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DM of the Rings XCI:
The Predictable Surprise

By Shamus
on Monday Apr 23, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


Gandalf arrives to save the day.
Gandalf annoys Aragorn.

Yeah. You saw this coming.

Comments (155)

1 2 3

  1. first!!!!

    another classic :D

    *two-thumbs up*

    I always thought that part in the move was a little cheesy :P

  2. Otters34 says:

    HA!HA!HA!.That was marvellous!

  3. Wulfwen says:

    So true – people are only capable of remembering the most recent thing that happened!

  4. pizzacat83 says:

    Brilliant panel work as always Shamus. Aragorn must have the patience of a Saint if Gandalf has just started getting on his nerves.

  5. Charles says:

    Just like a manager to show up in the morning and take all the credit after his underlings pull an all-nighter…

  6. Myxx says:

    lol. No respect for the PCs…

  7. -Chipper says:

    Nice! Reminds me of, “He has saved us! Commander Taggart has saved us!”

  8. scldragonfish says:

    “It’s just not fair”, Dr. Lazarus.

  9. George says:

    LMAO, hahahaha

    looks like you rolled the corners off your d20 for no reason legolas.
    It’s hilarious because stuff like this happens all of the time. For instance, a campaign i was in long ago, my comrades and I had to defend the villiage for like 20 minutes “in game time.” We didn’t do every single round, alot of the time was “You move from west side to east side which takes 5 minutes” Then when the orc’s leader approached the village some NPC with a vorpal sword came out of no where and cut his head off and he got all the praise… all the money… we got XP for killing stuff and that was about it

    another great comic

    i still think Eomer needs to be a new PC

  10. xargon says:

    “By Grabthar’s hammer, they shall be avenged!”

  11. Scarlet Knight says:

    So the players are just learning that they’re the “plucky, comic relief”?

  12. esox says:

    Wow Shamus- in the second panel you managed to find a picture of Legolas that makes it appear as if the character stayed up all night drinking Mountain Dew

  13. scldragonfish says:

    “I’ll jump on you like a spider monkey.”
    “I’m all jacked up on Mountain Dew!”–Texas Ranger

  14. Kam says:

    Been reading this for a while now, first time to actually comment.
    No matter in what game, you always want to smack the NPC who goes in and takes all the credit for what you’ve done. Love the comic :P

  15. ChristianTheDane says:

    Rofl xD

    Short attentionspan on behalf of the people :D

  16. Jimmie says:

    Gandalf – the first “Mary Sue”!

  17. -Chipper says:

    lol! So it’s not just me with the Galaxy Quest flashback.

    [by Gimli to the DM]”You see, this is your problem Jason. You were never serious about the craft.”

    Also, absolutely brilliant screencaps, Shamus.

  18. The Gneech says:

    I dunno about the -first- Mary Sue, but he’s certainly in the top five! ;)

    -The Gneech

  19. Blindeye says:

    Gandalf is essentially the Deus Ex Machina in character form. As an NPC (since he’s far too powerful to be a PC) he takes all the victory out of everything.

    I can’t wait to see this move into Return of the King, especially to eventually see Aragorn be crowned king.

    Actually, I just can’t wait to see the three feel like they’ve truly saved the day, only to realise that Frodo destroying the ring is the only way to get true victory. It will once again wrest the feeling of accomplishment out of their hands.

  20. Jindra34 says:

    Let me guess the next strip is about how they did alll that for nought even a copper penny.

  21. Rolld20 says:

    Heh, if I didn’t know better, I’d suspect that Gandalf was the first character the GM ever played, revised and raised up to epic level, the way the GM always dreamed of. Too bad the original campaign never got beyond the 5th session. Did I ever tell you about when he reached second level…

    I admit, my most hated NPC was much more effective than the PCs put together. But that’s not remarkable, given this guy could *warp reality at will*, while the rest of us had to beg for permission to (for example) heal normally.
    The GM’s constant praise for the dork was particularly galling.
    Hmph. NPC’s should be heard, and not seen. ;)

  22. JagDell says:

    NPCs with actual combat stats should only exist to be killed by your PCs.

    Especially those on your side… :)

  23. Senalishia says:

    Hear Hear! I’m against “good” NPCs doing pretty much anything the party has even a smidge of hope accomplishing on their own, although it is sometimes nice when they show up and fight the gigantic, scary boss for you.

