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50

As with anything, usage varies, but usually when people say "sandbox" today they mean a campaign that does not have a specific prescribed storyline, but one where the GM sets up a world (or at least a small section of one) and the PCs are free to wander where they will and find adventure where they will. It's about freedom of player choice. Pure sandbox ...


50

Railroading is forcing the characters into the prewritten story that the master created. It's generally frowned upon, because it disrupts the free-will oriented nature of roleplaying. In some cases however, some railroading is required. A typical example is the following. Suppose the characters enter a city, and find a riot or similar event. The most ...


41

That's interesting, as being a non-native English speaker I always assumed it was one of the accepted meanings. So as every time I realize one of these things, let's check the wiktionary: Verb soak (third-person singular simple present soaks, present participle soaking, simple past and past participle soaked) (transitive) 4- To allow ...


38

Tobias, I am glad you asked, as this question is near and dear to my heart (as I am writing a game called Steampunk Crescendo). To me, 'punk is about the following: There needs to be a dystopia (power concentrated into a central hub and denied to the outlying segments of society). There needs to be a status quo that sucks compared to the current ...


34

Originally coined for Bruce Bethke's unpublished book of the same name, cyberpunk was used to describe a high tech setting full of low lives. The punk suffix is therefore used to describe the seedy or criminal element which has become associated with the "gritty" feel in a lot of games in this genre. The other subgenres, like steampunk and biopunk, simply ...


32

The githyanki have been a fixture in Dungeons & Dragons ever since they showed up in the original Fiend Folio in 1981. (Look! Right there on the cover!) Like drow, githyanki had mixed parties of different characters, featuring both front-line warriors and support casters. One of the specialized githyanki types was the gish, who was essentially a ...


31

You've identified an opponent as your guy: you're paying extra attention to where he is and what he's doing, so that you can mess him up at a critical time. In melee combat, it's like man-to-man defense in sports. You're always on him, always in the way. You're a major distraction because you're hard to ignore; on top of that, ignoring you usually means ...


31

1991. "Soaking damage" first became common after Vampire: The Masquerade used the terms "soak roll" and "soak dice" in regard to the dice pool used to reduce incoming damage. As an opposed roll, the dice would "soak up" the incoming damage, and the character would take what was left.


28

In a large number of RPGs, the GM is positioned as the controller of the world, its NPC inhabitants, the items in the world, and their essential natures. They are also often positioned as the final arbiter of rules, and thus hold considerable authority. Hopefully, a GM imbued with such power will remember: with great power comes great responsibility. That ...


25

Well the thing is it's not a gaming specific term; there's plenty of definitions outside Ron's Big Model specific one. Social Contract Definition The term "Social Contract" (or "social compact") got its start from Rousseau and those types who defined it as "An agreement among the members of an organized society or between the governed and the government ...


23

A "Death Spiral" is something that can happen in games where your combat skill is affected by your health (or similar attribute). If you take a hit, your combat skill decreases slightly (making it harder for you to hit the opponent and/or easier for the opponent to hit you). While there is a certain realism to this, it can often quickly lead to the "death ...


22

Definitions We all have our limits and boundaries. Lines and veils are different ways to handle those boundaries in play. A line is, well, a line — a hard limit, something we do not want to cross. Lines represent places we don't want to go in roleplaying. "There is no torture in the events in our game. We don't do it, NPCs don't do it to us or ...


21

A milestone occurs after every two encounters (although the count is reset by taking an extended rest). Characters receive an action point and any other rewards the GM wishes to offer. I don't have a DDI subscription, but this can be found on page 22 of the Essentials Rules Compendium and page 259 of the Player's Handbook. I don't remember it ever being ...


21

Class level is your level in whatever specific class is being referenced. If you see "[class name] level", that also refers to class level, though that usage isn't very common. Character level is the sum of all your class levels in each class. Plain old "level" is, unfortunately, ambiguous. It usually means character level, but if you see it as part of a ...


21

It is indeed a new term used to describe conventional, normal RPGs in the "traditional" tabletop RPG format as opposed to newfangled indie games. It is not pejorative in nature, though it is used a little grudgingly as it mainly exists to distinguish "games that work like most every RPG ever as opposed to whatever crazy new variation you've come up with" in ...


