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. vonKreedon says:

    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).

    This, absolutely. As DM I have players tell me what things they are working to either learn at all or improve. Then I make them spend time doing it before they get granted the improvement.

  2. Pink Fuzzy Bunny says:

    The joke in this comic should have been to note that the orcs are individually more than 8 levels below them (CR 1/2 vs mid level characters) and so despite fighting through the night and wearing the corners off their dice, the PCs *didn’t gain a single experience point!*

    The harsh reality: It doesn’t matter how dangerous the encounter is, if the individuals in it aren’t dangerous alone, the current rules say the encounter is worth NO experience.

  3. Melfina the Blue says:

    Huzzah! They finally got XP. And I found this comic two days ago and love it.
    Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a D&D game where we had to get training in game for standard feats. Wizards have to get spells in game, of course, and if someone wants an unusual prestige class they may have to RP it out.
    And the comics just keep getting better. Are there going to be complaints about lack of clerics when they get to the Halls of the Dead?

  4. Ahh, another great one!

    I agree with the above comments, don’t listen to the nay-sayers!
    This comic PWN3S!!!1!!!!11!

    (sorry, had to do it :P)

    Keep up the good work.

  5. wtrmute says:

    Pink Fuzzy Bunny: Really? Things must’ve changed since 3.0, then. I distinctly remember there being a modifier for number of monsters encountered which would push the CR up into the stratosphere?

    Actually, according to http://www.d20srd.org/encounterCalculator.htm, fighting 100 CR-1/2 Orcs is EL 11. Unfortunately, it won’t calculate the ECL for 10,000… Except if we cheat and calculate the CR for an encounter with 100 CR 11 Orcish centuries, which yields CR 24. I’d say the concerns over levelling up more than once are justified, then.

  6. Roxysteve says:

    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?

    If you are going to try and argue with me, at least do me the courtesy of quoting me and not someone else responding to my original post. :o)

    The gist of my post was that questing for level benefits is held by some to be a “house rule” whereas it is actually a suggestion in the official WoC DMG. I wrote nothing about how right or wrong the idea of instant levelling was, since I was not concerned with that issue at all. I’ll play it either way with a smile. :o) See?

    Tech note: The quote thing didn’t work, mostly because this site doesn’t support fake square-brackety HTML like some forum sites do. That said, it doesn’t support an arbitrary subset of some fairly common HTML tags either, and entity names are right out. What I do to quote someone is to take their original post, copy it into the textarea box, cut out the irrelevant parts (like the date) and bracket them in I or EM tags. You may argue with the style, but it seems to work in differentiating my response from what I am responding to. I release this methodology under the creative commons, DRM-free, no front-end loading or annual fees open community thingy. You don’t even have to leave me a sack of used oncers in the Isengard public lavatories. Be free, little italicised quoting scheme! Go to your destiny with my blessing! Fly! Fly to your future!


  7. YaVerOt says:

    >Pink Fuzzy Bunny: Really? Things must've changed since 3.0, then. I distinctly remember there being a modifier for number of monsters encountered which would push the CR up into the stratosphere?

    No, because when you reread that section (DMG3.5 p 49), you’ll see that more creatures increase the Encounter Level (EL) not the Challenge Rating (CR), and XP is based of off CR, not EL. And that table caps at 12 opponents, because the system just break down at that point anyway.

    Of course, since this is the first time they’ve gained XP since they started, fractional CR creatures still provide full XP to 1st level characters, infact fractional CR creatures provide XP to characters of 8th level since the chart (DMG p38) doesn’t have a fractional column so you use the CR1 column and divide.

    wtrmute: Since you mentioned it, calculating the ECL is easy, all the orcs have a +0 LA, so their ECL equals their total HD (including class levels). There is no mass Effective Character Level as that just doesn’t make any sense.

  8. Scarlet Knight says:

    My head hurts! You know, I think I’ll forget all this ECL,LA,CR & EL, & just sneak out my old AD&D DMG (by TSR) table to figure out experience and simply not tell the players how I figured out my numbers…

  9. Janni says:

    Now that actual experience points are involved, I bet all the Hobbits will want to play again after all! :-)

  10. vonKreedon says:

    All the rigamarole of D&D, the EL and CR and AR etc., are what kept me from ever having any enthusiasm for that gaming system. All the bureaucracy gets in the way of the storytelling.

