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DM of the Rings CXI:
You Can’t Take it With You

By Shamus
on Monday Jun 11, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


Aragorn tries to wrangle some loot out of the king of the dead.

You can give your players incentive to do things, but if it’s not the incentive they’re looking for they will probably demonstrate it by their in game actions. Some examples of player incentives include:

  1. Loot
  2. Treasure
  3. Money
  4. Riches
  5. Gold
  6. Lucre
  7. Boodle
  8. Booty
  9. Dough
  10. Graft
  11. Goods
  12. Items
  13. Moolah
  14. Pillage
  15. Plunder
  16. Prizes
  17. Spoils
  18. Swag
  19. Bling

Comments (137)

1 2 3

  1. Culinte says:

    Maybe “Gold” needs to be on the list more than once… ;)

  2. Arbaal says:

    Ha ha ha this is so classic! FIRST!

  3. Eorl de Jonge says:

    Nice on Shamus!

  4. -Chipper says:

    I notice in that list of motivations only one item that is not money related – booty… oh wait.

    Great comic. Good to see Staragorn’s player has his priorites straight. :-)

  5. Susano says:

    And if the king of the dead tells Aragon “We don’t have any treasure”, what next? Is Aragon going to say “Well, we don’t need your help”?

    Wait… I got it! The treasure is all of those skulls from the extended edition!!

  6. Wraithshadow says:

    I have to admit I’m utterly amazed.

    They actually got it through his head about the whole curse and army thing? I figured that’d require a lot more work.

  7. Cenobite says:


    I think that a better ending could have been done like this:

    The King of the Dead: “Look, are you REALLY the king?”

    Aragorn: “I dunno. Am I really the king?”

    DM: “Don’t talk to me as a DM, roleplay already!!!”

    Aragorn: “Sigh. Okay, out of character for just a second here…am I really the king?”

    DM: “Yes! Yes you are! What, I haven’t shoved this fact into everybody’s faces enough times?”

    Legolas: “But you never act like a king.”

    Aragorn: “Because then I’d actually be roleplaying.”

    Gimli: “Which he never had incentive to do before. Good tactic there, laddie. Make the DM beg for roleplaying out of us, in return for some loot.”

    DM: “Rocks fall…”

  8. Toshibi says:

    Love this comic. It takes me back to when I used to role play years ago.

  9. Catri says:

    Long time lurker, first time poster.
    Beautiful as always! :)I love the look on the dead kings face in the last panel.

    Oh and you forgot ‘Bling’ in your list

  10. Nogard_Codesmith says:

    wait…. you forgot the other half of the player motivation table. XP, Power, prestige, influence, sway, clout, reverence, notoriety…

    I love this comic.

  11. Roxysteve says:


    19: Spondulix (SPON-dew-licks)
    20: Dosh

    Two from the UK.

    Magnificent “take” by the King of the Dead there on panel three.


  12. Roxysteve says:

    Intolerable! I post the tenth comment and get 2D8 instead of my well-deserved D10.



  13. Roxysteve says:

    How did that happen? I was tenth a second ago and now that sneaky bugger nogard_codesmith stole my spot.

    Obviously the Isengard Public Lavatories have seen some clandestine action again.

    More intolerable!


  14. Browncoat says:

    Chipper (#3) –

    I had the same thought re: “booty”. (well, they *are* about to become pirates, aren’t they? Leggy *did* ask for parlay, didn’t he?) I recalled Shamus’ words below “Girl Trouble”: [quote]90% of the players out there will simply let her join without a second thought. The other 10% will try to have sex with her first.[/quote]

    Shamus – 10 XPs to you for your wicked use of a thesaurus.

  15. elda says:

    that was really good as always. the green bubbles are they just for the army of the dead, or is that the color of the npc bubbles now?

  16. It’s really not surprising Aragorn is positive about being king. He strikes me as the kind of guy who’s seen Ghostbusters. When someone asks if you’re a king, you say . . . YES!

  17. Shamus says:

    RoxySteve asks, “How did that happen? I was tenth a second ago and now that sneaky bugger nogard_codesmith stole my spot.”

    Some people’s comments are moderated. (Brassbaboon is the most common victim. No matter how many times I approve his comments, WordPress still shoves his stuff into the queue for me to review.) I don’t know why WordPress picks on some people and not others. Sometimes it seems to be related to their homepage / email.