20

"Natural" means an unmodified roll. The number you see printed on the die when you just throw it. Not adding or subtracting bonuses, penalties or rerolling. Just the number you see. Terms will differ in individual games and groups, but usually the total result (natural roll plus any modifiers) is just called your "roll," or we'll say "I got a 25." In some ...


19

The Wikipedia entry on Role-playing game theory is rather comprehensive. It makes note of the Threefold Model, GEN Theory, The Big Model, Color Theory, Channel Theory, The Turku School, and The Meilahti School, each of which is an example of a particular theory of roleplaying games. The page leads with this definition of RPG theory: A role-playing game ...


17

If you check wiktionary, you'll see that it comes from the French, and it has both implications of 'old soldier' and of 'grumbling curmudgeon'. EDIT As for the actual origin, this thread has a link to this page where an explanation is given: The term 'grognard,' as applied to veteran wargamers, was first coined back in the early 1970's by John ...


17

A: At-Will E: Encounter D: Daily U: Utility It refers to the basic structure of the powers that balances the classes and keeps the approximate effectiveness of powers between classes equal. (i.e. a 5th level daily in any class is approximately on par with a 5th level daily in any other class.)


17

The place names actually have a bit to do with the actual geography of the location. @dpatchery does a good job summing up what the places are, since you asked about the linguistic nature of the place names, I'll elaborate a bit further. The short answer is all of your interpretations are valid, and have to do with the authors doing an intricate ...


17

To provide some further context, the phrase film theory is quite common. Film theory is an academic discipline that aims to explore the essence of the cinema and provides conceptual frameworks for understanding film's relationship to reality, the other arts, individual viewers, and society at large. Film theory is not to be confused with general film ...


17

In the githyanki language, apostrophes (which are not pronounced) separate different morphemes which have been combined into a single word. For example, gish'sarath combines the word gish, or "skilled," with sarath, or "sergeant." Githyanki who have trained with great heroes add the prefix gi' ("student of") to their trainer's name. – Githyanki, ...


16

"Railroading" and "sandbox" are two opposite ends of a spectrum, and as a result both are good in varying degrees. Really, railroading is any in-play modifications the GM makes to the world to accomplish his own story or other goals. In computer gaming it's called "linear." You are going to go from set piece A to B to C, most likely in that order, your ...


16

Although I mostly agree with @Brian's answer of "Highly Variable," swingy isn't used just to indicate the standard deviation of a single die roll. Yes, you can call a 1d20 more "swingy" than a 3d6 mechanic, but the term is also used on a larger scale, as in "swingy" combat is combat where overall results can be highly variable. This can be from a number of ...


16

The term definitely predates D&D - the term "twenty dollar gold piece" has been in use for the $20 Double Eagle and $10 Eagle coins of the late 19th century, and also the $5 gold coin, as well. "Gold Piece" In Print The term is used in the Lebanon Daily News, 1 Nov 1965, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, bottom, in an advert for old coins under the left column ...


16

What it actually means to mark someone is open to player and DM interpretation and can easily vary from character to character and situation to situation. It could be a Swordmage magically distracting his mark target. It could be a Warden banging his shield with his axe and shouting "YOU WILL FIGHT ME" It could be a Fighter keeping her sword pointed at her ...


16

TV Tropes calls this situation mean character, nice actor (and vice versa). It's quite common in the drama world but doesn't seem to have an established term beyond acting. You sometimes hear playing against type for this, although that's more about a difference from your previous roles, not your own personality. The specific case of an opposite-sex ...


15

A MacGuffin is a device, object, or abstract need whose finding or obtainment is the force that pushes characters and evildoers into action. While MacGuffins is a typical plot device to push a story forward, in D&D is rather typical (I would say almost cliched) to use a broken MacGuffin, where the single pieces must be found and assembled. This allows ...


15

Planescape: Torment is based on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition from the 1990s. THAC0, for example, only exists in that edition and a couple contemporary D&D editions (very late AD&D 1e and Basic supplements) - it's not a term found in other games. Armor Class doesn't work the same across D&D editions, let alone other tabletop ...


14

According to this: I'm pretty sure that I understand what an Ash-Can is: It's a text that comes implicitly (and maybe explicitly) packaged with a disclaimer ... "contents are sold as-is, no guarantee of quality is implied, nor should any be inferred." And According to wikipedia: An ashcan copy is a term that originated in the Golden Age of Comic ...



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