Friday, September 28, 2012

Etymology of the word "crit"

So I just got the DCC RPG rulebook--I know, last one on the bandwagon yet again.  As you're probably already aware, they use the term "crit" to describe exceptional wounds sustained in combat; a fairly common convention amongst gamers.  Many of you probably believe the term comes from the term "critical hit."  While you shouldn't be mocked for this misunderstanding, the truth is far more sinister.

In fact "crit", as anyone who attended art or architecture school will tell you, is actually short for "critique"; an event wherein students present their work for comments from their elders; sounds harmless enough.  But, for those fortunate enough to have avoided the experience, a crit is actually a most unholy ritual which involves sequestering a group of initiates in a single room called a "studio" for several days (d6+1) and purging their souls and bodies via total sleep deprivation and a diet limited to the output of the nearest vending machine.

After the mind and body are thoroughly purged of any wholesome, life-sustaining elements, the initiate--incapable of meaningful communication and exuding a most offensive reek--is subjected to a protracted self-immolation involving forced pubic speaking before a jury of fashionably dressed sadists wearing angular spectacles.  Through a most thorough and malevolent analysis of the initiate, each member of the jury proceeds to verbally humiliate the prostrate student until catatonia sets in.  The process is repeated 1-3 times per semester for 3-5 years.  

Survivors of a crit are occasionally rewarded with free snacks.

What, pray tell, has any of this to do with the gushing axe wounds delivered to the necks of kobolds?  I'll tell you. 

Throughout the agonizing crit ritual initiates are prone to fantasies involving any number of ghastly bodily injuries they might sustain which would, hopefully, excuse them from completing the process.  It is these febrile imaginings which became the source of the first "crit tables" when, back in December of 1976, an aspiring architect at the Harvard Graduate School of Design who, in the midst of the 'cleansing' portion of the final--and most intense--crit of the semester, compiled a comprehensive list of these masochistic fantasies on a scrap of vellum.  When tending to said student, a young EMT saw the list on an adjacent drafting table and, intrigued by the heading which read "Crit Injuries," pilfered it.  Being an avid D&D player who was always looking for lists to randomize, he knew he'd struck gold.  He immediately put it to use in his Friday night gaming group, word got out and, after 30+ years of proliferation throughout the gaming community, DCC published a book laden with "crit" tables in silent homage to the suffering of design students everywhere.

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