Yesterday, I fell off the roof.
Holy fuck did it hurt.
I haven’t felt pain like that in years.
It all started a couple of weeks ago when my sister’s family came for a visit. My brother-in-law (and don’t these stories always seem to start with a brother-in-law somewhere) was watching a football game and remarked about how bad the picture was. I don’t watch TV much and when I do I usually watch Hulu or Netflix, but Scott was right. The signal was as scrappy as a youtube video from a decade ago. The commercials in between the game were fine but the feed of the game itself were so pixellated you couldn’t make out the score.
And it was on all the channels.
So I decided to cut the cable and give Comcast the boot. I looked around and ended up buying a Mohu Sky 60 Outdoor HDTV Antenna. It has a beautiful picture and if you can get by with PBS and Network TV I can’t recommend it enough. However, you will have to go up on the roof to install it.
In a way, I should have seen the fall coming. Premonition alarms had been going off all over the place. The day before yesterday I had written the Politics of Pricing blog post which prominently features a guy falling through the air, a screen grab from the New Order video Bizarre Love Triangle which is filled with people in suits flying through the air as if they had just flung themselves off a skyscraper, a video I had playing on a loop in the background while writing the post.
While tacking up the cable I even paused to look over the edge of the roof and wonder how much damage I would take if I were to - I don’t know - suddenly and inexplicably somersault over the edge of it. In the Red EFT this calls for a Save Vs Gravity. You take 1 hp of damage per foot fallen, in this case 10 to 12 feet, which is then ameliorated by a Body check. Fail and you take full damage. A terrible fail does double damage. A critical fail does triple. Succeed and you take less. Damage type is determined by what you land on. In my case, the ladder itself, which I think qualifies as blunt damage.
I even remember scoffing at the Mohu instruction manual with its warnings to never work alone and to always have someone holding the ladder you are working on. I’ve been up and down off the roof countless times.
Silly manual, I know exactly what I’m doing….
What eventually got the better of me was an aging plastic rain gutter the ladder had been propped up against. No problem going up, but on a trip down the plastic cracked. It was just enough to upset the footing of the ladder and send it flying out from under me. I went down, caught the edge of roof with my rib cage, flipped over backwards and plummeted. My butt hit the deck hard enough to crack a plank in it like a karate master.
First came shock. Surprise from the simple notion that I had done something as stupid as fallen off the roof. Quick on its coattails was an immense wave of pain and swearing, enough swearing that in an earlier age I would have landed myself on Santa’s naughty list for at least a decade. Finally, I started to grab around, check all the parts which were hurting (pretty much everything), and then laughed, happy to find nothing broken. Bruised all to fucking hell, ripped to shit (this is Florida, I was wearing shorts), but nothing broken. Thank God.
I wandered inside for some iodine and bandages, then wandered back outside to finish the job. Which is why I am actually writing this post. In role playing games there has been an endless debate over the after effects of damage. Usually, it comes down to one of two methods. The first is the Gygaxian method where you simply ignore it until that last hit point is gone and you die. The other is a more modern method where taking damage causes your character to take performance hits until you curl up and die. Normally I would say that the latter is the more realistic and that the Gygaxian method is just a necessary evil of a table-top game. In retrospect? Neither works.
Granted there was a period in which I was stunned by the damage (something that I don’t ever recall happening in an RPG), but after that wore off I found myself swept up by a surge of adrenaline and endorphins which would last for the rest of the afternoon. Instead of a performance hit, my character should have taken a performance boost. I found myself unable to cool down. After patching myself up, I immediately went back out, put up the ladder in a safer location, and finished the installation. When that was over I was still spinning like top so I took the dog out for a nice long walk, even though the bruises on my legs were turning as purple as plums.
It wasn’t until later in the evening that a certain stiffness would begin to set in. Now, at 7 on a Sunday morning, I am as rigid as a board. Typing is tough and it takes the help of my right hand to bend the fingers of my left hand into the middle finger I would gladly give to Comcast if they could see such things. Now my character would experience a performance hit.
So, to a degree, I have to side with the Gygaxian method. Our bodies instinctively see any damage taken as a threat to its existence and will respond with whatever it takes to make sure we continue to survive.
Of course, it could also be that I didn’t take enough damage. If I had broken a leg in that fall and sat up to find a femur sticking out of my leg, spurting blood like a fountain? Yeah, fuck that. I would have called it a day.
Then there is also the mechanics. How do you quantify all of this without unbalancing the rest of the system? How do you figure out when that moment of excitement ends and the stiffness begins? How much of a penalty should be taken? And is this even worth all the overhead in game time it would take to implement such details at the table? After all, it was just a simple fall, barely a footnote in most adventures. In the end, I have to side with the Gygaxian method. If not for the reality of it all then for the convenience.
I wonder if Gary ever fell off a roof?