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 CXXXIV:
Hold Your Horses

By Shamus
on Monday Aug 13, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


Aragorn recovers the party horses via rules-lawyering.

Players tend to treat horses like motorcycles: They are vehicles which can go anywhere you can walk, will never wander off, have no fear, feel no pain, and can travel at top speed for as long as you like.

And if you think players abuse the rules surrounding backpacks, just wait until they get their hands on the greatest of all interdimensional containers, saddlebags.

Comments (163)

1 2 3

  1. other says:

    I have all my players keep their possesions on 3×5 notecards, if they have an item with them it goes in an envelope with their charactors name on it. That way there is no dispute over what they have with them.

  2. DnD n00b says:

    Perhaps this is 129 comments too late, but don’t the Horse F-ckers have any to spare?

  3. DnD n00b says:

    Uh, horses, that is.

  4. Magnus says:

    I’ve been told by a DM (and the rest of the group) that a few seconds in near-freezing water paralyzes and kills you. Having bathed in such conditions, that was news to me… (Actually, you can probably survive for at least an hour or so in icy water.)

    And speaking of which: The cold/heat rules in D&D 3 are utterly silly. A character can take a few blows to the head from a heavy hammer, but after a few minutes in a sauna he would be dead as a doornail.

  5. Magnus says:

    The previous message was meant to quote this:

    Aside: I once got flamed on the WotC boards for suggesting that a person would move slower through shin-deep mud than a horse would. I was told that deep mud kills horses; having grown up in a rural area, this was news to me.

  6. Toil3T says:

    I’m still laughing.

  7. Cynder says:

    1. “Riverdale? Far more likely he left his pants in Edoras…”

    What, you mean when he was busy taking care of Eowyn? Oh gee, he’s NEVER gunna live that one down XD

  8. Filcha says:

    All I can say is… SO TRUE!!!!

  9. bernwald says:

    I once concocted the idea of a “copper” dragon. The idea being that I could use any sort of dragon (or dragon like) creature and have it named that because of its preference for copper as opposed to gold. The party failed to learn this prior to “getting to know it better” and so was left with a randomly rolled dragon horde converted to 100% copper. After much pain and anguish they decided to set up a small smelting operation and over several years to bring it out as copper bullion at a bulk metal price. Much fun was had by me.

  10. Technogrrrl says:

    We used leather bags for the most amazing things during our last campaign. In one case, we had to cross a cavern with a waterfall that raised a mist which sapped the life out of our 2 MU’s when they made contact with it. So, we sealed them up in large leather sacks that were soaked in oil and sealed with melted wax, then hauled them across to safety. We like to call it “bag-tech.”

    Our DM’s frustration was palpable. I’m surprised rocks didn’t fall.

  11. Technogrrrl says:

    Oh, and you rock by the way! I’ve spent many hours here this week, cracking up.

  12. GTStar says:

    Wow, my new favorite *LOL*

  13. dyrnwyn says:

    I know players who put their horses in their packs!!! (I am totally not kidding.)

  14. Andrul says:

    I’ve actually had players tell me flat-out that I’m wrong to rule that horses have a hard time navigating down stone steps with right-angle turns. I guess my grampa was wrong when he’d tell me it’s a stupid risk.

  15. Bryan says:

    I once had a player in first edition (egads, am I that old?!?) who insisted that his 2,000 pounds of stuff would fit in his backpack, and since his strength was 18/00 he could carry it all. He actually once brought in an oversized (modern camping/hiking) backpack with lead weights in it to prove it. I let him carry his stuff, until they tried to swim across a river. “Everyone gets across safely except Alex, who is at the bottom trying to convince the river that he can carry 2,000 pounds in his backpack without sinking.” A good laugh was had by all, except the guy playing Alex, who finally begrudgingly gave up his backpack with all the stuff inside in order to keep living.

    And at the very next town he wanted to sell the stuff in his backpack… :-)

    • WJS says:

      If you’re talking gold, then a ton of the stuff would take up a little over 50 litres. That’s within the realm of possibility for a large pack, yeah. If you’re talking miscellaneous equipment, not a chance. A ton of wood, for example, would fill a cube over a metre on each side (~1000l), with a ton of steel taking up a cube about half that on each side (~150l). A quick internet search finds packs ranging up to about 100l for the largest models, all of which are considerably larger and heavier than the PHB backpack (2lb vs ~5lb).

  16. Damien says:

    Probably not the point, but wouldn’t the horses have kinda slid down in the giant skullball machine?

  17. ERROR says:

    I don’t know about Aragorn, but Gimli brought up Aragorn’s pants once. “Should they have stayed any longer, they would have swindled you out of your own pants.”
    Or something like that.

    Oh, and what about the backpack that Gimli said that Aragorn didn’t ever mention, and yet still had?

  18. serenitybane says:

    The last frame was awesome! The DM got hit hard by the smarts of the PC :)

  19. Al Harron says:

    May be two years late, but I can’t let this slide.

