A Glossary for Pen and Paper Role Playing Games

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Role-playing game terms are words used in a specific sense (terms) in the context of role-playing games. This includes both terms used within RPGs to describe in-game concepts and terms used to describe RPGs. Role-playing games also have specialized slang jargon associated with them.

Terms used to play role-playing games

  • Adventure: A single or linked set of games.
  • Action Resolution The general game method for deciding what the results are for a character’s attempted action. Most modern games provide a generic means for resolving an action by specifying a game stat and a difficulty number, and then rolling dice. A function of the stat, difficulty, and die roll(s) determines whether the attempt was a success or failure, and the degree of success/failure.


  • Box: (a) A module in which a certain environment (a house, city, world…) is defined and players are free to explore it according to their own volition.
    (b) (b) Any sealed environment (spaceship, house on the moors, subway train) used as a setting for a module. Players cannot escape from this box.
  • Bits of Paper Freeform :A Freeform driven by the pursuit and exchange of ‘bits of paper’. These may represent items of special significance, information, or money. A ‘wheeling and dealing’ game.
  • Button :A roleplaying event that propels the module along to the next stage. Most buttons are character based (the thief will surely open the safe) and they are usually non-tactical. The player will ‘press the right button’.
  • Broken rule :A rule which provides an above average result to a character’s attributes or abilities. Usually unintended by the system designer.
  • Bounce The ongoing sequence of offers and counteroffers being made and accepted during play. Good bounce increase the flow and interaction between characters.
  • Campaign: A series of adventures.
  • Campaign Module: A convention module that has been drawn directly from a home campaign with little modification or thought for changed conditions. Dangerous beasties that can easily misfire.
  • Character: A fictional character in a role-playing game; a player character or non-player character.
  • 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 character, especially a player character.
  • Character Gen short for character generation, building a character according to the rules of the game (also genning a character)
  • Character and Plot Driven Freeform: A freeform, usually one session in length, that is driven by characterisation and subplot. Its objectives are the mechanisms used to drive character interaction.
  • The Contract: The Roleplaying Contract is the heart of team play, setting the standards for cooperative dramatism. It asks players to agree to two things.
    1). That players will work as a team. That they take responsibility for each other by ensuring opportunities for everyone to participate fully; drawing out or involving each character.
    2) That characters provide opportunities for characterisation by responding to cues from other players.
    If a player asks a question or makes a comment, there is a responsibility to respond so that the idea or character insight is fully developed.
  • Critical: A type of result associated with a strong outcome, especially a critical hit or critical failure (fumble). Often related to unlikely die results, as a natural 1 or 20, doubles, and so forth.
  • Convention :(a) A communal event organised by roleplayers for roleplayers.
    (b) An altered state of reality induced by constant adrenaline, high blood sugar levels, lack of sleep, and a diet of meat pies, Coke and Mars Bars. See Post-Con Depression.
    (c) Any long weekend.
  • Convention Organiser :An oxymoron.
  • Cheese :System rules, rule implications or rule combinations which provide an advantage to a character’s abilities beyond the expected for their level / points. Sources of cheese can include broken rules, RAW & RAI
  • Collaborative :Roleplaying style which invites an increased contribution to setting, character and story from the players.


