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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)

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  1. Golgothus says:

    Dragon Magazine had a list of “quasi-alignments” in the mid-80’s… though at the time they had Chaotic Stupid and Lawful Idiot… Most of the others died away but we’ve used “Lawful Stupid” for around 20 years now

    “The quasi-alignment system is divided into Lawful, Chaotic, and Neutral alignments, just like the AD&D game system. In this system, Lawful means that players of those alignments get involved in the game, while Chaotics are detrimental to the game as a whole. Neutrals fall anywhere between. It is possible for a player to have two or more alignments at once. Though
    these alignments are really meant for players, it is possible to classify characters under them as well. ”

    from: http://dndorks.com/forums/thread/641654.aspx
    Descriptions of all the quasi-alignments included in the above thread.

    One of my personal favorites was Chaotic Everywhere!!

    He who lives by the skull will die by the skull

  2. Carl the Bold says:

    Shamus – Thanks for the view inside your head. (it must be getting crowded in there.)

    Sarah – Trigger Happy is on the album “Off the Deep End”. A pretty good album, by my calculation. I haven’t bought any of his albums post that one, but that’s largely because he’s parodying much more recent music of styles of which I don’t find myself to be a fan.

    Attorney at Chaos – “Neutral Hungry”. lol. reminds me, I have to go make my kids breakfast.

    Kids – hold your horses, I’m coming.

  3. ROFL.

    So it would be Stupid to go up into the super-powerful wizard’s tower (where the ranger and fighter might get within melee range of him), but shooting *one arrow* at the super-powerful wizard from 100′ below, thereby violating a parley-truce and inviting meteor swarmsto be dropped on your head is… what now?

    Really– I know Legolas has gotten cocky with his one-shot death of Gollum, and that in the books he somehow was able to drop foul magical flying steeds with one arow from a mile below, but as a D&D gamer he would have to fall to whole new levels of stupidity to try this move in this setting! Even on a 20 and a crit,one arrow just isn’t going to kill Saruman, and the subsequent rounds won’tbe pretty. (We know that Saruman doesn’t cast fireballs left and right, but our intrepid gamers don’t…)

    • WJS says:

      He fireballs them in the extended cut. Of course, Gandalf counterspells, but screencaps could be taken…

      (I’ve not read this comic in ages, so I honestly don’t know if he does or not)

  4. badspock says:

    Heh. We made a GM CRY once, during a Rifts campaign.

    Ya see, Rifts allows you to make super-detailed, uber-powerful NPCs…and sometimes it would take our GM more than a week to finish out one of the big level-boss type enemies, no joke.

    Well, one session we actually acted like a team for a change, and took down the 20 ft tall super-cyborg in less than four rounds (roughly 40 seconds real-time, 1/2 an hour game time) AND screwed him so badly that he was only able to attack us in one of those rounds! Out of a party of like ten characters, there were something like 7 rolls of natural 20 amongst those rounds, ALL personally confirmed by the GM!

    Tears brimming in his eyes, the GM proceeded to THROW US OUT of his apartment (he relented last minute, but remained pissy all night!

  5. Alex says:

    Easily the funniest comic you’ve made.
    And it even had a message like the earlier ones.

    I don’t think there was a dry eye left in the house.

  6. That other guy says:

    Hehe, lawful stupid, my friends and I call chaotic evil chaotic stupid. Lawful good is lawful anal

  7. Peterus says:

    Temper tantrum one thing, but killing evil enemies on sight the other.
    I say that it was PERFECTLY in character too shoot Saruman. More to say it was very reasonable.

    He’s got to die. He’s spawn army of orcs and tried to wipe Rohan down.
    Now it’s a duty for any sane pro-alliance player to hunt him down (only totaly hippy drugged super-good pacysifst excluded).

    Yes, evil masterminds may make some nice speeches… but it’s sticking to pattern – not roleplaying to let them.
    In the end – in LOTR Saruman did lot’s of evil becouse party didn’t bother using some rope and Gandalf magic in finishing him off.

