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Let's say your party is in the second floor of a dungeon, and you just arbitrarily see a duck, in the dungeon. The act of there being a duck in a dungeon should provoke a fight or flight response because there's obviously something horribly wrong going on.

Where does this come from exactly? I'm aware of the Duck of Doom Munchkin card, but I'm almost positive that this trope has roots in a system or game prior to the actual creation of Munchkin.

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I think the origin is Munchkin actually.

Munchkin has a Duck of Doom card, but per a question about it on Board & Card Games SE, linked in a comment by indigochild, there's no real source for the duck of doom joke, other than the legendary sadistic tendencies of certain gamemasters to turn any potential action into a player death. So what would would be the last thing anyone would think of to bring certain dooooooooooom?

A little yellow rubber ducky? Brilliant!

For actual RPGs that are centered around the grim black comedy of death after death, the duck doesn't quite fit. For a tongue-in-cheek game like Munchkin, it fits. So I think that answer (currently top/accepted) referencing Gygax's work is correct, there was no previous origin.

Possibly Munchkin has now been around long enough, and the duck meme-worthy enough, that GMs are now using it as a "fair warning, I need to kill someone now" sign.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would guess there's some conceptual inspiration from the killer rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy grail. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Aug 31 '15 at 1:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Oddly enough, there's a killer rabbit munchkin card as well. Sometimes, anyway. Most of the time it's just an ordinary rabbit. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Aug 31 '15 at 4:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Killer rabbit does have its roots long before Duck of doom does. Hmm. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Aug 31 '15 at 16:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @sandwich - If you want to go all the way down the cute killer rabbit hole, there's a carnivorous bunny unicorn myth going back a few centuries. Got it off TvTropes. \$\endgroup\$ – Radhil Aug 31 '15 at 16:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Radhil This one? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-mi'raj \$\endgroup\$ – JAB Jan 2 '17 at 20:50
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I believe this stems from Atari Adventure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6-zN_eaRd8. And also use this as an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOQDtZg0sCo

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you explain where the duck is featured and on what basis you believe Munchkin would have likely adapted it? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 20 '17 at 19:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ The description of the first video clarifies that those are dragons. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Jun 20 '17 at 19:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ yes but they look like ducks far more than dragons. \$\endgroup\$ – user2015 Jun 20 '17 at 20:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, everyone I've talked to that played Adventure always called it 'the duck'. It's known it's supposed to be a dragon, but it just looks so much like a duck! Are people are down-voting this because they're afraid their worlds of witchcraft and wizardry are actually affected by pop-culture from the muggle-verse? \$\endgroup\$ – Timothy Castillo Jun 21 '17 at 15:43

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