RPG Lexica:MNO

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Mary Sue
An RPG character obviously designed as a supremely competent version of the real person who made and plays that character. A Mary Sue need not be female, though sometimes a male equivalent term Gary or Marty Stu is used.
Origin: According to this site, from a 1970's Star Trek FanFic starring "Mary Sue, StarFleet's Youngest Lieutenant". Based on this story, the witticism arose that, "A Mary Sue is braver than Kirk, smarter than Spock, more skilled than McCoy and is sleeping with all three." Please note that the original Lieutenant Mary Sue was written in parody of a type of Star Trek fanfic common at the time.

Meat shield
Derogatory term for a fighter or NPC which is notionally used to protect the more vulnerable spellcasters in a party from harm, as a metal or wooden shield protects a fighter from harm.

In anime, a term for mechanical powersuits or robots (often humanoid). A popular feature of anime-styled role-playing games, such as Votoms or Bubblegum Crisis, which are based on their respective anime series. Usually large and powerful enough to wipe out most conventional combatants (even tanks) by themselves. Also, used specifically to refer to games where mecha play a major part, such as BattleTech.
It's worth noting that, in anime, where the term comes from, "mecha" is simply short for "mechanical" and the term is used for all mechanical devices. So, a bicycle is a "mecha" by that definition. However, the westernized version of the term is almost universally used to describe a futuristic or otherwise non-standard vehicle which usually has a semi-humanoid form, like a giant pilotable humanoid robot.

Generically, enough damage to kill a human being instantly, see also fine red mist and chunky salsa. Specifically, a (dubious) trademark of Palladium Books indicating vehicle-scaled damage; because of the lack of rigorous design rules in Palladium there are such things as mega-damage personal weapons and body armor. Most egregiously visible in Rifts.

This concept exists on two levels. On the smaller, local level, it refers to the greater narrative the GM is using to connect the group's individual adventures and make them relevant to the campaign world. On the larger, commercial level it describes the tendency of professional game companies to alter their published settings over time via events described in published supplements.
Commercial metaplots are generally perceived as a mixed blessing. Though they can offer gaming groups an easy source of narrative drive and adventure ideas, they also represent changes not under the control of the players or GM. A commercial metaplot may contradict earlier assumptions about the setting or, at worst, run roughshod over the character's initiative by introducing grand, sweeping events under the direction of powerful NPC's which the player characters have no hope of influencing, leaving them essentially spectators to someone else's story. Several World of Darkness games from White Wolf are in particular infamous for this latter transgression. It is arguable that such metaplots exist mainly to sell books, as fans try to keep abreast, rather than to in any way enhance play.

Min-max, min-maxing
To carefully tweak a character during chargen so as to optimize the character for one thing, usually combat, often at the expense of other aspects of the character; or, to tweak a character to take advantage of quirks in the rules to do the same thing.

To badly tweak a character during chargen so that they are incompetent and/or unplayable in the situations that arise in the course of an adventure. A parody of min-max. See also gimp (q.v.)

This is a derogatory comment towards a player character which is usually useless in a specific game because of a focus on an area of skill the game doesn't often involve. Ex: "Your Vagabond character was so useless in the Rifts game last night. You're such a Minmei."
The term comes from the Robotech TV series character of the same name. Minmei was a beauty queen and singer who, at one point, proved instrumental in defeating the Zentraedi armada in that series, but she was useless and irritating the remainder of the time.
"Minmei" and "Minmay" are two separate things. The former is the name of the irritating and untalented character from the Macross era of Robotech. The latter is the name of the significantly less irritating and more musically skilled character from the original, non-Robotech related, Macross anime. Using the wrong spelling can get you lynched in Macross fandom circles.

Mr. Johnson
Especially in a cyberpunk game: a mysterious and anonymous figure who gives the player characters their mission. Notable mostly because the players are meant to understand that the Mr. Johnson cannot be trusted, but are usually required to accept the mission anyway because it is mutually accepted that it will be the basis of future play. Taken from the RPG Shadowrun.

An NPC, in particular one who performs limited ranges of simplistic behaviour. Used in online RPGs to identify NPCs who are automatically controlled by the game program, rather than those who are played by human GMs.
Origin: Short form of mobile, the term coined by Richard Bartle for these characters in early computer RPGs. On reading the research paper which coined the term, one of the reviewers is said to have thought this a "beautiful analogy to those hanging toys used in baby's cribs, which move around seemingly as if alive, in spite of being constructed of mechanical parts". Bartle replied that this was indeed a beautiful analogy, and he would have been delighted if he had thought of it; he used the term "mobile" simply to indicate that they could move, which other computer-controlled objects couldn't.

