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Five Percent...

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

From time to time, I play Dungeons and Dragons. For people who are not familiar with the idea of a table top role-playing game, it is a dice-based game, in which everyone playing takes on the persona of a fictional character as like or unlike as your real self as you want. Together the players solve problems in a fictional world, where many of the outcomes are predicated on dice rolls, with success levels determined by your skill set and developed for your fictional self.

In this game and many others there are two ideas, called critical failures, and critical success.

D20 critical success

No matter how good you are at a skill, you have a 5 % chance to fail in the worst way possible if you role a 1, on a 20-sided die. Often called "Nat 1" You also have a 5 % chance to have the best possible outcome available, a natural 20. For a silly example a flagon emptying contest: A 1 is hiccuping during the attempt, causing you to crack your tooth on the growler while having to be rescued by a friend from drowning, and a 20 is downing it in a single swallow before the other competitors with an epic melodic belch at the end. Or however you chose to define best. 😊

I don’t want to dive long here into gaming, because that is not the point. My point is about the impact of chance.

When players are presented with the idea of a 5 % chance to have the best possible outcomes, people attempt things no sane person, no real-life individual, would ever try. About 5 % of the time, they get the best possible result.

How many things in life do we have a 5 % chance or better of succeeding at, but we never try? What are you not trying? Night school, that new exercise program, Spanish lessons, Toastmasters, ...?

If I gave you a 20-sided dice and said, roll this, to determine your level of success regarding that aspiration, what would you try if you thought you had a 5 % chance to succeed with epic panache?

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