Precisely what drives a GM to this extreme varies. Perhaps somebody was a Rules Lawyer once too often. Perhaps the gaming group mocked his plotting skills a bit too much. The players might have spent all their time going everywhere but where the plot wants them to. Maybe the group consisted entirely of Munchkins. Maybe they didn't like that "totally awesome" GMPC as much as the GM did and tried to kill him in his sleep. Or maybe the players are just Too Dumb to Live. Or maybe, just maybe, the GM is a sadistic bastard who's determined to see the players fail at any cost.
Regardless of the cause, if the GM goes as far as Rocks Fall Everyone Dies, the campaign has failed on a grand scale. Maybe it's time to stop the metagaming, time to let somebody else GM, or just to find a new gaming group altogether.
A lesser form of this trope can target just one particularly annoying player, often with a bolt of lightning. Since the GM is the local god, this works even if the target character is underground, in a Faraday cage and wearing a static discharge bracelet. Merely threatening players with lightning can also be effective in controlling players. The first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters' Guide even suggested using "blue bolts from the heavens" and "ethereal mummies" on PCs to keep their players in line.
The webcomic Something*Positive is generally credited with bringing the phrase to the public conciousness in this strip. The underlying concept is rather older, having been seen in the extremely deadly AD&D adventure Tomb of Horrors in 1975 (and quite likely used by individual DMs even before that). This ending is a Tabletop Games form of Shoot the Shaggy Dog, or Kill'Em All when premeditated. A subtrope of Total Party Kill. When the players decide to detonate the game instead of the GM, it's Off the Rails. A nigh-unbeatable Beef Gate used this way is sometimes referred to as a "Grudge Monster" or "Grudge NPC."
NOTE: This is not just a trope for everyone in a story dying. That is Kill'Em All.
- B.A. from Knights of the Dinner Table finds himself forced to do this to his players constantly, just to keep them in line—two are dedicated Hack and Slash types, another is a Rules Lawyer. (All the same, this may be only an outgrowth of his philosophy that the players and the GM are inherently enemies).
- Every GM who isn't Patty Gauzwieler will pull this at one point or another in the comic. The most infamous is Weird Pete's Temple of Horrendous Doom, an obvious jab at the Tomb of Horrors.
- One nice storyline, after the group pulled off some particularly annoying feat of munchkinry, rather than declaring a RFED, B.A. manipulates the characters that the same players play in his other, science fiction campaign, into nuking his fantasy world (and thus, their fantasy characters) into oblivion.
- Averted when Weird Pete gets into a battle of wills with Sara over whether he can manage to kill off her player-character. After he arbitrarily declares the entire dungeon falls on her PC, Sara simply invokes a magical debt to survive it and then uses class level skills to begin digging her way out. When Bob asks Brian, "So who's losing?", Brian answers, "The architecture."
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic Ponies Play D&D, Spike gets fed up with the group's constant arguing over every decision they come across. When Rainbow Dash attempts to slaughter the archangel NPC about to spell out the party's next objective, his patience snaps and he traps the party in a cave with a massively overpowered Stone Ogre. Applejack unwittingly averts a Total Party Kill by rolling a timely nat 20 and decapitating the Ogre in one blow.
- A deliciously silly Dragon Age fic on the BioWare boards here [dead link] has Alistair as DM resort to this after a staggering amount of player stupidity from Morrigan, Sten, Wynne, and Oghren. "Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies" is actually the title.
- Towards the end of The Fall, after Alexandria fell trying to steal pills, Roy killed off all of the characters of the story in brutal ways. Fortunately, Alexandria stepped in and took over the story.
- A story passed around the Internet for about two decades now about a GM who killed a player character because of his player's architectural ignorance: Not knowing what a "gazebo" was, the player decided to attack it rather than, say, ask what it was. After numerous attacks with no effect, the player decided to leave, at which point the GM announced, "It's too late. You have awakened the gazebo. It catches you and eats you."
- This story was widely popularized in the gaming community by the comic Knights of the Dinner Table.
- Referenced in the Steve Jackson card game Munchkin, where a Gazebo really is an enemy monster that players may encounter. A rather scary one, too. And if you try to run away from it and fail, it really will pounce and kill you.
"You must face the Gazebo -- ALONE."
- Also referenced in Nodwick at one point; in one of the last few issues, a gazebo was the location of a fault in space-time which an evil god planned to exploit.
- The comical D&D supplement Portable Hole Full of Beer actually includes monster stats for "The Dread Gazebo".
- As well as in the Order of the Stick board game, where you can accidentally land on the Gazebo and wake it up, if you're not careful.
