Reality Ensues: Tabletop Games

  • Any tabletop RPG player knows this can happen to the heroes or the villains. It doesn't matter how dramatic the story has made it, one lucky roll from either side can make a climactic showdown very, very brief. The extent to which this happens can tell a lot about the nature of a game and GM. Games that heavily avert this trope (such as Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars d20) tend to create a very heroic, action-movie like feel.
  • Grittier, meaner, more brutal games (The World of Darkness, Dark Heresy, Call of Cthulhu, and so on) intentionally invoke this trope to help create the feel of danger, failure, and high stakes. Some games, such as the old West End Games D6 Star Wars adaptation, have rules written to invoke this trope and then blatantly tell the GM to lie and keep the PC's relatively safe, allowing them to feel like reality may ensue when it probably won't. Some games even shoot to overplay this trope in the name of schadenfreude; for instance, in Paranoia, your character is incompetent, your boss is insane, and your teammates will throw you under the bus at the drop of a hat— so sure enough, you're guaranteed to suck, fail, and die repeatedly for laughs.
  • GURPS defaults to a gritty, dangerous rule system where this trope is in full force, and combat is lethal. But the GM can change that, for example by using the various Cinematic Combat rules, or ignoring the bleeding rules. And then there are the Silly Combat rules, which throw reality right out the window in favor of rules like Bulletproof Nudity, Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy (the Trope Namer), Infinite Ammunition, and Martial Arts Anonymous.
    • GURPS Discworld Also, in keeping with the books, notes that reality should ensue sometimes. If someone swings on a chandelier then either this will be an incredibly dramatic and impressive tactic or they'll find themselves dangling helplessly in front of a villain who comments they've read too many books.
  • Dungeons & Dragons generally averts this trope. However, when it comes to 2.5 Edition, if one were to implement the Critical Hit system from Combat & Tactics, players can find themselves in need of a resurrection spell fast. And, to make matters worse, depending on the type of damage inflicted (e.g., acid, fire, vibration) a player may require a Reincarnation spell, a wish spell or worse yet, a new character to continue playing.
    After all, what do you expect to happen when a 3rd level illusionist receives TRIPLE damage from a rampaging umber hulk's fists? Plus the damage an arrow through the throat can do, the horrific effects of the various kinds of dragon's breath, the many venomous/poisonous beasts, the long term effects of getting hit with a psionic attack, and let's not even get started with The Undead and the many ways they can kill a PC in one turn or less. While we're on the subject of creatures of the night, getting mauled by a werebeast will more likely end in a bloody death; becoming a therianthrope is a rather remote possibility.
  • An edition of Hackmaster averts No Arc in Archery by noting that shots at long enough distances need a high enough ceiling to not get in the way of the arrow's trajectory.
  • In-universe, this trope is a common lament of The Fair Folk in Exalted - Creation doesn't "play fair" and actually, well, enforces the consequences of their actions. In the Wyld, things work by dramatic rules, and a raksha can murder his friend, fall in love, or be eaten by tigers without actually needing to worry about the long-term effects. As a result, they are likely to be caught flat-footed when they walk into Creation and suddenly die, permanently, when they are killed.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • Dark Eldar Wyches are dressed Stripperiffically... and have exactly the kind of piss-poor armour save you'd expect in reality.
    • The setting makes full use of taking place over an entire galaxy, which is a bloody huge place. Massive wars fought over decades and dozens of systems and cost billions of lives, like the Sabbat Worlds crusade, are ultimately minor affairs that have little to no effect on the galaxy as a whole. Even ten thousand years later huge swaths of the galaxy are still unexplored or barely understood, with new civilizations discovered (and exterminated) on a regular basis. It takes months or years to travel any significant distance even with (almost) reliable FTL travel. And while the Imperium is most certainly dying, it's so big that it will take thousands of years to be destroyed completely.
    • Similarly, most people would be greatly surprised to learn that the Tau actually holds very little galactic space within their territory. This is because they have no Warp presence, and are unable to fully utilize Warp Travel so they can only "skim" on it. This means that they make very short jumps and would take decades to make trips that only takes other races a few months to make. Combined with how young their entire race is relative to everyone else (implied to be barely more than a dozen milleniums old, contrasting with Humanity at 40k years, who are still considered the second-youngest race in the galaxy) and their short lifespans (being 40 is apparently ancient for them), they have not made much headway into the galaxy at large.
    • For all the equipment, training and propaganda supplied to them, most Imperial Guardsmen are absolutely aware of just how outclassed they are against the majority of their opponents. This means they will use any dirty trick in the book, including good old fashioned cowardice. The Imperium has a novel solution to this, however when they are insisted to fight bravely against impossible odds, the Guardsmen have been known to "insist" back.
    • There's the Void Missile in Apocalypse, which kills you by opening a Negative Space Wedgie at the blast zone. The rules for it forbade special rules like Eternal Warrior or Cover Saves from saving you, as you, the ground under your feet, and anything within the immediate vicinity is either A) being erased from existence, or B) not being killed, technically, but still being teleported off the battlefield. Only a magical force field (invulnerable save) is allowed against it, because their very nature counteracts the Void Missile. Similarly, no matter how great your fortitude or determination is, being stomped on my a Humongous Mecha will still destroy your bones and your internal organs (in-game, stomp attacks made by Titans ignored the Eternal Warrior rule and Armor Saves). note 
    • There's a short story about a Navy Captain entitled "Rocks are NOT 'free', citizen" who figured that crashing an asteroid into a planet was cheaper than firing an expensive magna-melta missile. Turns out the price of sub-light engine fuel and rations for the military personnel, who were sitting in the ship doing fuck-all for months while the asteroid slooooooowly made its way to the planet, was three times more expensive than the original missile plan.
  • The Witcher has it in spades. Without counting witchers, who are Purposely Overpowered, everyone can perform just like a human being with different degree of training and fighting experience. But most importantly, while it's possible to perform inhuman deeds with sufficiently experienced character, Anyone Can Die. Most basic mooks deal enough damage to take quarter or ever third of all Hit Points you have - exactly the effect you expect from being slashed in the chest with a sword. Two or three such hits and you are dead meat, no matter how badass you are. Professionals will know where, what and how to hit, so they will drop your character with single strike. Then there is bleeding. And penalties mounting with loss of hit points. A single arrow or bolt can kill your character on spot. Chunky Salsa Rule is very firmly in place. And all of that covers only a bog-standard confrontation with humanoids. Most of offensive spells will melt you, some of them literally - after all, a lighting just strike you or a fire ball swallowed your body. And it gets worse if you were wearing a set of armour, as it's now potentially red-hot, with your body still inside. Monsters, especially the big ones, can kill a character or a whole party in single strike with medicore rolls. What did you expect to happen when a flying lizard in size of a barn decides to land on you and then spit flaming fluid around? And healing takes realistic amound of time, so recovering from a Diner Brawl will be a day or two, but after a climatic confrontation with Monster of the Week or just some big fight the whole party will be a total mess of bloody bits and broken bones, to the point where they will require someone to fed them for next two or five months. If you are lucky, this will happen after the end of the scenario, thus providing a time to heal before next adventure. If not... well, better take out your spare character card. One of many.
  • Even without the spontaneity of any combat mechanic, there are situations where the DM may just call the Chunky Salsa Rule on you, regardless of what the numbers say.