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The following page outlines the extremely varied slang words and phrases used by gamers to discuss their hobby. Traditionally, the use of any given slang word or phrase was very diffuse, with only a few seeing significant usage across the entire hobby, and few people knew even a significant fraction of all the slang available. The creation of this diversity is due to the general isolation of most gaming groups; a tight-knit group of friends who only play together. These groups would, through habits and in-jokes, invent their own table slang. Over time, discussions at hobby shops, public games, and conventions allowed some of these terms to see wider use. Occasionally, slang terms would crop up in letters to gaming magazines, such as Tactical Review or Dragon Magazine, and spread through that medium. However, few gamers were especially tied into the hobby at large, and so would only come into contact with a few unusual terms. With the advent of the internet, it is now entirely possible that a beginner gamer will encounter countless myriad of confusing language, as every wired voice in the hobby can now speak and be heard all at once. Add to the mix the growing community in RPG theory, who have invented a complex lexicon of their own to discuss the more abstract elements of a game's composition and function. To add bewilderment to confusion, we are also beginning to hear a lot more design discussion from professional game designers, a community with their own rarely-heard jargon, and every publishing studio has its own table slang as well! Today, a new player just learning how to play the game on their own through online communities might feel like they're being forced to learn a new dialect of English!

This page is a rosetta stone to crack the code when someone walks up to you saying something like, "My PC is an AC optimized Gish Build, but I'm worried my DM will think I'm being a Twink."

A word of caution though, It is not advisable to use all of these words and phrases together without understanding their intended context. Many words and phrases are part of a subcultural language, and take on unintended meanings outside of that context. In particular, be especially wary of RPG theory terms, as these are almost always designed to function exclusively within a specific theoretical framework.

This is not a dictionary; these terms and phrases are often highly context-dependent, and misuse can lead to misunderstandings. As a rule of thumb, if you haven't actually run across someone using one of these things, you probably don't have much practical use in knowing it. Rather, it is best to learn new slang as it comes up and make use of only that which your conversational partners have already demonstrated knowledge of. Using too much slang all together can make you nearly incomprehensible, even to a Grognard.


This is a list of gaming hobby terminology and slang with related definitions and explanations.

To more simply reference this page without having to write out a full renamed link, you can use {{ref}}. Simply copy the following line and put the word you want to use in the parameter.

{{ref|word or phrase}}

When writing the term you are using, be sure to spell it correctly; that is to say, exactly as the header is written.

New Entries

When adding a new glossary term, make sure it is...

  • Placed in alphabetical position.
  • Created by the gaming hobby or...
  • Has unique meaning when used in the context of gaming.
  • Is known in the community at large, not just one small group. (If you see the phrase used or defined in multiple communities, you should be safe. Don't post your own group's in-jokes and table slang.)
  • Described in terms most relevant to D&D Wiki, or...
  • Described in terms most relevant to D&D in general, or...
  • Described in terms most relevant to TTRPGs.
  • Contains explanation for the roots, variants, and usages of the entry, if possible.
  • Description and explanation conforms to Help:Behavioral Policy.
  • Any entry which, if used as intended, would be a violation of Help:Behavioral Policy should come with a warning not to use it. (See Twink) (Generally, offensive and derogatory terminology should not be added unless it is both widespread and has a counterintuitive definition.)


The following is a glossary of gaming terms, phrases, slang, and other jargon. This is the language gamers use to discuss the games they play. It is likely you will run into some rather strange words or turns of phrase in your time at this community, and this page is intended to serve as a definitive guide.

For a guide on how to pronounce a lot of D&D related words, check out the Pronounciation Guide!

0 Edition or 0e

Another way to refer to OD&D

1st Edition or 1e

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons releases after the BECMI publications were abandoned, and the marketing department dropped the "A" from further AD&D printings.

2nd Edition or 2e

The second edition of AD&D.

May refer to just 2nd edition D&D as well, after they dropped the A from the name when the basic D&D line of games was shut down.

May also refer to 2nd edition AD&D and 2nd edition D&D as one game, in the same way as 3.Xe refers to both 3rd edition and its revision.


The revised release of 2nd edition D&D.

Or any version of 2nd edition if used with content from Unearthed Arcana.

3rd Edition or 3e

The third edition of the AD&D product line.


The revised publication for 3rd edition D&D.


Refers to both third edition and its revision as one game.


Refers to the general ruleset and mindset used by the 3rd edition of D&D, the revised publication for 3rd edition of D&D, Pathfinder, and other third-party content based on the d20 Source Reference Document.

4th Edition or 4e

The fourth version of the AD&D product line.

5th Edition or 5e

The fifth product in the AD&D product line.


Sometimes people incorrectly refer to these as "stats". In D&D, an ability is a specific quantified measurement of how fundamentally talented your character is in one of 6 aspects. Every edition of D&D has had the same 6 abilities. Of the six abilities, half are known as the "physical" abilities, and the other half are "mental" abilities. The three physical abilities are Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity. The three mental abilities are Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Most editions have unwritten design standards based on this division, and these standards have lead directly to the attitudes of players. Typically, as the mental abilities see less use and are less likely to save your character outside of spellcasting, they are the most likely to be named a Dump Stat.


Abbreviation for Armor Class

Action Economy

The Resource Management System surrounding actions as a limited Resource in combat. Because game content is designed with the assumption that players will only ever have access to so many actions at a given time, anything which interferes with the action economy can dramatically destabilize the game.

The following is a list of example action economy systems. Many games have a variety of these in combination
  1. At-Will: There's no limitation on using this resource.
  2. Spell Charge: This resource can only be used a finite number of times over a certain timeframe. The spell charges can be discrete like the spell slots of 3E D&D spellcasters or the Encounter/Daily powers of 4E D&D PCs and they can also be fungible like psionic points.
  3. Cool-down and Warm-up: This resource requires players to wait a certain span of time before they can be used again. Cool-down generally allows the first use to be at-will, while warm-up requires even the first use to spend a certain amount of time doing something else.
  4. Berserk Meter: This resource requires players to be lacking a certain amount of another resource before it can be used, typically health. For example, certain 4E D&D racial abilities that can only be used when the character had the Bloodied status effect.
  5. Drain: This resource becomes less effective or even unusable depending on the state of another resource. For example, a Warlock can fire five magic missiles at full health, three at half health, and only one at quarter health. For extra drama, a lot of Drain resource management systems can deplete the resource that it's pegged to i.e. Shadowrun spells are most safely cast at full health but can also damage your health depending on how much power you put into them.
  6. Random: The availability of this resource is randomly determined. 4E D&D monsters recharging certain powers on a d6 die roll or the Crusader randomly accessing a subset of their known maneuvers would be examples of a Random resource management system.

Actual Play

A reference to the recording or transcription of a session of play into a form intended to be read by a third party. Actual Play is considered in some quarters to be the sole basis for criticism of game mechanisms as anything "intended" or "expected" by theory or design is irrelevant in the face of the actual play.

Having figuratively played a game.


Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

May refer to 1st edition AD&D or 2nd edition AD&D, or both.


A conversion of one RPG's system into a different setting, or vice-versa, generally by other authors.


See Minion.


In D&D, an adjustment refers to any permanent change to a recorded value. For example, a bonus may only apply to a circumstantial roll, but an adjustment alters the value which provides that bonus. These most frequently appear in D&D as an Ability Score adjustment, sometimes abbreviated to ASA. In 5th edition, because these adjustments are always positive, they are called Ability Score Increases, or ASIs.


In 5th edition, this Keyword mechanic replaces circumstantial Bonuses to a Check. Instead, the player rolls 2d20-L.[1] This mechanic allows for circumstantial bonuses to a check in the form of improved probability of a higher result, rather than arbitrarily increasing static numbers. This short-circuits the arms-race between attack bonuses and ACs from the preceding editions, and reduces the amount of record-keeping necessary just to carry out regular play.

Some people refer to both advantage and disadvantage as "the advantage mechanic".


A narrative, designed by a DM, composed of a series of encounters, which the players must play through in order to advance.

A typical session is long enough to complete a single adventure, though long adventures or short sessions may spread a single adventure out, while long sessions or short adventures may allow several adventures to be completed in a single sitting.

Here on the wiki, we call them quests.

Adventure Seed

A short description of a setup for an adventure, intended as a jumping off point for a GM to expand into an adventure.

Apple Stacking

The social currency equivalent of Greyhawking. Essentially, a common phenomenon in social currency systems where you can perform small favors that add up to very, very big favors in return.

"I give the King an apple a day for a year, then ask for the kingdom."


Abbreviation for Area of Effect.


See: Attack of Opportunity.

Attack of Opportunity

Special attacks that a character can make as a reaction to some game event or Character / NPC action, often outside of their allotted turn order. AoO was especially important in 3.Xe and Pathfinder, where it became a defining feature of the tactics used on a grid. The rule depends very much on the concept of a Threatened Area.

Attacks of opportunity have a reputation among the critics of third edition and pathfinder as being fiddly, confusing, complicated, and excessive. This rule is often cited as a cause for the apparently "boring" tactics which occasionally appear in melee combat.

In fifth edition, the same concept was rendered in a new form, called an opportunity attack[2], which worked somewhat differently, but was less restrictive to movement within another unit's threatened area.

Area of Effect

Any game effect which occupies a tactically relevant space. Cones, lines, beams, columns, clouds, spheres, and other such shapes are all different types of AoEs.

Armor Class

While the exact mechanics vary from one edition to the next, Armor Class is a quantification of a thing's ability to avoid being hurt. It generally represents a combination of that thing's capacity to evade, deflect, and outright absorb impacts without being harmed.


Abbreviation for Ability Score Increase. A very important type of Adjustment in 5e.


The act of playing a PC whose personality is no different than that of the player. This is when a player vicariously lives through their character. It is not necessarily a bad thing; The D&D animated series is essentially based on this concept![3]

Baby Orc Dilemma

The Orc Baby Dilemma (more generally called the "baby monster dilemma") is a question used to challenge the alignment of Paladins (especially to distinguish the Lawful Good from the Lawful Stupid). It sometimes refers to a contrived situation concocted by a jerk DM to force a Paladin to fall.[4]

The dilemma is usually presented thus: during a raid on an Orc encampment (or some place of residence of evil creatures), the players come across an orc child. They are forced to make a choice of:

  • Sparing the child, risking them growing up into an evil creature, or
  • Killing the child, which is frowned upon because the child isn't evil yet.

A poor DM can use any choice to shoehorn the paladin into falling, while a good party can make a choice that isn't a strawman and has a fair chance of leading to a good outcome (or at least an interesting one).

Marvel Comics used this dilemma in the origin story of one of their oldest villains, the trickster-god Loki. Allfather Odin (a Lawful-Good superhero version of the Norse god from the Edda) is fighting a war with ice giants and finds an ice-giant baby in the wreckage of a cottage. This comic-book Odin chooses option #1 above, raising the child as his own son and step-brother to Thor. Loki grows up to be a peer to his brother and other gods of Asgard, a nasty schemer and a colossal dick to the superheroes of Earth, destined to be the cause of the Asgardian doomsday event. Bad news for Odin's adventuring party, but great story hooks for Odin's player.

Of note is sometimes a Paladin can be serving a god that doesn't care too much about that baby orc being a baby. It's an orc, is therefore unclean, and is to be "cleansed" with extreme prejudice.


Refers to gameplay which some players find morally objectionable; a character or campaign based on rape would be considered badwrongfun by many.

Sometimes used to refer to playing a game in a non-thematic way to achieve a comedic effect.

Bag of Rats Fighter

A player who uses combat mechanic loopholes to artificially generate tangible combat power.

An example of how D&D 3rd edition rules could be exploited was a fighter who carried a bag of rats. The tactic was to dump the bag’s contents when entering melee, make a whirlwind attack against each rat, then use the great cleave feat to gain an extra attack against their opponent for each rat killed.


Just click the link.

Balance by Giant Salamander

A style of Dungeon Mastering where a DM achieves game balance by designing the campaign encounters in such a way to tailor to or work against the strengths of party members who are deemed overpowered or underpowered relative to the rest of the party.

For example, a fire wizard that regularly clean-sweeps encounters with their fireball spell could be would be countered by using lots of fire-resistant monsters such as the Giant Salamander. Similarly, if the party rogue is lagging behind the rest of the party in combat effectiveness, the DM might use more monsters that are especially vulnerable to sneak attack.

While Balance by Giant Salamander is one of the least intrusive ways to maintain fair play, it's possible to go too far. If the party encounters nothing but fire-resistant monsters the wizard might think that they are being picked-on. Contrariwise, if the rogue encounters nothing but monsters that take extra damage from critical hits the rogue might think that he's being unduly patronized.

Note also, that balance by giant salamander is a response to an imbalanced situation. It is the product of a DM who, upon seeing a dysfunctional game element, tries to find a work-around, rather than altering the game element or discussing the issue openly with the group.

A DM who intentionally builds their campaigns entirely around their characters is not necessarily practicing balance by giant salamander, as the objective is not to restore balance, but to ensure challenge tailored to the resources available to the players.

Balance by Obfuscation

When a piece of rules is so vague and internally contradictory, (has so many conflicting and scattershot 'clarifications' from game developers) that Rule Negative Two renders it useless, therefore allowing the system to appear balanced at the cost of making the option practically unusable in a game.

The most infamous examples in D&D are:

  • Polymorphing rules
  • Skill challenges

While intentionally writing rules under the assumption of Balance By Obfuscation is the sign of a weak and wishy-washy game developer, the motivation behind BBO is that game designers can't really think of a way to fix the mechanic without alienating fans by applying punitive nerfs. The solution? Put the onus of balance on the game's individual DM! "If polymorphing works 'fine' at your table, then great! If people complain, the DM was obviously doing it wrong and should instead use mumble gurgle grumble and everything should be fine, stop trying to wreck the game you dirty munchkins!!"

Bartle Test

Too big of a topic. Just go read the wikipedia page.

See also GNS Theory.

Basket Weaving

An attempt to avert the Stormwind fallacy from people who think that the fallacy is otherwise valid; this involves taking expansion options that are known to be significantly suboptimal in hopes of achieving better roleplay. While almost every character has to basket weave to some extent, a true basket weaver will intentionally take suboptimal options above and beyond what's necessary to realize their concept out of a belief that anyone who optimizes at all is some sort of Munchkin.

A 3.5e D&D Basketweaver would do something like make a half-orc commoner 1 / expert 1 / wizard 1 with an Int of 12. Justification? "Thoggus was a house slave that won his freedom, got rich, and then studied at an arcane college. The expert level was because he took longer than normal to learn how to cast spells." This character is, to the Basketweaver, supposedly inherently deeper and more interesting than Slade, the Human Wizard 3 with an Int of 18.

Named after the snarky neologism 'underwater basket-weaving', a hypothetical college class used to criticize courses that are perceived to be academically and vocationally useless and only really serve to inflate grades or fool people into thinking that they were being enriched and actualized in non-conventional ways.

A fictional story about a player who developed a character based on a basket weaving skill, put a ton of ranks into it, and then went on to break the game by crafting patently overpowered but mechanically justified content using said skill.

May also refer to a person who is actually pulling off the equivalent of said fictional story in a real game.

See also, Munchkin, Powergamer, and Rules Lawyer.

Batman Wizard

The other big factor that leads to Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard. The Batman Wizard is named for how a properly built wizard can have an answer to seemingly any problem and does it with enough power to invalidate the need of other party members due to the versatility and power of their spells.

The Batman prefix comes from a superhero from DC Comics whose combination of wealth, training, contacts, and advanced technology allow him to punch way above his expected weight class, making it impossible to actually beat him. He always seems to have extensive but devastatingly effective back-up plans for any scenario no matter how bizarre or unlikely the situation is. The character's improbable efficacy is cheekily summarized with something like, 'If Batman has sufficient prep time, he can even beat Chuck Norris'.[5]

Battle Mat

A piece of paper, vinyl, cardboard, lucite, or other substance marked off in a grid (hexagons, squares, offset squares, triangles) for use in simulating combat. Often they are designed to be drawn on with an erasable marker of some kind. Usually used with miniatures to determine precise position information during play.


Abbreviation for Big Bad Evil Guy.


Balance by Obfuscation.


Big Dumb Fighter. A common character build.


Abbreviation for Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortals. This abbreviation refers to the "basic" line of D&D published just prior to the release of and alongside AD&D.

Beer and Pretzels Game

Game style whereby rules are arbitrated looser to accommodate casual game play and game flow. Often accompanied by drinks and snacks.

Big Bad Evil Guy

The term comes from TVTropes[6], and it is used to refer to the primary antagonist of a narrative.


This term was used in 4e and different game mechanics would rely on the condition, though the condition itself had no inherent effect.
A character is bloodied when the character's hit points are equal to or less than one-half the character's maximum hit points, rounded down. One-half the character's maximum hit points, rounded down, is referred to as the character's bloodied value.
For example, a character with 50 maximum hit points has a bloodied value of 25, and is bloodied whenever the character's hit points are equal to or less than 25.

Blue Booking

One or a few of the players describing activities of their characters in written form, outside of the role-playing session, creating a sort of ongoing character history and resolving actions that don’t involve the rest of the group. It is generally received with mixed reactions, while some players despise it as being antisocial and an attempt to hijack the game for personal benefit, others see it as a useful way of playing out individual and background scenes without wasting table time on them.


Has multiple specific uses in different DnD editions. Usually simply referring to a number added to the result of a particular type of die roll. Worth note - in 3.Xe and Pathfinder, a 'stat bonus' is the Positive part of a stat modifier, so adding a Wisdom bonus to a roll will add 0 if the Wisdom modifier is below 0.

Book of Weeaboo Fightan Magic

Nickname for the 3.5e sourcebook Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords. The book introduced a wide variety of abilities referred to as Stances and Maneuvers, which function somewhat like spells for martial classes. The book was controversial, to say the least, with some comparing the Stances and Maneuvers system to the ridiculous techniques often seen in Japanese anime and manga.

For more information, see 1d4chan's page on this topic. See also Weeaboo.

Box Text

Pre-written adventures often have text inside of a box for the Gamemaster to read. Sometimes this text is very long, so many players get distracted while box text is being read. Box text is very important, and it is both polite and wise to pay attention when the GM is reading it, even if it is long and sometimes boring.

In reference materials, like the corebooks or supplements, box text may contain lists of examples, optional rules, additional details, roleplaying suggestions, design explanations from the devs, or even suggestions on modifying content.


Abbreviation for By The Book. (See RAW)


Any effect generated by a character to temporarily improve the effectiveness of a character.


Short for character build.


To consume a resource.

Ie: "I burned through all of my spells for the day and it's still standing!"

An extremely vague and slangish way to describe campaign pacing, encounter rate, encounter difficulty and character progression all together as one thing. Roughly means "game intensity".


A very minimal abbreviation of character generation.

Called Shot

This is a community-generated term for what it is called when a player wants to make a specific attack against an enemy, like stabbing them in the eye, or shooting an arrow in their knee to incapacitate them. Players who make these kinds of requests are generally expressing dissatisfaction with the simplicity and abstraction of the combat mechanics.

Before making a ruling on a called shot, you need to understand what an attack roll actually represents. An attack roll is not a single swing of a weapon against a stationary target. It is a quick series of exchanges between the two combatants- it is the thrust and riposte of fencing. The attack roll also represents your activity for the full duration of the round, not just the momentary instance of your turn. It is an abstraction of a high degree, and the two characters may "actually" be exchanging several blows over the 6 seconds a round represents. In this symbolic resolution mechanic, it is assumed that both characters are making every logical attempt to injure each other and protect themselves based on whatever openings are actually available to them.

The mechanics do not represent your character's injuries, because the entirely negative HP system is supposed to simulate that effect by making you more afraid of losing your character as their health decreases, thus encouraging you to flee at some point. Technically, by the original conception of combat in D&D, choosing to fight on in the face of low health because of meta-knowledge about the probability of incoming damage is a form of metagaming, as it circumvents the intended effect of the HP system. The DM is supposed to run his monsters with the same reasoning, that they will flee if they feel overly threatened, not when the DM feels overly threatened, and this is a classic example of a DM metagaming in every single edition.

So, knowing all of that, there are really only 3 ways to handle called shots:

1. Explain the combat resolution mechanic and leave it at that.

2. Allow the player to make called shots as fluff. Let them have their moment in the sun. Sure, they are trying to slit the goblin's throat, but in the process they only dealt 3 damage. Maybe, if they kill the goblin on a called shot, you could describe the death of the goblin in a manner based on their called shot. This livens up combat without doing anything to the game, and it's a great way to play!

3. Actually write out a bunch of houserules handling the effects of called shots. This is a rabbit hole that goes far, far deeper than you can ever imagine.

