DM of the Rings LIII:
Waste Not, Want Not

By Shamus Posted Friday Jan 19, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 54 comments

Handle animal and ride skills. Cannot ride horses in Fangorn forest.

Don’t get too hung up on horses. While the rulebooks have all sorts of rules for movement speeds while on foot, encumbered, or riding, the truth is that all travel takes exactly as long as the DM wants it to. This brings to mind the wise old saying:

“A player is never late, Dave. Nor is he early. He arrives precisly when the plot dictates he should.”

Or something like that.


From The Archives:

54 thoughts on “DM of the Rings LIII:
Waste Not, Want Not

  1. Carl the Bold says:

    My cube-mates are starting to wonder why I laugh fairly loudly every Mon-Wed-Fri at noon.

  2. Thomas says:

    What I ahte is the DM who makes you pay for horses and then has them run away three days later. Good stuff man, keep ’em coming.

  3. xargon says:

    Half the time, players seem to forget about their horses, leaving them in some strange city several days away. Then they surprise you and suddenly have an almost unnatural fondness for their horses, going to extreme lengths to try and take them along. Yet most of the time the horses provide no benefit at all–since a lot of players don’t want to figure out mounted combat.

  4. Mike says:

    I just discovered this series today and I read it all. I shouldn’t be laughing this hard at work.

    I agree with the others… if you’re so inclined, I’d read your treatment of any other movie. Doesn’t matter if it is from a D&D perspective or not. That well will run dry eventually.

  5. Thenodrin says:

    Mike said: “Doesn't matter if it is from a D&D perspective or not. That well will run dry eventually.”

    I don’t think it will run dry. People have been poking fun at D&D for as long as they’ve been playing it. Well over 25 years. And, as long as the game keeps recruiting new players, there will forever be more people to share the jokes with.


  6. Russ says:

    I would love to see how the Frodo and Sam players are fairing as Jedi…wasn’t Frodo’s player named Dave? If you need a break from LOTR movie clips, then I’m sure one of the Episodes could fill in, depending on what part of the SW Timeline they are playing.

  7. nigel says:

    hmmmm… i wondedr were you could have possibly got that from…
    a wizard is never late, nor is he early. he arives presisly when he means to.

  8. Mrs T says:

    Horses are so you can carry more loot! DUH!

  9. Sartorius says:

    I agree with Russ, but do this:

    Have Sam, Merry, and Pippin give up on Frodo’s Star Wars game, because he thought up this incredibly weak “prequel” adventure with this annoying kid NPC.

  10. Steve says:

    Pippin and Merry are probably playing MechWar anyway.


  11. Kitchen Goblin says:

    Sartorius ….

    Love the Idea, but surely then we can see the death of a certain Jamaican “Thing” ?!??! :P

    Shamus ….. Keep it up, am still hooked !! despite every other webcomic becoming tedious, yours still brings a giggle or two.


  12. Steve says:

    I am agog to know how Shamus will do the bit where the DM’s formidable “Wall o’ DM Screens” collapses outward giving everyone a good look at the maps, a couple of the next redshirts up on the block and the disgusting half-eaten burrito left over from the last session.


  13. ChristianTheDane says:

    I would let them cut down the tree, then have treebeard eat one or two of them. Then again, i am a Cthulhu man :p

  14. Mordaedil says:

    Just finished reading the archive for the second time. Man, this is priceless!

  15. Walter says:

    [Quote=xargon]Half the time, players seem to forget about their horses, leaving them in some strange city several days away. Then they surprise you and suddenly have an almost unnatural fondness for their horses, going to extreme lengths to try and take them along. Yet most of the time the horses provide no benefit at all”“since a lot of players don't want to figure out mounted combat.[/quote]

    Just for that, if you kill my character off today, the new one will take Mounted Combat and Trample as feats.

    Shamus: good stuff as usual

  16. Dave says:

    Speaking of extreme measures to keep your horse:

    “And how many tries did it take for you to get across the ‘who is the son of a bitch who put this bridge here’ bridge?”
    “I didn’t know it had a name, sir,” Herzer said with a laugh.
    “Yeah, I know,” Edmund replied. “How many times.”
    “How did you get your mount across?”
    “Made a sling out of the ropes. Winched it across the chasm, kicking and squealing.”
    Edmund thought about it for a moment and then chuckled. “Jesus. What did you do, bring pack mules in with gear?”
    “More or less, sir.”

