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DM of the Rings LXXXIX:
Killing Time

By Shamus
on Wednesday Apr 18, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


Aragorn is bored with the battle.

Comments (130)

1 2

  1. General Ghoul says:

    62 Bruce Says:
    “A good AC from armour means most of the blows a character takes in Combat will actually hit him, just not penetrate his armour, whereas a character who gets his AC from Dex dodges attacks and doesn't get hit at all. In theory though, when he does get hit, he should take more damage as he has nothing to protect him once a blow lands.”

    I think of it as the DEX character dodged, but didn’t get far enough away, so a slight blow might scrap him, where a mighty blow really whacks him. Whereas a armored character might take a glancing blow that hits his armor, but leaves a bad bruise underneath, where a big hit might find a weak spot or even pierce the armor. Now, lets get confusing when a sword hit on plate might break a bone, but maybe to character has damage reduction vs bludgeoning, but the sword is slashing weapon.

    I’ll crawl back in my grave now.

  2. superfluousk says:

    After all that time spent complaining about no combat encounters. Now they get their fill, and all Aragorn can do is complain complain. Never happy, is he :)

  3. Auke says:

    Hee hee. Legolas is so cute.

    …I can't wait to see how you bring the other guys back into the story…

    Maybe they won’t come back, and the current players have to take over their characters for a while to make the story fit.

    That might explain Merry and Pippin’s sudden heroic impulses:

    “I charge at the witch-king of Angmar, brandishing my dwarven battle-axe!”

    “Okay, you charge him, but you can only brandish your hobbit shortsword, remember?”

    “O yeah. Uh… Can I still run away without provoking an attack of opportunity?”

    On playing Call of Cthulhu: I thought the trick was to make up a convenient excuse to not come to the gaming sessions where big confrontations will take place. Your character will probably be made to ‘stand guard at the entrance’ or ‘wait with the getaway car’, but you will avoid the sanity-wracking horrors. Then, during the next session, you can liberate your drooling, exhausted, wounded friends of their loot at your leisure…

  4. Steve says:

    Jindra34 Says:

    So Darrett: what does not kill you in Call of Cthulhu?

    Some of the rocks. Most of the time.

    Seriously, you are playing in the wrong Call of Cthulhu games. My motto (as a Call of Cthulhu “Keeper”) is “If you kill your players, you can’t drive them insane. Where’s the fun in that?”


    While realising that you almost have an obligation to follow Dave and Whathisface into their Star Wars game, I think a worthy successor to DMotR would be something more obscure. A RPG so rare that the players suckered into DMorR would fall for it in a heartbeat just to see how it worked (only to get scr*wed all over again of course).

    I speak, of course, of Judge Dredd.


  5. Vegedus says:

    We have a number of DMs where I play. One of them, the older one, who is suppose to be like the “sensei” of us all, almost never describe anything. We never know what happens when we roll, and we usually have to wring any descriptions of the room we are in etc. out of him. Suffice to say, it makes it all rather lifeless.
    I take the complete opposite approach and describe way too much, like the DM in the comic. I think the trick is to only describe what’s happening, when something interesting is actually happening. Describe when someone crits, when someone fumbles, when a speacial PC or NPC dies or when someone fails or succeds at doing something unusual.

  6. Scarlet Knight says:

    Uh, Steve? You know, if I could have my long necked, flying, riding beastie now, instead of waiting for Christmas, I COULD deliver Deathblade_Penguin/Steve’s shiny ring to for you…
    (Good Lord! Now I’m even role-playing my comments!)