First off, everyone is using different types of weapons. This means the kinds of shots they want to make, and the effects of those attacks, will vary from one weapon to another. You'd have a hard time breaking someone's leg with an arrow, or poking out someone's eye with a sledge hammer.
Next, you need to consider the enemies they'd be fighting. Not every enemy is a humanoid. That means some called shots won't work, or will work differently, depending on the anatomy of the monster they're attacking, and certain monsters may have called shots which are unique unto themselves! So, now you're going to have to take your whole array of called shots by weapon type, and redo it for every single monster in your arsenal. Many will be easily copy-pasted, (Like nearly all medium humanoids) but some will need to be created entirely from scratch, (like grell).
Finally, as your players get used to these called shots, they will continue to get more creative and invent ever more interesting ways of tearing creatures apart, and you will need to make a ruling on every single new called shot a player invents, record it, and check it against every single weapon and monster in your now massive called shots array. And, as if that isn't daunting enough, you will need to remember all of these called shots for all of your monsters when building encounters, in order to build fights with interest and complexity that is capable of challenging these newly empowered players.
Still not discouraged? This will dramatically change combat balance, and not in the players favor either. Technically, anything the players do to the monsters, the monsters could ostensibly do to the players. Generally, the players are well outnumbered. This means the monsters may get many more called shots on the PCs than the reverse. As a consequence, as an example, a small team of goblin sharpshooters turn into a death sentence. They can incapacitate the players by shooting for their legs, rendering their turns meaningless and gaining a meta-initiative advantage, then one-shot TPK them with arrows through their skulls. Any party who survive in a game which incorporates mechanical called shots, survive only by the kindness of the DM to play his monsters dumb.


Gamer slang.

4-sided dice where the traditional tetrahedron shape of the die means a pointy end is always pointing up waiting in ambush for the soft fleshy undersides of gamers' feet.


A series of adventures, typically spread out over many sessions. A campaign may have its own larger narrative, but it may just as easily be a random string of small narratives.

The term was inherited from D&D's wargaming roots, where a campaign was a series of battles.

Campaign Setting

Literally the same meaning as setting in literary theory.

The (fictitious) world where a specific adventure or campaign takes place.

  • Lord of the Rings stories are set in the campaign setting of Middle Earth.
  • The Elder Scrolls games are in the setting of Tamriel.
  • Ravenloft is a long-standing campaign setting for D&D.


Refers to the official narrative of a given published setting. For the sake of clarity, on this wiki, DO NOT use this word to refer to ALL official published content. Because we have transcripts of the OGL, OGC, and SRDs, and make explicit references to corebooks, it is important to refer to these things with correct terminology. Canon also should not be used to refer to official publications themselves either, as we have a catalog of such official publication as well.

Captain Hobo Problem

A theoretical character in a system which generically surcharges game effects based on their utility and directs the player to fluff their effects post-hoc. He's used as a shorthand for the dangers of assigning weak fluff without regards to its relative in-game effect; Captain Hobo's super-speed is described as being the side-effect of 'too much energy drinks and vodka', his 12d6 attack (the max he's allowed to buy out of chargen) is a broken chair leg, his toughness is described as 'layered clothes from Goodwill with cardboard and tape', etc.

The problem with Captain Hobo is that merely by existing he makes everyone else's character less cool. Your badass magical martial artist with mastery over the four elements is only as effective at superheroics as a drunken smelly guy. A less extreme but no less illuminating example would be someone playing a James Bond clone whose PP7 could do more damage than the mortar shots of another player's "Artillery Man" or someone playing a Conan clone who could outwrestle someone's Superman expy.

Stop by Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard and Magician Superhero Problem to see what can happen if you naively attempt to avert the Captain Hobo problem.

Challenge Rating (CR)

"A monster’s challenge rating tells you how great a threat the monster is. An appropriately equipped and well-­rested party of four adventurers should be able to defeat a monster that has a challenge rating equal to its level without suffering any deaths. For example, a party of four 3rd-­level characters should find a monster with a challenge rating of 3 to be a worthy challenge, but not a deadly one." --5e SRD

The challenge rating of a creature is usually used to determine how much treasure and experience the monster provides.

Challenge rating can also be loosely applied to traps, dungeons, etc. CR is good for vague guidelines for DMs, but is notoriously unreliable. Do not use CR in place of thinking an encounter through properly.

Chaotic Stupid

"a.k.a. Chaotic Insane, character is one who will almost always take the most crazy or reckless option, rules and commonsense be damned, even if it will invariably lead bad things happening to themselves or others. It may be because it is very amusing to them, even as it angers or confuses everyone around them, or it may just be that they always fail to think about what they are doing." --TVTropes (Quote under CC-BY-NC-SA)


Aside from the literary definition of a character, this word also refers to the persona being played by a participant within the context of a game.

Character Build

A set of options and choices which, when taken together or in order, create a character who is intentionally constructed to represent something or serve some function. For example, a Wolverine Build would be a character who has options focused on imitating the character Wolverine, or an AC Build would be a character who has options which are chosen only for their benefit to AC.

Character Generation

The step-by-step process of character creation.

Character Sheet

See Player Character Record Sheet.


A portmanteau of Character Generation.


See Player Character Record Sheet.


Also known as the core mechanic.


The best part of a pizza. Hopefully, this will be the only definition your table will ever need to use.

To quote Am Barbarian (Who, to this day, has a screaming orc as their avatar) from the Paizo message boards: "CHEESE AM SUBJECTIVE TERM USED BY PEOPLE FOR THINGS AM NOT FAN OF."

In a gaming scene the word cheese is used to describe strategies or ways of playing that are really powerful and do not require much skill from the players side at the same time. The term is widely used both in video games and tabletop games alike. The clearest and most practical definition of cheese defines it as any gaming activity based on any the following:

  1. To use a rule or rules for something other than their intended purpose.
  2. To use, in tandem, two or more rules or pieces of content (such as feats or classes) that were not meant to be combined. The conflict might be thematic, mechanical or both. Most often the result of using rules from multiple sources that were each made without knowledge and/or consideration of one or more of the other sources. See also: Dumpster Diving
  3. To use a rule or rules in such a way as to make the world seem less internally consistent, or in a manner which breaks the 4th wall, or otherwise breaks the willing suspension of disbelief, ultimately interfering with immersion and "believability".
  4. To deliberately misconstrue the meaning of a rule, most often by taking advantage of vague or otherwise weak portions of its wording.

In this regard, Pun-Pun is a perfect example of cheese in all 4 forms. So, essentially, it is a way of describing an activity which violates the social contract at the table due to an inappropriate interpretation or use of game rules/content. Most people who intentionally make use of cheese are called various derogatory things, such as Munchkin, Twink, and other nasty things they probably invented themselves. People who accidentally create cheese are often a Powergamer.

Etymologically, this usage of the word is an abbreviation of "cheesy" in the context of describing something as being cheap, lame, manipulative, schemey, trite, lazy, or otherwise blatantly inauthentic. (Note that the word "cheap" has nearly identical meaning and usage in gaming) That usage is actually a deprecated mistranslation of an Italian word of the same pronunciation but different spelling, which actually has that meaning, and entered English somewhere around 1896. The word entered gaming in abbreviated form primarily through the community surrounding Street Fighter in 1992, and spread rapidly to see usage in every form of gaming- even tabletop RPGs. This spread was accelerated by its usage on the community for StarCraft, where people saw a coincidental abbreviation from the word "cheaters". If there were one thing those kids loved as much as starcraft, it was impenetrable jargon!


See Level Dipping.

Chrono Crossing

Chrono Chrossing or "pulling a Chrono Cross" is when a DM or Game Designer uses their vast narrative powers to retroactively deconstruct innocuous or even positive actions of the Player Characters to show that they created great evil or harm despite their best intentions. Chrono Crossing is typically done with little or even no foreshadowing, relying on the imbalance of narrative power between PC and DM to force the desired conclusion.

Broker a peace and full citizen rights for the second-class goblin citizens under the once-oppressive dwarven government, showing that racism can be overcome? Turns out that while you were out adventuring, the goblins -- secretly holding a grudge and racist ambitions of their own -- overthrew and genocided the halflings, making it better if you hadn't done what you thought was a good deed in the first place. And it's all your fault for believing that this problem could just be solved with a few flowery speeches. (On that last note, one could say that Chrono Chrossing relates to the inherent 'passes' that amateur actors give to each other for the sake of power fantasy.)

This is related in spirit to what goes on behind a grimdark settings (as few settings can possibly be that organically grimdark without leaning heavily on authorial decree) but Chrono Crossing refers to 'force out a dark and edgy outcome' events done in-game, while grimdark is done in the backstory.

Named after a video game which not only had the vast majority of the protagonist's well-intentioned actions cause great tragedy, but revealed that the heroes of its much more positive and light-hearted prequel Chrono Trigger had also made the world much worse, contrary to their positive depiction in Trigger itself. The characters who got a happy ending in Trigger died ugly deaths in Cross.


The "main area of expertise", “role”, or "job" for a player character. Typical classes in role-playing games with a fantasy setting are fighter, cleric, thief, or wizard. The chosen class typically affects what skills / talents the player character can learn / use. Classes usually incorporate fixed set of talents, called class features, appropriate to the fiction the class represents. In D&D, classes regulate what features are gained at a given level, and in older editions also regulated the rate at which characters gain levels.


An RPG character that imitates another fictional character, either through abilities, personality or backstory. Clones of Drizzt Do'Urden were endemic in D&D during the '90s and '00s, though they seem to have lost popularity after that.


A very powerful Cleric or Druid build in 3.5 edition; typically game breaking as levels accumulate. Named for how they can wield considerable magic power as well as having better combat skills and abilities than their pure "reality twisting" rivals. Better Base Attack Bonus and armor opportunities as well as shapeshifting and Natural Spell for druids.

1d4chan explains it pretty well.

Color Theory

Developed by Fabien Ninoles on the French createurs-jdr mailing list in 2002. It is an inheritor of SCARF theory and SCAR theory, which then interacted with English language theories. In this theory the goals of system design are thought of as the primary colors of TV light - Green for simplicity, Blue for realism, Red for consistency, with notions like adaptability, tenacity, brightness, and visibility being extensions of the metaphor.

Combat Round

A way of representing the passage of time in-game, without correlating it to real time. Typically, a round is composed of all characters involved in a situation taking one turn. Most editions summarize the full events of that round as taking some arbitrary short amount of time, typically 6 seconds. Some editions actively measure time in rounds, even outside of combat, while others just reference time as an abstraction to be adjudicated by the DM.

Coming online

A Character build "comes online" when it gets all the abilities needed to perform its central strategy/strategies. Typically this is given as a level; e.g. "this build comes online at level 4 once you get [the] Sentinel [feat]."


Back in Gygax's heyday, the RPG design community was abuzz with the word "completeness". The idea was to create an RPG whose rules system was so thorough, detailed, and granular, it could represent any conceivable thing or situation. It seems simple at first. Just make rules which can describe all objects in common terms, and write a set of rules which emulate but simplify real physics. Right? You are dead wrong. In reality, any game which seeks completeness as one of its goals is doomed to failure, for the simple fact that you are not creating a game which simulates reality, you are creating a game which represents imagination. No game can possibly account for every amazing idea or crazy situation which could come up. The harder you try, the more hidden unrealistic synergies you will build in to your game.

The objective of "completeness" was actually a rather strange turn for the community to even take in the first place. The original D&D game was a homebrew invention marrying Chainmail and Wilderness Survival into a single game. Most situation resolution was handled by the DM's judgement and creativity. The game emphasized, encouraged, and relied upon participant creativity, and even implied that the rules books would likely wind up being left far behind after some time of playing.

Somewhere between the first release of the D&D rules, and the first D&D tournament, Gygax lost his way, and we all followed him blindly. It took us over 20 years to realize how lost we really were and listen to the Gamer's Manifesto while designing our games as well as playing them.


Defining this word in gaming terms is going to get a bit murky, so please bare with us.

This definition relies on the assumption that RPGs can be described in art/aesthetic theory terms more accurately than it can by the those of other social-science theories. This does not necessarily mean that RPGs "are" art. Since humanity has been arguing about what art is for over a millennium, it appears we can safely set that debate aside for the rest of our lives. However, the terminology of art theory, and even aesthetics in general, is extremely effective at describing RPGs as "things" rather than "behaviors". Thus, when talking about an RPG as a noun- that is, an RPG as it exists when not being played, it is a useful lexicon to borrow from.

In aesthetic theory, it is important to distinguish a given creation's form from its content. The form of a work is the physical processes and materials which compose its manifestation. So, for instance, the form of a song may be manipulation of the voice, or guitar, or trumpet, or any number of other interesting musical tools. The form of a painting may include acrylics, oils, watercolors, airbrushes, bristles, palette knives, and again a whole host of other things which can be used to make a painting. Based on the media which compose the thing, we tend to group it into categories. (Painting, song, performance, etc.) Assuming an RPG can be described in these terms, the materials and processes which compose the form of an RPG would be paper, pencil, dice, rule books containing rules, and participants performing character rules and executing/following/enforcing the rules system.

The content of a given work is its subject, the treatment of that subject, and the message conveyed about that subject. For example, compare two paintings about war:

The first depicts a handsome soldier standing atop a mountain, clad in ceremonial attire, chest glistening with badges, that national flag waving behind him, jets flying overhead!
The second picture initially appears to be identical, except for one change: The mountain is now a mound of dead, rotting, and burning bodies.

Both images are clearly about war, but they say very different things about war. This is the content of the work.

An RPG can be described in similar terms. For example, the form of Dungeons & Dragons is that of a tactical tabletop RPG, and its content is the whole of medieval fantasy, including magic, elves, dwarves, dragons, etc. What it says about its subject material is entirely up to the players at the table. Thus, a distinction can be drawn between the rules, which are part of the form the game takes, and its subject material, which are its content. Generally, rule books and developers consider rules modification/creation to be houseruling, and content modification/creation to be homebrewing.

This distinction is important to make here, because the D&D community tends to fall prey to a common misunderstanding, where people assume everything in the book is a rule. A shortsword is a rule. The elven race is a rule. Even individual spells are rules. This is incorrect, and frankly wrong-headed. RPGs are not static games in the sense of sports or board games. Rather, they incorporate heaps of abstraction and versatility into their form. The core books are the root of the game, not its boundaries. To deny all unofficial content as "not real", or to treat every single innovation by the DM as a houserule, you are failing to grasp the true scope of the game you are playing. With such a mentality, nearly every decision the DM makes which is not explicitly expressed in a corebook would be a houserule. As a community, game designers gave up on the concept of Completeness ages ago, and for good reason. It is recommended the gaming community follow their Wisdom.

"But wait!" I hear you say, "Doesn't all of that content contain rules??" The answer is no. The rules exist independent of content. When we describe game content, we describe that content in game-terms. In other words, we describe it in the context of the rules. So, while a shortsword in 5th edition deals 1d6 piercing damage and is light, damage types and damage die are separate, pre-existing rules, independent of short swords, and the light weapon property is not reinvented for every item it appears on. When a DM creates new content which relies on mechanics not previously extant in the rules, then they have created a new rule in order to describe their new content as well. On the wiki, it is important to know this distinction. In general, it is not OK to just invent a new houserule in a piece of homebrewed content. Instead, a separate page should be made for the rule being used to describe the content, and be linked to from that content.


A book containing the core rules of a game. D&D traditionally divides the core rules across 3 corebooks: a Player's Handbook, a Monster Manual, and a Dungeon Master's Guide.

Core Rules

The subset of rules that is basic and core to the game. The rules are commonly shared between different games published by the same publisher, (often culled out into a separate book to save duplicate information in each book published). In most cases the core rules are the only rules needed to play an RPG.


Short for Critical Hit.


Short for critical hit.

Critical Fumble

When a player rolls a natural 1 on a check, save, or attack roll.

Critical Hit

When a player rolls a natural 20 on a check, save, or attack roll.


Gamer slang for mechanics.

Also a shortened form of "crunch the numbers", an activity frequently performed by D&D players.


Aside from meaning money...

In game design, a currency is any limited resource of exchange. For example, skill points are exchanged for skill ranks. Skill points are a currency in this regard.

All game currencies are a type of game Resource


Abbreviation of Difficulty Class

Dead Level

Shortly after D&D 3.5e, WotC recognized that many classes had levels in which "no special abilities are gained", coining them as "dead levels".[1]. In 4e and 5e design, they ensured that every class had something nice at every level. If someone says your homebrew class has "dead levels", it means there are places where a player might gain a level and not receive anything except hit points.


Opposite of Buff. Typically targets enemies.


When a DM intentionally tries to minimize the effectiveness of the players such that it is impossible for them to be heroic beyond "everyday hero" status. Deprotagonization comes in many forms, but the root causes can be summarized.

The DM is too lazy to invent challenges for anyone more capable than a group of human commoners, so they contradict or ban anything that doesn't fit that view.
The DM does not think of the heroes as heroes, but as more generic people who happen to live in the world, and so tries to force the system into that box.
NPC Favoritism
The DM does not want the PCs to outshine the "true heroes" of the world.

It should be noted that Deprotagonization is not the same as presenting a matching challenge. In Deprotagonization, the DM bluntly refuses anything which would give the players more power or success than they "should" have, with an assumed power levek far below what the system allows as base. They will rewrite rules, ban most magic, and even outright ignore the player during play in order to do this.

Deprotagonization is a form of bullying by the DM.

Deus Ex Machina

An unexpected NPC or plot-device, often only appearing for a single scene, that saves a seemingly hopeless situation. Generally seen as a bad design choice in adventure design. Derives from the classical term with stricter definition: a sudden and unexpected resolution to a seemingly intractable problem. Figuratively, the god from the machine, a solution that seems to arise from outside the fiction.


Any soda or beverage used during the game. A term used to honor the all venerable Mountain Dew soda, enjoyed by many gamers due to its high sugar and caffeine content.

Dice Notation

Dice notation (also known as dice algebra, common dice notation, RPG dice notation, and several other titles) is a system to represent different combinations of dice in role-playing games using simple algebra-like notation such as 2d6+12.

In most role-playing games, die rolls required by the system are given in the form AdX. A and X are variables, separated by the letter "d", which stands for die or dice. The letter "d" is always lower-case on this wiki.

A is the number of dice to be rolled (usually omitted if 1).

X is the number of faces of each die.

If the final number is omitted, it is typically assumed to be a six, but in some contexts, other defaults are used.

For example, if a game would call for a roll of d4 or 1d4 this would mean, "roll one 4-sided die."

3d6 would mean, "roll three six-sided dice." Commonly, these dice are added together, but some systems could direct the player use them in some other way, such as choosing the best die rolled. (As in 5th edition's advantage mechanic)

To this basic notation, a modifier can be appended, yielding expressions of the form, AdX+B. The plus is sometimes replaced by a minus sign ("−") to indicate subtraction. B is a number to be added/removed to the sum of the rolls. So, 1d20-10 would indicate a roll of a single 20-sided die with 10 being subtracted from the result. These expressions can also be chained (e.g. 2d6+1d8), though this usage is less common. Additionally, notation such as AdX-L is not uncommon, the "L" (or "H", less commonly) being used to represent "the lowest result" (or "the highest result"). For instance, 4d6-L means a roll of 4 six-sided dice, dropping the lowest result. This application skews the probability curve towards the higher numbers, as a result a roll of 3 can only occur when all four dice come up 1 (probability 1/1296), while a roll of 18 results if any three dice are 6 (probability 21/1296 = 7/432).

Rolling three or more dice gives a probability distribution that is approximately Gaussian, in accordance with the central limit theorem.

Dice Training

The superstition that rolling dice repeatedly outside the game will change its statistical behavior ("I rolled all the 1s out of it") or that storing dice with a favorable value showing will "train" it to roll that number more frequently. Sometimes the belief is the reverse, and that storing dice with the least favorable value showing will "use up" the value.


See Level Dipping.

If that is not the correct definition, given the context, then someone just insulted you.


A character build in TTRPGs where someone's bonuses to a skill system is so high that they can get people to do anything they want, even outrageous requests such as convincing their enemy who has a vendetta against them to sacrifice their kids to their cause and become your slave. Because diplomacy rules tend to get little attention compared to other rules in the game, these kinds of characters often break these systems and force hastily forged Gentlemen's Agreements and Magical Tea Party sessions to groups unwilling to let the Diplomancer run roughshod.


In 5th edition, this keyworded mechanic replaces circumstantial penalties to a check. Instead, the player rolls 2d20-H. (The developers say it more clumsily in the PHB on p.7 and p.173.) This mechanic allows for circumstantial penalties to a check in the form of improved probability of a higher result, rather than arbitrarily increasing static numbers. This reduces the amount of record-keeping necessary just to carry out regular play.


