Webcomic: DM of the Rings
"Lord of the Rings is more or less the foundation of modern
D&D. The latter rose from the former, although the two are now so estranged that to reunite them would be an act of savage madness. Imagine a gaggle of modern hack-n-slash roleplayers who had somehow never been exposed to the original Tolkien mythos, and then imagine taking those players and trying to introduce them to Tolkien via a
— The Blurb for the first strip
According to DM of the Rings
, The Lord of the Rings
wouldn't make a good Dungeons & Dragons campaign
Think about it. Loads of Backstory
, few battles
, limited treasure (even if you aren't expecting a Monty Haul
campaign), and lots and lots of talking (since many events are told to others after the fact).
To a player whose rules are Play the Game, Skip the Story
and RPGs Equal Combat
, this would make for a frustrating game. But it makes a great comic.DM of the Rings
uses screen captures of the films and places them in the format of a comic book. The comic never shows the faces of the players (although the short-lived original follow up, Chainmail Bikini
did). Instead, we see shots of the films as actions the players are taking.
The comic doesn't really satirize The Lord of the Rings
as much as it makes fun of the the way roleplaying
sessions tend to go, especially the struggle between the Game Master
and players. It's been described as an overall example of how not
to conduct a campaign in general.
Other works by the author
include Chainmail Bikini
, Stolen Pixels
, Spoiler Warning
and the column "Experienced Points"
at The Escapist
This comic has inspired several Follow the Leader
comics applying the formula to other works, notably TV Tropes
semi-favorite Darths & Droids
. It is the Trope Maker
and Trope Codifier
for the Campaign Comic
DM of the Rings provides examples of the following tropes:
- Accidental Misnaming/Malicious Misnaming
- Players keep screwing up the names.
Gimli: My name is Gimli, son of Groin.
- Done on purpose when they first meet Legolass... Leggo of my ass... Legolas.
Aragorn: He should have named you Leggo of my ass, because you're going to be saying that a lot.
- And then getting the names right, but referring to them wrong.
Aragorn: Hail to the king, baby! Aragorn, son of Andúril, is back!
DM: Andúril is the name of your sword, dumbass.
- Frodo would like to remind you that his name is not Dave.
- They also confuse Saruman with Sauron, leading them to think the game is over when they kill Saruman. (Granted, it was a common mistake in real life.)
- Aggressive Negotiations: The unnamed DM becomes rather upset at the heroes for killing Saruman, Wormtongue, and the Mouth of Sauron in parley.
Yeah, let's speed this up. (kills the Mouth of Sauron
What? You attack him? During parlay? What is wrong with you guys? This is the third time you've killed someone during negotiations! Legolas:
And yet they keep falling for it! It's hilarious. DM:
You're supposed to be a king! Can't you at least pretend
to be one for a few seconds? Aragorn:
If I hadn't shot him, Legolas would have. Legolas:
He's right, too. I was just about to announce my attack.
- All There in the Manual: The DM has most of the important story points in notes he wants the players to read, but of course they refuse.
- Anything That Moves: Sometimes, Aragorn's tendency to mistake elves for women is taken as this.
Théoden: Aragorn, we are in no position to turn away friends, no matter how disturbingly attractive you find them.
- Then later:
Aragorn: They're (dryads) like sexy tree ladies.
Legolas: Sexy? I thought they had leaves for hair. And bark skin.
Aragorn: Yeah, but they're all chicks. Naked chicks. Leafy, naked tree chicks.
Gimli: Ye need help lad. Ye really do. Keep this up and you'll end up with Dutch elm disease.
- Anti-Climax Boss: In-Universe. The party views Saruman as this, before the DM has to tell them that the campaign doesn't end with them killing him.
- Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: Subverted. Gandalf states that the main characters have to go on the offensive against Sauron to keep his eye fixed on the West so the halflings can do their stuff. Aragorn, who's sick of Gandalf and isn't listening, overrules him out of hand and reveals his own plan... Which is to go on the offensive and "beat on [Sauron] until he cries like a little girl".
The best sort of player revolt is when they refuse to listen to your advice, but end up doing what you wanted them to do anyway.
