Dungeons & Dragons Glossary

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This page is intended as a repository for abbreviations and jargon used when discussing Dungeons & Dragons (or Pathfinder, generic d20 fantasy games etc.). While not all originated on the RPG.net D&D forum, a term should be used there before it appears on this list. It is not meant to be a glossary of game terms as presented in the rules, but rather terms invented by or primarily used by players, and not appearing in the books.


Entries should be in alphabetical order, with numbers preceding letters and symbols preceding numbers.

Each entry should be written like this:

;Term : '''Definition''' (context) - notes and/or explanation.

When formatted, it looks like this:

Definition (context) - notes and/or explanation.

Term is the abbreviation being defined. Definition should be brief; in most cases, it will simply be the full term which the acronym or abbreviation replaces. It can be omitted for terms which are not abbreviations. Any further explanation or notes should go after the dash. Where possible, include a context for the abbreviation; is the term used to describe a particular edition of D&D (3E, 3.5, 4E etc.), Pathfinder, FantasyCraft or some other game?



0[th] Edition - The original version of Dungeons & Dragons, the 3-Volume Set. The retronym came to refer to the true first edition of the game after the later but more popular Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition became known as "1E". Sometimes distinguished by the year of publication (1974) or box colors (the original woodgrain/brown or the later and more common white). See also LBB, OCE, OD&D, and Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.
Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition. See also Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.
Dungeons & Dragons, 3.5 Edition - a major update to the third edition rules. See also Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.
refers to both or either of 3E or 3.5, above. Also sometimes includes games derived from third edition D&D, especially Pathfinder and FantasyCraft. See also Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.
Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition. See also Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.
Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. Also known as "D&D Next" during it's development. See also Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.


Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - the "advanced" version of the game, a distinct line from the various "basic" versions of the first two editions. See also Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.
A-shaped class 
(4E) also "A class" or "A-class"; a class for which all builds share the same primary ability score, but have differing secondary ability scores. The Wizard is a good example: Intelligence is always primary, but Charisma, Constitution or Wisdom could be a good secondary score depending on what kind of spells you want to cast.
At-Will, Encounter, Daily (4E) - short hand for the basic division of power usage in "standard" 4E classes.


Basic Dungeons & Dragons - one term for the second branch in the fork that occurred when 0e split into "Basic" and "Advanced" lines. Started with the Holmes blue box in 1977 and continued through 1999 with the the B/X, BECMI, RC, black box, and later editions. "Basic" is something of a misnomer, since it only refers to three of the box sets (Holmes, Moldvay, and the first Menzter box) and levels from 1–3. See also Classic D&D and Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.
Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, and Immortals - the version of the game by Frank Menzter, delineated in Dungeons & Dragons Sets 1–5: Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, and Immortals Rules. Sometimes distinguished by the author, color of the first box set (red), year of release (1983 for the Basic Rules, though the Immortals Rules was not published until 1986), or the cover artist (Larry Elmore). In contrast to the more limited level range of the earlier Holmes and B/X sets, Mentzer's version provided rules for mortal characters of levels 1–36, and up to another 36 levels as immortals. See also BD&D, Classic D&D and Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.
black box
A reference to The New Easy-to-Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991), which came in a predominately black box. Served as the RC's "Basic Set", but unlike the earlier box sets, it covered levels 1–5. Sometimes loosely applied to any of the post-1989 introductory box sets, like the two printings of the Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game or the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game (only one of the versions of the Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game is primarily black).
blue box
The first Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (in 1977) was compiled by Eric J. Holmes, and comes in a blue box. Sometimes distinguished by the author/editor or the cover artist (David Sutherland). Covers levels 1–3. More closely related to 0e than any other edition, including the later Basic Sets.
Basic/eXpert - the version of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set by Tom Moldvay combined with the Expert Set by Dave Cook and Steve Marsh. Sometimes distinguished by the authors, color of the first box set (mauve/purple), year of release (1980 for both sets), or cover artist (Erol Otus). In contrast to the Holmes and BECMI sets, B/X covers levels 1–14. See also BD&D, Classic D&D and Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.