  • d(number) – way of referring to dice, many role playing games use unusual dice, such as 4, 8, 10 or 20 sided, a d10 is a ten sided dice
  • d20 :the original rule system developed for Dungeons and Dragons, or an updated version of the system; this system uses a twenty sided dice also known as d20
  • d6(system) :The D6 System is a role-playing game system published by West End Games (WEG) and licensees. While the system is primarily intended for pen-and-paper role-playing games, variations of the system have also been used in live action role-playing games and miniature battle games. The system is named after the 6-sided die, which is used in every roll required by the system.
  • d6 or Six-Sider : is also a kind of die – though the definition of “dice” in english refers specifically to “a small cube”, many types of polyhedrons may be referred to as “dice” within the pen and paper role-playing community
  • Dungeon Bash(a) A traditional adventure game. Where it all started.
    (b) A module involving lots of combat, little choice, and little else (not a polite term)
  • Diceless This may mean a game which does not use dice, but it may mean a game which does not use randomizers at all (i.e. no dice, cards, or rock-scissors-paper) for resolving actions.
  • Fumble: An unforced error when attempting a difficult task. Also known as a Botch.
  • Fade :Module ending in which a narrator figure draws back from the immediate events, commenting on the resolution and on likely futures for the (surviving) characters. Also known as a long shot or a pan.
  • Flashback :Roleplaying device whereby important events from a character’s past are replayed (‘remembered’) in game time to emphasise a particular point or to educate and entertain other players. Flashbacks may be either be:
    · Closed – where the events and their outcomes are fixed and cued on a character sheet. ‘You met your lover. You argued. You shot him.’
    · Open – where the events are cued but their outcomes are indeterminate, to be decided by the player(s) involved. ‘You were alone at last. The mutual attraction was obvious. You made your move…’
  • Flexiform :Module in which the actions of separate teams can influence each other. Teams play unique characters who can communicate and interact within the same module (e.g., independent teams of police working within the same city).
  • Free-form A term which can refer to a “low-mechanics” or even “no-mechanics” system. Some people use “limited freeform” to mean “low mechanics”, and “freeform” to use “no mechanics”. To be more specific, you should probably explain more thoroughly.
  • G
  • Game master: The person who runs a role-playing game and arbitrates how actions are resolved and narrated. Abbreviated GM. In many games, specialized terms are used, as such Dungeon Master for someone running Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Gamemaster’s screen: a foldout cardboard-made accessory, used by the game master to hide from the players’ eyes any information related to the adventure they are playing. Abbreviated GM screen (or DM screen when talking about Dungeons & Dragons gamemaster’s screens).
  • Gag Module :A short, high energy scenario written to evoke frivolity and humour.


  • Hierarchical Freeform :A Freeform in which social climbing, power struggles, intrigue, and the acquisition of power and status drive the module. Such freeforms are not usually driven by external events.
  • Hook :A strong plot device (NPC, event, artefact) that provides the rationale for characters involvement in an adventure. To quote Steve Reynolds, ‘There are only two basic plot hooks in DnD – find the magic widget and lose the magic widget.’
  • Initiative : The determination of who goes first and in what order declared actions are carried out.
  • In Game anything that happens with in the game: character actions, time periods in the story
  • Intrigue Freeform :A freeform involving political intrigue between two or more factions. This type of game usually runs over two or more sessions.
  • IC In character


  • JRPG Japanese role-playing games (often initialized to JRPGs) made their first appearance during the late 1980s. Today, there are hundreds of Japanese-designed games as well as several translated games. Traditional role-playing games are referred to as pen-and-paper RPGs, paper-and-pencil RPGs or tabletop RPGs in English-speaking countries, and are called table-talk RPG, TTRPG or TRPG in Japan to distinguish them from the video role-playing game genre.


  • Linked Module :A module that has connections with, or carries on from, previous convention modules.
  • Live-Action Roleplaying:(a) Outdoor, costumed events involving wide open spaces, rubber weaponry and special effects.
    (b) The US usage is more general, embracing the definition of live-action roleplaying plus Freeforming, Multiforming and Theatreforming.
  • Metagaming: Using out-of-character knowledge to solve in-character problems, or to explain in-character behaviour.
  • Modifier: A number added to or subtracted from a die roll.
  • McGuffin :A false hook. Something that draws characters into a module but has nothing to do with real events. A term originating with Alfred Hitchcock. (Warning: because players never believe a GM is lying to them, they will often keep on following a McGuffin).
  • Master of Cheese :Roleplayer personality – someone who is adept with discovering and utilising cheese. A term of admiration.
  • Metagame Dealing with concerns of the players and GM, as opposed to the characters in the gameworld. Meta-game mechanics are actions by the players which do not represent a corresponding action by the PC — such as drama points spending.
  • 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.


  • Out of Game – anything in a session that happens between players and is not part of the game
  • Objective Driven :Module in which progress or success is achieved by strategic play in order to achieve set objectives
  • .Offer :When one character makes a statement or players makes a suggestion specifically for the purpose of having another character or player react to it. Both dramatic scenes and conflicts are examples of offers being made and accepted by characters.
  • OOC Out of character.


  • Paper Chase :A module that concentrates on the gathering of clues to solve some mystery.
  • Package A set of advantages, disadvantages, and skills which must be taken together.
  • PC ”Player Character”. This is a character in the game controlled by one of the players (as opposed to the GM).


