I think most people are familiar with this scenario (either first hand or via media). The PCs are going off the rails, the GM gets fed up, and then suddenly,

Rocks fall, everyone dies

This is more than just a GM punishing "bad" players. This is a very specific expression (it even has a TVtropes page), and when repeated verbatim conveys a lot more information about the context than the 4 individual words normally would.

Where did this expression come from? When was it popularized? TVTropes notes that it was used in the original Tomb of Horrors module in 1975, but that it was probably in use much before that. Is there any original source for this?

  • \$\begingroup\$ The TVTropes article you link to says that "The underlying concept" was seen in "Tomb of Horrors" not the actual expression itself. \$\endgroup\$
    – CitizenRon
    Mar 11, 2022 at 22:20

3 Answers 3


As mentioned in SevenSidedDie's answer, this seems to have entered the gaming lexicon after appearing in a Something Positive comic.

I was the DM in the D&D game Randy was playing when he started S*P (other than Mike and PeeJee, the players in this comic and the next few are based on our group). If I remember correctly one of the other players mentioned "Rocks fall, everyone dies" during a moment of levity. He said that he had a DM that he used to play with that used it when he got frustrated with the players.

It was a long time ago, and I may be conflating the memory with something else, but I believe the original form as related at our table involved the DM picking up all the dice he had and dropping them on the table as if they were damage dice, and then pronouncing "Rocks fall, everyone dies".

So the expression pre-dates Randy's use, but he certainly did popularize it.


It was popularised in a Something Positive comic in 2002 (note: SP is not always SFW), and became a running joke in the online RPG community. By 2007 it was widespread enough that it could be used as a punchline in DM of the Rings not for its outlandishness (as in the SP strip), but as a familiar line that would play into the reader’s sympathies for the beleaguered fictional DM.

It’s debatable whether PeeJee’s line is the absolute origin — it’s possibly not — but it’s the origin of the line’s spread as a piece of roleplaying culture.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 3, 2018 at 16:03

It precedes the comic; I remember a GM telling me about this trope when I was playing D&D in high school in the late 90s (and definitely before 2001).

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    – V2Blast
    May 13, 2019 at 21:44

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