RPG Lexica:DEF

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Abbreviation for dice, either upper or lower cased. Because dice are used so frequently in role-playing and other forms of games, an abbreviated notation is used for describing dice types, consisting of two numbers seperated by a letter 'd'. The number before the 'd' indicates how many dice are referred to (omitted if only one), and the number after indicates how many sides are on the dice. The common cubic dice is a d6 (six-sided), but other dice shapes designed for gaming include the d4, d8, d10, d12, and d20. For example, 5d6 indicates "5 six-sided dice". This can be further extended with mathematical symbols, indicating a math operation should be applied to the result shown on the dice after they are rolled: 5d6+3 indicates "roll 5 six-sided dice, add them up (the default way of calculating the result of multiple dice), then add 3 to the result". A further extension, not so popularly used, adds the letter "k" (for "keep") to indicate that having rolled the dice, not all of the dice should be added up; the number after the "k" indicates how many dice results should be added. For example, "4d6k3" means that 4 six-sided dice should be rolled, then 3 of those results (usually the highest) selected and added together to give the final result.

An example of the d- notation, but also a special case. Although 100-sided dice do exist (specifically the "Zocchihedron"), they are relatively rare; the more common way of rolling a d100 is to roll two d10s, designating one as the tens digit and one as the units.

A twenty-sided dice; also a generic roleplaying system controlled by Wizards Of The Coast. The d20 system is a customizable generic system based on a twenty-sided dice (hence the name), and reusable freely by authors under certain terms and conditions. These terms and conditions include the need to seek explicit approval to refer to the game as supporting "d20" (a controlled trademark), and the provision that certain key rules must be omitted from third-party games, thus forcing players to purchase books produced by Wizards Of The Coast in order to obtain them. The impact of the d20 system on the hobby has been considerable, and players are divided as to whether the strong adoption of a common system for games has simplified and streamlined the hobby, or whether it has harmed the hobby by reducing diversity and forcing games to be written with a system which does have documented flaws and is not necessarily ideal for every setting.

An apparant example of the d- notation, but in fact a special case; there is no such thing as a 666-sided dice. The d666 system was used in the game In Nomine, in which players take the roles of either demons or angels. To "roll a d666", the player rolls 3d6, allocating two of the dice to be added together to indicate whether they have succeeded or failed at a task, and the one remaining dice to be read alone to indicate the magnitude of the success or failure. A roll of 6-6-6 is a critical if the player is playing a demon, or a fumble if the player is playing an angel; a roll of 1-1-1 is vice versa.

Darkness Isn't Dark
A phrase indicating that a given game system is acknowledged to be flawed, but is played anyway because it delivers a good entertainment experience. "But it doesn't make sense!" "What do you expect? In this game darkness isn't dark."
Origin: From the Dungeons and Dragons revised third edition, in which the Darkness spell was described as creating "an area of shadowy illumination" in which it was hard to see. Since "shadowy illumination" is still better than no illumination at all, this implied that casting Darkness in a room that was already pitch dark would make it lighter.

(from this episode of the webcomic "Full Frontal Nerdity") A situation where the gamemaster screws over the players by pulling some arbitrary element the players "forgot to consider" out of his ass. Can be extended to any situation where the GM complicates the PCs' lives with something arbitrary that they haven't had to deal with until now.
Note: the comic actually explains it better than I do...

Dice Pool System
A game system in which a player is given a particular number of dice, each of which may be rolled only once before being taken away from them. When a dice roll is needed, the player can choose to roll any number of dice from the pool; choosing more dice increases the probability of a better result, but also consumes the limited number of dice in the pool faster. Usually, some game action or the passage of some amount of time will cause all dice to be restored to the pool.

Said when a character has just gained a level or otherwise reached a significant point of advancement. Origin: The online RPG EverQuest, which played a dinging sound effect when a PC gained a level; this convention was adopted by several other online RPGs.

Dungeon Crawl
A style of gameplay wherein the main activity is the mapping and conquest of underground regions. Such regions are usually man-made "dungeons" wherein various different creatures make their residence with little regard to ecology, economy, or common sense. Generally a very combat-oriented type of gameplay, and thus usually a subset of Hack and Slash.


An acronym for "Elf Dwarf Orc", a label for games or settings which wallow in the stereotypes of high fantasy established by the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and the game Dungeons & Dragons. Specifically refers to the tendency of these games to always feature these three races as primary elements, even if there is no compelling reason to do so.

