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DM of the Rings CXXI:

By Shamus
on Friday Jul 6, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


No shortage of orcs in this story.
Whoever wrote this story has no imagination.

Everyone has different standards for verisimilitude. I’m often amused by the anecdotes from other players who inhabit crazy gameworlds that are bursting at the seams with preposterous creatures. They think nothing of doing a dungeon where an Ogre will inhabit an unadorned room next to a Black Pudding, who both live next door to a Dire Bear and an Earth Elemental. Stories like this make me laugh because I can’t help but picture what life must be like for these monsters in the dungeon as they sit around waiting for adventurers to show up. Talk about “The Odd Couple”. Actually, that’s a pretty cool idea for a comic: A sitcom-styled story about a bunch of freakish monsters who inhabit a trap-and-treasure laden dungeon, learning to love and laugh… together.

Comments (148)

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  1. dyrnwyn says:

    I run that kind of game. I love to put in strange monsters with no real explanation as how or why they are there.

  2. dyrnwyn says:

    I always thought the Tarrasque’s shell looked like melted cheese.

  3. blah blah blah says:

    There’s actually a great explanation for things like Black Puddings and Gelatinous Cubes: they fill an ecological niche in dark, dank caves.

    When an ogre or what have you decides it wants to eat some manflesh, it will leave the dungeon at night, capture some people, and drag them back inside. Unless he’s a particularly well-bred ogre, he’s going to be a sloppy eater, leaving bits of flesh, half-gnawed bone, tattered clothes, and big trails of blood all over his lair, not to mention the mounds of feces he excretes afterwards. Any kind of fungoid-thing would be happy to subsist on the edible scraps that the ogre left behind. That leaves the question of how it could get there in the first place, but since this is a fantasy setting we’re allowed to get away with things like spontaneous generation.

    If you watch any nature documentary about life in large caves, you’ll see there is a whole ecology at work there, with bats or birds going out to hunt and bringing in new food and energy to the cave. There are cave snakes that prey on bats, cockroaches and fungus to feed on the guano, eyeless cave fish, nearly invisible salamanders, 2cm cave spiders whose webs reach upwards of a meter, unique myriapods, and so forth. In fact, caves are the least-understood ecosystems in the world, so a carrion crawler or giant invisible salamander are actually *more* probable to find than a wizard, or even orcs or goblins (which, to my mind, are just ugly people).

    Even something otherworldly like an Earth Elemental can be explained. Someone clearly must have summoned it, so either its boss, a high-level wizard, is roaming around the dungeon somewhere, or a kid with a magic item conjured it and then got killed, in which case there’s a staff of elemental summoning or a stone of conjuring earth elementals somewhere. In either case, the Elemental itself is probably in a dormant state (looks like a big stone, or a pile of dirt) inside a magic circle chalked on the floor. If someone steps inside the circle, or erases part of it, it reawakens and attacks.

    I think that finding the a particular dungeon encounter to be silly or absurd has rather to do with the DM’s inability to make the setting compelling (if all the walls in the dungeon are covered with a nondescript ooze, it won’t seem so out of place if some of it attacks) and the players’ inability to suspend disbelief (Orcs are just ugly, evil people, and their homes are just like people’s homes. If people don’t have gelatinous cubes in their living rooms, then neither would orcs).

  4. Aragorn says:

    first u do diablo, now warcraft? lol the hippogryphs part i believe its in warcraft 3

  5. Burny says:

    If no-one mentioned it(like i’m gonna read 132 commets) there is a French comic book series,in graffic novel format,about an unbeatable dungeon,and the life of its inhabitans!they have anything from orcs to dragons(the even have Chthonians from Chtulhu) the series(yes more than one!)is from the eyes of the monsters! it’s called(appropriatly enough) Dugeon
    ho and it is funny!

  6. ERROR says:

    In Panel 10, it’s not “how about group,” it’s “how about A group.”

    Additionally, in Panel 13, quotation marks should probably be around just “watcher,” not “a watcher.” Just a suggestion.

  7. Tam Timmorlane says:

    Instead of an Odd Couple style sitcom……how about a reality show, where the last monster left alive wins 400K platinum pieces, with lots of ‘humourous’ side comments?

    Troll: I swear, I am SOO going to vote out the cube next time we’re in council….I just hope I can convince the wererat I don’t have the regeneration ring. I mean, what would I need with it anyway??? I’m just keeping it out of anyone else’s hands, that’s all. Nothing wrong with that, right? Besides, you never know when the next adventurer’s going to have a Trollbane sword…

    (Cut scene of the Gelatinous Cube and the Creeping Ooze arguing over whose turn it is to clean up the 60 foot corridor)

  8. serenitybane says:

    I almost dropped my coffee laughing at this one :))

  9. Robin says:

    I generally have a clear idea of what monsters are doing where. But I also have a single old wizard who built a dimension door trap thirteen levels below an old castle. The dimension door roams the world, but the exit is always in the same dungeon room.

    So if you’re ever walking through the woods and see a dimension door in front of you, just walk through it. You are now on the thirteenth level of the only dungeon in the world filled with a complete mishmash of mutually incompatible monsters, all recently dimension-doored, all upset and trying to get back out.

  10. berek says:

    Back when i used to play, many years ago,my DM dealt with this issue by figuring out the ecosystem of his whole world. Literally, the whole world. He had reams of paper and innumerable three ring binders detailing where every creature fit in the food chain. So, when you went in a dungeon there would be moss for the rats to eat, rats for the whatever to eat, etc., ad nauseum. He also had every square hex of his world, even the parts that there were zero chance the characters would ever make it to, mapped and the ecosystems figured out.

  11. SilverShoelaces says:

    Dude, you should totally make a webcomic about a bunch of monsters living together in a dungeon, because that would be totally awesome.

  12. Galad says:


    I found this site from the escapist a few days before New Year’s eve, and I must say, the comic has been one of the best comic reliefs I’ve ever seen, I end up LOLing for real at nearly every strip :D Thank you for providing me with some decent entertainment over the dreadfully dull holidays with parents!

    Now..@Reverend Jim, post 26 – this would make for an excellent NWN/NWN2 module idea, I wonder if anyone would do it :)

  13. Arancaytar says:

    Orcs on Wargs.

    Paging Dr. Seuss :D

  14. Nami says:

    Ahh Legolas, you’re like a kid in a candy store, I want to say something about how that simile was wrong BUT IT WAS PERFECT, so I’m at a loss, instead:

  15. Gregg says:

    I’m pretty sure that the sit-com would have as bad an ending as “Dinosaurs.” By which I mean, adventurers fall, everyone dies.

  16. Gideon says:

    Sir, if you help write it, I’ll work to turn it into a web series! ;-)

  17. me says:

    to be fair wasn’t moria supposed to be goblins, and helms deep was halforcs the dm must have gotten his notes mixed up until it was too late to change
    so thats some variety…

    what do they expect armies to be composed of in a more or less racially split conflict where the forces of evil were the creators of the orcs halforcs and goblins(and some blackmen mercenaries(black meaning bad not color)) vs the good guys mostly made up of humans and elves(dwarves too but no army)?

  18. Earthsprite says:

    So, I’m literally 9 years late, but have you heard of Steve Lichman? https://m.imgur.com/gallery/hZgPk

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