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DM of the Rings CXIII:
It’s a Trap!

By Shamus
on Friday Jun 15, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


More Skulls!

Traps are a great way to distract players when they manage to wrest the conversation from your grasp, or when they ask you to pony up for your share of the pizza.

Comments (135)

1 2 3

  1. melchar says:

    I was right, Shamus -did- make better use of the skull trap than the movie did!

    In re – ‘Tomb of Horrors’, I ran a group thru it a couple years ago and didn’t TELL them it was ToH. I gave the descriptions straight [having handwritten/copied all the relevant parts] and they didn’t know it was a module at all.

    And no one died. They noticed the hidden writing in the entry tunnel – and NEVER opened or used an obvious door. Ever. They would search until they found a secret or concealed door/tunnel/etc – and use that. They flat out avoided 90% of all traps and monsters. It was astonishing.

    [Because if you do use that line of reasoning, you -do- beat the Tomb!] The only tough fight they had was with the demi-lich – and they had enough oomph to take him down fast. I was most impressed.

  2. ravells says:


    have you ever stopped to consider that Jackson et al. are probably reading your strip, chuckling quietly and posting under pseudonyms?

    It’s famous enough by now, I’d warrant


  3. ravells says:

    lest I be mistaken, I’m not any of them.


  4. ravells says:


    But I think they should be asked!


    oh ‘eck there’s me sounding like Gandalf.

  5. ravells says:


    This probably isn’t the place for it, but I would like to know how your neighbors who suffered that awful tragedy are doing. If you could tell us how they’re doing now, I’d be grateful. If they need a whip round to restore the garden back to its former glory, I’d be willing to make a donation as I’m sure virtually everyone here would – paypal is a wonderful thing and now you have this huge audience, you can make it count. Alternatively I can send you stuff from London which you can’t get there, just name it (within reason – my budget doesn’t run to Rolls Royces)


  6. ravells says:


    (I so much don’t want be Gandalfish…although I always played a wizard)

    I’d be happy to donate $100 to the garden fund for all the pleasure you’ve given me with your comic strips. I’m sure people here can do much better.

    I just need an email address


  7. trigear says:

    I actually saw this coming… this was one of those classic cartoon moments, a la

    E Fudd: “OK, wabbit, wet me have it.”
    B Bunny: “Are you sure, doc?”
    E Fudd: “I said, WET ME HAVE IT!”
    B Bunny: “OK, you asked for it.”

  8. ravells says:


    Oh! and when the pond is restored can we have the ducks back? I think Frank would like that.


  9. brashieel says:

    I remember watching that scene and going “Why all skulls? They could have used other bones… wait, why is this in here at all?”

    The sad part is that it makes MUCH more sense in this context. It’s a desperate attempt by the DM to get his plot moving again.

  10. superfluousk says:

    The “just skulls” thing confused me, too. I mean, what?

  11. SSMcBeattie says:

    I like this comic… Although it makes me a bit sad, cause I’ll probably never be able to play pen and paper again..

    Being an old ‘female’ gamer – there aint no openings for a 2nd edition girl no more :(

  12. Mordecai McGillicuddy says:

    Some great one-liners in this one. Best comic in awhile, Shamus. “I wonder how long it takes them to reset the trap.” Beautiful. :)

  13. RHJunior says:

    They left out the Harrowing of the Shire… to make room for THIS?


  14. Tola says:

    They left out the Harrowing of the Shire… to make room for THIS?


    They’d have had to shoot extra scenes showing how pitiful Saruman had become, then.(Which is the first sign that something was up.) Maybe Mr.Lee objected, maybe they thought ‘The audience won’t buy this'(The whole thing, including the ‘Saruman as street beggar’ does seem a little…’off’ even in the books.) I don’t know.

  15. Laithoron says:

    Conan’s codpiece… Cap’n Crunch…

    I literally laughed until I had tears in my eyes.

    2nd funniest strip ever right after Agent Smith showing up to give Aintagorn the sword.


  16. Dave says:

    Pony up for pizza..

  17. Penny7b says:

    “Conan’s Codpiece” is a great exclamation. I’m going to have to start using that. (Totally ignoring the fact that Conan very rarely wore anything that would be likely to have a codpiece, but you know.. Man I am such a nerd today.)

  18. ChristianTheDane says:


    It is from the extended edition i think.

    Also, great strip. Surely somebody must have told him that it made no sense to have a tidal wave of pure skulls :)

  19. FhnuZoag says:

    They left out the scouring of the shire for a very simple and obvious reason – the ending of the third film was long enough as it is, without inserting a post-climax bit of storyline that would just confuse and irritate the audience, once the main antagonist has already been defeated.

