About the Author
Mass Effect
Final Fantasy X
Batman:Arkham City
Borderlands Series
Weekly Column
Champions Online
World of Warcraft
DM of the Rings
Good Robot
Project Frontier

DM of the Rings XCII:

By Shamus
on Wednesday Apr 25, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


The players finally get some XP. Legolas is pissed.

Comments (112)

1 2

  1. SpaceWolf says:

    First Thanks for the comic it just keeps getting better and better i cant wait for the next edition again first hahahaha

  2. Myxx says:

    lol. ding. Just brought back years of MMO grinding…

  3. Erin Storts says:

    Woo hoo first post!

    I love Gimli’s face, he looks so thrilled to be getting xp. Great strip as always, Shamus.

  4. Erin Storts says:

    Woah, you guys are fast! I was first until I clicked submit, then there were two posts up. Wow.

  5. Marmot says:

    Amazing as always! I’m glad to see them finally get some XP, else a murder at the gaming table would loom ever closer!

  6. Susano says:

    I wonder how many important plot points these guys have missed by ignoring the GM they way they do….

    Anyway, as a HERO System player XP handouts are whole new ball game when compared to D20…. You just have to love the instant gratification HERO XP gives you.

  7. Scarlet Knight says:

    Is this where Legolas looks to kill a rat as a seperate adventure just to get 1 xp & level up?

  8. Cenobite says:

    Hey Shamus, that reminds me. You still haven’t told us how much xp Legolas got for whacking Gollum. LOL

  9. George says:

    lol, yeah i would say whacking gollum was a nice shot lol
    that whole one level at a time rule is the only rule i dont like at all

    great comics keep them up

    favorite moment ” i want to stab another one in the face!!!”

  10. Salen says:

    “Its like Christmas in the middle ages!” That cracks me up! Gimli’s the greatest. Oh well, I guess they weren’t too mad about having Gandolf show up and steal the show, now that they’re knee deep in EXP. I am curious what that blurb under the talk over was about. I’m sure I saw something about the Ents in there.

  11. Jindra34 says:

    The one level per encounter rule in DnD never made much sense…

  12. Prawninator says:

    That rule was horrible. Always made me cry. (no, not really)

  13. smilydeth says:

    hmmm…. I’m sorry to say this….but I think you’re losing your touch shamus. The last few strips have not been nearly as good as the ones that you did early on. The jokes seem forced and are becoming trite and obvious. Please, please don’t get me wrong here, I LOVE THIS COMIC! I am just worried that you might be burning out..and that would suck. Anyway, keep em coming…..

  14. Blindeye says:

    The whole one level at a time thing, I’m sure, is because you’re characters just don’t magically learn new spells, abilities, and what not. It’s assumed that they train, learn, study, for a while when they reach the next level.

    Video games totally ignore the realism about necessary training, and it’s made us forget.

  15. scldragonfish says:

    The reason I love this comic, is the same reason I kept falling asleep during the movies…the characters are stunted at every turn.

    Good One Shamus!

  16. Roxysteve says:

    “Cry a little”.

    I get that. No, really. Rhys-Davis was allergic to the makeup.

    Well done Shamus. I suggest that you improve morale in the comments by banning anyone who criticises your art for a bajillion years with no mulligans like they probably do at that other D&D-themed strip site. Rule with an iron fist. It’s the only language they understand. I speak as a former Will-dominating Dark Overlord here.

    Remember: He who laughs last didn’t get the joke.


  17. Jeremiah says:

    That or all the characters start seeing their fellow party members as quantities of XP instead of allies.

  18. Woerlan says:

    So did Legolas get that Arcane Archer level or what? Hehe.

  19. Blindeye: Actually, D&D characters DO just “magically learn new spells, abilities, and what not.” The rules 100% support the Barbarian going up a level in the middle of the desert and gaining a level of Wizard. He not only magically learns to read, but magically finds a spellbook magically full of 1st-level spells. Most GMs will say you can’t do it… but that’s Rule 0, not actually supported by the Rules As Written. :)

    • WJS says:

      Not unless they changed it in 3.5. My 3.0 DMG specifically talks about what PCs have to go through between adventures to level up. It leaves the exact nature of the training up to the DMs discretion, but it clearly says that some form of training is required.

  20. Jindra34 says:

    Woerlan: I would say no since he is likely only level 2 now… ahh… comic irony…

  21. Arson55 says:

    I also love the first Gimli panel. Simple excellence.

