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DM of the Rings CVII:
And the Clueless Again Shall Be King

By Shamus
on Friday Jun 1, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


Aragorn learns to roleplay.
Aragorn screws it all up.

The players may misunderstand the Player’s Handbook, forget house rules, and have trouble recalling the particulars of their character class, but never doubt their knowledge of loot tables.

Comments (98)

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  1. Matt says:

    With apologies to Joshua, here’s how it will play out:

    DM: “You what?!? Ummm, well, Gollum shows up, and he, umm, errr, BITES the finger with the ring off.”
    Dave(Frodo): “Isn’t he dead?”
    DM: “Uh, he got better.”
    Dave: “I thought you said no Monty Python quotes!”
    All: “I hate this campaign!”

  2. Zippy Wonderdog says:

    Hmmm my DM would give us lots of averaghe loot, basic weapons and armour and the like, generally what we pulled off our enemies …”cough”victims”cough”… well after we aquired a bag of holding I managed to amass enough equipment to outfit a small mercenary army after I took the leadership feat :D

  3. Gadush Kraun says:

    Oh goodness it’s so funny. This is one of the best comic series that has ever distracted me from my real reason for being on the net ever.

  4. Dannerman says:

    ; I quite like it when my players do that, though. I once gave a player “Some kind of Gnomish tool” as a joke item.
    At the climax of the adventure the players had to destroy a Golem. It was looking like a TPK until the player with the Gnome spanner managed to kill the Golem with it. (it was really clever how he did it, but I wont bore you with the details.)

  5. Dannerman says:

    Gah! Failed my HTML skill check. Felblood should be the first word in my last comment.

  6. brassbaboon says:


    I am one of those DMs who doesn’t really care that much about the loot thing. If they want to search, they can search. It’s their dime, so to speak. My players generally don’t go nutzo searching every tile in every room though. I am fairly generous on the DC for finding secret doors, except in special circumstances. I operate under the “if I put it in the dungeon, I really expected the party to find it” principle. On occasion I will throw in a secret door that opens into an empty alcove just to keep their interest up if they haven’t found any secret things in a while.

    In general in my campaigns the best ‘loot’ that the party finds is going to be in use by their opponents. I don’t see any sense in having a chest full of +1 arrows left for the victorious party to find while the goblins died defending it using mundane arrows. That just sort of messes up the whole idea of verisimilitude.

    I am probably cheap though, when it comes to treasure. I would say that by numbers, probably 75% of the magic things my 3rd level party has found so far are mini-potions of healing, cure disease and cure poison. They’ve found quite a few of those, but they are sized for kobold or goblin use, and so aren’t as potent as a “standard” potion. But I’ve probably managed to provide a couple dozen of such potions to the party over the campaign so far. Most of which they have already used up.

    Other than that here is the “loot” they’ve recovered that I can remember.

    kobold staff of bless: used against the party by the kobold shaman in the climactic battle against the final kobolds. Has about 20 charges left, each one a standard “bless” spell.

    Five magic arrows, of course there were a dozen magic arrows, but seven of them were fired at the party before the bandit archers were killed or surrendered.

    Magic leather armor, again, the bandit leader was wearing this, and managed to steal it back from the party and escape after being captured. There’s a story behind that…

    Ring of guidance, this is a ring that allows the wearer to use “guidance” as the wizard cantrip three times per day. Again, it was worn by one of the kobold leaders they killed.

    A ring of “charm person” once per day, again the bandit leader was wearing this, but had already used it when the party attacked them, so it didn’t factor into the battle.

    Etc.. The only magic ring they found that wasn’t being worn was, of course, cursed.

    And I use those magic items against the party, they aren’t on the NPCs just for the party to find when searching. This helps in the metagame situation too, when a player says “waitaminute, how did a 17 not hit a goblin? I know the monster manual.” After a while they start to realize that the NPCs are not cookie-cutter clones, but some have high dex, some have high con, and some have magic stuff… Now when an NPC starts to wave a stick at them, they get scared and greedy at the same time. When the kobold shaman pulled out the bless staff, the first thing the party said was “I want that stick!” Fine, come and get it.

  7. Jindra34 says:

    brassbaboon that is probably the best way but it can get constricting…

  8. Shell says:

    What can I say Shamus, these comics make monday morning @ work bareable =)Even enjoyable, I save them up and leave them for monday when I know I’ll need them!

  9. Scarlet Knight says:

    With apologies to Joshua & Matt, here's really how it will play out:

    DM: “You what?!? Ummm, well, Gollum shows up, and he, umm, errr, BITES the finger with the ring off.”
    Dave(Frodo): “Isn't he dead? First Gandalf, now him?”
    DM: “No, this is his twin brother Smeagol.”