  7. Bugsysservant says:

    “The problem with Sean Reynolds article is the way armour is used in D&D and the wording “harder to hit”. A good AC from armour means most of the blows a character takes in Combat will actually hit him, just not penetrate his armour, whereas a character who gets his AC from Dex dodges attacks and doesn't get hit at all. In theory though, when he does get hit, he should take more damage as he has nothing to protect him once a blow lands. Unfortuntely D&D doesn't work like that.”-Bruce

    Good God, don’t start that. If you start distinguishing between the actual effects of dexterity based protection, and armor based prtoection, you get a sort of “Siege of Avalon” type system where really good armor makes you phenomenally easy to hit, but reduces the damage by percents. Each piece of armor you wear would have two dozen different scores for what percent and type of energy it reduces (slashing, piercing, fire, holy, etc.) and by how much. This results in the incredably drawn out situation where after every damage roll you roll a d% to find out how much is actually dealt. Combine this with multiple rolls for weapons with different damage types (a morningstar, for instance) and combat would double in length at least.

  8. ohnoabear says:

    “If you start distinguishing between the actual effects of dexterity based protection, and armor based prtoection[sic], you get a sort of “Siege of Avalon” type system where really good armor makes you phenomenally easy to hit, but reduces the damage by percents.”

    Or you could just make armor do straight damage reduction, like it does in Guardians or Order’s d20-based system for A Game of Thrones. If you want to get fancy, you could even have different types of armor reduce more or less from different types, but it’s not required (especially in AGOT, where you only have to worry about slashing, piercing and bludgeoning damage).

    Damage reduction systems are a lot simpler than you’re letting on, and make a lot more sense, in my opinion.

  9. Steve says:

    I think that the AC system is no less realistic than a system like Warhammer that requires separate “hit” and “wound” rolls. Factoring both concerns into one score is abstract but not limiting since it leaves the players/DMs the freedom of interpreting the “miss”.

    I absolutely agree that AC, building as it does mainly (but not exclusively) from “hardening” effects (helmets, armour, magic armouring and so forth) should sometimes mean that a miss is a hit that does no damage. It is up to the DM to assess any other effects that might accrue from such non-damaging hits if the players want that level of detail. Alternately, if a DM has a really good RP group he or she can throw the interpretation and possible side effects open to the player affected. Whatever works.

    Many people complain that D&D and D20 D&D in particular are “unrealistic” because the game system allows players to become God-like and encourages munchkin tactics. I say that these things are always controlable, but taht the milieu is *Heroic* fantasy, not SCA “realism” fantasy, and that allows some assuptions to be made, namely:

    1) The interesting characters (i.e. the players and villains) will be larger than life
    2) The good guys will get more breaks than the redshirt bad guys (i.e. the DM will occasionally cut players some slack while not giving the orccs the same leeway)
    3) At the end of the day, it isn’t meant to be taken seriously. The point of Beowulf is the moral, not the physics of the monster killing

    That said, in any game system you only get out what you put in. If the game system is not working for you the first thing you should do as a group is sit down and discuss the problem areas and see if they can’t be addressed with a few tweaks.

    Failing that, go and play Mech Warrior instead.


  10. Nogard Codesmith says:

    re: armor, hits and damage.

    Back in the old days of D&D we always considered hit rolls to not represent a single strike, but a series of blows as part of a combat exchange. So yes, the heavy armor wearer is turning most of the hits, and the high dex char is dodging most of them. It always seemed better being a little more ambiguous. Once you start getting specific with things like hit locations and armor as DR, and saying that each attack is a single blow rather than a sequence of strikes, you either have to fix the rules to match the “reality” of combat, or suspend disbelief.

  11. Rolld20 says:

    Hmm. Maybe it’s just me, but Aragorn’s screen shots here look really… coquettish to me. :\

    The next time I watch these movies I’m gonna laugh at all sorts of inappropriate times. My husband’s gonna be totally disgusted. :D

    (BTW, is everyone else getting the same anti-spam word each time? The first time I noticed it, I thought the computer was trying to talk to me.)

  12. Steve says:

    [Anti-spam] This is the second time someone has decided to discuss the capcha result in the forum (where it can be scanned for using a contextualy-sensitive perl script with ease).

    Please hush. There is no need to discuss it. Just use it and remember that spam has the capability to shut the site down. That means no more DMotR.

    It turns out that most sites can reduce persistent robospam by over 80% using a one-result “capcha”. Hooda guessedit?