  • RPG :A simple shortening of Role-playing Games used for brevity’s sake quite commonly among the gamer demographic. It is used in context of a sentence or conversation, and may imply a particular game or be used to discuss the industry as a whole.
  • Railroad: Module in which plot events lead into each other. A leads to B leads to C leads to D. Most convention modules are tunnels of fun. In a well designed railroad, the players have an illusion of free action. They believe they are making the decisions and are not aware of the design constraints. In reality, however, they have little effect on the outcome. In a poorly designed railroad, the tracks are obvious
  • RAW – Rules as written :A system style of roleplaying, using the system rules as they were written down by the system designer. Interpretation of the system rules focuses on the letter of the law, not its spirit. Can include the use of errata
  • RAI :A system style of roleplaying, using the rules as the system designer as they intended, rather than as they were written. Interpretation of the rules focuses on the spirit rather than the letter of the law. Can include the use of designer commentary and common usage.
  • Saving throw: A game mechanic in which dice are used to avoid some kind of negative effect on a character.
  • 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.[1]
  • System: The set of game mechanics which make up a game.
  • Spotlight The focus of the game at any given time. This may change from scene to scene and character to character throughout the module. See spotlight hog.
  • Troupe system: A system in which the duties of the game master are distributed amongst the players.
  • Tabletop :Roleplaying conducted seated around a table. The traditional form of roleplaying. See Multiform.
  • Theatreform:A module that makes full use of performance space, lighting and special effects, costume, props and large numbers of NPC extras.
  • Theme-Driven: A module that uses plot and character primarily to explore or evoke a given theme.
  • Tie-in :Module that draws its inspiration from an item of popular culture – usually a movie, book or song (e.g., Xenomorph, The Silver Land freeforms, Hotel California). The advantage is that most players have a good idea of the module background and genre. The disadvantage is that their interpretation of the background may differ from yours.
  • Time Driven :A module in which the passage of external time is a significant factor in its successful completion. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the Gate has been activated. Azathoth will arrive over central Wollongong in three hours.’
  • Template This is an almost fully pre-made set of attributes, skills, and other stats — used for quick player character creation. A template can be modified, but should be fairly close to the final result. A template is distinct from a class in that it has no effect per se after character creation. Also known as an “archetype” (Shadowrun).

Types of RPGs

  • Dungeon Crawl: These are games and/or sessions where players get enjoyment and fun from facing and overcoming challenges. Another term widely used and nearly interchangeable is Gamist style, which imply fast paced action with challenge after challenge being placed upon the party.
  • Narrativist: These are games and/or sessions where players get enjoyment and fun from creating and participating in good stories and plots.
  • Reenactments :Most popular in war gaming rpgs, these are games and/or sessions where the players enjoy reenacting famous or historical battles and wars or other events through the use of the game.
  • Simulationist :Simulationish games are sessions or specific games where the players enjoy immersing themselves in new creative worlds and exploring.

Terms used to describe characters

  • Advantage: An optional trait which some but not all characters possess. These may be binary or may be taken in levels. Also known as “virtues” (Ars Magica), “talents” (Hero System), or “feats” (D&D).
  • Archetype: A psychological pattern or idea that we use in our life journey and in our roleplaying.
    Common archetypes include the Innocent, Orphan, Warrior, Caregiver, Seeker, Destroyer, Lover, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Sage and Fool. Cultural universals that help us understand ourselves.
  • Attributes: Natural, in-born characteristics shared by all characters, such as physical strength or wisdom. A set of general numerical stats which all characters have such as “Strength” and “Intelligence”. Typically there are 3 to 12 of these, and all attributes are on the same scale, such as 1-5 or 3-18. Alternatively called a “characteristic” (Hero System, Fuzion, Ars Magica, Traveller) or “ability” (D&D). The term “attribute” is used by Palladium, White Wolf’s storyteller games, GURPS, and GDW games.
  • Action Resolution The general game method for deciding what the results are for a character’s attempted action. Most modern games provide a generic means for resolving an action by specifying a game stat and a difficulty number, and then rolling dice. A function of the stat, difficulty, and die roll(s) determines whether the attempt was a success or failure, and the degree of success/failure.


