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Critical Failure

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At least he didn't fail to roleplay the failure...

"You see, Fighter, any time you do anything, there is a one in twenty chance that you will critically fail. The results of such catastrophic events are up to the gods. Sadly for us, they are vindictive, and filled with bad ideas."

Just as a Critical Hit gives a character a random chance of doing noticeably increased damage with an attack, a Critical Failure is the precise opposite: A finite, if sometimes suspiciously large, possibility that the attack will fail, be resisted, miss, or even backfire and hurt the attacker, regardless of any stat bonuses, upgrades, tweaks, or special equipment involved.

If being used on everything from swordplay to rock climbing, it may be a game mechanic meant to show the inherent danger in messing about with such dangerous things. Perhaps it's described as the unseen weak link in the armour or the sudden gust of wind or the gods just being dicks that day. When used only on particular items or actions, it could be used to show how they are the riskier choice or contain some particular special power that must be paid off for with a special risk (see Awesome, but Impractical and Difficult, but Awesome).

The weapon of choice for the Killer Game Master, the bane of the Munchkin, and the source of mirth for The Loonie, Dungeons & Dragons' unofficial utilization of it as the roll of a 1 on a D20note  is the Trope Namer and Trope Maker for many tabletop and video games based on role-playing. However, it has often been a factor in games of luck for much of time. The attempts of Game Masters to explain how a particular Random Number God-decreed critical failure 'happened' regularly stretch plausibility to make it an Epic Fail for the character responsible.

No matter how small or large the chance of their randomly cropping up in a given system may be, critical failures will almost inevitably have more of an adverse effect on the player characters than they will on the NPCs. After all, the PCs are the characters for whom the dice get rolled by far the most often — and as the main protagonists, anything bad that happens to them will also likely impact the game itself and the associated experience far more than just random anonymous orc #7 fumbling and dropping his sword.

Magic Misfire is one possible consequence or subtype. See also Luck Stat. Can sometimes result in a Critical Existence Failure, but the tropes are not directly related. Compare Randomized Damage Attack when a particular attack can deal a widespread random amount of damage, which may encompass such embarrassingly low damage so as to be called a "critical failure". Contrast Critical Hit.

Also known as a "Fumble".

Not to be confused with Critical Dissonance, which is when critics' opinions on a work fail to match the general public's.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Monster World RPG arc of the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Ryou Bakura plays a tabletop game with Yugi and his friends, wherein they use percentile dice (two 10-sided die — one for the tens and one for the ones) — for every roll. When Dark Bakura takes over, rolling a 99 (a fumble, low numbers are good, so 00 is the opposite — a Critical Hit) carries the penalty of having your soul trapped in your figurine.
  • One chapter of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has the Student Council playtesting a board game that Fujiwara made with the rest of the Tabletop Gaming Club. On his first turn, Ishigami lands on an instant death space and ends up getting a one on his saving throw.

    Fan Works 
  • In A Night of Dark Intent, the player characters can make a roll to heal bashing damage if they have a med kit. When one player botches this roll, the Game Master makes a joke before finally deciding that he took laxatives instead of painkillers.
    Storyteller: (out-of-character) ...I have no idea how to adjucate that. [...] "Well, [Player #1], you accidentally shoved the cold pack up your nose. Roll to soak."
    Player #1: (out-of-character) Augh! I am snorting ice!
    Player #2: (out-of-character) I think Ice [Fenix, Player #3] would object.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, Leo, who is playing as a bard, tries to demonstrate his lackluster combat skills by sneak-attacking a book. After arguing to his reluctant DM that the book's spine makes it eligible for backstabbing, Leo rolls and gets a 1. The critical failure involves stabbing himself instead and killing himself in the process.
    Leo: [in shock] Bards suck.
    Lodge: That... was unprecedented, Leo.
    • Earlier, when Cass's character falls under a demon's compulsion ability, he insists on making a roll to resist, as a natural 20 would automatically succeed against the demon's otherwise insurmountable DC. Lodge begrudgingly allows it...and Cass rolls a 1.
      Lodge: [gleeful] OOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHH!!! A fumble! That means you are completely compelled, and I get to control your character until you snap out of it!
      [motions for Cass to hand over his character sheet; Cass, not looking at him, sullenly does so]
      Lodge: [smug] Since we're playing by the rules, I know you don't mind.
      Cass: Oh, shut up, Kevin.

  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: In the first episode, a bandit gets a "critical failure" when trying to resist a spell, it's not explicitly said, but it presumably turned an effect of generating a slight annoyance, into circumstances that totally total immobilized him.
  • In the Spells, Swords, & Stealth books by Drew Hayes, the Bridge is a mysterious artifact that appears to link the world of the titular RPG game and the real world. In the "game world", the artifact is capable of affecting die rolls and causing critical failure, such as in the first novel, when the players try to ambush the NPCs, who have recovered the artifact, but none of their attacks work due to this trope.