    Anydangway, when I free one of these trapped comments, the poster keeps their original timestamp and jumps into the thread where they “should” be, thus displacing later people. Culinte got first post, and it re-numbered the list when I approved that comment.

    Now you know.

  18. Browncoat says:

    Well, then my previous post refers to Chipper of comment 4, not 3.

    Until someone else posts first again. :)

  19. Telas says:

    If you link to http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?cat=14, you get the “Table of Contents” of DMotR….

    It’s what I bookmarked in my “Comics” folder.

  20. Cat Skyfire says:

    I dunno…the fact that he demands money as well pretty much proves he’s a king. :)

  21. Zaghadka says:

    Where are the Platinum, gold, silver and copper dragons in that list?

    Last I knew, that was pretty good incentive to run.

    (I really want to know what this “Aragorn” would do with a demi-lich! )

  22. Lyz says:

    You could possibly also add platinum, electrum (am I dating myself? I’m still young!), silver, (copper is never an incentive, even in large amounts) gems, jewelry, and various magic items.

    Plus for one of my favorite old characters fame, and the chance to play a funny trick on a snotty person, but that would kind of mess up your theme. :D

    Beautiful stuff. I continue to really enjoy it. Thanks, Shamus.

  23. brassbaboon says:

    Heh, I go with Cat. How could he be king and NOT ask for the old king’s treasure? Oh, we’re supposed to be dealing with “heroic kings” not “actual kings” here. That’s the difference.

    Aragorn’s got a point though. If the dead king was a king, he had a lot of stuff at one point. What he should tell Aragorn is that Sauron took all his stuff and to get it back, he’ll have to defeat Sauron.

  24. Yue Ryong says:

    I dunno. You forgot XP.

  25. brassbaboon says:

    Shamus, perhaps my comments keep going into the bit bucket because I don’t have a wordpress account on this site? I can’t figure out how to apply for one.

  26. brassbaboon says:


    Heh, my players tend to leave the copper pieces behind when they loot a treasure pile. I think that’s hilarious. My next treasure chest is going to be full of 10,000 copper pieces. Heh.

  27. Jindra34 says:

    Fame often drives PCs, or titles, or lands to rule. But in the short run its all Money and Xp.

  28. Zaghadka says:

    Sesame noodles. You forgot sesame noodles.

  29. Lee says:

    Shamus, I’ve been reading these from the beginning, and it’s required reading for me now. I even read your blog posts now. In fact, I’m also watching you sleep right now, so that’s pretty exciting for me.

  30. brassbaboon says:

    Every now and then you find a player that actually plays their character. I try very hard to do that. I don’t think any of my characters are driven by greed for money.

    My 12th level evil wizard is driven by one overriding purpose. He wants to create artifacts. You could call this an obsession in fact. It’s not so much that he wants to become famous, as he just wants to become the most powerful creator of magical items in the world. Of course the rules of D&D say that he cannot create artifacts, but he hasn’t read the rules. He knows they exist, he knows they were created by powerful mages in the past, and he reasons that more can be created in the future. Pretty much his entire motivation revolves around that goal.

    My 14th level lawful good Illusionist is not interested in such arcane intellectual pursuits. His goal is to fight for good and defeat evil. He appreciates treasure as a means to further those ends. But he isn’t after money for money’s sake.

    My 2nd level druid (half elf, half dryad) doesn’t really even understand the concept of money that well yet, she is more than a little perplexed by the obvious fascination of her party members for little round pieces of metal. The party’s rogue is right now trying to get her to understand that with enough of these little round pieces of metal, she can purchase magic items that will help her pursue nature’s balance. But she’s having trouble buying that argument (pun intended).

    Now I’m not the world’s best role player, but at least I role play that much.

  31. Floffonlajn says:

    If the DM wasn’t so amusingly playing into his evil players’ hands, he’d point out that if the PC’s save the world, they’ll be at the top of the biggest, richest nation in the world…

    …but that wouldn’t be as much fun. :-)

  32. GEBIV says:

    Why am I put in the frame of mind that if these adventurers were dropped into a sea-shell based economy that they’d immediately find the shortest route to the shore and spend the rest of the time wading around in the surf with shovels?

    Or would they just sack the local clam-shack instead?

  33. Matt says:

    Aw, I can’t see it for some reason. And I really wanted to show these to a friend today. Oh well, I’ll try again later.