Abbreviation for Dungeon Master.

DM Pity

An instance where the Dungeon Master intentionally breaks the rules, assigns Plot Armor, is suspiciously and selectively generous, etc. because they feel that one or more players is unable to participate or perform satisfactorily in the game when the rules as-written are fairly applied.

All games rely on DM Pity to some extent; even though it's just as likely in-universe that an Ancient Red Dragon will ambush and devour some nameless Level 1 Commoners as they would a party of Level 1 PCs, most tables would cry foul about a DM doing this. DM Pity only becomes a bad thing when it breaks the fourth wall or makes some people feel that the game is overly Monty Haul-ish.

See Fudge.

Difficulty Class

A target number for checks. The non-combat equivalent of AC.


When a player loses interest in a game, they have lost engagement, and so are disengaged. They will typically display symptoms of being distracted, such as

  • Playing another game
  • Browsing the internet
  • Reading a book
  • Becoming disruptive
  • Engaging in off-topic table chatter
  • Leaving the table mid-play
  • Eating a LOT
  • Etc.


Dungeon Master's Guide.


Abbreviation of Dungeon Master Player Character.


In most editions of D&D, downtime is a general term used to refer to all of the time that a character spends not doing whatever the speaker feels an adventure is about. Being highly subjective, there are a wide variety of opinions about where to draw the line.

  • Some define downtime as any time not spent in combat. That means even if the party is being peppered by arrows from a trap, they are still in downtime until initiative is rolled.
  • Some define downtime as any time not spent in a dungeon. For many, this would mean travelling is downtime. Some people include the wilderness as a dungeon in this definition though.
  • Some define downtime as any time not spent on a quest. In this definition, even if a character spent a week trolling the brothels of the local city, as long as he was ostensibly on some sort of quest in the background, this would also be considered up-time. Some people restrict this definition only to activities which are relevant to a quest. Many people disagree on just what a quest actually is as well.
  • Some define downtime as time spent between adventures/sessions. This definition goes hand-in-hand with Blue Booking. Many games simply do not allow anything to happen "off stage" though, so this definition is only viable within select playstyles.
  • Some define downtime as any time spent not making progress on the current goals or narrative. Even so much as going down a wrong corridor in a maze would count as downtime in this definition.
  • Some define downtime as any time spent on roleplaying.
  • In all the variable definitions, some people are talking about real-life time, and some people are talking about game time.

A new mechanic in 5th edition is the abstraction of downtime as a currency. At the DM and players' option, instead of playing out all downtime at the table, the DM can award days worth of downtime to their players, which the players can then spend between adventures on various downtime activities. This is the playstyle used by the Adventurer's League, the official play program for 5th edition D&D. This mechanic has many benefits:

  • Traditionally, non-adventuring activities generally ruined the game because they were time consuming distractions. Because this system takes 0 seconds of real time to play out, this consequence of activity beyond the crawl is negated. All of the players are always available to adventure, their downtime happens in the background.
  • Even if the group is using downtime as a currency, it is totally possible to still play out their downtime anyways, having them spend it to make progress toward the completion of an activity. In this playstyle, players could possibly have several downtime activities at once, and divide their earned downtime into each activity as they see fit!
  • There is no need to use downtime as a currency at all. It is entirely possible to just play it out and use the downtime activities to determine the results of your time!
  • It is entirely possible to invent new forms of downtime, such as making minor downtime activities which consume hours rather than days, or major downtime activities which consume weeks, months, or even years!

All of these approaches are merely rulings and playstyles, not houserules. It is one of the most flexible mechanics ever introduced to D&D.


A method of action resolution where the GM chooses the result based on what would be most interesting for the story. Probably originated in discussions at the Forge but has become part of a wider body of language.

Dump Stat

A stat with little or no perceived value, thus one that is often sacrificed or shorted in favor of another one if there is an opportunity to distribute points. Example: Charisma in a D&D dungeon crawl.

Dumpster Diving

The practice of picking and choosing favorable options across many optional rulebooks, often just snatching a single feat or spell from the entire book. While many tables deeply frown on this practice as a sign of metagaming, it isn't foolproof: a lot of unbalanced builds (most appositely spellcasters) only rely on one or two books for their effectiveness and so escape the banhammer while weaker but more complicated builds feel the wrath of Rule Negative One.

Dungeon Crawl

A dungeon crawl is a type of scenario in fantasy role-playing games in which heroes navigate a labyrinthine environment (a "dungeon"), battling monsters, solving puzzles, evading traps, and looting any treasure they may find. Because of its simplicity, a dungeon crawl can be easier for a DM to run than more complex adventures, and the "hack and slash" style of play is appreciated by players who focus on action and combat. The term can be used in a pejorative sense, since dungeon crawls often lack meaningful plot or logical consistency, though this is largely a stereotype.

According to Gary Gygax (in an interview with Dungeon #112), the first dungeon crawl was part of a wargame in which the invading force entered the enemy's castle through a former escape tunnel dug from the fortress's dungeon. The group had so much fun with this scenario that it was repeated over and over with increasingly complex dungeons until the wargame aspect of the game was dropped in favor of exploring the dungeon.

For pen and paper role-playing games, visual aids such as maps, models, or miniature figures are often used to represent the landscape of a dungeon crawl.

Common defining features of the Dungeon Crawl playstyle
  • No Meaningful Plot (Window-trimming to justify the crawl)
  • Character development displaced almost entirely by character advancement
  • Limited Strategy, Plenty of Tactics
  • Miniatures-based combat system
  • Somewhat competitive asymmetrical play, with a superficially adversarial dynamic between the DM and player group
  • Unique party rolls, such as "caller" or "mapper" which refer to special tasks the actual players at the table do, as opposed to what they have their characters do
  • Turn-based, almost board game like movement, whether there is a play map or not
  • Prevalence of standing orders, such as "marching order", or "My character is always attempting to sneak".

Being one of the oldest playstyles, it is strongly connected to the OSR movement.

Dungeon Master


This is the person running the game, and usually the host for the event. The DM controls everything that is not the players. Their purpose is to arbitrate the rules, referee player disputes, play an impartial role behind the determination of NPCs, (Non-Player Characters) manage the setting, and create content to give the game guidance and theme, playing a primary role in the ongoing creation of a narrative. More importantly, the DM's singular goal in all of their responsibilities is to create fun.

A DM, or dungeon master, is a lot of things- a story teller, a mediator, a judge, a referee, and more. You will be guiding your players on an adventure of treachery, deceit, mystery, glory and death. You will be showing them a world to explore, from the forests, to the caverns, to the coasts and even to worlds beyond. You'll be rewarding players when they do well and punishing their mistakes. And you'll be enforcing the rules of the game, judging what can succeed and what is impossible. Outside of the game you will be a mediator for your players, it's your responsibility to make sure that everyone is enjoying a fun and safe gaming environment. You'll be responsible for player conduct and you'll have the final say if someone is out of the group. You'll also be preventing metagaming, min-maxing, munchkinism, cheating, and other forms of poor sportsmanship.

Being a dungeon master can seem like an overwhelming task and you must be prepared to spend a lot of time preparing for each meeting. Your players will test you and they will try to provoke you, no matter how good a friend they may be. Your job is to be prepared, to be calm, and to keep things moving.

  • The DM is not the "director" or "author", as the protagonists are entirely out of direct control. You can't tell the players how to play their characters.
  • The DM is not the enemy; their purpose is to create fun, excitement, and challenge- not to torment and kill the PCs. Any schmoe can say "Rocks fall from the sky, everyone dies!"
  • The DM is more than just a referee; neutral arbitration is mere clerical work- part of the job.
  • The DM is a creator and artist, inventing people, worlds, battles, treasure, and the whole of fantasy, writing stories, acting out character roles, making illustrations, and so much more.
  • The DM is a player too, they just fulfill a different role, as an equal and necessary participant to the player group.
  • The DM is your friend, not some abstract authority; they invited you into their world (and possibly their home) because they want you there.

Being a DM is the most challenging participant position. It requires a strong understanding of the game and game design, play experience, vast amounts of creativity, great effort in preparation, lots of social and leadership skills, and great patience. It can be deeply satisfying and rewarding, but also very lonely and demanding. And, most importantly, you can do it!

What's In A Name?
So, let's take a moment to talk about the title itself. There are a bajillion names for this title, and most of them are dependent on the game being played. For example, D&D has a Dungeon Master, while Adventure! has a Storyteller. Outside of any particular system, the "Dungeon Master" is a Game Master. For this article, because we are primarily discussing Dungeons and Dragons, we refer to the GM as a DM in all instances.

See Rule 0.

Dungeon Master Player Character

The Dungeon Master Player Character is an extremely advanced and complex tool used by some DMs. They are very rarely used, and their use is highly contentious in the hobby. Some DMs always have one. Most DMs take one look at the idea and laugh. Some players would prefer one in the party. Most players hate the idea absolutely. Why all the conflict? And what is the actual value and practical use of such a character? Considering there is objective proof that this can be done and can be fun, (As there are many players and DMs who love it) we should give it adequate consideration as a legitimate technique, rather than dismissing the subject out-of-hand. Let's start with a clear definition so we can talk about this. A tight definition is more useful than a broad one, as it gives us something specific to discuss. We can make up new names for anything that is excluded.

We need to exclude things that some people call a DMPC, to give it a specific form. A DMPC is not...

  • An NPC. NPCs typically have static stat blocks, or at most only a partially developed character sheet, they don't collect xp or gain levels, their scores and capabilities are arbitrary, and they are just all-around simple, mechanically.
  • A background character. The DMPC is more than fluff with a mouth. They're nothing like the amorphous blob of ideas that is the king, or the shopkeep, or the tavern wench. A DMPC has teeth.
  • Temporary. They're in it for the long haul. (Even if they get killed on the way)
  • Your time to shine. Nobody deserves more spotlight than anyone else, so don't hog it.
  • A new way to terrorize/antagonize your players. (Seriously, who is this jerk DM I keep hearing horror stories about? He needs a swift boot to the butt.)
  • A PC controlled by the DM to account for an absent player. (That's just doing someone a favor)
  • A Party-controlled character, whose actions are determined primarily by group consensus. (That's just the DM giving the party an inordinate amount of control over an NPC.)

OK, so what does the exclusions leave us with? A DMPC is...

  • A character, with a full character sheet with levels, xp, the works- who is controlled by the DM.
  • An active member of the party who contributes to combat, exploration, and socialization.
  • A character who takes part in the rewards of adventure.
  • In the case where the role of DM switches from session to session, and the players continue to control their character during their time in The Chair, their character may count as a DMPC during that time, despite not being explicitly constructed to serve that function.

To run a DMPC correctly, the DM must play fair and abide by the rules regarding their character. They can't fudge their rolls the way they would for a monster, for example. Any rules that apply to the players must, then, also apply to the DM when he is operating his character. (For example, if players must make check rolls in the open, so must the DM for his DMPC) Furthermore, the DMPC cannot be favored by the DM, and just as players should be discouraged from employing player knowledge in character, DMs are to be equally modest about their meta-knowledge advantage, and choose not to use it. Nothing can stop a DM from including a mary-sue DMPC that ruins the game, except that DM's desire to not ruin their own campaign.

So, what are the benefits?

  • The DM gets to join in on the fun! This may seem a little juvenile, but DMing is a tough gig, and there's rarely anyone willing or able to sub-in for you. Having a PC kicking around where you can be personally invested in the current events of the game can be a nice way to keep your attention.
  • The DM can have a personal avatar in the game through which he can directly interact with, incentivize, inform, and guide. Remember Gandalf in The Hobbit? He is a good example of what a DMPC is all about, in this regard.
  • The DMPC can be used as filler, to flesh out the party. You can use the DMPC to make up for low numbers, or to provide some tactical versatility to the party. (Like, if they didn't make a healer or a fighter.)
  • The DMPC can be used as a teaching tool, a sort of guide to the world and system to accompany (and protect) the newbies while they get their legs.

Now, what are the problems with it, and how have people overcome them?

Here's a group of people discussing the negative attitude of the community toward the DMPC

  • It's a whole bunch of extra work. Remember, your players spend their whole time at the table just running and planning their one character apiece. Meaningful roleplaying, good build planning, and effective cooperative combat tactics, together make for a great deal of work. You need to manage your character's finances, inventory, physical needs, downtime, backstory, ethical and moral values, relationships, xp and leveling, etc.- and you'll have to do it while simultaneously describing environments, controlling every monster in every encounter, ensuring time passes, awarding treasure and xp, keeping your notes organized, managing the spotlight, and all of the other stuff you already have to do as a DM. It can be a big attention sink if you get too carried away, and it can reduce the quality of the rest of your game. The key to preventing this is, as with everything else the DM does, good planning and preparation. First off, make yourself some extra time to plan your character so it doesn't eat into the prep time for your session. If you already know how much xp is going to be awarded throughout an adventure, then you don't need to bother handing it out piece-meal as you go, just give the DMPC the xp first and level him later. Because you know how much xp will be distributed, you also know when your characters are going to level. You can use that information to make a premade character sheet for what your character will look like when that happens. When it does, just toss the old sheet! Finally, to help prevent your character from distracting from the game, use your character as an instrument to support your delivery of game material. Your character's reactions to the world can be more descriptive than your exposition- and more personal to your players, because it adds an emotional or value charge to it, which may even be different than the charge you gave it during your exposition! (IE: Describe the attacking dragon in excruciating, horrifying detail. Describe your character looking at this wall of destruction and yawning. Or something like that.)
  • It's a conflict of interests. Generally, the players are at the mercy of the DM. (Have some mercy for your players.) A DMPC, however, is in a unique position that it doesn't have to be. A DM who is invested in their personal character has great incentives to fudge the rules in his favor. Now, most DMs do fudge the rules a bit for the purposes of keeping the adventure exciting, and the adventurers not anticlimactically killed for nothing, so some fudging should be considered reasonable if that's the way they roll anyways. The problem comes when the DM goes too far, and where the line stands, exactly, can be extremely hard to tell. Generally, though, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "would I do this for a PC? Have I already decided against it for a PC?" You will need to cross-examine yourself as well. Every time a consequence lands on a PC, you need to think, at least quickly in the back of your mind, whether or not you have fudged that exact thing for your character, and why. For example, if you fudge a damage roll because you like your character alive, but then don't do it for a player's character, and they become aware of it, you will be facing some angry players, because you have been unfair. And that's really what the whole conflict of interests thing comes down to: Fairness. If it's true for a PC, it must be true for a DMPC, and vice-versa, otherwise it is unfair. The problems arise when baseless accusations are made because someone feels slighted where they have not been, and that's just something you're going to have to contend with. Sadly, there's no way to mandate maturity at the table, and misunderstandings can and will happen. Being honest and polite is the best solution.
  • It's competition for attention. The number one reason players dislike DMPCs, is because they take up spotlight that could otherwise be used on the setting or the PCs, and that seems unfair and unnecessary to the players. Remember that the DM can have as much spotlight as he wants, while players need to invent ways of roleplaying their characters into the scene in order to get any. So, how do you overcome this? Well, first off, you need to manage your time well and consume as little spotlight as possible as the DM. There are many strategies to do this, and they're described throughout this page, so we'll focus on how to reduce the spotlight consumption of your DMPC. For one thing, make them less interesting! Make them interesting enough to deserve the spotlight when they need it, but bland enough that there's not much else to say... Like Watson is to Sherlock Holms! For another, try your best to keep the DMPC's activities focused on the players. In all instances, interact with them, prod them, que them, instigate them, and inspire them. Think of it kind of like an awards ceremony host; their only job is to segue the spotlight on to someone else. Now, that doesn't mean their time in the spotlight must be uninteresting- the opposite in fact. The DMPC should always strive to start something interesting and put it in the players hands to use. In this way, the DMPC can actually be used to manually dispense spotlight to players who aren't receiving much! In the instances where the DMPC does interact with the environment in isolation, in a way that does not or can not involve the PCs, make sure that interaction is important. Use the DMPC as a plot device to instigate events in the narrative that the protagonists probably shouldn't be involved in.
  • It's confusing. Many DMs dislike the DMPC because it adds a new layer of difficulty in separating meta-knowledge from character knowledge. In other words, it is extremely easy to accidentally metagame through your DMPC. This can be bad in a few ways, but mostly it's just unfair if you can get away with it but your players can't. The main way it can be bad, is when the DM uses their personal knowledge of the setting to personally go out and get itself the best of everything without regard for the PCs. That's just plain immature, and if you can't help yourself, you shouldn't be in The Chair. The other way it can be bad is when the DM goes overboard on exposition from the DMPC and trails off into TMI-land, giving away important plot hooks, pointing out subtle foreshadowing, and otherwise just spoiling it for the party. Let me put it to you this way: If you don't do that with your NPCs, then you can handle not doing it with your DMPC, you simply have to choose not to. Otherwise, you are too inexperienced and need to get out there and play more!


Effective Character Level, a term used in the d20 systems (e.g. D&D 3rd edition) only.


A deceptively misleading term in the D&D hobby. Here's the problem:

D&D started out as a little homebrew game some guys decided to publish.

They released updated "editions" of the game, using the same loose terminology as would be in the publishing of any type of book.

Then they made an advanced version of the game, and called it an "edition" too.

By now, each "edition" had developed its own group of fans who preferred it over the other versions.

Then they made a dramatically different AD&D 2nd edition.

Then they dropped the A and republished the books (with some changes, of course) as D&D 2nd edition.

Then they revised those books and sold them with new covers.

Then they made a totally different 3rd edition.

Then they changed some of the rules and sold the updated 3.5 edition.

Then they made a 4th and 5th edition.

We now have a massive hobby community, fractured into a whole bunch of groups based on the "edition" they play.

Somewhere in that fandom you have the really old grognards who hate any version of D&D with a number in the name.

Add into the mix the OSR movement, a group of people who want, desperately to play the original game as an "edition".

Then there are geeks who feel the need to abbreviate everything, and refer to the early editions as things like 0e, OD&D, CD&D, BD&D, Becmi, Mentzer Edition, Moldvay Edition, B/X Edition, White Box, Red Box, Black Box, LBB, etc.

Put it all together, and you get a big fricking mess. The point is, when you refer to a game by "edition", you aren't just talking about a version of the game, you're also talking about a tribal faction of the gaming community who prefer that version to the exclusion of others, and the way those factions prefer to play their version of the game.


Aside from its normal usage...

In game design, an economy is the Resource Management System surrounding a specific Resource.

Elothar's Gear Problem

  • Named after the model character of the Elothar, Warrior of Bladereach Prestige Class, this is a method of enforcing Quadratic Fighter, Quadratic Wizard that ends up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
  • Elothar's original flavor was that of a tricksy and elegant mortal swordsman that fought with two weapons; in an actual campaign, however, this signature ability of his becomes less and less important compared to his non-swordsman class feature. By the time he completes the class, his usefulness wouldn't be particularly affected even if he had both of his hands chopped off; as long as he is able to use abilities such as Der'renya the Ruby Sorceress and I've Got That!, he's still a fully-functioning party member. Similarly, if he traded in all of his non-sword abilities for a boost to attack and damage, he'd be consigned back to the pit of uselessness of Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard. In the end, his swordsmanship matters as much to his adventures as the party wizard's 14 ranks in Profession: Cooking.
  • What this amounts to is that after a certain point of ability acquisition, the Elothar's Gear Problem ends up being a backhanded way to tell the fighter and rogue and similar classes that their character concept truly can't reach the top power levels of the game the way the Batman Wizard and CoDzilla are; their original concept must be retired for the game to go on, but the game will distract them from this endgame.
  • Be sure to check out Captain Hobo Problem to see what can happen when you insist that Elothar's swordsmanship should stay relevant at all levels of play without ensuring that the fluff can actually support this thematic expansion.


A specific moment or scene in a narrative, typically containing an obstacle for the protagonists to overcome in order to progress the narrative in some way. There are generally 3 types of encounter: Combat, Social, and Exploration/Interaction.

Many people use the word encounter to refer to combat encounters exclusively.

Epic 6

A 3.5e playstyle originating from 4chan in which max level is restricted to level 6, which is treated as epic level. Progression beyond 6th level is represented through the acquisition of additional feats.


Estimated Party Level


Experience Points


Short form of experience points

Experience Points

A quantified reward representing, in an extremely abstract form, how much your character has "learned". XP is tied to the leveling and class mechanics in D&D, and is the key system by which the DM empowers PCs to become stronger to face future challenges.


In 5e, certain class features, feats, or other effects may grant a creature expertise in a skill or another specified category of ability checks. If you have expertise on an ability check, you add double your proficiency bonus to the result.