  24. Da Rogue says:

    Why do the npc’s always take all of the glory?

    Aah well. Aragorn will just have to take comfort in the fact that it was his team that kept them alive long enough for slow-mo Gandalf to show up.

  25. kenderweasel says:

    “Scene-stealing hack!”

  26. lurkerwithout says:

    Oh yes, THE most irritating in a game. Worse than the SuperTwink Munchkin or the Rules Lawyer or the Never Breaks Character Wannabe Actor. Just edging out GM’s Sweetie. The GM’s Pet NPC. The sheer joy of sitting on the side-lines while the NPCs do stuff…

  27. Deoxy says:

    Heh, if I didn't know better, I'd suspect that GandalfElminster was the first character the GMauthor ever played, revised and raised up to epic level, the way the GM always dreamed of.

    And yes, this is a good comic, too (though only because of the way the movie deviated from the book here, AGAIN, and AGAIN for no good reason).

  28. Deoxy says:

    Hmm, the strike tags don’t seem to work… “Gandalf” and “GM” were supposed to struckout in my previous comment.

  29. Arson55 says:

    As a DM, I tend to have powerful NPCs, but they generally hold off minions while the PCs either rally the lesser NPCs or fight the more important enemies. I’ll admit, there have been times I have gotten too fond of some of my cooler NPCs, but I never let them take over (at least not after I had run a few game…early on they did sometimes, but I fixed the habit). If it gets to that point now; they find pressing business elsewhere and are regulated to cameo appearances the rest of the game.

    Oh, and I love the Galaxy Quest refrences.

  30. Susano says:

    While I liked the movies overall, there were some scenes that made me question **why** Jackson et al. felt they had to be changed. The decision of the Ents to fight against, Saurman for example.

  31. Jimmie says:

    The decision of the Ents to fight against, Saurman for example.

    But they did fight against Saruman in the book. They had one of those Hoom and Hom-fests and everything.

    Didn’t they?

  32. Steve says:

    Hail to the Rohirrim who come with Gandalf

    Yes indeed. Praise them with great praise.


  33. drow says:

    oh, i’ll bet that star wars game is looking REALLY GOOD right about now.

  34. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    You have a last name, Aragorn.

    Do I? Do I? You don’t know.

  35. -Chipper says:

    Meanwhile, Leggylass is still shooting orcs thru the eye with a grin a mile wide, and a caffiene tremor saying, “I’m just jazzed about being in the campaign, man!”

  36. Woerlan says:

    Hilarious. All those comics on the battle of Helm’s Deep set this one up perfectly.

    One a less humorous note, there’s a moral lesson here to all Game Masters. NEVER let the NPCs steal the credit from the PCs (unless the PCs let them by purpose or inaction). PCs are deserving of at least as much glory. The speech from Gandalf asking Aragorn to defend Helm’s Deep (which this comic’s not-so-good DM omitted) until he returned with help, would have justified all the suffering, but credit should have been given where credit is due.

  37. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    Movie references are like campaign finance rules. If you ban one movie, we’ll just move to another.

  38. Mikko says:

    Yet another long-time reader, first-time poster.

    That Mountain Dew has to be potent stuff. About a decade ago, I ran Middle Earth campaign using Rolemaster. Back then 12 to 15 hour game sessions were pretty common, not only because Rolemaster tended to a, shall we say, time-consuming system. I liked to do things in a long-winded way (and nobody seemed to object). We also consumed heroic quantities junk food and cola into the early hours of morning, which also slowed the gameplay. Never, ever any of us was as even nearly as pert at the end as Leggy-lass here. Well, if any of us would have been, we would have kicked him out of our group immediately (later one such guy played a game or two with us, and that’s pretty much what happened)

    One day we started at 3 pm. Around ten hours later I suggested that we shall call it a day and continue later. My players stated confidently that they can carry on. We finally stopped at 8 am, after 18 hours of playing, not because the adventure was finished, but because we could hardly stay awake.

    Finally I had the opportunity to tell that anecdote. Thank you for reading.

    P.S. One of the many things I like in this comic is that it restores Gimli to the position that belongs to him. I hated how he was made a cheap comic relief in the movie. For that alone Shamus, I thank you!

  39. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    Aragorn to the DM:
    I’m gonna just shut my eyes for a little bit. Go on, I’m listening to everything you say.