    If it’s stopping spam, it’s working. I’m sure Shamus will yell if it isn’t. Let’s not give the bad guys any more clues.


  13. Steve says:

    [Rolld20] And bring me a donut, minion of the ring! The sort with sugar, not sprinkles. And I don’t like that nasty yellow glue you get inside some of them either. Or chocolate. No chocolate.

    Steve, Lord of Darkness.

  14. Shamus says:

    Steve: More like 99.9%. I used to get about 1,000+ a day. I have gotten one this week. Amazing, really.

  15. Johnny B says:

    In response to the Fighter vs Rogue debate, I’m currently running a Rogue where I put a ton of points into Tumble. Because of that, I have become truly effective in a group where we really don’t have a “Fighter”. So I would argue that rogues can be just as effective if you use a little tactics and skill (especially when the sneak attack dmg comes into play).
    Thanks for this website though. It has provided me with tons of laughter every day at work (with everyone around me wondering why). Being a huge fan of both LOTR and DnD, this strip is hilarious. Even the comments have me rolling from time to time. I hope a Star Wars one is done too, since I can see so many comments coming from the “newer” episodes. Keep up the great work!!

  16. shard says:

    Ha!!!… you feel more experienced… lolx.. that’s one rebuttal I would never have seen coming… hahah

  17. Tess says:

    Shamus: 1,000+??? Good grief!! All hail to “capcha”!!!

  18. Scarlet Knight says:

    Location: Maingate , Mordor.

    Me: *Ding Dong* Minion Delivery. I have an order of donuts, no sprinkles, for Steve.

    Guard: Go on in. Tower in the center.

    Me: I’m not going in there!

    Guard : Why not?

    Me: It’s dark!

  19. Chris says:

    re: D&D armor

    I made a relatively simple modification in the game I’m running to convert part of armor based AC to DR. Works pretty well. Players sometimes get annoyed that their arrows aren’t very effective against well armored opponents, but they seem to be pretty happy that their armor makes them largely immune to e.g. darts thrown by kobolds. To keep things interesting, crits bypass armor based DR (in addition to dealing more damage).

  20. Steve says:

    That’s it! I’m done with this so-called “Ring of Power” horseshirt!

    First a whole buch of them go missing and UPS denies responsibility. I’ve spent hours on that bloody so-called “tracking” website and as far as I can tell the missing rings have somehow ended up on eBay, where shill-bidding has them going for about the same price as a copy of Men and Magic with both Gygax and Arneson’s autographs on it.

    Then one of the minions brings me Dunkin’ Donuts and I wanted Krispy Kreme. Clearly the bandwidth on these things isn’t what it was cracked up to be in the spec.

    And the icing on the cake: Darkenna must’ve put hers in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. I attempted to dominate her will this morning and all my fillings promptly fell out.

    So much for binding them, in darkness or any other ambient luminance situation. The whole thing has been an expensive boondoggle of the first order and I still wasn’t first in!

    Krom alone knows how I’m going to make the payments on all those Minions of Steve playsets I advance ordered.


  21. Bugsysservant says:

    RE: AC vs. DR

    Just to reduce confusion I am all for having DMs describe hitting armor with no damage sustained, what I am opposed to is builiding into the rules. While it makes no sense that encasing oneself with heavy metal lets one somehow move faster to avoid being hit, but by incorporating it into an already fairly complex system I think it will serve only to slow down combat. Otherwise I am all for a little creative descriptions on the part of DMs.

  22. luxangelus says:

    15 more posts and maybe we get to se the d% dice next to the comments

  23. Jindra34 says:

    OOhhh… FUN d% FUN

  24. Nogard Codesmith says:

    i’ll contribute to the effort to get to comment 100+

  25. bruce says:

    Lets see if we can hit that d%.

    Technically, smacking someone in face who is wearing an open helmet and smacking someone in the face who isn’t wearing a helmet is exactly the same. I mean you’re aiming at the same spot.

    There seems to be two issues here.

