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DM of the Rings CX:
Roleplaying, at Last

By Shamus
on Friday Jun 8, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


Dwarven Shortcomings.
Gimli and Legolas annoy the DM by roleplaying.

Make your character’s personality vague enough and you can justfy any sort of annoying behavior as “roleplaying”. This is your secret weapon, for it is one which the DM can never take away. Use it as often as possible to wrest the plot from his misguided grasp. When the DM asks you to tone down the roleplaying, you’re doing it right. He may not have a SAN score, but see if you can take a few points off of him anyway.

Comments (127)

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  1. Culinte says:

    Excellent, especially the screen capture in the 8th frame, Shamus!

  2. Kaz says:

    LMAO!!!! Why, oh why, are we players SO contrary?

    Because it’s FUN!

  3. Wtrmute says:

    I thought the defining characteristic of Dwarves was the war they wage against their own greed? I guess having power over the Undead would feed that off pretty well…

    Of course, which is what Gimli’s player could be claiming his character wants to avoid. Although that would give the DM a foothold to shut him up? Hmm…

  4. Olig says:

    Oh man, the number of times I’ve pulled this on my DMs… granted, I still roleplayed the rest of the time, but when you want to annoy them, nothing does it like taking it up an order of magnitude. It’s almost as good as explaining the logical flaws in their plots in character.

    Also, fourth!

  5. Rolld20 says:

    Heh, I just realized:
    Humans get impatient waiting 50-60 years to inherit the family knick-knacks. Just imagine how dwarves and elves would feel, realizing that rich uncle is finally failing, and will probably *only* be around for another century or so.

    Half-elves are probably s.o.l.

  6. haashaastaak says:

    I like the screen capture of Legolas in frame six– it fits the word balloon perfectly. This is only the second time I’ve been this close to number one.*sigh*

    Seriously, this one is really funny. I can’t wait to see how they end up taking the undead with them anyway

  7. elda says:

    that was really good. you get full marks in screen capping again.

  8. General Ghoul says:

    What’s the defining characteristic of a dwarf…low charisma. LOL Rampant alcoholism. Dwarves are just frat boys.

    Side note, my spell checker doesn’t recognize “dwarves”. Sad.

  9. DocTwisted says:

    Oh, I read through all the comments and am still laughing about the Rampant Alcoholism crack, and “No! Well, maybe a bit.” We’ve had those kinds of conversations, and it always made me crack up.

  10. Woerlan says:

    They’re not trying to recruit the cursed dead. They’re making them fulfill a long term contract. Gotta collect on what’s owed sometime, right? It’s the… err… lawful thing to do.

    Yeah. :P

  11. JD Wiker says:

    >Make your character's personality vague enough and you can >justfy any sort of annoying behavior as “roleplaying”.

    Man, truer words were ne’er spoke.

    The stories I could tell (if I didn’t have a meeting in 20 minutes).


  12. Scarlet Knight says:

    Low charisma, bearded women, alcoholics?

    Everyone knows that all dwarves are roleplayed as one of the D&D Seven Dwarves:
    Grumpy, Greedy, Ugly, Hairy, Choppy, Lawful, & Drunk.

  13. Roger says:

    8th panel is pretty awesome.

    7th and 9th look like they might be flips of each other… almost.

    Good work, regardless.

  14. Otters34 says:

    Well done, never having played D&D before, I cannot comment on any happinings of this like, but I can say:HAHAHA!!


  15. Shamus says:

    A note on the last 4 wide-panel frames. All of them are composites.

    I really love the wide or tall frames, but it’s rare I have the time to photoshop a bunch of shots together to build them. Here the undead guys are already blurry and transpartent, so photoshopping was a breeze. I think my images are kind of dramatic and silly at the same time. The shot of Aragorn in close up with Legolas over his shoulder has a sort of Calvin Klein commercial look to it.

  16. Susano says:

    >”But you’re ruining my story!”