  • Character Generation The process of creating a character in the system, including setting numbers for attributes, skills, and other stats. Common mechanics include point-buy, classes, and templates.
  • Class A character creation mechanic which requires the player to select a category for his character. This is usually a profession (i.e. warrior), but could also be a culture (i.e. barbarian) or a race (i.e. elf). Classes are distinct from templates in that choosing a class has a significant continuing effect on the character
  • Derived statistic: A secondary characteristic based on a character’s attributes (or primary characteristics), including temporary effects like hit points and magic points.
  • Disadvantage This is an unusual problem that the character has. It might be a physical disability such as deafness, a social problem such as being wanted by the police, or a psychological weakness. In some point-buy systems, the player gets extra points for taking a disadvantage. Disadvantages are often encouraged because they add depth to a character, and make good plot hooks.


  • Min/Maxing (derogatory)-twisting the rules to build a character that is amazing in combat but can’t do anything else, in order to be ‘better’ then other character
  • Powers: Extraordinary abilities which make a character special, such as flight or telepathy.
  •  Party :The collective group of players during a particular game and/or session is referred to as the party. Additionally, the gamers who are portraying these characters may also be considered the party in some context.
  • PC :A shortening of Player Character, which is just a reference to a character that is controlled by a player, as opposed to an NPC.
  • Point-Buy A style of character creation mechanic, where the player is assigned a number of points. A cost in points is then defined for all attributes, skills, and advantages. The player then spends points to get what she wants in the character.
    There are two variations. Open Point-Buy has a single pool of points is used to buy all capabilities. Limited Point-Buy has several different pools of points, where each pool can only be spent on certain things. For example, there might be one pool of points to spend on attributes and another pool to spend on skills.
  • Race: A character’s species, ethnicity, type, or other description of their physical and cultural heredity. Role-playing games often include fantasy races, mutants, robots and other non-human types.
  • Rolling up a Character specific to d20 games, using dice to gen a character with random trait
  • Radio Play :Module format where the plot is focussed on characterisation and improvisation rather than rigidly plotted external action.
  • Real Time Module :A module played in real time, with no use of GM devices to compress or stretch the passage of time.
  • Reality :A nasty and unforgiving dungeon that you have to face whenever it’s not a long weekend, though you can probably escape for a few hours on ……… nights. Warning: reality has no saving rolls. The GM is unbribable. However, reality is great for brushing up on roleplaying technique.
  • Red Herring :A plot device intended to mislead or take up time. Not to be confused with a McGuffin. Any building in Cthulhu that has a library; any corridor in DnD that branches in two or more directions. (Pembroke’s favourite plot device.)
  • Rollplayer :A roleplaying personality type. Someone who sacrifices acting out the characters intentions for system mechanics (not a polite term)
  • Rules Lawyer :A gamer who insists on arguing rule interpretations to the detriment of the game. Usually recognised by the two hundred white mice carried in their backpack.
  • 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.
  • Safety Valve :Incidents build into a module to be used if the atmosphere and tension levels need to be lowered. Usually a gently humorous event, or a background intrusion such as music.


  • Traits ways a character is described on paper including health levels, skills, etc.

Rule Systems in Role Playing Games

  • AC : A shortening of Armour Class, which is a mathematical game mechanic that defines how easy or hard it is to successfully attack a character or foe.
  • BAB :A shortening of Base Attack Bonus, which is the simple mathematics that a game mechanic uses to describe how effective a character is at attacking a foe before any additional granted bonuses
  • Mechanics – rules that govern character building, dice rolling, and combat
  • Non Player Character (NPC) – any character run by the GM, the supporting cast and extras, as well as antagonists
  • Levels – in some systems: character ranks, characters start at level 1, and go up in levels through gaining experience points; characters get new abilities or increased traits when the go up in levels
  • Levelling Up – going up in level
  • Experience Points (XP)- credit for overcoming challenges in game, good role playing, or anything else that impresses the GM, some systems require a certain number of experience points to level up, other systems allow players to buy new traits directly with XP.
  • Die Roll (noun) – the dice or combination of die that a player rolls to find out if their character can do something
  • Combat – any time characters get into a fight, normally a physical fight, but occasionally a mental or magical battle
  • Combat Round – the basic time period of a combat, in general each character gets to act once per round; a round will usually take less then 10 seconds of in game time
  • Feats  :Another mechanic used in many games, feats are typically specific abilities that a character may choose to take as he or she gains levels or grows in power. Whereas skills usually provide commonly learned items, feats are more defined and elusive, and usually are structured to fit the style of character that takes them. There are a near-infinite number of feats across many games that can be for a myriad of situations.
  • Skills :Skills are a mechanic used in many different Role-playing Games that provides a traceable way for a gamer to know or decide how good or bad his character is at particular activities or actions. Specific skills may differ from game to game, but often include knowledge of particular fields of study, ability to charm or intimidate a person, affinity with animals or beasts, or the skill to perceive and hear things.
  • STATS :Stats, or Statistics, can refer to any of the myriad of components that make up the fictional character a player portrays. Typically, each stat refers to a specific number relating to a character’s ability in a certain field or current status at a particular thing. The term is usually used alongside a identifying term, for instance “dex stat” would refer to a character’s statistic in dexterity, and would usually be heard as a question (i.e. a game master asking a game “What is your character’s dex stat?).
  • Check :A “check” is something done in game that requires a player to role a dice and has a chance of failure and success, instead of something that a player could roleplay through without needing to use his fictional skills or abilities.

