DM of the Rings LXVII:
A Sizeable Contribution

By Shamus Posted Friday Feb 23, 2007

Filed under: DM of the Rings 83 comments

Looting Theodens armory.

Looting Theodens armory.


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83 thoughts on “DM of the Rings LXVII:
A Sizeable Contribution

  1. Robert says:

    If it moves, kill it. If it doesn’t move, sell it to someone.

    1. Kevin Moore says:

      Just came across this webcomic, so it surprised me that someone I “knew” was on here in a context unrelated to how I “met” him. Yet, given our small circles, probably not that surprising. :-)

  2. Browncoat says:

    Wait. If it moves, and you kill it, it stops moving. Who’d buy that?!

    1. joesolo says:

      necromancer, aopothicary, witch on certain animals. remaining scraps to the local hotdog merchant.

  3. gwen says:

    The occultists, of course!

  4. Robert says:

    Everything has value to someone. Our party was once sorely tempted by a 10,000 GP offer for one of the PCs, who had an extraplanar origin. Apparently his glands were useful for potions…but the goody-goody ranger said “No”. Stupid morality, interfering with the needs of commerce!

  5. Charles says:

    Jeez, no wonder you’re not handing gold out to these guys. There’s nowhere to spend the stuff!

  6. Rolld20 says:

    I always liked the story of the group who killed a mage, then faced his quasit familiar. The players looked at each other, and shouted in gleeful unison, “SPELL COMPONENTS!”
    The GM replied shakily, “Ok, the quasit just lost morale, ’cause you guys totally freaked *me* out!”

    I’ve been in groups who filled portable holes with everything worth at least 1sp/pound. And amazingly enough, there always seems to be a market for kobold spears and orc armor at the nearest general store. Guess the local teens need them for LARPing.

  7. Robin Z says:

    I gotta remember that trick.

  8. Ryan says:

    “I’ll bet you remember. You pay attention.”


  9. hanov3r says:

    I guess I probably shouldn’t mention the game I’m currently *in*, wherein we carved the poison glands out of a pair of wyverns that we killed on the off chance that we’d find *someone* willing to buy ’em… forgetting, of course, that our current base of operations is in a tiny little mining/farming town, and the nearest decent-sized city is several days ride away…

  10. Zack says:

    An amusing strip, as always.

    By the way, when you mouse over the little d20 in the upper right hand corner of your page it pops up a list of keywords. One of these keywords is ‘Gamebube’. I can only assume this is a typo. Thought I’d bring it to your attention.

    I shall continue to be a loyal reader.

  11. Breklor says:

    Mmmmm, rancid wyvern poison glands.

  12. Carl the Bold says:

    Zack –

    You’re right, of course. It should read, “Gameboob”.

  13. damien walder says:

    Yeah, the Pawnshop only shows up in the director’s cut of LOTR.

    Keep on doing, Shamus. I feel this ^low-key humour is building up to something

  14. Alex says:

    That never really struck me before, but outside of the Shire, the seemingly habitable world of Middle-Earth is awfully empty of settlements, isn’t it?

  15. Alia says:

    In our lastest D&D campagin, we were being chased by hundreds of hobgoblins (give us a break, we are only 2nd level). Despite this, we couldn’t just run back up to the surface. Oh no, we had to swing by the armory to loot it first.

    1. joesolo says:

      thats sounds like 90% of roleplayers. what, probally lethal to go back? but theres loot!

  16. julianj says:

    I acknowledge Tolkien’s brilliant grasp of legend, linguistics, and the natural world. I don’t think he was so hot on economics. There’s something on one of the Tolkien sites that explains the the Shire would need a huge underclass of indentured hobbit peons to supply everything for the middle class hobbits like Frodo and Bilbo.

    The above sounds very earnest – wrong for this site :-) There definitely is a dearth of shops to sell loot. Surely “the market” would fill a vacuum e.g. after the siege there would be stalls encircling Helms Deep flogging recycled Uruk armour – a valuable source of metal.

    Never mind the Black Gates – they would be worth a fortune to a scrap metal merchant….and where are the vendors and er, camp followers going round with all these armies?

    Hold on, nobody in LOTR ever has any money. Bit of a problem, that. Why don’t the Elves charge board and lodging? Rivendell is surely Grade 1 Listed and the upkeep cannot be cheap.

    well done Shamus, may your ink never run dry and creeping scrotum rot strike those who complain about typos.