Even if you have expertise multiple times, or have multiple effects which double your proficiency bonus on a check, you still only double your proficiency bonus one time.

Normally you can only gain expertise in a skill or check if you are already proficient in it.


See Minion.


A play on Canon, referring to fan created material that has become so ingrained in the community it is accepted as canon even though it hasn’t been ‘canonized’ by the designer / publisher of the setting.


Fiat, in gaming at least, is the authority of any given participant (person playing a game) to arbitrarily decide anything about the SIS (shared imagined situation) for the group. The subject of fiat is a sore one with many anti-D&D gamers.

DM fiat is the most frequent expression of this concept. In every edition of D&D, the DM has the authority to straight-up decide anything he likes about the setting. They can even go so far as simply playing your character for you, however inappropriate and unsportsmanlike that may be. Obviously, This can be very problematic, as it has enabled many bullies to harass and manipulate their supposed "friends" through the game. On the one hand, DM fiat allows for true unpredictability, impartial rules adjudication, and infinite imaginative possibility... on the other hand, it is subjective, arbitrary, and inconsistent.

For most groups, the DM is the only person at the table with any degree of fiat. However, more recently, many people have been discussing the concept of player fiat. There are basically three frames in which this is intended.

Actual player fiat is the idea that theunfair play of a DM deciding your character's actions and decisions is actually not permissible, that the limits of fair play are actual, hard, rule-justified limits on DM authority. In this sense, even though a player has no authority over the results of their decisions and actions, they do have actual absolute authority over their character's thoughts, decisions, and attempted actions.

Effective player fiat is the idea that, assuming BTB play by the DM, certain mechanics will have guaranteed results in the right situation. In other words, a rule may have the ultimate effect of making some actions a guaranteed success or failure. "Running out of RNG" is a tactic employed by players to manhandle the system into giving them guaranteed results, by obtaining static bonuses which meet or exceed the randomizer size, (die face count) or the DC range employed by the game's rules, and is an example of effective player fiat. However, such a definition depends entirely on a DM playing BTB, RAW, as much as they possibly can. Under a DM who claims the authority to defy any rule to the point of absurdity (i.e., giving words as DCs) there can be no such thing.

Apparent player fiat is the impression that certain actions taken by the players are just assumed to happen without any consideration or requisite of permission. For example, in most games a DM will not force players to make a Dexterity check to walk across a room unless something acts upon them on the way. Because the player apparently just decided that for everyone at the table, it seems to be a form of player fiat. The more the DM just allows things to happen without commentary, the more player fiat there appears to be.

However, there is nothing in any edition of D&D which supports any concept of in-play player fiat. Ultimately, any appearance of such is simply the DM playing fair and sharing the SIS. Just because the DM doesn't decide everything your character thinks says and does for you, or doesn't interfere with every idea you express, that doesn't mean they can't, it just means they're good at what they do and respect you as a player. Ultimately, the only real player fiat is whether or not you decide to walk out on an abusive game.

Five Minute Workday

Since D&D characters in most editions have their most powerful attacks on daily Spell Charges and it only takes a few rounds to burn through these attacks, the most powerful party is one who spends about five minutes going Nova on their enemies and then retreating somewhere safe to avoid the Ninjas In The Night.

Five Moves of Doom

A type of spamming.

An organization of a subset of otherwise fungible and swappable actions that is so effective that deviating from the sequence is mechanically suboptimal. For example, a particular Warblade from the Book of Nine Swords will always open up with their most powerful boost plus strike, then their second-most powerful boost plus strike, spend the next round recharging, then goes through the same sequence again.

Because Five Moves of Doom tends to be uninteresting after the first few times it is used, many DMs and game designers try to introduce ways to break people out of the combo. Balance by Giant Salamander is probably the most popular method, but most permanent solutions involve overhauling the resource management system. It's very hard for a player to be able to stick to a script when their hit points aren't low enough for the Berserk Meter to dole out their better moves.

Named after professional wrestler Bret Hart who had a finishing combo he never deviated from: inverted atomic drop, Russian legsweep, backbreaker, elbowdrop from the second rope, and Sharpshooter, despite there being no particular reason to use that many moves in that order.


Friendly Local Game Store


Gamer slang. As slang, the definition is... blurry.

The term came from D&D's wargaming roots. Originally, "fluff" was synonymous with filler: flavor text added to a rule book with the purposes of artificially fattening it up, and was measured in column space that it took up. Because wargames at the time did not involve abstract representation or simulation anywhere near as much as RPGs do today, there was no conflict over this usage of the term. The rules were the rules, and anything else was fluff. It was simple. Then Gygax and his friends played solo units and started to interact with the environment as something other than obstacle/terrain. Everything got more complicated. The original term was carried over because D&D and wargaming shared an audience for quite some time and, despite not being a good fit for the new hobby, has stuck around ever since.

Generally, in an RPG rule book, it can be argued that some things are strict "rules", while some things are not. Fluff is the collective word for all game content which is not strict rules material. Where players draw the line, however, gets a little sticky. Generally, aesthetic and story elements of the game are often considered to be fluff, while flat statements of system mechanics are considered to be "crunch". However, this division can easily be torn apart by some simple logical reasoning. For example, targeting the D&D 5th edition rules:

"Where does it say in the rules that gravity exists? Where in the rules does it say humanoids only have two arms and two legs? Where in the rules does it say humans do not have wings? Where in the rules does it say that propulsion is dependent upon the usage of one's limbs? Since the rules do not define any of these things, it must be fluff and therefore not binding, thus I can describe my character as having infinite hands, no legs, and the ability to fly. The DM can rule against it and make specific statements about all of these things, but this would technically be an addendum to the rules, or homebrewing, and therefore not officially binding to any other instances of this game."

In this regard, it can be said that, in addition to the explicitly written rules, a game also includes a wide variety of implicit rules based on assumptions about what those rules are representing, and that the RAW (Rules-As-Written) exists purely for the purposes of adjudication of gaming abstractions. In other words, simulation is the realm of the DM, while system is the realm of the rules. In this definition, the DM's assumptions and rulings regarding the implications of representation are crunch, as justified by their absolute authority over rules adjudication. More interestingly, it would also imply that some rulings by the DM, no matter how consistent or recurrent, are not homebrewing, specifically because they are in-line with the developer's intent. This would redefine homebrewing to mean, not just a deviation from the written rules of the game, but a deviation from the developer's intent of representation. (Of course, this just opens a whole new can of worms about the validity of homebrewing and just what the developers actually intended.)

There is some debate over the subject of supposed "flavor text", and whether it is synonymous with fluff. The debate can be illustrated through a specific D&D spell's description, and how it interacts with the rules in the different editions of D&D: Burning Hands. The spell is generally described as requiring the spellcaster to press their thumbs together. Depending on the rules surrounding spell mechanics, and where in the spell description this is noted, it can significantly change the way the spell works in a given edition, and this interaction will change as the DM's opinion of crunch/fluff differentiation varies. Using the 5th edition rules, some DMs would rule that a race which lacks thumbs cannot cast the spell at all. Others would rule that such a strict interpretation is against the principle of having the spell available in your spell list, and treat it as fluff in this regard. Those same DMs, however, may regard an occupied hand as being "unavailable" to do this action, and thus interpret the description as a specific rule overriding the general rule that spells can be cast with one free hand. Again, other DMs might just interpret the whole thing as fluff, and say that the player could describe the somatic component of the spell however the hell they want, they might even not care if the player describes the somatic component at all. When people discuss these differences of interpretation, you start to hear people arguing about whether something is a ruling or homebrew, the validity of homebrew, whether it suits the developer's intent or not, just what the rules are supposed to represent in the first place, etc. In essence: It illustrates the sheer weakness of this word's ability to clearly describe anything meaningful about the game beyond the opinion of one DM of what "counts" in the game.

It is important for the DM to understand this terminology, and the dynamic that DM interpretation, combined with DM fiat, creates when rules text and flavor text are presented together. Because the DM's assumptions of what the rules represent effectively become implicit rules- rulings without statement- what you write when creating homebrew can have a significant impact on how the content affects play, and this impact can change from one table to another. When writing new content, it is always a good practice to read your work carefully, and try to consider both the strictest and the loosest interpretations of the words you have used. If either of these interpretations would result in negative consequences at the table, then the content has an implicit imbalance which needs to be corrected. Semantics in D&D can be a life-or-death issue for other peoples' fictional characters. Be cautious in your content descriptions.

A lot of these issues are inherent specifically to D&D and games built like it. Many RPGs do a very good job of untangling this Gordian knot. They generally do this with three methods. First, they make clear delineations between mechanics and descriptions. For example, a spell may have a "description" header, which talks about all of the spell's lore and aesthetics, possibly even describing how the character dances while they cast it, followed by an "effect" header which state things like area of effect, conditions applied, damage dealt, duration, etc. Second, they make explicit rules for each type of content which specify which aspects of a thing's description actually matter, rules-wise. A good example of this is Mutants and Masterminds, which has a power-creation system which gives players full freedom to design their own aesthetics, by not even having descriptive elements attached to the effects. The third method is to use extremely unique keywords to reference specific rules, rather than generic words which can be used in the rule's own description, and they give these words special treatment in the text, such as bolding the word, or giving it a citation1. D&D has never used any of these methods effectively or consistently, and so has always had the issues of rule interpretation debates at the table. There is nothing stopping you from doing a better job of this here on the wiki, though. While we encourage a writing style and format which is at least similar to that of the source material, there is nothing stopping you from going above and beyond that bare minimum to improve the use of your work!

The social issues created by these debates have given rise to all kinds of derogatory terms to refer to one's interlocutor, such as "rules lawyer", "that guy DM", and even "power gamer". When engaged in a discussion about game balance which hinges on rules interpretation, it pays to understand that the other person is most likely not trying to be a jerk- they just disagree with what counts as a rule and how to execute the ruling.


Five Minute Workday

Focus Fire

A tactic in which all members of an opposing team dogpiles one member and tries to quickly take them out. Can be viewed as undesirable because few non-tank characters are built to withstand this tactic, though some games use this threat as an incentive towards making people acquire and work with a party tank.

Forge Theory

The Big Model. Generally used when the speaker is not a fan of it, to indicate that the theory has more to do with a specific community (and its most vocal member) than it does with the hobby.


Defining this word in gaming terms is going to get a bit murky, so please bare with us.

This definition relies on the assumption that RPGs can be described in art/aesthetic theory terms more accurately than it can by the those of other social-science theories. This does not necessarily mean that RPGs "are" art. Since humanity has been arguing about what art is for over a millennium, it appears we can safely set that debate aside for the rest of our lives. However, the terminology of art theory, and even aesthetics in general, is extremely effective at describing RPGs as "things" rather than "behaviors". Thus, when talking about an RPG as a noun- that is, an RPG as it exists when not being played, it is a useful lexicon to borrow from.

In aesthetic theory, it is important to distinguish a given creation's form from its content. The form of a work is the physical processes and materials which compose its manifestation. So, for instance, the form of a song may be manipulation of the voice, or guitar, or trumpet, or any number of other interesting musical tools. The form of a painting may include acrylics, oils, watercolors, airbrushes, bristles, palette knives, and again a whole host of other things which can be used to make a painting. Based on the media which compose the thing, we tend to group it into categories. (Painting, song, performance, etc.) Assuming an RPG can be described in these terms, the materials and processes which compose the form of an RPG would be paper, pencil, dice, rule books containing rules, and participants performing character rules and executing/following/enforcing the rules system.

The content of a given work is its subject, the treatment of that subject, and the message conveyed about that subject. For example, compare two paintings about war:

The first depicts a handsome soldier standing atop a mountain, clad in ceremonial attire, chest glistening with badges, that national flag waving behind him, jets flying overhead!
The second picture initially appears to be identical, except for one change: The mountain is now a mound of dead, rotting, and burning bodies.

Both images are clearly about war, but they say very different things about war. This is the content of the work.

See Content.


A method of deciding the outcome of an action resolution where the GM chooses based on the result of a randomizer (dice, cards, etc.).

Free Form

A role-playing game without a rule set, a very minimal rule set, or elements of the rules which have complete and total reliance on DM fiat. All actions and results are decided by the DM, (or sometimes vaguely suggested in the scenario). A role-playing game which demands improvisation.


When the DM only regards die result as a suggestion, and just declares results as they see fit. Generally done with some degree of secrecy, so as not to break suspension of disbelief.


Short for critical fumble.

Gaming Den Book Names

If you meet someone from the Gaming Den (a forum full of 3.5e mega-nuts), you should know that they refer to some of the 3.5e sourcebooks with weird names. This is a translation.

  • "It's Cold Outside" = Frostburn
  • "It's Hot Outside" = Sandstorm
  • "It's Wet Outside" = Stormwrack
  • "D&D Joke Book" = Epic Level Handbook
  • "Races of Rabbit ****ing" = Races of the Wild. <- DO NOT USE THIS TERM ON THIS WIKI.
  • "Races of Short" = Races of Stone
  • "Tome of Wet Tissues" / "Book of Nine Papercuts" = Tome of Battle: Book of 9 Swords
  • "Calamari Cooking!" = Lords of Madness
  • "Skip Hates Sorcerors" = Tome & Blood
  • "Sticks & Stones" = Masters of the Wild
  • "Lute and Loot" = Song and Silence
  • "It's Not Outside" = Dungeonscape
  • "It's Crowded Outside" = Cityscape

As you can see, they're very... opinionated people.


A gamist makes decisions to satisfy predefined goals in the face of adversity: to win. Edwards wrote,

I might as well get this over with now: the phrase "Role-playing games are not about winning" is the most widespread example of synecdoche in the hobby. Potential Gamist responses, and I think appropriately, include:

"Eat me,"
(upon winning) "I win," and
"C'mon, let's play without these morons."[6]

These decisions are most common in games pitting characters against successively-tougher challenges and opponents, and may not consider why the characters are facing them in the first place. Gamist RPG design emphasizes parity; all player characters should be equally strong and capable of dealing with adversity.

Combat and diversified options for short-term problem solving (for example, lists of specific spells or combat techniques) are frequently emphasized. Randomization provides a gamble, allowing players to risk more for higher stakes rather than modelling probability. Examples include Magic: The Gathering, chess and most computer games.


A player who loves to create weapons, vehicles, equipment, etc. in deep detail, the more detailed the better.

GEN Theory

Developed at Gaming Outpost in 2001 largely by Scarlet Jester. It hypothesizes a top and bottom "tier" of play, with the top tier being dominated by "Intent" which is divided into Gamist, Explorative, and Narrative. It was influenced by threefold and GNS theory.

Gentlemen's Agreement

  • "A player may allow their character to do whatever they want so long as that action doesn't decrease the fun had by anyone else at the table."
  • Agreement under which it is understood that everyone around the game table is gathered to have fun and actions must be carried out "in character" that maintain fun for all participants.
  • Alternatively, a set of unspoken but unanimous house rules that cover a situation where doing otherwise would be so taboo that it needn't even brook discussion, i.e. allowing someone to use the Planar Shepherd PrC despite the DM giving blanket permission on WotC books.


A cross between a martial character and an arcane spellcaster.

The word is part of the fictional Gigthyanki language, and has not changed in meaning.

Glass Cannon

A character who can put out obscene damage very quickly, but is also incredibly frail. Wizards, in most editions of D&D, are a good example of glass cannons.


Abbreviation of Gamist, Narrativist, Simulationist.

Refers to GNS Theory.

Golden Rule

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It means be polite and avoid being impolite, but says so in a context which engages the audience's empathy.

Some gamers, thanks to White Wolf Games, have misappropriated this phrase to refer to Rule Zero as a good thing.

GNS Theory

GNS theory is an informal field of study developed by Ron Edwards which attempts to create a unified theory of how role-playing games work. Focused on player behavior, in GNS theory participants in role-playing games organize their interactions around three categories of engagement: gamism, narrativism and simulationism.

The theory focuses on player interaction rather than statistics, encompassing game design beyond role-playing games. Analysis centers on how player behavior fits the above parameters of engagement and how these preferences shape the content and direction of a game. GNS theory is used by game designers to dissect the elements which attract players to certain types of games.

GNS theory was inspired by the Threefold Model, which was discussed on the USENET group in summer 1997. The Threefold Model defined drama, simulation and game as three paradigms of role-playing. The name "Threefold Model" was coined in a 1997 post by Mary Kuhner outlining the theory. Kuhner posited the theory's central ideas there, and John H. Kim later codified and expanded the discussion.

In his article "System Does Matter", which was originally posted on the Gaming Outpost website in July 1999, Ron Edwards wrote that all RPG players have one of three mutually-exclusive perspectives. According to Edwards, enjoyable RPGs focus on one perspective and a common error in RPG design is to try to include all three types. His article could be seen as a warning against generic role-playing game systems from large developers. Edwards connected GNS theory to game design, popularizing the theory. On December 2, 2005, Edwards closed the forums on the Forge about GNS theory, saying that they had outlived their usefulness.

GNS theory incorporates Jonathan Tweet's three forms of task resolution which determine the outcome of an event. According to Edwards, an RPG should use a task-resolution system (or combination of systems) most appropriate for that game's GNS perspective. The task-resolution forms are:

  • Drama: Participants decide the results, with plot requirements the determining factor (for example, Houses of the Blooded).
  • Fortune: Chance decides the results (for example, dice).
  • Karma: A fixed value decides the results (for example, Nobilis' statistics comparison).

Edwards has said that he changed the name of the Threefold Model's "drama" type to "narrativism" in GNS theory to avoid confusion with the "drama" task-resolution system.

GNS theory identifies five elements of role-playing:

  • Character: A fictional person
  • Color: Details providing atmosphere
  • Setting: Location in space and time
  • Situation: The dilemma
  • System: Determines how in-game events unfold

It details four stances the player may take in making decisions for their character:

  • Actor: Decides based on what their character wants and knows
  • Author: Decides based on what they want for their character, retrospectively explaining why their character made a decision
  • Director: Makes decisions affecting the environment instead of a character (usually represented by a game master in an RPG)
  • Pawn: Decides based on what they want for their character, without explaining why their character made a decision

Brian Gleichman, a self-identified gamist whose works Edwards cited in his examination of gamism, wrote an extensive critique of the GNS theory and the Big Model. He argues that although any RPG intuitively contains elements of gaming, storytelling, and self-consistent simulated worlds, the GNS theory "mistakes components of an activity for the goals of the activity", emphasizes player typing over other concerns, and assumes "without reason" that there are only three possible goals in all of role-playing. Combined with the principles outlined in "System Does Matter", this produces a new definition of RPG, in which its traditional components (challenge, story, consistency) are mutually exclusive, and any game system that mixes them is labeled as "incoherent" and thus inferior to the "coherent" ones. To disprove this, Gleichman cites a survey conducted by Wizards of the Coast in 1999, which identified four player types and eight "core values" (instead of the three predicted by the GNS theory) and found that these are neither exclusive, nor strongly correlated with particular game systems. Gleichman concludes that the GNS theory is "logically flawed", "fails completely in its effort to define or model RPGs as most people think of them", and "will produce something that is basically another type of game completely".

Gleichman also argues that just as the Threefold Model (developed by self-identified simulationists who "didn't really understand any other style of player besides their own") "uplifted" simulation, Edwards' GNS theory "trumpets" its definition of narrativism. According to him, Edwards' view of simulationism as "a form of retreat, denial, and defense against the responsibilities of either gamism or narrativism" and characterization of gamism as "being more akin to board games" than to RPGs, reveals an elitist attitude surrounding the narrow GNS definition of narrative role-playing, which attributes enjoyment of any incompatible play-style to "'(literal) brain damage". Lastly, Gleichman claims that most games rooted in the GNS theory, e.g. My Life with Master and Dogs in the Vineyard, "actually failed to support narrativism as a whole, instead focusing on a single narrativist theme", and have had little commercial success.

See Also: Bartle Typology


See Minion.


This term sees use in all forms of game design, but is of particular importance in TTRPGs. Granularity, in an abstract sense, represents how fine of detail the subject matter is mechanically represented by the system. It's easier to understand by example, so here we go:

A highly granular game would have features like...

  • Using a large die size for resolution (2d20, 1d100, deck of playing cards, etc.)
  • Have many, many extremely specific skills (Ropework, hiding, sneaking, pickpocketing, etc.)
  • Represent every minute quality of a character through a wide range of attributes (Balance, stealth, flexibility, agility, evasion, speed, strength, knowledge, creativity, beauty, charisma, willpower, wisdom, sanity, laterality, etc.)
  • Have the statistics of equipment defined by very small, sometimes even cosmetic, differences in its design (A helmet with a horizontal visor slit has different stats from a helmet with vertical visor slits, the degree of recurve in a bow impacts it's damage modifier and strength requirement, etc.)
  • Have little to no room for improvisation or variation from core material, as every little detail must be represented mechanically (you can't reskin a pole axe to represent a glaive because they aren't nearly identical, and the differences must be acknowledge by system)

A low granularity game would have features like...