  40. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    oh, i'll bet that star wars game is looking REALLY GOOD right about now.

    No way. The show must go on.

  41. Mordaedil says:

    Wtf is up with Legolas’ ears?

  42. haashaastaak says:

    yes, in the book the ents did indeed attack Isengard. But in the book the ends just took a very long time to decide and finally they agreed. They didn’t wait for a snotty nosed midget to point out to them (cleverly) that it’s not nice to burn tree people. To me that was the single cheesiest unnecessary change in the entire movie.

  43. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    I’m looking forward to the council after Minas Tirith.

    Aragorn: We’ll go in. We’ll create a distraction. We’ll march to the gates and hold Sauron’s attention long enough to allow the halflings to get to Mt. Doom.

    DM [interjecting]: That’s suicide!

    Aragorn: We’re just glorified extras, dude.

    Frankly, I think it would be hilarious if Aragorn et al. marching to the Gates of Mordor is a loopy PC decision that throws the DM way off the rails.

    Now that the halflings are off playing Star Wars, I bet the plan was for Faramir to get the ring away from them and bring it back to Gondor for Aragorn or whoever to use. The Ring was going to be retconned so that, theoretically, a mighty man of will could use it for good. But the person playing Faramir ignored all the DM’s hints–or, more likely, misinterpreted them as an attempt to trick him–and let the hobbits go. The DM is pissed, so after the PCs successfully defend Gondor he rubs in how hopeless their situation is and how unlikely the halflings are to succed. Then Aragorn gets a “brilliant” idea.

  44. Clyde says:

    At least Aragorn doesn’t have to worry about Gandalf doing better with the chicks than he does. Of course, after that little “disease” incident with Eowyn, perhaps Aragorn wishes that Gandalf WOULD…

  45. Steve says:

    No way should this three finish the campaign as winners.

    Dave and his Jedi sidekick should play a one-off adventure unbeknownst to the three amigos.

    That adventure: Ring of Bright Lava, in which the players who spent the whole campaign playing Star Wars actually rejoin and finish DMotR off and trigger the Death of Sauron (again). The DM would probably welcome them back as justification that his vision of the campaign was compelling after all and blame the friction on the players.

    The looks on the faces of the Veterans of Helms Deep should be priceless when they find out there’s no point in continuing.


  46. Marril says:

    Amazing how they do the fighting, and he gets the credit. Typical NPC.

  47. Ogreman says:

    Yeah. Gandalf again. This happens all the time in the webcomic Girly, with all the credit going to Captain Fist even if he barely does anything.

  48. Browncoat says:

    37 Osvaldo Mandias Says:

    April 23rd, 2007 at 1:23 pm
    Movie references are like campaign finance rules. If you ban one movie, we'll just move to another.

    Good call. We’ve done MP, Princess Bride, and now Galaxy Quest. What’s next? Ooo! I know!

    “See? My d20 goes all the way up to 21!”

  49. Harlock says:

    Wouldn’t it make more sense just to roll a d30 and ignore anything over 21?

    But this one goes to 21!

  50. nigel says:

    just some constructive critisism. the last few havn’t made me laugh. no offence. try to make them some what funnyer.

  51. Lil'German says:

    darned killstealers :D

    darned white-haired bedcloth-wearing kill-stealers :P

    wonderful idea, Shamus.

    OTOH there are still more than half the orcs/uruk-hai left in the valley… so he DID bring kind of rescue for the guys in the dead-end. Hail to the brave allmighty NPCs :)

  52. I’m almost afraid to re-watch the movies at this point. I’d finally managed to adjust to the Elijah Wood Winona-Ryder-bugeyed-stare, but now I’m afraid that every Legloas grin and every stoic Aragorn stare are going to make me crack up.

  53. MikeRM says:

    “Their numbers thinning, but still multitude”… try “…but still a multitude” or “still multitudinous”.

  54. Shamus says:

    “just some constructive critisism. the last few havn't made me laugh. no offence. try to make them some what funnyer.”

    That’s not constructive, that’s informative. If it was constructive, you’d tell me why they aren’t funny and previous ones are.

    But it doesn’t matter. You get what you get. Just like the average DM: Sometimes I’m brilliant, sometimes I’m irritating, and in the end we’re just plodding along to a foregone conclusion.

