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DM of the Rings XCVI:
An Errant Arrow

By Shamus
on Friday May 4, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


The party has parlay with Saruman.
Legolas attacks during parlay.
The DM has a temper tantrum.

There is nothing more destructive to the story than a DM temper tantrum, which explains why players have such enthusiasm for causing them.

(Also, for the benefit of readers who check out the comic but don’t read the rest of the site: I want to point out that I was interviewed on Fear the Boot. Tune in to hear some behind-the-scenes info on the comic and a bit about myself and my experiences playing D&D.)

Comments (120)

1 2

  1. Dan says:


    Great job as always.

  2. Yarell says:

    lol, wonderful as always :)

  3. scrawfo says:

    “Lawful Stupid” – awesome!

  4. Hal says:

    Well, that leaves out “Sharky’s Revenge.” Not that they put that in the movie or anything.

    Now I’m curious just how many characters are going to die just because the players had no patience for the story.

    C’mon Shamus . . . impress us. ;-)

  5. Scarlet Knight says:

    1,2,3,4,5! Five witty posts! (THUNDERCLAP) Ah ha ha ha! I love it!

  6. Godfather Punk says:

    Poor Grima :(


  7. bruce says:

    Ooh, ooh, third!

    Great comic and great interview. You sound different from what I expected..

  8. bruce says:


    Seventh and eighth…

  9. Erin says:

    *dies from sheer effort involved in suppressing laughter* Lawful stupid, indeed. DM temper tantrums are fantastic. I loved the “Now he’s dead. Murderer.”

    I’ve GOT to stop reading these at work. One of these days I’m going to get myself into a LOT of trouble for doing non-work stuff at work.

  10. Matyas says:

    This one’s great.

    Who did you use for Grima’s corpse in the last panel?

  11. Arbaal says:

    Absolutely awesome Shamus!

    I started doing a Powerpoint Presentation so I can show off this site to friends at my gaming club, but after so many pages I guess I can just show em what I have and let them get caught up :)

    You really should make a book out of these!

  12. Godfather Punk says:

    I think Legolas was already guilty of one major plot rewrite..

    “Waah! Precious…”

  13. Doug Sundseth says:

    One of the better recent strips. Thank you.

    (Question: Shouldn’t this strip be “XCVI”, not “XCVII”?)

  14. Shamus says:

    Who did you use for Grima's corpse in the last panel?

    Grima, from the Special Edition.

    (Question: Shouldn't this strip be “XCVI”, not “XCVII”?)


  15. Blindeye says:

    I always wondered why the hell Legolas shot Wormtongue. I guess this answers it.

  16. Godfather Punk says:

    I love Saruman’s expression in the bottom panel.


    Error: Please enter the anti-spam word.

    Oh for funk’s sake! :mad:

  17. Hahahahaha! That look of suprise on Grima’s face had me rolling! I have done that once to a DM now, and had it done to me once… “He’s monologuing? I attack.”

  18. Shamus says:

    Great comic and great interview. You sound different from what I expected..

    It’s true: I have a good face for radio and a voice perfect for silent movies.

  19. Arto Pasanen says:

    My personal favorite, this one. All the expressions are nothing less than perfect.

    This’s the game master’s nightmare. After all the effort you put in the making of an NPC, they’re just going to kill him. They won’t want to hear the dialogue you’ve written for him, instead: “Does he look wealthy? I’ll attack him, let me roll.”

  20. Browncoat says:

    The Voice of Saruman was always one of my very favorite chapters in the book. The BBC audio version did a great job of dramatizing it. I thought the movie was lacking here, but I still enjoyed the scene.

    I’m surprised to see that Leggy’s d20 has a “1” on it. I thought his only went down as low as 15 or so.

    Very nice strip. I give it four walking sticks (out of a quiver of little walking sticks).

  21. Soris says:

    Awesome. Just awesome again. “THWAP!” I love it. Maybe we’ll get a “BIFF” or a “BOFF” next time!

