This is what happens in Tabletop RPGs when the Game Master gets utterly fed up with the players: he kills them all spectacularly.
Precisely what drives a GM to this extreme varies. Perhaps somebody was a Rules Lawyer once too often. Perhaps the gaming group mocked his plotting skills a bit too much. The players might have spent all their time going everywhere but where the plot wants them to. Maybe the group consisted entirely of Munchkins. Maybe they didn't like that "totally awesome" GMPC as much as the GM did and tried to kill him in his sleep. Or maybe the players are just Too Dumb to Live. Or maybe, just maybe, the GM is a sadistic bastard who's determined to see the players fail at any cost.
Regardless of the cause, if the GM goes as far as Rocks Fall Everyone Dies, the campaign has failed on a grand scale. Maybe it's time to stop the metagaming, let somebody else GM, or just find a new gaming group altogether.
A lesser form of this trope can target just one particularly annoying player, often with a bolt of lightning. Since the GM is the local god, this works even if the target character is underground, in a Faraday cage and wearing a static discharge bracelet. Merely threatening players with lightning can also be effective in controlling players. The first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters' Guide even suggested using "blue bolts from the heavens" and "ethereal mummies" on PCs to keep their players in line.
The webcomic Something Positive is generally credited with bringing the phrase to the public consciousness in this strip. The underlying concept is rather older, having been seen in the extremely deadly AD&D adventure Tomb of Horrors in 1975 (and quite likely used by individual DMs even before that). This ending is a Tabletop Games form of Shoot the Shaggy Dog, or Kill 'em All when premeditated. A subtrope of Total Party Kill. When the players decide to detonate the game instead of the GM, it's Off the Rails. A nigh-unbeatable Beef Gate used this way is sometimes referred to as a "Grudge Monster" or "Grudge NPC."
Usually the direct inverse of "Dice fall, everyone rocks." Not to be confused with Big Rock Ending.
Referenced on 1d4chan, the archive for 4chan's /tg/ board on this page.
NOTE: This is not just a trope for everyone in a story dying. That is Kill 'em All.Also, do not add examples about the extinction of the dinosaurs. They are not a part of this trope. They too fall under Kill 'em All. Unless you believe God did it because dinosaurs were too sinful.
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Anime and Manga
Early in Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yami Bakura was an evil dungeon master whose goal was to steal his players' souls. When the series' protagonist managed to nearly beat him, he attempted to self-destruct and kill EVERYBODY. (The RPG allowed less freedom of rock-falling since it's played on a set game board.)
Every GM who isn't Patty Gauzwieler will pull this at one point or another in the comic. The most infamous is Weird Pete's Temple of Horrendous Doom, an obvious jab at the Tomb of Horrors.
One nice storyline, after the group pulled off some particularly annoying feat of munchkinry, rather than declaring a RFED, B.A. manipulates the characters that the same players play in his other, science fiction campaign, into nuking his fantasy world (and thus, their fantasy characters) into oblivion.
Averted when Weird Pete gets into a battle of wills with Sara over whether he can manage to kill off her player-character. After he arbitrarily declares the entire dungeon falls on her PC, Sara simply invokes a magical debt to survive it and then uses class level skills to begin digging her way out. When Bob asks Brian, "So who's losing?", Brian answers, "The architecture."
A deliciously silly Dragon Age: Origins fic on the BioWare boards here has Alistair as DM resort to this after a staggering amount of player stupidity from Morrigan, Sten, Wynne, and Oghren. "Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies" is actually the title.
River mentions this trope by name in the Firefly fic, Forward, when she's captured on Persephone and brought before Ornstintz, after intending to kill him. During her interrogation, when he comments on her foolishness for thinking she could come alone and kill him, she casually rattles off the names of several asteroids in unstable orbits she could have very easily destabilized and targeted him with.
River: Rocks fall, everyone dies.
Knowledge is Power: This is literally how the author kills off the cast in the original timeline.
Towards the end of The Fall, after Alexandria fell trying to steal pills, Roy killed off all of the characters of the story in brutal ways. Fortunately, Alexandria stepped in and took over the story.
A story passed around the Internet for about two decades now about a GM who killed a player character because of his player's architectural ignorance: Not knowing what a "gazebo" was, the player decided to attack it rather than, say, ask what it was. After numerous attacks with no effect, the player decided to leave, at which point the GM announced, "It's too late. You have awakened the gazebo. It catches you and eats you."
