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DM of the Rings LXXIV:
Equestrian Diving Event

By Shamus
on Monday Mar 12, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


Aragorn rides a warg.
Aragorn gets cliffed.

If the DM is against you, it doesn’t matter what you roll. You’re going down.

Comments (109)

1 2

  1. Shamus says:

    Sorry for the late posting on today’s strip. I should point out that many Bothans went without lunch to bring you this comic.

  2. vonKreedon says:

    When I DMed I loved doing that sort of thing to the players, make them roll for things they expect to be automatic, like falling out a window. Of course, a lot of the rolls I made them take were for no reason at all other than to keep them guessing about what rolls meant anything.

  3. Badger says:

    Worth the wait my man…. bwahahaha that tought him ;o)

  4. Steve says:

    Ah yes, Nature’s Call, the combat-slowing thing that is never mentioned in the “tips to speed up play” columns. I will mention it.

    …drone drone roll all the dice together…dribble drool…learn character abilities before needing to use them…babble…blither…

    Tip 14. Do not hold combat for someone giving up their lease on a 2-liter Coke or Big Gulp. Everyone goes to the potty before we start combat, or ends up with their character fighting defensively while their player is incommunicado.

    That is one horrible colour for a D20 too. Yech!


  5. Dw00 says:

    New commenter here, just poking in to say I love the comic.. er.. campaign.

  6. Shamus says:

    Yeah the construction site orange dice are the worst looking set I have here, although they are very, very easy to read. In fact, I’ve found the better looking dice are, the more unreadable they are. I used those polyhedral traffic cones myself for most of the Mar Tesaro campaign.

  7. Rod says:

    Love the look on Aragorn’s face in frame 5!!!! Great comic, keep up the good work :)


  8. Sartorius says:

    I have a set of dice that are the precise crystal-orangey color and transparency of Triaminic, the children’s cough tonic many will remember and loathe for its syrupy, mockery-of-orange taste. I have actually had players become ill from looking at them and recalling the taste. Bwa ha ha.

  9. -Chipper says:

    Heehee! I think the DM is just finding a way to remove Aragorn’s invisible leather TARDIS.

  10. Namfoodle says:

    When I was wee lad, I bought a set of clear crystal dice that were un-inked. They were the height of gaming technology at the time (which should give some of you a clue how long I’ve been playing D&D) Sadly, although I was the first kid on the block to get them, I couldn’t actully read my d20 at all. It was like looking at a hunk of rock salt. I haven’t learned yet, either. I just spent $40 on new dice at a con last month. So pretty, my precious. The swirly multi-colored dice with gold ink aren’t hard to read, really!

  11. Definitely a DM grudge; if that worked in general, you could deliberately take low skills in things like horseriding and just claim you’re constantly trying to fall off. It’s like throwing yourself at the ground and missing.

    #2 reminds me of my fake “Real Life” RPG, wherein nobody has ever survived more than a minute of game time. With a D20 roll on each heartbeat, motion (taking a step, sitting up, etc.), and several bodily functions, critical failures generally result in your death very quickly. A normal (albeit slightly abridged) game:

    DM: “OK, you’ve rolled up your character. Uh-oh, you’ve failed your heartbeat roll. You die. Would you like to play again?”

    ‘Player’: “Sure.”

    DM: “OK… hey, this time your heartbeat. What would you like to do?”

    ‘Player’: “Uh, where am I? I look around.”

    DM: “Sorry, you’ve failed your eye control roll. Your eyes roll up into your head and you see nothing.”

    What amuses me about this “game” isn’t the dialog, it’s the mental image of such micro-managed skill-checking combined with the fact that a D20 comes up a 1 one-twentieth of the time. Considering how many things you do per minute, anybody would be a total spaz under this simulation system. One can only imagine the horror that would true hand-to-hand combat; the fighters would be lucky to lay a hand on the other guy.

  12. Blindeye says:

    There was this one guy I knew who had sleep apnea. (I spelled that wrong)

    Anyways, he would fall asleep the minute I went beyond one sentance. Like, I opened my mouth to give a nice long descritpion of the scene and *snore*.

    Now, I like the guy, he plays his characters pretty bad-ass. When he’s awake.

    Needless to say during combat he was asleep for everything but for when his turn come up, where he now reflexively rolls a d20 whenever I call his name.

    A player falling asleep during the game is freakin’ annoying, and angering. I just wanted to tell him “Sorry, but I rolled a critical on an attack just now that you missed when you were sleeping. You’re character just got killed.”

    It’s mean, but just in the case with this comic, the DMs vengeance is absolute.