Terms used to describe types of games


  • Alpha Test: The first, rough testing of a module idea to determine its main ingredients. Usually done with friends, its aim is to accept fresh ideas and honest criticism. The designer should be prepared to scrap just about anything and substantially modify her vision for the module. See Conceptual Playtest.
  • Atmosphere-Driven: A module where the prime aim of characterisation and plot is to evoke and maintain a strong atmosphere or tension, where theme and style is equally important as the story.


  • Basic Role-Playing, or BRP, is the name of the “generic” form of the fantasy-oriented RuneQuest role-playing game rules. A percentile skill-based system, BRP was used as the basis for most of the games published by Chaosium, including Call of Cthulhu, Elfquest, Stormbringer (aka Elric!), Hawkmoon, Superworld, Nephilim, and Ringworld. Pendragon (acquired in 1998 by Green Knight Publishing), while related, has sufficiently different mechanics that it can only be seen as a separate system. The BRP standalone booklet was first released in 1982 as part of the Worlds of Wonder boxed set. Greg Stafford and Lynn Willis are credited as the authors.
  • Beta Test: The testing of a conceptually complete module prior to the final write up. The aim is to iron out minor bugs and cover unexpected player reactions and strategies. (‘No module ever survives contact with the enemy’). The designer should be prepared to change or modify scenes, but not to rewrite the entire second act.
  • Crunch: The mechanics of a game.
  • Coda System is a system of game mechanics for role-playing games published by Decipher and is similar to d20 system with a few distinct differences.


  • Dry Run (GM Run): A final playtest of a module designed to familiarise non-writer GMs with things that can’t be written down, and to acquaint them with the module under convention conditions. (Also a way to screen potential GMs.)


  • Engine: The Roleplaying Engine is the complete experience – module and gm and location and props and player interaction and teamwork and mutual storytelling; trust and alertness and support and shared vision. It helps us remember that we can never judge the worth of a module in isolation, but have to consider everyone’s collective input.
  • Experimental (a) A module attempting to examine an aspect of roleplaying beyond generally accepted confines.
    (b) Unplaytested (Informal)
    (c) Unplayable (Informal)
  • Explicit System :The players & GM discuss the mechanics during play, especially the conflict resolution mechanic(s) – “Roll 3d6”. Note that the conflict resolution mechanics in explicit systems don’t necessarily involve a randomisation instrument, like dice or cards, but they often do. This may be a published system or something created by the GM
  • Free-form role-playing game: A rules-light style of game that mostly uses social dynamics for its game system.
  • Fluff: The setting and ambiance.
  • Fuzion is a generic roleplaying game system created by the collaboration of R. Talsorian Games and Hero Games. Fuzion is a combination of the Interlock System, (used in games like Mekton and Cyberpunk 2020), and the HERO system (used in Champions, Justice, Inc., Star Hero, etc.). Fuzion is an adaptable system which can be played in any genre and setting imaginable
  • Gamist: A term from GNS theory describing games in which enjoyment is derived from facing and overcoming challenges.
  • Generic: is a role-playing game designed to be independent of setting and genre. Its rules should, in theory, work the same way for any setting, world, environment, or genre that one would want to play
  • Genre: The conventions, background assumptions and playing styles of a given module, book or film. The ‘culture’, or unwritten rules of a given roleplaying environment. Common genres include sword and sorcery, romance, chivalry, gumshoe, gothic, slapstick, swash buckling, soap opera…
  •  Hero System (or HERO System) is a role-playing game generic system that developed from the superhero RPG Champions, and underlying the Hero Games role-playing games such as Champions, Dark Champions, Fantasy Hero, Star Hero, and Pulp Hero. It is characterized by point-based character creation and the rigor with which it measures character abilities. It was one of the first RPG systems to forego the use of non-cubical dice.
  • Game Mechanics : are constructs of rules intended to produce a game or gameplay. All games use mechanics; however, theories and styles differ as to their ultimate importance to the game. In general, the process and study of game design, or Ludology, are efforts to come up with game mechanics that allow for people playing a game to have an engaging, but not necessarily fun, experience.


