As you can see, the prompt is a bit vague and awful. What kind of failure? A character’s failure that became amazing? A campaign that went awry and was repaired or resurrected? A terrible player that was replaced by a much better one? (Got a couple of those vignettes…) A character who was a failure but would be amazing?

Let’s do all of these!

The  failure I’ve ever seen in a game that most amazed everyone there was during our Stargate campaign (using the old James Bond rules). One of the characters was a fighter pilot and in the climactic battle over Antarctica from season whateverthehell, he’s kicking some butt. Then he biffs a roll — 00, a fail no matter what. He’s halfway to space, so I figure he’s got a few tests to pull out of this. On his safety test, 00. Balls. His F-302 is headed for the ice. He’s got time — no worries! Rolls the next pilot test.


I kid you not. Safety test: 00. Next pilot test: 00. Next safety test: 00. He’s getting perilously low now. He decides to ditch, and punches out. Pilot test to bail out.


The tail of his plane, which is in a flat spin hits him and kills him instantaneously, because we all agreed six consecutive 00s in the universe telling you to sit this one out. SIX. It’s statistically almost impossible for this to happen, and the mathematician in our group still says it didn’t happen, but there were seven of us who witnessed it. Could the dice have been strangely weighted? Almost certainly, in this case.

But it happened.

How about the failed campaign that was fixed: We had a “pilot” of a Hollow Earth Expedition game that used several of the same characters that would show up in a following iteration. In the first, however, they just didn’t work for some reason. It was fixing one character, by taking the big game hunter who had been super-competent and heroic, but without any real engaging flaws, and making him scrupulously honest and earnest that changed the tenor of the game and made it fly.

Player fail who was replaced with a better player: We had a guy who gamed with us for about six months, but who had such social anxieties he was shy and retiring and barely engaged, and who couldn’t eat with the rest of the group. He eventually bowed out, but recommended a school mate who turned out to be one of the better players I’ve had in a group in four decades — funny, smart, savvy to plot and genre conventions, and just a delight to be around. He eventually moved to Texas. Drat!

The last, is the character who was a failure but became amazing was out “Failed Jedi” in our ’90s Star Wars game. With the destruction of the Jedi, he had hidden in a bottle on a small world on the Outer Rim, drowning himself in booze and meaningless sex (which he got by using his Jedi mind tricks to make the women believe he was the greatest lover ever. Because messing with people’s minds with the Force — that’s apparently okay, but choking them? Bad. With the destruction of the Emperor, he climbed out of the bottle and eventually helped the New Republic destroy the last remnant of the empire.

He also had one of the best lines in a game: “[Character name] sends his love…and I’m here to deliver it.”