    And here we see the crux of the problem. The GM’s more wrapped up in his tale, and can’t deal with the player’s decision to do something else. A good campaign (and I just finished up being part of one) needs to be cooperative. The GM needs to be able to roll with PCs punches, changing or developing plot points as needed. The players need to trust the GM to not totally hose them at every turn, but also that they don’t have “PC” stamped on their forehead and not everything is going to go according to their wants to needs.

    In Shadows Angelus (http://surbrook.devermore.net/worldbooks/shadows/shadowsindex.html) we had to deal with these issues. At the start we were outgunned and knew little of the big picture. As time went one, we learned more, got better powers, guns, spells, and armor, and had more of an impact on our world. Towards the end, things looked bad, but we were able to use contacts and other plot elements we’d developed over 20+ game sessions to save not only ourselves, but our city and the world. Heck, the GM even ended one session about an hour early, due to my characters actions (I’d sort of jumped us ahead in the plot and he wanted to stop so he could figure out what would happen next).

    Here, however, we’re seeing the GM get so wrapped up in his grand adventure that he’s forgotten he’s not the only person at the table. Of course, the players seem to have forgotten that his is a quest adventure, and not just a “wander around, gather treasure, and gain levels” on-line game. So, they end up a perfect match, and a wonderfully satirical look at the worst sort of “roll” playing.

    Oh, and panel 10 shows on the of the greatest GM mistakes of all time — depending on the players doing *one thing*, and one thing *only*, to advance the plot.

  17. Cenobite says:

    Low charisma, bearded women, alcoholism…to this list I would add:

    – hammers, maces, and axes only
    – smokes pipes
    – the ability to tunnel through rock like a fish in water
    – and SHORT

  18. AndiN says:

    “Low Charisma.”

    Heehee! I just had a flashback of the “Dwarven Diplomacy” strip. “TELL ME YOUR NAME, HORSEF**KER!”


    And I always love a SAN reference. :-)

  19. Love it!

    In frame 8, Legolas looks like he’s going to shoot the DM ;)

    Keep the awesome screen captures com’n! :D

  20. jperk31260 says:

    I can see the undead now chasing after the “King” “come on give us another chance please take up with you.” LOL

    so we have Elves and the king and a Dwarf sounds like a Vegas show

  21. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    I can’t wait to find out how the railroad gets repaired.

    I’m guessing it probably has something to do with the PCs figuring out that, hey, they’re surrounded by 1000s of the cursed dead, and its either recruit them or die.

    We’ll see.

    Oh, and 21ST!

  22. Fefe says:

    Love it how you used 2 screens 2 times Shamus ;).

  23. Tanaka Taro says:

    Wrong, Gimli, Leggomylass would be CG! ;)

  24. LaZorra says:

    “. . . you’re ruining,” not “. . . your ruining.” ;-)

    I love “He’s good-ish, I guess.” LOL! Truer words were never spoken.

    I would never have guessed that those last four panels were composites. Terrific job there.

  25. Beth says:

    Great comic… totally overshadowed by the grammatical error at the end… *sigh*… and yet, still hillarious as always.

  26. He may not have a SAN score, but see if you can take a few points off of him anyway.

    Yep! Now go ahead and lose

  27. Aaron says:

    Screencap-fu HAI YA!

    I love panel 9, Gimli got the “Look fool, I’m not to be trifled with. I’ve got this game well in hand ne’er fear” look going on.

    “But you’re ruining my story!”
    “Aye lad, aye. And that’s why I’ve been enjoying it so much.”

    Killing me!!!! Love it!


  28. Tola says:

    The DM…He’s forgotten to say WHY they’re going after the Dead in the first place. As a reminder: Mordor+Easterlings in bad enough. Mordor+Easterlings+Pirate=Unwinnable.

    Which just figures, really.

  29. Shamus says:

    Dang and blast. Your / you’re fixed.