  17. Shard says:

    The last time I bought horses, the DM was killing them or making us leave them behind every 3, 4 days (we were going back and forth between a town and a forest). Only thing the horses really achieved was to empty my pouches of gold.

    Bleh.. let someone else buy the horses.. they’re quite impossible to catch too…

    Nowadays, I’ll ride with a caravan or walk. I’ll get there eventually

  18. Stormcaller says:

    Every game i have run i give the players horses as gifts from the person who “hires” them… :-)

    problem solved.

  19. RollD20 says:

    Oh, I remember *dreading* that question: “So… What are you guys doing with your horses?”
    The druids/rangers insisted on bringing them with.
    The more mercinary minded wanted to just buy when needed, sell back when done, with occasional bitter arguments about mercy-killing.
    And the paladin didn’t care about the rest of us, with his friggin ‘pocket pony’. :p

    I had a character from a nomadic tribe named ‘Two Horses’, and whenever we tried to figure out how many stable stalls we needed, I would mess up the count: “So we have one mule, a pony, four horses, plus Two Horses, so that’s a total of 8, right?” ;)

    These days, I name every horse ‘Littlefoot’. I never have to remember new names, and I can pretend I’ve always had the same mount. Simplicity and continuity. Game on.

  20. Jouk says:

    My level 13 fighter has something like 17 riding. She’s last seen a horse 5 levels (something like year or two of game time) ago. Bah! (And we even have the mounted combat rules down to pat – it’s just that dungeons and dragons don’t go well with low HP horses…)

  21. Wampus Cat says:

    The players in my Age of Worms game bought a mule named Jack, specifically to carry two 50-gallon barrels of oil to burn out a dungeon. Everyone expected Jack to have a short, highly-combustible lifespan, but he ended up outliving every character in the party. None of the current characters knows where Jack came from, and every time they need to carry something, it goes:
    “Where’s Jack?”
    “He’s right over there, eating daisies.”

  22. Telas says:

    Coming from a DM’s perspective, how a player treats mounts will tell you a lot about them. If the player is short-sighted, he’ll forget all about the horse once he arrives at the dungeon (the wandering monsters thank you for the meal). If he’s greedy, he’ll spend more money taking care of the horse than the horse is frankly worth. If he’s built a powergaming character based on mounted feats, in spite of being told it’s a dungeon crawl, he’ll bend the rules as far as possible to ride the damned thing in the dungeon. And if he’s cowardly, he’ll use the horse as a mobile shield-wall.

  23. Malohin says:

    Want to put and end to the horses-as-invlunerable-transport problems? Have someone that really *knows* animals play the horses some session. One GM at the FLGS asked my sweetie (, to do just that. You know, just for fun, just this once, just for a bit of color…

    She gave each horse (*groan*) personality and ran the PCs ragged for a whole session. This horse was a “biter,” that one was a bit lame, this one was skittish, and so on. When she found out what they had been feeing them (Horses need to be fed? Who knew?) she was happy to give the GM hints on all sorts of problems they might have and, therefore, did. She was happy to let the players in on the little secrets of making friends with their horses… you know, food, water, rest, keeping them clean, apples, the odd kind word, and like that.

    It was great! :D

    Later, when she’d stick her head in and ask if the GM “needed anyone to play the horses,” the PCs would all shout, “No! No thanks! We’ve got plenty of oats, and apples! They’re all in the best of health! Thanks anyway! Bye!”

    Great use of real-world experience to liven up a campaign… :-)

  24. Alasseo says:

    As has been said, it doesn’t matter if players have horses or not, they’ll travel at the speed of plot. Well, at any speed up to and including the speed of plot- they may muck around a fair bit and slow down; but the only way to travel faster than plotspeed is to sneak a look at the GM’s campaign notes

  25. Thenodrin says:

    The Living Death campaign always took mounts and transportation into account. Characters who had horses had to figure out how to get them from place to place. Every different city had costs to rent horses, and penalties for “losing” them.

    And, they were usually dealt with in a realistic manner. I think that the most glaring error to pass edit was the event that assumed horses could travel 60 mph for an indefinate length of time.


