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DM of the Rings CV:
A Subtle Hint

By Shamus
on Monday May 28, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


I hate this campaign.
Me Too.

Communication between the Game Master and the players is crucial to keeping the game fun. Solicit feedback from your players from time to time and see how they feel about the experience. If they curse, spit, or stab you with a pencil, it means they probably aren’t happy with the direction the game is going. Sadly, there isn’t much you can do about this, unless you want to give them their way. And honestly, what’s the fun in being the GM if you’re just going to let players have their way?

UPDATE: Ah. So THAT’S where the “rocks fall” joke originated!

Comments (135)

1 2 3

  1. John Thompson says:

    Hi Dannerman;

    Coincidentally, I found that — for low level campaigns anyway — ships can works. The bad player is always trying to do a hundred things in town, at his last “Oh yeah, and I stock up on Holy Water and wolvesbane, too” interjection you tell him that when he finally got to the dock, the ship containing the party had left. There was another player who — by the unanimous vote of the rest of the party — was marooned on a desert island. Both of the players got the message and never haunted our sessions again.

  2. Jane says:

    Why are we waiting!!…..Bring on Gimli’s skellies!

  3. John Thompson says:

    Hi Dannerman;

    Coincidentally, I found that, for low level campaigns anyway, ships can work. The bad player is always trying to do a hundred things in town, at his last “Oh yeah, and I stock up on Holy Water and wolvesbane, too” interjection you tell him that when he finally got to the dock, the ship containing the party had left. There was another player who — by the unanimous vote of the rest of the party — was marooned on a desert island. Both of the players got the message and never haunted our sessions again.

  4. Blindeye says:

    Ahahaha! That was hilarious.

    But, since everyone’s dead, I guess that’s it for DotRs. Thanks for your work Shamus!

  5. Scarlet Knight says:

    Don’t worry, everyone dies would normally be a problem; but they ARE on the Path of the Dead. This may just be a way the DM plans to up their diplomacy roles in dealing with the army of the dead…

  6. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    I’ve used “tuberculosis” as the means of getting players back in line. As in:

    Player: Hey! Where’s my other dog figurine? I had 4 last week.
    GM: It died of tuberculosis.

  7. I having too good a weekend yesterday to check for the new issue, and I’m sorry I didn’t see it sooner, another great one!

    +3 Boots of Hating This Campaign! Classic!


  8. Lonewolf says:

    “”I'd hazard a guess that the gag has been around since 1st edition D&D.”

    I can't give an exact date or source, but I'll agree that it was old long before that S*P comic strip.”

    I’ve used this one AND have had it used on me back in the days of AD&D 2nd. So I know it’s been around since the late 80’s early 90’s. I’ve never played 1st ed, but I’m confident that such a classic DM move has been around since Gygax first play tested :)

    Great work on the strip Shamus! One of these days you’re going to get me in trouble with all the snickering and chuckling coming from my cube at work. LMAO!

  9. Adam says:

    Just to chime in on the whole, “Rocks fall, everyone dies”

    I have been using that line since I was about 13 and running campains, that would be mid 90’s. Reason: Rocks hurt…. alot.

  10. Roxysteve says:

    [Shamus] I’d never heard the line “Rocks Fall etc” until this strip. I fully intend to spread the word that you invented the phrase. I expect there will be a small consideration for this left (as usual) behind the tank in the third stall, Isengard (West Concourse) public lavatories.

    I eagerly anticipate the bit where Aragormless and his band of severely attention challenged adventurers come face-to-what-once-was-a-face with Mr Undead King and his Legion O’Mutinous Undead, only to finally figure out they forgot to bring a cleric.

    The last game I played in the senior (and as it turned out, only) cleric b*tched and whined for weeks about the severe shortage of undead amongst our foes. GM promptly retooled every major bad guy into an undead version of same and Mr Cleric responded by departing the game citing “other priorities”, taking with him a very powerful bad-guy-splatting weapon that I had gone toe-to-toe with the other PCs to have allocated to him when we found it.

