About the Author
Mass Effect
Final Fantasy X
Batman:Arkham City
Borderlands Series
Weekly Column
Champions Online
World of Warcraft
DM of the Rings
Good Robot
Project Frontier

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

  1. Scarlet Knight says:

    I can’t wait until monday! Will we have a “Furst” post from either Stephen Furst the actor or Alan Furst, the author? Maybe a “Forrest” post from Gump or Tucker? Maybe a Sally Forth post? Nooo, then the first post will be the fourth post…

  2. damien walder says:

    Seems very few if any comments deal with “mounted units” as being the elephants… that would come back to PC Aragorn’s imprecise language. A horse is a mounted unit, an armoured “Oliphant” is a mounted unit too.
    Then again, by PC Aragorn’s reasoning, if it’s got long blonde hair, it’s a girl he should try to mount.

    Making mountains out of…?

    Can’t keep from wishing all the Canuck readers a Great Canada Day – and Americans, Happy Independence Day.

    Toronto gots all the beers

  3. Doom Chicken says:

    XD “The players appraise the battlefield. Alomost.”

    Great comic.

  4. Simon says:

    Oh i love your serie.. I haven´t had this much laugh since ages..:D

  5. Alia says:

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

    We are dealing with this question at our D&D game. We were goaded into a fight by the other adventuring group. They wanted to make us look bad, and we killed one of their party members, after which the remaining three fled.

    The DM said No Xp because we accomplished what they wanted. We are trying to argue that we still killed him, and even though he was resurrected, he wasn’t our friend. And we did beat the other team.

  6. Thenodrin says:

    I once ran a campaign where I allowed evil aligned PCs. Because of this most of the group was neutral, with two evil and one good aligned PC.

    I developed a story-arc that began with a stranger in a marketplace happening upon the party and begging them for help. I targeted the single good aligned PC, and the scruffy, wounded man staggered up to her, begging for her help.

    The player had his PC ninja-flip the man onto his back, and then stab him. Since the backstory I had developed for this plot required him to be wounded and recently tortured, this killed him. One of the evil PCs was worried that the local authorities might object to a random killing in the marketplace, so he cast disintigrate on the body.

    The player’s claim was that he thought the guy was attacking or trying to rob him. I pointed out that I clearly described him as being injured and desperate and that I had started into a plea for help. The player insisted that his character interpreted this as being phoney and that the guy could have been a con artist.

    Upon further discussion, the player said that while adventuring his character had lost his faith in humanity and no longer trusted others. He said that his character had adopted more of a shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude, more in keeping with the rest of the party.

    So, I tried to salvage the plot and shifted his alignment to neutral. He complained that I was “punishing” his character because he “accidentally” hurt my planned plot. I still think that I shifted his alignment to more closely represent how he described his character’s changed world view.


    • WJS says:

      What an idiot. I mean, a “Shoot first and ask questions later” attitude isn’t really compatible with a Good alignment anyway, but to take it so far as to use lethal force on an unarmed civilian who is asking for help? Screw Neutral, that’s Evil with a capital Eev. It was generous to let him call his character neutral after that.

  7. Input Jack says:

    Thenodrin, I think you made the right call.

    This strip just gets funnier and funnier! :D

  8. Medium Dave says:

    Long shot of Theoden getting mowed down by the Undead King. Camera zooms back to gobsmacked Gandalf on the battlements of Gondor.

    “I hate this campaign.”

  9. Zippy Wonderdog says:

    You where too easy Thenodrin, I would’ve escalated the matter with multiple witnesses reporting the murder and then the local militia attempting and failing to arrest the guy eventually culminating in the party being branded outlaws and driven out of town.
    Then you could have a band of good adventurers come after the party to bring the villan to justice and this would’ve been a delightful conundrum for the good member and probably swayed the neutral members as well.
    Evil is all fine and good but Evil\Stupid should be stamped on hard and trampled into the dirt :)

  10. Paulus says:

    Evil PC’s are fun! I once played with a group where I was playing a paladin and another guy was playing a cleric. Someone new joind the group and insisted on playing an evil Shaman. We did not know this and the new guy thought he could get away with it by not telling anyone his alignment. Unfortunatly we were on the road at the time, so of course the automatic reaction apon meeting anyone was to detect alignment… It took about three charicters befor this guy stopped trying to be evil…

    Two holy wariors in Full plate, one with a longsword and one with a heavy mace = one very messy blood stain, and no Shaman.