    1. WJS says:

      I would highly doubt there would be stalls selling Uruk armour – who’s going to want to buy it individually? Crate it up and sell it to a smelter in bulk.

  17. Woerlan says:

    A newbie player of mine once looted the bodies of three highwaymen of weapons and armor. When the party got to the next town he immediately went over to the local smithy and tried to sell them, only to get laughed at for trying to sell inferior equipment. The player ended up getting a miniscule amount for the slagged metals. (The veteran players just laughed)

    Not every player realizes that in setting with any sort of realism, most shops won’t buy everything you want to sell, especially if it’s something they already keep a lot of. There’s also the humorous situation where the inexperienced player tries to sell stuff like jeweled daggers in a small town or village (as if the local shopkeeper would carry thousands of gold pieces on hand).

  18. Telas says:

    Robert Says:
    February 23rd, 2007 at 12:04 pm
    If it moves, kill it. If it doesn't move, sell it to someone.

    The truth is only a little more complicated…


  19. MkartMaster says:

    \\\\\Browncoat Says:

    Wait. If it moves, and you kill it, it stops moving. Who'd buy that?!\\\\\\\\

    \\\\\\\\\gwen Says:

    The occultists, of course!\\\\\\\\


    In my game, we traveled to the elemental plane of fire to acquire a diamond from an ifrit merchant who got it off this human merchant who stole it from us. We show up in his shop, kill him, have our rogue die to an extremely obvious trap, and then…

    Put the ifrit body in our bag of holding!

    Our DM didn’t like this, so after “kindly” letting us RP an exchange for 10K gp with the local arcanists’ guild, he sent us on a quest to the Abyss.

    We barely survived.
    My dwarf’s shield is forever dented by that demon’s crushing blow…

  20. Tola says:

    That never really struck me before, but outside of the Shire, the seemingly habitable world of Middle-Earth is awfully empty of settlements, isn't it?

    Much of the world in general is ‘Unsafe’. Wolves, Trolls, and Orcs all over the place. And in some cases, worse things: the Last Balrog, in Moria, is a prime example. Enough so you don’t travel unless the need is great or you have great numbers or great warriors for protection.

  21. Tola says:

    Argh. Should have added this t the last one.

    No Travel=no new settlements, no growth. Now, this is entirely guesswork, but assuming things continued as they were(No massive War or Ring destruction), Orcs would likely have become the dominant species in a few generations. The things breed like mad.

  22. Tirgaya says:

    Tola said: Orcs would likely have become the dominant species in a few generations. The things breed like mad.

    So… that’s why those Middle Earth Orcs were always pissed. Always breeding… no females.

    Yep, that’s a bad combination in my book.

  23. Gryfen says:

    julianj Says:

    There's something on one of the Tolkien sites that explains the the
    Shire would need a huge underclass of indentured hobbit peons to supply
    everything for the middle class hobbits like Frodo and Bilbo.


    Don’t be daft. Clearly they all make a decent living taking in each other’s laundry.

  24. Sartorius says:

    Middle-Earth settlement: Gondor south of Minas Tirith is reasonably densely populated, as is Unbar (where the Corsairs come from). The Appendicies to RotK, as well as Gandalf’s comments in various places, indicate that the region between the Shire and Isengard, and the region northeast of Rohan, used to be well populated, until a combination of wars and plagues over the course of the last age had thinned them out.

    Shire economy: The books make it clear that there are *some* poor hobbits; Samwise’s Gaffer is one of them, as are Rosie Cotton’s family (whose fortunes are said to have risen considerably after their prominence in the rebellion against Saruman.) I don’t think that Frodo and Bilbo are “middle-class” hobbits – they are quite well-to-do, for the Shire. Peregrine Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck certainly are of blue hobbit blood.

    1. joesolo says:

      i remeber there was one that ran a mill, plus theres some farms in the southern parts of the shire. thats probally middle class.

      plus at least bilbo seemed to like cleaning the house him self so that completly eliminates maids. and butlers arrent really seen.

  25. Parzival says:

    The Baggins are very much upper class”” “gentlemen” in the British sense of the word. Bilbo and Frodo are equivalent to “country squires.” It’s implied (but not specifically stated) that the residents of Bagshot Row are tenants of a sort, though admittedly Tolkien’s economics are sketchy at best. Not anymore so than a world where monsters carry around gold and gems as pocket change, yet the local military/political structure allows independent bands of mercenaries to kill the monsters and bring huge infusions of cash into the economy, there by devaluing the currency and causing massive inflation. :-)

  26. Patrick says:

    The Tooks and the Brandybucks are noted as being two of the richest families in the Shire.

