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Dice Roll Death

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"Heads, you get to keep your head. Tails... not so lucky."
Harvey Dent interrogating Thomas Schiff, The Dark Knight

A normal, average day in the life of a character. They go about their business as usual... but then they turn a corner and get taken out by a bus, or stop to tie their shoe, which delays them long enough that they're in perfect position to get squashed by the proverbial falling piano. The point is, the reason they die is simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time by sheer bad luck.

A big (but not foolproof) way to tell if this trope is in play is if a character dies because of some change they made in their daily routine; they took a different route to work just to change things up and die in a car crash, or decide to try a new restaurant and get killed in a robbery. Another possibility is that the character didn't go out, but was instead killed by some calamity that hit their house, such as a plane crash (bonus points if said calamity only hit their house). The critical element is that the only reason the victim dies is because random happenstance dictated they would be in the line of fire, so to speak. It's not this trope if an outside force (be it God, Fate, Death, another character, or anything else), actively and knowingly maneuvers the victim toward their demise.

This doesn't mean the death has to be due to an accident; if a character takes a wrong turn, ends up in a bad part of town, and gets murdered in a carjacking, that's this trope, but if they were lured there and then killed by the same people who did the luring, it's not. A literal version of this trope (such as a serial killer who decides to kill or spare his victims based on a dice toss) could be another way for non-accidental deaths to be involved.

This trope is also not about metaphorical deaths, like a character "dying" in a video game due to bad luck. Only actual deaths are allowed here.

Note that the person who gets killed does not necessarily have to be the only victim.

Inverse of Serendipitous Survival, where luck or chance means a character survives by avoiding a dangerous location. A possible form of Diabolus ex Machina and You Can't Fight Fate, though neither has to be present for this trope to work. May also be a component of Dropped a Bridge on Him and Life Will Kill You. Closely related to but distinct from Necro Non Sequitur, since this trope doesn't require a series of convoluted events.

These usually aren't Surprisingly Sudden Deaths, since those tend to have an element of intent about them. A character who is Born Unlucky would likely die in this fashion.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Comic Books 
  • Two-Face's modus operandi is the use of a coin flip to determine his actions, which can include whether to murder someone or not. Depending on the Writer, he can play this trope straight or invoke it if he doesn't like the initial outcome.
  • In Year Five #18 of Injustice: Gods Among Us, Bizarro is flying while carrying Trickster. All of a sudden, Bizarro sneezes... and uses both hands to cover his mouth, causing him to drop Trickster, who lands on a mountain and dies.

    Films — Animation 
  • A literal example occurs in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Oogie Boogie has Sally and Santa Claus tied up and lying on a tilting platform before a fiendish deathtrap. Oogie rolls a pair of dice to determine how much he will tilt the platform to send his victims to their doom. The dice come up "snake eyes," which wouldn't tilt the platform enough to be deadly. Oogie then invokes this by pounding the table to jiggle the dice to a new number, eleven. With wicked delight, Oogie Boogie begins cranking... and then the trope is subverted since Sally and Santa are rescued.
  • The entire plot of Soul starts with the protagonist's Dice-Roll Death.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Double-subverted in Ghost Town. Frank dodges out of the way of a falling air conditioner... by unknowingly jumping into the street, where he promptly gets hit by a bus.
  • Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight, in two different capacities:
    • As Harvey, he frequently flips his "lucky coin" to decide things, while joking that he "makes his own luck", the punchline being that the coin is two-headed. He later uses his coin toss to intimidate a man he's interrogating (see the page quote); Harvey asks a question, and if he doesn't get the answer he wants, he flips a coin. He does this multiple times, which eventually makes the man crack, never realizing that he was never in any real danger due to both sides of the coin being heads.
    • As Two-Face he plays the trope straighter, since his two-sided coin has been disfigured same as him; One side is unharmed, but the other side is scorched and scarred. After a pep talk from The Joker about random chance being the only "true" justice in the world, he sets out to avenge himself on the people responsible for his disfigurement and Rachel's death, only now it's possible to tell the two sides of his coin apart and if that burned side comes up, you're dead.
  • In Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, residents of Bartertown must "face the wheel" if they "bust a deal", i.e. break a vow. The wheel is divided into ten unequal sections (Death, Hard Labour, Acquittal, Gulag, Aunty's Choice, Spin Again, Forfeit Goods, Underworld, Amputation, Life Imprisonment) and is spun to determine the person's fate. Max faces the wheel after he refuses to kill his opponent in the titular Thunderdome, receiving Gulag, a fatal sentence (banned to the desert without water). Subverted, however, since Max is subsequently rescued.
  • No Country for Old Men:
    • Anton Chigurh lets certain people call a coin toss to determine whether he'll kill them. Carla Jean gives him a Shut Up, Hannibal! on the subject:
      "The coin ain't got no say. It's just you."
    • When Chigurh escapes the police station, he stops a driver on a highway to kill him and steal his car. The poor guy just happened to be the only one on the road.
    • Llewellyn flags down a motorist on an otherwise deserted street while running from Chigurh; the driver dies when Chigurh shoots at them.
  • In Stranger Than Fiction, the main character, Harold Crick, hears a narration in his head claiming that his imminent death will be caused by a seemingly innocuous act, but doesn't give him enough information to avoid it.

