Some of the "lingo" used in roleplaying games (RPGs).
- 1 Game / System / Mechanics
- 2 Group
- 3 Players
- 4 Characters
- 5 Storyteller / Game master (GM) / Dungeon master (DM)
- 6 Non-player character (NPC)
- 7 Dice
- 8 Magic
- 9 Classes
- 10 Races
- 11 Monsters and non-player characters
- 12 Players and playing
- 13 "Rewards"
- 14 Other
Game / System / Mechanics ∞
The common name is "RPG" for "Role-playing game"
To game is to play a game; to roleplay.
A game is a unique compilation of media; a roleplaying game. A complete example would include:
- A fictional universe, perhaps with some stories.
A core set of rules for playing.
- aka mechanics
- How characters are built, choices players can make for their customization, and how characters are permitted to change over time (e.g. levelling).
- How actions are described, and contests are resolved (like combat).
- Possibly some sort of magic, or equivalent "different than a real-world person" ability or power to draw on.
Example characters and non-player characters.
A game system is distinct from the intellectual property and revision of other game systems. It is like how one author's book is entirely different from another's.
Mechanics can vary widely, as there are many different kinds of players with differing needs.
A player has one character they personally control.
This is is something players act through, just like a puppeteer uses a marionette on a stage.
Playing in character is to be speaking with the characters voice and narrating the actions of the character.
- Often it is also "playing in thought" by making decisions which are appropriate to that character in spite of those decisions not being those the player would choose with access to the character's abilities and choices. See Alignment.
Being out-of-character is to be a regular person having fun with friends.
- Sometimes players will step out of character to give one another suggestions. Some games are casual or even encouraging about this, and others frown upon it.
Metagaming is the use of out-of-character knowledge to assist your character.
- This is something that the min-max and rules lawyers regularly do. A common example is knowing the details and vulnerabilities of a monster when their character wouldn't.
Storyteller / Game master (GM) / Dungeon master (DM) ∞
They tend to act like the roleplaying group's organizer.
"Storyteller" is a generic term that's rare in most circles. It is meant to be agnostic. Some game systems use this term because they are more story-oriented and less action-oriented.
"Game Master" is a generic term used by the vast majority of games.
"Dungeon Master" is the accepted term for a game master in the system Dungeons & Dragons.
Non-player character (NPC) ∞
This is something a storyteller acts through, just like a puppeteer uses a marionette on a stage.
There are many non-player characters in the world the players are in, and the storyteller plays that role whenever a player has their character interact with a non-player in the game.
A player says their character goes to the store? The storyteller plays the store keeper.
This is the fundamental part of tabletop-roleplaying.
They are noted by the number of sides they have, with the preface "
- This is the most commonly-recognized die, and is used in many other non-roleplaying games like backgammon.
- This is of special note for many games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, which uses it as a generic action die.
number d number is a reference to a number of dice of a certain kind. So,
one die with
6 sides, and 2d6 is
two dice with
.. while other strange creations exist, they aren't used by many systems (if any).
- d24 (boy is this one weird)
- There are also dice which have a symbol for the "one", as was brought to popularity by "dragon dice".
Some dice have symbols on all sides, and are not used to roll a number but instead to roll an event. Weather, encounter and treasure dice all exist, as do "poker" dice.
Wielded by a magic user.
Magic is not universal in all game systems, and sometimes "magic" is about super powers, "the force", psychic ability, technology, or something entirely different like calling for air support in a war game.
In a roleplaying video game, this could be likened to a "cooldown", a player-activated ability which becomes available again after a timer is up.
Magic users ∞
Sometimes called "a spell caster" because they "cast" spells.
One who wields magic.
Most commonly thought of as a Wizard, this is a generic concept which can go by many names: Mage, Wizard, Conjurer, Illusionist, Necromancer and Sorcerer [ 1 ] sometimes spelled "Sorceror" , etc. There are also healers which might be called different things: Cleric, Priest, etc.
The stereotype is that these are physically weak but mentally capable classes. They are often "glass cannons"; very dangerous, but very fragile. Many games will hobble this class to begin with but leave them with a promising future.
Keep in mind the distinction between a class which "only does magic" and one which "can do a little magic". In many game systems, some classes will wield magic in one form or another. These hybrid magic-users vary by game and could include anything from Paladins and Rangers to Bards. These are frequently a direct (weaker) cross between two other classes.
This is magic, but associated with the mind. It often has a very different theme to traditional magic. Some game systems have both in their world.
Unless a #campaign is heavily set in a world with psionics, it presents interesting challenges. Psionics is all about using the power of the mind. In many cases, the psionics mechanics themselves.. the root of how psionics work and what they can do is different from what is considered to be traditional magic.
One aspect of psionics is the ability to get inside another being's head. Be this emotion reading, thought reading or mind control, all aspects of this mind-to-mind interaction are levels of grey as far as morality goes. See The problem of Evil.
In many cases, psionics presents a lure towards Evil by presenting a power which is so very obviously greater than those of non-psionics. Arrogance and dominant action is not uncommon in a psionic. In any mechanic, if an ability distances it's users with commoners or even other players, there is a sort of tension which will be created.