  27. Selki says:

    Wait, the Shire didn’t support itself by selling outsiders excess pipeweed and mushrooms?

  28. Harlock says:

    Excess mushrooms?!? Any proper hobbit will tell you that there’s no such thing. Excess mushrooms, indeed…

  29. hendrake says:

    Good money in pipeweed…oh yeah, you know what I’m talking about!

  30. Shandrunn says:

    julianj says:
    Hold on, nobody in LOTR ever has any money. Bit of a problem, that. Why don't the Elves charge board and lodging? Rivendell is surely Grade 1 Listed and the upkeep cannot be cheap.


    Actually, I can think of at least one reference to money. When they leave Bree, they get ripped off by Bill Ferny who sells them Bill the pony for way too much money.

  31. hayball says:

    Parzival, that is why the D&D system has rules for how large funds a settlement of a given size has, and the limits of said funds: To prevent devaluation.

    On another note, if the local cultists don’t want to buy your scavenged body parts you can always check with the butcher.

  32. Bree is the only place in Middle-Earth that seems even faintly like a real settlement. Well, and Laketown, in the Hobbit.

    As far as we can tell, no one in Lorien or Rivendell does anything productive, ever; where do all those glorious feasts come from?

    Minas Tirith is a real city in a real country, presumably fed by its hinterland farmers; but does anyone ever flash a gold piece the whole time they’re in Gondor? Or Rohan, for that matter?

    We hear a little bit about interregional trade: Mirkwood wine, dwarvish iron and gems, Shire pipeweed. But within any given region, city, or settlement, everything always appears to be free; and it’s very unclear who’s doing the work to produce stuff for interregional trade. Hobbits are at least shown farming in the Shire; that’s more than any elf ever does…

  33. Carl the Bold says:

    “well done Shamus, may your ink never run dry and creeping scrotum rot strike those who complain about typos.”

    Fortunately, Julian, I found a discrete cleric in the next 1d6 hours. I did get a long lecture, but also some needed hygiene tips on avoiding certain ailments.

  34. Sartorius says:

    I think that much of Tolkien’s disinterest in economics is cultural. Scholars of his social class and era gave short shrift to such matters, because for the gentry to have too much interest in commerce (or, horrors, to “be in trade”) was rather gauche or even disgraceful. (Saruman’s Shire, of course, is intended to demonstrate what happens when one is too fond of economics and commerce. Lotho, of course, was criticized for owning more than was good for him.)

    Another unfavorable LOTR reference to commerce, if I recall correctly: Theoden notes with disgust that agents of Sauron tried to buy some horses.

  35. Darkenna says:

    But within any given region, city, or settlement, everything always appears to be free;

    On the other hand, our heroes are always dealing directly with, if not directly working for, the local ruler. Ever try telling a king, “No, your majesty, you can’t have that bauble because it’s too expensive” or “Here’s your plate of food, Sire. That’ll be three-fifty. And we don’t take gold or platinum”? Even in Laketown, the heroes were the guests of the ruling authority.

  36. Mom says:

    Isn’t it fun to see where these strips lead our conversation? In defense of the Elves industry, Galadriel and her handmaidens made the cloaks and lembas that were given to the eight as they left Lorien. Some elves were skilled at boat making, and some at making rope. These things seem to have the virtue of never wearing out ( Due somewhat to the power of the rings ?). So they had no need to replace things, I guess.. Arwen, also, made the banner that Aragorn carried into battle. Much of their doings were “mental” and seemed like “magic” to men. Some believed that when the “one ring” was destoyed the “three” would lose most or all of their power and the thing wrought by their power would pass away.

  37. haashaastaak says:

    “much has been forgotten, but much remains,” to misquote Tim Powers. Theoden was not disgusted that Sauron’s agents wanted to buy horses because he hated commerce. He was disgusted because they were going to mistreat the horses. Orcs and other fell creatures even touching horses is a sin to someone like Theoden.

    Throughout much of the journey the protagonists of the book were agents of the highest authorities in middle Earth. They got free help from royalty because they were laying down their lives to protect the entire planet. You can bet that somebody just wandering around when he came to town was going to have to pay for lodging and food just like the hobbits had to in Bree.

  38. haashaastaak says:

    more about why they didn’t have to flash any money. They were invited to Rivendell by Elrond, who was a good friend of Bilbo, who had already successfully completed a mission commissioned by Gandalf to get rid of the Dragon, who was somebody Sauron was counting on for the coming war.

