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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. Badger says:

    My fave crit fumble has to have been the one in from rolemaster(?)

    “Trip over an unseen imaginary deceased tortoise.
    Your foes are stunned for 2 round laughing.”


    Not even seen the rulebook for about 20 years, but still remember that fumble ;o)

  2. Steve says:

    We are all missing an important issue raised by the comic, namely:

    Is it still “equestrian” when the rider is mounted on a genetically enhanced wolf?


  3. Woerlan says:

    Uh… “Lupusian?”

  4. Walter says:

    My DM has a unique critical failure system. Whenever anyone rolls a critical failure in a session, he marks it down. After three, there’s a 50/50 chance of ‘something [presumably bad] happening’. So far, both us and his other group have always made that final saving throw. He claims the thing is already set and will not get worse as we keep avoiding danger, but I’m not so sure.

  5. Shamus, your server is a victim of your success….

    Steve – why the hate-on for dice you obviously wouldn’t own?

    Colour’s so subjective, and I was _glad_ to have many traffic cone (safety) orange D10s for my campaigns in Cyberpunk 2020, and I’ll buy a set for 3.5 D&D if I see them. It’s a great contrast in all levels of available light (some of my games are by torchlight, candle, LED or aquarium glow).

    -You’ll never have to worry about mixing up your dice with someone who has this colour.

    -Or worry if this colour is any more or less “lucky” than what you like.

    My first set was the clear yellow crystal (circa 1981) with no inking. I used burnt umber oil pastels to rub in to the numeral lines, they finally need a redo. Going with dark blue this time.

    Never lost any of my dice… what are the odds?

    /roll percentile!!!

    Owner of Dueling Grounds RP shop (Toronto, Canada) now knows of your online comic, I made sure he’d googled it. The recruitment continues…

  6. R.S.Whisper says:

    And yet, not only can I think of GMs who would do that, I think I would… actually, I think I did do something like that one time and pissed off my friend because his rogue with a Dex of like 30 managed to fall flat on his face from a tower window some 500 feet or so off the ground and he didn’t remember his ring of feather falling until about an hour later…

  7. Steve says:

    Too funny. I couldn’t stop laughing. “No, You were TRYING to fall off”. Reminds me of when I used to DM…

  8. Tallain says:

    I have about six dozen tiny d6’s almost just like your d20 there, Shamus, but their orange is a less painful one. I also have a box of black d6’s with orange dots.

    One of my friends (the man responsible for getting me into D&D and M:tG) had a dice bag filled with dozens of miniature dice. That is, dice no larger than a cubic centimeter. And he uses them when we play Magic and, very rarely, when we played D&D.

    Man, that was annoying, not being able to see anything but a small shape on the table. Sometimes he had to pick it up to announce the roll and often we forced him to re-roll, but that was mostly when he announced anything over 17…

  9. Steelbutcher says:


    Growing up in a small town where the idea of a “gaming store” was as much a fantasy as the games themselves, it was uncommon for every player have his own set of dice. (I use the masculine possessive because “gamer girl” was also a fantasy at the time.) When I started DMing, most of my players shared dice or used some of mine, of which I had four sets that I had purchased along with my Players Handbook and Dungeon Master Guide. (As with Damien Walder – see above – I have never lost any of those original dice.) Those four sets were: solid green with white numerals, clear green with white numerals, clear with white numerals, and solid white with black numerals. It was found that the solid green ones were quite lucky, while the solid white ones were decidedly the opposite. In those early days, I insisted that one player always use the white ones, bot to be cruel, but because he was rather hyper and I felt that if he were to lose any dice, it best be the white ones. Perhaps he did not appreciate my logic.

    After a few years of gaming, I got word of an older kid who was “retiring” from the hobby. I made arrangements to inspect his collection, and found enough of it useful that I bought the whole works for the price of fifty dollars. Among the mix of first and second edition books, modules, and accessories that I acquired was the Fighter Player’s Pack, complete with the set of solid-coloured dice of varying hues. As some of you may recall, this included an orange d20 with black numerals. Now, greatly enriched in polyhedrons, our gaming group had dice enough to go around, and no one had to use the unlucky white set.

    Eventually, enough people had their own dice that my dice were used only by me, but not before the orange one had earned a formidable reputation. That die has rolled more than its share of 20’s, but it is reknowned for its 17’s. For some reason unknown to modern science, that orange d20 likes to hit high, odd numbers: 13, 15, 17, and 19, but 17 especially, and 19 next most frequently. However, sometimes it will have a slump and only roll 1 or 4 for an inordinate stretch, so it had become feared for its sudden reversals and most of my players felt its power best left beyond the hands of mortals. By this time, I had taken to using the unlucky white dice for most of my rolls as a means of reducing the rate of character attrition. This had brought great relief to my players, and allowed them to finally attain some moderate-level characters. The lucky green dice I used for friendly NPC’s. Which brings me to the point of my nostalgic excursus: the orange d20 became the official “character killer.” Woe and calamity came to whosoever pissed-off the DM, for with sombre countenance I would heft the orange die above the screen and foreboding (or heckling directed at the offending player) would fill the room.