    We coined a phrase – to “Ralph” a valuable thing was to be given it on the understanding you would use it for the group’s benefit and return it to the group upon death, then leave the game when it was needed the most.

    “Aaargh! A dragon! Quick, who has the one-of-a-kind Rod of Dragon Enslavement?
    “Bill does”.
    “That reminds me: Where is Bill?”
    “He’s out drinking beer with his brother tonight”.
    “Bill Ralphed the Rod of Dragon-be-gone?”
    “‘fraid so. Everybody roll in breadcrumbs and shove a broomhandle up….”.


  11. Clyde says:

    Oh! YESTERDAY was Monday, wasn’t it? To tell you the truth, in all of this excitement, I kind of lost track myself. /dirty harry

  12. haashaastaak says:

    +3 mug of loving this strip

  13. Wait… why do people think this is the last comic? No… that can’t be…

  14. Woerlan says:

    Haha. You COULD make this the last strip. It’d be a fitting ending.

    I’m wondering if they hate the campaign or hate the DM? Maybe both?

    There was one time my group and I loved the campaign but hated the Game Master. We staged a coup and took the game system and concept and replaced the GM. Funny thing is, it was the original GM’s idea and setting to begin with. Hehehe.

  15. Winter says:

    “Rocks fall, everyone dies” has been a part of gaming for as long as I can remember…which is years before it appeared in Something Positive…though it was generally phrased “A giant rock falls from the sky and kills everyone” but that doesn’t fit into a word balloon as well. It’s a cousin to “You’re struck dead by lightning” and “Your heart explodes in your chest for no apparent reason.” For as long as there have been annoying players, there have been GMs saying crap like this (including me) to remind players that they may control their characters actions but the GM controls everything else.

  16. Dannerman says:

    John Thompson; You know, I’ve never thought of using a ship in that way before. That’s excellent!

    I usually just force the “Dimensional Shopper” characters to actually start roleplaying their shopping after a while. You’d be surprised how quickly a little roleplaying* gets them onto a ship.

    *Beware! This tactic backfires on the dreaded “Attention-Whore” gamer.

  17. Roxysteve says:

    Browncoat Says:
    Oh yeah? Well, I have Gaunlets of Abject Abhorrence, a Shield of Tremendous Detestation, Breastplate of Acute Odium, Helm of Extreme Revulsion, Knee Pads of Intense Loating, Shin Guards of Finding Insufferable, and, um, … , a Thesaurus of, er, Synonyms. Magic Synonyms…

    +1 Magic Synonyms…

    And some antonyms.

    Wot, no “Codpiece of Sod This For A Game Of Soldiers” then?



  18. David V.S. says:

    Changing the mood of these comments slightly, I thought this was a great comic for being on Memorial Day in the U.S.

    A RPG about a war that was realistic would not be fun. (The “Call of Duty” website use to have an amusing reponse in its FAQ that went something like “Q: Is this game realistic? A: War is not fun; the developers have made the game as realistic as they could while retaining an enjoyable play experience.”)

    The Lord of the Ring novels are about a war in Middle Earth. (Also, despite Tolkien’s avowed dislike for metaphor, the story is metaphorically about two real-life struggles: WWII and the Christian story of messiah and the human struggle against and escape from temptations.)

    The recent movies deserve credit for how well they maintained the tension of the heroes persevering despite the fact they were not having any fun. It makes perfect sense that if the story was a RPG game that the players would be upset at the GM just as Shamus has put forth. After all, for them the upcoming climax of the story will be leading an army into certain defeat in an attempt to distract Evil Incarnate from the two hobbits they must hope are still struggling onward. And that’s after months of uncomfortable travel, fighting legions of monsters that lack treasure, and dealing with an NPC wizard who does not explain much to them and receives a lot of the public gratitude.

    On Memorial Day, we as game players should remember that today’s wars are not fun either.