  34. Raved Thrad says:

    “Are you really the king?”

    Now _that_ was one punchline I wasn’t expecting :))

    A sure sign your GM just failed a SAN check is when the NPCs stop “speak-acting” and start speaking like the rest of the PCs :))

  35. Woerlan says:

    Lol. Lawful, neutral or chaotic. Doesn’t matter. All players are GREEDY.

    Word of advice. If players play like this: LET THE ORCS WIN.

  36. txknight says:

    Floffonlajn Says:

    “If the DM wasn't so amusingly playing into his evil players' hands, he'd point out that if the PC's save the world, they'll be at the top of the biggest, richest nation in the world…”

    And it would be funnier when at the end DM says “Well, the good news is you are now in charge of the richest nation of men. The bad news is the campaign just ended. Now anybody up for a pirate based adventure? I have this new…”

  37. Scarlet Knight says:

    “Chipper Says:I notice in that list of motivations only one item that is not money related – booty”

    Ah, yes! Chipper must be referring to that famous line by Aragorn when he spied Eomyn in episode LXII : “Actually, you can keep the gold. I want something else.”

    “Browncoat Says:well, they *are* about to become pirates, aren't they?”

    Works for pirates in training, too. (“Chest overfowing with golden coins, Golden-hair flowing upon chest? Hmmm, which booty first? So hard to choose…”

  38. Poet says:

    Bling works rather well as a reward in d20 Modern adventures.

  39. Al Shiney says:

    All of my players happily accept everything on the list, but what they really are TOYS (i.e. high powered magic items) … even the dwarven characters want them, go figure.

    That’s why I always give them a Wand of Wonder and wait for hilarity to ensue. It would be fun if the King of the Dead were suddenly enveloped by a swarm of butterflies, wouldn’t it?

  40. Aaron says:

    My players are all about “Shineys” (misspelling intended). Shineys can be anything from rather expensive gems to ridiculously powerful magic items. One of my favorites to let them play with is the Deck of Many Things. Ohhh the adventures I’ve started (and ended) with that …


  41. Stranger says:

    And sad news, I can’t get the comic to appear at all now, Shamus.
    Why? I suspect it’s because I’m running a Mac . . .

    Why am I running a Mac? Because my Windows PC is giving me serious hardware problems in the last six months and I don’t know WHAT exactly the problem is. Just everything keeps breaking.

  42. Weldun says:

    Don’t worry stranger, I’m running a PC and I’ve got the same problem here. I too, cannot see what everyone else is enjoying. All I can see is the list, and then the comments.

  43. TheDarkOne says:

    Dear God, this comic is better than Order of the Stick. It improves with every strip. I am mostly WoD player, but this here is a masterpiece!

  44. Roxysteve says:

    Shamus Says:
    RoxySteve asks, “How did that happen? I was tenth a second ago and now that sneaky bugger nogard_codesmith stole my spot.”

    Some people's comments are moderated. (Brassbaboon is the most common victim. No matter how many times I approve his comments, WordPress still shoves his stuff into the queue for me to review.) I don't know why WordPress picks on some people and not others. Sometimes it seems to be related to their homepage / email.

    Anydangway, when I free one of these trapped comments, the poster keeps their original timestamp and jumps into the thread where they “should” be, thus displacing later people. Culinte got first post, and it re-numbered the list when I approved that comment.

    Now you know.

    Intolerable! Except the bit about moderating Brassbaboon of course.



  45. brassbaboon says:

    Deck of Many Things… Ah the memories. The void… A Wish… loads and loads of fun.

    Virtually all of my players have always exhibited greed almost exclusively over magic items. They always LIKE money, but nothing gets their blood flowing like a magic ring….

    Which sort of amazes me, they always have visions of “ring of three wishes” and I’m usually giving them things like “ring of feather fall” or “ring of guidance.”

    When I play instead of DM I always assume even the magic items are going to be pretty low-level, at least when my character is low level. I think Tolkien ruined it for everyone giving Frodo a +3 short sword with enemy detection, a ring of invisibility and chain mail armor +5 for a first level rogue. Sigh…

  46. brassbaboon says:

    Heh, I wondered if you’d let Shamus’s brassbaboon comment slide…

  47. MycroftB says:

    Oh gosh, I can see it degenerating.

    “Well how did he get to be king?”

    “I didn’t vote for him.”