    So, Shamus, when I saw that orange twenty-sider in your latest installment of comic genius, my first thought was not “Yech!” but rather, “Ah, yes, the character-killer. Doom is certain.” I can just imagine one of my players begging me to use the orange die for his all-important roll, only to have it betray him for his hubris. The orange die is painted the same colour as hazard signs for a reason.

  10. superfluousk says:

    Well, I think the critical failure in this case is quite reasonable — I mean, he was actually trying to do something quite complex. Not just falling off, but jumping off from a precarious position at just the right time, force, and angle to kick the warg over the cliff as he went. If it were just a question of falling off a horse standing peacefully in the middle of nowhere, then yeah, a successful “fall” would be inevitable. But there were so many other things that could have gone wrong with this maneuver!

    He could have fallen off but got his foot caught in the stirrup and be dragged along the ground for 2d6 damage per round for 1d4 rounds; the warg could have avoided falling off the cliff and turned to bite him (3d6 Bite damage) as he lay on the ground after his fall; he could have jumped off, but misjudged his momentum and jumped right into open air… Really, so many things to go wrong, so few critical failure rolls to work with!

  11. Rick 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.

    Paraphrased from one of my fav quotes. My standard reply to the original has always been: “So? They’re only Bothans.”

    Anyway top stuff as usual. Two thumbs up.

  12. gigglestick42 says:

    Lovew the comic! One of my players turned me onto this about 2 months ago. Discussion of this strip has eaten up a lot of game time…

    As a GM, I have a rule that any dice that I cannot read from across the table may not be used. Too many players I’ve met have the odd colored or “so used that the numbers are barely readable” dice.

    And then there are the players who “doctor” their dice….

    But I love the old plastic dice that used to come with the c1979 era TSR products. I still use a couple of beaten up blue d20s that you had to crayon/ink yourself. My favorite dice…

  13. Steve says:

    damien walder Says:

    Steve – why the hate-on for dice you obviously wouldn't own?

    We hates the nasssssty orangey dices, doesn’t we my preciousssss?


  14. Steve says:

    Jillzmom Says:

    Also, since I had no one to play with, I generated dungeons by clipping houseplans out of the newspaper.

    I’ve read that entry about a dozen times, and every time I miss-read “houseplans” as “housplants”. It makes for a surreal mental image of dungeons filled with lush vegetation, or dungeons concieved as arboreal affiars in some far-off tropical rain forest canopy a-la Flash (A-aaaaa) Gordon.



  15. Scarlet Knight says:

    You young whipper-snappers don’t appreciate the usefulness of orange dice! Those dice saved my life! Almost crashed into a stalled tractor-trailer one dark, stormy night; saved only because the driver was smart enough to scatter his ugly dice on the road after his flares burned out! Saw ’em just in the nick of time, I did!

  16. […] while it was fresh, but I didn’t read it at that time. Anyway, the comic pokes at the basics. Ride checks don’t always make sense, sloth always insisted on giving names to places and people, intuit […]

  17. oleyo says:

    I have to return to the falling off of the mount issue. It seemed to me that the skill was in the timing of the fall. Aragorn needed to goad the Warg to the very brink, THEN leap off without going over. The skill lay in falling neither too early nor too late. As far as dice are concerned, I go for pure visibility. I have a white d20 with black letters and plain white spotted d6 ala monopoly. I hate when people use whacky dice colors, since I can never read their dice. Then again I am colorblind and have keracotonus, so I need clarity! :)

  18. septima says:

    It wasn’t campaign’s fault. He shouldn’t fell asleep. I would make him fell off a cliff too. Keep up the good work, Shamus.

  19. Thteve Perry says:

    From the d20 SRD: “Typical riding actions don't require checks. You can saddle, mount, ride, and dismount from a mount without a problem.”

    Nice try, railroader.

    • WJS says:

      As has been mentioned, this isn’t just dismounting, it’s doing so in a highly timed manner under duress. Please note from the d20 SRD that the DC for “Fast Mounting or Dismounting” is 20, AND carries an armour check penalty. Even if the DM didn’t have it in for Aragorn he should have to roll for such a precisely timed dismount, and it shouldn’t be a cakewalk even without a natural 1. Given the nature of the task, going over with the warg would be a reasonable result of a failure. (Also of note, by the book a natural 1 isn’t an automatic failure for a skill check, only an attack roll or save)

  20. I am forced once again to comment.


    This has happened!
    “I’m trying to fail. (rolls low) Aha, there.”
    “You fail.”
    “No, I mean you fail at failing. You actually succeeded.”