  • In Acquisitions Incorporated, Jerry has quite a reputation of rolling horrible. He even rolled critical failures back-to-back at the climax of season 2. Not that he's the only one to ever have bad rolls...
    Wil: Oh yeah, so I run down the thing, and I land on top of the bear, and I, like, flip in the air, and then, as I'm coming down, I sort of, like, barrel-roll a little bit, and then I flip again, and then I come down here so I land just like this, so I'm flanking this guy. Yeah, and it's super-cool! And there's rock music playing while I do it, and I'm gleaming cubes on my way there, and as I come down, I use my Avenging Echo against him... ohhh, I rolled a 1.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Despite the strong possibility that D&D is the Trope Maker, critical failures have never been more than an optional rule... but thousands of tables have added them to their house rules. The official rule for rolling a 1 on d20 varies by edition and the type of roll, but generally a 1 is either calculated normally, or at worst the natural 1 is just an automatic miss with no additional effects. There have been extensive flame wars, all the way back to the days when they had to be conducted by letter column, debating whether critical failures deserve a place in the game.
    • In 2nd edition, there were semi-official optional rules for critical hits and misses published by Dragon magazine, where you would roll a percent and in general, the higher the number the more potent the effect. The funny thing is, both critical hits and critical failures used the same table — so it was entirely possible to decapitate yourself on a critical failure if you rolled exceptionally high on the table.
    • The Critical Failure rule has been included in the Dungeon Master's Guide since 3rd edition as an example of what a house rule is. In 4th Edition, the suggested House rule format is that a player who rolls a 1 on an attack roll loses all subsequent actions this round. Rather tame and less deadly than the more classic versions.
    • 3rd Edition:
      • In the third edition (and variants), automatic failure on a roll of 1 applies only to attack rolls and saving throws. Skill checks do not result in an automatic failure when rolling a 1, nor an automatic success when rolling a 20 — making it impossible for most people to (say) balance on a single cobweb, but also preventing them from garroting themselves while tying their shoes.
      • One critical failure actually included in the standard rules is for the use of Poisoned Weapons. On a natural attack roll of 1 with a poisoned weapon, the wielder must succeed on a Reflex save or accidentally poison himself.
      • The 3.5 Dragon Compendium includes expanded rules for what happens when rolling a 1 or a 20 on an attack roll. The critical failures are rather amusing. And that quote from Red Mage at the top of the page is a very good reason to never enforce these rules. Especially the Dragon Compendium version.
    • 5th Edition:
      • This is partially inverted by Halflings. Their Halfling Luck racial feature allows them to reroll any 1 on any D20 they roll (unless they roll a second 1 on the reroll). This means that rolling a 1 can be more beneficial to Halflings than rolling other "automatic" failure rolls like 2s, 3s, or 4s. This is particularly helpful if a given DM enforces critical failures.
      • The (silly) sourcebook Acquisition Incorporated includes the spell "Jim's Magical Missile". On a 1, the missiles fly back and hit the caster.
    • Sameo is a tale of a particularly spectacular failure of a failure (three 1s in a row) that gets turned into an equally spectacular Dying Moment of Awesome.
  • Pathfinder, D&D spin-off created when fourth edition proved very controversial with fans, has differed between editions.
    • First Edition's official rules followed 3.5 rules; a natural 1 did nothing but guarantee a failed attack roll or saving throw. On a skill check, results were calculated normally. A house rule allowed a skill check on a natural 1 to be resolved as if a -10 was rolled. An optional critical hit and fumble deck existed, and with the same pros and cons as any other critical hit and fumble table.
    • Second Edition uses four grades of outcome. If you exceed the DC (including AC) of any roll by 10, you critically succeed. If you fail by 10, you critically fail. Otherwise, check success and failure normally. Rolling a natural 20 raises your level of success by one level, and rolling a natural 1 lowers your level of success by one. This means that at the extreme edges of the table, you could critically fail on a 1-19, and fail on a 20, or succeed on a 1, and critically succeed on a 2-20. Mind you, these would be extraordinary circumstances, like if a 2nd level character picked a fight with a 17th level monster or a 19th level character disarming a level 4 trap. Such events would almost never come up in actual gameplay because at that point the encounter is a foregone conclusion. Playing it out would waste the player's and Game Master's time.
    • Generally, in Pathfinder Second Edition, critical failures are costly. Critically failing a save means you usually take double damage and worse penalties from status effects. Critically failing a skill roll usually leads to worse outcomes than a normal failure. Critically failing Medicine, for example, means you apply Comically Inept Healing and injure your target, while critically failing a Diplomacy check to make a Request generally offends the target and causes them to become more hostile to you. Critically failing an attack roll does nothing for standard attacks, but for attacks like Grapple and Trip, may cause you to be hoisted by your own petard.
  • In Nomine, which is based on the War between Heaven and Hell, has a special take on critical failures (and critical successes). The game uses a system of rolling 3 six sided dice; a natural roll of 3 ones (representing the Holy Trinity) is a "Divine Intervention", which is good for angels and those allied with them, and bad for demons and their allies; a natural roll of 3 sixes (representing... well, you know) is an "Infernal Intervention", which is good for those on Hell's side and bad for those fighting for Heaven. Depending on the nature and circumstances of the roll, these Interventions can be anything from a(n) (un)lucky coincidence to a blatant spectacular manifestation of divine or infernal power.
  • Shadowrun has Glitches — rolling a one on half or more of all dice in a roll — and critical Glitches — a glitch that also has no successes. The former is just annoying side effects like a burst of suppressive fire hitting a steam pipe, but the latter tends to invoke the Chunky Salsa Rule.
  • Unknown Armies has fumble rolls at 00. Since they're vastly less common than typical Critical Failures, they also tend to be vastly more dangerous or entertaining. The only real rule is that they won't kill a player, but that not very reassuring in the setting. The technical term for these is "BOHICA": Fun with Acronyms for "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again".
  • Due to a quirk of the system (the use of 3d6 rather than a d20, and success made by rolling under a target number) GURPS reverses the normal expectations and has critical failures on an 18 and critical success on a 3. This may be due to Champions's influence on Steve Jackson; Hero System runs the same way. It should be noted that due to the bell curve of rolling three dice, the chances of a either in GURPS is less than half a percent, versus 5% chance of rolling 1 on a d20. The chance of a critical success or failure increases as you become better, or worse, respectively, at an action, up to 6 or below (for a critical success) and 15 or above (for a critical failure), for a 9.3% chance.
  • Sameo: proof that even a critical failure can be a Moment of Awesome.
  • Exalted has its own version, which tends to be very, very bad for you. To fail, you have to have half ones and no successes. The more dice that come up one, the worse the problem. You screw up less often as you get more skilled, but when you do, it is more catastrophic. That's the Exalted for you — even their screw-ups are epic.
  • Speaking of White Wolf, both versions of The World of Darkness come with rules to this effect. In the Old version, should you roll no successes and one or more dice come up 1, you get a "botch" (also the term Exalted uses) — which is usually a horrific mishap of the amusing-but-grievous variety. In the New World of Darkness, when your dice pool is reduced by penalties to nothing, you get a "chance die" — it only succeeds on a 10 and gives you a Dramatic Failure on 1.
    • Due to the fact that Game Designers Have No Sense of Statistics, the OWOD system made you more likely to botch on very difficult rolls if you had a large number of dice to roll, as illustrated here and here. Thankfully Revised Edition reduced this problem, as a botch required a 1 plus no successes at all (even if your successes are all cancelled by 1's, it's still just a failure).
    • Demon: The Fallen is notable for encouraging Storytellers not to rely on just "you fail in a horrible manner" for botches. Their example was jumping across rooftops: on a failure, you fall; on a botch, you barely make it across... and interrupt a Mafia execution.
  • Scion, which uses a readjusted variant of the Old World of Darkness system, carries over the Botch rule. However, there is one form of relief — if you have Epic Attributes (which add automatic successes to rolls involving them), you can't botch rolls of that attribute. Divinity means that even if you fail, you fail well.
  • Magic in Warhammer is portrayed as an always risky affair, manipulating the spillage of raw Chaos into the material world that invites the attention of deities who are far too ugly for a mother to comprehend never mind love. So not only does it have the Miscast rule that automatically fails the players' attempts to cast a spell but the player must then roll again to see what happens to their mage; it ranges from a bad headache to a legion of daemons invading its brain and dragging the world around him into hell.
    • And don't think worshipping one of the good okay deities in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay exempts you from this rule. The same botch rules apply, only the gods get angry with you for abusing their gifts. It's generally not as bad as the Curse of Tzeentch, however — the gods may get angry and stun you for a round, but they won't summon hordes of demons, inflict insanity points on you, or render your entire family sterile(!).
    • The eighth edition magic rules changed most magic critical failures into "bad critical successes": The spell succeeds and can't be dispelled by the enemy, but something bad happens to the caster.