    Whatever our opinions about the appropriateness of these current wars’ policies (and the responsible but unhelpful answer to that issue is usually “it’s too soon to tell…”, considering how historians still debate how historical wars might have been run more effectively or efficiently or humanely) it is certainly appropriate to honor the men and women that have taken a stand against an evil, and persevered and sacrificed because it helped, even though it was not fun.

  19. Evilllama says:

    You’d have to pay 50% extra GP for boots of +3 to hating this campaign, because that ability doesn’t match the body slot affinity for boots.

  20. JustAnotherDM says:

    ROFL! This strip is especially well timed for me. I just finished reading a 10 paragraph critique of my game that a player sent me. Note to self: Don’t ever ask for player feedback anymore!

  21. Scarlet Knight says:

    * Rolls up sleeves & cracks knuckles*

    OK! I’ve got my sandals of spite, a tunic of truculence, greaves of gall ( spelled correctly), a scutum of scorn, & hold a ranseur of rancor!

  22. Luke (Thrythlind) says:

    Gandalf the Monk Says:
    Luke (Thrythlind) Says:
    “It's a golem.”

    I get accused of this sort of thing all the time, but because in the system we use (HERO) those types of creatures don't take Stun damage, which makes it seem like its much harder to defeat them.
    I play HERO, too. Recently the GM, my brother underestimated the stupidity of heroes as well as ended up having a hunted show up in a way that was beneficial to us.

    The bad guys were in a secret compound underneath the American World Defense League installation, holding one of our NPC teammembers captive and unaware we had tracked them back there. Between our PC summoner/porter and the NPC gateway user, the GM expected us to all three (four including the NPC gateway user) to jump down there and try to rescue the girl from people we later knew to be 500+++++ pt characters.

    Instead, the summoner/porter, whose summon had led us here in the first place, went down alone and summoned some critters to distract the high point badguys, gave the AI access to the computers and got the gateway user to open him a way out now that he had one of her beacons down there.

    Meanwhile, we didn’t even have to worry about stepping on the legitimate WDL’s toes because a small horde of super-powered thugs decided that the member of our team they were hunting was in the compound and made themselves ridiculuous by trying to take out this American installation for the official international supergroup.

    GM: Phase 3 that’s…
    Me: Oh! I have the highest dex, I go first! **twiddles thumbs** Okay, Megumi’s done.
    GM: Yeah…

  23. Kel says:

    I was sent the link to your comic 2 hours ago. Since then I have both sniggered and laughed so hard I was crying at your wonderful comic. I truly hope that this is not the end!

  24. Sarah says:

    wow…you know, i used to play in a live-action game of Vampire the Masquerade, and it got so messed up the ST’s declared Gehenna. for anyone who doesn’t know that’s when all the ancients rise and eat their descendants and the whole world goes buhbye. my character was somewhere over the atlantic ocean in an airplane, and the plane blew up. no fair. *sniff*

  25. Andrew says:

    @63: “I'm an NPC.” I actually saw a shirt like that today. Said ‘NPC’ in medium-sized block letters; next line was ‘NON-PLAYER CHARACTER’; next one said something like ‘don’t pay any attention to me’. I wasn’t in a position to ask the guy where he got it, though.

  26. Daniel says:

    I also remember the “rocks fall” line from Knights of the Dinner Table, where IIRC it was a running gag. In my gaming group, we always used the “a Great Wyrm Red Dragon swoops down and swallows you” variant, with the optional “You (all) see a dragon flying in the distance”. Much like the bolt out of the blue, it can be tailor made to strike as many problem characters as needed, and it usually serves as a not-so-subtle nudge.

  27. I’ve seen the phrase used in Real Life Comics as well, long ago. http://www.reallifecomics.com/
    They also used the phrase “A dragon comes and eats you” a lot. =P

  28. 5h4n6 says:

    Hmmm… maybe the title for the next page will be Ghostbusters’ ‘I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost!’