Character Builder (4E) - the official Dungeons & Dragons character creation software offered by Wizards of the Coast.
Classic D&D
A term used to refer variously to just BD&D, BD&D and 0e, or all pre-3E versions of D&D.


Either a 20-sided die, the d20 System, or the d20STL. The last two are often confused.
d20 System
The system underlying 3E, v.3.5, and 4E. See OGL, GSL.
d20 System Trademark License - a license from Wizards of the Coast that allowed third party vendors to use certain trademarks and logos (most notably the "d20" logo), and include a claim of compatibility in their products. During the d20 boom from 2000 to 2003, most third party d20 System products used the d20STL in conjunction with the OGL. The bust following WotC's v.3.5 led many third party vendors to abandon the d20STL, which was ultimately revoked by Wizards of the Coast in 2008 in favor of the GSL.
Dungeons & Dragons Insider (4E) - the online subscription service offered by Wizards of the Coast, including Dragon and Dungeon magazines and the Character Builder.


The stage of the game where characters retire from adventuring, build castles or other strongholds, and engage war and diplomacy. Often associated with name level.
(3.X) a variant where player characters stop gaining levels after level 6 and instead receive a feat every 5000xp.


(4E) the Battlemind character class from Player's Handbook 3.
flex stat 
(4E) a racial ability score bonus which can be applied to one of two (or more) scores. e.g. Minotaurs get +2 Strength, and +2 Constitution or +2 Wisdom. Introduced with the races in Player's Handbook 3, with later updates introducing this for nearly all races.


"Gaming System License": The successor to Wizard of the Coast's d20STL and OGL, released in 2008. Far more restrictive than either of its predecessors.


Little Brown Books - also "little brown booklets"; a nickname for the parchment-colored, digest-sized booklets in the 0e box set. The three volumes are Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures. Not to be confused with Traveller's "little black books". See also Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.


Multiple Ability Dependency (4E) - a class (or Paragon Path, etc.) that relies on more than one Ability Score; seen as a deficiency since this requires splitting points between abilities, and thus lower possible maximum scores.
A dungeon large enough to challenge an adventuring party for their entire career, from 1st level to the endgame. The campaigns played by the creators of the hobby (Gygax and Arneson) both featured megadungeons (Castles Blackmoor and Greyhawk), but no true examples were published during the peak of D&D's popularity. Considered one of the cornerstones of the OSR.


Non-Armor Class Defences (4E) - Shorthand for a character or monster's Fortitude, Reflex and Will defences.
name level
The level at which a character stops gaining new level titles (which are associated with each class and level in pre-3E versions of the game), often 9th. For example, a fighting-man in 0e is called a "Super Hero" at 8th level, a "Lord" at 9th level, and a "Lord, 10th Level" at 10th level. Since that is not a new descriptive title, the fighting-man reaches name level at 9th. Often considered the start of the endgame, and usually the point at which character advancement dramatically slows.


Original Dungeons & Dragons - also "Old Dungeons & Dragons". Among adherents of the OSR, the term has come to refer strictly to the edition represented by the 0e box set and the supplements, and often the Holmes Basic Set. Among the broader group of old school fans, the term is often used more broadly, and includes the rest of the BD&D line. There is some controversy over which is is the proper usage.
Old Geezer - the username of RPG.net poster Michael Mornard, who was a player in the original Castle Greyhawk campaign co-DMed by Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz in the early 1970s.
Open Game Content - any material released under the OGL.
Open Game License - an open-source license released by Wizards of the Coast in 2000 that allows third party vendors to use OGC, like the SRD. Commonly used in conjunction with the more restrictive d20STL until 2003.
Old school - a general adjective used to describe the style of early role-playing games. While primarily used to refer to D&D and its variants, the term can be more broadly applied to any early games. Different definitions have different cut off times; some exclude 3.X, 2E, 1E, everything but 0e, or various finer distinctions (lines are often drawn at AD&D 2nd edition's Player Option books, or 1E's Unearthed Arcana).
Old School Renaissance - also Old School Revolution or Old School Revival; the recent surge in popularity of older roleplaying games and styles. While partially attributable to the death of Gary Gygax in 2008, earlier retro games like HackMaster and Castles & Crusades (2006) tapped into the same sentiment. While there is a no true center or uniformity of opinion, the public face of the group is a fairly cohesive collection of games, magazines, message boards, publishers, and blogs (the most prominent of the latter being Grognardia). Common themes, as articulated in Finch's A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming, are megadungeons, sandbox campaigns, an emphasis on player rather than character skill, and a focus on rediscovering how the creators of the games actually played. There's a heavy focus on 0e, with a secondary focus on AD&D, specifically the pre-Unearthed Arcana 1st edition.