    • In the offshoot board game Blood Bowl, you can make a "Go for it" roll to move up to two extra spaces in a turn. You have a 1 out of 6 chance to fail, but failure is treated the same way as if the player was attacked by an opponent, which means they have to roll against their armour. If they fail their armour roll, they make a roll on the injury table, which has consequences ranging from being briefly stunned up to a permanent disability or death. If the player is equipped with a chainsaw, they have a significant penalty to their armour roll, which makes them very likely to be injured every time they fall down.
      • Blood Bowl has many amusing total failure states for attacks as well. For example, if you roll a skull when your attacking an enemy (even if you attacking with something huge like an ogre to attack a halfling) the attacker is injured instead, which can just be anything from being knocked over, to groin strain, to death. This can even happen if you trip from running too far.
    • There is also a 1-in-6 critical failure chance in non-magic affairs, such as combat. If you roll a 1, no matter how skilled your warriors are, you miss.
      • The new Skaven army book has misfire charts for virtually every weapon more complex than a pointy stick (and even some of those). With the amount of 1-in-6 failures inherent in the army, you are practically guaranteed never to end a game without one of your wonder weapons shooting your own troops / exploding / gassing itself / blowing up / imploding / causing daemonic burns / catching fire / sucking the user into the Realm of Chaos.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has its rules reflect the fact that the game takes place in a crapsack universe where Everything Is Trying to Kill You - like your own weapons, for example.
    • Guns with the Gets Hot! special rule, such as Imperial plasma weapons or some of the more dangerous Ork "kustom shootas," will overheat and wound their wielder if you roll a 1 to hit. They're totally worth the risk, though.
    • Previous editions were even more fun. The second edition, with its detailed skirmish-level rules, included obscure failure modes for the most experimental or cobbled-together weaponry available. As a particularly memorable example, shoulder-mounted missile packs could misfire in a manner which required the player to roll for direction and range over and over again as the wielder's remaining arsenal launched itself around at random and the poor soul spun around comically. Chaos Space Marines got the worst of it, with plasma weapons which could fail in fashions ranging from "weapons jam" to "smouldering crater", and Juggernaut war-machines that would randomly go on an auto-pilot rampage across the board and never be seen again.
    • Chaos Dreadnoughts, being psychotic super-soldiers entombed in a walking tank, have a special Crazed table you have to roll on each turn, giving you a one-in-six chance that your mobile weapons platform will unleash a salvo of missiles and plasma fire on its own side.
    • Rolling nothing but ones to hit with a Space Marine's assault cannon used to jam the gun, making it unusable for the rest of the match, which may have contributed to its rarity in 3rd Edition armies. More recent rules updates have reversed the trend, however.
    • The Orks' Shokk Attack Gun, the infamous weapon that fires Snotlings through the Warp into (literally) enemies, has a long and complex misfire table, which includes results such as the gun spinning out of control and hitting a friendly squad, the gun firing its wielder instead of its ammunition, or the gun exploding into a crackling hole in reality that removes any nearby models from play. But that's just part of the randomness that makes playing Orks so fun.
      • Orks basically run on this trope, with nearly everything spectacular and devastating in their arsenal having a small chance (correlating positively with their power) of some sort of absurd Critical Failure.
      • There remains one subversion within the Orks themselves; certain vehicles that suffer explosion damage result simply fall apart. This is in contrast to everything else the Orks have (and indeed every other race in a similar situation) where you'd actually expect the vehicle to explode (even if it is made from piece of wood, scrap metal, and little else).
    • In older editions of the rules, a critical failure on a psychic test (double one or double six, around a 5.5% chance of occurring) causes the Warp to fry the Psyker's brain. Curiously, if you roll a double one on your psychic test (which is a critical success as it's based on morale/command), the power still works even if the Psyker actually dies from backlash. In the 7th edition rules, this only happens if you suffer Perils by rolling two or more 6s when rolling for successful Warp Charges and then roll a 1 on the Perils of the Warp table. That will not only kill the psyker (he's sucked into the Warp) but has a good chance of killing most or all of the unit he's attached to as well. Most other rolls on the Perils table cause the psyker to take an unsavable wound along with a downgrade of some sort.
    • The Vortex of Doom psychic power takes this even further: not only is there the normal chance of Perils of the Warp, there's also the following rule: "If, when casting this power, the Psyker fails his Psychic Test, place the Vortex of Doom blast marker on the Psyker. (In this case, the marker will not scatter)" Bear in mind, this is a Destroyer-class weapon in the new rules, so hitting yourself with it is almost guaranteed death.
    • Due to the nature of Ordnance weapons, you can totally miss your target, and completely obliterate your own troops due to a misfire. Not exactly Critical Failure, but just as hilarious (to your opponent, if not you).
    • Teleportation, also known as Deep Strike, has the possibility of the Deep Striking troops landing in terrain, fusing them to the terrain and thus utterly obliterating the squad.
      • The Daemons are especially prone to this: your entire army has to enter battle this way, meaning you could lose parts your army due to bad rolls.
    • Speaking of Daemons, they will suffer a combination of Critical Failure and Critical Existence Failure if they suffer too many wounds. If they fail the resulting leadership test, they will completely evaporate back into the warp, which in-game destroys the unit.
    • Apocalypse games allow fielding the Land Raider Terminus Ultra, which can suffer a Critical Failure if all 5 of its Las-cannons overheat, effectively turning it into a mini-nuke.
    • The various Warhammer 40k role-playing games (Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Black Crusade, and Only War) have expanded rules for fumbles related to psychic powers. The exact mechanic varies, but the standard is that any roll of a 9 (on a number of 10-sided dice that increases with the caster's level) causes a Psychic Phenomenon, which calls for a further 1d100 roll. Most of these rolls are amusing, or only mildly dangerous (the caster disappears into another time for 1d10 rounds, or statues and paintings begin weeping blood) — but a roll of 75 or higher on this chart sends the unfortunate soul to the second chart, Perils of the Warp, which is much more deadly. This chart ranges from merely dangerous ("take a few wounds from psychic feedback", "the caster Goes Mad From The Revelation") to the outright lethal ("the caster becomes a daemonhost", "the caster is sucked into the Warp and dies"). Needless to say, psychic powers are best used sparingly in the 41st millennium...
      • The good news is, outside of psychic powers and overheating weapons, the rules consider your "degrees of failure" (by how much you missed the target threshold) for determining whether a failure is critical. It's usually upwards from four degrees of failure (a miss by 30 or 40 depending on the system) that it goes critical, which means that if the roll is easy enough for the character (e.g. must roll under 71 to succeed), it cannot be critically failed.
      • Psychic powers cast at half-strength never generate phenomena.
  • Older versions of RuneQuest had a notoriously unforgiving fumble chart. Some player did the math and determined that of a squad of 200 trained swordsmen, after 2 minutes of battle, 10 of them would be dead from self-decapitation.
  • Role Master:
    • Its critical hit and critical fumble charts have some legendary results, including one that involves "tripping over an imaginary deceased turtle". (This is of course humour indicating that the character just blundered big time with zero style.)
    • When rolling for one weapon category's fumble's effect, if you get a high enough roll (99 or 100 if memory serves) there's a 50% chance that the enemy bursts into laughter and is helpless for an X amount of rounds, (the other 50% consists of you spraining your groin), giving you a free attack for the next round, turning a major gaffe into an advantage.
    • The M.E.R.P. (Middle-Earth Role Playing) game is a variation of Role Master, and has some interesting ones for critical failures covering everything from simply inconvenient, to embarrassing, to downright deadly, depending on actions taken and roll made on fumble chart. These can include dropping or breaking your weapon or failing to move, causing a critical strike to yourself, biting off your own tongue and swallowing it, tripping up and landing in an embarrassing position, shooting yourself in the foot, or falling and crushing your own skull and dying, and my personal favourite, for those fighting from a mount: "you drive the point of your weapon into the ground, pole vault 30 feet, and take a 'C' crush critical to yourself".
  • F.A.T.A.L.:
    • In this infamous roleplaying game, "crucial fumbles" (1 or 2 on a d100) have surprisingly reasonable effects. Except the 1% chance that a god decides to kill the offending character, possibly by making the whole building collapse.
    • The magical mishap rules, however, are awful. There are pages and pages of possible side-effects, ranging from repetitive ("caster worships and entire body is branded with the symbol of god X" for every possible god, spanning 8 pages) to childish humour ("caster grows a piece of fruit from their dickhole/cuntpipe every ten days") to game-breaking stupidity ("nearest two nations declare war on each other", DEATH OF EVERY LIVING THING ON THE CASTER'S PLANET) - and of course "roll for 1d20 other effects".
    • You don't even have to go that far — the rules for every single form of performance art, be it music, slapstick, or whatever, say that on a critical failure you injure yourself and/or others. Meaning you can quite literally sing someone to death or kick someone's face off after slipping on a Banana Peel.
  • While the rulebook encourages creativity with these things, the punishment for "botches" in Ironclaw (the same as a Critical Failure) is usually less severe than most (for instance, botching a spell usually only results in the spell backfiring and dealing damage to you). However, if you play as a Necromancer, and you roll at least three 6's when dealing with a Black Magic spell, expect the heavens to open up, hell to let out a loud roar, and Cthulhu to wince in pain at the mighty backlash of chaos magic you just wrought upon the world. Or you just animate some angry corpses by accident, it depends on your GM.
