Ever had someone in your tabletop game use a term you never heard of before? Are you new to the hobby and confused about specific jargon? Well, now you can also be in the know! We’ve compiled a whole list of terms related to tabletop role-playing games so that you, too, can show off your linguistic skills at your next game session.
Ability scores - Numerical values to describe how much of a certain characteristic your character possesses. In Dungeons & Dragons, there are 6 main characteristics, and each one will have a score.
AC - Armor Class. Used to determine the difficulty of getting hit. In many games, this is the number you need to roll on a die to hit a creature/object.
Actual play/AP - The play of an RPG as entertainment for a wider audience. Podcasts and streaming game sessions of Dungeons & Dragons on Twitch are examples of actual play.
Advantage - A position or factor that benefits the player. Can refer to a character trait that aids a player, or a dice roll that increases a player’s rate of success.
Adventure - A single challenge, like a boss fight. Can stand alone, but is usually part of a bigger storyline.
AoE - Area of Effect. An attack that affects an entire area where everything in the area takes damage or is affected.
Attack of Opportunity - A free melee attack you can make when your enemy moves out of your reach.
BBEG - Big Bad Evil Guy. Essentially the main boss for an adventure or campaign.
Campaign - A longer storyline made up of smaller adventures. Campaigns are almost always more than two game sessions long, and involve more character development and levels. While a one-shot (see One-shot) is like a movie, a Campaign is more like a TV show with an ongoing adventure.
Campaign setting - The world in which the adventure or campaign takes place.
CC - Crowd control. The ability to partially or fully control the actions or movements of the enemy.
Character sheet - The paper with all of your character’s traits, abilities, skills, equipment, etc.
Critical failure - An especially unsuccessful move that also gives the character a negative effect.
Critical hit - An especially successful attack that does more damage than normal.
Crunch/crunchy - Comes from the term “number crunching.” Refers to the complexity of the game mechanics as well as the amount of math needed.
D4, d6, d12, d_ - Dice with a set amount of sides. For example, a d6 is a six-sided die and a d12 is a 12-sided dice. 2D8 would mean two eight-sided dice.
DC - Difficulty class. Refers to the number set by the Game Master that you must score in order for an action to succeed.
Disadvantage - A position or factor that impairs the player. Can refer to a character trait that hurts a player, or a dice roll that decreases a player’s rate of success.
DM - Dungeon Master
DMG - Dungeon Master’s Guide
DnD/D&D - Dungeons & Dragons
Drop-in campaign - A campaign of many players who join any sessions they can attend. Every session is self contained but part of a larger overarching story.
Dump Stat - An ability/trait that has a low score so that other traits can be higher.
Edgelord - Someone who deliberately says controversial or exaggerated remarks in order to shock others.
Experience points/XP - Points used to level up and improve characters. Can be earned by succeeding in challenges.
Game system - A set of game mechanics used in a tabletop role-playing game. Every game system has different mechanics.
Game template - Used to help Game Masters craft their adventures and stories.
GM - Game Master. Refers to the person running the adventure.
Homebrew - Changes to the default rules/setting of an rpg. For instance, a homebrew setting refers to a setting created by the GM/players rather than using the default setting of the rpg. Homebrew can also refer to an original story by the GM/players that is set in a published campaign setting.
HP - Health points. Refers to how many times a character can be hurt until they can no longer stand/interact, etc
Indie Game - An rpg that’s self-published or published with small publishers and released outside of mainstream ways.
Intro Session - A planning session where the group lays the framework for the campaign/adventure together. This is where expectations and safety tools are often discussed. Also known as Session 0.
Min/Max - Describes a character that is designed to maximize some abilities at the expense of minimizing others.
Module - A pre-written adventure. Usually applies to adventures published for all Dungeons & Dragons games before the 3rd edition.
Murder-hobo - Used to describe a player that isn’t very connected to the adventure’s world and just travels around, fighting and killing. Would suggest retiring this term as it’s rooted in offensive language.
Narrative - The storyline of the campaign/adventure.
NPC - Non-player character. Any characters that aren’t controlled by a player and are instead controlled by the Game Master or Dungeon Master.
One-shot - A game that happens in a single session. While campaigns are like tv shows, one-shots are like a movie.
Optional Rules - Rules that exist but aren’t required for the game.
OSR - Old-School Revival. Refers to the trend of drawing inspiration from the earliest days of tabletop roleplaying games.
PHB - Player’s Handbook
PC - Player Character, where the players control the actions of the character.
PvE - Player vs. Environment. Players fight against bosses or enemies that are controlled not by other players, but by the game or the Game/Dungeon Master.
PvP - Player vs Player. Players fight against each other.
PWYW - Pay what you want.
Railroading - Refers to when GMs try to force the story into one particular direction.
Rule of Cool - Refers to suspending disbelief over events that can’t occur in reality. Essentially, it means that if something is cool enough, players will be willing to ignore the impossibilities.
Rules Lawyer - A person who insists on following rules, possibly at the expense of the enjoyment of the game.
Safety Tools - Tools that help players and the GM feel comfortable with the adventure. They allow for clear communication, responsible play, and less risk of emotional distress.
Sand-box - A style of gaming where the GM specifically chooses not to provide much guidance to the players, leaving the players to interact with their setting how they want.
Saving Throw - A dice roll used by a player to determine if their character can avoid a negative effect.
Session - Refers to a chunk of time where players get together to play a tabletop roleplaying game. One-shots usually happen in one session. Campaigns, since they’re longer, will take multiple sessions to complete.
Session 0 - A planning session where the group lays the framework for the campaign/adventure together. Also known as the Intro Session.
Storyteller - Another term for Game Master.
TotM - Theater of the Mind. Refers to an imagination-only style of gaming where instead of physical/visual maps and miniatures, players envision the setting and game.
TPK - Total Party Kill. When an event kills everyone in the party.
TTRPG - Tabletop role-playing game
VoV - Voice and Video, referring to the use of Discord, Zoom, or other software to see and hear the Game Master and other players. These help create a sense of in-person playing.
VTT - Virtual Table Top. A website or computer software that allows players to play tabletop role-playing games on their computer by replicating the boards, dice, and other materials necessary to play.