In Game of Thrones S06E09, "The Battle of the Bastards", Ramsay Bolton releases Rickon Stark and asks him to run towards the safety of his brother Jon. If he survives the run, while Ramsay shoots arrows at him, he's free.

Rickon just races across the field straight to Jon, so Ramsay only has to take distance into account while shooting.

There have been numerous hilarious memes about Rickon running in a straight line.

Would the outcome be different if Rickon had zigzag-ed through the field? Would he have survived?

  • 1
    This might appear as being about probability or statistics or archary but i think it can be answered here rather than elsewhere. We had that excellent Thanos answer about half of every planet or half of universe question Apr 20 '19 at 8:48
  • I voted to re-open this... because really the outcome would not have been different, merely the journey to reach it.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 22 '19 at 13:55
  • Can't answer because question is closed, but the answer is simple: No, because Ramsay aimed to miss until Rickon reached Jon (because his goal was to use Rickon's apparent peril to lure Jon into the middle of the field - if he'd simply wanted Rickon dead, he'd have flayed him before the battle). Rickon wouldn't be able to zigzag while being hauled onto a horse. If Rickon had zigzagged while Ramsay was aiming to miss, it would only have increased the chance of Ramsay hitting by accident (not that Rickon knew any of this of course - he was just a terrified boy running to his big brother). Apr 24 '19 at 7:43

Rickon being killed was really only a plot device to have Jon set off first towards Bolton.

In fact, the argument could be made that Rickon's entire character was nothing more than a plot device to drive other characters' actions. I cannot think of one single important action that was taken by him*. He was even, at a remove, the device used to make fun of Dickon's name, several times.

So, had he zigged, or zagged, he could have
a) just made it so Bolton needed a couple more shots [dull] or
b) survived and gone on to be used again to drive someone else's plot, or worse,
c) we'd have had to follow him through the ensuing battle & see if he lived or died there... and we don't care by now, his character is spent.

Had he survived Bolton's arrows, then another device would have had to be used to get Jon out ahead of everyone else.
Rickon was just the most convenient.

Having him back at Winterfell right through S07 would have needed a lot of plot filler to justify his presence. For most of the previous 3 seasons he'd been "alive, but missing" which suited the show-runners just fine. He was hardly going to make a Gendry-style comeback and then have an important part to play, he was just loose change in the over-full purse of Winterfell plot.

He may well have become a confusion in the matter of 'who should be Lord of Winterfell'.... "It can't be Jon, he's a bastard, Bran is off with the fairies in his head... could it be a girl or should it be the next oldest boy..." too much contrivance when we already know where the overall plot should be going, now we're fully aware of Jon's parentage - even if at the time, most of the characters weren't.

*Rickon plot synopsis...
Was given one of 6 puppies.
Tagged along when Osha took Bran away from Winterfell after Theon's attack.
Was supposedly killed by Theon - which gave a lot of plot device to many characters for many episodes.
Tagged along to somewhere near the wall where Osha then took him off for a couple of seasons.
Returned with Osha for her to be killed by Bolton [she also had no plot line left], betrayed by Smalljon Umber as a plot device for wildlings and Jon, then became 'entertainment' for Bolton to provoke John.
At all times merely a bystander to the events, never a contributor.


In the inimitable words of Robert Baratheon

Only a FOOL would run zigzag in an OPEN FIELD NED!!!

When I asked this question, I totally forgot the hundreds of Archers standing beside Ramsay.

In an ideal, one-on-one case, if Rickon had run zigzag in a true random way, his chances of getting hit by an arrow are almost 0%. But humans aren't random, we always seek pattern. So, his zigzag run would practicality be pseudo random. I don't know probability & cognitive science so I would assume his chances of getting hit by an arrow are 10%.

But in the actual case, he had Ramsay & hundreds of archers with their arrows & his chances of getting hit are 100%. Four scenarios are possible in this situation:

  1. Rickon, thinking smartly, runs zigzag from the start. Jon sees this & holds back & lets Rickon come to him. Ramsay tries his luck few times & then orders his archers to loose the arrows. However you might zigzag, an arrow will hit you in this case.
  2. Rickon, thinking smartly, runs zigzag from the start. Jon, not seeing this also runs for the rescue. See scenario 3 for outcome.
  3. Rickon runs straight initially, Jon goes to rescue him. When Ramsay's 1st arrow lands, Rickon understands that his chances of survival are more if he zigzags. So he does. Jon on a horse can't change his directions very fast. He has to run in a general direction of Rickon. Rickon may run zigzag for a while but as he gets closer to Jon, he has to run in the direction of Jon or he would miss him. So, for that last few yards, his path is predictable & Ramsay can aim clearly. And he does.
  4. The original one. Rickon runs straight ahead as fast as he can to get out of range of that bow. Running zigzag will take him twice or thrice more time to get out of range. By being naive & running straight ahead towards Jon, he at least could keep the contest one-on-one.

So, Rickon had a greater change of survival if he ran straight as he did rather than zigzag where his chances would be almost 0%.

Additionally, he was an 11 year old boy, whose Direwolf was murdered, & held prisoner by the people he thought his allies. Thinking clearly would be difficult in this situation.

Ramsay primary objective was to kill the last male Stark, his secondary motive was to lure Jon away from his man & disrupt his strategy. So, his priority would be to kill Rickon as in scenario 1. In scenario 2, 3 & 4, he could do it himself.

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