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DM of the Rings CXXXVIII:
Another Cunning Gambit

By Shamus
on Wednesday Aug 22, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings


Aragorn employs his own unique brand of strategy.

Comments (166)

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  1. Jochi says:

    Mejo, you may be right about the translation date of Sun Tsu, don’t know, doesn’t matter.

    Subedei studied Sun Tsu, and every Western general after his campaign took out the two strongest militaries in Europe studied Subedei.

    Influences aren’t always first hand.

  2. roxysteve says:

    Scarlet Knight Says:
    Roxysteve, is it my imagination, or do you get more British in direct proportion to the number of posts?

    I nevvah fort ubaht it before, squire, but now you comes t’ mention it…Blimey! I fink you’re right!

    Chim-chimmery-chim-chim, Cherree, chim-cheroo!

    I think what happens is that as the comments pile up they begin to explore non-comic territory and call for illustrative examples. Half my life was spent in the UK so once I need to go back more than 20 years you get Union Jack bleed-through.

    I will do everyone a favour and wait until the next comic has posted before answering Brassbabboon’s baseless “cherry picking” charge.

    Brassbabboon: Outside the school gates after the bell, you! (Translation: Come here not today, if you dare, to see how I, by means of cunning argument and illustrative examples drawn from the text of “The Art Of War (and other claptrap)” itself, refute your base canard, sirrah!)

    Sir Steve Effington-ffoulkes III (Retired).

  3. roxysteve says:

    Mejo Says:

    I hate to be a grouch, but one might feel compelled to reply:

    You didn't read Sun Tzu.

    You read a translation of Sun Tzu.

    But it still works out because (and this is the really clever bit) so did everyone else who is trying to say I’m wrong. If I can’t fault the work because it can’t possibly be accurate in translation (to paraphrase your own words) by the same token the work cannot be used to support the contention thet Sun Tzu = Clever Git.

    There’s probably a clever philosophical term for this sort of connundrum like “tautology” or somesuch, but I have no idea what it is. I call it the level playing field effect.

    Not only that, I don’t need a degree in anything to hear Beowulf read in it’s glory (although in all fairness you should have noted yourself that the version(s) of Beowulf available to us today are in fact transcribed versions of what is undoubtedly a much older oral tradition).

    All I need is the assistance of one of my former girlfriends, Dr Amanda Namewithheld, who would read it to me and explain the things I didn’t understand about the rhyme, meter and content.


  4. schatur says:

    ya know, thats a pretty snazzy looking crop-circle going on in thost last two panels.

    just an errant observation…

  5. hotsauce says:

    Okay, Aragorn may be stupid to let his army be surrounded, but how smart is it to build a virtually impregnable defensive wall, then *open the gate* the instant an army shows up to attack you? Seems like it would be a lot smarter to leave the gate closed and throw things at the enemy outside. Big heavy things, like boulders. Or cows.

    • James Harrison will taste Manflesh says:

      Sauron assumed that they had the ring, since otherwise it would be pretty stupid to stand outside his impenetrable gate and demand his surrender.

      “That’s the problem with our opposition – they keep thinking nobody could possibly be as stupid as we are. Fools ’em every time.”

      – Lando Calrissian

  6. Scarlet Knight says:

    Barnacles! I bet if I had a British accent, I wouldn’t be stuck in a low-level minion position…I mean, I don’t need to have somebody lob a scimitar at me, but c’mon, hand me a kris, or katar, or somethin’!

  7. brassbaboon says:


    A lot of the book I read called “The Art of War” is all about the fundamental tactical and logistical needs of fielding an army, and that certainly doesn’t fall into the category of “common sense.” (I hear you now, “Oh, come on brassbabboon, EVERYONE knows that an army of 100,000 men will cost you 1,000 silver pieces per day, get real!).

    I have wondered in some of those cases (like where he describes the infrastructure costs for building, fielding and repairing chariots) if those costs actually are comparable to our modern counterparts. In other words, is it more or less the same impact on the general population to provide, field and maintain a tank as it was to do a chariot 3,000 years ago?

    But as I tried to point out, even his “simpleton” comments are routinely ignored in war by generals who have, presumably, studied every genius since Tzu. Yet still they violate even the most basic of tenets. Why is that? Do you suppose a large part of Tzu’s purpose in writing the book was to reinforce the importance of STICKING TO those bits of common sense, perhaps?

  8. Uri says:

    This is the finest of them all. And, happy birthday Shamus!

  9. superfluousk says:

    >Can't agree with this. If anyone showed Europeans how to make and keep standing armies in business, it was Gaius Marius.

    Because if it didn’t happen in European history, it doesn’t matter.

  10. roxysteve says:

    superfluousk Says:
    >Can't agree with this. If anyone showed Europeans how to make and keep standing armies in business, it was Gaius Marius.

    Because if it didn't happen in European history, it doesn't matter

    No, because Marco Polo didn’t get into China until several hundred years after the Romans showed everyone why a standing army is a good idea, then went on to demonstrate why it is also a bad one.

    Europeans didn’t know for sure China was still there until then, and Americans hadn’t been invented yet. It was several yonks after that that anyone in the West thought of reading Sun Tzu and translating it.

    Atilla didn’t actually bring any copies of “The Art Of War” with him when he paid a visit, mores the pity.

    Jerking the mid-length leg joint suddenly like that without stretching first can cause serious injury later in life, superfluousk.



