Explanations of RPG-specific terminology and jargon.

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61
votes
3answers
8k views

What is “my guy syndrome”?

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 ...
41
votes
6answers
6k 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?
39
votes
1answer
2k 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. ...
34
votes
9answers
2k views

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

What is 'railroading', and when is it generally considered to be something negative?
32
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
31
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?
30
votes
2answers
858 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 ...
26
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
25
votes
5answers
707 views

What is 'punk'?

... and how is it applied to RPGs? I´ve heard of: Cyberpunk Steampunk Clockworkpunk And I'm sure there are others. What main streams are there, and what is so 'punk' as a common denominator?
25
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
25
votes
1answer
2k views

What does RAW mean?

I have seen the abbreviation RAW several times now, what does it stand for?
25
votes
1answer
4k 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?
23
votes
5answers
4k 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 ...
22
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
21
votes
7answers
5k 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 ...
21
votes
10answers
2k 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? ...
19
votes
4answers
951 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 ...
18
votes
3answers
645 views

What is a 'Death Spiral'?

And what does it mean for combat in a game?
17
votes
10answers
2k 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 ...
16
votes
4answers
525 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
4answers
6k 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. I have read the core rulebook, but I am not strong with books in general. (I ...
16
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
577 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
1answer
772 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 ...
14
votes
3answers
737 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
5k 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
2answers
527 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 ...
14
votes
6answers
687 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 ...
14
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
932 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
1answer
779 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
2k 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 ...
11
votes
4answers
594 views

What does 'swingy' mean?

What does 'swingy' mean, in the context of tabletop roleplaying games?
11
votes
2answers
309 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
2answers
335 views

Yummy, I love the taste of ghosts..?

The SRD says An incorporeal creature has no physical body. Do incorporeal creatures have matter - any at all? If one argues that ectoplasm is matter (with some supplements such as Ghostwalk), ...
10
votes
3answers
589 views

What is a “trad game”?

Having come across this term here for the first time, I wonder what it actually decribes. Is it a (pejorative) umbrella term for "conventional" rpgs as opposed to "storytelling"/"narrative-driven" ...
10
votes
4answers
677 views

What is an “ashcan” release?

What are "ashcans"? What are their purpose? Where does the name come from?
9
votes
3answers
880 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
595 views

What constitutes a “story game”?

In Dealing with players of vastly different skill levels?, I got into a discussion with @SevenSidedDie about characterizing Dungeon World as a story game. @SevenSidedDie stated that: @neontapir ...
8
votes
3answers
252 views

What is the term for points that can be added to any roll?

Let's say you have a game where you have to roll a die for success at a task, based on a relevant ability score, and you can temporarily increase that score by expending some limited point resource. ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

When did the concept of Striker, Controller, Leader and Defender enter into the gaming lexicon?

One of the biggest changes I've observed as an old time gamer (AD&D 1st ed, Shadowrun 1st ed etc) versus now exploring 4th ed D&D (and reading about 3.0/3.5 and d20 systems etc) is that now ...
7
votes
4answers
979 views

Can you help me understand the RPG rules behind Planescape:Torment?

I'm playing a computer RPG, Planescape: Torment, and am enjoying it. Torment is obviously using RPG rules to determine how big of a hit I'll take, or how much damage I'll do with every swing of my ...
7
votes
3answers
548 views

What is the term for a mean character role-played by a nice player?

Contradictory character seems to mean a character who defies stereotypes or exhibits traits that contradict one another, in a literary sense. I wish to distinguish what I mean from round characters. ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Where does the term “nova” come from?

At first, I didn't know what "nova" meant, but I've seen it enough in context to infer that it means "doing a ton of damage in a short period of time." Later I discovered that the term isn't as common ...
7
votes
2answers
241 views

When was the term “game master” first used?

Dungeons & Dragons coined the term "dungeon master" for the role of the player running the game and adjudicating the rules. When is "game master" first attested (as in, "proven to have existed by ...
7
votes
1answer
274 views

What is the definition of “creature” and is it used consistently?

In the Starter set and Basic Rules, it mentions "character", "non-player character", "player character", "monster", "creature", and maybe other terms I've missed. Which of these terms are ...
6
votes
3answers
482 views

Does Challenge Rating scale linearly?

In other words, given a CR of x the official definition of CR is that four adventurers of level x will on average use up a quarter of their resources to defeat the challenge. For parties with less ...
6
votes
1answer
792 views

What is the difference between “partial cover” and “cover”?

Degrees of cover and concealment are defined in the Player's Handbook (pp 280-281). There it discusses cover, superior cover, concealment, and total concealment. However, many powers and features ...
5
votes
2answers
280 views

What makes something a signature monster?

I've seen the term "signature monster" thrown around a lot but I'm not exactly following it. What makes these monsters signature? What makes any monster signature to a given game? Is D&D the only ...
5
votes
1answer
234 views

Werewolf: The Forsaken auspice names etymology

Rahu, Cahalith, Elodoth, Ithaeur, Irraka. Where do these names - of the five auspices found in Werewolf: The Forsaken - come from, IRL? What real world words, terms, languages do they originate in, ...