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GameMasterY: Glossary of Roleplaying Terms

Updated on August 16, 2013
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My hobby is World Building. Unusual, but rewarding. I wish to give of my learning and experiences.

Each profession, culture, and hobby develop unique vocabulary and word usages peculiar to the tasks and experiences common to that group. As sub-cultures and communities have grown up around games and the people who play them, so too has the specialized vocabulary and word usage associated with these niches developed along side.

This glossary will attempt to document terms common to roleplaying games in American usage. Please be aware that some definitions are contested, and that usage changes as time, technology, and games continue to progress. Some narrow or uncommon niche terms may be skipped in favor of a more generalized treatment.

This glossary is extensive, but something may have been overlooked. Please feel free to comment at the bottom of this page about what you think should be added or changed.


(Given in alphabetical order)


A single characteristic of a given character. Sometimes used to refer to special powers as opposed to normal abilities.

Ability check:

Rolling the dice to randomly determine success or failure at a task related to a specific ability, such as strength or intelligence, in the game context. See also "skill check" and "check".


"Armor Class", a measure of how hard it is to hit and/or damage a character. Sometimes refers to the kind of armor (ie: "Armor Category") being worn in systems where many kinds of armor exist.


A sub-genre where events come at you fast, and don't stop. Usually set in the Modern genre. Also called High Action, especially when taken to extreme degrees.

Also used to describe someone's turn, or more specifically what your character is going to do this turn. Example: "It's your action", or "What is your action this round?"

Action Points:

A special pool of points which can be spent to enhance an action the character is going to take, or to negate or reduce an action taken against the character by an opponent. The mechanics for gaining them, and what they are allowed to be spent on vary wildly from game to game. See also "Fate Points".

Action Resolution:

Determining the results of a specific action taken in game context. See also "Conflict Resolution".

Active, Activity:

Generally used with reference to web-based communities, or about specific threads on a forum or bb-based site to indicate how often and/or how recently activity has occurred (usually defined as recent posts in those cases). Is also used about groups of roleplayers in any venue, or about a given campaign. Example: "My group hasn't been active lately", or "My campaign is still active, but I need more players".


"Advanced Dungeons and Dragons". A reference which is variously applied to Basic, Advanced, 1st, even early 2nd edition D&D. See also "D&D".


"Administrator", is sometimes used in place of "GM" on web based venues for roleplaying.


In most games, this refers to a characteristic of either a character or power of the character that gives them additional options compared to the standard character or ability. A few games use this to mean that a character has a bonus to their next action.


A short story arc with specific goals and planned or random encounters, ranging in duration from a single session to multiple sessions. A "Campaign" is made up of a series of adventures. See also "Encounter" and "Campaign".


"Away From Books". This term usually prefixes or suffixes a statement about the rules of a given game. It indicates that the one making the statement cannot currently reference the rule books, and therefore is going from memory, which is intended to excuse any inaccuracy in recollection. See also "IIRC".


"Away From Keyboard". This term is used to warn others in a text-based interactive environment that you are stepping away from the keyboard, and will therefore not respond to anything for what might be a lengthy period of time. Considered a polite necessity on a par with 'asking to be excused' in real-time online communities. Some variant of 'back' indicates that you have returned. See also "BRB".


"Agility", a measure of how flexible and quick to react a character is. In some games this is the same thing as Dexterity, in others they are separate abilities.


"Artificial Intelligence". A staple of Sci-Fi, this is an artificially constructed sentience of some kind, usually a robot, computer, or living program of some kind.


A game statistic which usually indicates the overall attitude or beliefs of the given character, frequently along moral and ethical axes. Some seek to specifically avoid entanglement with morals and ethics and attempt to model beliefs or mindsets. Different games handles this differently, while some games ignore it entirely.


"Alternate". Some game systems allow or encourage only one character per player. Others allow multiple characters per player. When multiple characters are allowed, but they are only played one at a time, one character is usually designated the primary, while the other characters are considered "alts" or "alternates".


(AHH-KNEE-MAY) Animated shorts, series, or movies. The term in Japanese is simply an abbreviated form of the English word "animation" as pronounced in Japanese. In Japan, it means any and all animation, regardless of country of origin or intended audience. Frequently used for character, plot, and story inspiration in roleplaying. In English usage, it specifically means animation from Japan, though the definition has slowly broadened to include all similarly styled animation. There are a few who still insist on using the now mostly defunct term "Japanimation" to refer to animation done in the style, but not originating from Japan.


"Area of Effect", an effect which affects everything in an area simultaneously. Many magical, psionic, and explosive effects fall into this category.


"Attack of Opportunity". A special extra attack granted to a character against opponents who give them an opening by taking certain actions.

Action Points:

See "Fate Points".

AT or ATT:

"Attack" / "Attractiveness". Either a measure of the offensive capability of a character, or rarely, a measure of physical beauty.

Attribute check:

A roll (which die or dice is determined by the game setting) to which the value of a specific attribute is added, used to determine success or failure at a task relating to that attribute, while adding an element of risk or chance.


"Alternate Universe" - Any universe other than the one that is considered the baseline reference, but which has a casual relationship of some kind. It also references the Free-Form RP practice of postulating an alternate universe based on someone else's creation, but with one, a few, or many elements changed to suit the personal desires of the secondary-creator of the AU, typically used to justify why their version(s) of someone else's character(s) is the way they are. See also "Mirror universes"; a classic example of this.


"Attack Value", or "Armor Value". The former is a generic measure of the overall offensive capability of a character. The latter indicates how effective a given suit or piece of armor is versus various attacks. Some systems split either of these uses into additional sub-categories.


In forum, BB, and chat based roleplaying, the practice of using instant messaging or private messaging to convey information without exposing it to the rest of the gamers. Traditional table top games typically pass notes, or step outside of the room to have the conversation, to accomplish the same effect.


The history of a given character. This is either a story-form record of all the events that have taken place in-game context, or can be made up, especially if the character is started off at a higher level. A good backstory can provide a sense of dimensionality and realism to a character. It is also considered important information for the "GM" as it can reveal past events which can be tied into ongoing story and plot, give hints about desires and goals for the future, and provide seed ideas for future stories and plots.

Ban, Banning:

The practice of restricting or disallowing a rule of a game that the "GM" and/or players do not like. Also frequently used by young, inexperienced, and/or immature "GM"s who have not yet learned how to challenge clever, unconventional players, or how to handle mid to high-level play; as well as by experienced "GM"s who have identified a design flaw they wish to change or eliminate. It additionally references having access privileges to a web based site removed, generally due to behavior, rules infraction, or an interpersonal dispute of some kind.


A skill given in some game systems which famously was made fun of for never being used (whether actually true or not), and has become synonymous with something useless or pointless. Some gamers in Char-Op communities post builds maximizing this ability as proof-of-skill in optimization.


A flat, textured, or terraformed surface (usually a table, piece of paper, cardboard, lucite, vinyl, whiteboard, computer display, or projection) which can be blank, or marked with a grid (usually squares or hexes) used to precisely map relative positions of all characters and objects during an encounter. Required to play wargames, it is favored by those roleplaying games that directly descended from a wargaming background, and by many gamers who prefer either visual accompaniment or precision in tactical and strategic play.

Some are as simple as scribbles on a surface, with or without miniatures representing creatures and characters, while others rival model railroad layouts for complexity and realism.


"Bulletin Board". One of the oldest forms of online communication among groups sharing a common interest, modern BBs are software hosted on servers. Many roleplaying communities use these to disseminate and share information. See also "Forum" and "Wiki".


"Big Bad Evil Guy". The main villain behind all the plots and machinations that usually make up the plot of a "Campaign".


"Be Back Later". A variant of "AFK".


"Basic Dungeons and Dragons". Usually considered the second version of "D&D". See also "D&D".


A reference to certain books in older editions of D&D: The books are titled Basic, Intermediate, Companion, Master, and Immortal. See also "D&D".


"Bug Eyed Monster". A staple of the Sci-Fi genre.


"Big Eyes Small Mouth". An "Anime" themed RPG popular with fans of the media. See also "TFOS".


A type of character with strong animal tendencies, behaviors, and/or abilities; often with actual animal parts and/or appearance. Sometimes used by those wishing to avoid the stigma associated with the term "furry".


One of the two campaign settings that were combined when Dungeons and Dragons was created. See also "Greyhawk".


Meeting an attack with (hopefully) equal and opposing force of some kind.


A positive modifier which is added to a check of some kind due to exceptional ability in that area, environmental factors, or other extenuating circumstances. Some systems add to the number of dice rolled, while others grant different types of advantages. See also "Penalty".


"Be Right Back". This term is used to warn others in a text-based interactive environment that you are stepping away, and will therefore not respond to anything for a short period of time. Considered a polite necessity on a par with 'please excuse me for a moment' in real-time online communities. Some variant of 'back' indicates that you have returned. See also "AFK".

Breaking Immersion:

When someone says or does something that causes others to lose focus on "maintaining character" or to begin making Out-Of-Character comments when everyone is supposed to be In-Character-Context, only.

Breath Weapon:

An weapon which typically affects an area, and is exhaled by the creature producing it. A dragon breathing fire is the classic example.

Build, or Build stub:

A partial or complete listing of the game system options selected to achieve a particular concept.

Burn out:

It is possible to play games too much, or too often. When an individual or group becomes tired of gaming, or of a particular game or group, they are said to have burned out. It also is applied to game developers or companies who stop producing new content, regardless of the reason.


A long story arc comprised of multiple adventures in a linear or flowchart pattern ranging in duration from months to years. Some campaigns have lasted for 15 years, while a rare few surpass even this lengthy time. Generally considered the amount of time over which gaming has actively taken place in said campaign, though most have breaks and hiatuses of varying amounts of time, ranging from weeks to years, in between times of active sessions.

Called shot:

In game systems where combat and other tasks are abstracted, the mechanic of a 'called shot' brings an element of realism back, without sacrificing simplicity and speed. This game mechanic allows one to specify a target, usually in exchange for an increase in difficulty (ie: a penalty) of the task.


Small metallic objects with sharply pointed tips designed so that no matter how they fall, a spiked tip is alway pointing up. Historically used to discourage pursuit, this term is also applied to tetrahedral (four sided) dice, which much like LEGO bricks, somehow manage to be right where one is stepping, and due to the shape is guaranteed to be point side up.


In games, usually "MMOs" and "FPSs", a player will hang out at a specific spot in order to get the drop on opponents repeatedly. This is generally seen as bad form and is looked down upon.

In RPGs this is more often seen as a tactical or strategic move to hold a choke point against opponents. See also "Spawn"


Low level creatures or enemies that are easily dealt with or dispatched. Sometimes used to challenge low level character when starting off, if not run intelligently by the GM, they will be mown down like hay before a sharpened scythe. See also "Mook" and "Tucker's Kobolds".


Not to be confused with the weapon cannon, this term refers to characters, items, storylines, events, or anything in a game system or setting which is established as being "real, factual, and official" with reference to the game, or inside the game context. As not all companies see fit to officially establish what is considered canon and non-canon, there is frequently argument among fans and communities for a given system and/or setting about this. Many game systems give a timeline of major events and those who were involved. These in-game "historical events" are an example of what is considered canon to that game system / setting.

There is considerable debate as to whether items produced by licensed second and third party sources can be considered canon or not, unless it is reprinted in a source by the originating company, or if the originating company releases an official statement to the effect.


Many systems have an arbitrary maximum assigned to different rules, effects, and character statistics. This is otherwise referred to as a "cap", "max cap", or to being "capped".