Monty Haul
The term monty haul is a play on the name Monty Hall, a co-creator and emcee of television's Let's Make A Deal, where contestants bought, sold, and traded goods. In gaming, monty haul refers to role-playing for the purpose of attaining rewards, particularly treasure. The term monty haul has been applied to campaigns, players (munchkin), and referees (candy man). Monty haul playing has been cited as a good way to introduce children to gaming, as it has a high excitement factor, large rewards and low risks for continued involvement - so long as the GM knows other styles to move on to when the kids get bored of Monty Hauling (which they will).

An adversary whose power is significantly beneath that of any single player character and has no real chance of inflicting serious harm. Not so much a full antagonist as an obstacle or dramatic device, whose only purpose is to make the heros look good by being easy to defeat. Often a faceless member of a horde. Two classic non-rpg examples of mooks can be found in cinema: the gangs of masked ninja rushing at the heroes of countless old kung-fu movies, and the stormtroopers of Star Wars. As a gaming term, the word originates in Feng Shui, which has rules for simulating the disposable nature of "mooks" as opposed to more competent "named characters". More and more games are making a distinction between mooks and more substantial opponents.

One of the most controversial terms in RPGs. A good argument could be made that it means "any player I don't like", but most people reserve the term for a specific type of bad player...
My own definition: a player who, through inexperience or immaturity, disrupts the game to the detriment of the other players, usually by any or all of the following:
  • Creating a character that's inappropriate to the setting (Classic definition: A munchkin is someone who, in a game of courtly politics and intrigue in 16th century France, wants to play a ninja.)
  • Insisting his character either is or has to be the absolute best at everything he does.
  • Roleplays poorly, seeing his character (and the other characters) as mere game pieces, without personality or motivations beyond advancing in the game.
  • Relating to the last one: approaching all problems, obstacles, and frustrations with violence as a first resort
  • Attempting to "win" the game, even at the expense of the other players, in situations where it would be inappropriate.

also Norm (short for "Normal"); specific games or settings may have their own term (such as "baseline" in the Aberrant world)
  1. In games, someone of merely human ability, in contrast to those with super abilities or enhancements (i.e., the PCs, usually).
  2. By extension, Outside of games, refers to some one outside the "fandom", i.e., one who does not game, and isn't interested in the things gamers are (such as sci-fi, anime, et cetera; see Geek)

Murphy's Law
"Anything that can go wrong, will." The premier law of the universe.
Notes: What most people call Murphy's Law (above) is actually Finagle's Law (or, in the UK, Sod's Law). Murphy's Law is more specific: "If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways will result in disaster, someone will do it." It was originally "If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will"--referring to the technician who had just placed a series of sensors the wrong way around on the test subject of an accelleration experiment. Edward Murphy - then a Major in the United States Air Force - was the lead scientist.
Murphy's Law is in this lexicon because, since RPGs are simulations of important (fake) events in people's (fake) lives, it crops up a lot. In particular, when making an elaborate plan, it is often necessary to include contingency plans in case of a fumble at a critical moment. (See Whiff for further details)
See also: WikiPedia's entry on "Murphy's Law"

Murphy's Rule
(or just "Murphy"). A game rule which has bizarre or humourous consequences when applied to certain situations - typically those which would logically exist in the game world but are not those which the game was designed to model. A "murphy" can also be a description of the consequences of applying a rule to an outlandish situation, stated not as a criticism of the rules but purely for the comedy value. Originally coined as the name of a cartoon appearing in Pyramid Magazine. A few examples of the typical format:
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, characters have a "Dexterity" stat, which is in fact used to represent agility as well as actual dexterity. Thus, every talented clockmaker is also a talented gymnast, and vice versa;
  • In The Riddle of Steel, in character generation the player must rank several properties of their character in order of importance. Ranking "social standing" last results in the PC being a slave. If the player has done this, all other aspects (such as combat skill, magical ability, etc) will have been rated higher than they otherwise could have been, thus meaning that slaves are the most talented and skilled people in the setting;
  • In the second edition of Hong Kong Action Theatre, an actor's fame is the only factor taken into consideration when assigning them to roles, thus enabling Arnold Schwarzenegger to be cast as a kung-fu ballerina.


Naked Dwarf Syndrome
A "Murphy's Rule (see above) from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay First Edition. It arose from the fact that armour and the Toughness stat were both subtracted from damage. Since Toughness differences were higher than the maximum armour value, a naked Dwarf was less likely to take damage from an attack than a human in full armour.

