Explanations of RPG-specific terminology and jargon.

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140
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4answers
30k views

What is “my guy syndrome” and how do I handle it?

I've been reading forum posts and blogs who mention "my guy" syndrome as a specific type of difficult player, but I can't seem to find a solid definition for the term. Can someone explain this ...
65
votes
1answer
3k views

Why does “dungeon” mean the places adventurers go to kill stuff?

Why does ‘dungeon’, in the context of roleplaying games and D&D in particular, mean the places adventurers go to kill stuff? I’m asking because ‘dungeon’ usually means a kind of prison, and I ...
51
votes
1answer
4k views

What is the Oberoni Fallacy?

In my travels across the internet, I've occasionally seen mention of a logical fallacy relating to roleplaying games called the Oberoni Fallacy. What is this fallacy, and where does it come from?
46
votes
1answer
3k views

Origin of the term “Splat Book”

Where does the term "Splat Book" come from? Roughly a splat book is any book not required to play the system. There is some debate over its exact meaning, but that is not the point of this question. ...
43
votes
2answers
3k views

What is Player Agency and what is it good for?

Agency, specifically player agency, is a term that frequently comes up as a reason for why a particular rule or GM decision is better than another. How is agency defined in this context and why is it ...
42
votes
6answers
13k views

What is Sandbox play?

How would you describe the concept of sandbox play? How about to someone who is used to adventure modules or adventure paths?
41
votes
2answers
4k views

What do the terms “lines” and “veils” mean?

I have seen the terms "lines" and "veils" used on this SE (including on the chat) a number of times, especially in terms of social contracts between players. What do these terms mean? What is ...
39
votes
12answers
10k views

What does “minmax” mean?

I've seen the term minmax used on several answers (relating to D&D), but nobody has elaborated and there's no actual answer to the question on this site. What does minmax mean and where did the ...
37
votes
9answers
5k views

What is 'railroading', and is it a bad thing?

What is 'railroading', and when is it generally considered to be something negative?
35
votes
4answers
3k views

What is a social contract?

The concept of "social contract" comes up in discussions of group dynamics and RPG theory. We even have a tag for social-contract. But there is no good, easily-found definition online anywhere. Our ...
35
votes
1answer
13k views

What is the Stormwind Fallacy?

In the context of another Question here, the Stormwind Fallacy was brought up. What exactly is the Stormwind Fallacy and how is connected to optimization?
33
votes
6answers
3k views

Is there a name for the standard 7-die set?

I'm curious if there is a formal name for the standard 7-die set (d4, d6, d8, d10, d10*10, d12, d20), and is there any backstory or history associated with it?
33
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the etymology of the term 'Gish'?

I understand that it roughly means a fighter/mage, as per this question: How to optimize a Gishy [Fighter/Mage] Character? But I just wanted to know more about how the term came about. It's so hard ...
32
votes
5answers
1k views

What is 'punk'?

... and how is it applied to RPGs? I've heard of: Cyberpunk Steampunk Clockworkpunk Gothicpunk Dieselpunk And I'm sure there are others. What main streams are there, and what is the 'punk' that ...
30
votes
2answers
3k views

What does RAW mean?

I have seen the abbreviation RAW several times now, what does it stand for?
27
votes
5answers
9k views

What is “GM/DM Fiat?”

While I explore this site, I occasionally see the phrase "GM fiat" (or "DM fiat", for D&D questions and answers), but I don't know the exact meaning of that. I want to know the meaning of that ...
25
votes
2answers
2k views

Origin of the word “Soak” for avoiding damage

If anything ever boggled my mind in role playing, then it is the term "soak", as in "soaking damage". Soaking brings pictures of wet clothes to mind, as making stuff wet is what the word is in fact ...
24
votes
9answers
7k views

What is a “mark” actually supposed to be?

This is probably way too simple of a question, but I just haven't been able to figure it out. In D&D 4th edition, there's the concept of a mark on an enemy creature; a player character in combat ...
24
votes
4answers
3k views

What is a “funnel”?

I often see the term "funnel" used in describing adventures or campaigns, but it's not clear to me what it actually means. An example of this kind of use is this blog post talking about playing a ...
22
votes
10answers
3k views

What defines the “old school renaissance”?

I'm aware that the old school renaissance (OSR) is all about hearkening back to old versions of D&D and the play styles of the 70's and 80's, but what characteristics really define this movement? ...
21
votes
1answer
2k views

What's the name of cardboard wall DMs use to hide their part of table?

What's the name of this thing? Inside part looks like a cheat sheet, but I have seen images with different content inside these "walls". Photo by Sargoth is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported ...
20
votes
4answers
10k views

Class level vs. Character level vs. “my” level

Forgive me for not being good at game terminology, but there is one concept that I simply have been unable to fully grasp after reading the core rulebook. In the book, there are mentions of Character ...
19
votes
2answers
3k views

What is the correct term for the die with multiples of ten written on it?

What is the correct term for this die? It is a standard die in any 7 dice set. It has multiples of ten from 10 to 00 written on it (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, (1)00). I seem to think that ...
19
votes
2answers
838 views

What is a “shared narrative” RPG?

I haven't done any tabletop rpgs for a very long time. I've just been invited to join in a post apoc game that is "shared narrative". What is a shared narrative RPG?
19
votes
4answers
1k views

What do “Shadowfell” and “Underdark” mean?

English is not my primary language, as such I have some difficult trying to understand the actual meaning of some place names. Shadowfell is the place where "shadows (noun) fell (verb)", or is a ...
19
votes
3answers
1k views

What is a 'Death Spiral'?

