Difference between revisions of "Canon:RPG Terminology"

From Dungeons and Dragons Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
(Undo revision 282787 by (talk))
m (typo)
Line 25: Line 25:
* An attempt to avert the [[Canon:RPG_Terminology#Stormwind_Fallacy|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 [[Canon:RPG_Terminology#Munchkin|Munchkin]].
* An attempt to avert the [[Canon:RPG_Terminology#Stormwind_Fallacy|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 [[Canon:RPG_Terminology#Munchkin|Munchkin]].
* A 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.
* A 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 basketing weaving', a hypothetical college class used to criticize the idea of 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.
* Named after the snarky neologism 'underwater basket weaving', a hypothetical college class used to criticize the idea of 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.
* See also: [[Canon:RPG_Terminology#Munchkin|Munchkin]], [[Canon:RPG_Terminology#Powergaming|Powergaming]], and [[Canon:RPG_Terminology#Rules_Lawyer|Rules Lawyer]].
* See also: [[Canon:RPG_Terminology#Munchkin|Munchkin]], [[Canon:RPG_Terminology#Powergaming|Powergaming]], and [[Canon:RPG_Terminology#Rules_Lawyer|Rules Lawyer]].

Latest revision as of 07:37, 10 November 2019

After-Action Report

  • I'll write a description later.

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

Baby Orc Dilemma

  • I'll write a description later.

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 he was 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.

Balance By Obfuscation

  • When a piece of rules is so vague and internally contradictory that Rule Negative Two renders it useless, therefore allowing the system to appear balanced at the cost of making the option unusable in a game.
  • When a piece of rules 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 unusable in a game.
  • The most infamous examples in D&D are:
  1. Polymorphing rules
  2. 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!!.

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 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 the idea of 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.
  • See also: Munchkin, Powergaming, and Rules Lawyer.

Batman Wizard

  • The other big factor that leads to Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards. 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. While the CoDzilla inspires jealousy because they can beat fighters at their own game, the Puppetmaster Buffer inspires jealousy because their buffs are so dominating that it invalidates the build choices of the fighters, the Batman Wizard inspires jealousy because they don't need fighters at all.
  • The Batman prefix comes from a superhero from DC Comics whose combination of wealth, training, contacts, and especially his utility belt 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'.

Beer n' Pretzels Game

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


  1. Big Bad Evil Guy
  2. Big Bad Enemy Guy


  • Big Dumb Fighter
  • The name says it all. Stereotypically a character with very little depth who uses their brawn to solve as many problems as possible. They often do not scale well in part to their lack of depth. Although are often fun to play in low level campaigns and/or for beginners to the hobby.
  • Also known as DMF and VAH


  • I'll write a description later.

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 Artillery Man or someone playing a Conan clone who could outwrestle someone's Superman expy.
  • Stop by Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards and Magician Superhero Problem to see what can happen if you naively attempt to avert the Captain Hobo problem.

Chaotic Stupid


Chrono Crossing

  • Aka 'Pulling a Chrono Cross'.
  • 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 halfling 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 tolerant dwarves, 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.
  • This is related in spirit to what goes on behind 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 PSX RPG which not only regularly had the vast majority of the protagonist's well-intentioned actions causing great tragedy, but also revealed its much more positive and light-hearted predecessor game Chrono Trigger to have been in the wrong all along; despite what happened in that game, in Chrono Cross, it's shown that the heroes made things much worse despite their best efforts. That happy ending? Only temporary; they all died ugly deaths. That's deep and adult, isn't it?

Closet Troll

  • Typically a melee specialist who does massive damage when s/he/it can catch a target at close range.
  • A troll out in the open is a reasonable challenge for a party of appropriate level (CR/etc) because they can move around and not be full attacked. But a troll in a tightly enclosed space (like a 15' by 15' closet) is a nightmare.

CoDzilla (dnd-wiki explanation)

  • A very powerful Cleric or Druid build; 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.


  • 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 Magic Tea Party sessions to groups unwilling to let the Diplomancer run roughshod.

DM (Dungeon Master)

  • The judge, referee, story-teller, rules arbitrator.

DM Fiat

  • I'll write a description later.

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.

DMF (Dumb Melee Fighter)

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 powergaming, 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.