    I never actually did that, but I did the next worse thing: I told him the game was cancelled due to everyone’s schedules changing and just kept playing without him.

    I’m still his friend, and thank god he’s getting his apnea treated by a doctor. I’d love to have him in one of my games again.

  13. Woerlan says:

    Any GM worth his salt can explain the results. Aragorn was trying to fall off. Falling off is EASY. The Ride check is for him to fall off without injuring himself… that is, to fall off safely. If Aragorn succeeded, he dismounts without (or minimal) injury. If he failed, then he falls off and hurts himself, perhaps on one of those convenient rocks dotting the countryside. In this case, a 1 is a CRITICAL FAILURE. So Aragorn gets his foot tangled in a stirrup (or something) and rides the warg off the cliff.

    Awesome stuff. Keep the comics coming!

    • Daniel B says:

      Great explanation Woerlan.

      I like to think of this as the Producers Rule (the old Mel Brooks movie where these guys try to make a horrible musical, but fail and accidentally make a funny one). If you fail at failing, then you succeed at something you didn’t want to succeed at.

    • WJS says:

      Should it even be a ride check? I would suggest that ride is about controlling a mount; a ride check would be needed to get the warg to run off a cliff (quite a hard one, actually, animals don’t like to charge into hazards). Jumping off is dissimilar to dismounting, where the skill is in getting the horse to stand still. Jumping off should be either a straight Dex check, or a tumble check.

  14. Jonny says:

    Heh, This is just how it happens. I’ve gotten your site IP banned from my school from reading them during class. Good Job.

  15. Morte says:

    “Any GM worth his salt can explain the results…”

    Surely you mean…

    “Any GM worth his salt can JUSTIFY the results…”

    Or maybe I played far too much Paranoia in my younger days.

  16. nilus says:

    Nah you can’t penalize people for heading the call of nature. Trust me on this. I don’t care how awesome your game is let the poor man pee. The alternative is having your players crack under the strain and start wearing diapers to the game session. Every wonder why cat piss man(http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Cat+Piss+Man) smells like he does, thats not cat piss you are smelling.

  17. Erik says:

    Blindeye, that sounds more like narcolepsy than sleep apnia.

  18. Mark says:

    Justify? The Computer,er DM does not need to JUSTIFY anything. He’s just informing the citi- player why his actions may have been considered treas-ummm, dificult.

  19. Phoenix says:

    It could be narcolepsy, but sleep apnea (Blindeye had it right) can cause people to fall asleep at inappropriate times due to chronic lack of effective sleep.

    Narcoleptics (yes, I’ve known one) can fall asleep mid-sentence, not just when there’s nothing specifically keeping their attention.

    I’m really looking forward to finding out what Aragorn will be thinking/saying on that long ride back…

  20. Tola says:

    Slightly off-topic, but I’ve noticed some of the previous comics are being(have been?) updated with new pictures, and even the front art is better now. Good job.

    …It had to be said SOMEWHERE.

  21. Jperk says:

    Well piss off the DM and Bad things happen right. Since he left that note to make it happen I am guessing if he hadn’t ridden off a cliff a warg would have bite him and run off the cliff with him.

    • Bryan says:

      I beg to differ. The worg would have bitten him in the nether regions, dragged him with his head dragging the ground (every rock deals 2d6 damage,) swung him around a few times between a couple of large boulders (3d6 per hit,) and slapped him over the cliff face a few times (3d6 damage each) before his “meat” finally parted from him, allowing him to finally fall off the cliff, WITHOUT the worg going with him.

      I’ve been a player and a DM for a long time. Trust me, vengeful DMs are far, far worse than you can EVER imagine. }8^>>

  22. Rolld20 says:

    This harkens back to discussions I’ve had over what exactly a *critical* failure should entail. Some people vote for ‘the worst thing that could happen’, while others expect ‘the opposite of what was intended’, and the two are sometimes contradictory.
    For example, trying to avoid combat by knocking someone’s weapon out of their hand. Some GMs will decide the critical failure means you hit the person instead of the weapon (worst thing); others might say your own weapon jams or breaks (opposite). And others just say a failure is a failure: you don’t hit anything.

    Personally, I think the GM should decide what will make the game most fun and interesting, and try to be consistant for all cases. If one player’s shooting criticals always result in a broken bowstring, let the same thing happen to the NPC archer (even if he is your favorite villian!). :)

  23. Jeff says:

    That d20 reminds me of the one included in the intro to AD&D 2e boxed set I have stashed somewhere…

    I’ve never really had a problem with calls of nature. If I have to go, I wait until /after/ my turn and I’ve gone, then run off. I have yet to fail to return before my turn comes up again.