- Automaton Horses: Discussed
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Aragorn wants to sleep with Éowyn. So the DM lets him... and then tells him to make a fortitude saving throw vs. disease.
- Blood Knight: Legolas goes immediately to Attack Mode whenever the party encounters something. He shoots at Gollum, Grima and Saruman (and kills them) when he's not supposed to, and would have picked a fight with the army of undead if Gimli didn't stop him.
- But Thou Must: A warped example. Aragorn is fine with Éowyn coming along with him leaving her people behind, which is clearly not what he's supposed to do. The DM is not prepared for this so she ends up having both sides of the argument about her duty vs her desire and Aragorn loses patience and leaves.
- Butt Monkey: Both Dave/Frodo and Legolas qualify, although in different ways. In-game, Frodo has comically bad luck with his die rolls and takes a lot of hits, while out-of-game, the other players keep making jokes about Legolas being either gay or a woman.
- Campaign Comic This is the Trope Maker for RPG comics retelling other media.
- Canon Sue: In-universe, that's how the players view Gandalf.
- Character Alignment: Gimli states that he is Lawful Good. Legolas is supposed to be as well, but his Blood Knight tendencies make it dubious.
- Cliché Storm: In-Universe. Even the tropes that were made by the books, and thus not cliches at the time, become RPG clichés in the hands of the DM.
- Critical Failure
- When they first meet the riders of Rohan, Gimli rolls a 1 on diplomacy and addresses them with "tell me your name, horse f—" "GIMLI!". What makes it even funnier is that Gimli's player said that on his own accord. He was role-playing his own critical failure.
- Then there's the time Aragorn rolls a 1 on falling off a Warg and therefore he can't fall off, which means he rides it over the cliff instead.
- Also when Legolas tries to shoot Saruman. Subverted in that the DM ends up raving about how he killed Saruman before realizing Legolas scored a 1, so he changed it into killing Gríma instead.
- Cultural Translation: There is a French translation of the Webcomic in which the 58th page "It is a silly place" has all the Monty Python and the Holy Grail references replaced by references to Kaamelott.
- Cutscene: This is basically how the DM wanted to run the game, and actually did it in a couple scenes, like when Gandalf freed Théoden (which we do not see here due to the focus shifting to Aragorn trying to get laid with Éowyn - only Gimli mentions it later).
- Cutting the Knot: The players come up with increasingly ludicrous (and hilarious) ways to do this to the entrance of the Mines of Moria rather than come up with the password (which the DM ends up screaming at them in frustration).
- Deadpan Snarker: Everyone.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: Not shown, but it's implied that this is how they get rid of the Mûmak, as everyone keeps stabbing its toes instead of going with Legolas' idea of climbing up the creature and stab it in the eyes.
- Deep-Immersion Gaming
- Discredited Meme:
My own suggestion for the 4.0 edition rules: Anyone who quotes Holy Grail during a session should be made to eat their own character sheet.
- After readers started doing the "first!" thing, Shamus started preemptively posting "first" in a variety of snarky ways. Like an image of Steven Furst.
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Legolas gets this a lot from Aragorn... make that everyone.
- Dull Surprise : strip LXIV
- Even Nerds Have Standards
- Face Palm: Frodo in strip X.
- Faux To Guide: A lot of the blurbs present bad roleplaying as the proper thing to do.
Remember, nothing will spice up your campaign quicker than long descriptions of NPCs doing spectacular stuff while the players sit around and watch.
Players tend to stay on the rails better when you place obvious landmines on either side of the tracks.
- Follow the Leader: Darths & Droids, Benders And Brawlers, One Piece Grand Line 3 Point 5, and Friendship is Dragons are just a few.
- Game Breaker: Gandalf. So much so, the first idea the party has when first meeting the Balrog is to leave him behind to fight it alone. And he survives!
- Genre Savvy: Well... kind of the whole point really. For extra comedy, the characters get occasional Wrong Genre Savvy moments.
- Give a Man a Fish...: In the blurb beneath this comic, where Aragorn is given something, the Palantír, and complains how hard it will be to sell.