    Shamus, you’re so right about DM’s blowing their top. We had an impromptu session not to long ago, where our DM had about 20 minutes to prepare. Somehow we failed to realize this was not the most appropriate time to go rail jumping. We did anyway.

    DM: Asking for the third time, “Are you SURE you don’t want to get off the barge to investigate the wounded and bleeding orc standing on the shore in front of the burning mill?”

    US: “Nah. We’ll just keep going until we get to town.”

    DM: Points to one of the players. “It’s your mill!”

    Player: “That’s okay. I’ve got lots. I can always rebuild.”

    We ended up having to fight monsters at least 6 levels our senior and getting our rears handed to us. Burnt. On a plate. With arrows in them.

    “THWAP”, indeed.


  22. Browncoat says:

    18 Shamus Says:

    May 4th, 2007 at 12:26 pm
    Great comic and great interview. You sound different from what I expected..

    It's true: I have a good face for radio and a voice perfect for silent movies.

    Well, Shamus, they said the same thing about Myron Cope!

  23. George says:

    You have mistaken us for heroes that are lawful stupid.

    A very fine representation of any alignment that has the word Lawful in it. Lawful characters are such a pain to deal with, especially lawful good.

    • WJS says:

      And Chaotic characters aren’t? What about the players who think “Chaotic Neutral” means “Batshit Insane”, or that “Chaotic Evil” means “Complete Psychopath”?
      It doesn’t matter what alignment the characters are, if the player is a prat they will be a pain to deal with.

  24. Proteus says:

    “You are confusing us with heroes who are lawful _stupid_.”

    Classic line. Thanks!

  25. 'Tarako says:

    ‘Hahaha, awesome as always. Long time reader, second time poster. That was awesome, I’ve showed this to my dm and he just about bust a gut because we had just done something similar a session or so ago. My whole group loves this script and its awesome how much we can relate to it. Kudos.

  26. vonKreedon says:

    At this point I’m just “me tooing”, but Lawful Stupid is so right on.

  27. Nogard Codesmith says:

    Hal Says: “Now I'm curious just how many characters are going to die just because the players had no patience for the story.”

    All of them.

  28. txknight says:

    Lol! “Lawful stupid”, I got to remember that one! It somehow reminds me of Spaceballs and that one line from Dark Helmet that goes “So, Lone Starr, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.” Not sure exactly why though.

    Any ways, good job!

  29. Rosuav says:

    …. Your arrow strikes him in the heart.
    I rolled a one.

    HA! The DM may have a lot of power, but the dice still rule the DM….. to an extent.

    And… yeah, it’s a “me too”, but I LOVE “Lawful Stupid”.

  30. Carl the Bold says:

    Shamus –

    I’m curious why you chose to use images of Saruman and Wormy from TTT, looking out over the assembled orc army, if I’m not mistaken, rather than on top of the tower, where they stood in the actual scene.

  31. Lil'German says:

    I think Mr Saruman missed the last Briefing about the story development ;)
    this WTF???-look on the face of his is utterly priceless.

  32. Arson55 says:

    I am surprised to see the Lawful Stupid joke…that has long been a running joke among my friends and I. Usually as our take on the stereotypical paladin who uses his honor in place of reasonable thought.

    We’ve also played characters whose alignment was Mostly Good.

  33. Shamus says:

    Carl: There were just a lot more images available of the two on the balcony. In RotK, Grima doesn’t appear until the end, we only see low-angle views of him, and he’s never beside Saruman, so it would have been hard to convey the “you missed” joke in a way that made sense.

    On top of that, the thing where Saruman was at the top just makes no sense. He’s a hundred yards above them and yet they have a conversation as if they were just a few feet away. They should have to shout their heads off to be heard. The characters on the ground are looking up at a fouty-five degree angle, which means they are staring at the side of the tower far below Saruman. Just nonsense.

  34. Thad says:

    I have to say I was flashing back to the previous cut scene involving Grima. Perhaps the players were too, and that’s why they demanded to do something.