  • Interlock System is R. Talsorian Games’ proprietary role-playing system. It is one of the direct parents of the Fuzion system (the other is the Hero System). The Interlock System is a “skill-based” system — characters are created by choosing skills for them, and by advancing those skills individually; rather than by choosing character class packages. The Interlock System is used primarily in the Cyberpunk 2020 and Mekton role-playing games; a variant of the Interlock System is used in Teenagers from Outer Space and the Japanese Gundam Senki RPG. Stats and skills are both rated on a scale of 0-10 with 0 representing no ability/no training and 10 representing the maximum ability possible for a human being. A typical skill roll will range from 12-20 for most tasks, so a skill 10 + stat 10 will succeed at virtually any task barring a critical mishap, while a skill 0 + stat 2 (minimum statistic level for a human character) will fail at any but the very simplest task, and even then will succeed only on a critical success.
  • Implied System: The players have no need to discuss mechanics during play. GM discretion is likely to be the predominant conflict resolution mechanic
  • Live-action: A type of role-playing game physically enacted in a troupe acting style.
  • Online: A type of computer game that uses role-playing game style game mechanics and tropes.


  • Playtesting  Playing out roleplaying ideas in an elementary form as a design and writing tool. The single most important aspect of roleplay design, sadly still ignored in some quarters.
  • 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 focused on a subset of possible 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.
  • SAGA System is a role-playing game system that uses “fate cards” to determine the effects of actions. The cards have numbers, suits, positive and negative states, and role-playing cues that guide the gamemaster in telling the story and administering the game. The system has been used in TSR, Inc.’s Dragonlance: Fifth Age game and the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game, later published by Wizards of the Coast.
  • SPECIAL System is a character-creation scheme developed specifically for the Fallout franchise of computer role-playing games. SPECIAL is an acronym, representing the seven attributes used to define Fallout characters: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck.
  • Systemlite :The game uses a subset of a published system. This may be the setting, a simplified version of the conflict resolution mechanics or something else.


  • TORG or The Other Roleplaying Game is a system developed by West End Games. The system name has to do with the fact that it was published alongside another system, the D6 System.
  • Tri-Stat dX is a generic role-playing game system developed and published by Guardians of Order in 2003. It joins a family of other generic RPGs (like GURPS, Fuzion and the popular d20 System) that have adaptable rules systems and can be used in any game genre and setting imaginable
  • Tri-Stat System is a set of role-playing game mechanics developed by Marc C. MacKinnon and published in 1999 by Guardians of Order as the rules for the anime-based Big Eyes, Small Mouth RPG
  • (Troupe System) In a “traditional” role-playing game, one person typically acts as the gamemaster, and largely controls what happens in the game-world, what non-player characters do, and how the world at large reacts to the actions of player characters. Many games use different versions of that term, with different connotations; Dungeons & Dragons’ “Dungeon Master” (DM) is one of the oldest and most well-known. In Ars Magica, the term is “Story Guide” (SG), with an implication of more collaborative (with other players) & story-telling approach.

Terms used by gamers


  • Anecdotes: Roleplaying stories guaranteed to be of interest to 5% of the population. To be avoided, especially at prizegivings. See YHTBT.
  • 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 don’t involve the rest of the group.[1]
  • BNG(Big Name Gamer):.A term of abuse and/or respect.
  • Brick Wall:Any GM device that prevents players pursuing a course of action outside the scope of a module. Done well, the players don’t see it for what it is (also known as a Glass Wall). Done badly, they do (also known as Stone Wall).