    What is extremely annoying is the ones who leave one or two turns before their turn, because invariably they won’t be quick enough. So come on people, we all know how long it takes to resolve a combat round – long enough for a dash to the bathroom.

  24. Jeff says:

    For the record, the latest incarnation of D&D has no ‘critical failures’.
    Yes, a natural 1 on an attack roll always misses, and a natural 20 on an attack roll always hits, but that’s not a critical failure or critical hit. (Indeed, on a natural 20 you’ll have a critical threat, but a 1 is simply an automatic failure. And against things immune to critical hits, a natural 20 is simple an ‘automatic hit’. The word ‘critical’ doesn’t even get to be used.)

    And with skill checks, a natural 1 is not even an automatic failure – if your modifiers are high enough, you’ll still succeed fine.

  25. Woerlan says:

    House rules, m’boy. House rules. ^_^

    Critical failures make 1’s EXTRA fun.

  26. Steve says:

    Shamus says

    Yeah the construction site orange dice are the worst looking set I have here, although they are very, very easy to read. In fact, I've found the better looking dice are, the more unreadable they are. I used those polyhedral traffic cones myself for most of the Mar Tesaro campaign.

    What’s wrong with Black on Yellow? I also recommend White on Dark Green, White on Dark Blue and Turkey & Swiss on Wholewheat Toast (although that last one is more a Quiznoze Sub suggestion than a Dice Colour Scheme to be honest). In fact, white works on any really dark colour for me better than black on anything, dunno why, and black is better against bright yellow than white. Go figger.

    Anything is better than that hideous, sanity-blasting, squamous orange blasphemy you call a die.


  27. Shamus says:

    Wow. You people are really taking the orange dice personally.

    • athenakt says:

      Noooo! Do not pick on my lucky Pumpkin die! It only rolls 1’s some of the time…

      And yes, it’s from one of the original first D&D sets. Senility has set in or I’d remember which one. And laziness has set in or I’d look it up. Sorry- late game last night. ;)

  28. Animayhem says:

    Long time reader, first time (I think) poster.
    About players falling asleep, we use to have this Robotech game that we played almost nightly for years. (It was the house game.) One of the players fell asleep during a battle and we let him sleep. Well a few hours later another player's character wanted to speak with his. As we woke the sleeping player he rolled a D20 and said “Volley of 4″. The GM (for that night) looked at the other player and said “Looks like she got you Harlington.” The look on Harlington's players face was great.

  29. Woerlan says:

    Shamus says:
    Wow. You people are really taking the orange dice personally.

    Yes. We gamers take dice seriously. It’s part of the equipment. I wonder if golfers talk the same way about their clubs? Hmm…

    I wish there was a set of black dice with bright yellow numbers. THOSE would really stand out. Even more than yellow on black, I would think.

  30. Woerlan says:

    Or rather, more than black on yellow. My typo. My bad.

  31. Ward Hall says:

    Jeff, if I recall correctly, none of the rulesets actually codified critical hits/failures, though it may have been suggested. It’s just such a wonderful concept, you can’t help but add it to your house rules.

  32. Tallain says:

    Golfers do indeed take their clubs just as seriously, if not more seriously. At least golfers I know. The same thing goes with disc golfers. You mess up a disc and there will be hell to pay.


    Reading these comments always makes me wish I had learned to play earlier and that I played more often. My last session was somewhere around last November.

    I miss this game.

  33. No time like this time to let Aragorn’s player know he has a fiancee that he’s forgotten about ;)

    I can’t wait for that one …

  34. Miral says:

    Ward Hall says:
    “Jeff, if I recall correctly, none of the rulesets actually codified critical hits/failures, though it may have been suggested. It's just such a wonderful concept, you can't help but add it to your house rules.”

    I remember reading a table showing possible critical failure results for magic casts (using a d100) in one of the AD&D2 rulebooks. And I think the *concept* of critical success/failure has been around since the very beginning, it’s just than in most cases the exact meaning of this is left up to the DM to decide.

  35. Namfoodle says:

    I think dark numbers on a light background are supposed to be easier to read. I think they’ve done tests with police officer’s ability to read plates and determined dark on light is better. So California plates were yellow on black long ago, but are no dark blue on white. Anyone know of any states that still use light on dark?

    That being said, most of my dice are dark colors with gold or white numbers…

  36. melchar says:

    Best crit and fumble charts ever were IMO from ‘Warlock’ – a rather old game dating from the late 70’s

    And I loves me dice – having some lovely ones. However I still have 2 of the high impact red d20’s [from 1973] that have white and black numbers wax-crayon’d in. My players specifically request that I don’t roll them because they have an unnerving tendancy to roll what I want them to.