  • Effective Character Level

Elothar's Gear Problem

  • Named after the model character of the Elothar, Warrior of Bladereach Prestige Class, this is a method of enforcing Quadratic Warriors 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 usefuless 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. 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 wizard and cleric 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.

Fantasy Heartbreaker

  • Essentially, a D&D clone that tries to be 'D&D, but better'.
  • While there's nothing inherently bad about Fantasy Heartbreakers, as D&D in all editions is a heavily flawed game, such revisions unable to do a serious reexamination of the tropes and clichès that make D&D what it is tend to end up recreating many of the same quirks and mistakes. These games end up thoughtlessly recycling shibboleths from D&D that don't and shouldn't fit their imagined vision of the game merely because that's how D&D did it and the game designers can't imagine a game that does it any other way.
  • If your Fantasy Game uses D&D-specific game mechanics or setting elements such as THAC0, Skill Challenges, Beholders, Base Attack Bonus, Vancian magic, etc. it's highly likely that you're making a Fantasy Heartbreaker.
  • The basic notion is that nearly all of the listed games have one great idea buried in them somewhere.... That's why they break my heart, because the nuggets are so buried and bemired within all the painful material I listed above. - Ron Edwards, 2002

First Law of TTRPG Protagonists

  • Unlike protagonists from movies, books, video-game cutscenes, etc. mathematically defined risks and consequences are real and can happen to you.
  • Your plan won't automatically work just because it's your last desperate act with the fate of the kingdom on the line, the guards won't miss with their bows and arrows just because you and your ragtag party members have loads of character development, so-on. Because the story progression isn't supposed to be written out in advance (as that way leads to much more malignant territory), when the rules say that this situation has thousand-to-one odds. these are in fact thousand-to-one odds.
  • Suspending this law when there isn't a pre-written rule for it, such as Shadowrun's Edge-burning, requires explicitly invoking in-universe or out-universe Plot Armor. The amount of damage this does to Willing Suspension of Disbelief is so extensive that it's generally preferable to allow the heroes to fail rather than fudge the outcome to what would be more traditionally narratively satisfying. I.e. while Stormtroopers regularly missing Luke Skywalker with what should be a lethal barrage of volley fire is acceptable in the movie Star Wars, doing that in the TTRPG of Star Wars would irrevocably damage the game by showing people that dice rolls don't matter.

Five Minute Workday

  • Since D&D characters in every edition 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

  • 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 Saladmander is probably the most popular method, but most permanent solutions involve overhauling the resource management system. For example, 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 that 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.

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.

Gentlemen's Agreement

  • "A player may allow his character to do whatever he wants 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.

Glass Cannon

  • A Player Character build that emphasizes high damage output at the expense of survivability. Such builds usually involve ranged attacks rather than melee to offset their vulnerability.

GM (Game Master)


  • Insert description here later.
  • 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." [1]
  • 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. [2]


  • 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:
  • 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.
  • 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, then send impossible challenges against the party to kill their character, and then repeat until the players go back to playing normal races.

House Rules

  • I'll write a description later.

Judge (RPG)

Justice League Fights

  • A style of combat in which the opposing teams of even quality 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 implemented 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 mortal.

Lawful Stupid

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.

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.

LWQW (Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards)

  • A phrase coined to quickly explain the problem between magic users and non-magic users (AKA warriors, martials, fighters, etc.): non-magic classes gain power at a linear rate as they level up. Magic users gain power quadratically as they level up.
  • TVTropes.com explains with charts!
  • See also Quadratic Warriors, Quadratic Wizards.

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 thus 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 Warriors, 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 LWQW, 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 for more information.

MC (Mister Cavern)

  • See 'DM'
  • Mister Cavern is loosely translated from the term used for DMs in the RPG Draci Doupe Plus. DD+ was first published in the Czech Republic during the days of the old Soviet Union. Adopted by The Gaming Den as an alternative to the Dungeon Master label.


  • 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 of trolls, because the Player has knowledge of the troll's weakness to fire from previous gaming experience.

(The) Metagame

  • A distantly related but distinct phenomenon from Metagaming, the Metagame refers 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 tame it.

Monty Haul

  • A style of DMing in which players are given in-game rewards way past the expected rate or quality. May lead to players becoming bored and dismotivated because they achieved all of the in-game benefits with little effort.