High magic campaigns which have powerful but rare magic tend to slide towards the more evil side of things if the players aren't careful or if the GM and campaign world are particularly loose about it.
See also On illusion magic in roleplaying
This is something like #psionics in that they are effects which are "in the mind" of the targets. In some game systems some of them can do damage much like other more physical or elemental spells, by having the mind so convinced of something that it is damaged. Often illusions cannot actually kill; they just render the target unconscious.
This is an advanced type of magic, particularly because it is so flexible and poorly-described.
Summoning, and pets ∞
Some #illusions can create something like a pet.
This varies widely from game to game.
Classes, archetypes, stereotypes, templates, etc, are used in roleplaying to simplify stepping into the skin of a character. It makes life easier for a player to define what the character is, wants and should do. Some game systems do not have such a concept, instead defining these things purely with skills or powers.
Mages, etc. ∞
Mage, Wizard, Conjurer, Illusionist, Necromancer, Sorcerer, Sorceror, etc.
Always a magic user.
Clerics, etc. ∞
- Often a holy person devoted to the goals of a religious body. Their role varies from game to game and wildly from game system to game system.
- Often a magic user.
- The Druid is usually quite similar, but nature-focused.
The bane of undead.
- A religious character generally stereotyped as serving elements of nature. Something like "a cleric of nature".
- Sometimes a magic user.
The role which a Druid serves will vary between games and game systems. Thanks to such games as Dungeons & Dragons, the Druid is frequently typecast as being true neutral. Looking at real-world historical examples of the "Druid", this appears to be a stereotype. In games, Druids have been known to be peaceful or warlike.. neutral or strongly allied to a side.
A rogue (sometimes thief) has a widely varying definition of skills. Thieves are stereotypically good at sneaking and perception, and some games place emphasis on picking pockets, locks, figuring out traps and other devices. Some game systems place them in a more generic role, giving them a lot of skill options and no generic stereotype as such.
- Usually stealthy (quiet)
Often thematically evil-acting.
- Often thieves.
- Sometimes bandits, though that is frequently a sub-class of the Fighter archetype.
- A well-traveled warrior-type.
- Sometimes a partial magic user.
- Often, this stereotypical class is said to be allied with nature, although realistically this class is strongly learned merely for the purposes of survivability in nature.
This class varies wildly between games and game systems.. some show the Ranger as being religiously allied to elements of nature, where others show the Ranger as being more like a rogue whose element is the outdoors.
General class ideas ∞
Magic user or "caster" ∞
- A class which can heal, usually with some sort of magic.
Can go by various names such as a Cleric or Priest.
- A non-magic user; a master of arms and armor.
- Goes by many names from across many cultures, weapons, armor and technology. Warrior, Fighter, Barbarian, Swashbuckler.
This is a staple in most games.
"Race" is a generic term in the roleplaying context, and is generally something like "species" in ours. The classic playable races are:
Some campaigns have only one type of race, and many have a great many to choose from with their own unique flavor and slight mechanics pros and cons. [ 2 ] e.g. Dwarves are slow but strong, and Elves are fast but weak Some game systems limit which race can be which class, by associating them with a culture or some other mechanic. For example, they may say that only Humans can be a paladin.
The difference between what players can play as, what is off-limits to players (remaining non-player characters) and what are considered monsters varies by campaign setting. Often, the line between the two can be justifiably blurred through quality character background, development and roleplaying.
The classic races ∞
- "an average race, often social"
- "short, stout and strong, who work stone and like beer"
- "fast and nimble, who like nature"
Other races ∞
There are many other races generally accepted as "traditional" in most roleplaying games.
Elves / Elfs ∞
The elves of The Hobbit - (1937 book), by J.R.R. Tolkien etc are tall and thin, with elongated and pointed ears, fine hair and pronounced cheekbones. They tend to be extraordinarily nimble. Tolkein used the term "elfish", where various Dungeons & Dragons sources have used "elvish" or "elven".
Some campaign worlds show elves as being shorter than humans on average.
Some campaign worlds play up on the fact that elves are built differently than other races, by giving them cat-eyes.
While there are different kinds of gnomes.. to Humans they look like small, chubby, and friendly-looking people with a love of tinkering, gems and food. However, gnomes are not too far removed from their magical heritage. In general, this species tends to magically and physically change to suit its favored environment. To humans, gnomes look like little humans, because that's the only kind of gnome the humans see.
Forest Gnomes are a complete unknown, being almost xenophobic in their seclusion. The only time a forest gnome would venture forth is if their forest were in danger. This race has a long-time feud with goblinoids, kobolds and lizardmen, and have training techniques specific to giant creatures, affording them astounding defensive reflexes.
Like other gnomes, forest gnomes appear very similar to their environment. Forest gnomes vary between group to group, but tend towards dark brown "barkish" skin, dark eyes and dark, greenish, hair.
Svirfneblins - "Deep Gnomes" ∞
These are the underground variety of gnome, with traits appropriate to living in the deepest depths. They are often portrayed as being evil, but that's likely because the whole environment of the underground is skewed towards gritty survivalism.
