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Crit Happens: Nat 1 Storytime (6/11/20)

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For having only a 5 percent chance of occurring, I feel like rolling a natural 1 happens way too often, and often during the most inopportune times. Not that it's ever really convenient. But wouldn't we all rather use a nat 1 to convince the barkeep to give us a drink for free, rather than on our death saving throws and battles with the BBEG?

To the uninitiated, let me help translate what I just said. A 'natural 1,' or 'nat 1,' is what DnD players fear in critical moments. When we roll a 20-sided die, if you roll a 20, you automatically succeed at whatever you are attempting-- usually. On the other side of the spectrum, however, if you are unfortunate enough to roll a 1, you automatically fail at your action, often with penalties or dire consequences. These can range anywhere from mild inconvenience to a total game over.

So, story time! I was the DM of a group of adventurers who found themselves in a haunted wood. Around them swirled tendrils of an unsettling mist, shrouding them in whispering darkness. The expanse of towering trees stretched on forever, and the conspicuous lack of breeze made the sound of creatures stirring in the distance too readily apparent. Above, the canopy spread too thickly to allow the sun to shine through, although it seems that the sun had never shined in this place. After two in-game days of wandering and amazingly wisdom checks, the party came upon a dark curtain of slithering vines.

The wizard, being cautious, cast Detect Magic on the vines, and after a fairly high roll, easily determined that the vines were animated with some kind of enchantment. Seeing no other avenue they hadn't already tried, the party blessed and inspired one another, readying for initiative. The resident barbarian, with easily the highest strength of the group, decided to touch the vines with his axe. Big mistake. Roll a dexterity saving throw.

Nat 1.

The vines quickly wound all around him, and the next turn he will suffer suffocation damage. Seeing their comrade squeezed alive by magical vines, the party jumps into action. Every idea, from every single player, results in a low roll, not enough to untangle or cut loose the barbarian, nor stop the magic on the vines. For this instance, I had prepared a list of assigned outcomes for the various magical plants in the woods, upon the party's failure to save anyone who became entangled. A 20 meant instant death.

Guess what I rolled?

The cleric did have the components for revivify, so he ended up OK, although a bit more cautious!

Tell me your worst critical fail stories in the comments below!

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