Generic reference to a magic using character and/or class, which stems from the phrase 'casting a spell'. Also known as 'magic user', or 'mage'.


"Collectible Card Game", as opposed to a card game where every deck is the same, collectible card games will have random or partially random cards mixed in with each deck or expansion pack. Certain cards will have deliberately smaller print runs, causing artificial inflation of the price, especially if the card's ability is useful in the game.


Certain softwares such as IRC, M***s, and similar, have "channels" or "rooms" where once joined, everyone can see what everyone else in the channel types simultaneously. Each channel may be controlled by people (see also "admin" and "mod") other than those hosting the server, and typically has a specific theme. Keeping up with conversations sometimes requires speed reading and an impressively high typing speed. Some IRC servers and channels have specialized software to support gaming. See also "Room", "IRC", and "M***".


"Character Generation". The process of creating a character. This usually involves making choices based on the game rules, and filling out the blanks on a character sheet.


Some groups have a written document which stipulates the rules for play in that group, which may also include expectations on snacks, scheduling, attendance, permissible language and behavior, hosting, and etiquette. Some gamers have such a document 'in-game' for a group that the characters form, detailing in-game expectations and rules. See also "Social Contract".


"Card Game", or "Computer Graphics", depending on context. One system uses this term as an alignment: Chaotic Good.


An individual unit and/or virtual person existing inside a game that is being run or managed by one of the gamers. In some games, the character has no visual representation, except for the abstract of a character sheet. In other games, a marker, picture, or miniature figurine on a map represents one or more characters. During game play, players are often addressed as if they are their character, this practice is intended to aid in immersion, much as an actor is addressed as if they were the character they are acting while they are on stage or on set.


"Charisma", a measure of how personable or persuasive a given character is, occasionally used as the 'force of will' stat, and sometimes it is even used as a stand in for physical beauty.


"Character Optimization". Some forums have a dedicated section devoted to people who like to explore the full possiblities and implications of the rules of a given game system. Excellent way to find flaws in game design, the practice is generally discouraged during actual gameplay, unless the entire group is made up of adherents. Looting such repositories for ideas is a sneaky way in which "GM"s can learn how to build powerful (and technically legal) villains and enemies with which to oppose clever players, to know what to look out for in their own game, and to evolve strategies for dealing with player's creations without 'taking away the toys'.


Rolling the dice to randomly determine success or failure at a task in the game context. See also "skill check" and "ability check".


Taken from the Buddhist concept, it is usually translated as 'a sheaf of 1000 universes', though the word 'world' or 'region' could be substituted for universe. Usually used in the Dimension-Hopping sub-genre, Fantasy, Crossover, and Sci-Fi genres, it also has place in certain game cosmologies which explicitly support multiple universes, especially if travel between them is possible. See also "Omni-verse" and "Multi-verse". In the original concept, this is actually considered a small unit of universes, and refers to a sheaf of universes which all exist on a single plane, out of multiple planes of existence, most of which contain many many units of universes much bigger than a chiliocosm.


(SEE'-jack) An obscure reference, it stands for "Cheap Japanese Anime Cheesecake". It is a disapproving reference to any gratuitous description (textual or audial), display, or depiction of a sexual nature, regardless of gender, media, genre, or hobby. This term originated from the presence in some anime (AHH-KNEE-MAY) of "fanservice", or gratuitous views of underclothing, excessively mobile gender characteristics, and/or outright nudity.


The occupation or profession of the character. Frequently used with level based systems where the preset packages are built around various character archetypes and stereotypes such as 'warrior', 'thief', 'mage', 'priest', 'archeologist', 'cowboy', 'ninja', or 'psionicist'. A character class defines what abilities the character has access to, and how skillful they are at various activities. See also, "Race", "OCC", and "RCC".


A sometimes derogatory term applied to characters who are obvious copies of characters from other games or popular media. Clone can be literally interpreted, especially in Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Superheroic genres.


Can refer to a thread in a forum or bb based site being locked - preventing further additions or changes, or to the fact that a given game or community is invitation-only.


Sometimes players need a hint. Other times they need a big hint. And then there are those times you need to pull out a cluebat and just whale on them. Also known as a 'hint-hammer', and for those old enough to remember, '@THWAP'.


In some games, characters may acquire helpers or assistants that accompany them and provide an added measure of ability, or different abilities that the main character lacks. These cohorts are generally considered part of the primary character's abilities, as the amount of overall increase in capability due to the Cohort's lower level abilities is traded off with a need to protect the Cohort from things which the primary character could resist. Cohorts accompany the character everywhere, will jump into danger for them, and are usually controlled by the character's player. See also "Sidekick", "Henchmen", "Familiar", "Mount", "Followers", and "Hirelings".


"Comeliness", a measure of physical beauty.


"Constitution", a measure of how tough a character is, or how long they can continue a given activity. Sometimes means "Concentration", the ability to focus despite distractions.


Generally means a penalty with duration that is applied to a character due to having failed a check or after being exposed to some effect. Example conditions include, but are not limited to: 'dizzy', 'unconscious', 'helpless', 'sickened', 'bloodied', and so forth. See also "Status".

Conflict Resolution:

The basic premise of roleplaying is that there will be conflict in the form of interaction with other players, and in the form of "Encounters", where the will and goals of the players and/or characters will be opposed in some fashion. Many of the rules and mechanics presented in any roleplaying game deal with how to resolve conflicts of various kinds, and tracking how capable a given character is with each ability used to resolve conflicts. One of the main jobs of the "GM" is to present conflicts in an interesting and engaging fashion, to referee the resolution thereof, and thereby progress the story and plot.


Rules and/or source material which is considered essential to the game, such that the game cannot be played without them. Contrast with "Optional" rules and sources.


Some sort of barrier to either line of sight and/or line of effect, which prevents an opponent from targeting, spotting, or affecting the character. Example: a bush may provide cover from line of sight, but will not protect you from the effect of a bomb, whereas a concrete wall may provide cover to both.


"Character Points", a form of experience points, typically a pool of points earned during gameplay that can be spent to improve the character. In some games, this is instead defined as copper pieces, a unit of money.


"Challenge Rating". A measure of how difficult a given task or encounter is.

Crit, Critical:

Usually designated as a "Critical Success" or "Critical Failure". Generally means that the character accomplished a task so well (or so poorly) that the result is extra effective (or ineffective). Most game systems reward rolling a maximum result and punish rolling a minimum result with this sort of game mechanic. Example: In terms of an attack, a critical success might grant bonus damage, or a secondary effect which limits the opponent until healed. In terms of a skill, a critical success may result in the task only taking half the time normally required. Critical failures may result in broken weapons, a task taking twice as long, or similar. See also "Fumble".

Cross Class:

A term used to refer to a mechanic that is designed for one "Class", but may be used by other classes, typically at a higher cost, or reduced effectiveness.


A special sub-genre where two or more genres are combined. Also used when two or more universes or game settings are combined, such as, for example - gaming in a postulated universe where one player's favorite sci-fi setting is combined with another player's favorite superhero setting.

Another classic example of this phenomena is the various "What If" series of comic books that postulated everything from variations of characters, to dream-team pairings, to who-would-win contests, to mixing and matching characters and groups from entirely different companies.


"Computer Role Playing Game". Used to distinguish tabletop RPG from computer based RPG. Some dislike the limitations inherent in the limited computer and processing resources of all CPRGs, despite considerable advances in recent technology. After all, the imagination has no boundaries or map edges, does not crash, freeze, or lag, does not require a computer with a good processor and graphics card just to play, and does not cost money.


A term referring to the rules and mechanics of a game, generally indicating that the game in question has a lot of rules and/or mechanics. See also "Fluff".


A derogatory term used by super-strong characters (typically in a Superheroic or Cyberpunk genre) to refer to those who are somewhat durable, but less tough than they are, due to the sound they make when they are struck. See also "Squishy".


A sub-genre of science fiction, it is usually set in the near future with some advanced technology typified by genetic and technological enhancements to the basic organism, such as cyborgs (partial robotic enhancement), neuro-jacking (mind to computer interfacing), and customized genetic alterations, are fairly common.


"Dungeons and Dragons", one of the oldest commercial roleplaying games still in existence. Originally produced by TSR, it is now published by WotC and owned by Hasbro. D&D and its predecessor Chainmail, formed one of the major focal points of transformation and transition between wargaming and roleplaying, leading a wave of change in the nature of games and gaming. D&D has had about 9 major commercial versions. The versions are usually listed as OD&D, BD&D, AD&D, 1st ed., 2nd ed., 3rd ed., 3.5 ed., 4th ed., and at this time of writing, 5th ed..


An effect that reduces the ability and effectiveness of a character. Most game systems have both lethal and non-lethal damage. Lethal damage is the sort that wounds or harms the character, while non-lethal damage usually measures shock and stress to the character.


"Difficulty Class", or sometimes "Difficulty Check", a measure of how difficult it is to accomplish something. Some systems define this as "Defense Category", instead.

Dead Crewman Fall:

A particular style of dying and falling over made popular by the perhaps unintended frequent repetition on the classic Star Trek TV series. Seen in RPGs via LARPs and rarely in CRPGs. See also "Redshirt".


"Defense", a generic measurement of how tough it is to damage or overcome a character in some systems.


"Description". This is typically the description of an individual's character, though it can also be applied to the environment or anything that can be described.


The author(s) of a game system.


"Developer", is a generic alternate term for the author(s) of a game system, especially if that system is entirely computer based, though it has come to be applied to any game designer.


"Dexterity", a measure of how precise and finely tuned a movement a character can make. In some games this is the same thing as Agility, in others they are separate abilities.

Dice Mechanics:

Different games have different rules on how the dice are used. The most common methods are Open-ended (or Exploding), Success Threshold, and Pooled Threshold.

An open-ended dice mechanic stipulates that when the maximum or minimum result is rolled, then the dice are rolled again with the result being added (or subtracted, depending) from the total. Sometimes called Exploding when the result is good, or Collapsing when the result is bad. This can lead to rare but spectacular highs or lows with a correspondingly spectacular effect on the game. Many RP stories and folklore are based on these sorts of results.

A Success Threshold mechanic is the most common of all dice mechanics. A number is assigned based on the difficulty of the task (see also "DC" and "CR"), and the dice roll must meet or exceed this threshold in order to be counted a success. Depending on the game system rolling high may be considered good or bad.

A Pooled Threshold is a variant of the Success mechanic, where a dice pool (or group of dice, the exact number determined by the capability of the character) is rolled, the number of dice that exceed the threshold are counted, and if the number of successes exceed the number of failures, then the action is counted as a success. If most or all of the dice succeed or fail, an exceptionally good or bad result may occur.

Dice superstitions:

Whenever luck, chance, or fuzzy logic is in effect, gamers can turn surprisingly superstitious. There are many entertaining stories about how gamers will attempt to get the dice to roll a certain way. Some will 'train' the dice by rolling them before the game, in an effort to get all the 'bad rolls out'; some will scold the dice or threaten them; others will not allow anyone to touch their dice. There have been stories about people paying their dice money for every good roll they make, and stories about fish tank immersion for 'bad dice' that won't roll well. This goes hand-in-hand with the classic movie example of the gentleman having the pretty lady blow a kiss to the dice before he rolls them for big stakes.


A rare few roleplaying games use this term for the "GM", and usually have a film-based theme and/or naming scheme for game mechanics.


In most games, this refers to a characteristic of either a character or power of the character that gives them reduced options compared to the standard character or ability. A few games use this to mean that a character has a penalty to their next action.

