Gamer Jargon

As we roleplayers and gamers go about our hobby, we are naturally exposed to any number of terms that become second nature both in gaming and our daily life. We often forget that to an outside observer we sound as though we're spouting innane gibberish, or co-opting ordinary words and imbuing them with incomprehensible meaning. For the gamers among you, this is a hilarious take on why we say what we do. For the rest of you, a peek inside the experience of the gamer. This is Gamer Jargon.


S-Z

S

Sanderson's First Law

"An author's ability to solve conflict with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic."

Put forth in an essay by author Brandon Sanderson, this law basically states that the more coherent a system of magic and the better it is explained, the more it can be used to solve problems without seeming like a deus ex machina. This can apply to both writing fiction and playing roleplaying games. If a player has a working knowledge of the underlying principles of how the magic works the way it does, they can adapt those rules to suit their needs. Conversely, a poorly-developed and poorly-explained system of magic is better utilized in creating problems and forcing players to utilize normal and mundane means of solving problems.

Santa Claus

  1. (proper noun) A plump white-bearded and red-suited old man in modern folklore who delivers presents to good children at Christmas most likely based upon the legends of Saint Nicholas.
  2. (gamerese) A referee, usually inexperienced, who gives the players pretty much anything they want.
  3. (verb) The act of a GM (or possibly another player with enough resources) to provide at minimal or no cost something phenomenally powerful which has not be duly and appropriately earned in-game.

saving throw, save versus X

  1. In D&D, a die roll made by a character to attempt to avoid the negative effects of being attacked by something besides normal weaponry such as spells, traps, fire, etc.
  2. A generic term for any skill, spell, or maneuver that might help a character out of their current situation (Example: "What do you mean the fireball kills my character? Don't I get a saving throw or something?")
  3. An attempt to avoid something unpleasant outside of a game (Example: "Sorry I'm late, I failed my save versus traffic jam roll.")

scenario breaker

A gamer who abuses the system in order to disrupt, destroy, or bypass a linear scenario as either a form of protest for a railroad plot or just to stroke his e-peen.
Example: When Bob decided to use his maxed-out charm ability to seduce the queen instead of going on her fetch quest, the GM called him a scenario breaker and left.

screen, GM screen

(Gamerese) A folded cardboard piece stood up lengthwise, to prevent players from seeing the gamemaster's notes; either officially published by a game manufacturer or created with printouts and 3-ring binders, with illustrations on the player's side, and combat tables or other useful information on the gamemaster's side.

screen time

Time during a roleplaying session in which a character is the focus of any events currently happening.
(Whether Screen Time or Experience Points is the most sought-after reward by players in a roleplaying game is a subject of much debate.)

shared universe

When multiple writers all contribute to characters in the same world, or characters from one story have made enough cameo or crossover appearances in another, they are assumed to co-inhabit the same universe simultaneously.

sheet speak, sheetspeak

See: Stat talk

shell script

A player who contributes almost nothing to the roleplaying or characterization elements of a game, yet also does nothing to detract from either.

(Every roleplaying group has encountered this type of player at one time or another. Our most prominent example was a fellow named Doug. Given a list of options, Doug would invariably choose the most logical course of action given his character's skillset and another character's willingness to lead. His characters had no personality beyond the character sheet, but did nothing to interfere with the other players so he was essentially a player-run NPC. This led to the phrase "Doug is Doug," after a very long and detailed explanation of the player characters and their respective personalities finally came around to his character and ended abruptly with "...and Doug is Doug".)

shower scenario

A game or story whose entire purpose is to showcase the abilities of the GM and the GM's characters with little or no input from the players, so named because the GM spends the entire time playing with himself.

skank

  1. In general usage, a promiscuous woman lacking proper hygiene.
  2. (gamerese) A rules loophole that allows for the creation of unusually powerful characters; or for spells to be used in a unintended but nasty way

slugthrower

A weapon which accelerates a solid projectile or projectiles by means of chemical reaction, i.e. what most normal people would simply refer to as a 'gun'. Used in science fiction to differentiate such weapons from energy projectors (lasers, plasma guns, etc.) and other usually more advanced technology.

soak

  1. (verb) To absorb and become saturated with a liquid.
  2. (gamerese) Damage from attacks that is not applied due to being prevented by virtue of armor or natural constitution, rather than being avoided or dodged. Example: GM: "The laser causes 5 levels of damage." Player: "Okay, I soak three of those from my vitality and take the other two."

" So, anyway..."

  1. A phrase usually preceding an abrupt change in topic.
  2. (gamerese) A phrase spoken by the GM during a brief lull in table talk to indicate to the players that the game session is about to begin. See also: "Speaking of [segue]..." , "When we last left our heroes..."