  • Using a set of 0s in Legends of the Wulin will allow the DM to offer you Interesting Times. If you accept, you receive what is essentially the Power of Plot, but there will be trouble: any success off that roll will be a complicated affair, and any failure will be devastating.
  • Rolling a 20 in Paranoia. Your gun can explode, your mutant power backfires horribly, and so on.
    • Some GMs also invert this with a house rule that rolling a 1 may mean you succeeded too well. Shooting a Commie mutant traitor sends their shattered remains flying back In ward through a wall, causing pipes to burst and release toxic chemicals... that sort of thing.
  • Deadlands uses them too, and we call 'em "busts" 'round these parts, hombre. Going bust becomes worse if a character has the "Bad Luck" Hindrance. Of note is the fact that the only sort of magic that doesn't tend to do horrible things on a Critical Failure is that of the Blessed. Turns out God (or whoever else) isn't too hard on His most devout followers.
    • This is mainly because it's the only magic not fueled by manitous. Failing other forms of magic results in the manitou powering it jumping into your skull and playing tommyknockers, which can't end well.
    • Mad science devices have their own risks, in the form of a "reliability" number. If you roll higher than the reliability, you have to roll on a failure chart. Minor failures tend to be simple hiccups that are easily repaired, while major failures usually break the device completely. And then above major failures are catastrophes...
  • The Star Wars d6 system has the interesting expansion of allowing a critical failure that is also a success. The classic example is a successful dodge which leaves the player standing close to Exploding Barrels, or a successful attack resulting in the victim falling onto an alarm button.
    • West End Games' old Star Wars RPG had a very similar effect, but rolling a 1 on the Wild Die (the die selected before the roll which would indicate either great success or great failure) was only really bad for a character that lacked the skill relevant to the action. While it is technically possible to have a critical failure that also is high enough to succeed, this is rather unlikely. Depending on what was attempted (and the actual numerical result of the roll), the result could be as grim as hitting your thumb with a hammer or as humorous as lopping off your own head with a lightsabre.
    • Star Wars: Edge of the Empire has critical failure appear through "Challenge" dice, and a lesser form appear as a threat counter. They only appear if a difficulty of a task is upgraded (reserved for special circumstances, or if the DM spends a resource to upgrade said die.) Said critical failures and threats are independent of whether or not the main task is successful - you can kill the enemy, but a critical failure causes said enemy to land on the self-destruct button.
  • Cartoon Action Hour call these a "Flub". A "Flub" is a roll of 1 on a D12.
  • In Eclipse Phase, all rolls are on a percent die (from 00 to 99). Doubles (ie. 00, 11, etc.) are critical. Whether they're critical failures or successes is up to the parameters of the roll (so if you needed a 40 or lower to succeed a roll, 44 is a critical failure). 00 is always a critical success, and 99 is always a critical failure. Probably the most interesting critical failures in Eclipse Phase are those involving Psi Sleights. The consequences there can include nosebleed, Grand Theft Me, or Your Head Asplode.
  • Spycraft has a rule where a bad roll triggers an "error", only slightly worse than a normal failure, and a true Critical Failure requires the Game Control to spend one or more action dice, theoretically ensuring that critical failures don't disrupt the flow of the game and occur when most dramatically appropriate. A similar rule has players spend their own action dice to activate a critical success when they roll a "threat". The game also plays around with the ranges of d20 rolls that constitute an error or a threat depending on the circumstances, producing some interesting risk/reward mechanics.
  • Toon is similar to GURPS above, but with one less die. A natural 12 is a critical failure. Keep in mind this is a cartoon roleplaying game, and you can imagine how much fun a critical failure can be.
  • Ars Magica. Currently, you might botch if you roll a ten on an ability check while under stress. Previous editions had a critical failure table with increasingly-horrific results — the worst results kill you instantly, with helpful descriptive text such as:
    "Rising after yet another resounding exchange of blows, you look to your weapon and realize it's broken short, the lethal end impaling you from abdomen to spine. For a moment you feel the sinews of your back slide from their moorings before you fall lifeless to the ground."
    • This is not even the absolute worst result. The worst result has you die instantly, as above, and attack one of your allies by mistake as you die.
  • New Horizon uses two twenty-sided dice as its success determiner. They are referred to as the White Die and the Black Die in the rules. And if you get a twenty on the black die, you not only automatically fail, but you have to use the white die to see how much you failed. Fun.
  • While no "general-purpose" critical failure rules exist for BattleTech, specific pieces of equipment have their own individual failure chances if used to full effect or sometimes even at all:
    • The classic examples are ultra and rotary autocannons fired more than once in a turn, which can cause them to jam and become useless for the rest of the fight on a natural 2 on the attack roll, and MASC ("myomer accelerator signal circuitry"), which adds to running speed, but with a chance of causing automatic critical hits to the legs that goes up if used on multiple turns in a row. Note that even if you roll a 2 while firing an ultra autocannon in ultra mode, it's still not an automatic miss- if your target number was low enough you still hit the target even though the weapon is now useless for the rest of the game.
    • Death From Above attacks have a very large chance of dumping the attacking mech on its ass, missing the target entirely, or landing on the target and then face-planting into the ground, taking heavy damage.
    • It's possible to get a critical failure on movement as well; turning on roads while moving at a run and then leaving the hex you're in require a roll for Battlemechs — failing the roll causes the battlemech to slip and fall onto its face or its back, which can lead to an entire squad of battlemechs slipping over a road like it's made of ice. However the roll's number is based on how far you've moved, and if you have a good enough pilot it's possible that you will automatically succeed.
    • The most blatant examples of a critical failure, however, goes to the High Velocity Autocannon, or HVAC and the flail. On a roll of 2, the gun's highly volitile ammunition detonates inside the barrel, destroying the weapon and damaging the mech. There's a reason HVA Cs are considered to be one of the worst weapons in the game. When using a flail, meanwhile, if you roll low enough on the attack roll you automatically hit yourself with it.
  • In Illuminati, if you roll an 11 or 12, you fail— no matter who you are, who your target is, how much money was spent on the attack, or even if it was a privileged attack (one other players can't interfere with). This can become downright silly with certain combinations. Roll a 12, and suddenly the Mafia can't kill Furries.
  • Rolling a 12 in Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution on a skill or talent check is always a failure and it's often flavor texted as this.
  • The rules for black powder firearms in Pathfinder have them misfire on a poor die roll, wasting the shot and fouling the barrel. If you keep shooting without clearing the barrel, not only does your chance of further misfires increase, but such a misfire will caused a fouled gun to explode, damaging everyone nearby and destroying the gun. And guns are rare and expensive outside a single small country in the Pathfinder setting.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones making a critical failure means that you think you succeeded, but didn't. I.e. piloting a ship smoothly for a few meters then crashing violently into something. This is especially bad for those with Transcendent Implants, who activate at a higher power level when they critically fail an activation roll, which is actually bad.
  • In the Call of Cthulhu setting, unlike Dungeons & Dragons and all the others following its rules, rolling a one is a critical success, and if the player rolled for a non-physical skill that isn't Cthulhu Mythos, they get a chance to instantly increase their skill on a 1d6 roll. That's because players roll to hopefully get numbers below their skills, in a sense indicating the difficulty of the task the roll relates to. But may the Cosmos have pity on you should you roll "00", the equivalent of rolling a one in D&D. Oh, and if you roll that while firing a gun, it misfires and explodes in your hands.
  • Planet Mercenary employs a gentle version of this. Rolling all 1's (a 1 in 216 chance with the standard 3d6 roll) results in failure, but nothing additional bad happening.
  • The One Ring: All dice roll pools include a twelve-sided Fate Die with one "Eye of Sauron" face that counts as a zero. If a dice roll includes the Eye and fails to meet the target number, it goes badly wrong somehow, such as by leaving a combatant open to an automatic Called Shot from an enemy. Eyes are also tallied; once the "Eye Awareness" score passes a threshold, the forces of darkness will soon visit some kind of misfortune on the player characters.
  • Talisman: You may have your Epic Flail and get to roll two dice with it (everyone else gets only one), but if you roll two sixes you decapitate yourself.
  • In Mutant: Year Zero actions rolls only succeed if they land on a six, if not the roll fails, but the game offers a way to try the roll again at the risk of suffering injury. These are called Push rolls; the player picks up any of the dice that has not landed on a one or a six and rolls them again, but each dice that landed on a previously or newly rolled one now counts as damage to that PC.
  • Numenera: Even when you don't roll a 1, the GM can arbitrarily decide when and how you critically fail. Thankfully, any critical failure grants the PC 1 XP (you 'level up' with 4 XP) and lets them choose someone else to get 1XP. Alternatively, you can reject the 2 XP and sacrifice an additional 1 XP to prevent the critical failure.