    • WJS says:

      You think it’s reasonable and in character to murder enemies during negotiations? Play a lot of evil characters, do you?

      In this scene, Saruman is being called upon to surrender, but rather than wait for a response, Legolas just shoots him. Should the allies have simply shot the members of the Flensburg Cabinet rather than accept their surrender in 1945? This isn’t a modern thing, either. When Napoleon surrendered to the Bellerophon in 1815 he wasn’t shot outright (or at all, in fact), and while many kings in medieval times were killed, this was in battle. Those who surrendered were more likely to face life imprisonment than execution.

      In summary, be your game medieval or modern, killing a surrendering enemy is not acceptable.

  8. Peterus says:

    BTW it would be much more reasonable and in-character to let last ramaining orcs run without pursuit nor arrows, than (imprisoning/striping of power and letting go/crippling) mastermind.

  9. Isoyami says:

    @71 (Peterus): Good point, heh.

    OMG, I just had a brainwave. A very obvious one though, hehe. Given Leggylass’s penchant for shooting first and asking later (Saruman and Gollum) what if the Undead Green Ghost King is the DM’s getting revenge on Leggy?


    *The party wanders through the cave*

    *Ghosts appear around the party, the Green Ghost King steps forward and starts monologuing*

    Leggy: Oh, not another stupid NPC monologue. Screw This.”

    *Leggy arrows Green Ghost King through the forehead, GGK just stands there and laughs.*

    Leggy: “!?”

    DM: “Oh, I forgot to mention these guys are ghosts. They’re dead. So you can’t kill any of them with swords, arrows, or axes. MUA-HAHAHAHAHAHA-ha-ha *hack cough wheeze.*

    Gimli: “You’re cheating!”

    DM: “The elf started it.”


    Yea, kinda obvious. Heehee.

    Also, is it just me, or is the extended version of the Green Ghost cave a good place to quote Monty Python?

    *Aragorn steps forward*


    *Aragorn looks down*

    “Lookit the bones!!”


  10. Isoyami says:

    Uh-oh, I don’t know if that spoiled anything or not.

    Heh, whoops. Sorry man. :(

  11. Rane says:

    I’m really looking forward to see what the guys will do with the palantir when they eventually find it. XD

    I love this comic, by the way, especially imagining the movie actors’ voices speaking the lines…

  12. Cheesemaster says:

    Ah cool, OOTS was just the first place I read it (It’s knida hard to know about 80s jokes if you’re only 18 and got into D&D in ’03!). In the group I game with, OOTS has to be the second-most referenced thing in our games (after, of course, the ubiquitous Python) so my mind kinda made that connection.

  13. brassbaboon says:

    DM tantrums can be devastating. A long, long time ago, one of our campaigns was apparently boring the DM who decided he wanted to turn D&D into some sort of super-hero game instead. After a particularly successful battle against some demons we were examining the loot. My ranger picked up a blue gem from the pile and the following exchange ensued.

    DM: “The gem dissolves into your skin.”

    Ranger: “Yikes! Is it cursed?”

    DM: “No, I think you’ll like this.”

    Ranger: “Um…. So, what do I feel now?”

    DM: “Your skin turns blue.”

    Ranger: “I’m a blue-skinned Ranger?”

    DM: “Yes, and you feel funny, sort of like you could fly.”

    Ranger: “I’m a blue-skinned, flying ranger?”

    DM: “Well you haven’t tried to fly yet. Oh by the way, all your gear falls through you as your body turns immaterial.”

    Ranger: “What?! I’m a blue-skinned, flying ghost?!”

    DM: “What are you getting upset about? This is a good thing!”

    Ranger: “Good thing!? I can’t even hold my favorite sword? I’m blue-skinned, immaterial and get around by flying? I’m supposed to be happy about this?”

    DM: “Fine, you disappear entirely, all the effects of the blue gem are gone and you find yourself in the void.”