  • Foxface in The Hunger Games dies not at the hand of another Tribute, but because she just happened to eat poisonous berries.
  • This trope gets discussed in The Bridge of San Luis Rey, as a major element of the novel is the question of whether the people who were killed in the collapse of the titular bridge were there by chance or by providence.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Boys has Robin Ward's Plot-Triggering Death: while talking to her boyfriend, Hughie, she steps off the sidewalk to tell him that she's planning on buying a house for them to move in together. Then they kiss, and their conversation is abruptly interrupted by A-Train, a superhero with Super-Speed, running through Robin, reducing her to Ludicrous Gibs.
  • One episode of CSI involved a woman who died by gunshot. During the course of the investigation, the team discovers that on the complete other side of town, a man had been target shooting in his backyard at the time of the death. It turns out that he had fired into the air, and the bullet had arced all the way into the victim's backyard, where she just happened to be at the time.
  • In Seinfeld, Susan dies from being poisoned after licking too many stamps, specifically because those particular stamps were cheap. Had the stamps been higher quality or had Susan not licked them all (and had instead used, say, a sponge), she would've lived.
  • In Pushing Daisies, a caveat of Ned's resurrection power is that if he brings someone back for more than one minute, another life must be exchanged for the one brought back. This only affects the immediate area and appears to be completely random.
  • Sam on Quantum Leap once leaped into a piano player at a lounge. Shortly after he leaped in, a waiter asks him for his car keys so he can drive a drunken patron home. Sam readily hands them over, a move the waiter claims is unlike the piano player. After the waiter goes out to the car, Al appears and tells Sam who he's leaped into. Just after Al informs Sam he was supposed to die around that time, there's an explosion from the parking lot. This trope applies to the waiter and patron; Sam gets Serendipitous Survival instead here.
  • While most of the deceased on 1000 Ways to Die are portrayed as Too Dumb to Live or complete assholes/criminals on the receiving end of Laser-Guided Karma, there's also the occasional victim of wrong-place-at-wrong-time syndrome, such as the guy who stepped outside and got hit by a meteorite.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • This was pretty common in pre-4E for first-level Player Characters, since their meager Hit Points and saving throw bonuses meant that any unlucky dice roll during play could be potentially lethal before they ever had enough resources to even contemplate resurrection.
    • Post-4E has literal "death saving throws", basically determining whether or not an unconscious character lives or dies. Three successful throws, you're stabilized. Three failures... you get the idea.