    Video Games 
  • In AI Dungeon 2, putting in the preface 'attempt to' can result in this; the most common result being the player characters death. Rarely does it ever actually end the story though.
  • Both Flak and Jugger invoke this in Advance Wars - in exchange for their attacks randomly doing more damage than usual, they also have a chance of doing less damage. Their CO Powers only exacerbate this, to the point where their attacks have a roughly equal chance of either inflicting insane amounts of damage or barely leaving a scratch. This is also the main reason why both of them are Joke Characters.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has a wide range of critical failures, such as breaking your own weapon, breaking your own armour, knocking yourself out, dropping your weapon, dealing heavy damage to yourself, semi-permanent disfigurement and injury... and it's not unusual for several effects to happen at once, which is hilarious when it happens to an enemy and incredibly frustrating when it happens to you. (And it will happen to you A LOT when starting out. Expect the words "Are you blind? What in the gods-er, better luck next time!" to be burned into your mind.) There's also a trait that makes critical hits and misses less common, but more spectacular. Oh, and the critical failure chance of technological weapons is increased in the hands of a magic user.
  • The map-based operation-level war game The Ardennes Offensive incorporated the element of chance into its battles by listing six possible outcomes, ranging from worst to best, and rolling a die. Basically, the greater your numerical and tactical superiority, the better the six possible outcomes would be - but no matter how completely you dominated the battlefield, rolling a 1 would always mean losing more than you gained. Yes, even when chasing stragglers with entire armoured divisions.
  • One of the sidequests in the D&D-styled fourth DLC of Borderlands 2 has the players repeatedly get bad rolls on picking up a gun. The first time has the gun flying off into the distance. The second time has you break your fingers, sending you into Fight for Your Life mode, and the third time turns the gun into a miniboss. Afterwards, Tina just decides to let you take the gun without needing to roll. The gun that you gain in the sidequest is a unique and rather high powered SMG which has a roughly 1 in 10 chance of rolling a critical failure when reloaded, causing it to slip out of the character's hands and go sliding across the ground (a critical fumble, presumably).
    • Krieg's "Silence the Voices" skill gives him a huge bonus to his melee damage, letting him easily hit enemies for thousands of points of damage, at the cost of giving his melee attacks a roughly 1 in 8 chance of hitting himself instead. This can potentially be deadly during Buzz Axe Rampage, which gives him even more melee damage and refills his health whenever he gets a kill, leading to scenarios where Krieg downs himself when you really needed a melee kill to heal.
    • The Holodome DLC of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! introduces the Boxxy Gunn, a unique Tediore SMG. Like all Tediore guns, instead of reloading normally, you simply throw the gun at your enemy like a grenade while a new copy with a full magazine gets digistructed into your hands. What makes the Boxxy Gunn stand out is the fact that it has a chance to explode prematurely in the user's hands when attempting to reload, causing significant damage. The chance of a misfire increases with every bullet left in the magazine, making the most popular strategy for Tediore guns, reloading with an almost-full magazine for extra damage, incredibly risky; needless to say, the gun got a poor reception from the fans.
  • Dark Devotion: Every weapon has both a chance to crit and a chance to miss. A missed attack inflicts far less damage than a normal attack would, and it won’t trigger any secondary effects that the weapon might have.
  • Darkest Dungeon: Every character, hero or monster, has a maximum accuracy of 95% (90% in previous versions); no matter how high you increase your character's accuracy, there is always a 5% chance they will miss. In the same vein, if you increase a hero's dodge chance to supernatural levels (110%, above the accuracy of the average boss attack and theoretically impossible to hit at all), enemies will still have a ~10% chance to hit your supposedly invincible character. As well, the Occultist's Eldritch Reconstruction is a healing move used on allies unlike any other in the game by its numerical range having zero at the bottom of it...and it can inflict a bleed effect on allies too, so getting a "0 bleed" result on a hero at Death's Door is a memetically famous possibility. It even used to be able to critically heal while still healing for zero, but this was patched out.
  • Enemies with high speed/agility stats in the Dragon Quest series can dodge critical attacks. "Excellent move... It is dodging!" Or even block them. "Thy attack failed and there was no loss of hit points!"
  • In E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy, every now and again in combat, you get the message, "Bullshit! Ultra-failed attack!" though these can still kill enemies. However, when you fail a hack, there is always a slim possibility that your brain will be fried by the firewall, resulting in instant death regardless of how many resurrectors you had. Using dangerous psychic abilities has a chance to drive you insane, kill you, or give you permanent trauma. Excessive use of the medkit before it has time to regenerate can give you tainted medicine (though you get an achievement for killing an ally with this).
  • Primrose (and anyone with the Dancer job) in Octopath Traveler can use Bewildering Grace to one of a bevy of beneficial effects, such as dealing damage, restoring health, increasing the Experience/JP/Gold gain from the battle and turning the enemy into a Cait...and then again it might fully heal the enemy and buff their attack and defense stats or leave everyone in the party with zero MP and PP and only one HP. And if you're using it multiple times in a row, after this happens you could get an effect that deals Scratch Damage to your party, ensuring everyone instantly dies.
  • The first two Fallout games are interesting examples in that they have an optional character trait that causes everyone to suffer more critical failures in combat. This can be a very bad thing if your Luck stat is low, considering that the game's critical failures tend to do things like make weapons break down (or energy weapons even exploding) in your hands. Critical failures with non-combat skills will do things like jam locks or set off traps.
    • Strangely, the trait is a very good thing if you have an epic Luck Stat, considering that at 10 Luck you won't be getting many critical failures even with the Jinxed trait, but everyone else in the world will be suffering explosive weapons failure every other shot.
      • Compound that with using weapons who do not have too bad side effects for critically failing, like melee or unarmed combat, and it's a rather deadly character build.
    • The Mysterious Stranger, who randomly delivers a One-Hit Kill to a target in VATS once you have the perk, occasionally misses the target, or you accidentally hit him instead. Conversely, Miss Fortune in Fallout: New Vegas causes enemies to suffer this.
      • VATS itself (and the Turn-Based Combat system from older Fallout titles) has a form of this in that accuracy using it is capped at 95%, so you will have at least a 5% chance of missing any attack with VATS even at point blank range. Probably not a coincidence that 5% is also the same chance you have of rolling a 1 on a 20-sided die.
      • In Fallout 4, since VATS no longer freezes the action, certain enemies can cancel out critical strikes. On the other side, the perk with the highest Luck requirement, Ricochet, gives enemy attack's a small chance of bouncing back at them for a One-Hit Kill.
  • The Knights of the Old Republic do model critical failures — for example, if you're disarming a mine then a 'failure' just means failure to disarm the mine (i.e: nothing happens), but a critical failure means the mine blows up on you at point-blank range.
    • The chances of a critical failure are often tied to the character's skill level in the respective task — if you're too unskilled to reliably disarm a mine, you're likely to accidentally set if off in the process, whereas if you have better than even odds for disarming it, you likely won't ever have a mine blow up on you.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, Setzer's special command, Slot, can roll the combination of 7-7-Bar. When that happens, everyone in your party dies. Game over, man (unless you had Reraise). (On the other hand, if you manage to confuse Setzer moments before he can execute the deadly command, it is a guaranteed insta-kill on any enemy, including bosses. This is a Good Bad Bug taken advantage of by speed runners.)
    • This feature carries over to Final Fantasy VII in Cait Sith's Slot Limit Break, with the 7s being replaced by sections of Cait Sith's face.
  • A few Fire Emblem games have the Devil Axe, a weapon that is rather powerful but can potentially damage the user instead of the target when used. It has spawned a number of videos where characters kill themselves by attacking a wall or a tree with itnote .
  • Heroes of Might and Magic has this in its luck stats and morale stats. If your units have high luck, they have a chance of dealing double damage, and with high morale, they have a chance of moving twice. However, if your luck or morale goes into the negative (by events, enemy spells or abilities, or having too many town alignments in your army) you have a chance of getting bad luck, halving your damage dealt, or bad morale, causing your creature stack to freeze in place and lose its turn.