    “The worst example of this I can think of came in one of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories (don't ask why I was reading these. Also, never mention “mighty thews” to me again. Ever)”

    There is exactly one incidence of the phrase “mighty thews” in all of REH’s Conan stories, it occurs in “The Black Stranger”. It doesn’t even describe Conan, but the pirate Strom. Sure he mentions “mighty” and “thews” in different occasions, but nowhere near the regularity you imply.

    Also, I smart at the implication that Howard is in any way not worth reading, and that you were somehow forced by circumstance into reading them.

    “in which a naked woman runs out of a tent, jumps onto a nearby horse, rides it at a gallop BAREBACK for several hours, falls off, and is apparently still in shape to be ravished. ”

    There’s no indication Livia’s in any shape to be ravished, unless you think absence of evidence of Livia’s sores and exhaustion equals evidence of absence.

    “The visualizations alone made me walk with my legs crossed for days, but apparently Howard had never sat on a horsehair couch….”

    He didn’t, but he DID have a horse, and was a fairly accomplished horseman. The idea that Howard somehow thought riding a horse naked and bareback for hours was some sort of oversight doesn’t square with what we know of REH and his meticulous attention to detail.

    Also, it’s unfair to judge him based on an unpublished, unfinished story which was never intended to see the light of day in its present state: for all we know, he could’ve added such details in afterwards. Howard often wrote multiple drafts of his stories: only one exists for “The Vale of Lost Women”, and it’s painfully obvious that it’s a first draft.

  20. Trick says:

    Inventories… Sigh.
    I once was an NPC in a LARP, and one of the PCs tried to ask how many javelins he could fit in his inventory…

  21. silver Harloe says:

    > Did Aragorn just used logic?? 0.o. I'm shocked Shamus! You should know better than to have him use logic!

    Um. But he’s a player. His Logic stat (Star Frontiers FTW) goes up when it benefits him, down when it benefits the plot.

    > Now I run rather than play games, I've found a method that doesn't involve so many numbers for working out encumbrance. I've printed up a ton of equipment cards for common items (and a few rare ones). Large/heavy items are printed on thick card, random treasures on cheap cardstock, and potions/rings/scrolls on paper. Each player has an envelope. The rule is, if you can get it in the envelope, you can carry it. Backpacks and mules get different sized envelopes, and some larger items have larger cards (or vice-versa)

    One of the more awesome (pimp?) things I’ve read in comments here yet. Now I know what to do with my legos(*) (I have a metric buttload of “old” legos from back when you could use them to make something besides the box suggestion because the pieces had a pleasant genericity about them) – make little models of ‘stuff’ and give players boxes representing their various packs.

    (*) by which I mean, of course, all my “Lego brand building blocks”. yah.

  22. Sonic says:

    That may have been the longest buildup with the most unexpected punchline I’ve ever read. I loved it.

  23. Aleks` says:

    This reminds me of a session in my current game. The players had just killed a witch who lived far off in the woods, and found out that she had been cursed to live forever. Hundreds of years of living in seclusion had driven her mad. In a moment of clarity before her death she begged the PC’s to bury her in a coffin she had built, which they found out was magical, and prevented whoever was buried in it from being resurrected. Well, long story short, the PC’s chucked her over a cliff, and tried to haul this big coffin through miles of woods (because “we could trap a vampire or something in here!”). When confronted by a situation where they had to leave the coffin, they refused to move forward until I threw a random NPC at them who could take care of their loot while they were gone.

  24. wendypoos says:

    you should see how we abuse bags of holding, i think i have my house in mine

  25. Anonymous says:

    Asking questions are truly pleasant thing if you are not understanding something fully,
    but this piece of writing presents nice understanding even.

  26. WJS says:

    I would have pointed out that he wears his sword and his pants. He doesn’t wear a horse, and they are therefore much easier to mislay. If you forget about your pants for a few hours, you will still be wearing them when you remember them again (who sits there thinking about their pants, anyway?). If you forget about a horse for a few hours, it will be long gone by the time you backtrack to where you last saw it.

    • James Harrison will taste Manflesh says:

      Fat people think about their pants. One of the things I hate most about work is having to wear pants, and one of the best parts of quittin’ time at work is being able to go home and take them off. When you’re fat, pants are just the worst. People who are suited for a colder climate than they live in also think about their pants. I actually hated pants even before I got fat, just because they’re so warm. I just didn’t hate them as much as I do now.

  27. James Harrison will taste Manflesh says:

    The part of this strip that made me laugh wasn’t horses or pants or anything else directly referenced by the strip. It was imagining this whole thing from an NPC’s point of view. As a player, your goal some objective measure of success, and very commonly that success is measured in XP and loot. So Aragorn’s player is completely rational if we think of him as someone playing a game.

    But imagine it from an in-universe POV like an NPC would see it: this guy obtained armor and weapons from the last kingdom he visited under what one might call a flimsy pretext. Then, he loaded his horse up with all this stuff, and brought it to this new kingdom, which he is now king of, just to sell it to one of his subjects to turn what, next to the wealth of a kingdom, is a piddling little amount of profit. It’s undignified almost to the point of being obscene. It’s also, in my opinion, hilarious.

1 2 3

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>