    “You don’t vote for kings!”


  48. brassbaboon says:

    Oh, lest I forget…

    Shamus, that last panel is screen-cap-fu of the highest order. I don’t know how you do it.

  49. GEBIV says:

    “How can you tell he’s a king?”

  50. Kageryu says:

    Screw the loot, where’s my next button?

  51. PinkCoder says:

    I love the list of incentives. But I must admit when reading a site named “Twenty sided” and then seeing a list of only 19 items, I feel like something is missing. Couldn’t come up with one more? How about Magical Weapons or Toys?

  52. orcbane says:

    Personally, I’m a fan of Swag. But loot and booty work, too!

  53. Melfina the Blue says:

    It’s obvious. All the skulls that fall are like this skull…http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/06/01/skull.art.reut/index.html
    I’d be happy with that loot.
    By the way, the last few comics have been wonderful.

  54. John Thompson says:

    Actually, D&D needs a mechanic (of which there was something in the First Edition) whereby fame/status/glory etc becomes marketable somehow. Otherwise, so many players seem so uninterested in anything other than gold. In other words, ‘let’s do this’ and the King might give us estates/tax breaks (and Players DESERVE taxes), vassals or bargains on construction material…

  55. Scarlet Knight says:

    Face it, after you play a few characters always chasing loot, the greedy lust for gold changes. Who wants to play the same character over and over? So you start with a wizard who lusts for power, then a knight who lusts for lost glory, or a bard who just…lusts. But as brassbaboon points out, gold always helps a character achieve their goal even if the gold itself is uninteresting to them. The wizard can buys scrolls, the knight weapons, the bard, satin sheets. Still, it's always fun to play a monk refusing reward, just to watch the thief's eyes bulge out!

  56. brassbaboon says:


    That’s sort of how my druid acts. When the local mayor offered the party a reward of gold, she essentially said “what do I need gold for? Does it make trees grow? Does it feed the animals?” The rogue did, in fact, do a double take, pulled me aside and said “hold on, let’s work this out.” He ended up with “Go ahead and take it, and let me hold it for you.” I thought it was hilarious.

    The masterwork bow they Mayor handed her was another matter altogether. She liked that.

  57. One of my favorites to let them play with is the Deck of Many Things

    In my current campaign my rogue is carrying around a Deck of Many Things. I have yet to be even slightly tempted to deal a card, and can’t understand when it would ever be rational to do so. Maybe if you’re hanging around a peaceful city between campaigns with a high-level cleric who can undo so many of the bad effects to really change the odds, but otherwise, I just don’t get it.

    I’ve gotta say, my sympathies are 80% with the players on their perpetual search for loot. I’m in a very long-term LOTR-style railroad campaign– deep into enemy lands with no surviving mounts, a need for stealth, no possible place to spend any of the treasure we do get, and a constant need to give up anything we’re managing to carry because we bump up against encumbrance limits and need to carry life-saving stuff. We’ve left behind three huge treasure troves, carrying the gems basically as fuel for future spells and a few hundred platinum. We’ve been acquiring magic goodies all along, but we’re incredibly cash-poor and wouldn’t be able to use the money anyway.

  58. Dragonbane says:

    I clicked in through the Livejournal RSS and the comic was not present. I had to click on the Ring to get back to the table of contents, then click back into the comic, in order to see it. This may be an issue with the work firewall, but if anyone else is experiencing this problem please chime in. :)

  59. EmeraldTiara says:

    Just how many thesauruses did you go through?

  60. rosignol says:

    Why? I suspect it's because I'm running a Mac . . .

    Nope. I’m also on a Mac, no problems with the strip.

    Mayhap you have your browser set to not load images hosted on a server that has a different URL? The strip is being loaded off a mu.nu server…

  61. This is absolutely my favorite DnD comic. Well right next to Goblins, but Shamus doesn’t miss updates.

  62. UltimaGecko says:

    Well, the mention of d20 and the list containing a mere 19 items piqued my interest. Thus, in the interest of appeasing those with OCD (and potentially giving future DMs something with which to confuse their players): Aurum. Latin for gold, the whole reason we have Au on every periodic table.

    Not particularily something I’d expect in a thesaurus.

    Also…same old ‘read them all, first post’ stuff everyone breaks out. This is one of those things that – were copyright infringement not an issue – would make a good book to throw in with a few D&D rule books.

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