    1. Describing a critical hit (i.e. okay you rolled a whatever, your arrow pierces his eye, he screams once and drops to the ground)

    2. Aiming at a particular spot (i.e. his helmet has a split visor, I’ll aim for his eye).

    With 1, you’re just describing what happens when the dice rolls a certain number. You could just as easily have said pierced his throat as he looked up, or shot him in the heart through the missing disc in his scale armour or struck him in the groin after the arrow riccoceted off the ground up under his chainmail skirt.

    With 2 however you need a whole set of rules to this as the AC system is not designed to deal with this amount of detail, other than saying okay, roll a critical hit and thats what happens. The AC system simulates a few seconds of whirling blades and circling opponents looking for a weakness in their foes defense to land a telling blow. Once you try and break it down into more detail than that it fails to work and you need a different method. The problem is that if you make it easier than normal combat, everyones going to do it and if you make it harder than actual combat, no-ones going to do it. Do you want all your combats being delicately scripted battles or a mass of die rolls with the occasional gory death. Perhaps a small +1 bonus for characters who attempt something different to reward their ingenuity?

  26. Jindra34 says:

    ok bruce i’ll take your word for it…

  27. Joshua says:

    As far as the hit description, when I DM’d, I always kept a rough breakdown of AC in the order of:
    1. Dodge and Dexterity Bonuses
    2. Shield Bonus
    3. Deflection Bonus
    4. Armor Bonus
    5. Natural Armor Bonus.

    So, if someone needed a 17 to hit you and they rolled a 6, they straight missed you, if they rolled a 10, they would have hit you but you dodged out of the way, with a 12 your shield blocked it, a 16 and the axe went through your armor but bounced off your barkskin, etc. Before anyone thinks that I’m being pedantic or slowed combat down, keep in mind that I meant a “rough” mental breakdown, which obviously is easier to do with low-level characters than with higher level ones and all their magic crap. Also, it doesn’t have to be exact, just a rough approximation.

    I came up with this little free-form system after a number of DMs who say things like “you(he) just barely miss(es) him(you)” when the roll was 1 off or so. I was thinking, “No, this is past missing, this is having the weapon deflected off the armor.”

  28. Joshua says:

    Also, this is an interesting companion strip compared to this one:

  29. Zippy Wonderdog says:

    Ooo thats reminds me of when I was playing a D&D cleric, the DM went into this thorough and detailed description of our party being surrounded by a literal horde of zombies. I won initiative and rolled really well for turn…. and that was the last horde of zombies I ever saw.
    It was all greater undead and constructs after that :(

  30. Jindra34 says:

    Nice story Zippy

  31. Bugsysservant says:

    Does anybody know if the site, for 100 posts, uses d% or the actual d100?

  32. Shamus says:

    The 100 die shows, although photoshopped a bit so the 100 is big enough to read. If you go back to just before Helm’s Deep there are a couple of posts that have over 100 comments.

  33. Jindra34 says:

    Which one SPecifally should we go back to?

  34. Darrett says:

    [i] Some of the rocks. Most of the time.

    Seriously, you are playing in the wrong Call of Cthulhu games. My motto (as a Call of Cthulhu “Keeper”) is “If you kill your players, you can't drive them insane. Where's the fun in that?” [/i]

    Well, most of the time when we die it’s because we go insane and get eaten by something. Or someone.

    The rest of the time we die it’s because someone -else- goes insane and shoots us because they brought a shotgun. We always have bad luck when people bring shotguns.

  35. Jindra34 says:

    DArrett: Then why do you go andbring shotguns?

  36. Bugsysservant says:

    Scr*w # 1! I’m nmber 100!!! Can I now roll twice (disregarding a result of 100)?

  37. Jindra34 says:

    OK… now lets go for 200…

  38. Isoyami says:

    @Bruce (89)

    *smiles brightly* Where’s the sheep dip?

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist!

    Australia, Australia, Gor Blesser!


  39. rosignol says:

    The armor discussion is making me nostalgic for THAC0.