Exploding Dice
The term for open-ended rolls that may potentially give very high results; more often, a specific roll that does so. So named because the results of these die rolls are generally low, with a few slightly higher... and then a very few that are ridiculously high, usually resulting in very extreme results. (see critical hit, and multiply it.)
An exploding dice result at the right time can change a game (or even a gameworld) radically. The best ones are right at the climax of an adventure, to do things like destroy the villain and his plans utterly; unfortunately, Murphy's Law says you're probably going to see them at either unimportant rolls (like a simple Vision Check to spot a light on a panel), or at times when an extreme result would be bad (such as trying to knock out someone without killing them). Murphy's law also says your opposition will get them at the absolute worst time.


Fantasy Heartbreaker
A label for a specific kind of RPG, examples of which surface with regularity in the hobby. Common elements include publication by a small company or vanity press, a length of several hundred pages, a rule system with deliberately baroque aspects and an incorporated setting built from generic fantasy tropes (see EDO above). Inevitably the writers of such games are trying to approach the same assumptions used by D&D and improve on the systems built from them. These games are Heartbreakers because their creators have obviously put a great deal of time and effort into getting them published, but the chances of them finding a niche in a field so thoroughly dominated by the established leader is nil. The term was originated by Ron Edwards in a series of essays posted on the Forge (see below).

Filing Off the Serial Numbers
An expression used when a rule, setting or other element of an RPG has obviously been heavily influenced or outright copied from another design. Not so much an accusation of blatant plagiarism as a bemused observation of not having fully acknowledged one's antecedents. Derived from the method allegedly used to render handguns untraceable, or by auto theives to render a stolen vehicle or part untraceable.

Fine Red Mist
What is said to be left of a character who has just taken an obscene amount of damage, much more than what was needed to kill him. As an example, a character who was right next to a large bomb when it went off could be said to have been "reduced to a fine red mist".

An abbreviation of "Friendly Local Game Store", referring to traditional store-based game retailers. Generally acknowledged as important to the hobby, such stores provide a visible presence, space to play and a community gathering point. They are nearly always small locally owned businesses, run by individuals with a personal stake in the hobby rather than distant entrepreneurs. However, they are notoriously short-lived and poorly managed as their owners often lack adequate business training and experience. Expertly managed, prosperous FLGS's do exist, but in recent years they are continuously under threat from online booksellers who can typically undercut their prices easily due to a lack of comparable overhead.

Slang for the parts of a RPG book other than the rules--such as setting details, game fiction, history, et cetera. Usually contrasted with Crunch, which is the actual rules.

Forge, the
The Forge (originally "Hepheastus's Forge") is a discussion website for RPG players and designers which attempts detailed, almost scientific-level analysis, of game playing. It was created and is still run by Ron Edwards, author of the independant game Sorceror, and originally showcased several documents written by him describing the design principles followed in that game (although these are now considered to have been superceded by discussion and have been moved to a less prominent location). Advocates of the Forge claim that the discussion there is strongly stimulating and inspiring, encourages the development of new ideas, and has been responsible for the development of some of the best independant RPGs avaliable; critics claim that the discussion is over-analytical, incomprehensible to outsiders, and ultimately vacuous, and that those independant RPGs would have been developed anyway regardless of whether their authors had participated in the Forge or not.

  1. As a verb, for a GM to clandestinely modify aspects of a game system, known to him and not the players, that would otherwise be random or impartial. Thus, the GM may be said to “fudge the dice”. The term usually carries the implication of pushing things towards the players' benefit in the cause of improving the game experience for all involved. For example, ignoring a situational modifier and declaring that a character succeeded in striking a mighty blow against a protagonist during a climactic confrontation. A strict interpretation of the game's resolution method would say otherwise, but it better serves the dramatic needs of the game for the blow to be struck.
  2. As a noun, a specific RPG written by Steffan O'Sullivan in collaboration with the newsgroup rec.games.design. Besides having a strong influence on subsequent designs, noteworthy for being the first significant “open source” RPG.

Skill in ___, especially if the approach to that could be said to come from extensive learning or training. Often used with pseudo-Zen sentence constructions, such as "My _____-fu is strong." to indicate a high level of skill.
Origin: Generalization of the -fu in "kung-fu". (Note that this is actually wrong: according to Dictionary.com, it's the "kung" part that denotes skill.)
GM: "How the hell did you manage to create a character this powerful at the starting level?"
Player: "My chargen-fu is strong."

A rare dice result indicating a catastrophic failure at a task. Typically a fumble will be a failure regardless of the task attempted, and may be a worse failure than a non-fumble would have been.

Funky Dice
Dice of a form other than the regular "cubes with pips" most people think of at mention of the word dice; see D above. Since four-sided, eight-sided, ten-sided and other such non-traditional randomn number generators see little use outside of the RPG hobby, they are generally only available from specialty retailers (such as a FLGS) and thus the acquiring of one's first set of Funky Dice is often an early step of initiation for a beginning gamer.

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