    Video Games 
  • A literal version in Jackbox Party Pack 3's Trivia Murder Party. The host first rolls three dice, then a selected player decides whether the at-risk parties must roll higher or lower to not die.
  • The guiding premise of Zero Time Dilemma, and by extension the entire Zero Escape series. A woman who normally took a certain route on her morning jog went a different direction because there was a snail in her normal path, and became the first victim of an eventual serial killer. A suspect was arrested as he was getting in a taxi, and the driver instead took a surgeon as his passenger, killing both of them when the taxi got into an accident, also resulting in the death of a young boy who was awaiting surgery. The suspect was wrongfully found guilty and executed, and his wife took her own life in despair, orphaning their two children. This indirectly led to pretty much everything that happened in the series, all because of a snail.
    • A literal dice roll death happens after solving the puzzles in the casino. Before you're allowed to leave, you are presented with three dice and told to roll them. If the result is three ones, you can leave. If it's anything else, you get Swiss cheesed by Gatling guns. Fortunately the game is rigged so that you always succeed on the third attempt (provided you watch the cutscene of said Swiss cheesing all the way through each time for the game to actually count your attempts).

    Web Video 
  • During his playthrough of a multiplayer mod of Undertale, Alpharad decides to let Smith make the choice to kill or spare the two knights in Hotland. His choice is decided via heads or tails.
    Jacob: The gays live off a coin flip...?

    Western Animation 
  • Maude Flanders of The Simpsons was abruptly knocked over the guardrail and plummeted to her death at a sports race by T-shirts shot out of a cannon meant aimed at Homer... who ducked to pick up a bobby pin and missed them right as Maude just happened to come back to her place right behind him.
  • In the early Family Guy episode "Mr. Saturday Knight", Peter has dinner with his boss, Mr. Weed, and right as he's given a promotion, Brian begins choking on a dinner roll. He's given the Heimlich maneuver and violently spits it out... directly into Mr. Weed's throat, where he dies in seconds.

    Real Life 
  • The Scottish Wars of Independence first began with a succession crisis caused by two incredibly unlucky (and untimely) deaths. The first was King Alexander, who died falling off his horse in a storm after a night of partying, leaving no heirs behind. The solution for this was to crown Margaret of Norway, Alexander's young granddaughter. The Guardians of Scotland even set up a marriage with King Edward of England's son. This appeared to be a perfect solution for everything. Then, on the voyage from Norway to Scotland, Margaret randomly got sick and died not long before they made port, despite being in perfect health when she left. Cue Edward showing up at the Scottish border to start his takeover.
  • There are, unfortunately, many examples of people being killed by objects falling from buildings as they're walking on the sidewalk, from debris to construction equipment to snow to even other people. Had these folks been one second slower or faster, they probably would've lived.
  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie survived their initial assassination attempt (via a bomb thrown in their car), but later that same day they decided to visit the hospital where victims of the first attack were being treated, sharing a car with Governor Potiorek. However, their driver took a wrong turn and tried to reverse, but the engine stalled. Right in front of a café where of one of the assassins was enjoying a sandwich. The assassin still had a loaded pistol from his previous attempt and fired twice. Franz was hit in the neck and Sophie in the chest, fatally wounding both (the trope applies even more to Sophie, as at his trial, the assassin claimed the second shot was aimed at the Governor).
  • In 2010, a man went jogging on an otherwise deserted beach in South Carolina. Like many joggers, he was listening to his iPod at the time... meaning he couldn't hear that a plane was making an emergency landing right behind him. To make matters worse, the whole reason the plane was landing was because it had lost a propeller, causing oil to get smeared all over the windshield, meaning the pilot couldn't see the jogger. Needless to say, the jogger was struck and killed.
  • A hospital worker was killed in 2004 when the door to the autoclave she was doing maintenance on happened to close by accident, activating the autoclave and scalding the worker to death.
  • A woman in Las Vegas died when she stepped in a puddle that was covering a metal plate in the street. The plate had become electrified due to loose wiring. The specific reason given for her death was that she was wearing flip-flops, which provided far less insulation than closed shoes would have.
  • Isadora Duncan, a dancer from the early 20th century, was killed when a long scarf she was wearing became caught around a wheel of a car she was riding in, throwing her from the vehicle and breaking her neck.


Video Example(s):


Mr. Weed's Sudden Death

Peter's attempt to impress his boss, Mr. Weed, ends abruptly after Brian almost chokes on a dinner roll, which is spat out... and ends up choking Mr. Weed to death instead.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / DiceRollDeath

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