  22. Arbaal says:

    Ha ha ha! This so reminds me of my friend Todd’s campaigns. We went a year of playing once a week before any of us saw a level gain, and no magic items to speak of. I keep picturing Legolas’ player as being that excitable teen who is never happy with anything unless it has to do with him making amazing feats.

    You rock Shamus!

  23. Vegedus says:

    Hm, I’ve never heard of that rule. Is it in v. 3.5?

  24. James says:

    Ha ha! Joke’s on them! Orcs are only 1/2 CR critters, and they are too high a level to get any XP…

  25. Luklan says:


    Actually, Aragorn’s comment suggests the DM DID give them XP.

    Anyway, I love Gimli and Aragorn’s expressions, and Leggylass’ just sold it ^^ Proof that you can’t please everyone at once.

  26. Jindra34 says:

    James: Luklan is likely right… the way the campaign has been going they are likely low level charecters… with good equipment…

  27. Namfoodle says:

    If the DM is doing his job, you should never need to level up more than one at a time. If you’re being honest about the challenge rating and all that stuff, I think it’s supposed to take around 10 reasonable encounters to go up a level. It would take A LOT of Mountain Dew to go through more than that in a single gaming session. In 3.5, I’ve never leveled up faster than once every other session or so.

    When I was a wee lad of 11, my brand new 1st edition 1st Level Monk killed a Dragon with the help of one other 1st level charcter. I can’t even remember how we managed it. I think we just threw a rock at it and it keeled over – The DM was a complete goober, I think he just wanted us to like him. The Dragon’s Horde was 2,000,000 gp, a cool mil per character – and gp = xp back then. So after playing the character for a few minutes, he was next in line to be the Grand Master of Floweres. Shameful, really, but we were young.

  28. wtrmute says:

    I’ve had my players kill a Dragon and gain four, five levels at once in the very first campaign I ran — I was 11, and only had the 2nd Edition DMG (not the PHB). But the worst was a campaign of a lesser-known system which we played when I was 16; our GM had a player in another, parallel campaign which was much less frequent than ours — so he came up to us once and said that he wasn’t going to award experience anymore, otherwise our characters would overtake his on the other campaign. So we adventured once a week for six months with no XP gain for it.

    In retrospect, I don’t exactly know why in the blazes we ever agreed with this. So I very much understand the feeling…

  29. Da Rogue says:

    We actually lvled 3 times in one session. It was our last chance to play and it was an all day session. We lvld in the middle of the session; and had to kill off this really high lvl wizard. Fortunately, we never had to actually figth the bugger. We just sabatoged his tower. No one can survive that much brick and stone falling on ’em.

  30. Roxysteve says:

    Richard Dragonbane Says:
    Blindeye: Actually, D&D characters DO just “magically learn new spells, abilities, and what not.” The rules 100% support the Barbarian going up a level in the middle of the desert and gaining a level of Wizard. He not only magically learns to read, but magically finds a spellbook magically full of 1st-level spells. Most GMs will say you can't do it… but that's Rule 0, not actually supported by the Rules As Written.

    Well,I’m no expert but my 3.5 DMG definitely refers to the process of making characters earn their level benefits (new spells etc) by questing/studying in game for them.


  31. Jindra34 says:

    RoxySteve:Actually the rule you are reffering to is entirely optional… though highly recomended…

  32. Rolld20 says:

    S’funny, I’m in a BESM game which operates on a point-buy system, instead of D&D’s level-based one, and (with the exception of one player) we rarely think of character advancement. Every 4-8 months we get enough points for some skill advances, maybe an ability upgrade. Two of the players have spent most of the game with unspent points, because they’re happy with their characters as they are.

    Then there was the D&D game where one player charted the number of sessions we gamed for each level to prove to the GM how the rate of leveling was insufficient.

    Ah, well, one player’s ‘reward’ is another’s ‘irrelevant’. :)

  33. Scarlet Knight says:

    wtrmute Says “In retrospect, I don't exactly know why in the blazes we ever agreed with this.”

    Maybe because you were 11 …

    This is why I think the 1 level rule is there, to save fledgling games from fledgling DM’s.

  34. Dunamos says:

    Heh; actually the thing that made me laugh in this one was Aragorn talking over the DM’s narration.

  35. Fred's Friend Mike's Friend Gary's Friend Jim says:

    Susano’s post made my day. Yes, HERO System gives the instant gratification XP, but it’s awarded at the end of an adventure and its expenditure is always subject to GM approval. For dramatic purposes, XP can be spent, with GM’s permission, in the middle of an adventure if it will save a character’s life or some such thing. The rulebook gives the example of a PC suddenly figuring out how to fly a plane just moments before the plane he’s in crashes into the ocean. The book also suggests that the GM assign XP to skills that would logically have improved during the adventure, perhaps as a bonus for good RPing.