  • In The Legend of Zelda game Hyrule Warriors, you can interrupt most of the Elite Mooks' super attacks (the ones where they glow blue and white with wisps of energy surrounding them) by using the correct subweapon (Bombs for Moblins, Boomerang for Darknuts and Stalmasters, Hookshot for Aeralfos & Fiery Aeralfos, Hammer for Blins, Bow for everything else) on them during their windup. This will result in a Magic Misfire, when involving either actual spells or fire-breathing. It will hit surrounding enemies and leave the enemy captain stunned with its weakpoint exposed for an extended period of time.
  • Invisible, Inc.: Unusually, it's the enemy corporations suffering the fail instead of the player. Mainframe daemons, normally bad, have a small chance to be "Reversed" when activated and give the Operator a major benefit instead.
  • Every weapon has a chance of critical failure in Kingdom of Loathing, which it calls a Fumble. Fumbles cause the character to drop their weapon on (insert body part here) and hurt themselves. Some weapons, such as the Awesome, but Impractical Ridiculously overelaborate ninja weapon have a 3x chance of Critical Hit but a 3x chance of fumble. If you assemble the Cyborg Armor, made of Inspector Gadget's coat, pants, and fedora, fumbles become positive side effects. Fumbles are especially bad for moxie-based classes; these classes tend to spend many turns chipping away at the enemy's health while avoiding all damage. This means that fumbles will happen a lot simply because of the large number of attack rolls being made, and moxie-classes usually can't take a lot of damage.
  • Similarly to Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights makes traps go off in your face if you fail badly enough at disarming them. However, since you are allowed to 'take 20' when out of combat (in other words, being able to devote your full attention to it rather than to avoiding a severe stabbing), this only applies if someone gives you a nasty shock or otherwise tries to beat on you while you're distracted.
  • Just try to do anything in NetHack with your luck negative, your alignment negative, and your god furious at you.
  • In PangYa, there are two versions of the Lucky Pangya and Control Pill items. One version requires currency that is bought with real money, and is guaranteed to work. The other version, which costs Pang (a currency that can be obtained through playing the game), has a 30% chance of failing. And no, you can't simply use another of the same item; you can only use one item per shot.
    • Missing Pangya while using super shot (Tomahawk, Cobra, Spike) used to make the super shot fail to activate, now it causes the shot to arc wildly (and randomly). With a Tomahawk or Cobra, the shot generally lands close to the target anyhow, with a spike however, expect 30-70 yards of deviation, usually OB and in All cases there's a good chance that any PPICed power shot will hit a tree trunk or other impassable obstacle on the way to the target.
  • Persona 3 and Persona 4 from a rare JRPG example; rarely, when going for a regular attack, there is a chance of the character overshooting their attack and stumbling, causing themselves to fall over and either lose their next turn (in vanilla 3 and FES) or be vulnerable to extra damage (in 4 and Persona 3 Portable). In 3, ranged weapons wouldn't cause this, giving them a small extra benefit. Of particular note is the animation for Shinjiro Aragaki's critical failure: rather than tripping or pratfalling like the others, he falls to his knees in a coughing fit, one of the clues that he is secretly dying.
  • In Pokémon, while many basic attack moves (Scratch, etc.) have 100% accuracy, many high-powered moves have accuracies in the 80-90% range, making them occasionally fail to inflict damage. The "Jump Kick" family of moves in particular will backfire and damage the user if the attack misses (for any reason).
    • Funnily enough, the Jump Kick family has continuously had this aspect played up. The crash damage was 1 in the first gen, then increased to a fraction of the damage it would have dealt in the second, then 50% max HP in the fifth.
    • Due to a programming oversight, moves with 100% accuracy actually had a 1/256 chance of missing in the first generation games. This was clumsily patched in the sequels - now moves that have a 100% side effect in addition to damage will have a 1/256 chance of the side effect not occurring.
  • Rimworld: Pawns with a low skill level have a chance of completely botching a job that requires proficiency in said skill, wasting time and resources in the process, although at higher skill levels this chance can no longer occur. The exception is surgery, where "catastrophic failure" can always occur, no matter the skill level of the doctor, the quality of the medicine used, and the impressiveness of the hospital its being performed. This can potentially lead to a "Legendary Master" doctor with utopian "glitterworld" medicine in a "wondrously impressive" hospital room somehow decapitating their patient trying to install a peg leg.
  • Super Smash Bros.
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl had the tripping mechanic. Some attacks and the Banana Peel item would cause characters to trip. However there was also a random chance of tripping every time you started dashing. It quickly became the Scrappy Mechanic and was one of the first mechanics confirmed to not be returning in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS.
    • Following Brawl's penchant for Critical Failure, some items introduced there have a chance to backfire on use and continue to do so in following installments:
      • The Timer will slow all fighters down except for the user, but occasionally it will do the opposite and just slow the user down. And sometimes it'll just slow everybody down, including the user!
      • The Lightning Bolt will shrink all fighters except for the one who touched it. Again, it'll occasionally do the opposite, but in both ways: Make only the user shrink, or make all opponents huge!
      • The Assist Trophy occasionally summons an assist whose contribution will also hinder the summoner. One more straight example is Tingle, who'll either hinder everyone or fly off with his balloons, contributing absolutely nothing.
      • The Smart Bomb when thrown sometimes ends up being a dud. And sometimes that dud just ends up exploding a bit later.
      • All container items (e.g. crates, barrels, capsules, etc.) have a small chance to just explode instead of releasing an item, potentially harming the user. The Party Ball also has this chance but also has a chance to drop nothing but Bob-ombs, which can also potentially backfire horribly on a reckless user.
    • The Hammer item since Melee has a 1/8 chance to have its head fly off when grabbed, leaving the user harmlessly swinging the stick during the item's duration and leaving them completely open to attack. Worse still, the head can be picked up and thrown for massive damage, giving the hammer user's opponents further advantage. The Golden Hammer—also introduced in Brawl—suffers the same probability for failure, having a chance to be a Squeaky Golden Hammer that does absolutely no damage or knockback. At least the head doesn't fly off that one.
    • Mr. Game & Watch has a hammer attack that has nine different effects. If he holds up a one, he damages himself and inflicts Scratch Damage on his target (who won't even flinch).
    • Subverted with Luigi's Green Missile. Its chance to explosively fire Luigi forward is referred to in-game as a "misfire", despite it being a very fast and very powerful attack compared to how it functions normally. This was more of the case in Melee, as the misfire fired Luigi so far, it was easy to Ring Out yourself with it.
    • Getting a Goldeen from a Poke Ball, as all it does is flop around uselessly. note 
    • Like the Smart Bomb, the Pokemon Electrode sometimes fails to explode on cue, even looking particularly disappointed when this happens. It will explode eventually though, especially if a particularly resourceful player elects to pick up and throw the "dud" Electrode at some poor sap.
  • In the PS3 version of Tales of Vesperia, many of Patty Fleur's arts have a chance of backfiring instead of causing good effects. The results include hitting herself with her own attack, KOing herself instantly, completely emptying the Overlimit gauge, or cutting the entire party's HP and TP in half while also applying an array of bad status effects to them.
  • In Wizard101 this is known as "fizzling", where your spell fails to cast. Storm wizards are known to have higher fizzle rates than the other schools, but it's possible to cut down on your chances of this happening by upping your accuracy stat or casting an accuracy buff on yourself during battle.
  • In World of Warcraft, engineer-made gadgets have a slim chance of critically malfunctioning whenever they are used. This ranges from not working, to doing the opposite result expected, to outright exploding on the spot. Anything with the words 'Safe' or (worse) 'Ultrasafe' in its name is all the more likely to do so.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: It is entirely possible (with a few minor debuffs) to run up to an enemy, point a shotgun directly at the back of his head, and MISS. In the sequel, there is a tiny possibility that grenades and rockets will be misfired, causing their trajectory to move a few tiles away from a maximized-efficiency target area.
  • Elly from Xenogears has a 1 in 5 chance of having her ether spells fail. She is the only character whose ether attacks have such a property, which would make her a bit of a Low-Tier Letdown... if it weren't for the fact that she's arguably already the game's biggest Game-Breaker at least while you have her.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Monster Capsule GB, rolling a 95 or above will make your monster attack itself.