  39. Freefall says:

    In the matter of money, I say this. At the begining of The Fellowship Of The Ring, people were wondering how Bilbo managed to get all the stuff he did. They assumed that is was some of the dragon Smaug’s hoard. Also, at the end of The Return Of The King, Bilbo gives Sam the last of that gold. Finally, around that time, when they get back to Bree, Butterbur allows them to stay at his inn for free.

    In the matter of habitation, the characters had to avoid most habitation, lest they be spotted or captured by the agents of Sauron. The people of Gondor and Rohan could have been real, if they usually farmed much but when the story gets to them, they are at war which could eather A) Make them concentrate on other things, B) Destroy all crops stopping farming for obvious reasons (duh) or C) The story could just be concentrating on things other than crops. The other settlements might have been A) Skipped over because of unimportance, B) Avoided because of rumors, or C) Be so out of the way that they didn’t go there.

    In the matter of elves, Bilbo was a friend of them and Frodo was his heir. Frodo’s friends helped him so they were welcome. They didn’t have to pay anything because they were helping the elves (by making it so they didn’t have to hide their rings) and because elves are the kind of race that understands that only war can come out of money, no matter how long it takes. Also, I would like to point out that the elves reforged Arigorn’s blade, allowing him to make Sauron attack early. The elves are also skilled craftsmen (and women).

    I don’t really think Smaug was helping Sauron but who knows.

    All this is just my thoughts though, so none of it is definatly true. I just like pointing out things that I notice (or think that I notice) to others.

  40. Michael says:

    In generaly, Middle earth is pretty dangerously underpopulated. The 3rd age has not been kind to any species but the orcs. First, most of the humans die when Numenor is destroyed, then they set up shop back on the mainland in fairly large kingdoms, but after a few a few centuries of impressiveness, feel a need for civil war, which eggs on plague, and then the losers of the civil war go be kings of the corsairs. Osgiliath was abandoned because after the civil was there weren’t enough people to live in it. The kingdom in the north breaks into 3 parts, which begin to feud endlessly and are eventually mostly wiped out by the Witch King. At the same time, the elves are mostly getting the hell out of dodge, becuase heaven was just a boatride away, and the dwarves, whose numbers grow very slowly in the best of times, have been kicked out of their home and scattered.

    Of course, very little of it makes any economic sense but as was said, that wasn’t Tolkien’s forte. There is no way, for example, that Bilbo’s mithril coat could be worth more than the whole of the shire, especially since we’re told mithril’s value is “ten times that of gold.”

    1. WJS says:

      By my calculations, that would make the metal alone worth over 5 million dollars. The Shire does not appear to be particularly wealthy or have any real industry beyond sustenance farming, so depending on how they measure the value of goods and regions in Middle-Earth, it could easily be worth more than the Shire.

  41. “They got free help from royalty because they were laying down their lives to protect the entire planet.”

    In other words, rather than being a target of criticism, LOTR should be praised for being a far more realistic view of people trying to save the planet than the one where some hapless merchant is standing outside the door of the big, planet-destroying boss (who will, incidentally, also destroy this merchant), selling you the Mighty Sword of Mightiness for (all your gold) x 2 + 100,000.

  42. Nigel D says:

    A few other things on money, settlements and economics: Bilbo brought back a shedload of cash from Smaug’s hoard. There are elves populating northern Mirkwood, both in The Hobbit and in LotR. Dwarves mine the Blue mountains to the west of the Shire. The Beornings inhabit the Anduin valley east of the Misty Mountains (and in LotR, the settlement is said to have grown and prospered after the Necromancer was driven outy of Dol Guldur).

    Rohan seems to operate by a feudal system which is in that transitional phase between a barter economy and monetary economics.

    Gondor is far more civilised and, one assumes, in peacetime it would have a mostly market-driven economy. However, we only see it in time of war and I think it is reasonable to assume that the country is under martial law, with strict rationing in place. It is mentioned in LotR how agriculturally productive the southern provinces of Gondor are.

    Anyhoo, back to the strip: I read this one, and I thought “that’s us!” :lol:

  43. Little Hobbit says:

    There is no way, for example, that Bilbo's mithril coat could be worth more than the whole of the shire, especially since we're told mithril's value is “ten times that of gold.”