    [you want a hugh number? Okay. A low number? Sure. An ’11’ … hmmm, does a ’12’ count? Great dice.]

  37. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Thank you, melchar. I was beginning to feel I may be the only one to remember the original red plastic die. My set came from the early 80’s, but I believe they were exactly the same. Those Twizzler-red abominations turned me in to the man I am today: a scarred, bitter shadow of a human who wishes he could play this cursed game with a group of people who understand his foibles. Now, I cannot stand Twizzlers (possibly due to those same plastic demon-summoners), but I recall those wax-crayoned icons of unholiness with fondest nostalgia.


  38. Gandalf The Monk says:

    Melchar said, “Best crit and fumble charts ever were IMO from “˜Warlock' – a rather old game dating from the late 70's”

    Wouldn’t happen to have a link to them, would you? I like ‘collecting’ critical charts.

  39. Greg says:

    Personally, I always found half the fun of these games was to collect cool looking dice : )

  40. EmeraldTiara says:

    Haha, the DM must really not like them, then. What happens when Aragorn gets stepped on by a troll in Return of the King? He is SO dead.

  41. Shamus says:

    Personally, I always found half the fun of these games was to collect cool looking dice : )

    So is the other half. :)

  42. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    “Slightly off-topic, but I've noticed some of the previous comics are being(have been?) updated with new pictures, and even the front art is better now. Good job.

    …It had to be said SOMEWHERE.”

    I’m glad someone else noticed that… i thought i was just losing my mind

  43. LemmingLord says:

    Well *I* like the dice…great comic, keep it up!

  44. Cineris says:

    Oh man. I am constantly waging a war on the foolishness of the “critical fumble” concept. I don’t know why so many people are smitten with the idea that the more dice you roll the more you should screw up. Seems to have a disproportionate effect on making everyone a klutz at the things they should be best at.

  45. Gandalf The Monk says:

    Cineris said, “Oh man. I am constantly waging a war on the foolishness of the “critical fumble” concept. I don't know why so many people are smitten with the idea that the more dice you roll the more you should screw up. Seems to have a disproportionate effect on making everyone a klutz at the things they should be best at.”

    I agree and disagree – criticals (fumbles and successes) make the game much more interesting and exciting most of the time. The way our group does it, the better you are at what you’re doing, the less likely it is to fumble. One needs an 18 on 3d6 (

  46. Chris says:

    I like the Black on Orange dice. I’ve got a whole cube of the Black on Orange d6’s.

  47. muzzmonster says:

    Namfoodle: When I started playing, clear crystal dice didn’t exist.

    Keep up the good work Shamus.

  48. Andy says:

    When some of us started playing, the only dice were the knuckle bones of past games masters, with the numbers scratched into the ‘sides’. Oops, showing my age there…

  49. Teria says:

    “I hate this campaign!” Priceless. Love it.

  50. Anistalker says:

    Aragorn says: I hate this campaign…gotta love that one

  51. Rydlic says:

    Oh boy, this reminds me sooo much of a game I ran a few years ago.
    Everyone rolled up level ones and they were getting together. One of them wanted to play dumb but really be evil trying to kill everyone. So when they get to a cliff part of the party goes down to a ledge were they enconter some dire rats and battle begins. Now the barbarian (evil dude) and the Sorcerer stayed up top, so the Sorcerer is pointing his fingers over the edge and wiggling some Magic Missle fun when Mr. Evil sends me a note the he’s going to Bull Rush him and knock the Sorcerer over the edge. I say ok, roll, Mr. Evil gets a 1 and misses the Bull Rush. I say ok, roll to see if you can reflexivly grab the edge, he rolls a 1 and now is falling to the ledge. I say, “Roll a use rope to see if you can grab the rope that is flying past you.” He rolls a 1, so he grabs the rope but the momentum tangles the slack around his neck and hanges him doing 5d6 damage to him. I roll 28 damage, Mr. Evil died and everyone was happy.

  52. “When some of us started playing, the only dice were the knuckle bones of past games masters, with the numbers scratched into the 'sides'. Oops, showing my age there…”

    Darn, I knew there was a reason I went into hiding … a lot of us from the early 70s are still around, but watching our fingers and knuckles …

    I started a d20/2d10/3d6 system a long time ago. 1 is a fumble, 20 a critical. A berserker rolls a d20. A normal fighter rolls 2d10 and a cautious (man at arms) type rolls a 3d6. The distribution curves and the risk/reward ratio were fun.