    At the same time, though, there’s something about reaching that next plateau in D&D that is intensely gratifying. Leveling up always feels like an accomplishment, and the anticipation of doing so is what often drives me to guzzle one more bottle of Diet Mountain Dew and finish the scenario.

  36. Madalch says:

    > Is this where Legolas looks to kill a rat as a seperate adventure just to
    > get 1 xp & level up?

    Now -that- brings back memories of my first D&D campaign (not First Edition, not AD&D, just D&D- the version that came in a boxed set with dice that you coloured in the numbers with a white crayon). How many times did “Saruman of the Silver Staff” waltz through a Monty Haul style dungeon with enough loot to make Tiamat jealous, and then kill a rat the next morning?

    I was 13- what do you expect?

  37. txknight says:

    [QUOTE]RoxySteve:Actually the rule you are reffering to is entirely optional… though highly recomended…[/QUOTE]

    Hmmm… Hope that quote thing actually works.

    In any case, I disagree. While it’s definately silly for an illiterate barbarian to suddenly learn to read and get a spell book in the middle of the desert, I also think it takes away from the game if every time the characters level they have to train somewhere. Afterall, if we bend the rules of reality to allow a man to sling a fireball, why not bend it further and let him learn from his experience almost magically?

    Oh and Shamus, good work as usual. And I agree with an earlier commentor. I think it would be hilarious to see Legolas hunting for a rabbit or perhaps an orc who isn’t quite dead yet just to gain that 1 xp!

    • Arkanabar says:

      One of the things I love about Earthdawn is that most abilities (Talents, in ED-cant) are learned through magic, and with enough Legend Points and eight hours of meditation, you can improve any ability you have by one rank. You still have to train to learn new Talents and advance to new Circles, though. Though, with suitably epic RP, it’s possible to convince the GM to let you “spontaneously” initiate into a new Discipline and thus some of its earliest talents.

    • WJS says:

      That’s an example of the “All-or-Nothing” fallacy. You’re basically saying “Well, our setting has magic, so why not do away with common sense altogether?”

      It’s well established that wizards gain their powers through years of long, hard study. It’s stretching disbelief for an illiterate barbarian to multiclass to wizard at all, let alone overnight.

  38. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    Legolas: are all the orcs dead?
    DM: For the most part. Soliders are putting swords thru the ones that are still alive
    Legolas: I find a live one and and bandage it up.
    DM: ummm… ok…
    Legolas: i rolled a 19 on my healing check.
    DM: look, i see where youre going with this, but you’re not gunna get any xp for essentially re-killing a defensless orc
    Legolas: I give him a sword, and let him have the first attack. I’ll be flat footed and everything.
    DM: *sigh*

  39. Ellie says:

    wonderful, wonderful! keep up the good work!!! I absolutely love this comic. don’t let the critics get ya down!

    I hate the “one level at a time” rule, especially because my DM is a bit stingy with the XP…

    I love the expression on gimli’s face! priceless.

    keep it up!

  40. Matt says:

    My earliest 2nd edition memories involve being told by the DM that our PCs suddenly remembered that their father was a demigod whilst between a cliff and an army of skeletons. We prayed and Dad sent a tidal wave or lightning or some such nonsense to kill the baddies. After this we found a staircase leading directly to Hell, fighting demons the whole way down. I don’t remember what level we were or leveling up at all, but I think we managed to kill Lolth somehow. Needless to say we were also around 13 or so.

  41. Susano says:


    We get ours at the end of every play session (and subject to GM approval) can spend them before the next play session. Hence: instant gratification! (That, and I can buy what I want, when I want it!)

  42. Skwyd says:

    Great comic as always.

    To those talking about the d20 “level up” system. A character doesn’t train *after* they gain enough XP to advance the level. The idea is that during a character’s exploits, they are studying, trainging, learning to read, studying arcane writings, meditating on divine insights, or whatever is appropriate to the *next* level they will take. When you gain enough XP to go up and take that level of wizard (or whatever) that is supposed to represent the point at which your training and studying finally “pay off” and you can now use the new abilities.