- A similar story was provided by a demotivator: after a wizard forgot what a "gong" was and began hurling magic missiles at one (sample dialogue: "A sonic attack! Quick, everyone, cover your ears!"); the DM responds, "OK, while you're distracted the door sneaks up behind you and slits your throat."
- Used as a plot point in Bimbos of the Death Sun, where the main character, a guest of honor at a sci-fi convention, goes Killer Game Master with a rigged Dungeons & Dragons game to expose the murderer of the other author/guest of honor. He kills off the dead author's most famous character in a humiliating fashion, enraging said character's biggest fan into confessing to the murder, done to "save" the hero from being killed off by his creator.
- Robert Fulghum describes telling a story to his children. He thought he had finished conclusively and the kids were asleep, only to hear them ask for "the rest of the story." He would resort to apocalypse. "Suddenly a comet hit the earth and blew everything to pieces." A moment of silence, and someone would ask "What happened to the pieces?"
- In the children's-book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid the mother of the protagonist, Gregory, forces his big brother Roderick to play Dungeons & Dragons with Gregory.(Long story) Gregory is prepared for the worst game-session of all time, when Roderick, who happens to be player AND GM in this session, just decides that all the adventurers fall into a hole filled with dynamite and die in the very first turn. Gregory is relieved.
- Frasier. In a variation on this, Niles got so upset at Frasier's over-directing a radio play in Ham Radio, he decided to take action.
Niles: Okay, that's it. Never mind all that. I'm just going to take this gun off the table. (fake gunshot) Sorry about that, O'Toole; I guess we'll never hear your fascinating piece of the puzzle. (two fake gunshots) Or yours, Kragan and Peppo! Could the Mc Callister sisters stand back to back? I'm short on bullets. (fake gunshot) Thank you. (to Roz) What was your name again, dear?
- Jason does this to Paige in one FoxTrot strip, purely to annoy her. After a week's worth of strips setting up the game, Jason causes the cave to collapse and kill the entire party after Paige's very first turn.
Jason: Your bodies will remain undiscovered for...*roll roll roll*...82 centuries!
- This could also be a reference to the classical adventure "Tomb of Horrors" where yes, the very first door in the beginning paragraph has a collapsing trap that can kill you.
- Steve Jackson Games's Toon actually has a table of 'Apocalyptic Big Finishes' in the back of the Toon Ace Catalog sourcebook, for when the characters don't quite make it to the end and you need a quick way to end things. Of course, no-one dies, but the principle's the same.
- Years ago, TSR (then-owner of D&D) published The Apocalypse Stone, a module deliberately designed for DMs that want to do this. In it, the players steal a MacGuffin that triggers the end of the world. They can undertake quests to prove they are worthy to die heroically, but in the canonical ending, can't really do anything to prevent the world from imploding. However, the book included several cop-out scenarios to save things at the last minute in case the DM gets cold feet (or is being threatened with death himself...)
- The express purpose of this was to clean up everybody's campaigns for Third Edition. Likewise the wonderfully named Die Vecna Die.
- In the Call of Cthulhu (tabletop game) boardgame Arkham Horror, the players race to seal gates opening in the town of Arkham before a Great Old One (randomly decided at the start of the game) awakens and they have to fight it, which is difficult but (sometimes) possible to win. If the Great Old One threatening to awaken is Azathoth, however, the players automatically and instantly lose if he awakens, as his first "attack" is to destroy the world.
- The magnificently awful (except without the "magnificent") tabletop RPG FATAL has for the highest level caster
classjob the spell F.A.T.A.L., which kills everything on whichever horrible planet the game is set... obviously including the caster and his fellow party members. Also, it's possible for this to happen by accident.
- FATAL could probably actually work as a substitute for this.
DM: OK, you've pissed me off for the last time. We're playing FATAL now.
- This is the typical ending of many Paranoia missions where the players have somehow managed against all odds to squeak through with some of their backup clones intact. Actually, speaking of those clones, sometimes this is how the mission starts.
- Paranoia is an odd case here. Rather than being a sign that the GM is doing his job poorly, this is seen as a sign that the game will be very good.
- There's even a reference to this in edition 3.5 of Dungeons & Dragons. The spell Rocks Fall [dead link] is actually a curse, and while PCs can use it, the sadistic way it deals death to the victim makes it more likely to be used by a villain controlled by the DM.
- If Nethack encounters a fatal bug, the last messages it gives you are "Oops...", followed by "Suddenly, the dungeon collapses."