  26. Dune says:

    I like letting the characters do as they want and killing the stupid horses, say by an overpowered treant when the first one unloads on the forest ground, and the treant is WAY too powerful so that the have to run away. Another option is to have the horse break its’ leg as soon as a nat 1 comes up on a ride check, “your horse broke its leg, now you must put it down” – ” no, I have a potion of Cure MOD” – “Is it an equine version of the spell?” – “WHAT? when did that start to matter?” – “When you got into the enchanted woods, duh”

  27. Marril says:

    I had to chuckle at the comment about eating the horses… we played a campaign once where we ran out of food, so a party member killed another party member’s dire weasle and froze it for food before the DM even realize what happened. Needless to say, we restarted and he kept a much closer eye on us after that.

  28. Tallis says:

    Could be worse. I had a group that ran out of food while lost at sea, so they ate the halfling crew.

  29. Destroy Gundam says:

    Were there any “tastes like chicken” jokes made in, well, bad taste?

  30. Rikku says:

    I can’t believe you made Aragorn into such a funny, yet weird character. but seriously horse-meat? Now that’s just gross!but still funny.

    1. WJS says:

      What’s gross about it? Meat is meat. I don’t touch the stuff myself, but I’ve always found it weird how picky most people who do are about what animals they will eat.

  31. Odysseus says:

    Firstly both the French and the Japanese eat horse meat. Also while some campaigns don’t worry about food supplies, I personally think that food supplies should be kept track of except within cities/ towns. When the ineveitable happens and a player/ party runs out of food; crucify them and make them work out what there going to do. Remember while trail rations may seem cheap, it starts to really add up, especially when your travelling for weeks at a time.

  32. mocking bird says:

    A friend of mine never named his horses – he said never name anything you might have to eat later.

    On the same line as dietary misadventures – we were in a field of cattle when somebody noticed a giant red dragon swooping in. Somehow we all managed to hide (one unfortunately in a very flammable bag of holding). One player asked ‘what do we hear?’ to which the GM replied ‘Crunch, crunch, moo.’

  33. Fran says:

    You made my pepsi come down my nose!

  34. Rachel Clements says:

    Once in a campaign we picked up a lot of horses as loot (they were darn expensive to buy and as soon as we reached a town, we’d be rich! We ended up with a big string; two characters were dealing with them full time.

    The DM tried to get us to drop them, repeatedly.

    Nope, they were money on the hoof. We held on to them grimly, barely surviving a few encounters with two fighters (the only ones with animal handling) occupied in keeping our loot alive.

    Finally, he pulled a god act. We were all (yes, including the horses, we checked) transported to a high cave. Only way out was a sheer drop down to the ground. No way for the horses to stay wih us. City visible in the distance, though.

    So this is where the sorcerer observes that the paladin is a blacksmith. And if the horses loose the horseshoes (bare feet), he can cast spider climb.

    We walked the horses down the sheer drop (blindfolds, some fanastic animal handling rolls and a lot of spell casting later).

    The DM gave up and let us get away with it. The horses survived for another session! Victory!

    The city was full of slug people that didn’t ride horses, though. Bah.

  35. Khyran Storm says:


    Love the comic. Just as everyone says, so much that is way too familiar.

    My anecdote reguarding horses; we were in a campaign that required us to travel quickly (i.e.-run away) quite frequently. We all had horses, but many perished along the way. Ironically, the player who lost the most mounts was the ranger, whom actually took time to tend properly to his horse. Eventually, he stopped naming them (naturally, we chided him about just numbering them for the sake of ease), and we started calling him ‘Horsebane’. He hated us, of course.

    My horse, on the otherhand, was named Lucky. It had the minimum allowable hit points for its hit dice, and it Never Died. That dang horse outlived warhorses. :p

    Also, once when I was DMing, I was trying to spy on the party who had attracted the attention of a sect of Druids. They ended up having one of their order masquerade as a donkey owned by a halfling party-member. ‘Bella’, the mule, saved the life of that dim-witted halfling several times, and he never figured it out. Bella was just that smart donkey he loved. Hehehe… Good times…

  36. Nadzghoul says:

    Eating the horses!!!! WAAAHHHH HEHEEEEE!!!

  37. Wulfric says:

    Hell, I’d have done the same thing! I was wondering why the hell were they given horses when they couldn’t use them for anything. Then “you’ll need them in a minute.” Okay, can’t wait to see how this plays out!

  38. JJR says:

    Meh, horses are just standard props to move the characters from point A to point B without having to walk. Our DM was generous with little deus ex machina plot devices such that we never had to worry much about horses.

    Always funny are magic users trying to bend the rules for spells using 21st century real-world knowledge…

    One of my PC’s character’s outbursts that will never die in my gaming group: “aw, come on, (DM’s name), my character is a seasoned adventurer–I woulda brought ROPE!”