    Such fun.

  11. Jindra34 says:

    Paulus: A bloody smear what were you low level or something?

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

    IMHO you have proved that the question is always: ‘but where’s the treasure?’. the bloody rohirrim will have left it at edoras or wherever (and it will only be stuff that real characters won’t use like stupid magic saddles, 24’lances only a fool would try to take down a dungeon (tho we had one…) helmets of pointiness and sugar lumps of horse-taming – utter tat; the undead/treasure issue has already been covered above, so our brave heroes and the girl with the pointy ears and the bow and arrow are once again stuffed by their nasty DM – they should go and play runequest. the only good item on this whole mission was that ring and the stupid halflings took it away. now they are playing star wars, but as it ‘belonged’ to one of their characters we can’t use it any more. unless it’s somehow key to the plot…. hmmmmmm

  13. Jurrubin says:

    simply wondered Says:

    >they should go and play runequest.

    Yeah, right. Those Gloranthan Ducks has sooo much loot.

  14. Anonymous Botch says:

    Brilliant strip by the way, but I guess you know that by now.
    To give XP or not? Surely XP should be awarded for anything that would give the players experience. So even doing something stupid would be a learning experience, probably more so than doing the same old thing. If you want to reward players for following your carefully crafted story then bring doggie treats.
    I think there is a good case for the DM keeping a record of XP and just doling it out at the end of the session, that way the players have no idea what actions were rewarded. This removes that “pavlov’s Dog” reaction, “we get points for killing villagers?, Where’s my axe?”.

  15. hey jurrubin – runequest has one critical advantage over any other game i played – you got xp for getting hit!!! or was that just our dm? certainly appealed to a player like me, and made the old ‘i don’t see why i should be first into the rom/down the corridor/to open the chest etc etc’ debate much shorter – admittedly there was generally a scrum of M-U’s charging over the figters’ backs to get into combat, but isn’t life better that way?

  16. Thandruin says:

    XP gained in a combat sequence would be proportional to the amount of resistance put up by the NPCs, friendly or not.
    Thus, I concur that one would aquire experience – just because they’re allies, doesn’t mean they’d stay their arms or defence moves while getting FF’d to death. Imagine BF2…

  17. Seve says:

    And answer is: Ofcourse friendly kills count too unless they were helpless.

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

    Well, first of all, in this situation they screwed the pooch. Sending a giant army at something requires no exertion of effort. The only just reward is for tactics. Fucking up WHO YOU’RE FIGHTING is #1 on strategic and tactical mistakes. So, no. That may be experience negative, time.

    Now, if the PLAYERS do it, then I think it’s proportional to the encounter, subtracting the reduced difficulty for people who aren’t fully prepared to fight back, and then subtracting an additional “That was dumb” penalty. So, yes. But then, they gain alignment penalties (assuming they’re good and care about this for whatever reason) for doing something so criminally stupid and therefore immoral. Further, they’ve likely pissed off someone, somewhere. Karma is a bitch.

    So what about the problem of players intentionally beating on people, friend or foe, just for fun and for the reward? Well, unless you’re dealing with wonderful serial killers who do the job right, this shouldn’t be possible. Somewhere, someone should get them by the laws of statistics, and by the force of numbers. Also, it’s rarely in character, so subtract penalties for that and eventually stop the character from doing what the player says. It’s usually ultimately disadvantageous and stupid, so hit some more there. And at some point, it won’t be a challenge, so they’re looking at negative experience. Plus the eventual loss of loot, reputation, access to bonuses, etc. will make people think twice. Remember how in the Zelda game on Game Boy if you stole one item you were called THIEF for the rest of the game? Yeah. That sucks.

    “Surely XP should be awarded for anything that would give the players experience. So even doing something stupid would be a learning experience, probably more so than doing the same old thing.”

    The problem with that is the incentive value it gives, as much sense as it makes in character.

    What really gives more experience: Years of mastering one’s craft in practice and simulations, or a few real runs after one has already had plenty of real runs before? The question answers itself.