MTP (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 outright bad or incomplete enough to be useless. MTP is in and 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.



  • An often derogatory, sometimes affectionate term for Player Characters in D&D-style games. The term refers to the massive amount of violence a typical PC dishes out in the course of quest-solving and treasure accumulation (murder) and their itinerant lifestyle needed to find the maximum number of quest hooks (hobo).


  • I'll write a description later.
  • Referred to as the banhammer when an option is excised from the game completely rather than adjusted to work within the game.

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 win the campaign with one encounter instead of the recommended four encounters per day.
  • Can be used less derogatively 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 screentime 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 grabs No Self Buffs characters 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.


  • A Player Character build or style of play that focuses on dealing as much damage as possible in a single attack or round of attacks, often by using tricks to gain additional actions (known as 'breaking the action economy'), even though doing so usually means expending most or all of your resources and leaving yourself woefully underprepared for future rounds or encounters (a problem that is neatly solved by a Five-Minute Workday). The act of doing so is referred to as "going nova", in reference to an exploding star.

NPC (Non-player Character)

  • Characters played and controlled by an RPG campaign/game's DM.

Oberoni Fallacy

  • Stating that there is nothing wrong with a game because Rule 0 exists. See this for a more detailed explanation.

Off the RNG

  • When bonuses or negatives accrue to make it so that no number a character can roll will impact their success or failure.
  • Related to RNG


  • A game designed to be played as a single adventure to completion in one game session rather than as a multi-session campaign. (Also referred to as a "One-Shot.")

OSR (Old School Renaissance)

  • Also known as Old System Revival
  • A "movement" or trend in creating new RPG systems / rule sets based off of older, or "original", published products from the past. Complete with sensibilities associated with them. See Gygaxian.
  • e.g Original Dungeons and Dragons, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (1e)

Padded Sumo

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

PC (Player Character)

  • The character, or characters, controlled directly by the players in an RPG campaign/game.


  • 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.

Playing Smash Bros.

  • A consequence of a player being excluded or sufficiently disengaged from the game that they have more fun wandering off and doing something else rather than sitting at the table.
  • Such behaviors include going outside to smoke, reading a gamebook, watching TV, playing a quick video game (Super Smash Bros. is the archetypical example, hence the term name), talking on the phone, etc.
  • Typical causes include a player being unsure how to contribute to the scene, one player being dead while the rest of the characters continue with the adventure, one player having an extended conservation with the GM, etc.
  • Playing Smash Bros. should be distinct from someone just being a disruptive asshole; indeed, this term is rarely used when someone actually physically disengages from the game. Rather, it's a metaphorical warning to what players wish they could be doing if a DM doesn't strive to maintain order and interest.

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 interest 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 interest such as dungeons where they feel like without contradicting written material.


  • Also referred to as Character Optimization, this refers to the practice of using a Player's extensive knowledge of an RPG system's rules in the most advantageous way possible to the Player, resulting in a more powerful than average Player Character. While not inherently good or bad, this can lead to friction between powergamers and more casual players due to the resulting disparity in power levels between PCs.
  • When taken to extremes, powergaming is often referred to as 'Munchkining,' which carries a more negative connotation with most gamers.
  • See also: Basketweaving and Rules Lawyer.

Puppetmaster Buffer

  • The third leg in the unholy trinity of Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards, 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 than 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) if 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 is a major factor in the existence of Puppetmaster Buffers.

QWQW (Quadratic Warriors, Quadratic Wizards)

  • A method of advancement in which the Linear Warriors are designed in such a way as to gain powers at the same rate as the Quadratic Wizards.
  • Most aspiring game designers view QWQW as a foolproof way to thwart LWQW, but they come with their own problems that need to be taken care of. Typical issues with Quadratic Warriors, Quadratic Wizards include:
  1. The Captain Hobo Problem: What happens when you allow characters to build their own fluff on top of generic game mechanics.
  2. 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.
  3. The Magician Superhero Problem: What happens when you have several sources of power that have unequal narrative utility.
  4. Weeaboo Fightan Magic: A derogatory term aimed at fighters who do things deemed as too fantastical or 'anime'.