  43. Alia says:

    The way my DMs have always run leveling up is that if you don’t get a feat or bonus spells, then everything is okay. It is reasonable to assume that from level to level you are going to get stronger and better at hitting. Skills, if they have been used, can be bought with no training time. If they are a brand new skill, or haven’t really been used recentally (from level a to level b), then you have to justify it. I once justfied two ranks into Craft: Sandwich cause that was all my character was making for the party.

    Feats need to be trained for or justified.

    For all Casters except Wizards, rest is all that is needed to learn new spells. If we level up in the middle of a day, then no spell benefits are gained. Wizards need to still study their spell books. Some DMs have had spells magically appear. Others have said that the whole book is already filled with spells (which the player still gets to choose), but you can only understand them when you reach the level.

    Finally, the most insane leveling experance was when the party jumped 3 levels in a session. The DM was awarding XP for grades, and only A’s and B’s got you anything. We hadn’t played in a month or so. We were already close to the next level. When the DM showed up, every one presented him with tests and papers. We gained two levels and then killed things on the way to the third. The DM then recened the XP for grades rule.

  44. harrowed1 says:

    Can’t wait ’till they encounter the Ents. “We see what?! And their making the trees move on their own!!? MOUNTED ATTACK CHARGE!!!!”

  45. Kristin says:

    Heh. Maybe it’s because of having started d20-style play on video games, but as a DM I find making my players train in-game is tedious and not worth it. Since we usually level up every 2-4 sessions, and I usually time it so that it’s at the end of a major part of the adventure, the party just throws all their treasure into a party fund while they’re in the middle and divide it up as they level up.
    Then it’s shopping day. I don’t make them RP shopping, and I don’t make them justify learning unless it’s something absolutely ridiculous. If my fighter wanted to take a level of swashbuckler, or marshal, that’s fine. If he wanted to become a wizard, then he can tell me that since the party wizard is his (in-game) ex-girlfriend, he was studying with her in between bouts of other non-RPed activity. Cleric or Paladin, he’d have to convince me that he’s found a call to his deity, and RP appropriately in the future.

  46. David V.S. says:

    Shamus is not burning out, just enjoy this differently.

    He warned us about a set of strips with computer game themes because they were a product of events in his life.

    He has also clearly been working more on getting the perfect expressions in screen captures (quite successfully, too) for humor value rather than speeding through the movies at too fast a pace for his liking just to get to the next big verbal joke.

    If he was authoring a novel, such changes in tone would be really odd. But this webcomic has always been an expression of his relationship with gaming and fantasy stories, and so it is appropriate for it to change tone somewhat to allow that to be fully explored.

  47. Jindra34 says:

    The next comic should involve them going rat hunting…

  48. bruce says:

    In D&D experience points are abstract and used more like a currency than real learning.

    Wizard: I want to learn another spell. Can I go to the library and learn them?
    DM: No, you’ll have to out and kill some stuff first.

    I prefer the idea that through your adventures you gain a greater understanding of magic/combat/thieving, etc which allows you to “upgrade” and gain better spells/combat maneuvres/skills, etc.

  49. I have to differ with the critics offering back-handed compliments – you’re doing good work that keeps us coming back. I think a coffee cup order is,.. um… in order? The very least we can do to support this comic is drink our morning coffees out of DM of the Rings mugs before we spit it out over our keyboards…

    Will also support shop where I buy new keyboards (my poor wee G4! – At least the flatscreen cleans off).

    A true revelation within the gem of Tolkien-based lore. Well-done, and I’ll continue recommending this for reading. Still only reading three web-strips. Yours would be sorely missed, so here’s hoping that won;’t be an issue for some time yet.


  50. Lev Lafayette says:

    For Bruce @ #48.

    One ancient game which managed to get around this was Chivalry & Sorcery way back in 1978. Wizards received XP for studying arcane tomes. Thieves received XP for stealing stuff. Priests for praying and Knights for clanking stuff on the head.

    It was a great game, but the rules were almost impossible to read.

  51. Alasseo says:

    Actually- my favourite experience system (both as a GM and a player) lets you gain XP as normal, but you can only spend it on things you (the player) have specifically had your character do in-game (or specify as your character’s course of action for downtime). When it comes to learning new skills/spells/feats, you have to roleplay finding someone of sufficient level of ability to train you, and designate 2-3 hours per day minimum to get that first rank in that skill (or whatever), from whenceforth you can improve on your own (until secret techniques come in, or some other equivalent that the GM says would require special training).

    Mind you, I normally play L5R 3rd, Paranoia 5th, Serenity or WFRP 2nd with a bunch of real grognards, so the general attitude to levelling, character “builds” and so forth is quite different from that of the average D&D gamer. It works for us though.

