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DM of the Rings CXIX:

By Shamus
on Friday Jun 29, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


The players appraise the battlefield. Alomost.
Aragorn is like Napoleon?

Actually this doesn’t happen very often. The DM is most likely going to point to the map, or the minis, and clearly describe which side everyone is on, even if that information really shouldn’t be so neatly defined for newcomers. However, if the DM is foolish enough to let players work out the sides on their own, then a friendly-fire incident is probably a good bet.

Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?

Comments (94)

1 2

    • Zedolor says:

      “Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?”

      They should get negative XP :)

      • Veklim says:

        I’d argue they still get xp, but face horrifying ramifications which outweigh the relatively low benefit of a new level :D

        We had a similar question once as to what would happen if you polymorph an enemy into a giant rubber duck. The duck is incapable of attacking and therefore technically vanquished, but should the group them get xp for the giant they polymorphed or the duck it turned into?

        Any suggestions should be sent to veklim@googlemail.com :P

      • JRG94 says:

        You can’t give out negative XP because no matter what you do you are experiencing it, thus it’s all positive XP, but you may want to bring karma into this.

  1. NeedsToHeal says:

    So what’s the title for this strip? I don’t see it.

  2. Blitzmidfielder says:

    Damn that’s funny. xP

  3. George says:

    Heh, I can’t say that I saw that coming. In the first panel, Legolas looks like he badly needs to sneeze. :D

    Is there supposed to be a title? Because I can’t see one (I’m using IE if that’s any help.)

  4. Cenobite says:

    “If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?”

    Of course they should. A kill is a kill. The xp system is supposed to be imitating real-life experience. And if you get xp for kills, that means it’s a game where killing people is supposed to grant some sort of real-life experience.

  5. haashaastaak says:

    u’r takin advantage o them wit no lives! good, though.

  6. Gary says:

    THAT was GENIUS! Sheer genius! Aragon’s Expression in the second to last frame is just too beautiful for words!

    I love the confusion, the betrayal, the smug look.

    “SAME TEAM!”

    Oh I laughed good and hard at that. Great going Shamus.

  7. patrick says:

    man, that would just suck getting rushed by an army of the undead, especially if you knew they were supposed to be on your side. :)

  8. Keldin says:

    What an utter idiot. “Man-Sized”! This guy kills me, he really does. I also like the DM’s forlorn tone “was that supposed to be in character?”

  9. Al Shiney says:

    @ NeedstoHeal and George: Oops is the title … appropriate, no?

    Of course they should get XP, but it brings up even larger questions:

    1) Do the dead get XP for killing Rohan forces? And if so, what does it do for them … get them closer to being able to rest?
    2) For Rohan, can they kill these ghosts? And if so, do they get the same amount of XPs for each one or do their numbers go up based on what they were when alive?

    These are critically important questions that need answers. Inquiring minds want to know!

  10. Al Shiney says:

    Oh yeah, and where are the damn Rohan Clerics? Get out there and TURN those undead!

  11. Browncoat says:

    Are you sure!?!?!???

  12. JD Wiker says:

    I did something similar in a grand battle my DM ran way back in the early 80s. A player couldn’t make it, and I played her druid, who spent the battle casting call lightning … every ten minutes. Dull.

    So, the DM had described this armored figure flying around on a blue (!) dragon, attacking various groups of troops–but, for some reason, it wasn’t clear to me which side’s troops he was attacking.

    So when the armored guy landed and approached at about the point my next lightning bolt was ready, I let him have it.

    One of the other players, whose character was a paladin, yelled “NOOOO!” Huh? What was the problem?

    “You’re not there,” the DM told the paladin’s player. “Let him do what he says he does.”

    So, the lightning bolt kills the armored guy. Then the paladin comes running up and yells at me: “You idiot! That was the KING!”

    Oops, indeed.

    (Hey, how the hell was I supposed to know the GOOD king had made an EVIL dragon his pony-girl?)


  13. Browncoat says:

    BTW, Shamus, mad props for the last frame. It was so natural I forgot that the movie doesn’t actually have the scene where the undead rush the Rohirrim.

  14. Carl the Bold says:

    Aragorn was amazed the day that he learned that when the king of the undead said, “As you wish,” what he was really saying was, “I love you.” And even more amazing was the day he discovered that he truly loved him back.

    Aragorn: “Yo, King Tut. . .fetch me that pitcher?”

    KT: [whispers] “As you wish.”

    Aragorn: [blushes like a schoolgirl. You know, like Leggylass.]