  35. Jindra34 says:

    lego-lass i think is a little too trigger happy. what is this the thrid time he has shot in the middle of DM narration?
    good laugh none the less.

  36. Namfoodle says:

    At our last session, the players were arguing a bit because we had a monster try to parlay and surrender. We had just about finished off a salamander after we managed to dismiss the huge elemental it had along. It wanted to surrender and promised to give us it’s treasure and bail back to its home plane. Some of us (including me) wanted to kill it anyway because we didn’t think we could trust it. A few other players wanted to let it live, and I thought they were being stupid or roleplaying their goodness too much. The whole party is sort of chaotic “goodish”.

    The good players won out and the salamander kept its word.

    I was shocked. I mean, it makes objective sense for an itelligent monster to give up if it values its existance, but how often does it actually happen in D&D without it biting the players in the ass sometime later?

  37. Wulfwen says:

    Namfoodle Said:

    “I was shocked. I mean, it makes objective sense for an itelligent monster to give up if it values its existance, but how often does it actually happen in D&D without it biting the players in the ass sometime later?”

    Ah, young grasshopper, you are *totally* underestimating the length of later! I’d guess anywhere from 2-3 months…real time. After all, your GM has all the time in the world to come up with something worthy! And it may not even be the salamander itself that bites your party (literally or figuratively). If the GM is being really creative, you may expect something off-the-wall that only involves the salamander as a peripheral player in the plot.

    Or maybe, just maybe, the players or someone they care about will end up in its power! Imagine the squirming…

    Shamus – thanks again for the way funny stuff! Wulfwen :)

    • Caedrel says:

      A really expert DM would have the salamander do something minor but significant for them later on, rewarding the party for their mercy rather than punishing them for it – that’s the sort of thing that helps shape a party’s responses.

  38. mneme says:


    The players are so right here, too — this is another case of what works as a story (or an unconventional game where Theoden’s a guest PC and Gandalf’s clearly a high level PC (not NPC) played by someone the other players trust not to scene hog (too much)), just doesn’t work in this game.

    “So, you want us to just sit here while Gandalf and this other white wizard talk, and then the entire denoument comes down to stuff between them? I don’t think so.”

  39. EF says:

    First time to post. I’ve discovered your site recently and been going through your archive. Repeatedly. And yeah, I’ve infected a co-worker with your work. We are SO going to get in trouble in work for this.

    Worth it though >:-) Keep up the great work!

  40. Cadamar says:

    Poor little NPC, he never saw it coming…

    You never get over the look of shock and horror when an NPC realizes that being integral to the plot is no defence against the players.

    “Hey wait! In six adventures I’m the only person who will be able to close the Black Gate of …*Sklerck*…”

  41. Jindra34 says:

    Cadamar:so do non-plot-critical NPCs last longer than the important ones?

  42. Destroy Gundam says:

    Looks like the found the “button” to skip the non-interactive cut scenes.

  43. Destroy Gundam says:

    Darn spelling errors. I meant to say “they”

    This is the only webcomic that has caused me to laugh so hard that soda came out of my nose

  44. Sir Desktop says:

    Even with all of the carefully thought out dialogue between the DM, PCs and NPCs, my favorite panels are the WTF?!? speechless expressions from something totally unexpected.

    Interesting podcast btw. I hope you can come up with an idea for another series for when this one is over. Something original that you can publish without legal issues, but not a repeat of this one. You definitely have our attention.

  45. Godfather Punk says:

    Browncoat Says:
    The Voice of Saruman was always one of my very favorite chapters in the book. … I thought the movie was lacking here, but I still enjoyed the scene.

    I thought Christopher Lee, with his deep bariton, was an excellent choice for Saruman.

    “I know it is my fate,
    bound to Erian’s old tale
    I’ll be always there
    fighting the ancient sin…”

  46. Lolipop Knight says:

    Actually, the players’ argument makes a lot of sense.

    Why would you waste the lives of grunts by letting the guy who sent ’em after you live? He’s clearly more evil, or evil on a larger scale, than the guys you just killed, and if they deserve to die, he does too!