    Re CoC: you’re playing it wrong. The rules, as described by Brian of KODT:

    1) stay in the back of the party
    2) with your eyes closed
    3) burn all books
    4) don’t use the magic items

    Follow those rules, and your chances of remaining sane and alive increase dramatically…. I’ve tried it, it works. ;-D

  40. Agent Oracle says:

    Heh heh, I love how many responces this has drawn. You got Rpg-netted!

  41. Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness says:

    Anartica, 2007.
    Deathblade Penguin is now the proud owner of one (slightly used) shiny ring which he recently purchased on Ebay. YAY, Deathblade_penguin, Minion of darkness and weilder of the one true ring*

    * Nb: exact properties of the ring still be investigated.

    Now Rise up, other Minions of Darkness and we three (Scarlet Knight, Browncoat and I) can overthrow Steve and his odd donut fixation…

    (who says it’s too early to stab)

    and serious.. what 55 comments a day is a little much for me to catch up on..

  42. Gandalf The Monk says:

    Re the Sean Reynolds article/AC/Called Shot debate…
    *Stands on a Soapbox*

    These things (and HP…god I hate hit points) constitute most of the reason I stopped playing D&D shortly after 3.5 came out. While the combat system is fast and simple, if you want ANY granularity or increased complexity for any reason, you have to start making up rules or pulling them out of 1st and 2nd edition, which doesn’t usually work very well. The Hero system has alternatives which would be easy to port into D&D, if one was so inclined.
    1. Make AC bonus’s (boni? boneese?) function like DR/- instead of adding to AC. Trust me, it won’t slow combat down any more than the average addition/subtraction of hp tracking allready does – which it doesn’t.
    2. Create some form of a called shot/strike location table or chart which can be used for two things:
    2a. When a called shot is made, you refer to it to see the Hit Roll penalties and any benefits (such as extra damage, ignore armor, impairment)
    2b. Optionally you could roll on it with every attack roll for a quick description of where you hit them – and use the benefit or not (I’d say save the benefits for called shots)
    Lessee, this takes care of repetitive descriptions (for any combat of reasonable length), called shots, some of AC realism. Leaves D&D with a lot of problems left if you ask me, but I’m sure I’ll get flamed for this anyhow, so I don’t really care. I just felt like letting y’all know there are solutions out there if you are just a bit creative. And if there’s anything that we gamers have an abundant excess of, it would be imagination.

    *steps off soapbox, dons flame-retardant poncho*

  43. Aaron says:

    “In all the talk about what's coming next, I'd like to cast my vote for the Serenity RPG. I know nothing about it, but surely our esteemed host could go buy it, read it, run through a campaign with Skeeve and the boys to get the feel for it, and produce a beautiful comic based on it with the 14 episode DVDs, the movie DVD, scans from the Those Left Behind comic book, still shots of Nathan Fillion and Jewel Stait from local area Shindigs, and video captures of the rest from Barney Miller, Independence Day, How I Met Your Mother, The Unit, and whatever else they've been in.”

    I’m a HUGE fan of Serenity, and I bought the RPG the moment it hit my local game store. I’d be willing to sell you my firstborn (though my wife might have a bit of issue with that) if you made a strip about it! :D

    You always manage to photocapture the absolute best facial frames for the characters. Aragorn’s boredom is spectacular!

  44. Bruce says:

    102 Isoyami Says:

    April 20th, 2007 at 12:00 am
    @Bruce (89)

    *smiles brightly* Where's the sheep dip?

    Sorry, I couldn't resist!

    Australia, Australia, Gor Blesser!


    Hey, it’s scottish Bruce if you don’t mind, so Kilts, Och Ai the Noo and an inablitity to win international football matches if you don’t mind… !;o)

  45. Steve says:

    Darrett Says:
    Well, most of the time when we die it's because we go insane and get eaten by something. Or someone.
    The rest of the time we die it's because someone -else- goes insane and shoots us because they brought a shotgun. We always have bad luck when people bring shotguns.

    Nonononono. No. When people go insane there is no need to kill them at all. With all due respect this is lazy keeping.