  11. Alex says:

    I’m with VonKreedon.

    I hate gaming systems and the only reason I see to use one is if you don’t know how to run a campign yourself (basically it’s a crutch for beginners).
    I would much rather be a Wanna-be-actor type of player and play a Freeform campign (so I do use A gaming system sue me) then spend money and time on rules I don’t need.

    Now I’m saying this because I think most of the people here are experienced role players and well aware of the many flaws the DnD system has (for example the ones made fun of in this comic).

    A good GM can replace all the books you need and the dice, after all it’s the GM that calls the shots not the player, you go with what is realistic to the situation or at least plausible.
    When I role play I love the funny accents, the theatrical gestures and the descriptions that replace the rolling of dice, the math and the rule books.

    Now I’m not saying you’re doing anything wrong but I like to focus on actual role playing and get caught up in the story and action.
    Plus it saves money and time.

    Would love to hear your thoughts. (What am I getting wrong, what advantages dnd has, why you like your gaming system).

  12. Alex says:

    And I do realise that not everybody enjoys role playing games for the same reasons or in the same way I do.

    I also realise I am long winded. =/

  13. Chosen One says:

    Alex: When I role play I love the funny accents, the theatrical gestures and the descriptions that replace the rolling of dice, the math and the rule books.

    Same for me and my old group. Roleplay instead system, dice and math. If your action is good for the story being told, you succeed. Of course, it takes a lot of trusting on DM and others players. But it works :)
    It’s still funny to see the people faces when, at cons, we say “We will start a session of no system”.

  14. MONKEEYYY says:

    Well you need a system or the DM(or GM) will just create outcomes that are most dramatic and most crowd-pleasing. Some systems are better than the others. The warhammer roleplaying game was a favourite of mine. I remember first playing it straight after a failed dnd campaign (the party members were either captured or killed *sheds a tear*). The system is so grounded and ‘realistic’.

    I remember when my soldier character decided that he was going to play hero and attempted to save some children from a rather large skeleton. GM says The skeleton hits your character and you take 5 damage. I remember saying “but I’m all out of hit points”. GM buries his head in the rulebook then reappears to say “your right eye is destroyed by the hit. Make the following modifications to your character sheet.”

    After that the whole party took what the GM said seriously and whenever he said “enemies appear” everyone used to moan and gasp. Thats realism your average GM couldn’t imagine up. If you made your own rules up you’d soon find plenty of flaws….

  15. capitain says:

    Yeah. No-System rocks.
    I haven´t had a game that remained in system. Not one. Well except the first few… A rule that would stand in the way of storytelling, we´d lose it. However I´ve never managed to level more than once per setting. A rule we´d surely have ditched if it ever crossed our paths. XP are something to be earned. Dwarf rolls rock off cliff. Smashes 12 orcs. Dwarf gets xp for Rocktrap and xp for ONE orc. Easy. Why? In terms of learning it doesn´t make difference if you nuke one orc or 10k -with one rock/fireball/somethingelse. OK. He could jump down and hack `em, to get all xp. But would get hurt, notch axe, lose helmet. So we´d just rather award ingenuity and flow in storytelling than give it for killing. Is more fun than anything else.

  16. Blindeye says:

    Richard Dragonbane: Let me draw your attention to page 58 of the 3.5 Player’s Handbook, in the sub-category ‘Training and Practice’. Also, check out the 3.5 Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 197 ‘How PCs Improve’.

    The Player’s Handbook makes the training time is strict, inferring you have to have downtime in between adventures to level up, rather than suddenly gaining skill magically all of a sudden in the middle of a dungeon.

    The Dungeon Master’s Guide expands that, and gives some techniques to handle level advancement.

    In your campaign, sure, go ahead and make it be a ‘poof! You’re stronger’ thing, but the rules, as they are written, seem to strongly lean towards at least taking SOME time to make gaining levels seem realistic through training time.