    Ranger: “Well, …. the void eh?… Um… Well, that sounds better than the alternative. Thanks!”

    DM: “We’re done for today!!”

  14. sexyskank says:

    for a few seconds.. he was the blue power ranger.

    and great strip shamus! totally awesome. Love it when Leggy says “Great, that means he’s flatfooted”

  15. tafka says:

    He rolled a one? He definitely needed to roll again to see if it was a critical fumble, and whether or not he took out a buddy or himself.

  16. Tola says:

    we know that Saruman doesn't cast fireballs left and right

    Tell that to Battle For Middle-Earth Saruman: it’s one of his better skills.

  17. orcbane says:

    Nice. The only thing that PCs can do that is better than killing stuff is setting stuff on fire. Gimli with an axe is great, but gimli with a bottle a alcohol and a lit torch is AWESOME!

  18. Salen says:

    No one liked Wormtongue anyways, so he got what was coming to him! I love Legolas’ Flat-Footed comment though. Hehe, he should have been a rogue.

  19. Scarlet Knight says:

    “You guys are in parley!
    Parley? Damn to the depths whatever man what thought of ‘Parley’.
    That would be the French.”

  20. Alex says:

    NPCs always wear red shirts though, don’t they?

  21. Jane says:

    Thankyou but are there any brothels in this tower!

  22. Medium Dave says:

    Can Gimli get one of the Ents to throw him up to the balcony? Then he can kill the mage and open the tower up for some real looting!

    So as a GM always have the damn unbroachable locations planned out anyway because well, players are shifty, transient and feckless creatures out for blood, glory, treasure and the salty drinks made from a broken GM’s tears.

    But I am not bitter.

  23. giant explosion says:

    Interesting, loved it!

    P.S. How old are you people? Shouldnt you be working?

  24. Roxysteve says:

    [Shamus] Yesterday, after a hard day rebuilding a bathroom, I took my wife to IHOP for a bite to eat, and during the meal thought back to the last episode. When I conjured up the frame of treebeard (and ran Gimli’s reaction) I cracked up, and for the next three hours or so the phrase “Hoom Hoom Welcome to Isengard” was the funniest thing in the universe, causing me to burst into laughter about every three and a half minutes while chanting it.

    Well, like I said, I was tired.

    The missus, always suspicious when I’m having a good time inside Mr Head demanded an explanation. Said explanation took abouty thirty minutes because I kept cracking up during it. When we finally got home she demanded to see this “daft cartoon”. Upon seeing it she admited she’d already come across it and read the first five or so. I showed her the “Hoom hoom” episode and she also cracked up. I left her reading the bits she’d missed.

    Thank you for the laugh. I may never be allowed back into IHOP but it was worth it.

    The timing in that issue was superb. well done that man.


  25. unatick says:

    OMG I was Leggilass! My characters tended to go and knock on doors while the rest of the players discussed the best stratigy for approching said doors. I only got the party killed 4 or 5 times by doing that (without getting a scratch myself) :)

  26. Seve says:

    Actually after hearing that interview my view of Shamus has diminished as he’s played what 3 years? Geezh makes me feel old dinosaur with soon 16 years of gaming under my belt(started when we were 10). Tho I have never played as gm as I find it most boring task on whole gaming experience. Sadly seems like I will be gm in few weeks even if for only short stint at start…

    And to comment about this strip there will most definately be no parley with evil wizard after we have grinded his evil plans to halt and slayed all his guards. Its time for final showdown with either wizards or our heads on top of pole(s) as endresult. Give no quater for evil ones!

  27. Toil3T says:

    Yeah, gotta love it when the PC’s interrupt the DM with their cries of what they rolled to hit and damage dealt. Another great strip!

  28. Cynder says:

    Well, at least Grima was a bad guy. No big loss :-/

  29. Filcha says:

    Lawful Stupid is the natural alignment of most Paladins I have met…

    • Arkanabar says:

      Most people play paladins very, very poorly. I know of no better model for a gamer wanting to play a paladin than the one presented in Elizabeth Moon’s most excellent The Deed of Paksennarion. I played a paladin in a one-shot once, and he was AWESOME.

