Role-playing game terms
|Part of a series on|
Role-playing games (RPGs) have developed specialized terminology. This includes both terminology used within RPGs to describe in-game concepts and terminology used to describe RPGs. Role-playing games also have specialized slang and jargon associated with them.
Besides the terms listed here, there are numerous terms used in the context of specific, individual RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), Fate and Vampire: The Masquerade. For a list of RPGs, see List of role-playing games.
Terms used to play role-playing games
- Adventure: A set of game sessions united by characters and by narrative sequence, setting or goal.
- Armor Class (or AC): The difficulty to hit a specified target, abstracted from its dodging capacity and armor. "This term was inherited from a naval battle game".:203 Many role-playing games that came after Dungeons & Dragons have "abandoned the notion of defining defense as armor class".:54
- Area of Effect (or AoE): An effect that affects a zone, measured by a template, distance in hexagon or ordinary metrics.
- Campaign: A series of adventures.
- Character: player character: non-player character or game-master character: a fictional character in a role-playing game.
- Character sheet: A record of a player character in a role-playing game, including whatever details, notes, game statistics, and background information a player would need during a play session.
- Character creation: The method used to create a player character.
- Critical: (dice) result (- hit / - failure) with lower probability (natural 1 or 20 on an icosahedron, matched dice, etc.) resulting in a strong fictional/mechanical outcome.
- Difficulty Class (or DC): A target number to save from an effect.
- Dungeon: An enclosed location that contains hostile NPCs, such as a cave or building. A dungeon crawl is a type of scenario in which players navigate a labyrinth type of dungeon, battling various monsters, avoiding traps, solving puzzles, and looting any treasure they may find.
- Fumble: Critical failure. syn. Botch.
- Game master (or GM). The person who runs a role-playing game and arbitrates how actions are resolved and narrated. In many games, specialized terms are used, as such Dungeon Master for the person running Dungeons & Dragons, or Referee for the person running Traveller.
- Gamemaster's screen: a folding screen, often of cardboard, used to hide adventure content from the players.:191
- Initiative : The determination of who goes first and in what order declared actions are carried out.
- Metagaming: A player's use of out-of-character knowledge concerning the state of the game to determine their character's actions, when said character has no relevant knowledge or awareness under the circumstances.
- Modifier: A number added to or subtracted from a die roll based on a specific skill or other attribute.
- Natural (roll): The number actually on a die, such as a natural 1 or a natural 20, indicating the die's face shows a 1 or a 20, as opposed to the number rolled plus modifiers.
- Saving throw: A game mechanic in which dice are used to avoid some kind of negative effect on a character.
- Safety tools: An auxiliary ruleset added to a roleplaying game that establishes boundaries, trigger warnings, and communication methods. Examples of popular safety toolsets include: Lines and Veils by Emily Care Boss (based on concepts from Sorcery & Sex by Ron Edwards), Script Change by Brie Beau Sheldon, and The X-Card by John Stavropoulos.
- Session: A single meeting of a role-playing group.
- Setting: The fictional world in which the game takes place.
- Story guide: Also, "storyteller." The game master of a game with a strong focus on narrative tropes.
- System: The set of game mechanics which make up a game.
- THAC0 (which stands for "To hit armor class zero"): In D&D, the number needed on a dice roll for a character to hit an NPC if they have a zero armor class.
- Total party kill (TPK) or total party wipe(out) (TPW): The entire party of player characters dies.
- Troupe system: A style of play in which different characters are run by the same player in different sessions; in some cases, the duties of the game master may also be rotated amongst the players.
Terms used to describe characters
- Advantage: A positive or useful statistic or trait.
- Attributes: Natural, in-born characteristics shared by all characters. Functional attributes, such as physical strength or wisdom, have a mechanical impact on gameplay while cosmetic attributes, such as visual appearance, allow a player to define their character within the game.
- Derived statistic: A secondary characteristic based on a character's attributes (or primary characteristics), which may include such fluctuating measures as hit points or magic points.
- Race: Any sapient species or beings that make up the setting. Players can often choose to be one of these creatures when creating their character and each possess different abilities and attributes that distinguish them from one another. Races can also possess their own ethnicities, types, or other description of their physical and cultural heredity. Role-playing games often include fantasy races, mutants, robots and other non-human character types.
- Skills: Learned capabilities, such as spoken languages, horse riding or computer hacking.