  10. Luke (Thrythlind) says:

    Had a player who was obessessed with collecting large amounts of mundane gear.

    He started the game with a wagon and mule, some firewood, a crowbar, a bottle of wine…etc

    during one camp, an NPC came in under cover of a Snow Storm spell, stole the crate they were protecting, replaced it with a fake and enchanted his firewood, crowbar, bottle of wine, etc

    the crowbar had an alarm on it to alert said NPC when the party got close to her, the firewood was enchanted with random illusions, the bottle of wine was enchanted with a stinking cloud spell, and a keg of ale was enchanted to make people that drank it extra junk.

    the party was wise enough after the freak snow storm to detect for magic and discovered they were robbed earlier than I planned.

    They also made a lot of use out of the “traps” Nameless had given them. She later saved their life from a bad guy at the cost of being nearly killed herself. Then the characters went to go kill him.

    But the firewood got used a number of times…never really on purpose like they planned.

    One set off an illusionary fireball that convinced the already somewhat insane arachne(drider-like race) oracle that she’d died. Another filled a cave they were sheltering in with smoke while they were negotiating with NPCs.

    They did use the stinking cloud wine on some bandits later…

    As for the crowbar, the owner had a fit over it:

    “Who enchants a crowbar!! That’s weak tea!!”

  11. brassbaboon says:


    Nice. Sometimes it seems to confound players the most when NPCs actually act like something other than sword and magic missile fodder.


    At lower levels particularly I find it difficult to explain why NPCs might not be using magic items in their fight against the party. At higher levels it is to be expected that NPCs collect more junk than they can easily carry around just as PCs do, so you are more apt to find a chest full of stuff when fighting a high level character.

    By the way, I tend not to put too many “bags of holding” or such things in the game, in part because it encourages a sort of scavenger hunt mentality to the game. “It’s shiny, pick it up and put it in the bag.” Eventually players need to clean house with their characters, if for no other reason than to reduce their options during game play so that it doesn’t take several minutes for someone to fish through their bag of holding looking for something slightly more perfect for this particular encounter. I have been known to enforce the “game time is real time” rule in such situations so that the player has six seconds to tell me what their character is doing during battle. But I hate having to resort to such measures.

    Loot is an important part of the game of course, and not having enough loot will eventually frustrate even the best role players. But giving them too much loot is just as bad, imho, if not worse. I’d rather err on the low side than the high side given the choice.

    The bottom line is that it’s all about giving the characters what they need to effectively succeed in their challenges, but not so much that they aren’t challenged in the first place. One of the great enjoyments I get out of being the DM is when a player comes up with something really clever to do with some mundane object. It’s pretty amazing how clever they can be sometimes.

  12. Medium Dave says:

    Gutboy Barrelhouse-“I go through the door,what do I see?”

    GM-“You are in a 10 x 10 room, a closed door is opposite you. There is trash in the NE corner with a type B treasure- CRAP!”

  13. Roxysteve says:

    [Re: Bags of Cheesing] Nah, a well-stuffed bag of holding is a wonderful opportunity for some high-class come-uppance.

    Should a party avec bag de holding get into serious combat with an NPC party including a moderately informed wizard-type, he/she/it should be easily able to spot the bag for what it is.

    A that point, the guy/gal “left holding the bag” should become the main target for all sorts of missile fire. Should the bag itself be hit and rupture it will expell its contents to the detriment of anyone standing nearby, most notably the bearer of the former bag. Consider how much sharp stuff the typical party crams into a BOH. Now consider it flying in all directions for (say) ten feet. Consider all the breakables in there. Consider Newtons Laws and the effect of tossing several tens of pounds of mass away from the holder of the bag. I would also think that the dismay on the part of the owners of the former bag would call for a save to avoid being flat-footed in the next combat round too, saves weakened in proportion to the amounty of whining and whingeing that the players in question do.

    Anyone wearing a Heward’s Handy Haversack (aka rocket pack) would also be taking the risk of getting a stealthy arrow in the pack and becoming very familiar with the old action/reaction thing, given that most players pack these damn things to capacity (and then some if the truth be told).

    Also, there is my personal favourite: the sealed metal tube that is showing strong magic. Into the bag it goes. What a shame the magic aura is actually emenating from the portable hole rolled up inside the tube. Bye-bye bag. Bye-bye contents.

    What a pity the anti-magic rules have been nagered to prevent catastrophic BOH failure.


  14. Jindra34 says:

    Steve: Are you by any chance related to a deadly tribble?