  21. splorp! says:

    I still have my original 1st edition red and blue box sets and the dice that came with them. It was a set of solid colored red and blue dice (for each box, respectively) and a white crayon to color in the die face. The blue d20 seemed to almost exclusively roll 1,3,7,17,19 or 20. It was a huge risk to roll it (as my DM used critical failures), but , man those 19 and 20s were tempting as hell…

  22. Amber says:

    I’m seriously thinking about using this as an example in my physics class. I know the majority of students would get the joke, at least.

    Still, presenting a macro version of quantum mechanics without maiming the physics involved PLUS poking fun at D&D and LotR at the same time…

    I’m impressed.

  23. Toil3T says:

    Steve wrote “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.”
    I have a set similar to those, but they’re much easier to read than those in the pic. The gray specks are lighter and the orange numbers are darker.
    Now to resist the temptation to go buy a set of black-on-orange dice, for the sake of being able to say I have some.

  24. Gray says:

    From the d20 SRD: “Typical riding actions don't require checks. You can saddle, mount, ride, and dismount from a mount without a problem.”

    Ah. I see. So dropping off a running mount in the nick of time with the intention of not hurting oneself in the process is a typical riding action. Man, I’m glad I don’t ride.

  25. JD says:

    Rule 1 about D&D: The DM is ALWAYS against you. XD

  26. […] triacontahedron, a d30. It’s the big brother of the surprisingly antiquitous, famously malicious, icosahedral d20 that’s become the very symbol of gaming […]

  27. Tycho says:

    “If the DM is against you, it doesn't matter what you roll. You're going down.”
    I once played a campaign where the DM got so so frustrated with us leaving his (in his mind) beautifully crafted story that he sent seven flights of dragons after us to make sure here was no way we could survive!! I admit we probably deserved a little punishment for some of the stunts we were pulling, but I still feel this was overkill!!!!

  28. Trick says:

    *dies laughing*

    And I don’t know about ‘the DM is always against you’ thing. I mean, I had one DM who gave us a ton of stuff – invented a new spellcasting class – which led to a heck of a lot of fun – gave us each a ‘mind wipe’ so that we could each erase one person’s memory – though it made them retarded, giving way to more hilarity – and a ‘headshot’, meaning insta-kill. Course, that last one was only used once, since it was a diplomatic-based campaign. We killed the T-Rexes in F-47s (Calvin and Hobbs reference – someone correct me if I’m wrong?) that another DM threw at us when the first DM was elsewhere for a few minutes.

  29. John Doe says:

    A few years ago I was in a D&D campaign. Our group was fighting near an enormous pit which contained some sort of arcane magical object. One of the party members had the Tumble skill.

    So he told the DM that, in order to avoid an enemy, he was going to tumble, but NOT into the hole.

    He rolled a 1.

  30. Michael says:

    It’s not “Dies laughing”.

    It’s “Dice laughing” :-).

  31. Carl says:

    I just have to add my experience to this.

    After a long and convoluted campaign, my friend Russ had a Paladin/Fallen Paladin/Blackguard who became a Death Knight (they were epic at this point), and he was riding around in the sky on his nightmare when the party had planned to assault a city.

    He figured he had plenty of damage reduction and hps, so he’d just jump off the nightmare in full flight and stiff the landing, because he could take it. He was bound to land in a hay loft or something soft anyway.

    So he rolled. The thing with +stupid amount black full plate, a Dex of around 8 and no agility skills turned his average roll into around -6.

    “You sit calmly on your nightmare as it whizzes through the sky, and with iceberg-slowness slide slowly off and plumet down into the city with none of the grace or finesse you had imagined when you pitched this idea to me.”

    He then crashed through the roof of a house, startling the hell out of an old peasant woman, who was then rescued by the epic-level paladin who had been watching his blazing nightmare from the ground. This paladin then kicked him through a wall and kicked seven shades of crap out of him until he luckily defeated it.

  32. joesolo says:

    just when you want to fail, the dm pulls out somthing like that. looks likes another ones gonna be going over to the darkside.

  33. […] is a rhombic triacontahedron, a d30. It's the big brother of the surprisingly antiquitous, famously malicious, icosahedral d20 that's become the very symbol of gaming […]

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3 Trackbacks

  1. By Abodes.org » Blog Archive » Semi-Annual Visit on Monday Mar 19, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    […] while it was fresh, but I didn’t read it at that time. Anyway, the comic pokes at the basics. Ride checks don’t always make sense, sloth always insisted on giving names to places and people, intuit […]

  2. […] triacontahedron, a d30. It’s the big brother of the surprisingly antiquitous, famously malicious, icosahedral d20 that’s become the very symbol of gaming […]

  3. By » Pointless probabilities How to Spot a Psychopath on Saturday Mar 10, 2012 at 12:08 am

    […] is a rhombic triacontahedron, a d30. It's the big brother of the surprisingly antiquitous, famously malicious, icosahedral d20 that's become the very symbol of gaming […]

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