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Role-playing game terms

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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.

Terms used within games Edit

The most commonly-used term in role-playing games is character; characters can be player characters (PCs) or non-player characters (NPCs). A group of player characters is generally known as a party, though terminology tends to vary (Coterie in more socially-based games or unit in military based games tend to be common). A rich vocabulary exists to describe characters and their representations:

These are often referred to as statistics and are recorded on a character sheet. The process of describing a character in this fashion is called character creation. In some games characters' statistics are assigned randomly, while others use character points to ensure game balance. Still others eschew pre-defined statistics and allow players to describe their characters with broad traits. In addition, many games allow further variation of characters using advantages and disadvantages.

In some games, a character's personality and occupation is set by the character's statistics; in others, the player chooses an alignment and a character class to represent them. Other games allow the player free choice of occupation and allow the character's personality to develop through role-playing. Similarly, some games require players to choose a race such as Human, Dwarf or Elf for their character, while their opponents will usually belong to a monster race; other games either allow free choice from within the game's setting or assume every character will be human (or in some cases, rabbits or cats).

Most games use derived statistics to keep track of temporary changes to a character, such as hit points or magic points. Games which rely on lengthy calculations often make use of derived statistics to hold the result of a frequently-performed calculation. These are typically used for a single game mechanic such as attack or defense, for example Armor class, Initiative or Saving throws.

Longer-term games often keep track of how much a character has learnt using experience points (XP). In some games (usually less modern games) these can be spent directly to improve statistics; in others, XP are spent to increase a character's level. Still others allow players to spend XP as plot points, allowing the character to succeed heroically where they would have failed, or otherwise modifying the story according to the player's wishes.

The progress of characters' skills and equipment can get out of hand. If this problem occurs with every character in a game, it is known as the monty haul problem (a pun on the Monty Hall problem).

Terms in specific game systems Edit

The terms Natural 1 and Natural 20 refer to rolling a 1 or a 20 on a standard 20 sided die (D20), respectively. The term "natural" refers to the dice's value before it is altered by any game rules that may apply. This is most significant in Dungeons and Dragons and other d20 System games, in which a natural 20 represents a "critical success" and a natural 1 indicates a "critical failure" at whatever game action was being attempted at the time. D&D gamers sometimes use the phrases "natural 1" or "critical failure" to describe any time that someone utterly fails at what they were attempting, and "natural 20" to describe succeeding at some task against all odds.

Terms used to describe games Edit

The set of game mechanics which make up a game is known as the system. The world in which the game takes place is the setting. A single or linked set of games is an adventure and a series of adventures is a campaign. A single meeting of a role-playing group is often referred to as a session. Gaming can also take place in smaller sessions, called blue booking, where one or a few of the players roleplay out events that do not involve the entire group.

Systems which can support a wide variety of settings are said to be generic; the opposite is specific. The game can be run with the rules as published, or house rules may be used.

Settings belong to one or more genres such as science fiction or fantasy.

The indie role-playing game community has developed the GNS theory to describe role-playing games, which states that they belong to one of the following schools:

  • Gamist games, in which enjoyment is derived from facing and overcoming challenges
  • Narrativist games, in which enjoyment is derived from creating a good story (see Collaborative fiction)
  • Simulationist games, in which enjoyment is derived from accurately simulating the real world.

Some games can be rules-heavy, requiring players to focus on game mechanics at the expense of roleplaying - this is known as roll-playing. On the other hand, some games are very rules-light, and many freeform games exist.

Terms used to describe players Edit

The player who runs the game is the game master (often abbreviated to 'GM'); many games give them a more specific title such as dungeon master, storyteller or story guide. Alternatively, a game may use a troupe system.

During play, a player can speak in character or out of character. A player who use out-of-character knowledge to solve in-character problems, or to explain in-character behaviour, is said to be metagaming.

A player who plays to "beat the system" can be called a powergamer or, in extreme cases, a munchkin or twink. Players who constantly remind the game master/dungeon master of rules of the game that they might be breaking are often referred to as rules lawyer.

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