  17. txknight says:

    “If you are going to try and argue with me, at least do me the courtesy of quoting me and not someone else responding to my original post. :o)”

    My apologies, however I wasn’t responding to you. I’m not exactly sure who I was responding too and frankly I don’t feel like digging through the posts to try and figure out who that was. But regardless, my apologize if I offended you.

    “Tech note: The quote thing didn't work, mostly because this site doesn't support fake square-brackety HTML…”

    Thanks, but that tech note is requiring more brain cells than my overwork coffee soaked brain can handle. I think I’ll stick with good ole fashion double quotes. :-)

  18. Jindra34 says:

    txkight: you were responding to me

  19. wtrmute says:

    Whoo, boy, this is going to be long.

    Alex wrote:

    …I hate gaming systems and the only reason I see to use one is if you don't know how to run a campign yourself (basically it's a crutch for beginners).
    I would much rather be a Wanna-be-actor type of player and play a Freeform campign (so I do use A gaming system sue me) then spend money and time on rules I don't need.

    More power to you. Personally, I can’t stand wannabe actors, basically because the few I’ve played with and the many I’ve read ranting on the Net are insufferably smug about how they “get” the hobby and others don’t. I’ve plenty of amateur theater groups I can join to explore a character’s psychological motivations, I play RPGs for a rousing adventure.

    Now I'm saying this because I think most of the people here are experienced role players and well aware of the many flaws the DnD system has (for example the ones made fun of in this comic).

    Most of the jokes about the comic have more to do with self-defeating mentality of bad GMs and players than about the specific foibles of D&D. After all, D&D is not all foibles… more on that later.

    A good GM can replace all the books you need and the dice, after all it's the GM that calls the shots not the player, you go with what is realistic to the situation or at least plausible.
    When I role play I love the funny accents, the theatrical gestures and the descriptions that replace the rolling of dice, the math and the rule books.

    True. An extremely good GM can replace the players, as well, and write a romance novel instead. I’ve heard this school of thought of GM infallibility argued before, typically by 1st-Edition buffs or OD&Ders. In actual practice, the GM adjudicating everything is a risky proposition, because eventually a player who disagrees with the GM in an issue will feel that he was hurt arbitrarily. For this reason, that anecdote about “Cops and Robbers” is repeated in nearly every rulebook introduction.

    On the other hand, a set of well-defined and self-consistent rules (like 3.5, amazingly enough) can be agreed in advance, and there will be a perception of impartiality shared by all which usually prevents the worst of the bickering, as well as a good sense of what one may expect given whatever situation. A good rules system is like a good Constitution, or at least a legal code. It makes role-playing “democratic”, in the sense that everyone is bound to the same laws.

    Now I'm not saying you're doing anything wrong but I like to focus on actual role playing and get caught up in the story and action.
    Plus it saves money and time.

    For some definition of “role playing”. I’m sure telling a great story is a most rewarding activity, but people may have different visions of the same story, and having yours shot down by the GM because he thought what you wanted to do wasn’t cool enough or didn’t mesh well with his vision is extremely frustrating.

    Someone commented in response to an earlier comic that LotR made a great fantasy novel, but would be a terrible campaign, since the “hero” spends most of it hiding like a scared chick. In the end, great stories and great campaigns have different requirements: the former is like an intricate jigsaw puzzle where each piece slowly falls into place and coalesces into a whole, and the latter is a lot of backstory which may or may not ever come into play and a couple of interesting initial developments, the rest being written by the players as they intervene on their environment. That’s the great mistake being lampooned in these comics — the GM has a very specific ending in mind, and thence the railroading.

    So instead, I prefer to agree on a set of rules, and see how the situation develops from the raw ingredients placed at the table: The players, the world and the GM. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised, sometimes I’m not. I always think it was worth it, however, even when the tale told later falls rather short of epic.

  20. Yahzi says:

    I guess I have a different take. I always thought my job as GM was to implement the world the rules described. I didn’t make up quests or any of that stuff. It was up to the players to figure out what they wanted to do.

