Tuesday, April 5, 2011

E is for Epic... Epic Fail!!!

Today, for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge, I am here to talk about Epic, brought to you by the letter "E".  In RPG terms, especially D&D, Epic is used to denote the highest levels of a campaign, or adventure.  If you have played Epic D&D, especially in 3rd and 4th Edition, you know that this type of roleplaying puts your characters into such crazy high levels of power that they are fighting demons, dragons, and devils for breakfast.  Epic is the territory of the gods and it's pretty good from the top.

But, you know, Epic is something so far out of reach for most people, that I really don't want to focus on providing advice to people who are interested in running Epic Tier 4th Edition D&D games.  If you are interested, or looking for advice on that, you can get it elsewhere.  Let me direct you to Sly Flourish.  He has written an entire book about running Epic Tier games.  I haven't gotten a chance to read the book yet, but I'd really like to.

 What I do want to talk about today is the use of Epic in conjunction with my favorite internet popularized term, FAIL!!  In this case, Epic is used to mean "Impressively Great!" or "Of unusally great size or extent."  We can also use Epic with the word Win, for the combined, "Epic Win".  Now, let's take a break so we are all on the same page in terms of understanding the meaning of these terms.

Wasn't that lovely. I thought it would be easier to show that rather than simply try to explain what all of that means.  But, what does this mean for you and your RPG adventures?  Am I getting completely off track from my goal of providing advice for adventures??


I think, that in every adventure you run, you need to leave enough room for their to be an Epic Fail once in a while.  Honestly, Epic failures of players are some of the most memorable things that you will ever see in RPG's.  Really, anything that stands out as being memorable to your players is a good thing.  Maybe you're familiar with the phrase "any publicity is good publicity" well, I think that kind of applies to this situation, but from a slightly twisted angle.  If your player digs himself a hole, or rolls so badly that it ends in an Epic Fail situation, than that player will absolutely remember that situation, and probably won't think badly of you, the DM, because of it.  Sure, that Epic Failure might result in character death, but, hell, it's a game right?  Sometimes, if the dice just roll all 1's, maybe that character really is destined to die.  Better let the dice gods win.

Now, don't assume that I am saying you should outright encourage your players to fail so that they will remember your games, but give them the opportunity to fail in creative and horrible ways so that those fails wills be EPIC enough that they remember them.  A great way to make this possible is through the creative use of random tables.  You might be familiar with Critical Hit and Fumble Charts; many RPG's don't integrate these directly into the rules, as is the case with 3rd and 4th edition D&D, but most gamers have their own house rules for how to use these charts in a home game.  Check out this article on Critical Hits and Fumbles and you can get a pretty good idea of how you might be able to incorporate these kind of rules into your game.

I'm a big advocate of even going beyond just critical hit and fumble charts by using items that generate random  effects.  You might be familiar with the Deck of Many Things (who am I kidding, of course you are familiar with it) or the Wand of Wonders.  These old school items have their roots way back in D&D and are seeing a lot more focus now that the D&D encounters series is putting them into the foreground of the hobby again.  Items like this are just made of Epic Fail/Win.  They can generate some really, really awesome results.  Chances are, if players remember the Epic Fail that occurred in a specific adventure, they will remember the adventure a lot better.  You might have heard R.A. Salvatore recount his Wubba Wubba story regarding his experience with the Wand of Wonders. If you haven't, go listen to it.  If that isn't a great example of EPIC Fail, I don't know what is. (the audio on that video is only so-so, there is a better version available on the WotC podcast, but I'm not sure exactly which one it was... too long ago. Regardless, check it out.)



  1. Lord help me, what's funny is when you see the Epic Fail coming, know the player's are screwing-up on a truly monumental level, wonder how they could possibly be so blind and play out those last few minutes, waiting for realization to slap them in the face. :)

  2. Yup, those are some of the most memorable for me. As the DM I always enjoy watching the Epic Fail go down.