  20. Zippy Wonderdog says:

    It might make sense if you look at it from a different perspective, maybe Peter Jackson really just wanted to play Call of Cthulhu.
    surely an avalance of skulls would’ve rated a SAN check in that.
    As for getting the sword so late in the game, I think it was ready beforehand but when they went to film the scene someone dropped it so they where like “oh crap, uh, lets shoot the scene and we’ll fix the sword later” :)

  21. James says:

    RE: Getting the sword late in the game, it’s all a part of Jackson’s transformation of Aragorn from “The Eager King-to-Be” to the “Reluctant King.” The shards of Narsil were extended in the movie from a subtle symbol of the fracturing of Dunedain power to being a direct symbol of not only fractured Dunedain power but also Aragorn’s all-too-human fear of failure as king, vis a vis his being able to handle Sauron and the One Ring.

    Thus, rather than being a Dunedain superman (as the Dunedain like Aragorn and their close blood relatives such as Boromir and Faramir were in the novel) audiences watched a reluctant, unsure Aragorn become more certain of himself and his power, and the weakness of the Enemy, through the movies. The reforging of Narsil at that point in the movie coincided with Aragorn’s growth, and presenting it to him at the time he did in the movie showed that Aragorn had become sure enough in his power, and his right as king, to go on toward his destiny.

    The Aragorn of the novels would have taken pity on the Aragorn of the movie much as Frodo in the movie took pity on Gollum…

  22. Cake says:

    Shamus, why in the world is there a link to this page on the top of this page? I know you tried to explain what it was, but I still don’t get it, please elaborate.

  23. Tsetut says:

    Anachronist says: Hey, has anyone else noticed that the Aragorn character has actually been trying to role-play more than usual, and Gimli less than usual? His comment “This is the first trap I've ever encountered that could be triggered by negotiations” indicates he was trying to get immersed in the game-world, but the silliness of this trap ejected him back into the meta-game world.

    I think Aragorn said that. I love the robust culture comment too, its priceless.

  24. James says:

    Tola (78) said:
    “They'd have had to shoot extra scenes showing how pitiful Saruman had become, then.(Which is the first sign that something was up.) Maybe Mr.Lee objected…”

    Actually, Christopher Lee is a huge fan of Tolkein’s books, and re-reads them annually. He also met Tolkein once.
    He always wanted the Scouring and the death of Saruman, and threw a great big (and very deserved) hissy fit when PJ didn’t include the death of Saruman in the theatrical version.

    I personally like the Scourging, but agree that it would make the third movie waaaaay too long and anti-climatic. I’d still like to see it shot, tho.

  25. Proteus says:

    That “jackpot!” scene was the dumbest, _dumbest_ addition to LOTR that Peter Jackson made. I’m glad you gave it the attention it deserved, Shamus. Your rendition made more sense — at least someone noticed how stupid it was.

    That said, it was about the only thing that Jackson added that I loathed. Unlike the first three chapters of “Star Wars”. ;)

    That said, you gonna do “Star Wars” next when this well runs dry? We want to see Dave play!

  26. Shamus says:

    Cake: On the front page, only the yellow box shows. You gotta click that link to come here and see the comic. This is so the front page isn’t filled with comics. The front page loads faster this way, it saves bandwidth, and makes the “other” parts of the site easier to read.

  27. CuChullain says:

    Has anyone else noticed that Legolas looks like death-warmed-over in panel 6?

    A little worrying for a member of a race that does not die and doesn’t sleep much.

    Another excellent strip btw, Shamus.

  28. Tola says:

    On Legolas:I…THINK the shot’s taken from another part. I feel sure I’ve seen it earlier in the comic(Helm’s Deep?).

  29. mortellan says:

    Wow I like a few other posters have never seen much less read about this scene before. Weird I -thought- I had watched all the Extended Editions.

  30. Tom says:


  31. Alasseo says:

    Actually, I believe that most of the time (in the films at least, been too long since i read the stories) a codpiece was all Conan wore. If you want, you could dignify it with the term “loincloth” though.
    That said, “Conan’s Codpiece is a great exclamation, and has been added to my collection of Conan related sayings…

  32. Woerlan says:

    Best trap’s still the one that was never intended to be a trap. Like the Garbage Chute of Death in one issue of Knights of the Dinner Table.