    Eh, counting in the time to mine the mithril, and the skill required to make it (it’s some damn fine-linked mail, there), it’d be worth a hell of a lot. There may have been some creative embellishment for story-telling on… Gandalf’s part? Whoever. Anyway, at the end of the day, I think it’s possible that it may have been theoretically valued at that much (or close to it) but good luck finding a merchant who has the gold and is willing to spend it on a shiny shirt.

  44. superfluousk says:

    I also think that “more than the worth of the Shire and everything in it,” was probably an editorial remark on the part of Gandalf (and it certainly would have been on the part of the dwarves, who would have found very little in the Shire that they would have valued and did not think very highly of its crafts) rather than a cold economic calculation.

    Gandalf certainly values the Shire for emotional and perhaps philosophical reasons — he certainly thinks more highly of them than pretty much any other being of his stature at the time — but he has spent thousands of years hobnobbing with the Valar and the crafters of the Noldor. Rather than totting up a running calculation on the monetary value of the land and produce of the shire (taking into consideration changing values of currency) I suspect he was just stating that the mithril shirt was of a whole different world and class than anything the Shire had come up with.

  45. Mom says:

    commenting further on the value of Bilbo’s Mithril shirt, I agree the value was in the workmanship ( the ring mail was as supple as LINEN) but also it was studded with white gems (diamonds?) and had belt of pearls and crystal.

  46. Darkenna says:

    I’d just like to point out at this time that DMotR is a perfect example of the highest and most praisable form of geekery; it has inspired, in successive weeks, merely with its words and statements: a Monty Python quoting quest, a debate over game mechanics, a satirical discussion about STDs, and a serious conversation about political-socio economics.

    Well done, Shamus. Well done, indeed.

  47. Thufir says:

    That seems oddly familiar…… if i tried that in someones campaign.*wink-wink*

  48. Yahzi says:

    “more than the worth of the Shire and everything in it”

    In Viking times a chainmail shirt could easily be worth an entire working farm. So a magic chainmal shirt must be worth many farms.

    I think that was the logic Tolkien was following.

  49. Tola says:

    So… that's why those Middle Earth Orcs were always pissed. Always breeding… no females.

    No SEEN females. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The Dwarves are in a similar boat.

    Something interesting to think about-The little we see of the Orcish military system(What Sam hears of it-I’m talking of the book here, where they go into detail in what happens to Frodo and his gear) seems to be…organised, certainly. How it is that they’re so….chaotic(Suddenly causing an out-and-out brawl) I don’t know.

  50. Catbunny says:

    Or, as in other literary works, all dwarfs have beards. Even the females. It’s difficult for even dwarfs to tell the difference. :-)

  51. Lil'German says:

    You must remember that a large Part of what we know of the World of Tolkiens Stories is just a kind of Road Story…
    even the maps don’t show every detail but concentrate on showing the places mentioned in the stories (namely those visited by Bilbo and the dwarfs in TH and the Fellowship and Company in TLOTR) neither do those maps i’m aware of even care to show the villages of Westfold or something like “all the fireplaces of the warning chain from Gondor to Rohan” there must be far more cities in Gondor than in Rohan and every of the Lords that answered to the war call of the stewart should at least command over one decent town where their seat is located and there were some directly mentioned like that swan helmet guy…

    but it’s true… the inhabitated lands are seemingly smallish in LotR… there’s a small speck of land inhabitable between the westend of the Shire (with that Palantir Tower on those hills near the elvish harbour) and Rivendell while north and south of the wilder races have the sceptre and drove men, elves and hobbits in their small reservations of that time, the dwarven had lost most of their mountain kingdom if not all to Saurons creatures and that should mean that outside of Lothlorien and the woodland kingdom Legolas came from the roads should have been very unsure… in the south there was Gondor that could maintain his territory quite good until the war of the ring commenced but then quickly lost the eastern half up to the river and afterwards was sieged in the capital… similarly Rohan… up to the point Frodos voyage commenced they hold their part just good enough to keep hold of their lands but with the rise of the dark powers they were pushed back really fast to Helms Deep and in the South the Haradrim should have broken the borders (of Gondor) about the same time ;)