    Usually they spent most of their time trying to survive. My worlds were kinda… dangerous. :D

  21. Zippy Wonderdog says:

    unusual is the word, in a campaign we where having an informal competition to see who could do the most damge, the wizard was winning until we came up against a party of mindflayers.
    We killed them all except for one annoying bugger, the cleric casted the spinning blades spell (forgot the name) and so the mindflayer levitated and no one had a fly spell handy. Next round the cleric summons an earth elemental through the roof and commands it to fall on the mindflayer making and passing a grapel check on the way past and falling through the blade spell, at about 300 points we gave up trying to calculate how much damage you’d take being pushed through a blender and having several tonnes dropped on you.

  22. Strykkre says:

    Actually, i think the proper wording of the “one-level-at-a-time” rule is that you cannot gain more than one level _from a single ep award_. i.e. multiple awards during the game session means possiblity of more than one level in single game session, i think everyone twisted it around when the DMs started awarding ep at the end of the session instead of during the session.
    As a side note, the almight EGG himself has said that in the games he runs, his players level every 13-14 SESSIONS . . .

  23. Strykkre says:

    oh, and for all you 3.5 players out there, you might wanna go back and re-read the DMG all those orcs, while one by one equal CR 1/2, that many at one time is a whole helluva lot higher . . .

  24. Scarlet Knight says:

    I love to role play & find myself doing so even in these posts. Still, whenever I hear that someone has trouble role-playing in a d20 system because it stifles creativity, I am reminded of the scene from “Tootsie”:

    Agent: You played a *tomato* for 30 seconds – they went a half a day over schedule because you wouldn’t sit down.
    Michael (Dustin Hoffman): Yes – it wasn’t logical.
    Agent: YOU WERE A TOMATO. A tomato doesn’t have logic. A tomato can’t move.
    Michael : That’s what I said. So if he can’t move, how’s he gonna sit down, George? I was a stand-up tomato: a juicy, sexy, beefsteak tomato!

  25. Roxysteve says:

    [txknight] Another tech freebie: There is no need to “did through the posts” to find something you need. All browsers offer a “find on this page” feature.

    I wasn’t insulted. I just don’t want to get called on to justify something I don’t personally subscribe to is all.

    Good luck with the double quotes. :o)


  26. stauron says:

    Love the comics, keep them up!

    The combination of 247 books (and counting), arbitrary rules (a mage can’t pick up a short sword and use it with a penalty, but a M-U/TH can?) and plain silliness (wearing heavy armor makes your character harder to hit but a sword blow does the same damage to a character wearing robes and the fighter in field plate?) mixed with rules lawyers soured me on D&D.

    I am not wanting to debate and I know you all have brought this up before.

    But DragonQuest rules spank the D&D system. At least before TSR bought them and screwed them up.

  27. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    There were (and are) lots of rules systems which spank D&D. But in the same way that there are several operating systems options which spank Windows, AD&D is so popular and so common that there is a kind of short-hand which exists that enables play to proceed quickly.

    Try gathering a group that’s never played before and get a game going. If it’s not some form of D&D variant, you’ll spend more time explaining why “game system X” isn’t Ad&D than you will playing.

    And, AD&D is perfectly capable of allowing for “acting” rather than “dice rolling” … that’s a decent GMs job to deal with, not some constraint of the rules system.

  28. Pester says:

    Namfoodle and wtrmute, you two weren’t playing [i]together[/i] when you were 11, were you?

    Hey, the security code here is d20. Is that a coincidence?

  29. Cynder says:

    Awww!! Look at Aragorn’s cute smile!

    Awww!! Look at Gimli almost in tears!

    Awww!! Legolas is pissed off! That’s…funny!

    But still…

    *all together now!*

    AAAAWWWWWWWW!!!!! ^_^

  30. Mina says:

    These comics really do get better and better every time. And since I’m so late in reading them, they’re all done, no waiting time, just click next and laugh even harder!

    Then I get up to use the washroom and realize the morning light had long faded from my partially parted blinds and I was sitting all alone in front of a glowing screen in a dark, silent room with nothing but my geeky laughter filling it. I really do feel like a nerd.

    It’s so worth it.

  31. henrebotha says:

    Might I just mention how much I detest the “one level at a time” rule. It’s one of the handful of rules I just toss right out the window, along with Toughness (*three fucking hit points?!* Come ON!) and wizards not being able to take Spell Penetration or Spell Focus as bonus feats. A WTF if ever there was one.