Negative critical
A case where a critical result on a dice roll, which is normally the best possible, can have a negative effect on a player. An example is a PC attempting to deliberately lightly wound another PC who accidentally rolls a critical hit and kills them. Although in line with the original intent of a critical hit, some groups instead play that a critical is always successful by whatever standard of success the player wishes, so in this case a critical would actually do only a small amount of damage.

When something is reduced in power or effectiveness, it is said to be nerfed. "The Super Fist power got nerfed. It used to do 4d6 damage and now only does 1d6 damage." The term originates from the padded nerf toys which are ineffectual at causing real harm as true toys of their nature would be. The term came into it's present gaming applicable usage by way of computer MMORPGs, where reducing the effectiveness of powers is the standard way of resolving game balance issues (to avoid an "arms race" that could result if powers were increased in effectiveness)

A term with multiple different meanings, mostly derived either from the real myths surrounding Ninjas or from the famous spoof websites, "Real Ultimate Power" and "Ninja Burger".
  • As a noun, used with the original meaning: the Japanese term for an assassin, particularly one making use of stealth.
  • As a noun, any character designed around the concepts of stealth, hand-to-hand combat, and one-hit kills.
  • As a noun, a character which is sought-after for "coolness" value, and whose abilites are overestimated, even if irrelevant or ineffective in the particular situation or setting. ("Of course I can dodge the bullets of a machine-gun on full auto - I'm a ninja!")
  • As an adjective, sneaky or cunning.
  • As an adjective, highly skilled in general.
  • As a verb, to accomplish something in a highly skillful or spectacular way.

No Myth
Play operating under a social contract in which all players and the GM acknowledge that the Impossible Thing Before Breakfast is impossible, and also acknowledge that the GM cannot maintain every detail of the world or universe at once. The goal is to eliminate railroading from the roleplay experience, and move the things which railroading is intended to prevent (players running amok and destroying the plot, or demanding things the GM can't know) into the social contract.

NPC Theater
When NPC's, typically more powerful than the PCs, are allowed to take over a scene, making the PC's merely spectators in the NPC theater.


OGL, Open Gaming License
A general purpose gaming license which was originally written by Wizards of the Coast, which allows reuse of parts of games published under it in a similar manner as open source software. OGL is somewhat controversial in its use of "product identity," especially when the publisher makes little or no effort to mark out what content is open and what content is closed.
OGL Heartbreaker
A game which, although it has an original world, uses an open-licensed gaming system or variation thereof instead of a system that is unique to that game world. Typically called a "Heartbreaker" because either the system used proves to be a poor means for conveying the intended feel of the setting, or it has no hope of finding a niche in the market because the generic system chosen already has a market leading game in the same genre.

One Roll Engine
A unique dice system designed by Greg Stolze and used in the game Godlike. Rather than trying to match a particular target number, the player rolls a number of dice based on their character's competence and are deemed to have succeeded if two or more of those dice roll the same value. The unique property of this system is that a single roll delivers two results: the number of dice that matched, and the value they matched on.
Note: this system is copyrighted, so you must seek the author's permission to use it in any game you are designing.

One True
A sarcastic term used to imply that a particular system, rule, or principle is being advocated above all others, as in "the One True System" or "the One True Way". A great example of this can be found on ENWorld with the user named Diaglo who regularly asserts that OD&D is the "One true game, and all others are pale imitations."

Open-ended roll
Any dice rolling system which includes the rule that any dice which rolls its maximum result should be rolled again, with the new roll added to the previous one to determine the final result. For example, if a 5 is rolled on an open-ended d6, the result is 5; but if a 6 is rolled, the dice is rolled again, and if a 4 is rolled on the second roll the overall result is 10 (the 4 just rolled plus the 6 rolled previously).
See also: Exploding Dice

Ouija board gaming
Any form of gaming in which the players have a strong expectation and desire for what they want out of the game, but refuse to take direct action to obtain it in the belief that it should "arise naturally" from other play. A classic example is players who want engaging and heroic stories but actually play highly gamist systems, many of which actually penalise heroic play, in the hope that a engaging or heroic plot points will arise by chance as a result of the operation of the standard gamist rules (for example, a PC attempting a valuable task they have little chance of succeeding on and getting a lucky roll - the problem being that most of the time, the PC will not get a lucky roll and the valuable task will fail, hurting the developing plot). The term was coined by Ron Edwards as an analogy to the boards supposedly used by mediums to contact spirits, where all participants in a session want the glass to move (so that there's a point to the session) but none want to move it (because doing so would confound the idea that the glass is being moved by supernatural forces).

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