    Web Animation 
  • One If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device special had the Imperial Palace bigwigs playing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, in which critical failures played a big part.
    • In the starting scenario, with the party escorting a noble at the Imperial Zoo, the Emperor's character critically misses an assassin and so hits the noble instead, breaking his leg, Wamuudes critically hits the assassin with a thrown barrel of oil that splashes flammable liquid everywhere, including the now-crippled noble, and then Dorn critically fails his attempt to reinforce a damaged cage, allowing the dragon inside to stick its head out. The result: one deep-fried VIP.
    • After the party is Mistaken For Murderers, the Emperor's character crit-fails an attempt to persuade an NPC to let them hide in his caravan, so that another party member decides to kill the NPC instead.
    • In a fight against an ogre, Wamuudes fails to reach his target with a charge, so the Emperor targets his ally with a spell to try to propel him into melee range. Instead he rolls a miscast, so Magnus as the DM rules that the Emperor's character mutates to have a freakishly long arm.

  • In 8-Bit Theater, Black Mage makes an attempt (well, one of many) to kill his allies by blowing up a volcano they're standing next to. Too bad he misses completely. Yes, he misses a friggin' mountain. Lampshaded by Red Mage in the latter comic.
    Thief: Not that I'm complaining, but... HOW DO YOU MISS A VOLCANO?
  • The cops find Thanatos in Bigger Than Cheeses with a red smear of chunky slops all over his face and hands, elbow deep in a used tampon disposal. "Critical" fumble indeed.
  • Closet Gamers includes a few examples:
    • A -1 result on Bardic Lore regarding Purple Worms
    • A Mage botches multiple rolls including a joke one to get up from the couch.
    • The side effects of a botch when attempting to use one's magic to cook marshmallows.
  • Darths & Droids:
  • DM of the Rings:
    • Gimli rolls a 1 on his diplomacy roll when meeting Éomer and his riders. As the only real roleplayer in the group, his interpretation of this is legendary.
    • In another comic, Aragorn rolls a 1 when the DM makes him roll for dismounting a Warg, which the DM interprets as a failure to dismount, sending the Warg flying off a cliff with Aragorn firmly on its back (although the DM had been plotting to arrange this for the entire battle).
    • Legolas also rolls a 1 when attempting to shoot Saruman. He hits Grima instead. The best part is that the DM already went off describing Saruman's death, before knowing what Legolas rolled on the dice, forcing the DM to awkwardly backpedal and make up the Grima kill on the spot.
  • A side story of El Goonish Shive in which Ellen hosts her first DnD-type tabletop game results in Nanase jokingly rolling to determine how well her character descends a flight of stairs, having previously established that she's careful around stairs. Naturally, she rolls a 1, and falls down them. In defiance of probability, the rolls that the other players make in reaction to this (whether attempting to catch Nanase's character or to do nothing at all) also come up as 1s. Justin, being employed by the game shop where this campaign is taking place, maintains that their dice are probably not cursed.
  • HamaEstra in Fuzzy Knights rolls one of these while in-game as the Game Master against Ben. Unfortunately for him (thus fortunate for our heroes), he completely forgot that Critical Failures are always failures, regardless of +infinity modifiers. HamaEstra then shortly goes into Villainous Breakdown.
  • In Loaded Dice, Steve rolls a one on behalf of one of the barbarians during what would otherwise be an easy "player kill" moment. His reaction is epic.
  • Knights of Buena Vista is a Campaign Comic covering Frozen (2013), and the Endless Winter is due to Adriana rolling a 1 when she tries to melt the ice bridge she made to cross the fjord.
  • One Piece: Grand Line 3.5:
    • Luffy's player has a special die he uses for when he has to make diplomacy checks. It's covered entirely in ones.
    • Later, in the Baratie arc, a fight starts with navy officer Fullbody. Because Fullbody gets the first attack, he goes for the waiter NPC (who just so happens to be Sanji). Not only does the GM roll a one for Fullbody's attack, it gives Sanji an Attack of Opportunity, at which point the GM rolls three natural twenties in a row, an Instant-Win Condition.
  • The Paradox Space comic "Critical Miss" sees Eridan and Vriska LARPing with magical dice, and in his attempts to defeat Vriska, Eridan manages to roll a whale who's only function is to loudly criticize him.
  • In Sequential Art, when Art, Kat, and Pip play a Dungeons & Dragons-esque tabletop game, Hillary joins in despite not really grasping what the game is about. Her centaur character gets stuck in a narrow secret passage (which she attempted to enter upon being told that it contained treasure). Pip reassures her that she'll get an opportunity to roll to wriggle free every time it's her turn. Of course, she rolls a 1. Pip has a treasure vault collapse in on top of her as a result of this roll, and the others convinced Hillary to leave by making her think that this meant she won the game.
  • The World is Flat depicts this here.