DM, DMs:

Respectively means "Dungeon Master" (a game master specific to the Dungeons & Dragons game) and the plural thereof.


To avoid an effect by relocating in some fashion.


"Damage over Time". This describes an attack or effect that deals damage over a specified duration of time. See also "DPS / DPx" and "HoT".

Doubleplaying, Doublegaming:

The practice of running or managing more than one character simultaneously. Sometimes done as a courtesy for someone who is absent, it is also done when there are not enough players, or a group of players wants to have a specific kind of character present, but does not want to stop running their primary character. See also "Multirunning".


Where the story has been advanced in time, without actually roleplaying the intervening events. All the gamers involved agree upon what has taken place during the skipped time period. The "GM" will occasionally put constraints on what is allowed to have occurred during the skipped time period upon the players. Certain types of actions which the game rules state take long periods of time, and thus would remove a player from game play if performed during the normal course of a session are generally allowed to have occurred during downtime. See also "Vapor".

DPS / DPx:

"Damage Per Second", or "Damage Per (unit of time)". This describes an attack or effect that deals damage over a specified duration of time. See also "DoT" and "HoT".


"Damage Reduction", a value by which physical damage is reduced representing toughness versus impact, cutting, piercing, and pressure types of damage. A few systems have this as "Defense Rating".


A genre of roleplaying focused on interpersonal relationships. It is used to refer to a specific gameplay style where encounters are resolved not with the game rules or mechanics, but by what results would yield what seems to be the most interesting story at the time, which in itself is a version of Free-Form RP. While some prefer the more narrative style produced, others find the lack of framework and structure frustrating, especially if the game was advertised as using a specific game system, and then proceeds to ignore the rules and conventions of that game system.

A second definition of Drama refers to situations where gamers become overwrought and/or stubborn about some issue causing disruption to the game and other gamers.

Dump Stat:

A stat or characteristic that is considered less useful in the overall context of the game. In a combat heavy game, social interaction stats become dump stats, while in interaction heavy games, combat abilities usually become the dump stats.


Any closed encounter area. Sometimes an actual dungeon complex in the ground, it could also be a cave system, a tower, a castle, or an extra-dimensional space of limited dimensions. Generally features a closed-off area with few entrances or extis, constricted options for travel, traps, puzzles, monsters, and treasure. Any closed-in area or areas can become a dungeon. In a Sci-Fi setting, a dungeon might take the form of a crippled starship found drifting in space, or crashed onto a planet; while in a modern setting, a terrorist's secret training base might be the dungeon. See also "Dungeon Crawl".

Dungeon Crawl:

A stereotype originating from the Fantasy genre and commonly associated with D&D. The "Dungeon Crawl" is a large complex with many rooms, halls, traps, and random magical features, deep underground filled with monsters and treasure, with little regard for ecological viability or even the ability to enter or exit the area where a given monster is found. The characters move from room to room dealing with each encounter in a static fashion, killing the monsters, stealing the treasures, and occasionally backstabbing their buddy. Any adventure or scenario that follows this format, regardless of setting, can be referred to as a dungeon crawl.


A measure of toughness and/or the ability to resist damage.


"Defense Value", a generic measure of the overall defensive capability of the character.


Another measure of mental toughness and/or strength, sometimes it represents both mental strength and endurance combined.


Usually references someone who is overwhelmed with their perceived or actual negative emotions, and in particular the ones that happen to be gregarious, garrulous, or both.


To describe an emotion, or use a text picture (smilie) to depict an emotion. In text-based interfaces and software, a special command will change the default "user says,"(your typed text here)" to "username (your typed text here)". Some have more sophisticated commands allowing a wide variety of possibilities. See also "IRC", "M***", and "Pose".


"Electro-Magnetic Pulse" or "Extra Manipulatory Powers". EMP is a shockwave of energy over the electro-magnetic frequencies that has a tendency to short out active unshielded electronic equipment of all sorts. The less common definition refers to those psychic or psionic powers which deal with the mental manipulation of objects or imparting motive force to something or someone.


A logical branch point in the choices presented to players, which can be represented by enemies to fight, people to negotiate with, a puzzle to solve, a random animal in the woods, an obstacle to surmount, or a trap to defeat or evade. An adventure is typically presented as a series of encounters in a linear, multi-linear, or sandbox fashion.


"Endurance", a measure of how tough a character is, or how long they can continue a given activity.


Used to indicate an extreme of some sort, be that of awesome, or of fail. Some game systems use this to denote high level rules and/or play.


"Energy (damage) Reduction" (or Resistance), a value by which damage from energy sources is reduced representing toughness to that specifically. Sometimes further divided by type of energy. Different game systems will categorize what counts as energy differently. Common examples include fire, cold, lightning, sound, and light. Some systems include things like acid, void, positive, and negative as forms of energy.

Evil Overlord Lists:

A pair of lists developed concurrently and without knowledge of each other, one is copyrighted while the other is deliberately not; both lists are collections of classic blunders and oversights that supposedly competent villains make in various popular media and literature, irrespective of whether the hero takes advantage of said specific blunder or not.

Over the years it has been expanded to include examples from many genres. Jack Butler and Peter Anspach are credited with their lists respectively and both acknowledge many contributors over the years.

Both are considered an indispensable and highly recommended resource for gamers, both to avoid making the same mistakes, as well as to use for plot generation and development.


See "XP".


A minor NPC of no intended importance in the background of a scene. Example: The random passerby in a large city or at a faire. See also "Sidekick", "Henchmen", "Familiar", "Mount", "Followers", and "Hirelings".


An animal or creature endowed with special abilities due to close association with a powerful character. The classic stereotype is a witch's cat or a wizard's owl. In other genres, this conceptual spot might be occupied by a living crystal, a computer AI, or a small supernatural or monstrous being.


"Fan Fiction" is fiction which is created by fans of a given system or setting. Known for crossover mixes of incompatible settings and systems for the sake of humor, storyline, and personal preferences. It is usually tolerated under copyright law under the parody clause, but this is not to be taken as advice, legal or otherwise, check with the creator / copyright owner and one's own legal counsel before proceeding.


A genre of roleplaying game set in a world where creatures, items, and abilities from legends, myths, and fairy tales are common. Split into High and Low fantasy, Low fantasy contains mild fantastical elements or the ability to affect the universe is limited to minor ways, whereas High fantasy is typified by world-shattering magic, peril from outside the world, legendary monsters, extreme action packed combats, and epic artifacts. High Fantasy is also referred to as "Sword & Sorcery".

Fate Points:

A special pool of points which can be spent to enhance an action the character is going to take, or to negate or reduce an action taken against the character by an opponent. The mechanics for gaining them, and what they are allowed to be spent on vary wildly from game to game. See also "Action Points".


A measure of how tired a character is, usually an inverse measurement of how long they can continue to perform an activity.


In some systems, a special ability of a character, or an action taken, with special rules for success or failure and the effects thereof.


A race, or group of races, frequently based on the works of Tolkien, either by copying or deliberately avoiding the archetype he established. Sometimes based on the original European myths and legends from which are drawn many ideas and inspirations for roleplaying games. While most frequently found in Fantasy, they also appear in Horror, Sci-Fi, and Historical genres.


When a GM uses the method, "Because I say so!" to resolve a situation, end a debate, or avoid breaking immersion to spend time looking up the exact rule. While some few GMs may abuse this, most use it to speed up game play in general, and to keep the action flowing.


Narrative or descriptive aspects of the game that do not contain rules or mechanics. See also "Crunch".

Flying Buffalo Games:

The creator of the popular Grimtooth's Traps series, the famous Tunnels & Trolls RPG, and of the PBM / PBeM industry. See also "PBM / PBeM".


In some games, characters may acquire helpers or assistants that accompany them and provide an added measure of ability, or different abilities that the main character lacks. Followers are generally very low level NPCs which maintain the character's holdings and possessions while they are away. They are very seldom interacted with in-game, or taken on adventures. See also "Sidekick", "Henchmen", "Familiar", "Mount", "Cohort", and "Hirelings".


An evolved form of bulletin board, modern forums are sever-hosted softwares and have become one of the default methods for a community to share and communicate about the common interest. Many roleplaying groups and communities use these to disseminate and share information. See also "BB", "Wiki".

Four Basic Food Groups:

This is a humorous reference to the four basic kinds of characters as popularized by Dungeons and Dragons: Warrior, Priest, Mage, Thief. The reference is that different monsters prefer differently flavors, associated with character class. See also "Jackson Five".


"First Person Shooter". A kind of computer or online game not commonly used for Roleplaying, these games are usually set up for tactical, strategic, or arcade simulation, but exceptions exist.


An explosive device which sends fragments all about at high speed. Also a term for when a character is killed, particularly if the death is by explosion.


A style of rules and gameplay where the rules are very minimal, and generally involve one player not violating the 'rights' of another player. Players control not only their character, but the environment and any NPCs that they choose, within agreed upon constraints. This style is favored by those who use PBP and PBC environments.

It has been likened to the "Soap Opera" sub-culture of roleplaying, due to content, and to frequent altercations between players who do not keep to the rules, bend the rules in their own favor, propose story elements not to the liking of the other members of a given group or community, or even gang up on and/or verbally and emotionally abuse other players. Some altercations in these communities have become so widespread that they have passed into popular culture as memes, specialized references, and vocabulary.

It should be noted that there is an entire sub-culture with additional specialized vocabulary and acronyms based around the PBC and PBP environments in conjunction with a Free-Form style of game play. Terms unique to the Free-Form sub-culture of roleplaying often deal with concepts considered inappropriate for children, and therefore will not be covered here.

Warning: Free-Form RP communities and sites often allow material of highly sexual, pornographic, and/or other extremely offensive natures, and typically use nothing more secure than the honor system to prevent access. In other words, anyone who checks the box that says they are old enough and can type in a word or two, may be granted access with no further checks or verification. Use caution and be aware before you or your children view.


"Fade To Black". Used to skip over the continuation of an implied or stated activity that the gamers do not wish to detail or roleplay for philosophical, moral, or ethical reasons, or simply in the interest of time in order to skip over something boring, and get back to the action and decision making process.


A secret modification of the dice roll by the GM in order to have a particular result happen, or not happen. This is cheating if a player does it. Some GMs do not believe in altering the results of the dice. FUDGE is also a game system.


Sometimes the result of a "Critical Failure", and often used interchangeably, a fumble is usually interpreted as a penalty given above and beyond the normal results for failure. Example: A fumbled attack means that not only do you miss, but you also drop or break your weapon. A fumbled skill check might mean that not only do you fail to weave a basket, but you ruin the materials completely, and must go gather new materials.


A term used to describe both anthropomorphic animals used as characters, and those players who strongly prefer that sort of character. Used derogatorily against fans by those who do not share the preference, especially about those fans who have... "excessive enthusiasm"... for this style of character.


An activity defined by rules which a group voluntarily participates in for social interaction, entertainment, and/or personal challenge. This is also used as a verb by roleplayers in place of 'play', and occasionally 'dance', in addition to the usual meanings.


That's me, the compiler of this glossary and author of the GameMasterY series of articles. As in "Game Master Y". Otherwise known as 'nijineko' due to a long story from when I lived in Japan. When I'm not designing and building yet another world, I converse with game designers about what they meant when they wrote a particular rule... and a few other things like life, religion, job, and family.

Game Master:

In certain kinds of games, especially roleplaying games, one of the gamers is assigned to be 'in charge' of the game, or "Game Master". As GM, they may fill any number of roles including, but not limited to: administrative record keeping, storytelling, adjudication, plot and character development, cartography, referee, artist, writer, actor, mentor, and of course, gamer.