    Without every group of kobalds wasting any high level by sending a barrage of d3 arrows and hoping for a critical (after all, consider Richard the Lion Hearted at the siege of Jerusalem — 70 vs. 10,000).

  53. Spluckor says:

    I think the best looking dice are the Red ones with black dots everywhere and venom green numbers. They remind me of the All Flesh Must Be Eaten Players Handbook.

  54. Steve says:

    Chris Says:

    I like the Black on Orange dice. I've got a whole cube of the Black on Orange d6's.


    The first polydice I owned were a black and orange-red pair of D20s, which we called “percentiles” since that was the fashion then. They had to be imported from America and I had to make a 110 mile journey to get them from an obscure game shop just off the Tottenham Court Road in London. That was the fashion at the time. Then they had to be filed down since there was plenty of casting flash on them, and a nasty bulge on one face. Then they had to be painted since they were numbered 0-9 twice – you needed black and white paint to turn the orange one into a real D20. I used white and red on the black die, but the red is very hard to see.

    Then I got a set of (Gamescience I think) blue and a set of yellow polydice with the other shapes. I’ve never gamed with these to my recollection. The dice have a “soapy” feel to them and sharp edges, but the percentiles are the “0-9 twice” variety too and needed painting in. Unfortunately, these dice have a lower relief for the numbers than the older dice and painting them is no fun. I also have sets of crystal dice from the same company. They had the first see-through colours on the market in the UK, and I bought a D20 in each colour for use as EPT gem demonstrators.

    Over the years I have steadily acquired huge quantities of dice, mostly D6s. Partly because I used to play Star Fleet Battles and you need pairs of D6 during combat (it’s easier to play if you have sets of matched pairs of D6) and partly because I used to play Wonkhammer 401k and used themed dice sets for each army I fielded. Second ed Wonkhammer 401k called for lots of D6s. What’s that? Use the SFB dice for Wonkhammer? Are you mad?

    But I am happy to say that never, in my history of dice accreting, have I ever been even halfway tempted to add dice of that nasty orange colour to the mix.

    Oh, hang on. As you were. I’ve got a pair in the SFB dice bag. Gah!



  55. Martin says:

    Ah, back when I got started the box came with a set of dice that were uninked, and a black crayon. The speckledy dice and stone dice and what-have-you hold no joy for me, but that orange thing – you can read that from the other side of the room when a player’s partially obstructing it with his hand and mumbling the result to you.

  56. Jillzmom says:

    In my first D&D set, you had to cut the dice out of paper and glue them together. Didn’t work really well. Also, since I had no one to play with, I generated dungeons by clipping houseplans out of the newspaper. Life is much better now.

  57. Steve says:

    Wait, I just realised that Aragormless hasn’t called for a Reflex save to see if he manages to grab something cliffy before he undergoes droppage of damage-dealing. No seasoned D20 player would forget that.

    I thought this strip was going for realism.


  58. Dave says:

    I love the orange die.. We can see it without messing with our display settings… and about the “I hate this campaign”… Classic.. why do players make these kick-butt characters then whine if they get a paper cut.. I’m always amazed.. everytime.. when a player whines because anything hits him.. He’s a walking tank and complains when someone scratches the paint.. They say they want combat.. but they just want to bet told how good they are.. like my 4-year-old.. though.. my 4-year-old will complain if he’s not challenged.

  59. Steve says:

    I think, seeing as we all seem to have an opinion about dice, the site is named for a die and the owner is a self-confessed dice nutter, that we should have an on-going sub-thread to identify the “best” and “worst” dice colour schemes.

    You’re criteria for best and worst may or may not hinge on visibility and contrast. Mine do. I have no “best” in mind, other than any undifferentiated dark colour with white numerals. For my worst pick, based simply on how hard it is to see what you rolled on the buggers, is Granite by Chessex, which I think belong firmly in the what in Azathoth’s name were they thinking? classification.


  60. Steve says:

    Sorry for screwing up the markup there. Thank You Mr Brain.

  61. falkryn says:

    i have some blood red dice w/ black numbers…pretty cool lookin…btw realy funny comic huge fan i am.

  62. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Wow. You people are really taking the orange dice personally.”

    So, up to now , we’ve had 58 posts; and 11 have revolved around dice color or replies to dice color. (12/59 with this one). We are a sad bunch…anyway, everyone KNOWS that the best looking dice rolled crummy, & the ugly dice never get thrown away because we always need a good role now & then…

    Great strip, Shamus! “I hate this campaign” was hilarious when Legolas said it, & is still great from Aragorn.

  63. I use translucent purple dice with white numbers. Never had a moment’s pause reading them for clarity, and they look swank too. Best of both worlds.

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