  11. Jackstraw says:

    Nobody’s saying that something didn’t happen if it didn’t happen in Europe. However, it can’t be disputed that Gaius Marius reinvented the Roman Legion as the fighting unit capable of supplying itself, victualling itself, and conducting a war on its own, at a time when most of Europe didn’t know that China existed.

    That said, I’d have to give the nod to Marius’ nephew as the best general of all time – Gaius Julius Caesar.

  12. DesertDog says:

    >So: if you're in a good defensive position surrounded by a large force, what's the worst possible move you can make? That's right: chaaaarge!!!!

    Generally speaking, you’re right. But Joshua Chamberlain would disagree.

  13. mac says:

    in fact i ommited one small fact and i didnt relize it, (post 121)
    it was the groups vote for me to run an evil campaing and give them an army to control. they wanted it so i delivered. in response to robbierob (post 125) and aries (post 126) they told me what they wanted to control, so i said sure, for me a players group is most important so i let the players some knowingly, some unknowingly come up with the plot hooks and overall design of the world, it usally works, but this one group, got some of what they and some of what they didnt. thats why i sniker at them, and only snikered after the vote to boot me :P

  14. Logan says:

    You suck Aragron! Classic!

  15. Psychosomatic says:

    Always leave your enemy an escape route. Of course, you have that escape route mined or lined with short range guns or whatever, but at least he has a chance (so he thinks) to escape.

    In Total Annihilation I used to always set up anti-ground force traps by creating an attractive corridor into my base. Sadly, when opposing players would come charging down that corridor they found that it T-boned into a gun trap. Then I’d spring a bunch of hovering gunships up behind them, so they’d get crushed no matter which way they went.

    When you have the firepower to reduce your enemy you don’t care about moral or tactics or any of that crud; you just pound the snot out of him.

    [By the way, I love this comic!]

  16. Rob says:

    The D.I. (Jack Webb) to Marine Recruit Rodriguez…

    “Rodriguez, quick, you’re surrounded by 500 enemy soldiers and you’re all alone, what do you do!?”

    Rodriguez: “I kill em, sir.”

    Right answer.

  17. elda-san says:

    while it’s been what more than a month now? i was rereading this, and couldn’t not post that in the first pannel now that i see it still, it looks so glaringly computer generated. like a really good ps1 game…

  18. Chris Arndt says:

    That’s something that bugged me about RoTR.

    The entire Army of Man… fits into a teeny tiny circle like that. THAT’S IT!? That’s all that was willing and able to go and fight Sauron?


  19. Cynder says:

    I have three letters for you, Aragorn – WTF???

  20. Sam-Chan says:

    aragorn really lacks an royal counsel…


  21. Drax says:

    Heh, reminds me of a game once.

    “This is bad, we’re surrounded!”

    “Good! Now we can attack in every direction!”

  22. Shahabooey says:

    Why is Aragorn such and Idiot? Just why? I know his Intelligence isn’t that high, but he should have high enough wisdom to know when to attack shouldn’t he?
    My other question is where is Gandalf when you need him? He is probably high enough level to blow up every Orc/Troll/Goblin in the army of Mordor

  23. silver Harloe says:

    > Fair enough. What about the approximately 3/5ths of his writing that are unintelligible pap to this day? Is there an explaination for that or was he just, you know, totally barking?

    What about all the silly and wrong things that Pythagoreas thought that were later supplanted by better ideas? Does that mean he was a useless, insane, stupid person at his time?

    You’re absolutely right, though, that studying Sun Tzu, like studying Pythagoreas, is something left best to academics who want to get a historical perspective on the evolution of (Chinese) military strategy.

    The popularization of Sun Tzu’s art of war is kind of silly – the exhortation that modern CEOs who fail to read it are clueless even more so. Even modern generals can give it a pass, for the same reason not every mathematician studies Pythagoreas directly – the good parts have been carried on by other authors since.

  24. silver Harloe says:

    > BYW, why is it that some 90% of all PC halflings are evil b*stards?

    Back when I started AD&D, while you could choose many classes for the different races, there were severe level restrictions, and halflings could basically only be thieves if they wanted a life. Plus they got excellent (pimp?) bonuses for being a thief. But being a thief meant being at least chaotic (I forget, but I don’t think it even allowed Chaotic Good). So basically, halflings were “mostly” railroaded into being thieves (and this was also before they were “rogues”). And anyone wanting to play a thief with any kind of min-maxing “mostly” wanted to be a halfling. But if wanted to be a thief, well, odds were good you wanted to play a nasty character that goes along with the good guys because it increases his odds of loot.
    The stereotype stuck. It was a long time before the next edition of AD&D (unlike these days where they want to pump a new edition out every other year to soak your moneys).

  25. yadayadayada says:

    hahaha. oh shut up losers. u dont know anything about RotK.


  26. Chad Valentine says:

    Found this site today read from page 1 – this one made me laugh so hard a bit of wee came out.

  27. Theia says:

    “Aha! The enemy has surrounded us! They can’t get away from us now!”

  28. WJS says:

    Sun Tzu: Yes, things which have thoroughly permeated military strategy for a couple of thousand years will seem obvious to people with the benefit of the last century of information exchange. I would consider this to be, in turn, “the bleedin’ obvious”. Doesn’t mean that being reminded of the basics (from whatever source) is a bad thing…

    Comic: I don’t think we get given a clear enough view of the scene to tell whether they had enough men to hold the chokepoint if the gates were opened fully. If they didn’t, then they will be unable to prevent themselves from being flanked in any case, and trying to prevent it would simply weaken their line. A circular formation would then actually be a good option.

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