Game rape:

When a gamer has abused their ability to contribute to the game, thereby subjecting one or more of the other gamers to dialogue, mental images, and/or scenarios that are disturbing, abusive, objectionable, derogatory, offensive, inflammatory or similar. Typically, such a gamer will attempt to persist despite requests to desist, using everything from persuasion to threats to justify and allow their reprehensible actions. Black humor refers to this as having been "graped", by way of parodying being "groped".


Any participant in a game. In this context, it usually refers to someone who either roleplays or does videogames.


Describes a situation where a low level or weak character is easily dispatched or killed by a high level or powerful character. See also "PWN" and "PvP".

Gary Stu:

See "Mary Sue".

Gazebo, The:

One of the most fearsome and deadly of all monsters in the game of Dungeons and Dragons. Based on a true story of a player who during an adventure, encountered a gazebo, but did not happen to know what a gazebo was thus assuming it was a monster, and attempted various forms of attack. Much hilarity ensued. The DM, finally frustrated by the situation, stated that the gazebo had been woken up and that it ate the player's character. This story has become legend among the gaming and online communities, even outside of D&D circles. The original story is copyrighted by Richard Aronson, and can be found using the online search keywords "Gazebo", "Bride", "Portable", & "Hole".


A combination or fusion of elements for better effect than the same elements grouped singly. In some games, there are optional rules for mixing elements of different classes or professions to make different kinds of characters. Generally more powerful than either kind of character before mixing. Generally results in more powerful characters than by using a "Multi-Classing" method.

GM, GMs:

Respectively means "Game Master", and the plural thereof.


A character that is being run by the GM as if it were a being run by a player. In smaller groups without enough players, this is sometimes done to beef up the group or provide a needed set of abilities that no one else wants to play. Some GMs, however, do this in order to play their dream fantasy: the un-killable, indefeatable, all-powerful, angst-ridden with a tragic background, alternate-self or otherwise favorite character, which is very bad form indeed. Even mentioning the term will generally net some eye-rolling and sighs, and admitting that you plan on doing so may cause players to leave the table, or even leave the game entirely. See also "Mary Sue".

GNS, GNS Theory:

A theory of gameplay describing all roleplaying game systems and game play experiences as having varying amounts of 'Gaming', 'Simulation', and 'Narration' elements. Strong proponents of the theory seem to favor the Narration element over all others, though this may actually result from the fact that most game systems have mechanics offering strong support for Gaming and Simulation elements, but weak mechanical support for the Narration element.

Gaming element is defined as a game having a win scenario, with the implied or stated goal of the game being to win. 'Gamist' players are those that seek to 'win', even in situations where the game does not have or support a 'win scenario'. Many RPGs do not have a clearly defined 'win' scenario, but rather have an ever changing set of goals which only end when the game is declared over, with or without a 'win'.

Simulation element is defined as a game which emulates reality to a high degree, whether that be modeled after the real world, or using an imaginary set of laws of physics and cosmology. Many RPGs abstract their representation of reality to a degree that there are occasional situations that could occur that would be utterly ridiculous, not to mention impossible, in the real world. This is usually considered a flaw in the game design. A 'Simulationist' player will ask questions about how the laws of physics operate in the game, in order to make proper use of the possibilities. A historical wargame is a good example of a 'simulation' heavy based game.

Narration element is defined as a game where narration, story, and thematic elements and development take priority in plot development and conflict resolution. Most Narration based games are rules minimal or Free-Form in nature. The entire ruleset for Conflict resolution may be as simple as RPS (Rock Paper Scissors) with the number of rounds required to succeed determining how difficult a task is. Some Narration element based games use a word-based system for conflict resolution where each character has a number of attributes defined by words, and using one or more of those key words in your narration determines how strong your attempt to resolve the conflict is. Others rely upon cooperation between players to resolve conflict without offering any specific mechanics about how to do so, only guidelines on how to create a good story. Narrativist players tend to become frustrated with a strict adherence to rules, especially when it is perceived as getting in the way of developing or telling an interesting and engaging story.


"God-Moderator". Used in text-based roleplaying games where one player describes things happening to another character against the will and/or without the consent of that character's player. May also have meant a Moderator on a BB or Forum that was allowed to do whatever they wanted without restraint by the Admins. Sometimes referred to as 'Magic!Anonymous", "Magic!Anon", or "M!A", especially in Free-Form games where others are permitted to inform a player that thier character has suffered a mishap and request that they RP accordingly for a time.


See "Mook".


"Gold Piece". A common item of currency in the Fantasy genre, and treasure items in many other genre. Other common designations are "CP" for copper piece, and "SP" for silver piece.


Rules which are stated in a very general fashion, give no examples, skimp on details, and/or raise many questions as to interpretation and leave them unanswered.

Grassy Gnoll

The only thing more deadly than a Gazebo, is a Gazebo on a Grassy Gnoll. See "Gazebo, The".


One of the two campaign settings combined when Dungeons and Dragons was created. See also "Blackmoor".

Gun Bunny:

The RPG version of a gun fanatic. In anime and anime-based RPGs this is often a female character, but the term applies irrespective of race or gender.


"Generic Universal Role Playing System", by Steve Jackson Games, is exactly what is says. It has a fast paced, easy-to-play rule set, and zillions of options for almost every genre and setting imaginable. No other game system has managed to obtain the rights to produce gaming supplements for so many novels and franchises. It has a reputation for difficulty which stems from the vehicular rules which in one or two places require intermediate math, and the fact that with so many options, IF one allows any and all material, it is very difficult to keep pace with and balance the results.

Also notable for the quality and intensity of research that goes into the books, many gamers purchase GURPS books as reference material simply to be informed or inspired about a given genre or subject, regardless of what game system they themselves play.


A measure of toughness or the difficulty in damaging an inanimate something.


In some games, characters may acquire helpers or assistants that accompany them and provide an added measure of ability, or different abilities that the main character lacks. Henchmen differ from other forms of helpers in that they are usually temporary in nature, such as from cashing in a favor or assisting until a specific goal is accomplished, and may assist for a single adventure, or perhaps only a single encounter. Henchmen may be controlled by the player or by the GM. See also "Sidekick", "Cohort", "Familiar", "Mount", "Followers", and "Hirelings".


A method of mapping using hexagonal shaped spaces instead of a grid of square spaces. Common to many tactical and strategic games. Sometimes may refer to a magical minor curse in the Fantasy or Superhero genre. See also "Square".


A Hireling is a special kind of NPC that may or may not accompany the character(s), but only provides passive support. They generally are not high level, have only one skill or special ability of note, and will not enter dangerous situations. They generally do have a skill or expertise that the character(s) lack. Example: a native guide, a housekeeper, a muleteer, or a healer. See also "Sidekick", "Henchmen", "Familiar", "Mount", "Followers", and "Cohort".


A genre of roleplaying set in a specific period of time in the past. Common examples are Gaslight, Victorian, Pulp, Medieval, Steam, Oriental, Bronze, Musketeer, and Napoleonic. This can also be applied to other settings such as Sci-Fi or Fantasy if the timeline and history are well documented. Modern roleplaying branched off from historical war gaming when some people decided to add fantasy elements to Medieval war games, and to shift the focus of the players from being an abstract commander of many units on a field of play to being a single personified character.

Hit Location (HitLoc):

In some of the more detailed games, a successful strike is followed by a mechanic (usually a random roll) to determine where the strike hit, which in turn determines what happens to the character as a result. See also "Called Shot".

Hit Points:

An abstract concept representing how much damage or punishment a character can take before losing effectiveness, becoming unconscious, or dying. Some game systems separate structural damage from vital damage, or using a condition-based system instead.


Rules or even entire game systems made by independent gamers on their own time. These creations are distinguished from "Indie" or professional products by a lack of commercial interest or intent. Some games will allow, and even encourage quality homebrew, while others eschew it due to the wildly varying degree of quality found in such creations. Dungeons & Dragons started off as a homebrew version of Chainmail, before it went commercial.


A genre where a heightened degree of suspense, and if possible even a touch of fear, is cultivated during game play. Generally tends towards a darker feel to game play, gritty realism, creepy monsters, and gory endings. It is the "original Brothers Grimm" version of Fantasy, frequently crossed with Modern.


"Heal over Time". Describes an effect which heals a character of damage over the duration of a specified period of time. See also "DoT", and "DPS / DPx".


Most groups will tweak the game they are playing with custom rules unique to the group or GM. These are called "houserules". Some are adopted into later versions of the game, while others are seen as 'breaking' the game. D&D was developed through 'houserules' to the Chainmail system in two different gaming groups, which were then combined into one game when it went commercial.


"In-character" / "In Character Context", a term describing comments intended to be made by or about the character inside the game context as opposed to referring to something in real life. See also "OOC".


Originates from online based interactions where one or more uses fails to respond over a period of time. The term is also applied to anyone who is doing something not related to the game the group is playing. See also "AFK".


This term usually prefixes or suffixes a statement about the rules of a given game. It indicates that the stater is going from memory, which is intended to excuse any inaccuracy in recollection. See also "AFB".


"Instant Message" A software client or plug-in to other softwares that allows real-time private communication between individuals or among groups. It also refers to the message itself, in the same way that the term mail can refer to a letter. See also "PM".


"In My Opinion" or "In My Honest/Humble Opinion". Common abbreviations in text-based environments.


"Independant", as in, a game designer not associated with any of the RPG industry 'big-name' companies. Such designers be an individual or a small group. It also refers to games released to the public by a non-commercial or commercial but non-traditional means.


In turn-based roleplaying games (which most are) who gets to take their turn in what order is usually decided by either a random roll, a statistic on the character sheet, or some combination or variant thereof. This order of taking turns is called "initiative" in most roleplaying games. It will frequently be heard as, "Who has initiative?" which simply means - who has the next turn?


"Intelligence", a measure of how smart a character is, usually representing the ability to process quickly, understand tough concepts, and invent new things. Sometimes used to represent recollection of facts in systems that do not use Memory (MEM).


"Intelligence Quotient". See "INT".


"In Real" or "In Real Life", used to distinguish a comment, or portion thereof, as being a reference to something in real life, as opposed to something in an in-game context. A somewhat rare variant is "ITR" for "In The Real".


"Internet Relay Chat". A text-based protocol for communication, this terms is also the generic name of most software that uses this protocol to communicate. IRC servers have "channels" where once joined, everyone in the channel can see what everyone types simultaneously. Each channel may be controlled by people (see also "admin" and "mod") other than those hosting the server, and typically has a specific theme. See also "Channel", "Room", and "M***".

Jackson Five:

A pop-culture reference to five basic kinds of characters: Warrior, Healer, Mage, Thief, Archer. Sometimes the Archer is replaced by Pilot, Mage by Mechanic, Thief with Computer Specialist, and Healer with Psionicist depending on genre and game system. Most games reference only four main types of characters; see the "Four Basic Food Groups".

Johnny One-Shot:

A reference indicating that a character has only one significant ability. Some players start to view this ability as a hammer, and any encounter, regardless of type, as a nail. May originate from the old "Misfits of Science" TV series.

JK, J/K:

"Joking". Common abbreviation in text-based interfaces.

K, or KK:

Text-based slang for Okay.


Sometimes a measure of how often good or bad will happen to a character, it is also used as a form of experience points in certain games. More recently, it has been assigned the meaning of a narrative style of conflict resolution where the GM simply decides the result based on a given character attribute.