  30. Raved Thrad says:

    hehehe and the GM makes another SAN check… pretty soon Sweet Baby Cthulhu is going to come and eat his soul :D

    BTW, Shamus, don’t know if it’d be any help, but the 5.26.2007 post on the winterson.com blog shows some panoramic photos the blogger put together using a free program called autostitch. The composites look good tho, you might want to check it out and play with it a little :D

  31. txknight says:

    Lol! In my games it always seems there is at least one player who wants to create a character with the sole intent of throwing the game off track. It’s like they take a twisted pleasure in it! :-)

  32. Madalch says:

    It should be easy enough for the DM to point out that the only way to put these undead to rest is not by killing them, but to let them fulfill their task of fighting Mordor. So that -is- the Lawful Stu, I mean Lawful Good thing to do.

  33. Aaron says:

    Ahh how dare I forget to discuss Lawful StuAHEM, Lawful Good. I’ve always loved the comparison :D


  34. oldschoolGM says:

    Brilliant! I loved this one. As they say: “It’s funny because it’s true”

  35. Roxysteve says:

    General Ghoul Says:
    Side note, my spell checker doesn't recognize “dwarves”. Sad.

    Or not. “Dwarves” isn’t the plural of Dwarf. Even Tolkien knew that, though he forgot for a for a bit while the writing urge was upon him, and so had to invent a plausible reason for the misspelling and write it into one of the umpty-tump appendices.

    He later ‘fessed up.


  36. Namfoodle says:

    My DM is pretty solid – we’ve been playing for over 20 years, every since he got the basic box set for Christmas in like 1980. I usually never feel the need to annoy him, his campaigns are well run. However, the other players are a different story. We are often teasing each other throughout the game.

    “Hurry up and take your turn!”

    “FOOL! why did you do that?”

    Stuff like that. There’s a guy that has a tendency to re-write the rules in his head to his advantage and then look shocked when the rest of us call him on some bogus idea. He does it so often that we named the act of making a rules mistake after him.

    But it’s all part of the fun. There’s no hard feelings (mostly).

  37. Shaggy says:

    “But you are ruining my story!!”

    Love it!!

    Why is it either the Gm starts to whine, or the players do. Either way, its fun to get under the others skin, just a little bit.

  38. Daeran says:

    I can’t wait for the moment when Eowyn killsteals the witch-king from these PCs. That’s going to be BA!

  39. L.Lancaster says:

    Oh man that’s awesome. And those last four panels look super good.

  40. Scarlet Knight says:

    ‘Roxysteve Says:”Dwarves” isn't the plural of Dwarf.’

    Well, I like “dwarves” better. “Dwarves” dwarf “dwarfs” in importance & style…don’t you agree?

  41. Nigel D says:

    Scarlet Knight, that’s pretty much what Tolkien said. Using “dwarves” as the plural of “dwarf” gives it the same pattern as “elf/elves”. This, he said, made it sound like they have the same etymological roots.

    However, he still accepted that the plural of “dwarf” is “dwarfs”.

  42. eccles says:

    Ah, those famous words – “but my character wouldn’t do that”..

  43. bruce says:

    Hmmm, if we’re following the movie, once they’ve convinced the army of the dead to join them, we don’t see them again until they jump from the pirate ships to end the Minas Tirith battle (bar some artistic licence from Shamus) and that means it’s almost over. I will soooo miss this strip…

    I suppose there still the joyful reunion with Gandalf (ahem!), the battle at the black gate and the coronation too.

  44. Veloxyll says:

    If he has the Extended edition there’s another scene or two with em. And no doubt he’ll throw up some backstory of what’s happening elsewhere too.

    In closing.

  45. Veloxyll says:

    It appears that the software believes that the less than symbol was me starting some HTML.

    This comic is fabulicious.

  46. Brickman says:

    I love how, when surrounded, the actors all decide to just talk into the camera. Makes your job so much funnier. Of course, they seem to talk into the camera a lot anyways, but more here (and more directly).

  47. Sarah says:

    must…stop…laughing…breathe before i pass out. Leggo-My-Ass in panel 6 just slays me.