Sparklypoo, House Sparklypoo

  1. The (non-canon) fifth house at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry into which all the Mary Sues, furries, and other annoying self-insert characters are sorted. House colors are pink and gray, and the house mascot is a white winged unicorn with a rainbow mane.
  2. Used to mock any character who ought to be sorted into said house. Example: "So the ex-military guy is playing a sergeant of the town guard? Sorting Hat says Sparklypoo!"

spawn

Also respawn, pop, repop
To be created within the game world, usually referring to characters. Spawn and Pop are used synonymously when referring to NPC's or objects; when referring to PC's, only 'spawn' is used.

"Speaking of [segue]..."

As per "So, anyway...", while referencing the last topic of table talk to connect it to the current happenings of the game.

spec, specialize

  1. (noun) A primary set of character traits that focus on one specific area. (Example: I want to do a mace spec for my fighter, so I'll need to buy Stunning Blow and Crushing Hammer and max out my strength.)
  2. (verb) To have or to be working toward a particular spec. (Example: Why did you pick up that sword if you're speccing mace?)

speedbump

In a dungeon crawl scenario, a monster that offers absolutely no challenge to the PC's and is there solely as filler or to force a combat scene to slow progression through the dungeon.

splat

A predefined subset of a larger list of things (such as abilities, equipment, spells, etc) usually but not always with a specific theme or use that is gained by a character all at once, as opposed to being earned or purchased separately.

For example, upon creating a character and choosing the Warrior class, you might gain a 'splat' of 5-6 warrior-specific abilities to start with, then pick and choose further abilities during the course of play.

stack

  1. (noun) In general usage, a more-or-less orderly pile of things.
  2. (gamerese, verb) For an effect or condition to remain in place coincidentally with another (usually similar) effect. e.x. "The +5 bonus from the Elven Cloak will stack with the +5 from Black Boots, giving me a total of +10 agility." "The Blessing of Fortitude won't stack with itself; you can only cast it once on any target."

stat

In RPGs, the quantified variables which are chosen or randomized to represent the physical and mental characteristics of a character. Derived from the word 'statistic', but the two are not interchangeable. Also: Attribute, Characteristic, Score.

stat talk

Referring directly to a character's stats or abilities, especially when it would be inappropriate to do so such as any in-character speech.

stick jockey

A player in a LARP who only cares about hitting people with boffers instead of roleplaying. The LARP version of an adventure gamer.

Storyteller

Another term for a GM, usually used for GMs of White Wolf games.

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T

table talk

Discussion during a role-playing session unrelated to the game. Generally considered acceptable before or after the game session, but frowned upon during the actual game.

tabletop role-playing game

A roleplaying game played in-person in a sedentary social situation, usually around a table of some sort, that does not usually focus upon costuming and acting. The term was developed specifically to differentiate this style of play from LARPs and games played online.

tank

  1. (noun) A large receptacle, container, or structure for holding a liquid or gas
  2. (military) An armored, self-propelled combat vehicle, armed with cannon and machine guns and moving on a caterpillar tread.
  3. (gamerese) A character with a large amount of health and armor, designed specifically to withstand or absorb damage while keeping the enemy's attention off the other players.
  4. (gamerese, verb) To act as a tank under definition #3.

"Ten points for Gryffindor!" "Ten points for [housename]!"

Phrase used as an exclamation of approval for something done particularly well. Gryffindor is the most common, neutral expression, but often another of the Harry Potter houses is substituted in reference to either the person or the actions being praised. For example, if the person was the intelligent bookish sort, or the action involved heavy library research, someone might say "Ten points for Ravenclaw!" instead.

"that guy"

You know "that guy." Do not be "that guy."

token female gamer

The maximum number of female players that any adventure game can support is one. Said player will be the primary object of attention for the rest of the players and will guard her position jealously. Token female gamers can be either 'open' or 'closed'. Open token females will brazenly flirt, in- and out-of-character, with all the other male players in the group and often enter into short-lived relationships with various members in turn. Closed token females present an attitude of annoyance with any overt attempts by the group to flirt with her while still benefiting from the attention given to her by the group.

Roleplaying games may be able to support more female players in the group as the increased depth of story allows them to carve out niches for themselves to exist in, but they will be constantly at odds as they vie for attention except in rare cases where clear hierarchical relationships are laid out between certain characters.

torpedo

To knowingly take actions that will cause a game to fail with the possibility of breaking up the group, usually for out of game reasons. Contrast: scenario breaker.
Example: Joan was pissed at Kristy for hitting on her boyfriend so she torpedoed the game by having her character take a shit on the throne during the king's speech.

Total Party Kill

(noun/verb) An incidence of all the Player Characters dying in a single encounter which (rightfully or not) is blamed on the gamemaster.