"Points of Light" land (4E) - the "implied setting" found in the core fourth edition books, which uses the "Points of Light" concept.
primary ability score 
(4E) the ability score upon which all or most of a class's attack powers are based. It is usually used for both the attack roll and damage rolls. A character should have a high score in their class's primary ability. For example, Strength is the primary ability score for Fighters.
(4E) a secondary effect granted by a power in addition to its main effect. Often dependent on a class's secondary ability score or choice of class feature.


Rules Cyclopedia - a single-volume version of Menzter's BECMI sets, compiled by Aaron Allston in 1991. See also Editions of Dungeons and Dragons.
red box
Usually refers to the first box set in the BECMI series by Frank Metzer; see BECI for full details. May also refer to the Fourth Edition Beginner's Box set, which was released in a nearly identical box.
A replica of an out of print version of a game. Originally and most commonly used to refer to clones of D&D. Based on the principle that the rules of a game cannot be copyrighted, only the specific expression of the rules. Many clones rely on the OGC to allow them to use trademarked terms and specific elements (like the names of spells, monsters, or game terms). Also known as a simulacrum.
(4E) A secondary effect of an attack power, often based on a class's secondary ability score. For example, the first-level Paladin power "Bolstering Strike" deals damage based on Charisma (it's main effect), and also grants bonus hit points based on Wisdom (the rider). Derived from the "rider" clause in famous band's contracts, which states what they expect to be provided for them backstage (drinks, beverages etc.) in addition to their payment.


A campaign style where there is no overarching plot driving the players toward a scripted conclusion. See metaplot.
secondary ability score 
(4E) an ability score which provides secondary bonuses to a class's powers, often in "riders" (q.v.).
System Reference Document - a compilation of Open Game Content (OGC) released under the Open Gaming Licence (OGL) by Wizards of the Coast (WotC). The original SRD included material from Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual, but later expansions added content from the Epic Level Handbook, Deities & Demigods, and Psionics Handbook. While most of Unearthed Arcana was also declared OGC, none of the material was added to the SRD. A d20 Modern SRD was also released, with material from the core rules, Modern Arcana, and the Menace Manual. Third party vendors have also adopted the terminology, with Anime, Fudge, and Traveller SRDs among many others.
Swords & Wizardry - a 0e retro-clone that comes in two versions. The Core Rules version replicates the 3-Volume Set plus selected material from the Supplements, primarily Greyhawk. Not a particularly faithful clone, because some elements were excluded (e.g. no thieves), there is support for both ascending and descending AC, and the five saves have become a single number. The White Box is the Core Rules minus all material not in the original 3-Volume Set.


Tactical Studies Rules - the company founded by Gary Gygax and Don Kaye in 1973 to publish Dungeons & Dragons. It later become known as TSR Hobbies, then TSR Inc. It owned and operated many properties including D&D, various war games, fantasy fiction, and the Gen Con gaming convention. After a decline in profits, its licenses were bought by Wizards of the Coast in 1996, and many sold off to other entities.


V-shaped class 
(4E) also "V class" or "V-class"; a class which offers a choice of primary ability score, depending on build, but always uses the same secondary ability score. The Warlock is a good example; they might choose Constitution or Charisma as a primary ability score depending on their build and pact, but Intelligence is always a good choice for a secondary score.


Wizards of the Coast - current developers, publishers and owners of Dungeons & Dragons.