  • Uses small dice for resolution (1d6, coins, cowry shells, fudge dice, etc.)
  • Have few ways of specializing a character, if there are any ways to do so whatsoever, and specializations are extremely broad in their usage (stealth, athletics, education, martial arts, computer usage, etc.)
  • Have few attributes, possibly none at all (Body, mind, soul; or a game where modifiers are decided arbitrarily from interpretation of character description)
  • Have broad, generic equipment (for instance, all weapons deal 1d6 damage, no special damage types, ranged weapons all have the same range, etc.)
  • Have lots and lots of room for customisation and improvisation, as the subject matter is so loosely and abstractly represented by the system, that any given "thing" in the system can represent a wide range of "things" in play (All polearms- and indeed all melee weapons- work the same; dwarves and elves are just weird looking humans; etc.)

Neither high nor low granularity can be considered "better" or "worse". They both have advantages and disadvantages.

High granularity games tend to appeal to more serious gamers, gamers with a gamist bent, and highly neurotic people who dislike ambiguity. They take much, much more time to design and test, because more system and content must be built in order to represent the game's subject matter. Highly granular games are prone to abuse by analytical players who can quickly assess the implications of heaps of disparate information. They are prone to systems that are slow and tedious.

Examples of highly granular games are D&D 3.5e, Palladium RPGs, and Marvel Heroes.

Low granularity games tend to appeal to less serious gamers, and gamers with a narrativist bent, and lazy people who just don't care to read more than a 15 page manifesto in order to play a game. (It should be noted that narrativist, and anyone else who takes the game seriously, tend to not mesh well with those other two groups) Low granularity games don't normally take as much labor to construct, as there just isn't as much to say or do. They are prone to abuse by highly charismatic players who can convince the group into letting them use the rules to represent more than was expected by the developers. They are prone to systems that are too abstract or ambiguous to be usable in play.

Examples of low granularity games include OD&D, FUDGE, and Minds Eye Theater.

Simulationism has a mixed relationship with granularity. Gamers who desire a system that emulates a sort of fictional reality, with the system acting as a "physics engine", tend to prefer higher granularity. Gamers who seek an authentic experience where they can be deeply immersed in the sensation of the imaginative experience however, tend to prefer low granularity games.

A distinction needs to be made between rules heavy/light and granularity. Granularity refers to how fine of detail is being represented by the system, rules weight simply refers to how many rules there are and how complex those rules are. A system that represents little but has very large and elaborate rules to do so is a low granularity but rules heavy game. A system that can represent nearly anything in some way, and does so with only a few extremely elegant rules on a single page, is a high granularity rules light game.

Most editions of D&D exist somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Many other RPGs are the product of games responding to what they felt were granularity limitations of different editions of D&D.


A campaign that is arbitrarily dark and gritty, often grim and gloomy as well. Often a tongue-in-cheek way of referring to such a setting, implying that the implementation is shallow.

Named after the infamous tagline of WH40K, a wargame infamous for how it goes so over-the-top with grimdark in its setting that it becomes hilarious instead of depressing: "In the grim darkness of the future, there is only war!"


"Plunder everything that isn't nailed down. Then take everything that IS nailed down. THEN take the nails from the walls. Finally, take the walls."

Presumed to have started because RPGA started assuming players acquired all available treasure, so if you didn't take literally everything, you were behind the curve.


Originally a word used to refer to old retired French soldiers who grumbled incessently about anything new.

It was then later used in tabletop wargaming communities to refer to people who continued to play really old wargames.

Because RPGs (and D&D specifically) were developed from wargaming, and initially shared the same audience, the term was adopted into the new hobby group.

However, the meaning of the term in the RPG community has become strongly dependent upon temporal context. What was meant by it depends primarily on when it was said. In total, the word's meaning has changed thusly:

  • At first, it retained its original meaning.
  • Then, as the RPG community began to diverge from the wargaming community, it came to mean anyone who was involved in both types of gaming.
  • As the RPG community grew and aged, it came to refer to anyone who used to play wargames before playing RPGs.
  • Then, as newer generations joined the hobby, it came to refer to anyone who played the original editions of the game.
  • Today, it just generally means a gamer who is old-fashioned and/or just old and experienced.


A series of DM and Game Designer ethos that one of the creators of 1st Edition Dungeons and Dragons, Gary Gygax, was both apocryphally and authentically known for. These include:

  1. A style of running games which encompasses one or more of the following:
    1. The GM behaves in a somewhat to very adversarial manner to the PCs running the game.
    2. The GM takes an authoritative, no-backtalk style and is authorized to use their position to enforce control of the game.
    3. The GM is expected to liberally use Rules Zero mid-game with little discussion or justification to the players.
    4. Players are expected to handle adversity, even if the outcome is unfair, arbitrary, or punitive with a minimum of fuss.
    5. The campaign is very deadly, with TPKs caused by bad luck or poor player choices being readily handed out.
  2. A passive-aggressive method of game balance in which, rather than explicitly invoking Rule Zero or talking to players about expectations, the DM voices their displeasure through in-game events in hopes the players will catch on and avoid repeating their mistakes. Actual suggestions include:
    1. DMs who don't like psionics thwarting the psionics fans by introducing a bunch of overpowered psionic monsters who will repeatedly kill psionic users until the players go back to playing regular players.
    2. Quoting TvTropes: 'The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters' Guide even suggested using "blue bolts from the heavens" and "ethereal mummies" on PCs to keep their players in line.'
    3. From the same book: Gygax writes an editorial about how anyone who wants to play a monster is an incorrigible power gamer trying to ruin the game for everyone, so if someone wants to play something less human than a dwarf you should let them play an adult gold dragon at first level and then send impossible challenges against the party to kill their character and then repeat until the players go back to playing normal races.


1) Adaptation.

2) To kill a thing.

3) Someone who believes themselves to be great at something, but is actually terrible. Often used to describe bad actors. Calling your DM a hack would be a significant insult.

Half Caster

In D&D 5e, this refers to classes such as the paladin and ranger, which gain spells about half as fast as the full casters such as wizards and druids. E.g. at third level a wizard has six spell slots and access to level 2 spells, while a ranger has two spell slots and access to only level 1 spells. Warlock and artificer are the edge cases in this classification, the former due to its unique spell slots feature and the latter due to getting cantrips which other half casters don't.

Subclasses for martial characters which grant them a bit of spellcasting, such as the fighter's Eldritch Knight, are sometimes called one-third casters.

The term could theoretically be used in earlier editions, but those have more variance in spell availability so the classes would be harder to categorize.


A standard character type whose focus is keeping party HP up during combat. Clerics are your standard healer class, though in some editions the role is shared by others, such as paladins and druids.

This particular terminology is derived from MMORPG culture, where players devised a strategy to maximize effectiveness called the "holy trinity". The trinity is the DPS (Damage Per Second), Tank, and Healer. By splitting up the functions of a single character into the responsibilities of several players, trios were able to completely overwhelm most early MMORPGs with this strategy.


"Heartbreaker means an RPG system that is a derivative of another popular system. It's deciding "I'll make my own {popular system}! With blackjack! And hookers!". It's called a heartbreaker because it will always break the designer's heart, either because it will never fix all of the base game's problems or because it will never be seen as a proper successor." - Mask De H. Coined by Ron Edwards.

D&D has many clones of this nature. Some of them went on to become well recognized games in their own right, but D&D just keeps progressing down its own path.

Henderson Scale

The Henderson Scale of Plot Derailment. Be careful when following links away from 1d4chan, /tg/ and other such communities are... less discerning about social demeanor than we are.

Hex Crawl

A style of gameplay which heavily stylizes and simplifies overland travel into extremely symbolic mechanical systems, while simultaneously trying to generate some semblance of verisimilitude in the process. It sounds complex and contradictory, but it's actually pretty simple. A hex-crawl style game involves the following features:

  1. Travel is conducted on a hex-grid "overworld" map. Typically, there are several "levels" of map showing the party's position in the world at different degrees of "zoom". For instance, a typical hex crawl has a world map, with each hex representing a smaller region. For each region, there is an associated hex map of specified grid dimensions and proportions. A typical set-up has three "layers", a world map, a regional map, and a local map; though some games can have many more layers, simulating a far larger world. When the party moves off the edge of their local map, they move on to the edge of the next neighboring regional map, and their position on all higher level maps are adjusted accordingly if necessary. Some hex crawls only have one layer, and some DMs run layered hex crawls without showing their players the other layer maps. Some DMs use a grid-coordinate style numbering system to coordinate the maps and track player position, though this can become unwieldy with very large map systems, resulting in coordinates like, "102,243/12,22/10,7".
  2. Generally, the party moves together as a unit. How many hexes they may travel at a time, and how much time passes as they do so, varies significantly depending on the rules and intended scale of the maps. For example, a DM may scale their local maps so that the game's rules for determining travel pace align perfectly with 1 hex equaling 1 day or 1 hour of travel time. The DM could then run the game as a series of turns, at a daily or hourly pace. A DM could theoretically set up any arbitrary standard they desire, depending on the pace they progress time by, and the scale they make their map at. Some DMs may allow the party to split, while others may not.
  3. At predetermined moments, typically each time the party enters a new hex, or once per round, the DM will roll a die on a random list to generate an encounter. Traditionally, these are combat encounters, though some DMs include all sorts of other encounters as well. In early editions, it was typical for DMs to populate their encounter lists with monsters based on the types of creatures they would expect to live there, not what was balanced against the party. As such, it was common for players in early hex crawls to spend a great deal of time having their characters flee or get killed and eaten. The more advanced and complex hex crawls would have a great multitude of different encounter lists. Which list was used at a given time is usually based on the terrain type of the hex the party has entered. Some hex crawls would also include separate encounter charts for day and night for each terrain type, and others still might also include separate charts for each season in each terrain. A few would even change the chart based on the local weather.
  4. Generally, a hex crawl is a non-standard form of play in everything but OSR games, because such games often make 'heavy use of standing orders, such as marching order, stance, travel activities, etc. These standing orders and what they represent, though highly variable from one game to another, can be instrumental to a party's success or failure. In particular, someone is typically designated the mapper, and they are required to draw out a map for the players as they travel, and this activity is often impeded by the DM throwing secret checks to arbitrarily cause the players to become lost, giving them false directional information. In addition, there are often rules about moving carefully to avoid encounters, or swiftly to arrive soon though attracting more encounters, and much more.
  5. In some hex crawls, there may or may not be significance placed on camping/resting during a trip. There are examples of DMs who even roll for random encounters when the party sets up camp, with varying charts depending on what kinds of preparations they have made!

Hit Points

It is very important to remember that HP in D&D DOES NOT stand for "health points", nor does it stand for "health pool". The term hit points was derived from medieval wargaming, specifically as they are used in the wargame, Chainmail. In the original system, how much damage a unit dealt (and could recieve) was based on its rank. The "hit" dealt by the unit was measured in points, each point representing one "man". Higher ranked units were worth multiple men, and so dealt points equal to multiple men. The hit points of a creature was essentially the measure of how many hits from a nameless man, (or how many men hitting it at once) it would take to kill it. This system worked in an entirely positive direction. Hit points were a measure of accumulated damage and was compared against the creature's total hit points. When the accumulated exceeded the total, the creature died. Arneson and Gygax innovated upon this system by expanding the static 1 man = 1 point, with 1 point = 1d6. This added a gamble, uncertainty, and variety to the game, and changed the meaning of hitpoints from a comparison of strength between combatants, to an extremely abstract measurement of vitality. This form of the HP system remains with us to this day and has become a standard across all representational games, even videogames. Later HP systems, inspired by the practices of D&D players who recorded damage as a reduction from their HP "pool", use the word "health" either out of ignorance of the system's roots, or as a rejection of that history.


Homebrew is hobby slang referring to unofficial content produced by the people who play the game. By hobbyists for hobbyists. It usually refers to game content, while home made rules are typically called houserules, but in a general sense, houserules can also be considered homebrewed as well. The main thing is that it is home-made. Professionally produced content, even if it was unlicensed third party stuff, technically wouldn't really count unless it was a compilation of previously existing content which was not created for the purposes of publishing. The distinction is the intent behind creation.


The host is the person providing a venue for a game of D&D to be played at. Most often, the DM or one of the players is the host. If the group consists of young people, it is likely that one of their parents is the host. In official and public events, it is likely an educator, staff member, or manager- someone who owns or is responsible for the facility. Hosts can have a wide range of responsibilities, depending on how involved they are. If they are a member of the group, they are likely involved in the game itself, but it is also possible to have a non-participant host, such as when you are at an official event. Some hosts provide food, or possibly even transportation for their guests. The host is often responsible for holding their guests accountable for their actions, and for taking action against people who disrespect the venue and other participants.


A houserule is a codified deviation from the core rules. They apply only to the group which created the houserule. Such a deviation from the rules is typically created to cover ideas not represented by those rules, or to overcome some sort of perceived problem with the rules.

Dude Houserule.jpeg


Hit Points


In Character.

In Character

When a person is speaking: Their words either describe the actions and words of their character, or are the words of their character.

Iron man

A character build style revolving around ability score generation and assignment. Generally, the Iron Man build is described as "roll 3d6 for each ability score in the order that they are written, no rerolls. Now choose your character options based on what best suits your scores."

The name comes from the Ironman Triathlon, because it is considered one of the hardest ways to play the game, and takes a great deal of confidence in your own system mastery and play technique to be successful.

It is sometimes associated with the OSR movement, but really that depends on the group, and a bit on what edition/printing they're trying to emulate- if they're emulating a specific game at all.

Sometimes, people go so far as to include entirely randomly selected character options as part of an ironman build, where the player has no choice but to make the best of whatever the randomizer creates for them. Some proponents for this build are actually basketweavers who latch on to it as a way of masking their hipsterism with faux machismo.

Justice League Fights

A style of combat in which opposing teams of even power split off and fight each other one at a time, not unlike the Justice League cartoons and comics.

While narratively desirable because it cuts down on lethality while also allowing that level of personal touch, it's almost impossible to actually implement in most games because Focus Firing is much more effective.

One frequently suggested but as-of-yet unimplemented mechanic would be to give characters a large 'unengaged' bonus if they haven't been attacked or covered by anyone. This way parties have a reason to avoid Focus Firing as the retaliation would be disproportionately lethal.


A keyword is a mechanic in an RPG which has been given a name. In the context of the game, the keyword refers only to that mechanic, losing its typical linguistic meaning unless stated otherwise.


An acronym for Kill Them All And Take Their Stuff. As a verb, it refers to doing just that. As a noun it is a style of play focused on killing and looting. It originates on forums, mostly those dedicated to Old School Renaissance games. Used especially fondly by Hackmaster players.


The act of combining two or more "cool" elements in one setting, character, or game; based on the erroneous assumption that combining two cool things will result in something twice as cool. Unless you are specifically going for comedy, it is often too easy to go over-the-top, resulting in a ridiculous self-parody that cannot be taken seriously -- thus making it actually less cool. Name comes from the Austin Powers movies.


Lore As Written, usually said as the word "law." Derived from RAW. Usually used to distinguish from official setting material as opposed to the setting material run by a DM. E.g., "LAW orcs are evil and ugly, but in our campaign the DM has them as misunderstood antiheroes."

Lawful Stupid

"Lawful Stupid is for people who may call themselves Lawful Neutral or Lawful Good but lean toward such rigid adherence to the law that anybody who breaks any law, anywhere, for any reason, is the enemy .. [Be sure] the Lawful Stupid can and will act as Judge, Jury, and Executioner. .. Woe be to the fellow party member who fails to live up to their obsessive-compulsive standards. If the thief so much as jaywalks, [the] Lawful Stupid will insist on turning him in to the 'proper authorities' (regardless of what alignment said authorities are), or even execute him on the spot."--TVTropes (Quote under CC-BY-NC-SA)


Little Brown Books. Used to refer to OD&D.


Little Bad Evil Guy. Refers to an antagonist NPC meant to challenge the PC's but is not the BBEG. (Often a lieutenant of the BBEG in a campaign).

Level Dipping

Level dipping, or just Dipping, is an optimization technique where a player takes 1-2 levels in a class to gain its unique class features or abilities, then leaves the class.

Level dipping is often frowned upon thanks to many people believing in the Stormwind fallacy and suspicions of Dumpster Diving.


Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard.

Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard

The idea that "magician"-type characters accumulate power much more rapidly than "warrior"-type characters.

One of the proposed solutions to this situation (if perceived to be a problem) is Quadratic Fighter, Quadratic Wizard.

Logistics and Dragons

A style of gaming which focuses on large-scale economic, political and military management, especially when Murderhoboing is the default assumed style.

Lonely Fun

The act of having fun doing TTRPG-related things by yourself, such as building a character, reading game books or designing an encounter. "The hobby of having fun not playing the game you want to play." -Chris Perkins


An object which drives the plot forward via characters trying to obtain it, but itself does not affect/get used by the characters. It is important in the sense that characters want it and pursue it, but unimportant in the sense that it could be swapped out for another object and the story would stay much the same. The term's range is somewhat debated, especially in regards to how helpful a MacGuffin can be onscreen, but that's the most common definition.

In the more concise words of this entry's previous definition: It's the thing that you want because the plot needs you to want a thing.

Types of MacGuffin plots include "heroes take MacGuffin from villains" (e.g. the Arkenstone in The Hobbit), "heroes guard MacGuffin from villains" (unobtanium in Avatar), "MacGuffin is lost, heroes and villains race to find it" (the sugar bowl in A Series of Unfortunate Events), and "heroes seek MacGuffin, villains are unrelated" (the Holy Grail in Arthurian literature).


When a player has their character take a series of actions to create new content in-game- especially if that game lacks any crafting mechanics and has no rules to represent what is being made. This word is primarily used by DMs who are not OK with that.

The primary reason MacGuyverism is problematic, is because it cannot be prepared for or balanced against, only responded to. For example, most editions of D&D have codified rules and systems which DMs can use to plan encounters to challenge the players based on their mechanical capabilities. A MacGuyverism is, by definition, not in the rules, so there is no way to account for it using such a system. So, a DM may come up with a brilliant combat encounter, filled with complex tactical give-or-take decisions and risk-reward conditions... Only for a player to invent a brilliant way to drop the entire dungeon on the BBEG. Most examples are not this extreme, but the effect is the same: The circumvention of the intended mechanical balance due to the non-mechanical elements of the game. This clash between the mechanical and non-mechanical game elements, and a dysfunctional group's inability to communicate the priorities between them, is the root of many problems inherent to RPGs.

Phrase derived from a TV show about a guy who's really good at making tools out of random junk.


Multiple Ability Dependency. Some classes require high scores in multiple ability scores to be successful. The opposite of SAD.

Not to be confused with when people are mad, which they usually are when they have to deal with MAD.

Magical Tea Party

MTP for short. A term for describing the "make it up" advice in RPG texts when some event or action is not covered by the rules.

Not inherently a derogatory comment, it is often used with a negative connotation due to MTP commonly being used in place of rules that are either bad, or incomplete enough, to be useless. MTP is in of itself necessary because no set of rules could cover all possible situations without becoming prohibitively wordy. MTP gets used derogatorily when it must be relied on for common use cases in a particular game. In particular, 5th edition's reliance on DM adjudication and drama based resolution so much, that fans of past editions often use the phrase to refer to various 5e rules.

Magician Superhero Problem

Imagine you're playing a superhero game where three players build three different characters with different points: one character has power over ice, the other over sound, the other is simply a magician. For typical superhero challenges such as stopping a bus from crashing or thwarting bank robbers or rescuing a building full of hostages, the characters perform equally. Unfortunately, balance problems start to crop up when the heroes are faced with unusual situations. For example, imagine an adventure in which the heroes were attacked by ghosts and they had to travel to the dream world to stop them. The Magician superhero can participate in the adventure very easily (I cast a spell at the ghosts; I cast a spell that lets me transport to the dream world); the sound hero has an easy but not trivial answer to the ghosts (I modulate the frequency of my sound waves) and has to think a little harder about how to go to the dream world (I adjust my binaural beats using my sound powers until I slip into a supernaturally lucid dream state). The ice hero will probably be unable to think of a way to use their powers at all and will have to sit the adventure out entirely. It doesn't matter how good his ice powers are, if he can't think of a way that the situation applies then his score might as well be zero as far as this adventure is concerned.