: Give a player a fish, and he’ll probably try to sell it to an NPC fisherman... Teach a player to fish, and next week he’ll show up with the book, “The Complete Adventuring Fisherman”. He’ll start hunting for some monstrous leviathan to catch and enslave, and he’ll be dual-wielding two fishing poles.
- GMPC: Gandalf
- Grave Robbing: Of course. Gimli even tries to bust open the tombs of his ancestors with his axe.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Aragorn's Backpack.
- Hypocritical Humor: When Gimli invokes Loophole Abuse so the players can perform a Fastball Special...
Aragorn: Good one, Gimli. Nice to get a fair ruling once in a while.
Gimli: Fair? Ha! Back when I was a DM, I never would have let my players get away with something like this.
- I Die Free: Boromir, because Frank refuses to roll a new character on the grounds that he's finally not being railroaded any more.
- If You Die, I Call Your Stuff: Discussed when Gimli is searching the dead orcs for loot. Author's comment for the same strip provides one of the page's quotes, even.
Gimli: Because our little halfling buddies are in here somewhere, and I know they had some good stuff.
Legolas: Dibs on their cloaks!
- Imagine Spot
- Legolas killing the Mûmak is presented entirely as a player suggestion for fighting, which is immediately shot down.
- In Spite of a Nail: Despite Legolas killing Gollum during the events of Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo and Sam still make it through Mordor and into Mount Doom though it's partially because their players quit and the DM turned them into NPCs.
- It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The DM explains how the four hobbits met Aragorn in an inn, on a dark and stormy night. The four of them immediately decry how clichéd this set-up is.
- Jerkass: Everyone is this in one way or another, but the DM takes the cake. Everyone else's tendencies can essentially be blamed on him anyway, as most of their own jerkass moments are provoked by his railroading.
- Mistaken Identity: The players frequently confuse the two pairs of hobbits, the two wizards, and almost anything else.
- Munchkin: Legolas.
Legolas: Side? Man, I'll follow whoever can score us some loot and a fair fight.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: Gimli's introduction of the party to Théoden has this. This is as much because Gimli just doesn't care enough to remember Gandalf (as he is an NPC).
Gimli: Greetings, wise King Théogan. I am Gimli and these are my companions Aragorn and Legolas.
DM: And Gandalf.
Gimli: Right. And Gandalf.
- Mythology Gag: The DM asks why Aragorn isn't using Andúril (the reforged sword of his ancestor). Aragorn asks when he got that and the DM realizes he forgot to give it to him at Rivendell, leading to a hasty visit from Elrond at the Rohirrim camp. This is a reference to the differences between the books (where Aragorn got Andúril at Rivendell) and the movie (where they had to have Elrond visit him at the camp).
- In general, the comic follows the idea that the book represents the DM's original script for the campaign, and movie changes represent instances where the players go Off the Rails.
- No-Gear Level: Unfortunately, the players know what's coming next.
Legolas: Anytime they want you to disarm before meeting the King, it means somebody's going to start something once you get inside.
Gimli: I wouldn't worry about it. He already agreed to let Gandalf in with his staff, so it doesn't matter if we're armed or not.
- Nothing but Skulls: Skewered a scene from the movie showing the Paths of the Dead.
DM: The walls crack open, and thousands of skulls are released! Legolas: Oh, Crap
. DM: They tumble down from above, forming a great avalanche of death. The horrid sight is— Aragorn:
Skulls? Like, only
skulls? DM: Yeah. Aragorn:
But that makes no sense! [...] Gimli:
I'll bet this was a robust culture
. Imagine their funerals... "Oops, Granny's dead, let's lop off her head and chuck it into the big bin to be dropped on adventurers."[...] DM: The skulls continue to pour in, filling the room and threatening to crush your nitpicking, over-analyzing characters. Aragorn:
No problem, I'll just roll my saving throw vs. ridiculous contrivances.
- Off the Rails: Defied by the DM most of the time, save for when the players get the drop on him. Like when Legolas gets a critical/max damage and ends up OHKO-ing Gollum.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Spoofed in strip CX.
- Perpetual Poverty: The party is really unlucky when it comes to looting. And really frustrated about it.
Legolas: How's the looting going?
Gimli: I've searched all the bodies (read: a pile of scorched orcs), and we got just enough gold to buy an ale.