- Statistic: Any attribute, advantage, disadvantage, power, skill, or other trait. In the plural, statistics refers to the information on a character sheet. Often abbreviated as "stats".
Terms used to describe types of games
- Free-form role-playing game: A rules-light style of game that mostly uses social dynamics for its game system.
- Gamist: A term from GNS theory describing games in which enjoyment is derived from facing and overcoming challenges.
- Generic: A System that can support a wide variety of settings.
- Genre: A game that adheres to certain fictional tropes, such as fantasy or science fiction.
- Live-action (or LARP): A type of role-playing game physically enacted in a troupe acting style.
- Living campaigns (or shared campaigns): A gaming format within the table-top role-playing game community that provides the opportunity for play by an extended community within a shared universe.
- Narrativist: A term from GNS theory describing games in which enjoyment is derived from creating a good story.
- Rules-heavy: A game system with heavily codified mechanics, usually encompassing a wide variety of possible actions in a game. The opposite of rules-lite.
- Rules-lite: A game system that uses very general mechanics, usually more focused on narrative actions in a game. The opposite of rules-heavy.
- Simulationist: A term from GNS theory for games in which enjoyment is derived from deep immersion in a new (simulated) world.
Terms used by gamers
- 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 do not involve the rest of the group.
- Crunch: The rules and mechanics of a game.
- Fluff: The setting and ambiance of a game, as distinct from the rules/mechanics, particularly in reference to written descriptive material.
- Monty haul: A pun on Monty Hall (the former host of Let's Make A Deal), when equipment, abilities, and other rewards are awarded more often than the system intends (or in some cases more often than the system is capable of handling.
- Munchkin: An immature player, especially one who is selfishly focused on dominating play, often by seeking to circumvent the normal limitations placed on characters.
- Rule as Intended (or RAI): The rules with the context of the designers' intent.
- Rule as Written (or RAW): The rules "without regard to the designers’ intent. The text is forced to stand on its own". Game designer Jeremy Crawford wrote, "In a perfect world, RAW and RAI align perfectly, but sometimes the words on the page don’t succeed at communicating the designers’ intent. Or perhaps the words succeed with one group of players but fail with another".
- Roll-playing: A derisive term for rules-heavy games, occasionally to the point of requiring players to focus on game mechanics at the expense of role-playing.
- Rules lawyer: A player who strictly adheres to the rules as written, and enforces them among all other players.
- Twink: A player who engages in system mastery with an explicit focus of exploiting powerful abilities. Similar to powergamer.
- "Glossaire" [Glossary]. Casus Belli Hors Série (in French). No. 25, Manuel Pratique du Jeu de Rôle. Excelsior Publications. May 1999. p. 6.
- Baker, Eric T. (August 2000). "Games". Realms of Fantasy. No. 6. Sovereign Media. pp. 74–79.
- Tresca, Michael J. (2011). The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. pp. 13–15, 21, 30, 54, 64, 181–199, 203. ISBN 978-0-7864-6009-0. OCLC 697175248.
- Adams, Ernest (2014). Fundamentals of Role-Playing Game Design. New Riders. ISBN 978-0-13-381213-8. OCLC 967703981.
- Barney, Christopher William (2020). Pattern Language for Game Design. Milton. ISBN 978-1-000-25958-2. OCLC 1227045937.
- Rouchart, Sandy; Aylett, Ruth (2003). Thomas Rist (ed.). Solving the Narrative Paradox in VEs — Lessons from RPGs. Intelligent Virtual Agents: 4th International Workshop. Springer. p. 245. ISBN 978-3540200031.
- La Farge, Paul (September 2006). "Destroy All Monsters". The Believer Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-09-20. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
- Waggoner, Zack (2009). My Avatar, My Self: Identity in Video Role-Playing Games. University of Michigan. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7864-4109-9. Retrieved 2014-11-12.
- March 2021, Aimee Hart 13. "How to make a D&D character sheet". TechRadar. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
- Developments in Current Game-Based Learning Design and Deployment. Patrick Felicia. Hershey, Pa.: IGI Global. 2013. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-4666-1865-7. OCLC 808122494.CS1 maint: others (link)
- "Box 4.3 Different Character Creation Methods". Role-Playing Game Studies: Transmedia Foundations. José Pablo Zagal, Sebastian Deterding. New York, NY. 2018. ISBN 978-1-315-63753-2. OCLC 1019729171.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Bartle, Richard A. (2004). Designing Virtual Worlds. Indianapolis, Ind.: New Riders Pub. pp. 377–384. ISBN 0-13-101816-7. OCLC 52814945.