  48. brassbaboon says:

    I must lead a sheltered life as a DM. I honestly can’t recall anyone ever trying to purposefully screw up my campaigns. Every now and then they’ll do something I didn’t expect and I’ll have to think fast to get around it, but I can’t recall a time anyone has ever maliciously attempted to “thwart” my campaign purposes.

    Similarly, I have never, as a player, attempted to do that either, although in the playing of my character I have annoyed a DM or two. The most recent example is when my druid, who abhors the undead above almost all other unnatural aberrations of the world, talked the rest of the party out of trying to raise some undead king just because the rogue found a scrap of paper that supposedly gave instructions for doing so. In her mind raising the dead is about as vile a perversion of the balance of nature as she can think of, once your dead your supposed to STAY dead, that’s how nature works.

    Outside of the campaign he explained that the undead king was supposed to advance the plot, and I said “Tell that to my character in a way that will convince her that raising this PARTICULAR undead is going to restore some part of nature’s balance that is out of whack. Until you do, she ain’t gonna do it. Or convince the rest of the party to overrule me. Either way is fine, but she’s not going to raise the dead just because she CAN. In fact, had she found the paper, she would have probably simply torn it up and thrown it away.”

    But it wasn’t done maliciously. And he and I discussed some ways that would make it palatable for the druid. I dunno if we’ll go back there or not, but if we do, it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with.

  49. brassbaboon says:

    Heh…. “your” vs. “you’re” gets the best of us sometimes Shamus…

  50. CyberGorth says:

    Of course, the players ARE raising a good point here, even if for the wrong reasons. Ultimately, final control over whatever a character does, no matter how retarded, disruptive, vindictive, suicidal, etc, is up to the player. A DM should find ways to steer the players toward (a.k.a bribe into doing) what he wants to happen in the story, but the choice is always theirs. Since they’ve been railroaded and denied this choice so often in the past, now they’re giving the DM some payback. It was kinda a lousy campaign idea anyway, never try to run a novel. You can use the world FROM a novel, but unless you’ve got your players mind-controlled, the plot will NOT turn out the same.

  51. Harlock says:

    I can’t say as I’ve ever broken a home campaign with my character’s actions (TTBOMK, anyway) but I have sent a few modules off-track without really intending to. My favorite was the time I was playing at the module author’s table at a convention, and she had to go talk to a senior GM to figure out how to get us back on track. We intercepted a group of thieves, you see, and as I recall my character let them go, since they hadn’t actually stolen anything yet. What can I say? That particular character is Naive Good.

  52. Joe says:

    I have been working in Singapore for the past six months and reading through this strip has brought back so many memories of gaming back at home. It’s like you have been sitting in on our campaigns over the past 20 years and picked up on every single person’s annoying habits and mixed it up with some excellent screen captures from LotR.

    You have given me hours of laughter and feelings of comradarie. I look forward to getting back home in another month and getting back to our weekly games (btw, I’m Mr. Non-sequitor in our group… there is an “off topic” jar that I have to put money in whenever I start rambling about non gaming things… it was almost full when I left).

    Thanks again.

  53. capitain says:

    … pain … tears … this is outrageous!
    “…He´s good-ish. I guess!” Howl.
    “…But it´s at times like this that i realy enjoy it.”
    That really made me trash and flail.
    So very good. Can´t wait to se what´s next.

  54. Alyc says:

    This is hilarious!

    Sometimes I think the purpose of the DM is to prod players into doing something besides sitting around RP’ing their characters sitting around and talking. Interrupt their IC conversations with enough random attacks and they’ll eventually get off their duffs to go take care of it so they can go back to the RP.

  55. Heather says:

    In reference to comment 33–we own auto stich (Shamus and I)–it came with my camera. Photoshopping is MUCH simpler if you have a look you are going for. Autostich is faster but you spend a lot of time fixing what it messes up.

    BTW After Shamus left last night I heard something similar going on in the D&D session here–Skeeve trying to be in NPC
    character and one of the players getting in character to mess him up. Funny stuff.