Killer GM:

A gamer who when given the position of Game Master, uses their power over the plot and story to manipulate events such that most or all of the characters inevitably die, or die on a fairly frequent basis.


originally the term applied to network slowdowns in real-time text-based interfaces such as "IRC" or "M***s", which could cause everything from missed posts and waiting, to flooding one's screen with everything that occurred during the slowdown as the network catches up with the traffic load. Is now applied to anything or anyone that is late or slow, but especially as relates to anything computer based.


"Live Action Role Play" and one who participates in live action games. Further divided into 'boffer' and 'chamber' game types. A LARP can be a group of any size where each person acts out the role of their character, frequently going as far as to create and don a costume. There are different systems for ability usage and conflict resolution, but they tend towards minimal rules, maximized narrative dialogue, and swift, easy conflict resolution.

The boffer LARP game uses foam or padded weapons, much in the fashion of the "SCA", with touches on the opponent causing 'damage' and inflicting "status effects" by way of movement restrictions. The chamber type is typically a smaller group that can fit into a single room, from which comes the name. Some chamber LARPs have multiple small gaming groups spread across a region, and they communicate the results of turns with each other. A person who participates regularly is called a LARPer.


This term refers to combining two elements or concepts that are independently considered cool under the assumption that the combined result will be even better. More often than not, this results in unintended humor and a failure to meet expectation. Example: Lasers are cool. Sharks are cool. Therefore, Lasers plus Sharks must equal MORE COOL!


Many game systems use a level-based system to advance characters. A level typically consists of a pre-set package of abilities that improve or add to the character's existing abilities. Such packages frequently include a mix of static increase with a few random die rolls to determine how much certain abilities increase. Some players prefer the slightly unpredictable nature of progression. Some systems have rules limiting what packages can be picked based on various constraints, and all systems have multiple options of packages to select from usually called "classes" or "professions".

Life Points:

Another form of "Hit Points".


"Line of Effect". A concept used to determine if a particular effect can reach, and thereby affect, the intended area or target. Depending on the nature of the effect, "Line of SIght" may not be required. Example: Close counts with hand grenades, bombs, and nukes.


"Line of Sight". A concept used to determine if a character can 'see' something or not, usually in order to hit it. Extremely important in tactics-heavy games, particularly those that make frequent use of maps.


"Laughing Out Loud" Used to indicate humor in response to a remark in a text-based environment. See also "ROFL"


"Life Points".


A specific sub-genre of Horror postulating that the truth of reality is so horrifying and outside of the human ability to comprehend that mere exposure to the truth of reality, even briefly, will very likely drive one insane. Oh, and there ARE monsters out there, and they WILL get you, eventually. Named after Lovecraft and his works, despite that he was emulating two of his favorite authors in his writings. They are (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one's personal preference) much less well known.

M**, or M***, or MU**:

"MUCK", "MUSH", "MUU", "MOO", "MUD" (and more). Specialized text-based software designed for Multi User environments, which is what the 'M' and 'U' typically stand for. Over time, many variants of the software were created, and the plethora of M-something names became so numerous that the wildcard character '*' was used to replace any characters after the 'M'. Usually designed to support either roleplaying or group discussions. Depending upon the skill of the coders, these environments can be extremely complex and interactive, even real-time, while others tend towards a minimum. Some are decidedly social in nature, while others are very gameplay oriented.

The concept of "Rooms" originated from these types of software. Many of the modern rules of internet etiquette evolved from the rules common to these communities, as well as from bulletin board based communities. Most M*** servers require either the telnet program to access, or a client that understands how to communicate using the telnet protocol. See also "Rooms" and "Channels".


A kind of power common to fantasy and superhero based genres of games, representing interaction with and possibly mastery of occult and/or supernatural forces, characterized by spells, incantations, rituals, supernatural beings, and enchanted items; these powers may have some internal set of rules that are followed, usually can only be mastered by intense and prolonged studies and/or practice, but in any case are typically capable of accomplishing impossible tasks in a relatively easy fashion, at a cost. Mechanics presented in games are abstract ideas and rules intended to represent the idea of roleplaying a magic-capable character, not as something to be attempted in the real world.

Maintaining Character / Maintaining Separation:

To "maintain character" or "maintain separation" is to stay in-character, which is to only say or describe things that the character is actually supposed to be saying or doing; or to avoid failing to specify if statements are in "ICC" or "OOC" mode.


Most commonly used as a reference to an energy source or field, which is the source or power behind magic in a game system.


Many game systems include maps of regions described in the game, and of encounter areas in adventures. Many RPGs use maps to aide in describing and visualizing the area where the characters are, especially at times when knowing exactly where each character is located is very important. Wargames cannot be played without maps, while Narrative games seldom use maps of any sort. Most maps use "Hex" or "Square" grids to show locations and distances, though other systems exist. Maps may be drawn or projected onto something, may be physical models, or may be presented in and through a digital format.

Mary Sue:

A character who is perfect in every way, and no 'practically' about it. This is generally a form of wish-fulfillment on the part of the player or author. The original "Mary Sue" was a "Fan-Fic" character in the Star Trek setting, supposedly a raw cadet who was able to outsmart Science Officer Spock, seduce Captain Kirk, and, of course, saved the universe more-or-less single handedly. A male version of this sort of character is usually called "Gary Stu".


"Mental Endurance", a measure of how long a character can withstand mental trauma, stress, mental attacks, or continue a difficult mental activity such as psionic powers.

Meat Shield:

A tough character used as a damage soak which weaker characters use to shield themselves from attacks. See also "Warrior".


A sub-genre involving giant robots as a primary form of offensive and/or defensive combat, transportation, or accomplishing work. Based on the two sub-genres "Super Robot" and "Real Robot" from Japan. The word 'mecha' is an abbreviation of the English word "mechanical" as pronounced in Japanese. The first mecha in animation was Tetsujin 28-Go in 1956.


A game rule and/or concept which affects and determines how the game is, or is not, played. Example: When a gamer says, "That's a lousy mechanic!" they are generally not talking about their real life vehicle's repairperson, but rather a rule in the game they do not like. See also "System".


Combat up close and personal, usually by weapon or weapons wielded in the hands or other manipulative appendages that do not project or fire objects, such as knives, swords, pikes, morning stars, whips, and clubs.


"Memory", a measure of how accurately information can be recalled, especially if exposure was brief or long ago.


Information about the game, rules, and mechanics. Contrasted by the story or plot that is happening 'in-game' context. See also "Metagaming".


This term describes any time a player uses personal knowledge of a game, setting, system, or comment by another gamer, that said player's character could not possibly know; to act, interact, react, or solve an encounter. While this is generally discouraged in actual game-play, it can also be used deliberately on the part of a player or "GM" to represent precognitive abilities, divinations, intuitions, insights, a danger sense, and even simply for humor.


When a designer or publisher has an ongoing storyline and/or plot as an integral part of the game which continually progresses along with additional published material, this is what is meant by "Metaplot". This continuing story becomes the 'campaign history' as time is advanced in the game setting, and is considered "Canon". Games with extensive histories sometimes publish supplements detailing special rules or conditions for specific eras, or periods of time from the campaign history. The campaign settings of "Blackmoor", "Greyhawk", 'Dragonlance', and 'Star Wars' are known for having extensive Metaplots.


See also Powergamer, Munchkin, and Optimizer. This term is generally interpreted to mean someone who either makes balanced character choices which minimize weakness, and maximize strengths, though it is more often used to mean unbalanced characters that have their strengths maximized, at the expense of minimal ability in other areas. For most, this is a negative thing, for others, a deliberate choice for the RP challenge. Some use all four terms in the same way, while others insist that the terms represent different points on a curve. Warning: these terms are potentially volatile, and can be considered insulting depending on the individual.


A small figurine or statuette, usually built to be in-scale with a common mapping convention (1" = 5" is one of the most common), made of plastic, pewter, or some other material, used to represent a character or unit. Some can be highly detailed and on a par with railroad model quality. The term has been broadened in some circles to include flat 2d pictures on stands, as well as token or markers. Originates from historical wargaming.


Usually defined as the evil villain's ("BBEG") version of a "cohort" or "follower". See also "Sidekick", "Henchmen", "Familiar", "Mount", and "Hirelings".

Mirror Universe:

An alternate universe where there is a specific, generally thematic, difference between the alternate, and whatever is considered the original. A classic example is a universe where everyone has a double, each of whom is the opposite from themselves on the moral and ethical axes.


"Massive Multiplayer Online", with the optional variants of "Game", or "Role Playing Game". A unique server software designed to allow hundreds or even thousands of people to log in and play simultaneously. The descendant of "M***s".


"Moderator". On forum and bulletin board based sites, a moderator is in charge of assisting one or more "admin" in enforcing the rules. Also an assistant "referee" in "LARPs".


A genre set in the modern world and/or time period, or a time period very close to it, such as within a few decades. Supernatural and Cyberpunk and Oriental are common sub-genres. Frequently conjoined with High Action, much like an action film.


A creature used to oppose the characters, as an obstacle, puzzle, combat, interaction, or negotiation encounter.

Monty Haul:

A campaign that has incredible amounts of wealth and equipment all over the place relatively easily accessible to the characters, typically well beyond the normal amount possessed by characters of their level and experience. Also refers to a GM who continually provides lots and lots of wealth and equipment. Named after the host of the TV series, "Let's Make A Deal!" Monty Hall, and his signature phrase, "What's behind door number (1, 2, or 3)?"


A low level NPC that opposes the characters in some way, is generally not given a name, and will not likely survive an encounter with the characters. Sometimes called "Peons". See also "Cannonfodder".


An animal or creature used as transportation, and possible as a beast of burden. Depending on the genre, may be anything from a simple animal to a fully-fledged character run by another gamer, or something in between. Some classes or character concepts automatically gain a mount as part of their abilities, such as the stereotype of a "Paladin", or "Magical Girl".


"Mental Power", a measure of strength of the character's mind, usually in conjunction with mental attacks or other exertions of a mental nature, such as psionic powers. Alternate possibilities include "Magic Points" or "Mana Pool".


"Mental Strength". A measure of strength of the character's mind, usually in conjunction with mental attacks or other exertions of a mental nature, such as psionic powers.


Many games have core or optional rules which allow a single character to be of more than one class or profession. Generally weaker than a character who only focused on one class or profession, however, they tend to have greater flexibility and a broad range of abilities. Not the same as "Gestalt" which generally combines the best of the classes or professions and discards the worst.


Some gamers do not like the concept of "Multi-classing", and use this term with regards to such characters.


See "Doubleplaying".


Usually used in the Dimension-Hopping sub-genre, Fantasy, Crossover, and Sci-Fi genres, it also has place in certain game cosmologies which explicitly support multiple universes, especially if travel between them is possible. See also "Omni-verse" and "Chiliocosm".


See also Powergamer, Min-maxer, and Optimizer. A term with a significant negative connotation, this term generally is applied to those who make the most powerful character they possible can, and especially if they use questionable interpretations of rules, or a mix and match of rules from multiple supplemental sources, obscure sources, or even different versions of the game system in question. Some use all four terms in the same way, while others insist that the terms represent different points on a curve. Warning: these terms are potentially volatile, and can be considered insulting depending on the individual.

Also a very humorous and enjoyable card game from Steve Jackson Games.


The number shown on the die or dice, before adding any bonuses or subtracting any penalties.


This term is used when a game designer or company issues a revision to a game mechanic which significantly weakens, reduces the effectiveness, or increases the difficulty of using that mechanic. The name derives from the name of a famous company that produces weaponized toys which have blunted and softened parts to prevent injury to those that play with them.