- D'Amato, James (2018). The ultimate RPG character backstory guide : prompts and activities to create the most interesting story for your character. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-5072-0837-3. OCLC 1035798846.
- Doctorow, Cory (2013-09-17). "Critical Hits: a history of the battle between gamers and game-designers for nuance in combat systems". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
- "D&D House Rules Everyone Should Consider Following". ScreenRant. 2021-03-15. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
- Polo, Susana (2016-07-29). "The Dragon Age tabletop RPG will scratch your blood magic itch". Polygon. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
- "13 Things You Should Know About The Excellent-Looking Baldur's Gate 3". Kotaku Australia. 2020-02-28. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
- "'Pathfinder Second Edition,' Another Critical Success for Paizo!". GeekDad. 2019-08-15. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
- "The Deepest, Weirdest, Hugest Megadungeons Ever Created". io9. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
- Watson, Eric (2021-03-25). "This RPG's dungeon builder is Neverwinter Nights meets Super Mario Maker". PC Gamer. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
- Brewer, Nathan. "Going Rogue: A Brief History of the Computerized Dungeon Crawl". IEEE-USA InSight. Archived from the original on 10 January 2020. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
- Fannon, Sean Patrick (1999). The Fantasy Roleplaying Gamer's Bible. Brett Link, Aaron Acevedo, Victoria Cummings, Sean Patrick Fannon (2nd ed.). Jacksonville, FL: Obsidian Studios Corp. pp. 213, 223. ISBN 0-9674429-0-7. OCLC 45357120.
- Porter, Greg (June 1988). SpaceTime. Richmond, VA: Blacksburg Tactical Research Center. p. 1. ISBN 0-943891-03-5.
- Sargeantson, Emily (2019-01-16). "What is a Dungeon Master? What Do the Best Ones Do?". My Kind of Meeple. Archived from the original on 2020-05-22. Retrieved 2020-05-22.
- Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. p. 143. ISBN 0-87975-653-5.
- Shannon Appelcline (2014). Designers & Dragons: The '70s. Evil Hat Productions. ISBN 978-1-61317-075-5.
- Moore, Michael E. (2016). Basics of Game Design. Boca Raton: A K Peters/CRC Press. pp. 96, 106, 117–140, 175, 220. ISBN 978-1-4398-6776-1. OCLC 746925670.
- D'Amato, James (2019). The Ultimate RPG Gameplay Guide: Role-Play the Best Campaign Ever—No Matter the Game! (First ed.). Avon, Massachusetts: Simon and Schuster. pp. 31, 36–40, 45–50, 110, 237–239. ISBN 978-1-5072-1093-2. OCLC 1104859747.
- Zalka, Csenge Virág (2019). Forum-Based Role Playing Games as Digital Storytelling. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers. pp. 66–78. ISBN 1-4766-3526-9. OCLC 1090499786.
- Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy: Raiding the Temple of Wisdom. Jon Cogburn, Mark Silcox. Chicago: Open Court Pub. 2012. pp. 225–226, 271–283. ISBN 978-0-8126-9803-9. OCLC 811563646.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Moore, Michael E. (2007). "Chapter 10: The Game Design Document". Introduction to the Game Industry. Jennifer Sward. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-168743-3. OCLC 71223261.
- "How Tabletop RPGs Are Being Reclaimed From Bigots and Jerks". www.vice.com. January 31, 2020. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
- "Useful Tools and Tips for Tabletop GMs That Should Be Better Known". The Escapist. 2021-02-03. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
- D'Amato, James (2020). The Ultimate Micro-RPG Book: 40 Fast, Easy, and Fun Tabletop Games (First ed.). New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 13–18. ISBN 978-1-5072-1286-8. OCLC 1151490303.
- Salen, Katie (2003). Rules of play : game design fundamentals. Eric Zimmerman, Askews. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-29993-3. OCLC 1112577758.
- "Choose Your Way to Better RPG Session Prep". Geek and Sundry. 2017-01-13. Retrieved 2021-04-18.