The Problem is this: The Magician Superhero can operate at full theoretical effectiveness no matter what the situation because the player can always go 'it's magic; I don't have to explain it' when asked how their power will apply to their situation. On the far end, less open-ended power sources such as the sound and ice hero will often have to employ more creativity than the magician and if they can't rise to the challenge, face not being able to use their power at all.

The Magician Superhero Problem is somewhat related to Linear Fighters, Quadratic Wizards except that an especially creative player of a 'weak' power source can still outclass a less imaginative player of an open-ended power source. For LFQW, no amount of creativity in playing your 18th level barbarian will close the gap in utility between you and a properly played wizard.

Unfortunately, naively averting the Magician Superhero Problem by letting people with less open-ended power sources achieve the same effects (the reason I can transport to the dream world with my power over squirrels? Just because, okay?) as those with more open-ended ones has its own set of problems. See Captain Hobo Problem for more information.

Magic Item Economy

This was an effect generated by the 3rd and 4th edition game content. The developers made a sweeping assumption that every character would have a minimum level and number of magic items in their inventory at a given character level, and built combat bonuses into magic item level. They counteracted this effect by giving monsters of a given CL an equivalent bonus to their defensive scores. This drove ACs up so rapidly, effectiveness depended almost entirely upon acquisition of new magic items and desertion of old ones.

The magic item economy was one of the driving forces behind the Treadmill effect. What this meant for the game-world's fictional actual economy is another problem entirely.

When used in seriousness regarding game balance, designers are talking about the Resource Management System surrounding magic items as a Resource.

Main Character Syndrome

A player character who has or seeks an excessively high amount of Spotlight and/or narrative focus. Named for the idea that this player considers their character the "main character" of the campaign, instead of respecting their fellow PCs. Also see Cheese, Mary Sue, and Snowflake.

Mary Sue

A character who is over-the-top perfect and exists to fulfill the wishful thinking of the player. The original Mary Sue was a character in a set of fan-written Star Trek stories where this nothing cadet out-smarted Spock, slept with Kirk, saved the Universe, etc.

Meat Shield

Refers to a character or creature being used to absorb damage in the place of another character. In groups where one player acts in the role of "tank", that character is a meat shield for whoever they are preventing damage from being delivered to.


Strict rules regarding placement, turn order, movement, damage quantities, xp requirements, etc. More than just the math of the game, "mechanics" refers to all of the things the rules say "must" function in a given way. Mechanics also include the rules properties contained by game content, such as weapon weight, value, damage, etc. Without mechanics, an RPG is just "Let's Pretend".

Meilahti School

Developed in Helsinki, Finland, by Jaakko Stenros and Henri Hakkarainen from 2002 to the present. It defines role-playing in a way that encompasses many different forms, and shuns normative choices about what the right or best forms are. "A role-playing game is what is created in the interaction between players or between player(s) and gamemaster(s) within a specified diegetic framework."


Things discussed about the rules by the GM and players as opposed to things happening in-game (by the characters).

To calculate success/failure of an action by reviewing character stats and game mechanics, as opposed to acting based on character personality and what the ‘character’ knows.

An action or actions made by the Player Character based on out-of-character knowledge. While it is very difficult to not metagame to at least some small degree while playing an RPG, the act of metagaming is usually frowned upon.

For example, a Player's Character uses fire to fight a troll even though the Character is ignorant about trolls, because the Player has knowledge of the troll's weakness to fire from previous gaming experience. (This example is the most widely given, and also the most heavily criticized. It is preserved here for historical value to the definition. Whether or not a character living in a world with real trolls should assumedly know anything about them is not relevant here.)

The Metagame can also refer to how the way everyone else is playing, writing for, and/or affecting the game can and will affect your particular game, even if you never meet these people. For example, if a new and popular fantasy movie portrays a typical wizard as a precocious primary schooler, more players will play their wizard according to this archetype (instead of the previously popular wizened old seclusive scholar), DMs and Adventure Writers will introduce more wizardly villains who are preppy bullies, game developers will write expansion options catering to this kind of character, etc. Another example: even though the structure behind CoDzilla has existed in D&D well before the tail-end of 3rd Edition, wider awareness of this build brought about by Internet debates has led D&D 4th and 5th Edition to take specific steps to defuse it.


A minimally detailed NPC; usually hostile, easily defeated; subject to special rules which require less bookkeeping than a normal NPC. May refer to a creature or version of a creature which has only 1 hit point, especially in 4e.


One of several techniques used in character optimization. A shortened form of the phrase, "minimum cost for maximum effect". In essence, minmaxing is the act of trying to minimize the negative effects of mechanical penalties and maximize the effects of bonuses in any mechanic where clear mutually exclusive tradeoffs exist. In other words, you're just trying to get the biggest bang for your buck. Examples include:

  • A system which allows a player to "spend" two points of one ability score to gain one point in another is a minmaxer's dream. They would make a SAD build and burn every point in every other ability to boost the one.
  • Any character build designed to maximize a property or resource, such as AC, HP, Speed, extra attacks, damage, bonus spells, etc.
  • Making equipment choices based exclusively on mechanical synergies.
  • Taking advantage of a flaws system which rewards a player with mechanical bonuses for taking flaws, by choosing the least penalizing flaws only, and selecting the most beneficial bonuses only- especially if the resulting build negates the flaw, the flaw is something the DM simply will never invoke, or the flaw can be easily sidestepped.
  • In a turn based combat system with a delay mechanic: Building a character who always gets first turn in a round. Delaying to last turn in the first round. Because you get first turn in the second round, you effectively get two turns in a row, with no chance of anyone else being able to react or change tactics between them.
  • Actually wearing the helmet of +10STR -10INT, because your character doesn't use Int for anything anyways.
  • Putting your highest score in Str because you're making a fighter.
  • Choosing wizard class because you rolled a high INT.
  • Whatever the person using this term doesn't like.

Mister Cavern

Some people at the Gaming Den call the DM this in a sort of rude/affectionate/joking way.


Monster Manual.


A value which alters the result of a roll. Positive modifiers are bonuses, while negative modifiers are penalties.

In every edition of D&D, modifiers are secondary statistics.

Monty Hall or Monty Haul Campaign

A type of adventure centered around accumulating as much wealth as possible, as fast as possible, where story takes a back seat to killing the next monster and taking its stuff. Named for the host, Monty Hall, of the game show Let's Make a Deal, featuring a set of three doors. The association with this type of campaign was due to the host's catch phrase "What's behind door number 3?!".


See Minion.

"Mother-May-I" Ability

An ability or feature that requires a level of GM adjudication to function, and thus can vary in power and applicability between tables.


An immature player, especially one who is selfishly focused on dominating play, often by seeking to circumvent the normal limitations placed on characters.


A noun used to describe the behaviors of characters engaged in a KTAATTS style game or play. Generally derogatory, and used by the "odd man out" to describe their compatriots around the table as being sophomoric or shallow.


Derogatory reference to a multiclassed character.


Narrativism relies on outlining (or developing) character motives, placing characters into situations where those motives conflict and making their decisions the driving force. For example, a samurai sworn to honor and obey his lord might be tested when directed to fight his rebellious son; a compassionate doctor might have his charity tested by an enemy soldier under his care; or a student might have to decide whether to help her best friend cheat on an exam.

This has two major effects. Characters usually change and develop over time, and attempts to impose a fixed storyline are impossible or counterproductive. Moments of drama (the characters' inner conflict) make player responses difficult to predict, and the consequences of such choices cannot be minimized. Revisiting character motives or underlying emotional themes often leads to escalation: asking variations of the same "question" at higher intensity levels.


After rolling a die, the result which appears, before modifiers are applied, is called the "natural".


Change made by an authority to the rules reducing the overall effectiveness of a particular ability or system. Can be caused by the publisher revising rules or providing errata or the GM imposing house rules. Generally seen as a negative. It is a reference to Nerf® brand foam toys, especially balls and toy weapons, designed for safety through use of soft foam.

Ninjas In The Night

A derogatory term for a DM tactic which seeks to enforce the number of expected encounters in a day even if it breaks the fourth wall or hurts narrative flow. Ninjas in the Night can attack anywhere and at any time, especially if the Nova-loving party on a Five Minute Workday has the temerity to try to go to sleep after one encounter instead of the recommended four encounters per day.

Can be used less derogatorily for the dangers of adventuring or questing without taking proper camp precautions; if a DM is sending Ninjas in the Night against a party that has been adhering to encounters-per-day guidelines then they just might be a Gygaxian DM.

No Self Buffs Problem

An attempted subversion of CoDzilla where Buffs can't be applied to the initiator.

Because most (though crucially, not all) players would rather make themselves look awesome than spend their screen time making other people at the table look awesome, No Self Buff users have had to provide buffs of greater utility than the character electing to be personally awesome without providing buffs. Otherwise you end up with unpopular classes people try to get out of playing like the 3E Bard or 2E Cleric.

Unfortunately, No Self Buffs leads to two major problems. The first is the Puppetmaster Buffer. The second is when you have, for lack of a less vulgar term, a circle-jerk in which everyone buffs each other and ends up being much stronger than a balanced party. I.e. a properly built 4E D&D Warlord, Cleric, Bard, and Runepriest are stronger than any party that doesn't have four No Self Buffers. The only way to fix No Self Buffs is to lower the power of buffs to be of equal utility as grabbing a character that's personally capable (and risk having an unpopular class) or accepting that you'll have to line-item veto every buff. No one said that game balance was easy.


As a verb, this means expending all your most powerful limited-use abilities as quickly as possible to try and win a fight quickly.


A specific thing in the game designed to impede the protagonists. Every monster, trap, locked door, skill check, save, puzzle, and distraction deployed by the DM is a type of obstacle.


The original edition of D&D written by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974.

Off the RNG

Another way of saying Out of RNG.

Old School

1) A style of game that harkens back to the early days of role-playing and seeks to capture what was best about those games.

2) Often used by older gamers to refer to the time when they first started playing RPGs.

3) A style of play in which the objective is to emulate the way Original D&D was played by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Old School Renaissance

The Old School gaming movement. The 'R' is sometimes given as 'Revival'.

Old School Rules

The rules of the Old School playstyle.


Overpowered. It is advisable to not use this abbreviation for several reasons.

  1. Due to its second meaning, this can be confusing.
  2. It is not a proper initialism.
  3. If you use the phrase "overpowered" so frequently, you are either lazy, an administrator, or most likely wrong.

Original Poster. Let's please leave this definition on the image boards.


A metagame activity where fun is derived from maximizing effectiveness through character build. While optimization can lead to dysfunctional results, this is not generally its objective.


Out Of Character


An abbreviation for the Old School Revival style of play.

Out Of Character

When a person is speaking: Their words are their own and have no bearing on the current situation in the game.

Oberoni fallacy

Stating that there is nothing wrong with a game because Rule 0 exists. See Help:A Good DM for more information.

Out of RNG

When bonuses or negatives accrue to make it so that no number a character can roll will impact their success or failure. This occurs in games where roll modifiers can escalate to values exceeding the range of die results, particularly 3.Xe. This was the symptom of a design problem which came to be known as the treadmill effect.

Padded Sumo

The opposite of Rocket Launcher Tag. Where combat is grindingly slow and each attack is a tiny drop in a massive bucket.


Anyone participating in the play of an RPG, regardless of their table role.


The group of Player Characters and any travelling companions. The term was adopted from D&D's wargaming roots.

Party Charter

1) In-character document establishing the adventuring company, its shares, inheritance and dissolution procedures.

2) Out-of-character document which may include the elements of definition 1, as well as other aspects of play and evironment, including roles in party, snack schedules, and attendance policy. It is a form of Social Contract.


Play by E-Mail.


Play-by-Forum. Synonymous with PBP.


Play-by-Post. Usually played on a web forum, though it is possible to PBP in any content sharing medium. A slower style of play, but often incorporates much more depth to character role-playing.


An abbreviation of Player Character.

PC Record Sheet

See Player Character Record Sheet.


A negative modifier.

D&D has seen a strong tend away from using penalties. This may have something to do with subtraction being a (ever so slightly) slower mental process. Because most gamers speed up their activity by converting everything into addition problems and keeping track of their results on scratch paper, it seems reasonable that the developers would want to favor that behavior.


A game which is rules-heavy. Creepy sexual subtext. Please stop using this word. D:


Player's Handbook. Sometimes pronounced "Fuh".


Player's Handbook.


Phlebotinum is the versatile substance that may be rubbed on almost anything to cause an effect needed by a plot. Examples include but are not limited to: nanotechnology, magic crystal emanations, pixie dust, a sonic screwdriver, vented drive plasma, and Green Rocks.


In D&D, a player is any participant who controls a character in the game.

Player Agency

Absolute control over the player's own character, their personality, and their actions. Player Agency should only be violated in extreme situations. However, where player agency and DM authority are divided can be blurry. While it is generally assumed that the players have absolute authority of everything their characters do, there are four areas where this is not true:

1. the players do not necessarily have absolute control over their characters' senses. The DM tells them what they see, hear, feel, smell, etc.

2. Some editions of the game include emotional states, such as fear, as mechanical effects, so in those editions the DM can blatantly tell your character what their emotions are at certain times.

3. Most editions of D&D include spells of command, control, and charm, which blatantly remove player agency for a duration.

4. Players also do not have control over the results of their actions, which are also adjudicated by the DM.

As a consequence, the players often only really have authority over their characters' desires and choices. Some DMs will relinquish some degree of authority to the players giving them more agency, but this is entirely an effect of playstyle, and neither method of play, (minimal or maximal player agency) can be considered "standard".

Player Character

This is used to refer explicitly to the characters under the control of the players, as compared to those under the control of the DM.

Alternatively, this may also be used to refer to both the player and character as if they are one unit. Referring to the people around the table as "PCs" would be an example of this. Because this usage overlaps the older, more widespread usage, it can cause confusion if used recklessly.

Player Character Record Sheet

The document containing a character's basic traits, skills, carried equipment, background, etc. Historically a single sheet of paper, but is more commonly becoming an electronic document or spreadsheet and/or may be made up of multiple sheets.

Player Versus Player

A style of play in which players pit their characters against each other.

Playing Smash Bros.

A euphemism for the activities of a disengaged player.

Play Style

It may surprise you to discover that there are countless ways to play D&D, and that no single one of them can be described as "correct" or "true". Play style refers to the set of assumptions and restrictions the DM and players operate within while playing the game. Even if these are not explicitly stated or consciously known, some assumptions are necessary for the game to work at all. For example, we generally assume that, unless told otherwise, the fictional setting operates under fairly normal physics, with analogues to gravity and momentum in place, that humanoids have two legs with two feet and two hands, and that the content in the core books is valid. However, the authority of the DM is such that it exceeds the entire core system and content, validating a wide variety of significant changes to the game on a fundamental level.

A DM could create a setting where magic does not exist, banning all spellcasting options, spells, and magic items from play. A DM could make a setting where some core race(s) are extinct or just never existed, banning them from play. DMs are authorized, (even required) to modify or invent new content for the game any time they wish. Theoretically, a DM could outright ban all PHB content and invent all options and material from scratch if they wanted to. Indeed, some DMs actually do this. Other DMs might run super-strict official-only games, where absolutely no houserules or homebrew are allowed at all, and rulings are to be adjudicated as close to RAW as possible.

Play style is also partially defined by the content of the adventures the DM writes, and how the players can interact with those adventures. For example, one DM may write open-ended sandbox style games, where the players are free to wander, explore, and make their own story, as in an Elder Scrolls video game. Another DM might create narrative-light dungeon-crawl games where the challenge is surviving an environment. A third DM may run highly political games, where checks and combat are extremely rare and players spend more time talking than they do strategizing, number crunching, die rolling, or travelling. A fourth DM might be trying to emulate the original (old school) style of play from the earliest editions of D&D run by Gygax or Arneson! The list goes on and on. The narrative of the game changes the context the game's content will be referenced under, and changes the meaning of that content.

Because there is no one true way to play, and the impact of content changes based on the context given by play style, a given piece of content can be circumstantially imbalanced in certain styles of play. Flight is a classic example, because humans don't fly, which makes it hard for us to remember that a character can fly, which in turn makes it hard to imagine meaningful challenges for flying characters in certain play styles. These should not be called balance issues, because they are not driven by mechanics alone, but by the context they have been put in, and a failure on the part of the DM to adjust the play style to account for it, or disallow the incompatible content. These kinds of design problems are play style incompatibilities, and are a part of why having a session 0 to discuss play style improves the quality of most games.

Plot Armor

Plot Armor is a character overcoming events that would be crippling or even lethal with an unconvincing or even no in-narrative justification; the implication is that the only reason why the character survived as long as they did is because they're required to by the plot. Plot Armor is when the survival is not adequately explained within the narrative -- Superman surviving getting shot in the eye with a shotgun at point-blank isn't Plot Armor, that's just him using his powers. Batman surviving getting shot in the eye at point-blank range with a shotgun is almost certainly Plot Armor. The term Plot Armor is generally used in a derogatory fashion, though a lot of TTRPGs have Plot Armor built into the rules and limited by some resource. Real plot armor fails to make sense both in and out of the game, however.

Points of Light

A style of worldbuilding, especially for fantasy and/or post-apocalypse games in which only a few points of interests in the campaign setting are described, typically the last bastions of civilization. Anything that exists between these 'points of light' is deliberately left unexplored and undescribed, with the DM expected to fill them in as necessary as the campaign progresses. Generally viewed as lazy on behalf of the game developers since it allows them to go to the presses with minimal thought put into history, sociopolitics, or geography though some DMs like PoL because it allows them to plop points of interests such as dungeons where they feel without contradicting written material.

The phrase came from 4e's generic setting.


A player focused on system mastery and optimization.


The origins of this term are ambiguous. It is generally agreed that the original term came from video game programmer slang-abbreviations. It was most likely originally "Programmed Random OCcurrence" or "PROCedure". The term somehow got into the hands of gamers before its meaning was solidified in the design community, and its meaning became primarily audience-defined. In most video gaming communities, the term is used to refer to any regularly occurring Buff. In the context of tabletop gaming, the term is typically used to describe the order in which simultaneous game effects take priority.

For example, "My racial speed procs first, so casting shape change doesn't alter my total speed in the end."

The term entered the tabletop gaming vernacular through an infusion of MMORPG players, which became significant during the 3.5e production run. Though the term had entered the language at the table, it did not see significant use in tabletop context until 4th edition, as many game mechanics in that edition emulated video RPG game mechanics. As a result, the word became more relevant for clear discussion of coordination of complex mechanical tactics, and its use remains frequent today. It is most frequently seen in discussions about RAW vs. RAI and hardcore character build optimization.

Puppetmaster Buffer

The third leg in the unholy trinity of Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard, the Puppetmaster Buffer is a character build that is, counterintuitively, so helpful that it invalidates the choices of the other characters at the table. The Puppetmaster Buffer works by handing out buffs to their party members so large that it makes the build choices of other characters meaningless; the character choices between a lightly armored swashbuckler and a tanky, well-armored berserker becomes trivial when both are getting such enormous defensive buffs and offense multipliers that they'd only perform slightly better from a basket-weaving commoner, let alone each other.

Puppetmaster Buffers tend to get overlooked in balance discussions because the damage they do to intraparty balance isn't as obvious as the other legs of the Unholy Trio; indeed, what makes them so hard to balance is that up to a certain threshold, they're the most popular member of the party. No one really objects to someone giving them an extra attack, but when they're giving you three to your original one attack that's when problems start. Even (especially even) the result is balanced or expected. While 3E D&D didn't really have a good Puppetmaster Buffer class (CoDzilla and Batman Wizard builds were more dominating) they reared their ugly head in 4E D&D of all places with the balance-wrecking Warlord and Clerics.

No Self Buffs Problem is a major factor in the existence of Puppetmaster Buffers.


Player Versus Player

Quadratic Fighter, Quadratic Wizard

A method of advancement in which the Linear Fighters are designed in such a way as to gain powers at the same rate as the Quadratic Wizards. The prime example of this is the work of Frank & K.

Most aspiring game designers view QFQW as a foolproof way to thwart LFQW, but they come with their own problems that need to be taken care of. Typical issues with Quadratic Fighters, Quadratic Wizards include:

  • The Captain Hobo Problem: What happens when you allow characters to build their own fluff on top of generic game mechanics.
  • The Elothar's Gear Problem: What happens when a method of keeping quadratic warriors quadratic by giving them unrelated superpowers, typically granted through magic items and setting rewards, ends up clobbering their previous fluff. (The fighter essentially becomes a sword-wizard)
  • The Magician Superhero Problem: What happens when you have several sources of power that have unequal narrative utility.
  • Weeaboo Fightan Magic: A derogatory term aimed at fighters who do things deemed as too fantastical or 'anime'.