    Web Original 
  • A discussion that occasionally surfaces on tabletop gaming forums is an inversion of this in the form of "Bad 20s", essentially making it where rolling a 20 makes something go horribly right. For example, rolling a 20 when attempting to jump over a fence causes you to launch yourself into the stratosphere by mistake.

    Web Videos 
  • Aventures uses a D100 for checks, with anything between 96 and 100 being a Critical Fail (so the odds are still 1 out of 20). While the results vary (losing all one's mana while failing to cast a spell, losing one's eye, killing a little girl by Shield Bashing her, note  etc.), they are rarely lasting consequences to rolling one.
  • The Counter Monkey episode "Botchmania" has The Spoony One relating the tale of the worst series of rolls he had ever seen.
  • Critical Role, a D&D series, the DM Matt Mercer has used critical failures on occasion, such as making a character drop her weapon on a roll of 1.
  • Dice Funk: Anne only exists because of a mathematically improbable triple (!) botch during character creation, which left her with a 3 in Intelligence. As a result, she is literally dumber than a severed zombie hand, in game-terms.
  • Door Monster's video "D&D: Bad Dice" has Kyle roll a very long string of these, eventually filling the "Dice Jail" with the dice that had rolled them.
  • Syrg, the DM of Something Awful: Dungeons & Dragons podcast, plays by the "roll a 1 and terrible things happen" rule. For example, a failed arcana check turns apparently magical jewels into sugar. The results of bad rolls in combat tend to be even more disastrous for the party. That's not to say it's never worked in their favor though. Several enemies have hurt themselves or their allies after Syrg rolled a 1.
  • TFS at the Table's main party came to be known as The Natural One-ders for their high propensity of these. Worth noting, Game Master Chris Zito had an additional layer to this: if a player rolled a Natural 1, they would then have to roll percentile dice to determine the severity of their failure. However, this came back to bite Zito in one particular episode where he kicked off a boss battle by rolling two Natural 1s followed by a 1 for severity, which lead to the boss slipping on ball bearings, breaking through the bottom of the ship, and sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

Crap, I rolled a 1.