"Non Player Character". Refers to and and all characters in the game which are played by the gamer in the position of the "GM" as opposed to being played by one of the players. Also refers to support characters in Free-Form RPGs that are played by the player which are there for solely for flavor, story, or verisimilitude and do not lend any meaningful mechanical benefit. In such cases the term is rephrased to be "Not Played Character".


"Outside Character Context" or "Out Of Character", is a term used to describe comments made by the player which are intended for real life, as opposed to the character making a comment inside the game context.

At least one system uses "OCC" to mean "Occupational Character Class", which is the occupation or profession the character is trained in.


"Original Dungeons and Dragons". The original boxed edition of Dungeons & Dragons, with three main booklets. There were also three official supplemental booklets, with one additional booklet not titled as a supplement. See also "D&D".

Old School:

Refers to an older version of a game system, especially if the gamers in question do not like more recent versions. Also used to refer to experiences with previous versions or styles of play that may no longer be common.


Unlike the "Multi-verse" or "Chiliocosm", this concept is meant to mean all possible universes combined into one structure. It is most often used to justify whatever Crossover genre the gamers wish to game in. At least one game system has a rule that it has an Omni-verse, but that no other game systems are allowed to be part of it, nor is travel into or out of it possible.


"On My Way" In games that are visually based, such as MMOs or VR games, a character may be some virtual distance away, and require time to relocate to the desired spot. May be swift or slow, depending on if the game allows teleporting or not.


Generally means that anyone is welcome to join a game or community, or in the case of forum and bb based games, post a comment. See also "Closed".

Opposed roll:

Any roll where instead of rolling against a static target, there are two opposing die rolls made, and the higher (or lower, depending on the game system) wins.


See also Powergamer, Min-Maxer, and Munchkin. A term usually applied to those who make character choices based on what is effective, from the character's point of view. Some use all three terms in the same way, while others insist that the terms represent different points on a curve. Warning: these terms are potentially volatile, and can be considered insulting depending on the individual.


Rules and/or source material which is considered non-essential to the game. These are frequently rules which describe rare situations, add complexity or time, add new material, or cover unusual or specific themes and ideas. Contrast with "Core" rules and sources. See also "GURPS", the reigning champion of optional rules, or "Rolemaster" the second runner-up.


Aside from the usual meaning, this is also synonymous with "PWN".


Deflecting incoming force, such as that of an attack, by applying appropriate force perpendicular to, or at an angle to, the incoming force.


"Play By Chat", uses Instant Messaging software which allows players to instantly respond to each other without needing to be physically present. Some use Video Chat with Voice software to restore the face-to-face aspect of gameplay. It should be noted that there is an entire sub-culture with additional specialized vocabulary and acronyms based around the PBC and PBP environments in conjunction with a Free-Form style of game play.


"Play by Forum". See "Play by Post".


"Play By Mail", or "Play By eMail" is a system of play where players mail to each other their turns in the game they are playing. Gameplay is quite slow, but very friendly to difficult or non-matching schedules, especially for players scattered across multiple countries. Email has improved upon the speed of turns as compared to the physical mail system. The "industry" of PBM and PBeM gaming, as well as the concept of pay-for-experienced-GM was created by "Flying Buffalo Games".


"Play By Post", is a system of play copied from PBM and PBeM using a bulletin board software or website where players successively post their turns in the game they are playing. Another schedule friendly method, it is also used by those who prefer text over face-to-face interaction. It should be noted that there is an entire sub-culture with additional specialized vocabulary and acronyms based around the PBC and PBP environmentswho frequently prefer a Free-Form style of game play.


"Player Character". The virtual person / personality being played in a roleplaying game by a player. Usually defined by a listing of characteristics on a sheet of paper and is sometimes also represented by a marker, picture, or miniature figurine on a map. The conventional meaning of "Personal Computer" will also occasionally be used.


"Physical Endurance", a measure of how tough a character is, or how long they can physically continue a given activity.


An acronym for "Please Evaluate And Critique Honestly" Generally used when someone creates something new for a game, be that something within the framework of the game rules, or a new rule or rules for the game, and wishes to have feedback. Frequently seen in sections of forums devoted to "Homebrew".


A modifier, usually numeric, which is subtracted from a check of some kind due to exceptional inability in that area, environmental factors, or other extenuating circumstances. Some systems subtract from the number of dice rolled, while others grant different types of disadvantages. See also "Bonus".


See "Mook".


Either two ten sided dice with one being used to roll the one's column and the other for the ten's column; or an actual one-hundred sided die.


The ability to be aware of, or perceive something within one's surroundings. Generally accompanied by a check of some kind to determine if the character noticed it. One of the most common kind of checks made during gameplay.


A unit of time, usually very small. In some games, the term "Phase" is used instead of rounds. See also "Segment".


A gamer who is playing a character in the game, but is not taking on the role of being in charge of the game as the "GM".


"Private Message" A software client or plug-in to other softwares that allows real-time private communication between individuals. In some softwares, this is called a 'page'. See also "IM".


"Pen and Paper". Tabletop games as opposed to CRPGs or other computer games.

Point Buy:

A system or sub-system of rules where the player spends points to purchase new or improved abilities for the character. Some games exclusively use this system for all their rules, while others will mix this as a sub-system with other rule methods. Some players prefer the flexibility and lack of randomness thus afforded in creating their exact character concept. Such games, or sub-systems, may be referred to as Point-based.

Portal to a Lonely Isle
Portal to a Lonely Isle | Source


An external means of moving instantly from one place to another, without crossing the intervening space-time. Typically depicted as a door, doorway, or hole of some kind. Note also that the use of the term "Tesseract" has become a popular stand-in for this concept due to a famous children's novel.


To describe what your character is doing. This term usually references describing character actions in text based interfaces and softwares. See also "IRC", "BB", and "M***".


A publicly viewable message, typically on a forum or bulletin board. Some forums or BBs require logging into the site before being able to view the posts. Anything you post may be legally used against you, so exercise caution, common sense, and clearly designate ICC content. See also "IM" and "PM".


A genre that is centered around the aftermath of a serious disaster. Some focus on game play during the disaster in question, but most focus on the time period set some time after the disaster, which is used to allow for the addition of mutants, superpowers, rogue tech, aliens, supernatural events and entities, or even extra-dimensional beings. The classic example of a game set in this genre is Gamma World.


See also Munchkin and Optimizer. This term generally is applied to those who make character choices based on what is effective in gameplay, over other criteria for option selection. Some use all three terms in the same way, while others insist that the terms represent different points on a curve. Warning: these terms are potentially volatile, and can be considered insulting depending on the individual.


A sub-genre to the Historical genre specific to ancient times, usually the Stone Age or Dinosaur Age.


A generic reference to a character or class that is in touch with divine or supernatural powers, acts as a channel for said power, and typically is good at healing. Some systems refer to this as a cleric.

Progression tree:

Some game systems have a chart or list of abilities, powers, technology, skills, or whatever, and there are chains of dependancies where some items must be selected before others can be chosen. This large scale chained relationship is referred to as a "Progression tree".


"Physical Strength", a measure of how much force a character can exert with the force of their body.


A sub-genre where extra-sensory and extra-manipulatory powers of a mental nature are the defining characteristic. Most commonly paired with Science Fiction, but can also be found in Fantasy and Modern. In the modern world, this is referred to as ESP, or Extra-Sensory Powers, due to the nature of the most commonly described or claimed abilities.


A highly "TO" build using the rules of the Third editions of Dungeons and Dragons to achieve nigh-infinite stats and just about every power and ability possible in the game. Generally uses a kobold in the build. Is in process of becoming applied to any such nigh-inifinte power build regardless of system.


"Player versus Player". Most MMO and VR based games have areas where players are not allowed to attack each other. PvP areas specifically allow such combat to take place. Most RPGs support this possibility, but many discourage such fighting between group members, Narrative-based RPGs being a notable exception. See also "Gank" and "PWN".


"Pawn". This term refers to a victory where one was easily or swiftly defeated by another. It originates either from the name of the weakest piece in Chess, or as a variant to the word 'own', which in this context means being dominated by another. See also "Gank" and "PvP".


A minor habit or foible which is used to give distinction to a character, which may be positive in nature, or negative. Some game systems use this mechanic to grant a minor bonus and/or penalties to other characteristics. See also "Talent" and "Trait".


The race, species, or type of entity the character is. In Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Superheroic, and Supernatural genres in particular, there are usually many races of many different species to choose from when creating a character.


"Rules as Intended". Purports to be the 'spirit of the rules'; especially when the wording is unclear or lacking, seemingly nonsensical, contradictory, or has potential meanings that seem unlikely to have been meant by the designer. It is often cited to refute an unlikely interpretation of the letter of the rules. Unfortunately, there are as many interpretations or the intent of the designers as there are gamers, and this tends to be a source of much of the debate, arguing, and flame wars on roleplaying related forums. See also "RAW".


Many older adventure supplements and some GMs tend to herd, coerce, or even outright force the players along the plot path. This is referred to as being "railroaded" or "railroading". Other references to trains will also be heard from those protesting such treatment, such as, "Let me off at the next station". It is seen as a personality flaw, lack of experience, lack of ability, or simple bad form on the part of the GM, regardless of actual cause.


This term comes from the movie of the same name, and describes any situation where a character goes up against insane numbers of enemies, weapons swinging or blazing (depending on genre) and coming out of it all with hardly any scratches or significant wounds. While this is impressive and memorable when it naturally occurs (perhaps due to a freakish series of lucky die rolls), it can also be the a hallmark of a GMPC.

Random Generation

Using the dice to determine a random outcome to a given event or attempt. This is used in the character creation process to give random starting strengths and weakness to a character, during encounters of all sorts to determine how well or poorly an attempt made turns out, and as a decision making tool for both "GM"s and players. Each game system has its own rules describing how resolution is to take place. A few do not use dice at all, but some alternate system for.


A term, usually a figure, designating how far away something is from the character. Attempting to perceive or attack something at range usually incurs a scaling penalty based on how far away the thing is.

Range Bands:

A method of reducing the complicated 3D movement of multiple units to a 1D measurement of how far away any two given objects are from each other. Mostly used in the Sci-Fi genre in spaceship or starship combat.


Combat that takes place outside of arm's or other appendage's reach. Can be thrown or projected weaponry. Some systems segregate thrown combat from ranged combat. Some segregate weaponry based on the absolute range in question, or some other criteria. Common examples are thrown spears, bows, guns, artillery, and some siege weaponry.


"Rules As Written". Generally understood to be the 'letter of the rules', or what is literally written - no matter how nonsensical - it is sometimes resorted to when justifying an unlikely interpretation of the rules, or to counter a RAI interpretation that does not meet with the approval of a gamer. Unfortunately, there are as many readings of the letter of the rules as there are gamers, and this tends to be a source of much of the debate, arguing, and flame wars on roleplaying related forums. See also "RAI".


"Racial Character Class", in systems where racial abilities grant significant modifications to the character, it is tracked separately from the character's occupation. See also "OCC" and "Class".


All roleplaying games seek to represent reality in an abstract fashion, adding in whatever extra elements the genre, or gamers, call for. Realism is used as a scale to describe how real, or abstract, given aspects of the game system are. For example, most roleplaying games reduce combat and other complex actions, to an abstract using things like "hit points", "fatigue", "damage points", "criticals", "fumbles", "skill checks", "attribute checks", and so forth. The advantage to abstraction is faster gameplay, a reduced need for detailed knowledge to be effective, and relieving the "GM" and player from having to make many detailed rulings about how an action can be accomplished, or if it is even possible.