Legolas: You mean one for each of—
Gimli: To share.
- Play the Game, Skip the Story: In-Universe. The players have virtually no interest in the story or roleplaying whatsoever. Even the actual roleplayer of the group find the story too railroaded to be of any interest.
- Precision F-Strike: The "Horsefucker" joke.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!
Aragorn: So I'm just saving time: I. Kill. An. Orc.
DM: ATTENTION! Corsairs. Are. Sailing. Ships. OKAY?
- Radial Asskicking: The tactical... originality of this maneuver in Real Life is lampshaded.
- Railroading: A really blatant case. Justified in that (according to the first strip) the DM has read Tolkien, the players haven't, and the DM is trying to introduce it to them through the medium of an RPG. A good idea in theory. This early premise, however, is quickly abandoned in favor of the suggestion that the DM wrote the story himself; apparently, LOTR does not exist as a book in the world of the comic, despite being the precursor to D&D and a major Trope Codifier for modern fantasy.
- One of the most obvious examples. The DM clearly has a big conversation planned between Gandalf and Wormtongue. After Wormtongue's first line, Gimli's player steps forward, interrupts Gandalf's response, and introduces the party. The DM repeats Wormtongue's line and continues with Gandalf's response as if that simply didn't happen.
Legolas: Oh no. It looks like we've entered a non-interactive cutscene.
Aragon: Entered? We've been in one since Rivendell.
Gimli: I don't suppose we can hit X to skip? (Gandalf keeps talking to Théoden) I guess not.
- Gimli resists one attempt by metagaming.
- One amusing version comes at the scene where Éowyn asks to join the group. Aragorn is totally okay with it, but the GM keeps on acting like he followed the novel and said no. After a few attempts at straightening things out, he eventually just writes her off as a nut and leaves.
- Reading Ahead in the Script: Turned into a pretzel in strip XXIX when the DM reads the "Gandalf Returns" script instead of Galadriel's. Upon realizing his mistake, he tells the players to forget what they heard, but they weren't listening anyway.
- The Real Man: Aragorn
- Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: Used as the punchline in strip CV.
- The Roleplayer: Gimli
- Running Gag: Lots.
- Aragorn pretending male elves are chicks.
- Legolas' name and gender.
- "I hate this campaign!"
- The lack of brothels in all the towns. Also, the fact that they all suck.
- The DM rambling on while the players talk amongst themselves.
- Rules Lawyer: Happens a lot. The DM will do it to keep everyone buckled up in the campaign and the players to either annoy the DM (such as an instance Gimli argued against disturbing the army of the dead because it was against his and Legolas's in-character morals), or to cheat like a bandit (such as Aragorn convincing the DM that they took their horses through the caves, onto a boat and throughout Gondor, despite never using or riding them the entire way from there to Gondor).
- Schrödinger's Gun: Gimli in strip LXXIII, when the dice fall in an unfortunate spot.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!
- The game has eight players at one point, and by the end only three remain.
- The comic was originally supposed to end with all but one player leaving the campaign, so he then goes off to play MechWarrior.
- Even Aragorn almost does this at the very end, before he learns of his Awesome Moment of Crowning.
- Players Gone: Boromir (because he's dead and wants to stay that way; see I Die Free), Frodo (because Dave wanted to play a Star Wars campaign, with him DM'ing), Sam, Merry, and Pippin (who went with Dave).
- The hobbits eventually return late in the game, but this time, they are NPCs.
- Screw You, Elves!: After a long rant about how the elves' town sucks in comic XXXII, the following occurs:
- Seinfeld Is Unfunny: In regards to The Lord of the Rings influencing D&D, as Aragorn comments that the party has been fighting nothing but orcs (also, the blind pond squid being called Watcher):
Aragorn: Whoever wrote this story has no imagination at all!
- Shaggy Dog Story: After everything the players have gone through, nothing they do in the end matters and the story is determined by Frodo (who at that point is an NPC) succeeding at a will save. Aragorn and Gimli are not amused, but Legolas thinks it's hardcore.