  • Railroading is a term describing a DM forcing a campaign to progress a certain way by preventing or punishing players for doing anything other than what is required for them to do in order to make the plot progress the way the DM has planned. Alternatively, it may refer to the DM flat-out ignoring the players' actions and choices in favor of following his pre-planned plot.

RAW (Rules as Intended)

  • I'll write a description later.

RAW (Rules as Written)

  • I'll write a description later.

Resource Management System

  • A system for determining when players can use certain abilities that they theoretically have available to them. The broad categories are:
  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, or they can 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 has 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.


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



  • Random Number Generator. In Dungeons & Dragons, this most often refers to the range numbers fall within for dice rolls.

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.

Roleplay Not Rollplay

  • I'll add a description later


  • I'll add a description later

RLT (Rocket Launcher Tag)

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

Rule Zero

  • The DM is the final arbiter in ruling mechanics decisions.

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 subjective criteria (i.e. does this sourcebook look cheaply made, I dislike noncasters getting access to superpowers), what's allowed at a table is ultimately tribal and arbitrary. An officially published overpowered class is more likely to be allowed than a underpowered homebrew class simply because the former is officially sanctioned. Or if there are two proposed builds that are of equal power, the one that uses fewer books (munchkin dumpster diving trolls!) 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, 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 it so useless that it might as well not be there.
  • Rule Negative One and Two are satires of the dark side of the mentality behind the more famous Rule Zero, showing that even a rule explicitly designed as a trump card and ultimate counter to Rules As Written (and Rules Lawyers trying to exploit them) is ironically not immune to Metagame Analysis.

Rules Lawyer


  • 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 threatened with a TPK.
  • 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.


  • A gameplay session.

SGT (Same Game Test)

  • The Same Game Test, or SGT, is a 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 Master's Guide and Monster Manual.

Story Teller (RPG)

Stormwind Fallacy

  • In laymen's terms, using the statement "roleplaying, not rollplaying" is committing the Stormwind Fallacy (who says you can't do both?). See this for a more detailed explanation.


  • A term used to describe when a character can attack in such a way as to prevent his opponent from ever being able to take an action.
  • Also known as 'Tekken Juggling'.

Stupid Evil

Stupid Good

Stupid Neutral

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

TBT (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.

Tekken Juggling


  • 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.

TPK (Total Party Kill)

  • The game prematurely ending thanks to catastrophic failure on behalf of the players, typically but not exclusively death of most of the members.
  • Can be viewed as highly undesirable, since aside from being potentially anti-climatic, it requires, if not ditching the game entirely: writing a new campaign from scratch, writing new characters to participate in the remnants of the existing campaign, or developing explanations that allow the party to recover from the TPK (i.e. our corpses were found by another set of adventurers who resurrected us and now we owe a bunch of favors). On the other hand, a lot of players find the occasional TPK exciting because it assures the group that the risks are indeed real and won't be waived away with Plot Armor just because it'd be narratively inconvenient.

Trial by Devil Axe

  • In a system with highly random or uncertain character design that 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 (if callous) playing style of early Fire Emblem games, games in which A.) individual squad members have highly random and irreversible level-ups, B.) are largely undifferentiated, meaning that if a character 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. These questionably advanced characters, 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 characters.


  • Tabletop RPG
  • It all started with pencil and paper...

Vancian (Vancian Magic)

  • I'll add a description later

VAH (Vanilla Action Hero)

  • A character common to action movies who has no reliable access to or unilateral control of phlebotinum and has to rely on plot armor and mundane (if preternatural) human abilities to accomplish things. VAHs are allowed to use their plot armor to bend probability — such as being shot at by twenty bad guys and having them all miss — but can't use it to do something that's impossible to a layman's WSoD — such as surviving a harpoon to the heart. Has a lot of overlap with Dumb Melee Fighter, but note that not all VAHs are DMFs; James Bond is a Vanilla Action Hero, but not a DMF. Similarly, The Thing is a Dumb Melee Fighter, but not a VAH.

WFM (Weaboo Fightan Magic)

  • I'll add a description later

Willing Suspension of Disbelief

  • I'll add a description later

Wish Economy

  • Referring to characters in Dungeons and Dragons who can have unlimited wishes and therefore only value things wishes cannot grant. ~deanrule87
  • 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.

See also[edit]