  29. ajgrifdog says:

    There’s a running joke among my friends.

    “Everyone Dies…

    To Be Continued.”

    I guess until the next comic comes out, they all fall into the “uncertainty lich” category, since most of us are hoping there is a next comic :D

  30. John Thompson says:

    Dannerman: “Attention-Whore?” Oh dear, I think I can understand that one. The one player character I had voted onto the small desert Island by the other players was pretty much like that. He’d also just read the “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy and couldn’t reconcile a Tolkein Elf to a D&D Elf… a truely bad combination all round.

  31. scrawfo says:

    The “I hate this campaign” skills, feats and armor all come from the new suplement “The Complete I Hate This Campaign”

  32. Lord ZYRK says:

    At least they didn’t get the plague from a dead rat.

  33. iesika says:

    Actually, I do believe the “Rocks fall, everyone dies,” joke originates with J.K. Rowling. Apparently she was asked a few too many times how she’s planning to end the Harry Potter series. I tried, but failed, to find the interview transcript.

    Do I win a geek award?

  34. Max says:

    Clearly time to say, “Okay, which of you guys is going to start a campaign now?”

  35. Alexandre says:

    Number 100, I use the you all died magic every game I master the players are alwais doing other things and not playing atention

  36. dr. duck says:

    gracious goodness to betsy me, I thought I was the only person on the PLANET who used “preantepenultimate” ! [see post … 4, I think.]

    back to wallowing in the pleasures of this adventure, this writing, this picking myself back up off the floor after a particularly rip-snortin’ panel …

  37. sybill says:

    My personal favorites

    DM-“all of a sudden you see a looming figure in front of you. you realize it is Lord Soth”

    or option B (especially fun with low level campaigns)

    Dm-“Oh look a dragon!!! WOW he looks hungry”

  38. Christopher Thomas says:

    I’m not sure that’s the origin of the joke. There was a Foxtrot cartoon many years back where Jason collapsed a dungeon on Paige, and Hack (clone of Rogue, and precursor to NetHack) would have the dungeon collapse on you if it encountered a strange state in its DOS incarnation around 1990ish.

    Origin aside, this comic literally had tears of laughter streaming down my face.

  39. Steve Hazuka says:

    I never read any of these until today and I started at #1. This one was the funniest so far.

  40. Sandman says:

    Been in this position, both as a player and a DM, too many times to count. Love the looks on the players’ faces.

    BTW, I started with the original boxed D&D game and 1st edition AD&D, late 70s. I remember using a variant on “Rocks fall, everyone dies” more than a few times, especially during dungeon crawls. I think it’s one of those lines that every frustrated DM utters at times like that.

  41. Kenni says:

    #98, you do get geek smile. B)
    And applause. =D>

  42. John Hedtke says:

    I agree with Steve Hazuka and Christopher Thomas. I haven’t been able to stop laughing for the last 15 minutes! Even now, when I think of the DM saying “Rocks fall. Everyone dies.” I start cackling again.

    Yes, I started waaaaaay back in (1975) with the boxed set, the bag o’ dice, and getting advice periodically from Alan Lucien. I even photocopied the original books and put the monsters and spells into alpha order and recopied them so that they were, um, usable. Sold a bunch of material to “The Dragon,” too (published in issue #10, which REALLY dates me, no doubt).

  43. Cynder says:

    God, and I thought Aragorn was bad…*rolls eyes*

  44. Filcha says:

    I’m laughing out load at work – AGAIN! Thanks.

  45. Pluyo says:

    This. Is. My. Favorite strip ever.

  46. Tamarron says:

    Uh, yeah, I’m pretty sure Something Positive didn’t come up with that, although it’s certainly about the earliest reference on the net. I’m pretty sure I heard that quote in a GURPS campaign in October of ’99.