See Quadratic Fighter, Quadratic Wizard.


Rules As Intended. Essentially the same as the concept of "Spirit of the law" but regarding the developer's design intentions.


When a game tries so hard to simulate reality, it crushes any fun or playability out of itself through uselessly inflated granularity and convoluted math.


As a DM, railroading would be forcing the players to experience your plot hooks. When the players develop way around an encounter, or think of an alternate method for completing a quest, or simply doing what the DM didn't prepare for, the DM finds a way for the players to still deal with what was prepared. Player choices become obsolete with this practice.
Basically: Just being a jerk DM.


The measured effectiveness of a skill in 3.Xe and Pathfinder. In these editions, a skill's rank was an equivalent bonus to a relevant check. See score.


Rules As Written, usually pronounced "raw." Essentially the same as the concept of "Letter of the law" but regarding game rules instead of legal text.

Often used to distinguish between official rules and how a DM is running a game with house rules. E.g., "RAW drinking a potion requires an action, the DM lets us drink one as a bonus action."

It is important to note that often the rules as written are sometimes open to interpretation as there may be multiple viewpoints on what the RAW means.


A character who is disposable and exists only to be disposed of to prove a point. Derives from the classic Star Trek television show in which a security detail wearing red uniform shirts accompanied the bridge crew on adventures, almost always to their regret.

Resolution Mechanic

In RPG theory, a resolution mechanic is the process by which success and effectiveness of an attempted in-game action is determined. The resolution mechanic can be broken down into 4 main steps, or components, abbreviated IIEE.

  1. Intent: a player's desire to change something in the game.
  2. Initiative: some system, typically a static rule, determines the order in which players are allowed to make changes.
  3. Execution: player declaration of what they want, followed by rules adjudication and judgement.
  4. Effect: either the group or some person with authority declares the result of what they have done, whether it was effective, the consequences thereof, and what follows afterward.

D&D uses a fortune based resolution mechanic, engaging 20 sided dice as a neutral arbitrator, and relying on various rules or DM Fiat to determine effectiveness.


Aside from its various meanings in normal language...

In game design, a resource is any limited thing which is in demand. For example, in D&D, the number of actions a player may make in a turn is limited. This means there is high demand for additional actions. This makes actions, although an abstraction, a resource. All game Currency is a resource.

Resource Management System

The proper term for any system reliant upon or driving the movement of a game Resource. A specific resource management system in a game is typically referred to as the economy of that resource. For example, the systems which cause the limitation, demand, acquisition, and consumption of actions is called the game's "action economy".

Restoration Economy

Health restoration is a limited resource in most games. Health is typically recovered through resting mechanics, as well as other sources such as magic and healing items.

In addition to health, many other resources, such as class feature uses are tied to the same mechanics, and reclamation of these is seen as a form of "restoration".

The restoration economy is the Resource Management System which surrounds restoration of health and other consumable character resources as a Resource.


Short for Retroactive Continuity. A gameplay and storybuilding practice in which previous events are revised according to the new needs of the campaign.

The term is derived from the comics profession/fandom, where several major publishers have repeatedly experimented with new styles and themes in various products, only to revert those changes after significant fanbase backlash. One of the recurring techniques is to handwave such sudden changes as being part of another universe, a different "continuity" than what the main story had been following up until that point.


A game that is designed to emulate the rules of an older out of print game (so as to be compatible with anything produced for the older system).


Slang referring to the fictional revival of a character.


A term derived from the WoTC 5e dev team. Let's use their description.

"In the R&D team any [trait] meant to convey flavor rather than a mechanical advantage is referred to as a ribbon- a thing that's mostly for show. Thieves' Cant is a great example of a ribbon [trait] and Storm Guide also falls into this category.
"We don't weigh ribbons when balancing one class or option against another. For example, Heart of the Storm carries the power load at 6th level for the storm sorcerer, while Storm Guide is here only to show how these sorcerers can excellent as sailors. It isn't meant to help in combat, but it's potentially very useful in maneuvering a ship."
-Unearthed Arcana: Waterborne Adventures

To clarify into the terms we use when discussing 5e balance here on the wiki, a ribbon is a feature or trait which is not useful to the combat pillar of adventure. Here on the wiki, we DO balance these traits against one-another, we just separate them into categories based on their relevant pillar.


Random Number Generator. In D&D, we use dice.

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

A form of partial or Total Party Kill in which the DM uses their vast powers to enforce death where there would otherwise be none. Generally used tongue-in-cheek, since only the most immature or power-tripping of DMs would use their power to veto the players' actions like this.

Named after an apocryphal event where a DM, frustrated with the stupidity of their players, declared that rocks fell down from the sky and killed all of the players with no chance for them to escape.

Rocket Launcher Tag

Refers to combat that is so offense-heavy that the first person to attack will likely immediately win. Contrast Padded Sumo.


The act of taking on the role of a character. May be done in any of several modes, including 1st-person dialog, 3rd person narration of action, or even 1st person improvisational acting.


Either used as a verb to indicate you should roll a die (or virtual die) to get a result. See Dice Notation


Instead of role-play.

1) Often derogatory, used to imply that manipulation of the game system has replaced imagination.

2) Referring to the desire to roll dice instead of acting out character interactions.

RPG Theory

The collected discourse, language, and philosophies regarding RPG design and play. It is in its infancy, and the number of players and theorists far outnumbers the people actually making these things. As such, it's kind of a colossal mess. Nonetheless, much of the language from various philosophies have been incorporated into the common lexicon.

Most people who build a design philosophy push their idea as a "theory", but this is a misnomer. The theory is the collected discourse and effect of all combined philosophies, not any single one of them.

RPG theory is a subset of game design theory, focusing primarily on non-videogame RPGs. (Game design theory does a very good job of describing video game RPGs, as there isn't actually very much "role play" involved, even in the most thorough and open-ended video RPGs to this day)

Rule Negative One

Because the DM is the final arbiter in ruling mechanics decisions, there's no such thing as objective power or utility. Power and utility is determined by what will be allowed at a table. And because most players aren't mathematicians nor game theorists and thus use incorrigible criteria, (i.e. does this sourcebook look cheaply made, I dislike noncasters getting access to superpowers, etc.) what's allowed at a table is ultimately tribal and arbitrary. An officially published overpowered class is more likely to be allowed than an underpowered homebrew class simply because the former is officially sanctioned. Or if there are two proposed builds are of equal power, the one that uses fewer books and more of professional-quality books is more likely to be included -- without any regard to power.

Rule Negative One manifests itself in a number of arbitrary but familiar ways: "don't bother analyzing books from third-party sources because they probably won't be allowed"; "wait until this expansion option gets published in an official book instead of using it straight out of the fanzines or playtest"; "try to keep your explanation of what your character does down to a minimum"; "if you have an unusual build be sure to pad your concept with unnecessary roleplaying filler you wouldn't otherwise have to do for less unusual builds to avoid an invocation of the Stormwind fallacy and a subsequent nerf -- keeping in mind that going too far with a detailed explanation of the reasoning behind your character's power strikes a lot of DMs as you trying to pull a powergaming con job"; etc.

Rule Negative Two

Because of Rule Negative One, when discussing rules and especially Character Optimization in general, if there are multiple ways to interpret a rule in absence of a specific GM a you should use the most Gygaxian (player-screwing) interpretation possible.

The essence of Rule Negative Two is boiled down in this Pathfinder FAQ response: In general, use the (normal, lower) spell level or the (higher) spell slot level, whichever is more of a disadvantage for the caster. Serious rules analysts despise Balance By Obfuscation, as Rule Negative Two inherently makes content so useless that it might as well not be there.

Rule Negative One and Two are satires of the dark side of mentality behind the more famous Rule Zero, showing that even a rule explicitly designed as a trump card to Rules As Written is ironically not immune to Metagame Analysis.

Rule Zero

The DM is the final arbiter in ruling mechanics decisions. Sometimes summarized as "No."


The explicit part of the system, specified in the text.


Having many rules to guide action and resolution. Opposite of Free-form.

Rules Lawyer

1) A person known for arguing GM rulings by recourse to quoting the rules from the rulebooks.

2) A person who disrupts play by excessive references to rules in play.

3) A player who misrepresents the rules for their own advantage in play.

4) A player who only values strict adherence to RAW or RAI when it benefits themselves.

In all cases, derogatory. Means a person is breaking the social contract by denying DM authority to make rulings which are contrary to the source material.


See Free Form.


The result of rules adjudication. Whenever a DM must make a decision to "fill in the gaps" of the game, or determine consequences, their decision is called a ruling. If rulings become consistent and standardized, they become a houserule.


Single Ability Dependency. Some classes require high scores in only one ability score to be successful. The opposite of MAD.


Intentionally underperforming in game challenges so that you don't make other players bored or jealous and/or be targeted for Balance by Giant Salamander or even an out-and-out nerf or ban. Sandbaggers generally only operate at full-power when a TPK is on the line.

While frowned upon in competitive games, as it's usually done so that the sandbagging player can get an unfair advantage, it's less frowned-upon in cooperative TTRPGs since it's usually done for the sake of group cohesion.

Same Game Test

The Same Game Test, or SGT, is a 3.5e balance guideline used to gauge the level of power a character class or option brings to the table. It is derived from the definitions and explanations of encounter challenges in the Dungeon Masters Guide and Monster Manual.

It lead directly to QFQW homebrews of that edition, particularly those by Frank & K.

Designing content balanced by the SGT does not create content which is mechanically compatible with the core rules of that edition; it creates content which is comparatively balanced in combat.


A keyworded modifier which only applies when a player must roll a "saving" throw.

Often, people abbreviate "saving throw" down to "save". (IE: "Roll your save against X.")

An attempt to avoid a detrimental effect, or success at such an attempt. Often phrased as “making a save” (though this can still refer either to the attempt or to success).


See Spotlight


See Adventure Seed.


Really old school terminology here. The result of a die roll, before or after modifiers. By extension, also applies to any primary statistic derived from a die roll during chargen.


TTRPGs are played in the form of a sort of quiet theme-party, called a session. A typical session lasts between 2-4 hours, though official play often restricts players to a single hour. Some people run particularly long sessions upwards of 6, 8, or even 10 hours straight. Where such long sessions become habitual, it is sometimes called binge-gaming. (It can also be a sign of unhealthy social, emotional, or mental problems if it interferes with the lifestyles of the participants.)

A typical session is long enough to complete a single adventure, though long adventures or short sessions may spread a single adventure out, while long sessions or short adventures may allow several adventures to be completed in a single sitting.


Literally the fictional time, place, and situation being represented by the game at hand, in the lit-theory sense of the word.


Simulationism is a playing style recreating, or inspired by, a genre or source. Its major concerns are internal consistency, analysis of cause and effect, and informed speculation. Characterized by physical interaction and details of setting, simulationism shares with narrativism a concern for character backgrounds, personality traits and motives to model cause and effect in the intellectual and physical realms.

Simulationist players consider their characters independent entities, and behave accordingly; they may be reluctant to have their character act on the basis of out-of-character information. Similar to the distinction between actor and character in a film or play, character generation and the modeling of skill growth and proficiency can be complex and detailed.

Many simulationist RPGs encourage illusionism (manipulation of in-game probability and environmental data to point to predefined conclusions) to create a story. Call of Cthulhu recreates the horror and cosmic insignificance of the Cthulhu Mythos, using illusionism to craft grisly fates for the players' characters and maintain consistency with the source material.

Simulationism maintains a self-contained universe operating independent of player will; events unfold according to internal rules. Combat may be broken down into discrete, semi-randomised steps for modeling attack skill, weapon weight, defense checks, armor, body parts and damage potential. Some simulationist RPGs explore different aspects of their source material, and may have no concern for realism; Toon, for example, emulates cartoon hijinks. Role-playing game systems such as GURPS and Fudge use a somewhat-realistic core system which can be modified with sourcebooks or special rules.

One of the three player agendas in the big model, and a fundamental element of GNS theory. There is massive public disagreement and misunderstanding regarding what, exactly, simulationism is. Generally, there are 3 interpretations:

This style is a "simulation" in the sense that airline pilots need to fly an airplane simulator before they can actually sit in the cockpit. The misinterpretation comes from the use of the word "simulation" in videogames, where the game is creating a virtual representation of a realistic thing and carrying it through its causal actions and consequences. This interpretation, though the most widespread, is actually explicitly NOT EVEN RECOGNIZED AS A STYLE OF PLAY IN ANY VERSION OF THE THREE-PART TYPIFICATION.. The fact that most RPG theorists do not even recognize this incredibly common desire of the hobby community is a significant deficiency of RPG theory as a whole, and an example of why we should all take this kind of stuff with a grain of salt. The main argument against emulationist objectives being a style of play, is that such a style, if taken to its farthest extreme, would be driven entirely by mechanical systems, with no input on the player's behalf beyond rolling dice to determine decisions and outcomes- a true simulation of an external entity. Such an activity isn't a game, nor is it even a worthwhile activity, as computers can do the same thing better. The desire for this type of play is often paired with an unhealthy desire for escapism when taken too far.
This is the traditional form of simulationsim. The goal is to simulate a certain type of "experience" for the players. In this sense, LARPs and ARGs are experiential simulationism taken to their farthest extremes, as they incorporate even tactile elements into the simulation.
This interpretation is a misinterpretation of the word "experience" in the main form of simulationism. Basically, when we say "experience", we mean to say "external situation and the audience's interpretations and feelings toward it". However, some people interpret the word as meaning "The full scope of a person's conscious state". This far broader and more extreme interpretation covers another player agenda not covered by the three-part typification. This player agenda is one where the players focus on maximizing personal immersion in the setting and one's character. Like emulationism, the immersive style is often compared to a form of unhealthy escapism when taken too far. Immersive simulationism is often misinterpreted as narrativism because of its strong emphasis on characterization and roleplay, but the immersive style makes no compromises to form a consistent or desirable narrative; the immersion in the imaginative state is primary above all else, and if something bad for the plot makes more sense than something good for it, consequences be damned, the bad thing is happening. The "Turku" style of play, focusing on a sort of psychotic trance-state method-actor style of roleplaying, is the apex of immersive simulationism.


A particular area of character effectiveness. Under a skill system, a character will have a number of keyworded ‘skills’, namely things they are especially good (or especially not good) at. For example, “hide”, “discover hidden things”, “hit with a sword”, etc. Skills are often trainable so they may improve during the course of the game. Early editions of D&D did not have a skills system, so adjudication of character effectiveness in most situations was entirely up to DM fiat. Later editions have used skill systems in a variety of forms.


A character whose abilities are deliberately unique or rare in the setting, usually writing a convoluted character background to justify it. Often the character is a good version of a typically evil race. Comes from the commonly repeated (and false) belief that all snowflakes are unique, which is often used in motivational platitudes comparing a person's uniqueness to that of a snowflake. Not necessarily a bad thing, and can definitely be well written.

Also used to refer to real people who are easily offended. Do NOT use this definition to refer to another editor; see Help:Behavioral Policy.

Social Contract

Agreements between a group of players, often implicit, often unique to each group, that guide and/or constrain action. E.g. "no one should interrupt except the GM." "No character in the story should attempt to rape any other character." "It is your responsibility to make sure you have fun."

Source Book

A rules-expansion book. Source books are more complex than supplement books, typically containing new rules, as well as content utilizing those rules. Source books are rarely themed the way a splatbook would be.


Supplementary book for a game system covering an individual class, race, clan, tribe or like concept. Splatbooks are typically strictly limited to a very specific theme or subject. The Mystara setting, for example, had region-focused splatbooks.


This is a seriously bad way to look at things, but a lot of what D&D boils down to, particularly the roleplaying side of it, is a contest for attention. The players are competing with each other for the attention of the group. Now, this shouldn't be an overt contest, and everyone should be gracious about giving attention more than they receive it, and sharing in that attention; that's just part of being a good sport. There is no denying that there is a limited amount of attention that can be given, and it can be measured in time. How much time is available in the session, from beginning to end, and how many people it is divided between, will determine how valuable that time is. This effect is what we in the hobby call spotlight. Management of the spotlight, (who it shines on, and for how long) generates the effects of narrative and pacing in the game. Thus, manipulation of the spotlight is a product of time management.

One thing you may hear some DMs and players talk about is the so-called "premium" on spotlight. What they're talking about is how valuable that spotlight is, based on how scarce it is. Let's imagine spotlight is divided evenly between the players at a 4-player table, with the DM soaking up about half of the session time for descriptions, explanations, question answering, etc., then each player only gets 7 and a half minutes of spotlight per hour. In order for each player to get 1 hour of spotlight under such a system, the session would need to last 8 hours. So, the more players there are in the group, the more valuable the spotlight is, not only because there's less of it to go around, but because the audience is bigger, there are more eyes on you.

Add into this situation the fact that not all players pay attention to everything all the time, off-topic table conversation during which the spotlight is effectively "off", or players who hog the spotlight, and you can see why a lot of strong emotions can flare up at the table! In fact, almost every type of social problem at the gaming table, (powergaming, rules lawyering, disruptive play, etc.) stems from inappropriate allocation of spotlight due to a lack of communication between players about the issue. So, being able to manage the spotlight effectively is absolutely paramount to running a successful game! As I said earlier, effective management of the spotlight comes down to practicing good time management.

First and foremost, the DM, should strive to consume as little spotlight as possible, while still getting the story across with as much depth as possible.

  • Having a big vocabulary is an asset here, as it will allow you to say far more in fewer words with greater clarity and emotion. Having a thesaurus handy when planning your sessions and building your world can be a great benefit.
  • When describing new things, take descriptive shortcuts by starting with similes or comparisons and then modifying the image with description.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. If you can make art, then do so. It doesn't need to be amazing, just clear. (Look at how successful Order of the Stick has been!) If you aren't confident there, you can still describe a ton through maps and diagrams, and you can always troll the internet for art you can print and use!
  • Try to turn your spotlight into their spotlight. Either make your descriptions about the PCs, or pass it off to them immediately afterward.
  • Encourage your players to share the spotlight.


A game that used squares as a map base and for measurement.


System Reference Document. The name given to the official rules and content released by Wizards of the Coast for editions of DnD. Usually, enough content is released under OGL to make a good, playable DnD game. But remember, the SRD doesn't encompass all the good content and supplement books released by WotC.

Standing Order

This is a nonstandard playstyle which is often either confused as being a houserule, or assumed to be an intentional gameplay element. There is great disagreement over whether this style of play is within the intent of any edition of D&D.

Essentially, a standing order is a shortcut. The idea is that, for any given thing that a character can do continuously or repeatedly, it should be reasonable for a player to inform the DM that the character chooses to do so in all instances habitually, and that the DM will then assume this habitual behavior, carrying out its consequences automatically. The intent of this behavior is to reduce redundancy, repetitiveness, annoyance, and boredom generated from having to say things like, "I look up, down, and in all directions as I enter the room" 84 times a night. There are a few examples of standing orders in the core rules of several editions. Most prevalent is the concept of "marching order", where the party informs the DM the formation their characters travel in while exploring. This is then used by the DM to place their characters on a grid at the start of combat, saving time having the players do it themselves, and reducing rules bloat from attempts to maintain balance if the players were given direct control of this at the start of each battle.

However, many DMs place extreme importance on the explicit description of minutiae, and will take advantage of subtle word games to trick, trap, and otherwise surprise players due to contextual holes left in their descriptions. They will also take advantage of players becoming exhausted/forgetful of their habitual behaviors, using this effect as a simulation of their characters actually forgetting or becoming exhausted from the activity. These DMs will generally assume players are doing absolutely NOTHING unless they explicitly state so, and will not accept standing orders in most cases. In some cases, such a DM may even reject standing orders in the core rules of their edition, such as marching order, and demand explicit description in every single circumstance. Such DMs are usually aiming for a Gygaxian style, which is often associated with the OSR movement, dungeon crawls, and hex crawls.


Short form of Status Effects.

Status Effects

A keyworded mechanic which, when applied to a character, alters their functionality, typically in a negative way.

Stormwind fallacy

In laymen's terms, using the statement "roleplaying, not rollplaying" is committing the Stormwind fallacy (Who says you can't do both?).

Strength (Str)

Strength measures your character's muscle and physical power. Strength is the ability associated with athletic heroes.

You apply your Strength modifier to:

  • Melee attack rolls.
  • Damage rolls for melee and thrown weapons (exception: grenade damage isn't modified by Strength).
  • Climb, Jump, and Swim checks for earlier editions and Athletics checks for 5e.
  • Strength checks (for breaking down doors and performing similar actions).


Borrowed from video game slang.

When a character can attack in such a way as to prevent their opponent from ever being able to take an action. Also known as 'Tekken Juggling'.