  • Cathartic: A module exploring horror, anxiety, guilt or remorse. Informally known as a ‘make the players cry’ module.
  • Chaos Monkey: A roleplaying personality type. Someone who will do random actions, or actions that make no sense within the context of the module, to its determinant.
  • Monty haul: A pun on Monty Hall (the former host of Let’s Make A Deal), when equipment, abilities, and other rewards get out of hand.
  • Munchkin: (a) A thirteen to sixteen year old roleplayer.
    (b) A player who over manipulates game mechanics to optimise their character (not a polite term). The line between a Master of Cheese and a Munchkin is a grey one. “I am a Master of Cheese, you are a Munchkin”
    (c) Roleplaying personality type – a player who doesn’t care about plot or acceptable behaviour and just has a “kill stuff and take it’s treasure” mentality (not a polite term).
  • Mexican Goblin :[a]. Generic roleplaying accent. The result of a roleplaying Tower of Babel. In a module where the characters are Irish, Scottish, French, German and Texan, you can guarantee that in five minutes everyone’s accent will be Mexican Goblin .
    [b]. A cutsie cutsie type of module involving funny accents and not much else.
  • Mood Breaker :Insensitive oaf who starts talking about The Simpsons just as the medium in the party starts shivering uncontrollably.


  • Natural 20 or Nat 20 :A common reference to the action of rolling a 20 sided dice (d20) and having it land on the number 20, resulting in the best possible outcome the player could hope for.
  • NI-DiW :(Pronounced Nid-wi). Nice Idea – Didn’t work.
  • Powergamer : A player focused on system mastery; a min-maxer.[1]
  • Plant :A freeform GM disguised as a player
  • Post-Con Depression :Traditional illness experienced after a roleplaying convention. Induced by the stress of returning to mundanity, a lack of sleep, an empty purse or wallet, and your blood sugar level returning to normal.
  • Pro from Dover (a) A player whose character must always be the best something in the entire universe (e.g., best left-handed gully dwarf cattle prodder).
    (b) A player who is never second best at anything. ‘Let me do that.’
    (The term originates from MASH, via Champions).
  • 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.[3]
  • Rules lawyer: A player who strictly adheres to the rules as written, and enforces them among all other players.


  • Spotlight Hog (also known as a stage hog): A roleplaying personality type. A gratuitous character player who continually takes centre stage, forcing the game to remain focused on their character. Someone who doesn’t understand team play. Good character roleplaying involves knowing when to stop.
  • Sexism:The reason why roleplaying has more male players than female. (still!) Prejudices inherited from our culture, and from roleplaying’s male-oriented, wargaming past. Stomp on it at every opportunity.
  • SMOG :Secret Master of Gaming. A mythical roleplaying personality or personalities. Anyone claiming to be a SMOG or know a SMOG is lying, and probably feeling insecure.
  • Space Cadet :Someone who continually and habitually Spaces Out during a convention game.
  • Space Out :To Space Out is to disrupt focus and interrupt the flow of a game by talking out of character about real-life events or trivia unrelated to the module in hand. While it is common (and polite) in home gaming, it can be very destructive and wasteful in a convention game, where time, atmosphere and focus can be all-important. Accidental spacing out is Moodbreaking; someone who does it continually is a Space Cadet.
  • Twink: A player who engages in system mastery with an explicit focus of exploiting powerful abilities. Similar to powergamer.
  • Trash: To trash a module is, in its simplest form, to use it in a way it was not intended. Trashers may subvert the intent of a module by playing outside its genre conventions (e.g., soap opera DnD, SWAT team Cthulhu, bimbo anything). Some teams trash a module that they are not enjoying in order to spice it up. Trashing is always controversial and is bad roleplaying etiquette. However, in certain circumstances it can be very entertaining and may be justified.


  • Wallflower A player who sits quietly in a corner, not entering into character or contributing to the module. Possibly a nervous beginner who simply needs a little encouragement and some roleplaying hooks from other players.
  • Wanker Roleplaying personality type. Someone who sacrifices system mechanics in preference to acting out the character’s interactions (not a polite term)Y
  • YHTBT You Had To Be There. The reason why anecdotes should be banned at prizegivings.


  • Zero-Five The ‘love it or hate it’ syndrome. A module that attracts strongly divided player reactions. (Many convention feedback forms ask players to rate modules they have played between zero and five).

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