  55. Alia says:

    I’ve been in two games with significant party NPCs. The first game, the NPCs filled out missing positiosn with an overlap at Wizard. We had a fighter/ranger but the NPCs gave us a much better Barbarian. We didn’t have a thief or a Cleric and the NPCs filled those rolls. They only time the ‘took the spotlight’ was when one of them killed the dragon with 4HP left (the dragon, not the NPC). Then our Ranger/Fighter threw a fit and we kicked him out of the group. The rest of us were fine with it.

    The second one was a different scale. We were working with Red Wizards and most of the Red Wizard NPCs could do things that none of us would be able to do for a while, if ever. So the DM was very careful to make sure we never felt overshadowed by them.

  56. Jim says:

    Hi, long time reader, first time poster. :-)

    This one had me literally cackling out loud for a few minutes. Marvelous.

    “Dude – where’s our thunder?” “Where’s our thunder dude?” “Oh, Gandalf stole it.”

    Definitely agree Gandalf should later be revealed as an old PC of the DM’s. Probably a 1st or 2nd ed character he “converted” to 3.5 .

    Look forward to these guys in the halls of the dead. Would be good as a “PC’s throw the DM a curveball” moment, when they put some pieces together the DM hadn’t thought through, or at least thought they weren’t listening (usually a safe assumption).

  57. Scarlet Knight says:

    “To me that was the single cheesiest unnecessary change in the entire movie.”

    What?! Cheesier than having Aragorn fall off a cliff for no reason and more unnecessary than to have Arwen contact him & his HORSE(!)telepathically?

  58. Smith says:

    Long time reader, first time poster, yadda, yadda.

    Freaking brilliant. This strip is one of the best instructional aids in “how not to DM” I’ve every read. And it’s funny, too boot. Keep up the good work, man.

    I think you’re getting to a challenging part — when the Fellowship breaks up. Some poor sod has to run a 1-on-1 game with the DM and uber-NPC, 2 more come back for a side game, and the three Amigos go for a dungeon-crawl turned bad …

  59. Jiggily says:

    I have to agree with the comments regarding having an uber NPC help out the party, but I think if the DM ever involves one, then it should only show up when the party is so completely over matched, and then he should be killed in the process, allowing the PC’s to live and finish the battle….

    just my .02


  60. Awesome! Is this the setup for a future event hopefully?

    Great one Shamus. I have made this comic required reading for my D&D group.

  61. Richard says:

    You know, this scene impressed me deeply when I watched the movies. I remember seeing the riders come over the crest of the hill, the orcs falling back and raising their pikes, and then the riders charging STRAIGHT INTO THE PIKES.

    I knew, at that point, that they’d all died and the rest of the movie was just hypothetical.

    I still can’t shake that feeling.

  62. Doom Chicken says:

    I did not see that coming! Gandalfs return was totally unexpected despite my reading the books several times and watching the movies. How dare you suprise me like that! I damn near had a heart attack!

  63. Woerlan says:

    Ah, Richard. Easily explained.

    First, they weren’t pikes, they were spears. Pikes are much longer. The principle being that the planted polearm had to be longer than the ones the riders were using, otherwise, they kill YOU before you kill them. Plus, the rohirrim lances were at least as long as those spears, so based on the same principle, the planted spears weren’t that effective.

    Second, Gandalf did that holy light thing just before the first line of cavalry met the uruk horde. Most of the spearmen looked away at that point, even reflexively raising their spears out of the line of charge.

    All in all, pretty much a cavalry overrun issue. I’m not saying that no one died, since I’m sure a few unlucky horsemen got the receiving end of a well-placed and stalwart spear. Good rout at the end though.

    The part you don’t see in the non-extended (standard) version is the remainder of the horde retreating into a mysterious forest that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Then trees start moving and the sound of orcs screams mercifully fades away rather quickly.

    The lesson here being never promote deforestation in a magical setting where the lumber can be inspired to fight back. ^_^

    • Blue Canary says:

      I read somewhere that Tolkien was inspired by Macbeth to write that scene. Apparently he’d been disappointed that Birnam Wood does not literally come to Dunsinane, as promised.

  64. Minus says:

    Old DM, new reader here. I just read your whole comic from the start and passed it on to my roommates. Thanks for sharing this, I look forward to the continued story.

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