  15. Thenodrin says:

    I remember an event where the stated mission was to loot a dungeon. One patron wanted X item, another wanted all documents, books, and knowledge, and another was a coin collector who would pay us to bring back coins.

    Then, the DM got mad at us as we tried to figure a way to do as we were told. She had to modify her plans to account for the fact that we carried the stuff back out of the dungeon as a whole, step by step.

    Meaning, we took multiple passes over the pit trap we’d found all at once with a levitate spell rather than come back later for another haul.

    So, she had to explain what the people outside were doing while waiting to ambush us. She had to admit that them being there, taking 20 on their hide, for 5 days was unreasonable. Eventually, they would sleep. And, eventually, they’d get bored and sloppy.


  16. Casey says:

    there’s only two thing d&d ers want.



    Hey, its true

  17. Toil3T says:

    >44 Salen:
    >June 1st, 2007 at 4:35 pm
    >Hey, make the elf do it. Elves are the D&D equivalent of >Secret Door magnets.

    We have two elves and a rogue. We tend to find the hidden stuff easily.
    And, we tend to pick up masterwork or better, or gem/art stuff. It’s because most of our encounters have had class levels, and as a result of that, magic items. Which they have been using.

    Never underestimate the fun that can be had with a wand of burning hands! Our DM’s smart enough not to let us get our paws on a wand of fireball :(

  18. Cynder says:

    Poor boy never seems to get it, does he? XD I’d love to see Aragorn in another serious strip.

  19. Jesska says:

    ‘Make Gimli do it. I’ll supervise.’

    Wow, sounds like the lab partner at any college…

  20. Ben says:

    Damn, I’ve almost spilled my cup of tea. This one is collector!

  21. serenitybane says:

    Lol this reminds me of one of the guys in my group. He hates roleplaying! :D

  22. Reir says:

    This exact same thing happened in a game I was in. The DM created a randomly generated dugeon, and one of the rooms was completely empty. But we were all convinced that since it looked so simple it had to be booby trapped. One of our players had collected some stones (skipping stone size) before entering the dungeon, so she said, “I throw my convienently sized stones evenly distributed across the floor. Does anything happen?” It was at this point that our DM broke down and said, “It’s an empty room! Just walk to the other side and open the door!”

  23. Michael says:

    This is why I've never really understood the function of secret doors or traps.

    If the PCs *don't* find a secret door, what's the point in it being there. If they do find it, why make it secret?

    They are supposed to find it LATER. You know, after doing whatever they do to find it.

    Maybe the secret door is the “employees only” exit, for example. Or the passageway used by the zookeepers (back when the zoo walls/barriers were functional)

    If you have a nasty trap, then the people who installed the trap probably had a worker’s door around it.

  24. silver Harloe says:

    Re: secret doors

    Don’t just have random secret doors, as that forces the players to search all the time as you mention. Hint at times when they should be looking for secret doors by having, say, a book that mentions a cubbyhole in some room they’ve already seen or something. Or tell them they’re after a particular loot item, and if they don’t find it, then they know to look for a secret door. Or mention some recurring NPC that seems to get around between some rooms too rapidly. Or have the bard remember some tale about the King’s secret exit back when this keep belonged to King Such and So. Yah, that kinda blows the “why make them secret?” thing, but adds flavor and makes the places seem more “lived in” if the secret doors serve some kind of purpose.

  25. Rob #2 says:

    Ironically (or just interestingly), it would probably be the DM who would quit at this point, not the players…

  26. ERROR says:

    “We are the clueless led by the blind! We fear YOU!”

    That’s my character right there.

  27. Maklak says:

    They want secret doors?

    Just put in a few cleverly hidden broom closets.

  28. […] sem fins lucrativos, todos os direitos reservados a Shamus Young- Navegue pela série«DM dos Anéis #106: Buuuuu!AKPC_IDS += "6588,";Popularity: 1% [?] […]

  29. Nacata says:

    Yeah, the other playirs EXPLODED when i didn’t want to take more loot.

  30. WJS says:

    I can think of a couple of ways to discourage players from searching if it’s bothering you that much.
    1: Time
    Make their characters take a reasonable amount of time to search the room (longer if they search for hidden treasure and secret doors). Naturally, there will be a chance of being surprised by an enemy patrol while they search.
    2: Time
    Make the players sit through a detailed description of the various sundry things they find (I believe one poster above mentioned minotaur porno mags. That cracked me up!). If, like the players in the comic, they complain at the long boring descriptions? Ask them if they want to stop searching. Searching a room is boring, and if you can communicate this to your players they may be less enthusiastic to do it so often.

  31. Lin says:

    Bwahaha, last to post!

    I think…

  32. HaldebrooksFist says:

    Last. Do I get a cookie?

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