- Masters, Phil. “On the Vocabulary of Role-playing”, The Oracle: Essays. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
- Scott, Chey (December 20, 2018). "The unlikely resurgence of Dungeons & Dragons makes its way to the Inland Northwest". Inlander. Retrieved 2021-04-18.
- "D&D DM Pro-Tip: How To Make An Unwinnable Boss Fight". TheGamer. 2020-05-02. Retrieved 2021-04-18.
- Laycock, Joseph (2015). Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds. Oakland, Calif.: University of California Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-520-96056-5. OCLC 899156911.
- Adams, Ernest (2010). Fundamentals of Game Design (2nd ed.). New Riders. pp. 115–122, 465, 470–472. ISBN 978-0-321-64337-7. OCLC 460601644.
- Edwards, Ron (4 June 2003). "Gamism: Step On Up". The Forge. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
- "Learn The Fascinating Theory Behind Roleplaying Games". Geek and Sundry. 2017-06-23. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
- Shannon Appelcline (2006-09-04). "Brief History of the Game #3". RPGnet. Retrieved 2007-09-14.
- Jackson, Steve (2004-01-19). GURPS Basic Set 3, Revised. Steve Jackson Games. ISBN 1-55634-357-4.
- Cover, Jennifer Grouling (2014). The Creation of Narrative in Tabletop Role-Playing Games. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. Publishers. pp. 39–55. ISBN 978-0-7864-5617-8. OCLC 650516777.
- Stark, Lizzie (2012). Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games. Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1-61374-065-1. OCLC 794003680.
- Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
- Castronova, Edward (2006). Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games. University Of Chicago Press. pp. 10, 291. ISBN 0-226-09627-0.
[pp. 10] The ancestors of MMORPGS were text-based multiuser domains (MUDs) [...] [pp. 291] Indeed, MUDs generate perhaps the one historical connection between game-based VR and the traditional program [...]
- Torres-Roman, Steven A. (2015). Dragons in the Stacks: A Teen Librarian's Guide to Tabletop Role-Playing. Cason E. Snow. Santa Barbara, California. pp. 187–189. ISBN 978-1-61069-261-8. OCLC 856053791.
- Mochocki, Michal (2021). Role-play as a heritage practice : historical LARP, tabletop RPG and reenactment. Abingdon, Oxon. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-003-13095-6. OCLC 1221015085.
- "10 Tabletop RPGs for Beginners". pastemagazine.com. 2015-03-10. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
- Bebergal, Peter (2013-05-06). "Old School Dungeons & Dragons: Wizards of the Coast's Problem Child". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
- *"What is "fluff" and "crunch"?". theRPGsite. 16 December 2006. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
- Dickson, Paul (1990). Slang: The Topical Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Pocket Books. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-8027-1849-5. OCLC 761007672.
- Beyond Role and Play: Tools, Toys and Theory for Harnessing the Imagination. Markus Montola, Jaako Stenros. Helsinki: Ropecon. 2004. p. 4. ISBN 952-91-6842-X. OCLC 475731336.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Rome, Ben H.; Hussey, Chris (2013). Games' Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Players, Pawns, and Power-Ups. Potomac Books. pp. 82–83. ISBN 9781597977234.
- Crawford, Jeremy (February 16, 2015). "Philosophy Behind Rules and Rulings | Dungeons & Dragons". dnd.wizards.com. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
- Fannon, Sean Patrick. The Fantasy Roleplaying Gamer's Bible, Obsidian Studios. Copyright 1999.
- "Make Your RPG Less Roll Playing and more Role Playing". Geek and Sundry. 2016-11-11. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
- Beattie, Scott (2007). "Voicing the Shadow: Rule-playing and Roleplaying in Wraith: The Oblivion". Law, Culture and the Humanities. 3 (3): 477–492. doi:10.1177/1743872107081432.
- Kaufman, Daniel; Kestrel, Gwendolyn F. M.; Selinker, Mike; Williams, Skip (2002). Book of Challenges: Dungeon Rooms, Puzzles, and Traps. Wizards of the Coast. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-7869-2657-2.
- Desborough, James (1999). The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming. Steve Mortimer, Phil Masters. Austin, Tex.: Steve Jackson Games. p. 127. ISBN 1-55634-347-7. OCLC 47852854.
- Koster, Raph (2014-04-02). "Twinking". Raph's Website. Retrieved 2021-04-22.