    So there MUST have been other towns, villages and small farms in between the places we got to know in TH and LOTR, but nobody cared to invent all the names of those places till now ;) and they aren’t really of much importance to the story after all… they just delivered the cannon fodder for the main heroes :D

    as to economics… there IS a large lower class, as you remember Sam and his uncle clearly are employed by other hobbits, there are millers and bakers and brewers and farmers… but how many bourgeois or “small aristocrats” would notice them when dealing with other things? Frodo never cared to tell of all the workers that were needed to maintain the sweet life he and his companions could enjoy but rather talked about his uncle and the other relatives, the mayor and such folk…

    money was mentioned also, when the original housing of bilbos was sold to the other Baggins-Slashsomethings and when Frodo got his new house near the end of the Shire from where he started on his Quest… ;)

    and towards the elves that should demand housing fees from travellers… well firstly elves don’t seem really material to me from what i read :D secondly they’re a clearly aristocratic race and Elrond IS some kind of high rank aristocrat among them! Herold of the King and such!
    who needs to take some GP from poor fellows when they can at least amuse the Lord? :D

  52. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Aw, crap. That’s it? I’ve been reading these every night all weekend since stumbling upon them doing a reandom search for campaign ideas. Now I’m caught up, and I’d like to weep. :'(
    Shamus, I think I said it a few panels ago, but this stuff is amazing. You have a gift, and I thank God that you found an outlet. As I mentioned, I was hunting for campaign material because I have lately realized that I very much want to get back to freedom of story-telling in the pen & paper games. I left the fold some time ago (mostly because of time and a lack of solid people to play with) and got involved in the drug-like world of CRPGs and (gasp!) MMORPGs. (Sorry, ladies, for the bad language). In a recent flash of insight, I realized that I longed to be able to do things which the game mechanics didn’t allow, or to allow others to do those things. In other words, I wanted my only guideline when considering if something could be done to be: Will it read well? Will it make a good story?
    To make a long story short (cue chorus: TOO LATE!) I decided to re-dedicate my creativity to putting together a campaign which would make a good story. My hunt for source material led me to your doorstep, Shamus. It is like coming home.
    On a final note: I had a fairly nasty headache this evening after taking my 4 yr-old bowling (it was a reward, and it was fun). I thought to read a few panels before going to bed. Uncountable belly-laughs later, I have finished the archives and am eagerly awaiting the next installment.

    P.S. Should any of you fine geeks have suggestions for links where I can learn to use this RSS thingy, please sent them to [email protected]. You can ask for payment for this quest in advance, but you’ll find my wallet to be harder to get into than Balin’s tomb. (My wife controls the pursestrings. Just try and cut them, thief-boy.)

  53. Calidore Chase says:

    My gamers always keep a ‘drop’ monster of some kind so they can blame things on it. Don’t know what a drop monster is? Well you take, say, a dead kobold, keep it in a bag and whenever you do something that you want to blame on someone else you ‘drop’ the body and either claim to have defeated it or let the townies make their own ideas. Course spells to keep the body fresh and a bag of holding are essential.

  54. Phil says:

    As far as we can tell, no one in Lorien or Rivendell does anything productive, ever; where do all those glorious feasts come from?

    Elrond and Galadriel are how old? 3000+ years? Because compound interest mounts up after a while… ;-)

  55. Part of what seems so goofy about all this in the books i sthat everyone makes such a big deal out of how rustic and backward and unsophisticated the Shire is, how few people have ever even heard of it, when it’s one of the biggest densely-populated, peaceful, safe, and prosperous patches on the map. Tolkien was at such pains to portray the homey Little England comforts of the Shire, and to continue The Hobbit’s atmosphere of unknown Wilderland Out There, that we’re left with a picture in which Middle Earth is almost all Wilderland, with a ridiculously high level of comfort and safety up in hobbit-land.

    Yes, there’s lots of discussion of gold and such in the first chapter, when discussing Bilbo’s wealth; and his goods were being auctioned off at the end of The Hobbit. But then it becomes clear that the rest of Middle Earth is, at best, Europe in 700 AD or so– thinly populated, devastated, barbaric. And it becomes hard to believe that a little corner of England c. 1600 fits into the same world.

  56. Thenodrin says:

    As a rule, I try to avoid fantasy rpg campaigns that use modern economic systems. The only fantasy setting that I’ve ever seen where either Arthur Smith or John Nash’s versions of capitalism fits well is in Final Fantasy VI. In a pre-industry age, it just doesn’t make sense.

    I always assumed that the economic system in the LotR setting was communist. Individuals and cultures shared their left over production freely with those in need under the assumption that their goods would likewise be shared.

    Personally, I like a craftsman-guild style economy, where the craftsman mark is more valuable than the actual item. That way, no honorable shop will buy used items such as looted weapons and armour, because it would cast doubt on the quality of the mark if it were known that “Bob the Blacksmith” was buying orcish made goods.