- Shall I Repeat That?: Actually defied once. When none of the players were paying attention when Elrond was giving them the backstory at the Council of Elrond. When they're asked what to do with the One Ring, no-one even has a clue where the conversation went, and Aragorn makes the mistake of asking the DM to repeat...
As you wish. I shall repeat my tale. Gimli: NO!
I mean... Heh.
- Speech Bubbles Interruption: Happens almost every time to the DM when he attempts to tell the story, and it all starts in the first panel of the comic.
- Stupid Sexy Flanders: Aragorn thinks all elf chicks are hot. Even when he knows they're male.
- Suddenly Always Knew That: The solution to the corsair problem? Aragorn knows how to sail ships, despite being nominally a ranger. Not that he cared to know it in the first place.
DM: If you ever read your backstory you'd see it makes perfect sense.
Aragorn: Nice try, but I'm not quite desperate enough to read that thing just yet.
- That strip also lampshades an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole in the movies, since in the book, there were far more people sailing the ships than just Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Éomer says he hasn't seen the two hobbits... right after reciting their names, which even the players have forgotten, and which he couldn't possibly know except if the PCs told him. Of course, this is an unintended example, speaking more of the DM's ineptude than anything, because he lets the players assume they told him rather than giving them the names and telling them to ask again.
- Take Your Time: Three days after the armies left Minas Tirith for Mordor, the DM reminds Aragorn that he forgot to heal Éowyn and the hobbits that were wounded in the previous battle. So, instead of leaving them to their fate, he decides to go all the way back, heal them and come back, leaving the army waiting on the road for six in-game days without any consequences.
- Talking Is a Free Action
- Subverted by Legolas, who manages to kill Wormtongue and Saruman while the latter was trying to make a speech.
- Played straight in strip LXXXVIII.
- Took the Bad Film Seriously: In-Universe example. Well, took the bad campaign seriously. Gimli is the only player who pays attention to the plot, even if he claims he hates it.
- Most of all the DM. Much of the general low quality of the campaign is a direct result of him doing this.
- Trope Maker: The "movie as an RPG" comic.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Strip LXXXIII. Is also a Crowning Moment of Awesome for Gimli and elicits an Oh, Crap from Legolas.
- Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Lampshaded.
- Unusual Euphemism
- "Conan's Codpiece!"
- Don't forget his "well-oiled nipples."
- Wall of Blather: Whenever the DM engages in narrative. Much of it is obscured by the players' ranting, because they don't give a damn. Including in the very first page, which (tries to) establish the setting.
- What's Up, King Dude?: Sam attempts to greet Celeborn and Galadriel this way, but is stopped by Frodo. Later, Aragorn does this by walking the streets of Minas Tirith and trying to have friendly chit-chat with the citizens.
- Won't Take "Yes" for an Answer: When Éowyn asks to join the Fellowship, the DM obviously expected the players to follow his script and say no, but Aragorn's player says "Sure, as long as you can fight." Obviously unable to deal with this, the DM continues to read Éowyn's scripted dialog, causing her to act like they rejected her despite Aragorn's increasingly frustrated attempts to say otherwise. Eventually the players have had enough and just walk away, muttering about her being a lunatic.
- World of Snark
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Parodied, as seen above.
Éomer: (played by the DM) My company are those loyal to Rohan, and for that we were banished.
Legolas: Oh man, sucks to be you.
DM: Oh, come on. You're not even trying [to stay in character]. I know you can do better than that.
Legolas: Hark, thy fate sucketh?
DM: That is... much worse.
- Also when Aragorn lifts the curse upon the King of the Dead and his legion:
Aragorn: Pleasure doing business with you.
Aragorn: I mean... I cancel your curse.
DM: Come on! You're a king! Roleplaying! Middle Ages!
Aragorn: I hereby... proclaimate... thy curse?
DM: Oh forget it.
Aragorn: I excommunicate your curse?
DM: I really need you to stop trying now.
- You All Meet in an Inn: One of the major divergences from the book is that this campaign starts out at the Prancing Pony.
Frodo: Please, please don't say we meet in a tavern.
DM: In a tavern called the Prancing Pony, an age-old meeting place...
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Done here when the players mistake Sauron for Saruman, and thus mistakenly think killing him means they've completed the quest.