  56. Bahnmor says:

    When my PCs start pushing realistic roleplaying I just start implementing other aspects of ‘realism’.
    My players soon started buying rations again when I reminded them that an all-fruit diet (Druidic Goodberries) has fairly uncomfortable consequences after a few days.

  57. brassbaboon says:

    As I recall the spell description for goodberries, it is supposed to be the same as eating a full meal. So giving the characters unpleasant consequences would qualify, to me, as the DM simply being a pain the the metaphorical butt.

  58. Roxysteve says:

    How do you guys get round the perenial “create food” thing? You know, when the party reaches xth level and the clerics can basically provide for an army? Itjust doesn’t seem right somehow to let people get away with subsisting solely on magical fare; there has to be a downside.

    The best I’ve come up with is that clericfud is bland with a capital blah, and that red-blooded fighting heroes would never eat it when there are alternatives.


  59. brassbaboon says:


    I guess I don’t understand why there is any need to “get round” it. It’s part of the milieu. To me that is exactly the same thing as “How do you guys get round the perennial ‘levitate’ thing? You know, when the party reaches Xth level and the wizards can basically gain access to just about any tower or scale any wall?

    It’s part of the game. It’s part of the world of magic where people can cast magic spells and have magical things happen.

    Why is it a problem for you? That’s one of the basic abilities of the cleric, to provide pure food and water for themselves, their party, or even more people if they are high enough level.

    Most of the parties I DM don’t go to town to eat. They go to town to get supplies, buy better weapons or armor, to get information, or merely to socialize. In fact I don’t remember this ever being a problem. If the party is on a long trip and needs to plan the trip, having a cleric along who can create food along the way is a *good thing* because it allows the party to carry other more critical things than food.

    Plus it takes the burden off the DM for things like spoilage, etc.

    Frankly I can’t come up with a single reason this is a problem. What am I missing?

  60. brassbaboon says:

    Another thing on the create food thing.

    It is pretty rare during any critical campaign activity that any cleric or druid in my campaign will use up spell slots for creating food and water. They are usually filling those up with defensive, offensive or heal spells. When I play a druid I always try to keep a bag of goodberries on my belt, based on how many I can cast and how long they last before they go bad, but not because of their nutrional properties, I see them as augmenting the druid’s healing capabilities. Given a chance to take a three day walk from town to a dungeon, any druid worth their name will be filling up with goodberries every day so that as they go into the dungeon they can augment their rather limited healing capabilities when compared to a cleric.

    In my dungeons we don’t make a big deal out of role-playing the trip either. If I don’t have some preplanned encounters for them on the way, I roll a couple of random encounter chances just to keep both the players and myself on our toes, but the trip mostly goes like this:

    Party leader: “OK, we go back to town to rest after defeating the bad guys.”
    DM: “That’s about five miles, it’s getting dark out, do you want to walk in the dark?”
    PL: “Nah, we’ll camp, is there anywhere nearby we can camp?”
    DM: “Are you splitting up to look?”
    PL: “Hmm… we’ll break into two groups and search a couple hundred yards on each side of the trail, but we’ll stay close enough that we can shout if we need help.”
    DM: (rolling random encounter dice… no encounter) “OK, you find a suitable campsite, it’s a small clearing next to a stream among some large oak trees.”
    PL: “Good, we’ll set up our standard watch and head to town in the morning.”
    DM: “OK.. (rolls random encounter for each watch…) OK, it’s morning.”
    PL: “We prepare our spells.” (Each character with magic tells the DM what spells they memorized.
    “DM: “OK, you head back to town.” (Rolls random encounter die) “You’re there. What do you do now?”

    I don’t see much sense in turning long trips on boring dusty trails into roleplaying exercises. If the players want to do it, they are more than able to, I won’t stop them. But 99% of the time the players are into the story, into the battles and into the glory of playing D&D, not into role-playing walking down long boring highways. In the rare cases that food might become an issue, having a cleric memorize some create food spells is simply a blessing to me.

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