Total Party Wipe

(noun/verb) An incidence of all the Player Characters dying in a single encounter which is blamed on the actions of the players themselves.

turn order

See: initiative order

twink

  1. (noun) A newly-created character who starts with items and abilities inherited from another character, usually of the same player. When used by anyone other than the owning player, the term is a pejorative denoting the character having an unfair advantage.
  2. (verb) To create a twink character and outfit them as such.

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U

Unholy Trinity

The PC combination of Tank, Healer, and DPS upon which most roleplaying games (and all computer roleplaying games) are built. The idea behind this strategy is the tank is heavily armored and can hold the opponents' attention, the healer keeps the tank from dying, and the DPS causes damage to the opponents.
(Good roleplaying games and GMs will set it up so this tactic is difficult if not impossible, forcing players to use strategy and creativity rather than falling back into this pattern.)

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V

vanilla RP

Also: Smile-Friendly RP
Roleplaying situations where no inter-player conflict is tolerated.

vanity roll

Also: random roll. A roll called for by the GM (or sometimes another player) with no real consequences on the game, used either for humor value or to determine something the GM or player doesn't want to decide on such as a character's current mood or whether a character notices something trivial.
Example:
GM: "Okay, give me a random Charisma roll."
Token Female Gamer: (rolls) "Uch, a 3."
GM: "So nothing happens. Anyway, you were just about to..."
TFG: "Wait, can I spend one of my re-rolls on it?"
GM: "Don't worry, it was just a vanity roll to see if that group of guys was checking you out."
TFG: (pause) "Can I spend all of my rerolls on that?"

vorpal

  1. (adjective) A weapon that always causes decapitations.
  2. Something ridiculously overpowered.

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W

Waking The Witch

To initiate something for which one is not prepared and should instead be avoided.
(From the behavior of the Witch in Left 4 Dead)

Wall of Fear and Ignorance, The

A gamemaster's screen. Also Screen
(From the name of the GM screen in the Paranoia RPG.)

wargaming

  1. In general usage, a simulated battle or campaign to test military concepts.
  2. (gamerese) A genre of gaming that (typically but not always) involves the use of miniatures to represent units and materiel on a playing surface usually modeled to represent the terrain in order to create battle scenarios between the two or more opposing forces.

Water Balloon Condom Solution

  1. A solution to a non-existent problem.
  2. A solution proposed by a player trying desperately to be clever and show off who ends up falling flat.

Addendum: Comes from an Aeon Trinity game where the principal PCs included a teenage shapeshifter, an electrokinetic scientist, and a British historian-slash-psychokinetic. Tasked with obtaining information from another electrokinetic individual, they track him to his hangout in a particular nightclub. Instead of entering, the historian tells the other two to lure the target into the back alley and disappears.

The remaining PCs enter the club and find the target maintaining a full-body hologram about his person, indicating that he was a photokinetic specialist (commanding lights, lasers, holograms, etc) rather than being an electricity specialist like the PC.

They do manage to lure the target into the alley, at which point the historian returns, having run to the corner store to purchase condoms and bottled water to make water balloons. He rains water balloons on the target then stands inches from his face taunting him about not being able to use his lightning powers anymore... at which point the GM informed the player that the person he was taunting was seconds from using his laser powers to blow a basketball-sized hole in the PC's torso. The game ended upon the following exchange.

PC (OOC): Okay then fine. How much damage can his laser do, anyway?

GM (OOC): About fifteen, give or take.

PC (OOC): How many hit points do I have?

GM (OOC): ... eight.

"What do you do?" "What does your character do?"

  1. A phrase used, often after the GM has gone to great lengths to set the current scene, as an interrogative to elicit participation by possibly zombified gamers.
  2. Spoken slightly differently, a warning phrase that the player spoken to had better hurry up and make a decision on their current action before their hesitation results in unfortunate consequences.

"When we last left our heroes..."

  1. An introduction used by a gamemaster about to relate the events of the game just prior to the start of the current session and to announce to players it is time to shut the hell up and pay attention.
  2. A leading phrase used by a gamemaster to indicate to the players that the game session is starting and they should all stop picking their noses and playing with their experience points and remind him what their characters were doing at the end of the last session.

Widow/Orphan Syndrome

The propensity for characters in roleplaying games to conveniently lack emotional and familial attachments to other people, whether out of fear of sadistic GMs using said ties against their characters or simply out of sheer laziness in creating the character's backstory.

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X

XP, x.p., exp

(abbreviation) Experience Points

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Y

"You all meet in a tavern."

Refers to the most clichéd way to start an adventure, skipping over character history and even introducing them to the other players in lieu of just getting to the good parts of the adventure.

"You all get a phone call."

The non-fantasy version of "You all meet in a tavern."

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Z

zerg rush: zerg, to

  1. A tactic which trades out strategy for numbers; usually involving weak/cheap units attacking quickly in large amounts.
  2. To take any action with overwhelming numbers, especially in situations where it would be seen as cheap and/or lazy to do so.

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