    BTW, Shamus, first time poster, long-time lurker. Your strips are brilliant, and I look forward to any and all of your future work!

    • WJS says:

      Well of course they’re right. They may be impatient and inattentive, but they’re not stupid. That said, one would expect lawful characters to want to capture the villain, list his crimes, and have Theoden sentence him to death. Not just shoot him without provocation during parlay. (Obviously if he chooses not to come quietly, then you can shoot him, but at this point all he’s doing is talking)

  47. Matt says:

    They’re not Lawful Stupid, they’re Chaotic Stupid. One old campaign I played saw a bugbear surrender to the party, give up his (mostly worthless) treasure, tell all he knew about evil monsters in the area, and still get whacked because he just couldn’t be trusted.

    At this rate I’m thinking when they get to Aragorn’s wedding Legolas is going to look around and ask, “How many guests are here?”
    “So that’s about…what, 3 xp per guest at our level?”

    • Robin says:

      No matter what the character sheet says, 97% of all D&D characters fit into one of three alignments — Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

      (I don’t include “Stupid” in the alignment for the same reason I don’t include “Character” — it’s assumed.)

  48. Jindra34 says:

    Matt: they are neither they are most definitely neutral greedy.

  49. Myxx says:

    Man, there are some classic one-liners in there. Very nicely done.

  50. Lycoris says:

    *in hysterics*

  51. Cheesemaster says:

    Wasn’t “Lawful Stupid” in an Order of the Stick strip? In any case, that ws pretty cool (long-time reader, first-time poster.)

  52. Shamus says:

    Oh man, please tell me I didn’t just poach OOTS.

  53. Jindra34 says:

    you just poached the threads but not oots.

  54. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    It was written on the wall (by belkar and elan) with an arrow pointing to the defensless roy (poisoned with STR 0).


  55. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    To be fair tho, “Lawful-stupid” has made an appearance in more than one game I’ve played, and everyone who said it thought it was original at the time.
    (I’d like to give “Randy” (of earlier DMotR comments fame) credit for being the first person I ever heard use that phrase)

  56. Hal says:

    Heh, I think I have a great idea based on our greedy, impatient players.

    Our intrepid party meets up with Frodo and Sam in Mount Doom. Aragorn steals the ring. When the DM tries to explain why it’s a bad idea, Aragorn cites the extreme lack of loot in this campaign, especially magic loot.

    It could work.

  57. Isoyami says:

    ROFL – agreed the “Lawful Stupid” quote was great – so true.

    Also, Leggy-lass sure has an itchy rolling finger, don’t he?

    First Gollum, now Grima? What’s next? Are we going to find out Lego ACTUALLY killed Denethor with a one-in-a-million extreme range bowshot when Den jumped off Minas Tirith before he hit the ground? LMAO.

    Now I have the Weird Al Yankovic song “Trigger Happy” stuck in my head…


  58. Sarah says:

    ok off topic but what album is trigger happy on??? i have all the others…
    btw, i love this comic!

  59. Ben-San says:

    Lawful Stupid predates OotS by a lot. I saw Lawful Stupid/Chaotic Weird buttons at conventions in the early 90s and I know they’ve been around longer than that.

  60. Avaz says:

    Shamus, mad props, man. You make this look easy.

  61. pdwalker says:

    Hhaha…. the cartoon is good, your comments at the end make it hilarious!

  62. DocTwisted says:

    Heh, this totally reminded me of a DVD I have, this movie titled “The Gamers.” At one point the party is ambushed by a group of forest bandits, and while the bandit king is monologuing, the party’s archer just shoots the bandit king in the neck. I remember the response of the DM being “God dammit.”

  63. Lynx says:

    “A very fine representation of any alignment that has the word Lawful in it. Lawful characters are such a pain to deal with, especially lawful good.”

    Which is why “Lawful” has the word “Awful” in it…

  64. Attorney At Chaos says:

    “Lawful Stupid” goes back at least 25 years and probably more (along with “Neutral Hungry” and several other alternate alignments).

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