And what does it mean for combat in a game?
18
votes
10answers
4k views

Glossary of Common RPG Terminology [closed]

This thread is a Community Wiki to define terminology specific to the world of RPGs which outsiders looking to come in may not be familiar with. This question is for terms which are not unique to a ...
17
votes
3answers
3k views

What does “chaotic” as in “chaotic good” or “chaotic evil” mean?

I do not play D&D, but players in my roleplaying game have called stuff "chaotic," like "chaotic good" and "chaotic evil" and I would like to know what they mean. The game I play does not use this ...
17
votes
1answer
1k views

What's the origin of the game terminology “Rocket Tag”?

I've seen a lot of people referring to 3.5 recently using the term "Rocket Tag". Specifically, where does this terminology come from, where was this specific terminology named or created, and what ...
17
votes
2answers
3k views

What does AEDU mean?

I have seen the acronym "AEDU" (or perhaps ADEU) used on the community boards at wizards.com, but haven't stumbled on the definition, and a google search goes nowhere (I doubt they're suddenly ...
16
votes
4answers
959 views

Friend Computer or The Computer?

I have listened to a recording of a session of Paranoia that keeps talking about "Friend Computer". And Google search confirms that this seems to be a common way to refer to the computer. But the ...
16
votes
4answers
792 views

What's the origin of the term “gold piece”?

What is the literary or historical origin of the term "gold piece" to mean a gold coin? Was it used before D&D, or did D&D coin the term?
16
votes
3answers
2k views

Where does the distinction between “Mind Flayer” and “Illithid” come from?

I know that a Mind Flayer is an Illithid, and vice versa. And I know in some of the D&D fiction, like Forgotten Realms and the like, that Mind Flayers refer to themselves or their race as ...
16
votes
2answers
731 views

Where does the word 'grognard' come from?

I see many people online describing themselves as grognards of a particular system or style of play. Usually they're referring to their die-hard love of an out of print version of a game. But where ...
16
votes
6answers
992 views

What is a Mega Dungeon?

I've come across the expression "mega dungeon" quite a few times on the net. It seems like it's not just about the size of a den of monsters but it might imply a play style or something. What are the ...
16
votes
4answers
892 views

What describes the portion of the social contract that describes explicitly-permitted controversial themes?

I am working on drafting the table culture guidelines for an upcoming game, and I plan to use the lines and veils methodology to lay out content boundaries. Lines and veils are a subtractive element: ...
15
votes
3answers
942 views

What is “RPG Theory?”

I first encountered this term a couple of months ago. A site search here found it tied into the gaming social contract here. Now that I've found it over here, I'd really like to know. What exactly is ...
15
votes
3answers
4k views

What is Exalted Paranoia Combat?

Having spent some time reading, and occasionally posting on, the official Exalted forum, I've come across a number of people talking about "paranoia combat" What does this mean? They also generally ...
15
votes
1answer
3k views

What is the definition of a natural roll on dice

So I am starting in the world of pen-and-paper RPGs, and sometimes the material I read mentions a natural roll, like a natural 1 is always a miss, and a natural 20 is always a hit. I understand that ...
15
votes
1answer
5k views

When do you reach a 'milestone'?

The D&D 4th edition term 'milestone' isn't defined in the online D&D compendium, except that you gain an action point when it happens. When does a milestone occur? Has the definition changed ...
15
votes
2answers
2k views

When teaching D&D 5e basic to players of previous editions, which terms have new meanings that will likely lead to confusion? [closed]

When I previously taught D&D 5e to my group, I had a few players who were confused about specific terms. Which terms in the rules tend to confuse people because they get it mixed up with ...
14
votes
4answers
10k views

What exactly is a saving throw?

Dungeons and Dragons has had the concept of a "saving throw" for a long time. What exactly is it supposed to represent in the real world? And why is it called a "saving throw"?
14
votes
3answers
1k views

What is a “Living” campaign?

I have gone to many game conventions where I have seen a "Living" campaign referred to. I do not quite understand what a "Living" campaign is. Explain the overall concept of a "Living" campaign and ...
14
votes
1answer
2k views

What is a macguffin?

During our regular game session, everyone keeps saying,"We need to find the mcguffin!". Is this a new sandwich or something?
12
votes
3answers
1k views

Is initiative ordinal or numerical?

Is the term “initiative” in D&D 5e combat the number that you roll, or your order in the combat turn?
12
votes
4answers
1k views

What does 'swingy' mean?

What does 'swingy' mean, in the context of tabletop roleplaying games?
12
votes
1answer
621 views

Where is the origin of the “Duck in a Dungeon” trope?

Let's say your party is in the second floor of a dungeon, and you just arbitrarily see a duck, in the dungeon. The act of there being a duck in a dungeon should provoke a fight or flight response ...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

What is thaumaturgy?

I keep getting conflicting reports on what exactly thaumaturgy is. Some sources say it's a form of divine spellcasting. Others say it's a form of summoning. Others still say it's a method of ...
11
votes
2answers
537 views

What are the commonly accepted definitions of reskinning and refluffing?

I have come across this comment that seems to say there is a globally accepted definition of reskinning and refluffing and that it's not the same thing (I thought it was). What are the commonly ...
11
votes
3answers
553 views

What is an ability check without a DC called?

Sometimes the DM will want players to perform an ability check and not set a DC. They will instead use the result of the roll to give a sliding scale of success. Example: Two players are asked to ...