Sometimes Lady Luck turns her back on you. If you’ve ever played a tabletop RPG that uses a dice-based rule set, then you know how quickly a dice roll can cause events to go to hell for a character or group of characters. This is a dedication to those events and the poor characters who strive to make it through the awful situations that we, as players, subject them to. Maybe it hasn’t happened to you. Maybe it’s happened to someone you know. One thing is certain – eventually, we all discover our dice don’t have our best interests at heart. It’s not a question of if it happens to you, but when it happens to you…
Just after high school, my crazy circus of friends and I decided to step into the world of the Call of Cthulhu RPG. Worse yet, we decided to play as ourselves. The idea came to us during a discussion of what we each felt our real-life skills and capabilities would translate to as ability scores, skills, and feats. Thus the first night began with character sheets printed, pencils in hand, and a long roundtable discussion of who had what scores. An hour or two later (probably three), the dust of character creation had settled and the story got to brewing.
Let’s fast forward to about a week into the game’s story. For the protagonists we’ll use the names Andrew, Chris, Ken, and Mitchell. The quartet found a strange cryptic book and then unusual things started happening to them, such as odd, shared dreams and the book appearing in places it shouldn’t be. They were being followed by oddly non-descript men and eventually attacked at gun-point. The two men died in the attack and Andrew was left in the hospital after being shot. The shared dreams and a combination of research all pointed to taking the book to Stonehenge to complete a ritual referred to in the book.
Shortly after returning to Andrew and Mitchell’s home, the trio had blown through what money they had buying plane tickets to England. Packing was interrupted by what seemed at first to be an earthquake. In a panic, the three grabbed their bags and ran for the front door, but the entire house had already fallen well below ground level. Frantically looking for a way out, the trio dropped their bags and ran back through the house. While searching for his flashlight from his bedroom in the basement, Mitchell called out that he could hear water. Moving aside the bed, they found a hole in the floor of the basement dropping down into pitch black water.
There was no time to grab the bags, so they grabbed the closest items they felt of use. Chris grabs Mitchell’s baseball bat, Ken grabs the book, and Mitchell grabs his flashlight. They jumped into the water and with the water-logged flashlight, found a way out. They were in a mammoth system of tunnels. The sound of constant movement on the tunnel’s ceiling but the light no longer bright enough to discern the source of the sound, left the group unnerved as they quietly made their way through. Mitchell, unable to take the uncertainty of what lurked above him, decided to throw the flashlight up toward the ceiling – if only for a glimpse…
At the game table:
At this point, Andrew, the person running the game, asks Mitchell how hard he wants to throw the light. Before anyone else has a chance to react, Mitchell rolls the die (and gets a natural 20) and explains he wants to throw it hard to make sure it gets up to the ceiling. The other players at the table shake their heads, eyes wide in disbelief. He throws the flashlight straight up into the ceiling with his full strength; it crashes into the ceiling of the tunnel and breaks. The light flickers as it falls back to the ground and the last thing seen is Chris swinging the baseball bat at Mitchell’s head (he missed by the way).
3 thoughts on “Your Dice Will Betray You – The Flashlight Incident”
In Mitchell’s defense, the natural 20 could have been interpreted not as the force with which he was launching the sole precious light source on this perilous journey, but as the efficiency with which he illuminated the targeted area. Of course another roll would’ve had to follow to determine if said precious light source could be caught upon its inevitable downward trajectory, but this does fall under the umbrella of “storyteller’s discretion,” and therefore while the action might have caused some shaking of heads, it was not necessarily an implausible choice…
That said, Mitchell will never live this down. In “light” of the context … that was … just … I still can’t … GAH!!!
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Had it not been for the comment of wanting to throw as hard as he could, I’m sure the next few hours of wandering through the tunnels would’ve gone a lot differently. That being said, I think just about every character has a uh-oh moment due to their player’s rolls.
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