  33. damien walder says:

    97??? Holy Mother of Carpentry…
    Shamus, took some time off the web (A whole month) but this site was one of my first visits (Return of the Nerdling). Glad to find no “CEASE AND DESIST” letters posted.

    Something I’d like to share with the readers and yourself,
    besides the fcat that I had no knowledge of the effing waterfull o’skulls (“extended” version? extended just by a head, I should say) until you revealed it (and I mistook it for a digital sample from something like Goonies or Raiders of the Lost Ark, the genre to which it truly belongs. I don’t doubt PJ has had on his cork board the card with “rain of skulls”, or “river of bones” with a hundred tack holes it has gathered from rejection to rejection. Didn’t make “The Frighteners”? bump it along…
    Could have been better used in Kong, at the island, near the sacrificial site.

    Now, try any anagram server (I use the one at wordsmith.org, but they have limited bandwidth) and type (The) Lord of the Rings.

    I got some pretty funny coincidencal phrases, including “Nerdish Log Fort” and “Herd for Long Sit” – both of which ring true (heh!) in light of Tolkien subcultchah and the onerous task of watching longer versions of the films.

    Anyway, not to kill your server, I’ll check in but not leave comments. But you should know I love this comic and that the next coffee mug I buy will have a d20 on it.

    D Walder, Toronto, Canada
    (where are the rest of you typing from?)

  34. Jaja says:

    A litle something about conan’s codpiece…
    I distinctly remember Arnie wearing a striped one in one of his Conan movies…or was it in ‘Red Sonja”? Anyway, it was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen.

    Wonderful as always, Shamus – regretfully, though, I can’t get the mental image of Arnie in a red-and-gold striped coddy out of my head. Maybe I should picture..I dunno, Gimli maybe – instead.
    Or maybe not.

  35. marcus says:

    Have been keeping up to date with your comic every other day. Have been finding it dead funny. I like the way the plot appears random from the character’s point of veiw.
    Keep it up!
    p.s. as an Englishman I would like to know what “pony up” means?


  36. Caius says:

    I never took the time to think about how odd it was to have a mountain of skulls tumble down on the characters during the movie, but now it does seem a bit over the top.

  37. Librain says:

    Jaja, I find it helps to take the red and gold striped loincloth and imagine a girl wearing it. A tall, slender, blonde wearing nothing but a striped loincloth. Given the context, I suggest Legolass.

    “I’m not arrogant, I really am that good.”

  38. Salen says:

    Awesome! Its the skull trap from the Extended version of the movie! I wonder if Aragorn’s saving throw he’s talking about would be a Constitution Save, or maybe a Will Save.

  39. Osric says:

    Oh I _was_ glad to see the way you handled this. Surely no scene in the whole movie trilogy can unite the fans’ opinions as much as this one.

    What did surprise me was that the GM was offended by the players’ reactions — the same reaction that all of us would have!

    In the early days (I found you on comic #6) it seemed like the GM was you, despairing of the players. As we’ve come along, and the players’ personalities have developed, it seems like the GM has too, and is now heading for being just as dysfunctional as the players are.

    … All except Gimli, whose player is me, and demonstrates exactly the way roleplaying should be done even in the midst of the carnage wrought by the twinks/munchkins/powergamers. :o)


  40. Bagpuss says:

    reminds me of a certain trap in the Age of Worms Adventure Path, which used a similar number of iron balls, if the PCs were to collect them and sell them all the wealth actually worked out more than enough to retire from adventuring at about 4th level.

  41. Dennis says:

    A propos of nothing, I can’t wait for the future comic where the PC who plays Merry has a huge fight with the DM over the allocation of XP for killing the witch king among the Merry character and the Eowyn NPC.

  42. Marcus says:

    Thank you Shamus for translating “pony up” for me.

  43. Dave says:

    The sixth panel had me in stitches. I had to close the comic and I still laughed every time I though of it. Well done!

  44. Antiquated Tory says:

    Just echoing what so many others have said above. Every panel was gold in this one. And I’ll definitely use a few lines in my own gaming. ST vs ridiculous contrivances, indeed!

  45. ZachsMind says:

    “…first trap I’ve ever encountered that could be triggered by negotiations.”

    That just became my favorite eleven words clumped together.

  46. Jim P says:

    I don’t need to spring traps on my players, I just grab a DM book, a big pile of dice and thumb through the book laughing evily. Then I say I need more dice. It’s this point my players start paying attention more. Voila!

  47. Didub says:

    “This is the first trap I’ve ever encountered that could be triggered by negotiations

    I love it,

  48. Spektyr says:

    Maye they have another trap which just drops arms and legs.