An NPC whose sole purpose for existing with respect to the characters is to die, which may have the added benefit of saving a main character, or demonstrating a danger. Originates from the Star Trek TV series where main characters were accompanied by a security detail, all wearing red uniform shirts, one or more of whom would almost always die in various fashions. See also "Dead Crewman Fall".


Some game systems use this term for the "GM".


"Renaissance Festival". Such festivals are usually open during the late summer and early fall weekends. It serves as a gathering place and venue for crafters and artisans offering unique handmade items, and performers of an older mode. In-period costumes or attire is encouraged but not required, except for those renting booths or otherwise working for the faire - who are expected to act in-character while in public premises. What events and activities are available, and how child-friendly they are, vary from faire to faire and depend largely on local talent and those who follow a regular circuit between faires. Most states in the United States have at least one somewhere in the state. Some organizations sponsor RP groups of various kinds in association with a RenFest, usually LARP based.


In game terms, this is bringing someone back to life and restoring them to the way they were before they died. A staple of the Fantasy genre, some game systems rule that the stress of coming back from the dead causes the character to become weaker, or lose a "level". Not the same as "Undead".


"Retroactive Continuity". This is used when someone realizes that they made a mistake, and wants to redo a period of roleplayed time. In order to preserve story continuity, the events that took place since the time of the mistake are declared null and void, and gameplay resumes from the point where the mistake was corrected, almost as if they went back in time and redid things, choosing differently.


See "Resurrection".


"Real Life". See also "IRL".

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies (RFED):

Refers to when a GM kills everyone's characters out of frustration, or on a whim. Comes from the actual historical usage of the phrase in a game. If you ever hear anyone say, "Then the GM got mad and rfed us..." this is probably what they mean. See also "Killer GM".


"Rolling On Floor Laughing", with an optional 'The'. Used to indicate an extreme humorous response to something someone else posted in a text-based environment. See also "LOL".


The original Middle Earth / Lord of the Rings role playing system. Sometimes called 'Rollmaster' or 'Chartmaster' due to the numerous reference charts. It has an easy-to-learn system of play, with many optional rules for expansion. Famous for the potentially deadly, extensive, and funny "Critical" and "Fumble" charts. Some GMs buy these books just to use the critical/fumble charts in their own games.


Literally, the action of playing or acting a role. The oldest known form of game, human children naturally engage in role-playing behavior almost from infancy when they copy others' facial expressions, behaviors, sounds, speech, and mannerisms, as well as when they play pretend of any kind. Adult humans roleplay on an almost daily basis as they seek to hide or project something different from what they really think and feel, impress someone, or try to fit in, among other usages.


A derogatory term indicating that the gamers or game system in question use the dice exclusively instead of encouraging RP skills and style of play. This is a hotly contested point, as many gamers feel that they should be able to play a character who is good at something they are not (social interaction skills/ability is the stereotypical example) and when they are not good at thinking up what a suave and socially adept character would say or do, it is just as wrong to force them to act something out on threat of in-game penalty, or on threat of insult and ostracism by fellow players, if they don't comply; as it is to force people who are good at acting a particular aspect of a role, to use the dice exclusively instead.

It is the personal experience of the author that forcing players to play a certain way, be that RPing a particular task, or rolling the dice for a skill check, is a counter-productive choice. In my own group, I have one such player who is horrible at thinking up social interaction stuff on the spur of the moment, and so prefers to roll a skill check for it. Whenever pressed by our other GM to RP more, he strongly resisted. However, over time, as we have let him alone and instead suggested ideas for what his character(s) might do, he has started RPing more on his own, even making sub-optimal choices because that is what his character would do. Leading by example, and not insulting or pushing either method of gameplay down any throats seems to be the most effective. See also "WWMCD".


Certain softwares such as IRC, M***s, and similar, have "channels" or "rooms" where once joined, everyone can see what everyone else in the room types simultaneously. Each room typically has a specific theme or unique description. Keeping up with conversations sometimes requires speed reading and an impressively high typing speed.

In a stereotypical dungeon, a room is a place that may contain a monster, a treasure, a trap, a puzzle, some combination thereof, or nothing.

See also "Channel", "IRC", and "M***".


Most systems use a round as the defining unit of time allotted to a single turn. How much time a round represents varies from game to game. In roleplaying games with multiple players, it is not usually feasible to have the action taking place in real time, so each person takes turns describing what their character will be doing during a given round. Certain games use other terms for dividing See also "Se"GM"ent" and "Initiative". Common units of time given for a round are 6 seconds or 10 seconds.

Some games also have special rules for how fractional numbers are rounded off, different from the mathematical conventions.


Respectively short for "roleplaying", "roleplaying game" and the plural thereof.


"Real Time Strategy" or "Real Time Strategy (and) Resource Management". Usually a wargame of some kind, though purely economic variants do exist, these games focus on small unit tactics, multiple unit strategies, and managing a limited supply of resources used to purchase new units, build structures which give various benefits, and repair damaged units; all the while fighting off anywhere from one to 16 opponents all attempting to accomplish the same thing simultaneously. Team versions are also very popular, and are sometimes combined with "FPS" style games.

Rules Lawyer:

Someone who is very proficient in knowing the rules of a given game system, or knows roughly where every rule can be found. Due to the attitude and actions of a few gamers, this term has come to have a negative connotation. Those who argue with the GM or other players about if the rules are being followed or not, particularly about rules interpretations, and especially if references are looked up and/or cited, are likely to be labeled with this.


While this can also mean the activity of moving fast from one place to another, it is used in the context of "running a program" as applied to "running a game session" or in other words, to conduct a game session for a group of players.

Saving Throw:

When the character is subjected to a negative effect of some kind, they are usually granted a chance to "save" themselves from some or all of the effect. This usually takes the form of a die roll with modifiers and penalties against a target difficulty.


"Society (for) Creative Anachronism". Pronounced both as a single word and as individual letters, the SCA is an old organization of the "Boffer LARP" type, but they actually predate the term "LARP". They host 'wars' and 'fairs' with up to tens or even hundreds of people participating, and hold 'fighter practices' where people can learn actual and stage combat forms from the time periods which they support. Loosely divided into hardcore and casual camps, serious SCA members develop character personas, tend to be very picky about historically verified realism, period costumes, and no non-historically based anything... some going so far as to act 'in-character' for the entire event duration. While not usually associated with a "RenFest", wherever they host a large meeting temporarily takes on much the same atmosphere.

Science Fiction, Sci-Fi:

A genre of roleplaying set in the far future where aliens and alien civilizations, star travel, and incredibly advanced technology are the hallmarks.


A unit of time, usually very small. In some games, the term "Segment" is used instead of rounds, however, a few games have the potential for action taking place at such a fast rate that even the handful of seconds usually assigned to a round is too long to keep track of it all. These games split a round into a number of segments, usually 10 or 12. High speed vehicular combat or superheroic speed or mental combat all are examples of actions that may take place during fractions of seconds, necessitating smaller than usual units of tracked time.


An entity of any kind or form, capable of perceiving the universe in some fashion, contemplating input, making choices, acting upon those choices in some fashion, and communicating concepts and ideas to other sentients, like and unlike the themself. Occasionally used as the ultimate in political correctness in referring to intelligent beings, or those suspected of being intelligent to some degree. Used in the Sci-Fi genre especially, to refer to intelligent races, as contrasted with non-intelligent flora and fauna. What constitutes sentience, and how to prove it through a universal method of testing on any given species, is a hotly debated point.


A single meeting where RPG is the entertainment of choice. Average game time for a single session seems to be approximately 4 hours. This time will vary depending on the composition of the group dynamics, play styles, personal circumstances, commitment level, available time, the amount of snacks, and so forth.


A generic reference to either the genre being played, or occasionally to which product line of a company that produces more than one product line. In cases where multiple releases of the same product line have occurred, a version number might accompany the response. This can also refer to the nature and characteristics of the immediate locale.


This term was popularized by the Superhero genre, though it predates that genre considerably. Superheroes may acquire helpers or assistants that accompany them and provide an added measure of ability, or different abilities that the main character lacks. These sidekicks are generally considered part of the primary character's abilities, as the amount of overall increase in capability due to the Sidekick's lower level abilities is traded off with a need to protect the Sidekick from things which the primary character could resist. Sidekicks accompany the character everywhere, will jump into danger for them, and are usually controlled by the character's player, though occasionally another player will be a Sidekick as a character concept. See also "Cohort", "Henchmen", "Familiar", "Mount", "Followers", and "Hirelings".


Skills usually represent physical or mental training, and in game context are abstracted to a simple die roll determining success or failure. The value of the skill represents 'how good' someone is at the tasks related to that skill. If a skill usage takes a long time in game context, then the other players may have their characters take multiple turns while the skill-using character is 'busy'.

Skills may be narrow and highly specific, particularly in "skill based" games, where every little thing a character can do is mostly represented by some skill; or they may be generalized and broad, potentially covering many things in one. Example: a broad skill might be gymnastics, which covers anything a gymnast might do, whereas in a skill-based game, gymnastics would be broken down into balance beam, parallel bars, uneven bars, rings, tumbling, and so forth.

Skill based:

Some game systems use a system where most or all activities and abilities are based on skills. Such games are said to be "skill-based".

Skill check:

Rolling the dice to randomly determine success or failure at a task related to a specific skill, such as basketweaving or sculpting, in the game context. See also "ability check" and "check".

Social Contract:

A concept that describes agreeing to play a particular RPG as a contract between the gamers involved, with implied and possibly stated components. While some use it to browbeat fellow gamers, others use it to find compatible gamers and to set the ground rules and expectations for playing together so that there are fewer surprises later on during gameplay. See also "Charter".


Unwanted text or messages. The junk mail or advertising of the internet. Originally used for computer based communications, it is now applied to almost any form of unwanted communication or information.


Also commonly said 'spawn point', this is the location in a computer or online game where a character will appear when entering the game, an area of the game, or where they will reappear after a set time when the character has 'died'. Some players will "camp" at these spots in order to get the drop on another player, and take advantage in combat.


"Skill Points". Some systems have this as "Spell Points".


"Speed", a measure of how fast a character is.


A spell is an in-game concept common to the Fantasy and Superheroic genres that is an abstract representation of magic being used. Each has rules defining how it works, what it can and can't do, and a description of what it looks like inside the game.


A character that uses magic in the form of spells. See also "Caster".

Splat book:

A book specific to a single game system that describes in detail a specific aspect of the game, or aspects sharing a common theme.


To pretend to be another person's character, usually for humor. In non face-to-face environments such as IRC or M***s, it is possible to change your screenname such that it appears that you are another person's character. Malicious users would use this to deliberately cause all manner of trouble, even getting the innocent person banned from the site or server.

Most software now either disallow the ability entirely, or append the users's real ID to any spoofed entry so that everyone who reads it knows who really said it. Different communities have various rules about this practice, but in general, this is considered very bad form subject to increasingly severe penalties... unless done with the permission of the spoofed party.


A method of mapping using a grid of square spaces. Common to many tactical and strategic games. See also "Hex".


a derogatory term used by super-strong characters (typically in a Superheroic or Cyberpunk genre) to refer to mundanes (any non-super individual), due to the sound they make when they are struck. See also "Crunchy".


A measure of toughness, resistance to damage, or most commonly, endurance.

Stats, Statistics:

The collection of abilities and values which describe what a character can do, and how skillful they are at any given task or stunt.


