everything in their path and becoming impossible agents of pure destruction. They eventually perished in the blazing inferno of their own creation. I now always include a worst case scenario fall-back in case of such an epic derailment.

  88. Rose says:

    Poor Gollum. Go Legolas. lol

  89. lunjan says:

    sure, most decent groups of roleplayers can deril the adventure in a way that is unrecoverable…. the true epic feat is having some of the PCs distract the DM while the others reroute the tracks to go where teh players want, then stat the train back up with the Dm helpless to follow your path :-D

  90. Tyciol says:

    This was my hardest lol so far

  91. Melda says:

    This is my second time through this comic. I laughed the first time, and I’m laughing now! Seriously, you need to do another webcomic like this. PleasePleasePlease?

  92. Nanorider says:

    This reminds me of a complete campaign derailment that one of my friends once told me about.

    My friend was taking part in a campaign some years ago. The GM was the little brother of one of the other players and this was his very first stint as GM – ever. So naturally the boy was very excited about it all. I believe that he wasn’t much older than 15 or 16.

    So, one of the party’s first encounters is a dwarf riding a pony, and you could understand from the GM’s elaborate description of the dwarf that this must be a very important plot character.

    So what does the party’s chaotic evil (or something like that) fighter choose do??? Attack the dwarf and kill him before anybody can do anything about it! Bad move! They found out that the whole campaign had been set up so that this dwarf was instrumental in not only getting the campaign off the ground, but also as a patron for the party and as a source of missions later on.

    As I recall the poor kid had spend literally hours writing stats, background and other stuff for this single NPC. The boy was in tears afterwards! They had to call it day and go home. I don’t know if they ever got the campaign started again.

    You know, the worst thing about this incident was that the player who did this was the oldest and most experienced in the group.(he was in the mid-thirties) So much for oldest player being the wisest in a group. :-/

    (This story was confirmed at a later date by two others from the group.)

    1. WJS says:

      Ugh. I hate people who play chaotic evil like that. The kind of fighter that’s that psychotic tends to be the kind of fighter that gets quietly murdered in his sleep by the rogue who doesn’t want to spend each day guessing when it’ll be his turn on the receiving end of the axe.

  93. Nanorider says:

    Oh, I just remembered another story from way back when.

    Another one of my friends told me of a time when he was playing a hobbit in a role master campaign set in Middle Earth.

    He was scouting ahead for the party inside the maze a dragons cave complex – much like Bilbo in The Hobbit. He emerged on a small ledge at the top of the dragon’s main chamber. What does the dragon do? It lifts its head to the same level of the hobbit and inhales (it likes it’s meals fried you know). What does the hobbit do? Fire off an arrow from it’s short bow. Now what happens?

    Anyone who ever played role master knows of the open ended crit tables. Guess what the hobbit player rolled? More than 500 on his to-hit roll. A very frustrated GM announced that the arrow had pierced the dragon’s eye and lodged itself in it’s brain. Result: instakill dragon!

    A bit later an anstonised party witnessed a smiling hobbit walking out of the main entrance of the cave complex carrying a huge bag of gold.

    (This one mind you hasn’t been confirmed by anyone other than the player in question. Is funny though.)

  94. Aeon says:

    Insane funny… XD

    Dice arguing is really great. Just when Frod… ehm… Dave got a 1 in the dwarf hall. Hilarius

  95. James D. Gray says:

    I’ve got bronchitis, so it hurt quite a bit when I laughed my ass off at this.

  96. Scott says:

    Okay, I stumbled across this EPIC adventure back in 2007. And once or twice a year, I dust off my bookmark and re-read it from start to finish.

    This is probably my 10th time reading this…and this page fucking kills me EVERY SINGLE TIME. This has to be one of the single funniest things I have ever read. Period.

    While gaming, it never got more interesting than when someone rolled a critical hit or a critical fail…

  97. Mentor397 says:

    I keep coming back to this series, simply because it is EVERY. SINGLE. GAME. I’ve ever GM’ed (We played MERP, not Dungeons and Dragons. Different referee name. Lol.) We never had a lot of choices for gamers, so we always tended to let everyone play, with predictable results. Nearly everyone was a roll-player, half the group wanted to “beat” the other half to prove their stones, and the half that didn’t want to beat the other half wanted to beat the other half for wanting to beat them. I’m not saying we didn’t have fun, but there was more than our share of frustration as well.

    And yeah, Gollum would have been killed here as well. Or, Gollum would have picked up the ring from the corpses of the group who were all dead from in-group character fights.

  98. Amotu says:

    Watched this video and it reminded me of this strip:

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="">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.