A small and slight, dexterous and exceptionally social and friendly people. Often portrayed as not having an actual fixed and separate civilization but instead being found basically anywhere, especially with humans. Prolific travelers.
Monsters and non-player characters ∞
These are almost always a copy-paste of non-mythological creatures from our everyday world.
These come in a huge variety.
- Goblins are the primary type. These are small nasty and cunning creatures. Hated by most good races and commonly used as slaves by others. Tribal, territorial and warlike. Some have a fondness for tinkering similar to the Gnome, with particular skill with traps. Commonly live underground (but not very deeply).
Hobgoblins are a larger variety.
This is the "back from the dead" sort of monster. Zombies, Skeletons, Vampires, Ghosts and more.
Players and playing ∞
To min-max is to play a balancing game of costs vs benefits, this most especially applies to character creation. A player who builds a character on a min-max principle will tend to have an overall more capable character for whatever purpose they build toward.
This is considered foul play to some, but for many it is a necessary step in understanding the mechanics of character generation.
Example of min-maxing include:
- Increasing intelligence to increase skill points to get more skills which cross-benefit other skills.
Stacking cooperative powers or abilities to give greater power.
Often this is put toward combat ability, slanting the character towards being something of a superhero. Beware! If this happens, the other players will not have fun and will likely quit for reasons they will not explain and will think are obvious. You will lose players even if they are good friends.
Rules Lawyer ∞
See also min-max
The rules lawyer brings up rules mid-game, usually in the moment when the GM is making a snap decision. Often this interruption is not just directed at the GM, but between the GM and another player.
While well-meaning, the rules lawyer does not fully appreciate the snap decision and would rather see it replaced with what is in their minds "the right choice".
They will constantly cite the rules, even in situations where that would be a distraction. It's particularly annoying when such a player will interrupt a GM-player discourse when it's with another player.
Sometimes dealing with "rules lawyers" can be touchy, especially since this type of player is often the one who has purchased all the books and who knows the most about the game system.
One of the best ways of dealing with a rules lawyer is to remind them of the golden rule "the GM is always right". Taking their precious books away from them has also been known to be effective for the lawyers who lack memory. Removing rewards from them for being jerks can also be effective.
Awarding player contribution ∞
Some will make a distinction between "experience" and "player contribution" and will have a different scale to reward a player. Some campaignss have been able to integrate a reward system for a player's ability to add comedy and fun to a game, where others reward playing in character more specifically.
Still other games will find that player reward is separate from awarding experience. Many games have found great fruit in being quite "hardcore" and allotting very frugal and individual experience for player action.. and will institute a player contribution award.. giving bonus xp for the best player to "play in character" or for "the most fun scene this session" etc.
Awarding experience ∞
Awarding experience can be a delicate subject. Some groups are capable of being given experience in different ways. There are combinations of three basic types of reward:
- Group experience
- Individual experience
Experience can also be given publically or privately. Some games thrive on experience being given on a per-character basis, where others will turn sour.. with players becoming jealous or depressed.
Something of a personality trait suggestion for characters.
First brought to public light through D&D. It was a well-meaning idea, but in practice is generally useless to creative players.
See also World and campaign ideas
Many sessions over a longer period of time.
Think of this like being a story arc broken up over multiple chapters, each one being a day the players get together to play.
To play without dice.
This is, as a rule, made as a feature in some game systems and is not something which is optional for most (if any).
Technically this means diced is a term, but it's never used.
LARPing "Live Action Role Playing" ∞
LARPing frequently happens inside of a club environment, and often there are grand groupings where, a truly massive amount of people come together to play.
A campaign or one-off where the players almost-senselessly maul baddies and don't do a whole lot of actual roleplaying. Sessions like this tend to be cinematic and fun instead of brooding and serious.
A plot device used in an adventure to push the characters into the story. Think of a hook as being like a plot-device in a novel.
House rules / Homebrew ∞
The term "house rule" is common in card games, indicating a rule or a variation of a rule applied to that location. Where some house rules can become widely recognized as a major "unofficial" way of doing things, other house rules are either not publicized enough to be known, or are simply not popular.
In roleplaying this is to diverge from the as-stated game mechanics.
Mechanics changes or additions are made to fit with a campaign world, a story idea or even the players.
Some examples include:
- Simplified game mechanics / rules
- Restrictions on technology or magic
- Restrictions or adjustments to on races or classes available to play
Added playable races or classes
Sometimes additional companion books are published which introduce suggestions and options. For example, a default roleplaying game might have a "Fighter" class but could publish a second book for an ancient Japan-style world and introduce a "samurai" class. Some campaigns may not have the whole book used but may just allow a player to create a character with the Samurai mechanics.
It could be as simple as the classic "you wash up on a desert island with no starting equipment".
Pencil-and-Paper roleplaying ∞
The traditional way of playing.
As opposed to LARPing.
A single-session game which will not be continued another day.
[ + ]
|1.||^||sometimes spelled "Sorceror"|
|2.||^||e.g. Dwarves are slow but strong, and Elves are fast but weak|