- "Suddenly The Dungeon Collapses" is an achievement in Dungeons of Dredmor, obtained in the same way.
- This is also used in the "screen" terminal emulator. Try it next time you boot Slackware.
- Here it is in screen - there's a whole pile of NetHack-inspired messages here, but the dungeon collapsing one is used even if the rest are not enabled. And here it is in NetHack. Isn't open source great?
- In a straightforward example, attempting to exploit now fixed bugs (such as item duping) will result in the players death, for "trickery".
- This is the preferred method among MMOs for closing up beta test servers, though generally with a bit more variety than rocks. This can range from giant demon invasions to UFO attacks to legions of fire-wielding little girls.
- In the Baldur's Gate games, the game immediately One Hit Kills you if you attack any characters that are necessary to advance the plot. This is basically a way to prevent players from getting stuck if they kill someone who prevents them from advancing the plot.
- In the 550-point and 580-point versions of Colossal Cave, you are warned not to use a particular magic word near water. If you ignore that warning, the most likely result is that you will turn into a jellyfish and die; but there's a small chance that the entire dungeon will collapse on you, your extra lives will be revoked, and you'll be summarily ejected from the game.
- The Star Wars-based MUD Legends of the Jedi once used a Chiss invasion to kill off the galaxy during its annual timeline reset. In this case, though, the admins did it because they wanted to do something interesting instead of just having everyone's characters vanish into the night.
- A wonderful Something*Positive strip that illustrates a proper usage of the idea, and is widely believed to be the Trope Namer. She had it coming.
- In the VG Cats comic Skittles, a game-mastering Aeris performs what could be considered justifiable Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies.
- The Dungeon Master decides that Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies in this strip of The DM of the Rings. He apparently changes his mind though, as they're all fine in the next page.
- In an early strip, he threatens to strike everyone with 2d6 lightning damage when the players refuse to stop quoting Monty Python. It doesn't work, because Legolas sees the violence inherent in the system. The DM finally gives in and refers to him as a "Bloody peasant!"
- "Rocks fall, everyone dies" has become GM shorthand for "stop whatever it is you're doing before I lose my last shred of patience and kill you all" over the years.
- Similarly, if a lone player/character is the cause of the problems, the GM may threaten him with "Purple Lightning from the Heavens" rather than doom everybody.
- Used as a response to... let's call it "criticism", of 4th edition D&D in this strip of Ctrl+Alt+Del.
GM: An illithid appears and forces the cleric to tear out his own spine. The illithid then feasts on the cleric's brain. The cleric is dead. Forever. Rest of the party is fine.
- A Darths and Droids alternate strip in which the GM finally has enough of Qui-Gon's continual attempts to "cast Summon Bigger Fish". Fish fall. Everyone dies.
- Ironically, though, the player characters aren't included in the "everyone dies"...only the characters needed to continue the plot.
- This strip from The Wotch features the individual variant.
- This strip of Casey And Andy also features the individual variant.
- See also this strip.
- Invoked by name by Parson Gotti of Erfworld in this page and the pages preceding it. He wins a game that he has deduced to be basically unwinnable by uncroaking an extinct volcano causing... well, you know the rest.
- Absurd Notions shows a genuine party-killing deathtrap in this strip.
- Emergency Exit has one when the final boss of the RPG is killed in one hit.
- Alluded to in this strip of Anti-HEROES.
- Tony from Real Life Comics does this quite a bit when DMing. His favorite is "A dragon eats you."
- Penny Arcade's Tycho firmly believes that this is the final goal of all GMs. Observe his prowess at it here.
- This strip of Does Not Play Well With Others demonstrates a rather disgusting, but highly amusing, total party kill.
- In Avatar Adventures, the first time the gang decided to restart the RP they ended the current one by having everyone killed by a god of reality in one strike.
- Loading Ready Run 's Desert Bus for Hope 4: A New Hope. After raising $1,000 for the specific purpose, viewers were treated to Jer Petter's Temple of the Lava Bears. For an indicator of just how this went, Wil Wheaton personally called in and advised any remaining party members to cast "Don't be a Dick" on the GM
- In the French audio webseries Reflets d'Acide, one character has a nightmare of the GM punishing him with the French equivalent, the falling necropolis.
- The advantage of the necropolis over rocks is that if the character(s) somehow survive the falling damage from the necropolis, then they have to survive the zombies inside, then the lich lord...
- Darwin's Soldiers features a mild version of this the end of the second RP when Crimson Base levels Pelvanida with a massive airstrike. Word of God states this was done because the GM wanted the RP to end and it was starting to drag on.