    OMG I just about peed myself.

  49. Chris says:

    “Oops, Granny’s dead, let’s lop off her head and chuck it into the big bin to be dropped on adventurers”. Hilarious!

  50. OK, so, like, I wasn’t going to bother commenting on any of these strips, since they were all pretty much made about a year ago…

    … but then I came to this one. Now, I am the kind of person who can find something really funny, but actually laughing over it is not really my thing, not sure why. “Normal” comedy doesn’t really do it for me. I guess my sense of humour tends to lean more towards things that are just really really bizarre.

    The last time I actually LOL’d (I never use “LOL,” probably because I rarely actually do it) was when I was reading through the Resident Evil 4 official walkthrough out of boredom and came across this (muchly paraphrased by me) part: “You move into the center of the kitchen. Suddenly, an enemy bursts out of the roaster in the corner and lurches towards you. While on fire.” I dunno, that kind of thing just made me be all, WTF!? and just laugh for like five minutes on end. I mean, what kind of moron thinks to himself: “Oh, Leon is coming to kill us all! I think I will hide inside this roaster. … hum, it’s rather warm in here…” And that was just from, like, two sentences in a walkthrough written by a guy who apparently didn’t find it funny or even remotely strange that this guy just suddenly burst out of a roaster on fire.

    Anyway. That was sometime near the end of last year. After that, I didn’t really find anything to be actual LOL material. Until I read this strip. Seriously, I COULD NOT stop laughing throughout the whole thing. I’ve read most of the comments posted in all of the previous pages, and frequently people have mentioned laughing til their stomachs hurt or tears came out of their eyes, and I thought they were just exaggerating, cause that kind of thing just does not happen to me. UNTIL TODAY! My stomach literally started hurting cause of laughing so much, and I was starting to get tears in my eyes.

    So in summary: Congratulations, you’ve not only managed to make me actually post a comment, but you actually made the person who, like, never laughs, laugh uproariously. As my friend Tracy would say (whom I’ve sent the link of this comic to but warned her not to read until after her finals are over): You == WIN.

    *wanders off to re-read the strip and hopefully not wake up the entire household from laughing, although they already think I’m insane*

  51. Even a -1 total at “Save vs. ridiculous contrivances” with the average DC being 19 would still increase player survivability by what I imagine will prove to be the first statistically meaningful 110%. Except in my games, of course ;) . And being able to increase it would be worth Feats. Especially given the way I roll. (Let’s just say that I get a 20 on average every 5 times I roll. This is balanced out by 1 every 20 times and 2s-4s being statistical anomalies.)

  52. dyrnwyn says:

    they should include figurines of LOTR character in Captain Crunch

  53. Bagh33ra says:

    I would be laughing, except this is the first that I’ve heard of this scene. Apparently I’ve only seen the theatrical release, and never the extended version.

    I could have lived happily to the ends of my days, never knowing this scene ever existed in the movie.

    Thanks. :(

  54. Saoirse Young says:

    *is laughing so hard her family is once again questioning her sanity and wondering why she’s crying*

  55. Ciryandor says:

    I’m not as queasy about hating this scene as others would be; as it was just right that with the true king showing himself, none may force them to follow, my only rant about it would be that they could have just made the stone structures tumble. And they probably used skulls because it’s much more convenient to roll a few thousand eggs like marbles than model crumbling edifices w/ skeletons. Unfortunately it would not fit the theme either. Bah, the limits of computer technology.

  56. A Girl Named Jessie says:

    Too bad you didn’t throw Admiral Ackbar in the scene yelling out “It’s a trap!”…at least you used his line for the title.

  57. Leyomi the Parodier says:

    Perfect close-up of Legolas there.

  58. Merc369 says:

    XD I nearly pissed myself reading this! Great work!

  59. ComfyDenim says:

    “Captain crunch”
    Simply Brilliant!

  60. silver Harloe says:

    I kind of assumed the skulls were the skulls of the undead dudes themselves. Why they’re falling? No clue. Something to do with them leaving the cave I guess. Weird.

  61. Toaadam says:

    Ha ha! This is the funniest comic of your series, Shamus!!

  62. Kelly says:

    Okay, so I’ve been reading this whole thing and having a good time, but this is the first page that I starting completely cracking up during, went back to read it a second time out loud to myself, and was laughing so hard I could barely say the words. Gimli’s comments about the “robust culture” and dropping Granny’s head on adventures is absolutely priceless! I just had to comment on this page, oh man.

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