  52. MrDeodorant says:

    Well, the rule is there mainly as a fallback for when a player gets too clever and kills a god against the will of the DM. Under normal play, you do one of two things: go with the “thirteen encounters per level” rule, or the “We level up every session or two” mainstay. Those thirteen encounters are designed literally as “resource wasters”… some potions, some hp, some spells, ad nauseum. And they’re boring. So one huge encounter, with lots of tension and an actual threat of death, often becomes the only attractive choice. Thing is, even then, you shouldn’t be able to survive long enough to kill (or defeat, or escape… many of my victories have been DM-intended retreats from mighty foes) much more than a level’s worth of stuff. If you are, then your DM isn’t playing the monsters right. That’s not uncommon; it’s why WotC is now releasing tips for how to play tricky monsters that don’t get used as well as they should.

  53. Fickle says:

    Gimli looks like he’s having a religious experience. XD Yay for happy players at last!

  54. Harlock says:

    Heh. The most absurd power-leveling experience I had was a summer campaign. We started at around 6th level (some higher, ’cause this was 2nd ed and we all had the same xp total) But then the party’s wild mage got a hold of a Deck of Many Things and…well, the upshot was that we all got 22 useful magical items and 1.1 million xp. In one session. Then things got really silly. I haven’t played with any of them since (except for my former roommate, anyway…but he was neither DM nor wild mage in the above scenario)

  55. Arson55 says:

    I had a wild mage once. He had a Rod of Wonder; it was his absolute favorite magic item…even though it turned him into a drow…and then into a woman.

    My cousin was DMing and he had several books that had nothing but lists of magic items. One of them had like six optional versions of the Rod of Wonder. I got a weird(er) one.

  56. kellandros says:

    Heh. Things get much sillier when DM’s break the one level at a time rule. Only a very very few can pull it off successfully.

    I had one DM for a short campaign that provided the most ridiculously over the top character creation I’ve ever witnessed(especially in a heavily modified 2nd Ed format). Somehow the party seemed vaguely balanced, or at least we all managed to be overpowered in fairly different ways. When the level 1 party(with 2 7th level NPCs) wipe out 10+ 12th level fighters in their first encounter, things are a bit out there. When they all suddenly become 9th level characters, now thats a bit silly.

    Unfortunately, I’ve never seen any campaign manage to do anything so over the top so well.

  57. Parzival says:

    Youngsters. Harrumph.

    Back in my day, you couldn’t go up in level until after the adventure had ended and you went to find a higher level NPC to train you. (Although once you got to a certain level, you could train yourself.) Either way, the character had to spend time and gold for the training. The truly hardcore players would play this out, but we just lumped it in to “time between adventures.” But there was none of this, “Wow, I killed one more orc! Suddenly, I’m a better magicuser!” nonsense. (Well, there was *some* of it, but at least we *imagined* that our characters had studied for a few weeks. Okay, so really we just wrote it down on our sheet and subtracted the gold. But it *amounted* to the same thing. Sort of.)

    Pah. “Instant level.” Pah.

  58. Richard says:

    I really feel for Legolas. When dawn is glimmering and the dice are still rolling, the only thing that keeps me going is the thought that every dead orc is another 10 XP in the kitty. To be denied all this just because of some stupid table, that’s outrageous!

    Of course, it could have been worse — the DM could have shared out the XP to all the Rohirrim, who after all did participate in the combat :)

  59. P-kaye says:

    I notice an OotS reference

  60. Rosuav says:

    So how many did Gimli and Legolas end up getting? Did Legolas end up having to go to his 1d4 dagger?

  61. Kristin says:

    Extended edition of Two Towers = Rewrite of Legolas’s “tie” with Gimli?

    Legolas: I’ve leveled up. I have all this XP left. Ooh, Orc.
    DM: He was already dead.
    Legolas: But he was twitching!
    DM: If he was twitching, it was because Gimli’s axe is buried in his central nervous system!

  62. Medium Dave says:

    Bah, role playing should be its own reward. I GM my freaking brains out and you want me to leverage you into even nastier abilities so you can ruin my 20 year long campaign? I give XP (GURPS) infrequently, and yeah I get teased about it, but when I DO award them people celebrate because it means something.

  63. Depaara says:

    Don’t listen to your detractors Shamus, this comic rocks the house. Don’t ever stop! Just out of curiosity, are you going to bring back the guys playing the hobbits or are those characters now NPCs like Gandalf?

1 2

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *


Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>