Critical Hits & Epic Fails

In role-playing games, players often simulate chance – by rolling a dice in many cases – to determine the effect of an action, or an attempted action. A rolled result below a specified number marks a failure, and a result at or above that number is a success. For many games, there is a possibility of a ‘critical hit’ (usually a chance of 5%), meaning the player not only succeeds at whatever they were trying, they knocked it out of the park! In the rare game, there’s even a 5% critical fail, which might mean their plan backfired and put them in an embarrassing situation.

For this project, students will describe actions and levels of success or failure to practice descriptions. If they’ve learned “so … that” and “such … that”, this would be a good project for them to practice sentences with those linkers.

Declare Actions and Intents

In pairs, students should write down five action verbs, along with their desired goal. For example, don’t just write “run”, write “run a marathon” or “run away from hungry wolves” or “run to home plate”. Ideally, these would be exciting verbs, but you may allow students to pick a mundane task or two in an ironic fashion.

Since we at Insights encourage creativity, we’d welcome action verbs that are impossible, intricate, or silly in addition to more sensible actions.

How Good; How Bad

Next, pairs write down possible outcomes for each of their five action words, ranging from utter failures to resounding successes. They can group them based on random chance outcomes. We’ve got some groupings for them based on whether you have a twenty-sided die or a deck of cards (in which case we’d recommended making a stack of ace through ten of one black suite and one red suite, where red is negative). If you have neither available, you can use a random number generator app on your phone or on a computer.

20-Sided Die

  • 1: Epic Failure
  • 2-4: Significant Failure
  • 5-7: Moderate Failure
  • 8-10: Slight Failure
  • 11-13: Barley a Success
  • 14-16: a Decent Success
  • 17-19: a Great Success
  • 20: a Heroic Feat

Stack of Cards

  • Red 10: Epic Failure
  • Red 9-7: Significant Failure
  • Red 6-4: Moderate Failure
  • Red 3-A: Slight Failure
  • Black A-3: Barley a Success
  • Black 4-6: a Decent Success
  • Black 7-9: a Great Success
  • Black 10: a Heroic Feat

For each action and for each grouping, students should write a sentence or two in the 2nd-person and in the present tense describing how the action went and what the outcome was. Here’s an example using the attempted action leap across a stream:

Epic Failure: You slip just before you launch off, but it’s too late to adjust. You tumble forward and face-plant into the water. By the time you pick yourself up, not a single trace of you is dry.

Significant Failure: You leap halfway across the steam, landing in the deepest part and causing a sizable splash. You’re wet up to your knees.

Moderate Failure: You jump into the stream at the far side, just a few inches from the shore. It was a good try, but your shoes are wet.

Slight Failure: You land with both feet on the slightly muddy bank on the other side, but loose your footing, and in an attempt to regain your balance, step back into the stream. That was so close!

Barely a Success: You land with both feet on the slightly muddy bank on the other side, but you’re unbalanced. As you frantically flail your arms about, your friend grabs your arm and pulls you to safety. There’s not a single drop of water on you.

Decent Success: After leaping from a running start, you land firmly on dry ground.

Great Success: You only take a step or two before you leap, land easily on the other side, then walk off as if it was totally not a big deal.

Heroic Feat: Inspiration and confidence strike you a moment before your feet leave the ground, and you give yourself an added push to do a mid-air somersault. A couple fish leap up as you do, and the sunlight reflects off their scales and further illuminates your twisting form. You land gracefully a few feet away from the shore, and your friends can’t stop staring in awe.

If your class has been working on Clauses of Result (a type of Adverbial Clause), this is a good project to practice “so … that” and “such … that”.  For example:

Epic Failure: You’re so distracted when you begin that you slip just before you launch off. You tumble forward and face-plant into the water.

Heroic Feat: You’re filled with such confidence before your feet leave the ground that you give yourself an added push to do a mid-air somersault. … You land gracefully a few feet away from the shore, and your friends can’t stop staring in awe.

Try It Out

Collect all the descriptions, then write down every action on the board for all the students to see. Once by one, students take turn making an attempt at something interesting. Each student chooses an action (but not one of their own), then rolls a die, draws a card, or clicks the random number generator. Once they announce their number result, you (the teacher) read out the description of how well or poorly they did in this hypothetical attempt.

Since this obviously based solely on chance and is not at all a reflection of personal abilities, make sure the students enjoy (i.e. laugh at) the failures as much as they rejoice in the successes.

If your class is doing the Character Journey ongoing project, the students’ characters can attempt these tasks instead of the students.

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