  15. NeedsToHeal says:


    I just realized what you were looking at. She-go-lass really does look like a sneeze is coming! Too funny. Again, great screen capture by the master of all masters.

  16. innermoppet says:

    As far as the king on a dragon incident, this is clear case of player/character knowledge. If the character you were playing should have known that was the king but you as a new player to the game didn’t, then it was asinine of the GM to have you rain lightning down without telling you. Now, if you had already been told and just forgot….then it might be fair game, but I’d still give players a warning.

    Something that’s often forgotten by GM’s and players alike is that the characters live in this make believe world. They spend their time there 24/7. The players don’t, and have real world concerns that sometimes bump character knowledge out of their heads. So the players often need to be cut a little slack for laspes in their characters’ memories.

  17. Marmot says:

    Where did you find the scene for the last panel? It’s an awesomeness on a level that you got me used to again! :)

  18. Wraithshadow says:

    This reminds me of a game of Battletech I played once. We all started in space, two fighters, one dropship. Each of us on our own side of the map, dropship flanked by the fighters. Planet’s in the middle. Guy to my left got the first action. He immediately pointed to his dropship and said, “I want to ram my fighter into this.”

    Both I and the other player just kind of stared at him, but he was adamant. He wanted to ram that dropship. So we figured out all the damage, and announced he’d successfully eliminated the ‘mech bays. He was out of the game.

  19. Darkenna says:

    Carl, that was… disturbing. I love it.

    Shamus: If you’re gonna cheat that badly, at least adjust the timestamp so it hides it a little better. ; )

  20. gammahorton says:

    One of the guys in my D&D group told us about another game where his 120-year-old Elf character, who had lived in the same city his whole life, was forced to roll to see if he knew who the ruler of the city was. This, because he did not take the “local knowledge” skill or feat or whatever. That was his last session with that DM.

    • WJS says:

      Debatable. I dare say a significant number of people don’t know who their mayor is in real life. Or their congressman/senator (or equivalent). Hell, some people don’t even know who their president is!

      Of course, even a low level PC is likely to be a relatively important individual who actually has dealings with local rulers, so it’s clearly dependent on campaign history or backstory.

  21. Silfea says:

    How did you get that last picture of the dead attacking?

  22. Shamus says:

    Browncoat: A cogent point: The DM never asks, “are you sure” during the most critical of blunders.

    Darkenna: I want it to be obvious that I’m cheating. I want everyone to get used to the idea that a FP is unobtainable. :)

    Marmot & Silfea: Photoshop. The undead flowing off the ships vs. The Rohirrim about to charge.

  23. Marmot says:

    Ah! I should have known; thanks for the info. Can’t wait for the Witch King scene too!

  24. Dev Null says:

    The odd thing is, the Rohanites shouldn’t be shouting “Same Team!” they should be shouting “Charge!”. What? The ships of the evil Black Corsairs just pulled up, disgorged an army of undead, who charged you. What exactly made you think they were good guys?

    (But it wouldn’t have been nearly as funny that way; your version is better Shamus!)

  25. Rebecca says:

    I miss Firth. :(

  26. Love it!
    Best one is several strips.

    “Like Nepoleon, only MAN-SIZED!”

    And I am still love’n the ghosts :D

  27. Little Gen says:

    Eevul. Just eevul. =D

  28. Jindra34 says:

    These guys are hopelessly lost in the story… if they listened (and passed SAN checks in real life) they could have avoided this…

  29. Rhykker says:

    “Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?”

    A player I DM is always trying to push for this when friendly fire occurs.

    “Do I get XP for that?”

    “Yeah, you killed three hobgoblins with a fireball, and I gave you the XP.”

    “But John died from the fireball too. Do I get XP for killing him?”


  30. Caius says:

    it is nice to see the dm finally give up on railroading the characters and let them just ruin everything by elimating their allies. at least now I know i am not the only one who has done that…

  31. Anonymous Fan says:

    The great thing about Call of Cthulhu is the “Idea Roll” function (a secondary trait based on your intelligence), which is what the GM has players roll either when the character would know something the player doesn’t OR the player tries to do something the character wouldn’t know (if the player is a physicist, but playing a native shaman).

    I would totally make a character roll to see if they know the name of the ruler of the city they have lived in their whole life. How many kids know the name of their Mayor, or Congressional representative, or Senator? Hell, how many kids even know who the Vice-President is?

    Great strip!

  32. Maggot says:

    Wonderful Shamus! I nearly wet myself when I saw the last panel.

  33. Telas says:

    Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?

    Only if the party’s collective guilt, anger, and outrage at the XP reward would be greater than the GM’s moral distress at advancing someone for a royal screwup.