  39. TheDeepDark says:

    Okay. So, I’m currently playing a sixth level paladin who only last session learned the beauties of charging down an opponent on my “pocket” mount (not pony. She ain’t even a horse). It made me very, Very happy to see the cumulative affects on my attack. :)
    And I have to see, all the “speed of plot” comments absolutely cracked me up!! ROFL!

  40. TheDeepDark says:

    *see=say. Mock not my hasty typing.

  41. Fage of Kexy says:

    A friend of mine once told me about a game he was in where there were 5 characters and only 3 horses. The Mage of the group cast a polymorph on one of the characters and changed him into a horse just so the number of party members would equal the number of horses and everyone could ride. I found that quite funny.

  42. Me says:

    I can’t see the image, getting a broken image link? :(

  43. Leylia says:

    It’s not just the French and Japanese that eat horses. Cowboys eat horses too when it’s prudent. Both my grandpa and my dad have eaten horsemeat. Apparently it’s quite tasty.

  44. Andrul says:

    This comment thread reminds me of Buttercup the Wonder Pony.
    He was the only equine to always make his saves when fireballed and survived many attacks including one from a troll, and actually outlived 4 of his riders (none of whom were actually riding him when they died). The group eventually retired him in honor of his years of faithful service and all chipped in to rent a stable stall and some pasturage for him to spend the rest of his days in peace.

  45. James "Dairyllama" says:

    I had a friend who was playing a barbarian who had never seen horses before. We got ready to ride and he found his horse unruly. So he got off and stood in front of his horse, looked it in the eyes, and punched it.

  46. Trae says:

    Hey Fage? Try this on for size. In our current adventure, we originally had a party of 4 people. We had 4 horses, plus a pack mule. After rescuing prisoners (gaining a party member from one of them), we now have 13 people who will want to get back to town after the Big Bad is killed. Even if we let someone ride the pack mule and double up, someone’s walking.

  47. amuletts says:

    My Paladin bought a horse at level 1 and still has it. I’m kinda proud of that. Unfortunately the DM seems incredibly reluctant to bring in my special, Paladinic Warhorse (because that would mean looking it up in a book).

  48. Chuck says:

    My light horse is still in a stable because we’re taversing a swamp, and the DM has heavily hinted my paladin mount will be some sort of large lizard. We don’t have a Rogue so hopefully it can climb walls.

  49. silver Harloe says:

    > but seriously horse-meat? Now that's just gross!but still funny.

    If you’ve eaten ANY fast food hamburgers in your life, I estimate a greater than 50% probability that you’ve (inadvertently) eaten horse meat.

    1. johanna says:

      Except that is an urban legend and completely untrue.

      My Grandpa said that the best eatin is veggie animals. Although he always said snakes were just delicious. I imagine horses, being veggie in nature would probably be fine.. But could you eat Flicka??

  50. Joe says:

    I had a campaign a while back which happened to contain a Chaotic Evil elf ranger (who later multiclassed in rogue, which is now my favorite multiclass). When we were all around level 5, my girlfriend asked to join the campaign, and was I really going to say no to that? So we ended up with a level 1 Chaotic Good elf bard tagging along, and honestly she did a great job, but everyone was EXTREMELY cautious about the newbie, making sure she wasn’t going to suddenly do something overwhelmingly stupid and kill us all.
    The guy playing the ranger–I dislike real names, let’s call him Steve–had his own concerns about her competence. In our second session after my girlfriend–let’s call her Alice–joined, we ended up lost in the woods. With our horses. And someone suggested, nervously since we were full-on roleplaying and had named the horses and described their personalities and so on, that we might need to eat one of the horses. Steve pointed out that Alice was the lightest character in the party (we had no halflings), so she should be the one sharing a horse, right? If we should have to. She agreed. Then, when we ran out of food, he told her we were going to have to eat a horse, and it should be hers. She promptly announced “I draw my rapier and stab my horse in the neck.” We all sat there in complete silence while Friend Steve laughed hysterically, then finally revealed that he had a spare Bag of Holding full of dried meat, AND had shot a deer and hidden it in the woods. He was very happy to welcome her to the deep end of the alignment pool. A very Belkar Bitterleaf moment for him.
    She was not amused. We were.

  51. farawayfan says:

    This is also known as traveling at the speed of plot.

  52. Milagro says:

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