Stupid Good

Stupid Evil

A character of "EVIL" alignment (usually chaotic evil), that is played to do the most evil, and as much evil things possible, disregarding their own personal goals, motives, logics, GM, plot, other party members and even self preservation. Basically they go out of their way to prove that they are "EVIL", to the contrary of fact that intelligence, planning or even polish are not mutually exclusive with bad behavior, sadism and other clearly evil traits. Generally doing evil things for the sake of being evil, not because that way is usually easier or more appealing for the character, even when other available options for solving problems, or roleplaying in general, present themselves.

Usually played by players with Main Character Syndrome, or those lacking ideas for a real character for their PC's. Making constant problems, derailing other PC's plans, endangering the group and similar actions tend to make those players hog spotlight, which usually works in its own, twisted way. Sometimes a player itself is this weird example of a human being that just derives fun from irritating others, increasing their blood pressure and overall infuriating other players and GMs alike. Usually ending their roleplaying adventure with given group short enough if being persuasive enough.

Sometimes referred to a bit clumsy, idiotic character, that visions themselves as master of evil, pulling mostly innocent pranks of "pure evilness" to show their allegiance. Mostly harmless, but because of the aforementioned cases, this one is rarely seen or called Stupid Evil.

Superman Diplomacy Test

A stress test given for proposed TTRPG diplomacy systems, especially ones that have superpowered characters in it, to see if it can withstand certain edge cases. Failing them tends to indicate an underlying problem that will manifest in average-case scenarios.

  1. Super Dickery: In many "social defense" systems, a powerful character is hard to diplomacize, which causes Superman to default to being hostile or at least dickish to pretty much everyone.
  2. No soup for Superman: Superman is an altruist who does not need your soup. A forward looking model shows that there is actually no benefit to you for giving Superman free soup, whether he just rescued your grandmother or not.
  3. Die for the Superman: Individual uses of Superman's powers are worth more than most people. In an absolute value social credit system, Superman can ask people to die for him in exchange for favors that are completely trivial to him.
  4. I'll trade you a paper airplane: Superman's powers don't take a lot of time or effort for him to use. So a relative effort social credit system would predict that you can get Superman to knock down a building in exchange for a paper airplane or a carrot.


A shortened form of supplement book.

Supplement book

Books released, by WotC or Third-Party, that have more content to use in tandem with the official rules of a tabletop game version. Supplements only expand upon game content, and are typically part of a campaign setting.


A slang term referring to a flat probability distribution in a resolution mechanic. The term is generally used when someone is complaining about this, instead of houseruling a solution or playing some other game.

The problem typically goes something like this...

"My master thief character went to unlock a common door, and I rolled a 3 so I failed. Then the barbarian asked if he could try and the DM said yes. He rolled a 16 and unlocked the door."

The complaint is that the randomizer used in D&D, a d20, has a very wide range with high granularity, but almost no meaningful input from PC attributes. This gives the impression that the dice "swing" from extremely good to extremely bad arbitrarily, which interferes with suspension of disbelief because it denies the intended representation of unique character qualities. These complaints can range from the mild, finding it a nuisance, to the extreme, declaring flat distribution a blight upon all mankind.

The roots of the problem come from a conflict in the design philosophies of old and new editions brought about by tradition in the game. Early D&D did not have a single core mechanic for task resolution. The DM just decided what would happen. Combat rolls were an abstraction representing a whole segment of combat time, not any specific action. Newer editions became more detailed, and attempted to represent discrete actions through an impartial mechanic. They cannibalized the attack roll to create the check. Unfortunately, they kept the same die despite the fact that old editions weren't representing the same thing as new editions. As a consequence, realistically predictable things with a chance of failure can become shockingly unpredictable, even with DCs tweaked to heavily favor either success or failure. 1 in 20 still means 1 in 20, no matter what the target is.

Part of this is on the DM's shoulders though. Many DMs don't fully understand when to call for a check, and when to just pass/fail a request- and most DMs disagree with each other about the issue as well. The main thing is: if you're pretty sure a specific result is almost certain to happen, and a failure would be highly disruptive or uncharacteristic, why would you even bother with introducing the chance of something you know would be bad? The same goes the other way: if there's only a 0.05% chance of something succeeding, and you'd be annoyed if it did succeed, just call it a fail. This solution doesn't work well for people who want their objective rules to emulate a sort of imaginary physics simulacrum, so there are a couple of common solutions:

Replace 1d20 with 2d10. If you use fumbles, move them to the snake eyes result. A 1 is not a possible result. The average is now 11. So little adjustment might be called for, that most can get away with not even making any adjustments whatsoever.

Replace 1d20 with 3d6. This gives a bell curve and a much more predictable outcome, but it also calls for significant adjustments in some editions.

In both cases, it increases the predictability of results without eliminating randomization. In both solutions, a DM who consistently calls for inappropriate checks will continue to get weird and unpleasant results.


1) The big-picture of a game's mechanical choices, including not just rules but also design philosophy etc. Or from a story point of view: the method in a game by which new facts are added to the fictional setting.

2) Geekdo defines this as a set of base rules used by more than one RPG.

Table Chatter

Out Of Character conversations

Table Rule

Not to be confused with Houserule.

A table rule is an OOC rule imposed upon the game session by the host of the game, typically the DM. Examples include...

  • Bring your own beer.
  • Everyone helps clean up afterward.
  • Table chatter is to be kept to statement-and-reply length only.
  • No recursing.

Table Slang

The collection of unique gaming jargon which is developed by a group of players who have played together for a long time. Table slang which is carried from one group to another, picked up by other players, and spread farther, eventually becomes common jargon.


A party member designed to absorb damage and shield other party members from harm by getting enemies to focus their attacks on them.

Similar to Meat Shield, but sometimes refers to a character which can dish out lots of damage as well as take lots. Generally, a character able to go toe to toe with the biggest baddies.

Tank fallacy

Believing that your character is a tank simply because they can withstand many hits, when you have no way to actually compel enemies to hit you rather than your feebler teammates ("draw aggro" in MMO jargon). Possibly coined by blogger T.E. Kamstra.


1) A set of abilities laid on top of a character / creature to add abilities and/or specialize the character.

2) A pre-made example of a PC, NPC, Item, etc. used to assist in quickly generating multiple copies of something.

3) A type of wiki page which, if its name is wrapped in double curly brackets, transcludes its full contents at the command's location. It is possible to transclude pages which are not in the Template namespace, but this is not the best practice in the world, and is typically only done for stylistic purposes, where the transcluded information is valuable in its respective namespace as well.

Character Tier System

3.5e can probably be best described as "pretty combat-focused", "fairly convoluted", and "mostly about number crunching". The character tier system, as you can see in the link above, was a way of categorizing classes based on power output in combat encounters. The Same Game Test (DnD Guideline) is a tool that was invented to categorize classes into this tiering system. Other communities use this tier system as a rule or standard, and refer to the tiers as "balance points", conflating balance with power.


To Hit Armor Class 0. Attack resolution mechanic used heavily in BECMI, and AD&D 1st - 2nd edition.

Theater of the mind

A style of play in which props, such as costumes, maps, and miniatures, are almost entirely absent. If props are used, they are purely for immersion purposes, not for any practical use in-game.

Generally, when people talk about theater of the mind play, they're mostly talking about how they handle combat. Ever since the early days of D&D, there were players who simply did not have access to or knowledge of tabletop miniatures combat. These players had to invent their own way of playing out combat without using visual representations on a standardized grid. They did this through a purely oral technique, in which everything was described and visualized.

Since those early days, this style of play came to be compared to a variety of traditional storytelling techniques, especially radio dramas. There is an old phrase of uncertain origin from the radio industry where the theoretical practice of storytelling through the radio was like setting a stage in the audience's mind- the theater of the mind. Today, theater of the mind is an extremely common and well developed playstyle, with a great deal of supporting literature and community activity, and many techniques people have used to achieve a variety of effects in play.

The Big Model

The largest design philosophy in RPG theory ever proposed.

Developed at The Forge from 1999-2005 largely by Ron Edwards – It hypothesizes that roleplaying games are modelled by "The Big Model" with 4 levels: the social contract, exploration, techniques and ephemera, with creative agendas governing the link from social contract to technique. In this theory there are 3 kinds of creative agenda, Gamist, Narrativist, and Simulationist agendas. It is detailed in the articles "GNS and Other Matter of Role Play Theory," "System Does Matter," "Narrativism: Story Now" "Gamism: Step on Up" and "Simulationism: The Right to Dream" by Ron Edwards, at the Forge's article page. The Big Model grew out of GNS Theory, a variant of the Threefold Model.

Far, far, far too complex to explain in a single entry. If you would like a more thorough explanation, feel free to browse the linked articles on the Forge provisional glossary.

A word of caution: The Big Model, while an extremely well-built design philosophy, is not the whole of RPG theory. It is extremely biased toward the values and beliefs of the primary author, Ron Edwards. It is written in such a way as to imply that it is the combined works of many authors, despite not having any such input. Its only axiom, that the three player agendas are incompatible and that a system is a manifestation of agenda, is widely criticized as being demonstrably false, particularly by Dungeons & Dragons. The Big Model is subject to all of the criticisms levied against the earlier philosophies it incorporated. In other words, there is no consensus on this, and a lot of people oppose it.

See Also: Bartle Typology

The Bullet Test

Whether or not characters in a TTRPG are assumed to regularly survive, or be immune to, bullet wounds. Essentially being super-heroic in nature.

The Chair

Or, more fully, the Dungeon Master's position of office. The phrase stems from the idea that the DM usually gets the comfiest chair in the room, and the trend for the DM to always sit in the same spot, even if the person in the role changes. To "give up The Chair" means to give the role of DM to someone else, or to abandon the role entirely.


Publications for a game that are from someone other than a game's current publisher. Often printed under license.

Threatened Area

In general, in tabletop miniatures tactical combat, a unit's threatened area is the space its figure occupies, plus the surrounding area covered by the reach of its melee attacks. Ranged attacks are generally not counted as part of a unit's threatened area. This is particularly important in editions which feature Attack of Opportunity.

Threefold Model

The Threefold Model or GDS theory of roleplaying games is an attempt to distinguish three different goals in roleplaying. In its original formation, these are: Drama, Simulation, and Game. It was the inspiration for subsequent theories, such as the GNS Theory, which retained a 3-way division but altered other aspects of the model.

In its most formal sense, the threefold model claims that any single game master (GM) decision (about the resolution of in-game events) can be made in order to further the goals of Drama, or Simulation, or Game. By extension, a series of decisions may be described as tending towards one or two of the three goals, to a greater or lesser extent. This can be visualized as an equilateral triangle, with a goal at each vertex, and the points between them representing different weightings of the different goals. As a consequence, a player or GM can characterize their preferred gaming style as a point on this triangle, or (since no real precision is implied) in words such as 'mostly gamist' or 'dramatist with a bit of simulationist' or 'right in the middle'.

Another consequence of the model is the claim that by advancing towards one of the goals, one is moving away from the other two. Thus a game that is highly dramatic will be neither a good simulation nor a challenging game, and so on. This assertion has been widely challenged, and led to criticism of the model.

The Threefold Model was widely discussed in the USENET group in the summer of 1997; Mary Kuhner had laid out many of the central ideas there and John H. Kim had later codified and expanded the discussion. John Kim's FAQ on the Threefold Model clearly stated, "An important part of the model is recognising that there are valid different goals for gaming."

The threefold arose in discussion on the forum, following long arguments and flame-wars about whether one style of roleplaying was 'better' than another style. The name was coined by Mary Kuhner, in a July 1997 post which outlined the principles. In October 1998, a "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) document was written about it. It has since then been circulated in a variety of places. It was also the inspiration for a related model known as "GNS Theory", which has been articulated by Ron Edwards on the roleplaying discussion site The Forge.

Followers of the threefold model sometimes claim it has quelled the debate about 'which roleplaying style is best' by pointing out that different people want different things out of games, and that some styles are better suited to certain goals.

However, it has come under a great deal of criticism. Some criticize it simply for trying to establish some theoretical thought about roleplaying, and some misunderstand it as trying to categorize players.

Others deny the claim that one must 'trade off' one goal against another, and claim that a skilled GM or game designer can fulfill all three goals without compromising.

Some dispute the appropriateness or meaning of the goals of simulation, drama and game; in particular simulationists are seen as having defined the model to their own tastes, leaving the drama and game goals poorly defined.

Some believe that the threefold should be extended to a fourth goal/vertex, usually Socialising. (That is, the fun of playing a game with your friends, making sure everyone is happy.) This would allow preferences to be plotted on a tetrahedron rather than a triangle. However, there has been little consensus on this issue. (The general opposition being that the whole point of any social game is socialization, so technically all three agendas depend on socialization in order to function at all.)

Some criticize the model for having no utility, finding that it makes no useful predictions and offers little insight into how to improve one's game. Many feel that the effort spent arguing the merits of the Threefold Model could be better spent discussing more productive aspects of roleplaying.

See Also: Bartle Typology


Old school gaming term for rolling a die.


Topdecking is when a player has little-to-no selection or control over what actions are available to them from round-to-round due to the Resource Management System. Actions are used as soon as they come up rather than used with any foresight or strategy because not doing anything would be worse and they 'might as well' use whatever option that came up. Generally regarded as the opposite of Five Moves of Doom, though a system that eschews one doesn't have to use the other.

While topdecking can be interesting because it forces players to get creative and 'make do' with what they have, it often disengages players because they don't really need to be there if the action they are going to take has a 1:1 correspondence with what is rolled or drawn.

A related term, lucksacking, is when a topdecking player is unable to win unless they're able to get the exact maneuvers they need.

Total Party Kill

Used as a noun to refer to any situation which caused or contained the death of all characters in a party.

The event of an entire group of player characters in a game being wiped out by a threat or challenge. “The dragon caught us by surprise and it became a TPK.”


See Total Party Kill.

Treadmill Effect

Where every bonus gained by a character is equally counteracted by all threats they face increasing proportionally. The effect occurs when weaker and stronger threats cannot be used, because the modifiers are so disparate, that the character will almost certainly win or lose against such content, thus giving no DM reason to use it. The consequence is that only equally proportioned content ever gets used against the character.

Trial by Devil Axe

In a system with highly random or uncertain character design but doesn't punish failure with permanently sitting out of the game (as doing so has its own set of problems), people are encouraged to force their characters to take risks that are not generally consummate with the rewards because the worst punishment is that they'll have to play with a different character.

'My fighter, who rolled nothing above a 14, walks up to the chained owlbear and punches it square in the eye. Time to roll another character, with better stats.'

Named after a startlingly effective playing style of early Fire Emblem games, games in which A.) individual squad members have highly random and irreversible level-ups, B.) characters are largely undifferentiated, meaning that if one advances poorly you can swap them out with a luckier unit and C.) you get way more characters in your roster than you can ever field at once. Characters whose level-ups are deemed poor, rather than being assigned to permanent benchwarming duties, are given a Devil Axe: an weapon that does huge amounts of damage but has a high chance of backfiring and killing the wielder.


Tabletop RPG. Differentiates D&D and other games like it from LARPs and video RPGs.

Turku School

Developed in Turku, Finland, especially by Mike Pohjola from 1999 to the present. It advocates immersion ("eläytyminen") as the primary method of role-playing (especially live action role-playing), and artistic exploration as the primary goal. The Immersionist style is thought to be distinct from dramatist, gamist, and simulationist styles, and dramatism and gamism are thought to be clearly inferior styles of role-play, fit only for other mediums besides roleplaying.

The main criticisms:

  • Complete and total disregard for fun, entertainment, other players, and anything else which resembles a "game".
  • Glorifies the game as a work of art in isolation of its non-artistic elements. (Dice are not part of the art in this perspective, for example.)
  • Effectively a guide on how to be an obsessive and submissive sycophant to the DM.
  • Relies on a failure to understand what performance is, and fails to clearly define what this higher "immersion beyond performance" is, or how it is different from just being extremely pretentious.
  • Extremely pretentious.
  • Largely disrespectful of any other style of play which, by evidence of continued existence, are valid ways of playing an RPG.
  • Extremely uncool.
  • Oddly antisocial in nature.

Here is another source for a version of the Turku School manifesto.


An abstract point in game time, where a player is allowed to make attempts at altering the SIS. Turns are a way of organizing the action of a game, so you don't have people talking over each other in a chaotic waste of time. AD&D 1st edition had an extremely unique way of resolving the actions of characters on their turns, based on its equally unique initiative system.


RUDE AND INSULTING SLANG. Do not direct this term toward another user. See Help:Behavioral Policy

A player who engages in system mastery with an explicit focus of exploiting powerful mechanics synergies to disrupt play. Similar to a powergamer, but with the addition of intentionally being a jerk.

Verb Form: To equip a character with the best gear possible, even if that gear is not level-appropriate. A level 3 character with an accessory which allows infinite castings of the wish spell in any edition of D&D would be an example of a "twinned out" character; but so would a level 1 character geared with the most optimally effective mundane equipment available from chargen.

Vancian Magic

Refers to the spellcasting mechanics in D&D. One of the speedbumps in the learning curve of D&D is the strange spellcasting rules. One of the criticisms is that magic, rather than appearing as an art, comes across as a collection of sort of "spell bombs" which can each be used once at a time after being completed. In the past, many have argued that the mechanics came from Gary Gygax being inspired by the fantasy novels of Jack Vance, and the style of spellcasting therein.

In actuality, this is a misunderstanding of both the spellcasting rules and Jack Vance's fiction. The way magic worked in his novels was far more nuanced and subtle than the system presented in D&D. In actuality, the spellcasting rules in D&D are Gygax's personal fiction, and are an original invention loosely based on many authors, and the whole of traditional magic. It is one of his few personal inventions to remain functionally intact through to the most recent editions.


A game played, as much as is possible, BTB, with as little homebrewed content as possible, and a trend to avoid rulings not supported by game content.

War Room

A playstyle technique in which the players are allowed to move away from the table and discuss tactics in privacy from the DM.


A noun or adjective commonly used to pejoratively refer to people whose interests revolve around anime and/or manga. For more information, see 1d4chan's page on the topic.



Weeaboo Fightan Magic

A derogatory term aimed at fighters who do things deemed as too fantastical or 'anime'.

West Marches

A single, specific campaign run by some guy who ran, (runs?) a [podcast/youtube channel/some social media thing] that a lot of people watch. He explained how it works on his blog. People imitate the techniques he used in his campaign, creating a distinct playstyle, which has been named after the setting of that campaign. The playstyle was originally created to try and shake player apathy by putting the entire game, outside of the setting material, in the players' hands.

West Marches focuses on a few distinct points...

  • Open Table. There is no set group. As such, player-characters are expected to return to a base or home location before the end of the session, so that it can be easily justified when different people show up for the next session.
  • Scheduling handled by the players.
  • Open-World Sandbox game with no narrative direction from the DM. The narrative is expected to be entirely emergent on the player's behalf.
  • Highly simulationist in the emulationist style- that is to say, the DM is using the rules as a stand-in for physics, chemistry, and biology, in an attempt to emulate an alternate reality.
  • DM relegated to being a world-builder, impartial mediator, referee, and rules adjudicator.

It should be noted that, while West Marches does feature wilderness exploration as the primary form of adventure, the original did not use hexmaps, and so was not technically a hex crawl. Of course, since there's nothing stopping someone from using whatever techniques they prefer for wilderness travel, and since we just make all this stuff up ourselves anyways, it isn't like the concepts can't be combined. West Marches is primarily a way of organizing sessions, not so much a way of running the game.


To fail very badly. "Epic fail". "Critical fumble".


When all combatants on one side of a battle are slain.

Shortened form of a variety of phrases, including "wiped out", "wiping the board", and "wiped the floor with them".

Wish Economy

Referring to characters in Dungeons and Dragons who can have unlimited wishes and therefore only value things wishes cannot grant.

The assumption of unlimited wishes comes from using the Planar Binding line of spells to force outsiders to grant the caster free wishes. Rather than blocking the player by invoking Rule Zero, Rule Negative One, and/or Rule Negative Two, the Wish Economy takes this Rules-as-Written at face value and runs with it.

Wu-Ge Model

Wunderkammer-Gesamtkunstwerk Model

Wunderkammer-Gesamtkunstwerk Model

Proposed by Lars Konzack of University of Copenhagen as a framework for analysis and design of RPGs, this model examines a role-playing game both as a composite whole (Gesamtkunstwerk) of four art forms: Sub-Creation (setting), Ludus (game system), Performance, and Narrative; and as a "cabinet of curiosities" (Wunderkammer), a metaphor for their capacity to smoothly incorporate any player-suggested concepts into their imaginary space.


Experience Points


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