Referenced in the Steve Jackson card game Munchkin, where a Gazebo really is an enemy monster that players may encounter. A rather scary one, too. And if you try to run away from it and fail, it really will pounce and kill you.
"You must face the Gazebo—ALONE."
Also referenced in Nodwick at one point; in one of the last few issues, a gazebo was the location of a fault in space-time which an evil god planned to exploit.
The comical D&D supplement Portable Hole Full of Beer actually includes monster stats for "The Dread Gazebo".
As well as in the Order of the Stick board game, where you can accidentally land on the Gazebo and wake it up, if you're not careful.
Also referenced in Dungeons & Dragons Online.
A similar story◊ was provided by a demotivator: after a wizard forgot what a "gong" was and began hurling magic missiles at one (sample dialogue: "A sonic attack! Quick, everyone, cover your ears!"); the DM responds, "OK, while you're distracted the door sneaks up behind you and slits your throat."
One story tells of a player who was annoyed by the DM, the Dungeonmaster's Girlfriend, the DM's and his girlfriend's characters and possibly the whole campaign and contrived to covertly gather massive quantities of explosives using innocuous ingredients including barrels of stale urine. Using some advanced chemistry and geometry knowledge, the player managed to turn the city in the valley where the player party as well as every NPC of note stood into a crater, forcing the DM to say "Rocks fall, everyone dies."
Robert Fulghum describes telling a story to his children. He thought he had finished conclusively and the kids were asleep, only to hear them ask for "the rest of the story." He would resort to apocalypse. "Suddenly a comet hit the earth and blew everything to pieces." A moment of silence, and someone would ask "What happened to the pieces?"
In the children's-book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid the mother of the protagonist, Gregory, forces his big brother Roderick to play Dungeons & Dragons with Gregory. (Long story.) Gregory is prepared for the worst game-session of all time, when Roderick, who happens to be player AND GM in this session, just decides that all the adventurers fall into a hole filled with dynamite and die in the very first turn. Gregory is relieved.
Live Action TV
Frasier. In a variation on this, Niles got so upset at Frasier's over-directing a radio play in "Ham Radio", he decided to take action.
Niles: Okay, that's it. Never mind all that. I'm just going to take this gun off the table. (fake gunshot) Sorry about that, O'Toole; I guess we'll never hear your fascinating piece of the puzzle. (two fake gunshots) Or yours, Kragan and Peppo! Could the McCallister sisters stand back to back? I'm short on bullets. (fake gunshot) Thank you. (to Roz) What was your name again, dear?
Roz: Mithuth Thorndyke.
Niles: Thank you. (fake gunshot) Oh, and also Mr. Wing. (fake gunshot, and sound of muted bell on Mr. Wing's hat) And, of course, one final bullet for myself, so the mystery will die with me. (fake gunshot. Niles taunts Frasier) HA.
The previous DM is Infinity Game did this to his world by wiping out everybody except D.D./Trishia, an NPC, but mostly because he was insane and bored. This killed the players, who were in the game at the same time, in real life.
Jason does this to Paige in one FoxTrot strip, purely to annoy her. After a week's worth of strips setting up the game, Jason causes the cave to collapse and kill the entire party after Paige's very first turn.
Jason: Your bodies will remain undiscovered for...*roll roll roll*...82 centuries!
This could also be a reference to the classical adventure Tomb of Horrors where, yes, the very first door in the beginning paragraph has a collapsing trap that can kill you.
Steve Jackson Games's Toon actually has a table of 'Apocalyptic Big Finishes' in the back of the Toon Ace Catalog sourcebook, for when the characters don't quite make it to the end and you need a quick way to end things. Of course, no-one dies, but the principle's the same.
The Apocalypse Stone was a Second Edition Dungeons & Dragons module deliberately designed for DMs that wanted to do this, in preparation for starting over with Third Edition. In it, the players steal a MacGuffin that triggers the end of the world. They can undertake quests to prove they are worthy to die heroically, but in the canonical ending, can't really do anything to prevent the world from imploding. However, the book included several cop-out scenarios to save things at the last minute in case the DM gets cold feet (or is being threatened with death himself...)
In the Call of Cthulhu boardgame Arkham Horror, the players race to seal gates opening in the town of Arkham before a Great Old One (randomly decided at the start of the game) awakens and they have to fight it, which is difficult but (sometimes) possible to win. If the Great Old One threatening to awaken is Azathoth, however, the players automatically and instantly lose if he awakens, as his first "attack" is to destroy the world.