  47. Arcturus909 says:

    Hi all – this is my first post – I LOVE the DM of the Rings. The jokes you have on here remind me of so many campaigns (sigh).
    About the “rocks fall” thing.
    The original quote is, “Eyes melt, skin explodes, everbody dead.” Its from the move Repo Man, and if you haven’t seen it – you absolutely HAVE to because its so damn weird. It was adopted by DND’ers ages ago as “Eyes melt, skin explodes, everybody dies” and has just kept morphing from there. Another great line from Repo Man that I am surprised never made it to the gaming table is, “I happens sometimes. People just explode. Natural causes.”

  48. Jimbo says:

    OMG! “Rock falls. Everyone dies”… we actually say that in our 3.5 campaign…usually I (the DM) say it to get everyone’s attention … I laughed so hard when I saw that!!

  49. Gravaviel says:

    So…. funny…. >_<
    Love this strip, my favourite by far!

  50. Stapler says:

    My DM’s version of this is usually “Fine, a dragon eats you.” It’s never gotten so out of hand that one has actually appeared.

  51. ERROR says:

    Definitely my favorite strip.

  52. Serenitybane says:

    Lmao Gimli at the end! I love these PCs so much, well done Shamus!

  53. Vitruvian Zeke says:

    Yeah, I really hate to be a buzz-kill guys, but the “Rocks fall, everyone dies” meme has been around since the First Age of AD&D at least.

    Original AD&D module S1: The Tomb of Horrors. Pick the wrong entrance, “Rocks fall, everyone dies.”

    I’ve heard the reference going back at least that far, though there’s nothing that says it wasn’t an inside joke even earlier than that at TSR.

    Ye Gods, I’m old.

  54. A Girl Named Jessie says:

    Viva La Revolution!! :)

  55. Michael says:

    #121, lets break it :-).

    This is the first double-page where I noticed that the alt-text for the first page isn’t the same as the alt text for the second page. Now I have to go back and re-read all of the episodes to see if this split text happened anywhere else as well.


    Whose stupid idea was it to have important information not displayed by default, have to mouse-over to see it, no way to ask to have all the data displayed, and no way to specify which of several display options you wanted to use — for some reasons, browsers just assume that the most convoluted display option is the one you want. (Hence, why I use noscript.)


    Earliest Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies I know of is Tomb of Horrors. Anyone got an earlier one?

    (Just try to go in the front door :-).

    Oh phoo, #119 got it before me.

    Now, if you are truely brave, you’ll follow this link to verify this. But beware, this is truely a dark, deep place.


  56. Michael says:

    Alright, when does it switch from “Keep going and you’ll break it” to “n+1” broken? I thought it was at 121.

  57. Tachi says:

    “Rocks fall, everyone dies.”


    In Shadowrun the gag is either a “flaming cow falling from space” or an “Omega Strike” thor shot…

    Of course, In Shadowrun Total Party Kills are fairly common, If you make a mistake and you’re out of Edge points, you’re screwed. That’s just how the shadows are… Unless the GM likes you for some reason, or thinks CharGen is to much work.

  58. Toni says:

    I’ve been reading this comic since about 9:30 this morning (it’s 2:30 PM now), and I have to say: I HAVE NEVER LAUGHED SO HARD IN ALL MY LIFE. The “Rocks fall. Everyone dies.” quote had me laughing so hard my side literally split. As we teenagers say: “ROFLMFAO!!” Shamus Young, you are BAMF. Totally my new idol. I am linking this to everyone I know. I know for a fact that my friend in England will pretty much die laughing when she reads this. :D THANK YOU SO MUCH, SHAMUS!

  59. Karrot says:

    The rocks fall, evryone dies joke originated from a trap in the tomb of horors.

  60. Vash says:

    I’ve read Order of the Stick, Darths and Droids and now this. Each has that one EPIC strip that causes uncontrollable laughter (usually only if all previous strips have been read). This was it!


  61. sir graham says:

    this amazing but conan was not a dwarf anyway yes sissy adventure on and kill kill kill lol

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