  32. Aragorn says:

    mwahahahahahahahahahahaha yer server gets no mercy!! mwahaha *two thumb up*

  33. d'Antarel says:

    That’s bullshit. What happens if you gain enough XP to go over gaining two levels at once. Like you go from Level 1 to Level 3 and are now 300 away from leveling to Level 4. You’re saying that you would only go to Level 2?…and you’re only put about 1 XP away from Level 3? What happens to the rest to XP? Does it not count? Does that mean you’re being jipped out of your XP? Where does it go? Is it given to an NPC? Is it given to the DM for the hell of it? Is it given to the character who DIDN’T level…if there is one besides the bazooka character? WHAT THE FUCK?!

  34. Moridin says:

    @#97: The XP just doesn’t count according to rules. Basically if an encounter would give you that much XP, your DM is doing something wrong: For example, in the situation in the comic, the characters shouldn’t gain XP for all the dead orcs, just from the ones they killed(and maybe a story award). According to Deities & Demigods:”If your players face a god, you should give them 1000XP/level. This is probably the most XP they gain once, and should raise them 1 level” I can’t imagine a situation which would warrant giving the more than that.

  35. Trae says:

    In the campaign I’m playing in, the DM doesn’t give experience. She has set places in the adventure where we’re supposed to level up. Kill 40 orcs and their leader? Ding. Kill the ogre guarding prisoners? Ding. Actually finish the current quest? Probably a Ding there too.

  36. Ripsaw says:

    Had to post for a couple reasons:
    1. I have this OCD need to make large almost-round numbers into large round numbers (99 into 100).
    2. Favorite one so far (I’m doing an archive crawl).

  37. Serenitybane says:

    The first frame of Gimli was too cute! Perfect for his emotion hehe!!

  38. caradoc says:

    Leveling up is a meta-game event and not part of the story. Surely, that was the point of this installment and reason we find it funny. In the “real” campaign, characters accumulate experience over time and there is no instant when suddenly an ability takes a quantum jump. The level is an artifact of the gaming system that determines what line of a probability table to use in determining an outcome, not some rank bestowed on the character. Therefore, leveling must take place out of the context of the adventure.

  39. Michael says:

    As for leveling up jokes: We used to campaign back in the days when you got most of your XP from treasure — even to the point that one of our group wrote “The Intercontinental Union of Disgusting Characters”, (Do a google search for it) about people who leveled up from killing centaurs and taking their 4 1-million GP gems. The whole “Get a GP, gain an XP” was so lampooned by the silly side of our group that a running joke was “Ah, a gold piece “.

    The ultimate spoof of that came in an adventure when we had a chance to choose a prize. One of the prizes was a “gold piece” — the person who took it got (if I remember correctly) a three level temporary boost for the next three gaming sessions.

    Oh — If you ever get a chance to run in a Monty Hall dungeon — DON’T. Mr. Hall was a horrific opponent, and his deals … aack! (A “Lets make a deal” themed dungeon. Lots and Lots of treasure. Deadly beyond compare. I think he was a variant of The Devil.)

  40. Michael says:

    Oh piffle. This blog clobbered part of that last message.

  41. Grom says:

    We had a house rule that you only leveled up in town. We got our xp at the end of the adventure if it was enough for more then one level so be it. (Though I don’t ever remember it happening more then twice.) Our world was such that we were rarely more then two days ride from a good sized town or city. How it normally worked out was that we got our xp at the start of a session and we then spent that session leveling and loot spliting. We’d have our shopping spree, upgrade armor and weapons if possiable. Wizards would see about getting new spells. It all kinda worked out as if we were training. :-) Heck it was part of the fun. Rolling HP’s talking over what ways to take your char. We’d hash over the adventure, give the DM what-for for the silly stuff he pulled, and cheers for the cool.

    I think bottom line was, we liked the game, we liked the system, but with house rules firmly in place we felt we improved it. Which was always the point of D&D. At the time we played those were guildlines, not rules. Oh, and I love my dice! No way I’m givin up my rolling of the die to the DM! That’s just wrong… Wrong in so many ways.

    I know this is last to the party, and may never be read, but hey… I had to say it.

    Love the Comic!

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>