    Otherwise, no.

  34. Amanda says:

    I love you so much. This makes my day every time I read it.

  35. shaggy says:

    Absolutely love it. “Napoleon, only man-sized”. I need to start using that one.

  36. John says:

    Love it. It does always seem too clear on a board of mini both where people are and what they’re doing. Heck, could Aragorn actually even see from one side of the Pelennor Fields to the other once he disembarks from the ship?

    There’s a reason it’s good to have a commander operating from a high place. And let’s not even get into instantaneous communication amongst PCs when spread all over the battlefield…

  37. Senalishia says:

    Just the title on this one was enough to get a >snerk

  38. txknight says:

    “Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?”

    Offhand, I'd say no. Because that's set a bad precedence that encourages the players to intentionally kill off the wrong guys in future encounters (I’m picturing players going on village slaughtering sprees) . :-)

  39. Hoyce says:

    “Uh…same team! SAME TEAM” had me laughing hystarically!!

  40. ZackTheSTGuy says:

    This is an odd question but, what fonts are you using to do the text in the strips? I like the way they look, especially the undead king’s font.

  41. Rustybadger says:

    @Carl The Bold *snorts milk out my nose*

    The only thing that could top it would be to have Gandalf muttering “Inconceivable!” as the Undead charged the Horsemen.

  42. Vinchenze says:

    Yes they do get XP, just not in the positive range. King Tut, boy that was funny.

  43. Roxysteve says:

    Shamus Says:
    Now the question is: If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?

    Yet another reason to play (D20) Call of Cthulhu instead of D&D. You can give ’em the XP, then sock ’em with a massive SAN loss as they realise the awful truth of their (unintended) perfidious mutiny.

    Heh heh.


  44. Cenobite says:


    “Offhand, I'd say no. Because that's set a bad precedence that encourages the players to intentionally kill off the wrong guys in future encounters (I'm picturing players going on village slaughtering sprees).”

    Sometimes players will do this on their own accord, xp bonuses or penalties be damned. As the DM, you’ll need something stronger to stop them.

  45. Renacier says:

    One of my old DMs had a house rule whereby if you killed anyone through friendly fire or if you killed a noncombatant, you’d lose twice the amount of XP they’d normally give.

    That one made you think twice before saying “I attack him”.

  46. Jindra34 says:

    Renacier: What was your DMs definition of ‘non-combatant’?

  47. Greg says:

    “If the players attack the wrong guys and prevail, do they get XP?”

    I’d say not. Back in the day, yes, you get XP for killing anything. Thus the whole “boil an antnest” thing. However these days D20 is supposed to give XP for “overcoming the obstacle” (So you can get points for sneaking past things etc). Since they were on their side, helping them and in no way compromising their objectives either on a campaign or person level, they didn’t comprise an obstacle and thus don’t score XP.

    “One of my old DMs had a house rule whereby if you killed
    anyone through friendly fire or if you killed a noncombatant, you'd lose twice the amount of XP they'd normally give.”

    Damn, there’s a campaign to wear baby armour in if ever there was one. I guess you’d need baby dragons or something to make the XP loss hurt enough.

  48. rosignol says:

    “But John died from the fireball too. Do I get XP for killing him?”

    Back in the old days, yeah… the other PCs were almost always worth a heck of a lot more xp than the actual opposition. And they had much better stuff.

    This is part of the reason most of the DMs I played with banned evil PCs… they didn’t want killing other PCs to be in-character.

  49. Smasher says:

    The 3rd shot that the ghost king dude appears in looks like it was a screen capture from when they were back in the mountain



  50. elda-san says:

    36 shaggy Says:

    June 29th, 2007 at 2:41 pm
    Absolutely love it. “Napoleon, only man-sized”. I need to start using that one.

    alas i cannot use that line for i am short. if i said that everyone would laugh at me and tell me i’m not man-sized…and it would become an ongoing joke at my expense.

  51. Fickle says:

    Of course you get XP for killing people, no matter what side they’re on!

    You just also get negative Charisma points, or whatever the equivalent is. XD

  52. Half XP for PKing! (Sorry, I play Urban Dead)

    Tales from the Floating Vagabond may be a comedy game, but it has a stat called “Common Sense” and a skill “Notice Obvious”.

    Both may be needed here…

  53. Alexis says:

    Double XP for TKs! You have to fight BOTH teams that way!

    btw I loved reading the Tales from the Floating Vagabond book.