    I also like the idea that in a world where the common man cannot immediately tell an enchanted item from a non-enchanted one (Detect Magic being a spell, and all) that only magic-rich communities would have “Magic Marts” where such things could be bought.

    This way, as a DM, I can give items or money as loot, still have the adversaries decently equiped to provide a challenge, and not have to consider the economic fungibility of the two. And, I can also give magical favours from NPCs that the players can get excited about. Instead of “ho-hum, a sword +2” it is, “This is a Desoto made sword that the Kretschmar Enclave enchanted for me in thanks for my efforts in protecting them from the nearby hill giants.”


    1. WJS says:

      You realise that capitalism has been around for thousands of years while Marx only drafted the Communist Manifesto in 1848, right?

      [EDIT:] Note that I’m not suggesting that he was the first to ever think of the idea, but that was the point at which people started trying to implement the idea on such a ridiculous scale as a country.

  57. Blackeyed says:

    These clowns are going to be *so* bummed when Saruman kills himself, robbing them of their XP.

  58. Blackeyed says:

    ((not that he does that in the movie, but I’m predicting that he will in this comic))

  59. Darkenna says:

    Elrond and Galadriel are how old? 3000+ years? Because compound interest mounts up after a while…

    Yes, that’s the right range for Elrond (tho I believe it’s a little closer to 4000…), but Galadriel goes back much MUCH further. She might even remember the era before the Light of the Trees (if her memory is REALLY good)–her father was one of the Lords of the Nolder. Put her at around 12-15k and you’re in the right vicinity.

    Which is one reason I love how she was portrayed in the film (extended cut, not theatrical release), even tho a lot of others were upset over the “non-elven-queenness”… that length of life would produce a very strong and strange personality. She was definitely not human, not even close.

  60. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    “Minas Tirith is a real city in a real country, presumably fed by its hinterland farmers; but does anyone ever flash a gold piece the whole time they're in Gondor? Or Rohan, for that matter?”

    Rohan is too primitive to have a cash economy, at least in my opinion. Minas Tirith is more sophisticated but it isn’t really a mercantile city (nor does Gondor as a whole appear to be). I get the sense that the place is an armed camp and probably heavily regulated. Sort of a military socialism, something like you saw on occasion in the Dominate period of the Roman Empire, Byzantium, China, and ancient Egypt.

  61. Tola says:

    Or, as in other literary works, all dwarfs have beards. Even the females. It's difficult for even dwarfs to tell the difference.

    The idea came from Tolkien, to be fair. He(In the Appendices, I think) states that:

    1. They don’t travel except at great need.
    2. They look similar enough to the males that most can’t tell.

    Are the Orcs the same? Who knows? He never went deep into their history, apart from the fact that they are originally Elves(Which throws up another set of questions…)

  62. Ben says:

    Nobody reading this at this late date, but it occurred to me that if the Orcs were originally elves, and Aragorn (who eventually marries an elf) can’t tell the difference between male and female elves, then clearly the discernable difference between male and female orcs is probably nearly non-existent.

    Ergo, plenty of breeding and warring all at the same time!!!

  63. Kay Shapero says:

    If the orcs are breeding ALL the time it’s no wonder we don’t see any females. They’re BUSY…

  64. Me says:

    Great page! But, how comes that Aragorn’s player now can correctly remember – spell, even – names of places like Rivendell or Lothlorien? He should say “That place with the council” and “That other crazy elven place in the forest”, or something.

  65. Plaguespawn says:

    Well on the whole if i doesn’t move sell it bit my evil wizard and cleric characters always have a big bag o’ humanoid bits for evil spell components. Suffice it to say the other PCs tend not to be in such a hurry to loot enemies i get to first! Also the only cantrip i’ve ever had is preserve organ! Only major downside are the laundry bills:).

  66. Cynder says:

    Oh yeah, a “stoner” really pays attention…classic line from Legolas there.

    Loving that expression of Aragorn’s in the fifth panel. Really looks like he’s delved into a deep sense of concentration (for a change).

  67. Doug says:

    On the worth of Bilbo’s mail shirt: Firstly, the world supply of mithril had dried up long since. The best mines in the world were in Moria, now home to an immense number of orcs and the Balrog. That meant that what little “Moria-silver” there was left got forwarded to Sauron. Secondly, the shirt itself was of exceptional antique workmanship and hardly to be reproduced in the “present” times even if Gimli’s relations could have got hold of any mithril. It’s quite a commentary on Thorin that, even when ticked-off beyond words with Bilbo over the Arkenstone business, he didn’t demand the return of the mail-shirt. We have to assume that taking presents back just wasn’t excused in dwarves, no matter what the provocation.

