The phrase “critical hit” or crit, and to a lesser extent “critical fail” (or “fumble”, now), have been in the gaming lexicon since the original Empire of the Petal Throne (how’s that for an obscure game, just to tie in with yesterday!). There’s a blog with the name, a band, a game company, it’s on tee-shirts.

Playing a game your character might give or take a critical hit, but these can happen to the players, as well. The classic critical hit — you lose a character you’ve had for a long time and have gotten to know. It’s rarely a going out heroically moment in old school Dungeons & Dragons — it’s almost always the milk run, the filler encounter the GM tossed together that winds up be fuckin’ lethal.  Sometimes it’s that great level 1 concept you just came up with that walks through a buzzsaw. It can be traumatic. You lost something you created and invested thought, time, and emotion into.

For GM’s, it can be the players ignoring the fantastic plot and/or McGuffin you spent all weekend prepping for game, and they just want to schmooze the tavern girl, or they lock onto some random NPC you trotted out for local color, and now they are fixated on this guy and what he’s about. And what he’s about is the having the depth of a greeting card. Worse, you’ve build up the big bad and the snuff his ass before he can give you the big quest, or otherwise sideline your fantastic denouement. (For more on this, see the 0:50 mark below…)

Worse is when you prep up a game, put time and effort into the story, the NPCs, you map things out — it’s work! — only to have people regularly bail on the game. Or your work/life schedule doesn’t allow for play time. Maybe, even worse, the players aren’t into it. The game just falters and you have the choice or dumping the campaign or overhauling it. It’s upsetting.

Or the game group falls apart. We’ve had groups blow apart due to change of stations in the military, divorce — where friends either drift away to avoid the drama, or take sides; people move away, they have new schedules. If you can’t keep a regular schedule, gaming groups die…especially if the game is the only thing bringing you together. It’s one of the reasons I believe gaming groups should do other things together — be friends, not just gaming buddies. Friendships last if they’re build on more than one thing.

What was your critical hit?