  54. Mik says:

    Someone I Game with recounts how during their Shadowrun playing days they had a similar thing to the XP. The only way the party ever made money was by selling all of the trick new cyber gear from the other dead characters. The aim wasn’t to beat the bad guys so much as to be the last good guy standing when the battle finished…

  55. Mitey Heroes says:

    Only man-sized? Ace line.

    And that’s a cool picture in the last panel, good stuff!

  56. Samir says:

    In a sci fi game I ran:
    GM: Spirit Ancestor says to player 1 “Never strike from ambush, always accept surrender”

    Player 2 to player 1 “Ok, stop this incoming fleet and add its might to our own.”

    10 mins later; GM to player “Ok, You have a chance to 1. Face the enemy in traditional open space fleet to fleet battle. 2. Lure them into the asteroid field and ambush them. 3. flee. 4. Surrender. 5. something you can come up with. 6. parley

    player 1: “option 2”.

    GM: “?…. ok”

    2 hours later GM: ok, you have the upper hand in the battle and your intellgence officer locates the enemy commanders ship, what do you want to do?


    GM: …. ok.. You obliterate the commanders ship, no life pods are seen.

    Player 2 observer (not near the battle but watching from the sidelines) “You do know that we sent you to make an alliance with the enemy fleet and that we cannot hope to win the final battle with out this fleet being added to our own.”

    player 1 “WHAT?!! No one told me!”

    Player 2 “It’s in the notes.” (referring to the hand out of the prev four games interaction I gave out to bring everyone up to speed) “and you were the one that gave us the prophecy.”

    Player 1 “I quit this campaign sucks!”

  57. brassbaboon says:

    We encountered a small room with several skeletons inside. The door was open and the rogue seemed to have successfully snuck up on them. He came back to the group and we decided to chuck a vial of alchemist’s fire into the room, hopefully killing a few, but at least softening them up for the attack.

    The rogue, having the best dexterity and therefore missile weapon bonuses, was given the vial. He reared back, rolled a 1, and promptly dropped the alchemist fire on my druid’s wolf companion, knocking it unconscious and nearly killing it outright.

    If he had asked “Do I get XP for that?” I might well have put an arrow in his back and asked the same question.

    I think the current approach to XP is better than the old rules. But then I used to always adjust the rules anyway, even in the old rules. If a group had managed to avoid a dragon by cleverness, they would certainly have gotten XP, but not as much as if they confronted and killed it. And even with the new rules, I would not give as much XP for sneaking around a guard as for confronting and neutralizing him.

    Friendly fire really hasn’t been that much of a problem in our campaigns, but then again, we don’t normally have entire armies to command.

    To the person who suggested that Aragorn isn’t completely at fault for sending the army to attack the “mounted units” of course he should have recognized the Rohirrim instantly, at pretty much any distance. If he had any trouble, Legalos should have instantly said “Isn’t that Theoden?” with those wonderful elf eyes of his.

    As usual, I blame the DM in this case more than the players. The description as the ships pulled into port should have been clearly explained to the group. And I don’t know of any real DM and/or group that would have accepted that they began walking into town not seeing a literal army of orcs in their way, and then simply accepted being surrounded by those same orcs. But then again, that’s why the strip is funny.

  58. Dave says:

    He knows whos on whos side.. remember.. he hates this campaign.. Maybe he just wants to break out the Battletech.

  59. Scarlet Knight says:

    Whenever a player character gains control of a powerful NPC such as a genie or leprecaun (or, oh, I don’t know, an undead army), the DM ALWAYS messes with the player’s words, following the letter, but never the spirit of the instructions. Why, it’s tradition!

  60. Nob the Hobbit says:

    I quit roleplaying about 10 years ago, mostly on account of having nobody to do it with, but this strip has made me want to take it up again, even if only for the chance to use such lines as “I’m like Napoleon, only MAN-SIZED.”

    Great strip, Shamus!

  61. Margaret says:

    I’m wondering if you’re going to work in the dreaded “I’m in ur_____”

  62. Late Comer says:

    Someone pointed me to this last week, and I’ve just caught up. I’m very impressed by the imagination that went into this and that you’ve kept making these. It seems very accessible every for people who never played table-top RPGs, and will probably get more than a few people to dust off some old rulebooks.

    Not sure about the IP issues with all the screen shots, but you should really consider trying to publish this once it done.

  63. JC says:

    Another great one Shamus!

    Your apparently never ending wit is truly inspiring.

    Damn straight!….

    I could see it now, “That Aragon is ooonnee baaadd muuth— SHUT YOUR MOUTH…..I’m just talking ’bout Aragon….”


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