      Dwarfs are trying to retake their ancestral lands from the goblins who conquered them a couple of (goblin/human) generations ago. Goblins hire adventurers to help. Upon arriving, I attach a parley flag to my lance, cast Light upon it (“I won’t have them say they didn’t see it”), and rode out to negotiate. After a few verbal exchanges, dwarf sharpshooters opened fire on the parley. I grabbed the dwarf general by the beard, banged his head against the edge of my shield a couple times, wrapped his beard around my stirrup, and retreated at a run. After a several rounds of mass combat, I offered him back to the dwarves if they would quit the field and court martial both him and his sharpshooters. Otherwise, he’d get a drumhead court martial and a battlefield execution, and we’d ensure that they STILL lost the battle.

      My thinking? The goblins were defending themselves and their homes. They’d inherited the land. The conqueror goblins s were all dead of old age, long ago. Preserving life (yes, including goblin life, but also dwarf life) was more important than restoring old territorial claims, which leads to so much fruitless battle and death. And violating the laws of parley, truce, parole, and limited engagement — all of which are meant to make battle less lethal — requires direct, immediate action.

      Is it any wonder that my WEG SW GM once actually ASKED me to play the Jedi? (Especially since our Jedi was a hackenslash munchkin wannabe?)

  30. Actually, throwing a GM tantrum is great. If done strategically. See, if you pretend to care that they killed your throwaway evil overlord, they get more excitement. One commenter in The Rifter noted that being a GM is like negotiating with people when you already want to give them the things they want. You just need to pretend that you don’t. Then you give in, like the gruff but ultimately kindly and doting uncle. This lets you not give in on what ACTUALLY matters.

  31. dyrnwyn says:

    ha ha last to post!
    I love the expression on sarumans face in the second to last panel.

  32. Aragorn says:

    lol “ok now he’s dead. you murderer.”

    AWESOME!!! :P

  33. Shawn says:

    Ummm, Shamus, re: your comment about them being able to talk with Saruman on top of the tower and Gandalf at the bottom … they ARE high level wizards after all….

    What can I say, I am a jerk and had to point that out. Excellent comic though!

    (Although after two years of solid adulation for your comics, I expect you don’t read the comments on here anymore)

  34. WeaselButter says:

    Was I the *only* one who thought “Message for you, sir…” upon seeing the arrow sticking out of Grima’s chest??? Geez, you folks are slacking-off. ;)

  35. Maladjester says:

    This is why *important* NPCs are always multiclassed into Badass.

  36. ybbald says:

    There are now 99 comments. My server weeps for mercy.


    and this is one of the best ones yet

  37. Eldamir says:

    Great, that means he’s flat-footed! Loved that comment:) This is my first post, and I have to say, great comic:)

  38. Michael says:

    … how much does this (DMotR) plot differ from the movie at this point, and how much does it differ from the original books?


    Even looking at this one for maybe the fourth time, I still exploded in laughter enough to get the attention of my roommate. This comic does that to me a lot.

  40. Nami says:

    I fucking love Legolas in this, but I especially love that none of the other PC’s tried to stop him XD

  41. Taz says:

    *resurrects comment thread; yes, people still read this!*

    Am I the only one who read “Now he’s dead. You murderer.” in the voice of GLaDOS from Portal?

  42. Heisenberg says:

    I’ve been burned so many times before… but I couldn’t help adding this comment, to see if the message would change.

  43. AgProv says:

    and does the message change if you add another comment?

  44. Blastinburn says:

    I’m re-reading DM of the Rings and I just tried to listen to your Fear the Boot interview, but apparently they’ve changed their site structure (and domain) and the link you have is no longer valid.

    Your interview is here now: http://www.feartheboot.com/ftb/index.php/archives/192
    Figured you might want to update the link. (Or for anyone that wants to find the interview.) :)

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