  68. Morambar says:

    In general, civilization had been in decline and anarchy on the march since the fall of Numenor, yes, and it shows in all the wilderness areas of Middle-Earth. In a few generations Orcs would have been the ONLY life form because their fecundity made men look like Elves, and Elves (who according to the Professor bred seldom and only in the first centuries of marriage; the Seven Sons of Feanor were considered exceptional… ) practically sterile. That makes for interesting speculation in itself, whether the Eldar simply lost interest in breeding, all second generation Eldar were reincarnated fea of previous ones or new fea were born as parts of their parents. Not to mention the question of “if Eldar lose interest in children quickly, and Orcs are just Eldar perverted by Morgoth, why do Orcs breed like rabbits…?” So, yeah, outside of the few major settlements we’re looking at people subsistence farming while they wait for extinction, when they’re not huddling in their hidden holes while the Orcs bringing that distinction pillage their fields.

    Additionally, while it’s far less interesting and accessible to the 21st Century mind (and completely impractical for EPIC gaming… ) most “man on the street” commerce was conducted by barter until fairly recently. Your average 200 person hamlet doesn’t have the resources for a mint, or the need, and most of them will find a lot more value through utility in a young and productive milker than in a pretty but fairly useless pile of silver. They weren’t running around in suits of full chain or plate like we do in campaigns, and they weren’t running around with dozens of gold pieces in their purses; what currency they had was mostly the meager profits from bartering what they produced for what others produced to make a living, not amass a fortune. It’s quite plausible for a mailshirt worth 10X its weight in gold to equal the value of the Shire, or at least its asking price if one were named in coin.

    Which brings us to the one arena where there actually was often large amounts of hard currency: Nations and cities rather than towns. There were few true “cities” in the historical Middle Ages, but in Middle-Earth Men were just trying to survive, the great Dwarven cities of the First Age had been systematically looted and destroyed, and the Elves were in the last stages of full scale flight to Valinor. Thranduil and Dain might deal in currency and commerce, but on what scale remains to be seen. Even in Byzantium, arguably the richest, most powerful and longest enduring Medieval state, the currency was our seldom used “electrum” (which is essentially where D&D got it) because they didn’t have the stock to maintain solid gold currency against the constant threat of inflation, so they watered it down with a fixed and precisely determined quantity of silver, and made counterfeiting a capital crime.

    But unless you’re a hardcore history geek all that is a lot less interesting and entertaining than strapping on your Ethereal Plate, hefting your Holy Avenger and whomping that Black Dragon. “Just go with it, Sarge…. “

  69. Robin says:

    “if Eldar lose interest in children quickly, and Orcs are just Eldar perverted by Morgoth, why do Orcs breed like rabbits…?”

    A. Eldar lose interest after the first few centuries. Orcs don’t live for centuries.

    B. What, exactly, do you think “perverted” means”? Orcs are corrupted elves, with different motivations and focus.

    Secondly, the whole business of trying to deduce the economy of Middle-Earth from the lack of discussion about it in the books is nonsense. The books also don’t mention privies. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t use privies; it means that discussion of it was not important to the telling of the epic.

  70. Kasper says:

    My players once torched a village in which I’d described the racks of drying fish while trying to “fill out” the landscape. I then had to figure out a realistic price for 300 pounds of dried fish at the next market… Before they started burning that town too.

  71. Nice discussion on the economics of Middle Earth. I seriously enjoyed that one.

    And I’d just like to say that, in a cyberpunk setting, a single slab of dead human (or metahuman, in the case of Shadowrun) can sell for quite a lot of money. Any occultists would have to fight against the bodybrokers for the spoils.

    Hm. Which made me think twice about a cybered humanity. These days, you get mugged and even killed for your celfone. If you’re carrying several thousand dollars worth of cyberware in your cranium, what are the chances you’re going to live long in the streets?

  72. Amy says:

    I’m DMing a D&D game in Eberron. When my players killed a warforged (basically, a magic robot) with the Mithril Body feat, they took it apart and sold the mithril! Luckily, I wasn’t trying to run a really serious game anyway.

  73. Mike says:

    Yeah, this is pretty much how my party plays too

  74. ERROR says:

    Jeremy Bowers:

    Oh, console RPG’s…

    Have you visited

  75. Razorguy says:

    What I never understood was what the goblins eat in the first movie when adventurers can’t get into the mines…

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