    People going bonkers are usually allowed to flee or are captured in my games. Indeed, if a party flees and leaves a madder behind there are all sorts of possibilities I can use. If I just kill the poor drooling boob that’s all she wrote. After an evening with Nyarlathotep or the insidious Tcho-Tcho that investigator is a game asset beyond price. At the very least I have a new adventure seed – Rescue Poor Sid Before The Cultists Use Him As A Sacrifice To Call [insert favourite squamous horror from the pits of hell].

    The only time a motion-challenged dung-eater is absolutely dead and no mulligans in one of mine would be if said investigator took leave of his or her senses in close proximity to a Great Old One which was already on it’s way over to have a chat with them. Otherwise we go with “ant on the sidewalk” philosophy – not moving so not noticed.


  46. Steve says:

    Aaron Says:
    I'm a HUGE fan of Serenity, and I bought the RPG the moment it hit my local game store. I'd be willing to sell you my firstborn (though my wife might have a bit of issue with that) if you made a strip about it!

    It sounds like the only way to actually see it played.

    Serenity. Meh. Now Judge Dredd…

    Steve :o)

  47. Isoyami says:

    @Bruce (#108).

    I meant Bruce as in Monty Python’s Flying Circus “The Bruce’s Sketch.”

    “Bruce here teaches ‘Egelian philosophy, Bruce here teaches Aristotelian philosophy, and Bruce here is in charge of the sheep dip.”


    Although imagining the Bruces sketch with an all Scottish cast does make me giggle in an oh-so-manly way. :D

  48. Fegis says:

    Hi, I’m another first time poster…
    Great, great comic and the comments are as fun as the comic. Keep going, with this movie and others…

  49. Ronald says:

    Legolas looks a bit TOO excited about it. Creepy elves…

  50. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Now Rise up, other Minions of Darkness and we three (Scarlet Knight, Browncoat and I) can overthrow Steve and his odd donut fixation…”

    But if we do that, how can I get my “Minions of Steve” playset for Christmas? I mean, it’s got the long necked, flying, riding beastie with kung fu grip claws…

  51. Kdansky says:

    Ok, we’re really getting there. You’re starting to get to a level of OOTS ;)

  52. Cynder says:

    I laugh at the 6th and 7th frames. This must be the 5th time Aragorn’s said, “I hate this campaign!”. LOL.

    You can really see Legolas’s excitement in the last frame, too.

    BTW: I love the way Aragorn’s facial expressions really suit his dialog. Very clever. Kudos to you.

  53. Mina says:


    I think I woke my roomie up with this one…

  54. Sam-Chan says:

    legolas is so exited! and so immoral! getting exited about shooting someone in the eye – that truly is rpg!

    like my party was killing “an evil person wich tried to killus some time ago”. 1#player: I take the bown saw and cut a pentagram into his chest! 2#player: are you sick? I just shoot in his head!




  55. Trick says:

    “You feel more experianced”
    *is remembering Nethack*
    You DO remember when in Nethack that comes up, right?
    Or wait… Is it ANY time you level up? Or just in that one case…? *hasn’t played in a while*

  56. Leyomi the Parodier says:

    Legolas’s happy eager face is just so awesome ^^

  57. Michael says:

    (Two years after the fact, and I’m likely to break the internets.)

    Re: What does not kill you in Cthulu:

    No, you’re playing the wrong game. If you are invovled, you’ll be dead or insane. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of Chess?

    It’s like Paranoia. The question isn’t how you avoid dying. It’s “Will you have one life, or zero lives left, if you even think of completing the mission the computer gave you”. Most of the old Paranoia games could not be completed (and the sample adventure even chides the GM if the party isn’t completely wiped out by the 3rd room). The newer ones may be completable, but only after at least 80-90% of all of the clones are gone.

    Paranoia is “Have fun while dying”.
    Cthulu is “Stop the evil and have an insanely great time in the process”.

  58. Pirate Goar says:

    Legolas’ face in the last panel is ab.so.lu.tely. PRICELESS!

  59. Nami says:

    Well, at least one of them is still excited.

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