The magnificently awful tabletop RPG FATAL has for the highest level caster job the spell F.A.T.A.L., which kills everything on whichever horrible planet the game is set... obviously including the caster and his fellow party members. Now, if only all their campaigns started that way...
FATAL could probably actually work as a substitute for this.
This is the typical ending of many Paranoia missions where the players have somehow managed against all odds to squeak through with some of their backup clones intact. Actually, speaking of those clones, sometimes this is how the mission starts.
Paranoia is an odd case here. Rather than being a sign that the GM is doing his job poorly, this is seen as a sign that the game will be very good.
In Baldur's Gate 2, the game summons Arkanis Gath to immediately One-Hit Kill you if you attack any characters that are necessary to advance the plot. This is basically a way to prevent players from getting stuck if they kill someone who prevents them from advancing the plot. In the original, of course, doing that causes them to be replaced by Biff the Understudy.
In the 550-point and 580-point versions of Colossal Cave, you are warned not to use a particular magic word near water. If you ignore that warning, the most likely result is that you will turn into a jellyfish and die; but there's a small chance that the entire dungeon will collapse on you, your extra lives will be revoked, and you'll be summarily ejected from the game.
Persona 3's Bonus Boss has some very specific (if unwritten) rules about the kinds of Persona and attacks you can and can't use. If any of these rules are broken, the boss will heal themselves back to maximum, then use Megidolaon to hit you for 9999 damage, killing you instantly.
The Star Wars-based MUDLegends of the Jedi once used a Chiss invasion to kill off the galaxy during its annual timeline reset. In this case, though, the admins did it because they wanted to do something interesting instead of just having everyone's characters vanish into the night.
Note that a Chiss invasion is something just as logical as rocks falling out of the blue and killing everything. This race practices martial pacifism according to all canon sources.
The ending to the original campaign for Neverwinter Nights 2 seems to be a sort of homage to this trope; after you kill the Final Boss, the temple collapses, killing over half your party (Casavir, Elanee, Grobnar, the Construct, Bishop, Qara, and maybe Zhjaeve, for those curious) and causing the Player Character to disappear, never to be seen again. (In this case, "never" lasted as long as it took the developers to make an expansion pack.) Being a Dungeons & Dragons game, it's exactly the kind of ending a Trolling Creator would design.
In Borderlands 2, the beginning of the D&D-themed DLC Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep has Tina doing this at the beginning of her campaign, where she introduces a dragon that can't be damaged and downs you with a single attack. She's then told by Lilith that as the DM, she can't kill the party off right at the beginning, at which point Tina revives the player and replaces the dragon with a midget skeleton.
The beginning of Fallout: New Vegas DLC Honest Hearts begins with your entire caravan being killed in an ambush once they reach Zion Valley.
In an early strip, he threatens to strike everyone with 2d6 lightning damage when the players refuse to stop quoting Monty Python. It doesn't work, because Legolas sees the violence inherent in the system. The DM finally gives in and refers to him as a "Bloody peasant!"
"Rocks fall, everyone dies" has become GM shorthand for "stop whatever it is you're doing before I lose my last shred of patience and kill you all" over the years.
Similarly, if a lone player/character is the cause of the problems, the GM may threaten him with "Purple Lightning from the Heavens" rather than doom everybody.
After having the last campaign torn apart in one session and ragged with frustration at the nitpicking of the current one, the DM of Friendship is Dragonsturns to this. Fitting that Applejack's last statement before she sets the DM off is the classic Tempting Fate line of "Trust me, I know what I'm doing."
In the French audio webseries Reflets d'Acide, one character has a nightmare of the GM punishing him with the French equivalent, the falling necropolis. The advantage of the necropolis over rocks is that if the character(s) somehow survive the falling damage from the necropolis, then they have to survive the zombies inside, then the lich lord...
Darwin's Soldiers features a mild version of this the end of the second RP when Crimson Base levels Pelvanida with a massive airstrike. Word of God states this was done because the GM wanted the RP to end and it was starting to drag on.
Non-RPG example: Paul Twisteruses this word-for-word to describe a nasty trap involving boulders levitated by magic, hovering over some treasure that he needs to retrieve, but if he does, his Anti-Magic will disrupt the spells...