    Which does one auto through as a GM? The years of training.

    So what “should” give the most exp is routinely the easiest things for the players to do.

    Which is fine, if you like to encourage your players to do nothing productive and not play the game.

    There are some ways around this, of course. One can construct training scenarios or a variety of challenges if one’s creative that boil down to more than just rolling dice or the GM autoing through the events, requiring creativity and skill. THEN it’s fair to reward exp.

    The maxim is that experience should generally match the effort and creativity exerted in problem-solving. Reason #1 is incentive: If players are rewarded for being involved, trying, thinking, playing in-character, conquering difficulties, etc. they’re more likely to try to do so. Reason #2 is that it also makes some real-life sense. Mistakes may be instructive in the long run, but in the short run they may actually cause one to second-guess oneself or become frustrated, REDUCING efficacy. In that sense, the exp. from later successes can be thought of as payoff. And hard-won success teaches lessons too.

    That having been said, we can derive a corellary that DOES support the “Mistakes give you exp.” conclusion. Even a dumb, thoughtless plan is preferable to a player who says and does nothing (like Call of Cthulhu players who make, say, coal miners – see Twinking Out – so they’re useless and therefore harmless). So giving them some consolation exp is fine. (Especially since the CONSEQUENCES of their stupidity may be fatal). Meanwhile, a plan that was creative but flawed, or ruined by poor dice rolls or bad execution, or was perfect except for information not available at the time, should be compensated pretty well, possibly MORE so than the success, again to compensate for the consequences of failure and to continue to encourage players PLAYING.

    As this comic has successfully identified, incentives are what drive players. Whether those incentives are experience, wealth, allies, reputation and influence, kudos from the GM, etc. is sort of moot, they end up running together for the player. So the incentive needs to be constructed to get what produces the funnest campaigns. This may sound cynical, but it isn’t. It rewards good players and punishes bad ones.

    Might giving some exp. for a mistake encourage mistakes? Eh, not really. Making a mistake, risking your character, feeling like a dumbass and generally not being a badass are more than enough deterrent for pretty much any PC. And the type of munchkin who would lose OPPORTUNITIES TO ROCK just for more exp should be buried alive, not associated with. In any respect, on average with this system successes are still better than mistakes, since a) most mistakes are due to poor planning anyways, so they’ll still get less exp and b) even if they get MORE exp, they’re usually set back in their quest line, lose reputation, lose access to loot, are put into danger and have to retread old ground. All that combined makes succeeding a good thing.

  19. henrebotha says:

    Nice comic, man! Keep them coming.

  20. Yoshi says:

    Haha! One more comment! Lets see if it will hurt!

  21. Michael says:

    Evil PC’s? Ever since seeing Belkar, I now know it’s possible.

    Stupid PC’s? Ever since Thog, I now know it’s possible.

    PC’s who mess up your story line and still accomplish the objectives? Ever since Collage, I now know it’s possible :-).

  22. WarWolf says:

    By the way, I think the oliphants (I think they were called…its a long time since I watched the movies, and I’m still to read the book beyond the 60 or so first pages) are counted as Monsterous Creatures, despite having people on their back to ride them, and as Aragormless spoke of MOUNTED units…. just wanting to point that out (too lazy to check if some one already noticed this…)

  23. […] image is from DM of the Rings, where Aragorn accidentally sends the armies of the dead to attack the Rohirrim.  It’s what […]

  24. WJS says:

    Speaking of strategy, when I watched the films recently I noticed that Sauron was completely blindsided by the Rohirrim getting involved. Whether this was because he never expected them to ride south at all, or he just had too much faith in Saruman destroying them, he clearly made no preparations to fight them.
    1. Despite having decades to prepare for his war, he never destroyed any of the beacons between Gondor and Rohan, which we saw were manned by a couple of peasants, not a garrison.
    2. Saruman’s orcs were equipped with 24′ pikes for fighting the Rohirrim cavalry. Sauron’s orcs were not. When given the order to present pikes, all they have are a handful of bills and similar polearms.

1 2

One Trackback

  1. By Same Team! « Chimaera on Monday Apr 26, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    […] image is from DM of the Rings, where Aragorn accidentally sends the armies of the dead to attack the Rohirrim.  It’s what […]

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *


Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>