Sometimes called 'status effect', this generally means a penalty with duration that is applied to a character due to having failed a check or after being exposed to some effect. Example conditions include, but are not limited to: 'dizzy', 'unconscious', 'helpless', 'sickened', 'bloodied', and so forth. See also "Condition".


A genre straddling the steam and electrical ages, characterized by massive steam powered contraptions, but also by weird science, where scientific, technological, occult, and religious theories espoused from various times in history are treated as real and functional.


Some game systems call the "GM" a "Storyteller" instead, in particular those that emphasize story, plot, and narrative over rules and tactical or strategic style combat.


"Strength", a measure of how much force a character can exert with the force of their body.


Usually defined as a special action with special rules, in some systems this is the same as an "Advantage".


An attempt to capture or control someone while leaving them alive. This also refers to inflicting damage of a non-lethal and mostly non-damaging manner.


Game systems consist of one or more sub-systems which collectively make the framework for the game rules. Such sub-systems may be point-buy, pool-expend, option-select, random-range, random-draw, or some other method entirely.


A genre which focuses on the phenomena of super-powered heroes, often simultaneous encompassing elements of fantasy and science fiction elements explained by means of "alien", "extra-dimensional", "supernatural", "mutagenic", or "technological" origin.


A sub-genre of (usually) the Modern genre, with some fantastical elements, often with a theme of the supernatural being hidden from the bulk of the ordinary citizens of the world. This can also wind up being the same as Low Fantasy, depending on presentation, treatment, and setting.


A kind of power unique to the superhero genre, these powers are characterized by being internal to the hero possessing them, are most commonly represented by genetic alteration by survival to exposure to inimical forces or substances, though other origins such as technological, mutagenic, racial, psionic, and magical are often found.

Super Spy:

A sub-genre typically set in the Modern genre or Cyberpunk sub-genre where the characters are spies of some kind, combined with Action and typified by slick secret gadgetry, deathtraps, narrow escapes, and tense interactions.

Sword & Sorcery:

See "Fantasy", High.


"The World of Synnibarr" is a multi-genre game all-in-one-book system single-handedly produced by an individual designer. Infamous because of editing mistakes and powerful abilities which are labeled by some as "game breaking"; it has unfortunately become synonymous with poor design and poor game balance, despite many interesting ideas and extensive useful references.


A generic reference to the particular set of rules, concepts, and design choices used in a given game system.

The term system is also used to refer to specific parts of the rules of a game, though the term sub-system is more precise. Such sub-systems may be of varying types: point-buy, pool-expend, option-select, random-range, or some other method entirely. Example: Skill system (point-buy), Psionic system (pool expend), Level system (option select), Dice system (random range). Many games mix and match these sub-systems to create game mechanics. See also "Mechanic".

Take 'x':

This usually means to take a specific amount of time, as defined by the 'x', to accomplish a task.


An exceptional ability in, or affinity with, a particular activity or skill. usually something defined as being within the scope of normal human endeavor. Unlike "traits" or "quirks", these are almost always positive in nature. See also "Trait" and "Quirk".


A means of moving instantly from one place to another, without crossing the intervening space-time. Can be by internal or external means. Commonly found in Fantasy, Psionic, and Sci-Fi genres, in many computer and video games, as well as having actually been accomplished in real life.


A preset or prepackaged group of characteristics which may represent a common version of an item, character type, or other example; or it can be something which is generically applied to another thing representing a special version of specific variant of that thing.


"Teenagers From Outer Space". The oldest known "Anime" based RPG in the Americas.


"To Hit Armor Class Zero". Pronounced as 'thaco', this term comes from older versions of D&D and references a system used to determine if an attack hit or not.


A character or class that specializes in one or more of the following: sneaking, skullduggery, getting into and out of places, and appropriating or forging ways and means. Some systems refer to this class concept as a rogue, as the class does not necessarily or automatically engage in illegal behavior. Some alternate examples that fall within the guidelines of the concept are: Navy Seals, Special Forces operatives, swashbucklers, locksmiths, mercenaries, spies, traveling merchants, and independent contractors.

Time Travel / Dimension Hopping:

Two nearly identical sub genres which are a popular if specialized form of Crossover, characterized by moving to and from various time periods and or dimensions of existence. With this sort of setting the mixing many different genres and elements is viable and expected.


"Theoretical Optimization" - A practice of exploring the various combinations of rules to see what exactly can be achieved. Often uses strict, literal, or highly questionable interpretations of the wording of the rules in order to achieve the maximum possible results. Almost never used in actual gameplay, except by a group of gamers which are all experienced at "TO", and want to do something interesting and different.


TPK is an acronym for "Total Party Kill". It describes a situation where all the characters of the players in a game have died in a single encounter. This can result from the logical consequences of actions taken by players in-game, from frustration on the part of the "GM" with the players, or from deliberate action on the part of one or more of the gamers.


A distinguishing ability or characteristic of some kind, which may be positive, or negative. See also "Ability", "Talent", and "Quirk".


The concept of an advanced and transformed humanity through genetic manipulation, cybernetic or bionic enhancement, mind-machine interfaces, and/or controlled evolution of some kind. Rarely, it simply means an expanded understanding of what it means to be 'human' or 'sentient'. Occasionally a sub-genre of its own, this is most common found in the Sci-Fi genre.


"Tactical Studies Rules", the company which originally produced D&D. Sometimes derogatorily spelled T$R as a reference to the business practices adopted after control of the company was taken over by financial interests through the 1980's.


"Talk To You Later". A way of saying goodbye.

Tucker's Kobolds:

A reference applied when a weak and seemingly inoffensive creature is used to trounce much higher level player characters, without adding to or changing the rules in any way; and especially by using only intelligent tactics and strategy to accomplish the feat. In a certain popular fantasy game, kobolds (a small lizard-like race that claims ancient draconic descent with a propensity towards traps and individual cowardice) are considered by many to be one of the mechanically weaker creatures in the game.

A particular DM, reading the descriptive (fluff) text, decided that if they were run according to how they were described, they should be nowhere near as wimpy as everyone thought. That DM set out to prove his theory. According to the tale, the characters retreated multiple times, suffering several character deaths, and eventually gave up on raiding the kobold lair entirely. There was some mention of character running out of the lair screaming like little kids in fear of the kobolds.


In some game systems, the term "turn" is used as a unit of time, usually longer than a "round". See also "Round".


Bodies that have been animated somehow to a semblance of life, but are in fact, still dead. Such creatures may or may not rot, depending on the type and the game system. The animating mechanism varies from game to game. Many are taken from mythology and legends from around the world.


A universe is synonymous with a game setting, its cosmology, and everything that exists inside the game context. See also "Multiverse" and "Chiliocosm".

Unopposed Roll / Action:

Contrasted with an "Opposed Roll", some game systems have one mechanic for handling actions which are not opposed, and another for those which are contested. See also "Opposed Roll".


Sometimes "Vaporgame" or "Vaporplay". Where the story has been advanced in time, without actually gaming the intervening events. All the gamers involved agree upon what has happened. The "GM" will occasionally put constraints on what is allowed to have occurred upon the players. See also "Downtime".


Something which has configuration options, some of which may be mutually exclusive. May refer to something within a game, or there may be variants of the game system itself. See also "Optional".


Short for "Universe". Frequently suffixed behind whatever signifying name is being used to reference the entire universe and everything unique to it that the prefixed name, person, place, or thing is part of.


A measure of how much life force, combat ability, or stamina a character has left. In some systems this is the same as the "hit point" mechanic, in others it is the same as a "status" or "condition" mechanic. Some systems track structural damage and vital damage independently using this as one of the statistics.


"Virtual Reality". This refers to complex digital constructs which emulate a real environment generated by computers which allow one to manipulate a virtual presence, or character, inside a virtual environment, and even interact with virtualized objects and characters. These range from multiplayer modes in video and computer games, to "MMOs", telepresence setups, and "VR" glasses, suits, or even rooms of varying degrees of complexity and capability.


A generic reference to a character and/or class that specializes in hitting things with their body or with weapons, until they fall down.


A genre based on the popular tales and folklore of the American Frontier West, featuring small towns, harsh environments, showdowns at high noon, gunslingers, hostile natives, and fast, gritty action. At least one popular game system in this setting uses poker cards as part of the game mechanics. Another game system based off of a popular movie and short-lived TV series combined this genre with the Sci-Fi genre quite successfully, much like the old Star Frontiers game did.


A generic term for any kind of technology in purely biological (ie: organic) form. A common concept in the Cyberpunk genre.


A server hosted software that in default configuration allows anyone to log in and edit any page. The theory is that the people with specialized knowledge and training will voluntarily step forward and post accurate information, but in practice, everyone attempts to post their opinion and views.

Due to the highly variable and frequently unverifiable accuracy and quality that results, most universities will not allow information taken from any wiki-based source to be cited as a reference in assignments. Various Wiki communities continue to grapple with this difficulty and are continually evolving new rules and protocols in an effort to improve the quality of information. Many roleplaying groups and communities use these to disseminate and share information. See also "BB" and "Forum".


A measure of the force of will, sometimes used as both offensive and defensive capability, other times as one or the other.


"Wisdom", a measure of how wise a character is, occasionally used as a measure of how much common sense or street smarts a character has. Generally defined as knowing when to do, or not do something, or if a given action is in line with certain beliefs or ideals.


"Wizards of the Coast", most famous for the collectible card game Magic the Gathering (MtG), the company currently producing D&D, which is all owned by Hasbro. Sometimes stated as "Lizards" when the user is displeased with some aspect of the company or product.


"What Would My Character Do?" A borrowing of the phrase used by Christians to remind them of proper behavior and choices: "What Would Jesus Do". No disrespect is intended by the borrowing of the concept. It is intended to help a player be more "In-Character" mode and make in-game choices based on what the character might do, rather than what the player might do. When taken too far, this can actually be a bad thing, as it can affect the player negatively. All actions start with a thought.

XdY± Z:

Nomenclature common to roleplaying games and wargames describing what number ("X") of dice ("d") of a given number of sides ("Y") plus or minus a modifier ("Z"), are needed for a particular roll. For example: 3d6, 1d20, 4d10 represent "three dice of six sides", "one die of twenty sides", and "four dice of ten sides" respectively. When a single die is needed, the prefix number (the 'X') is often dropped and it is simply stated "d8" or "d12".

2d10 (sometimes shown as "d%") has the special additional special term of "percentile" due to the ability to roll a result of 1 through 100 using one die as the ones column and one as the tens column.

Before the d20 was invented a d10 and a d6 or d4 was used to roll the equivalent of 1-20, the d6 or d4 was used to determine if the d10 result was a high number (ie: 11-20) or a low number (ie: 1-10). Older games published prior to the adoption of the "d" may also list dice rolls as "X± Z", especially if they use only one type of die, thus not needed the "Y" to indicate what kind of die. These older games usually use only the d6 or the d10 for everything.


"eXperience Points", a measure of how powerful a character is, sometimes a pool with which the player can purchase more and/or better abilities. Sometimes abbreviated "EXP".


"Your Mileage May Vary". Used to imply that different people will find a given thing, usually a rule mechanic, homebrew offering, or other aspect of a game, to have differing degrees of usefulness. Also used as a declaimer with regards to advice on how to deal with something.


A popular monster made from a dead and/or rotting corpse which has been reanimated to a semblance of life by fell magics, technology run amuck, or strange disease. Typically portrayed as constantly craving the ingestion of flesh, blood, and/or brains.


An apocalyptic sub-genre. The end of the world as brought about by the creation and proliferation of "zombies".

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