RPG Lexica:MNO

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Mary Sue
An RPG character obviously designed as a supremely competent version of the real person designing the character. (A Mary Sue need not be female, or even human.)
Origin: According to this site, from a 1970's Star Trek FanFic starring "Lieutenant Mary Sue, StarFleet's Youngest Lieutenant".

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.

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.

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.

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 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.


A term with multiple different meanings, mostly derived either from the real myths surrounding Ninjas or from the famous spoof website, "Real Ultimate Power".
  • 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.


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 may need to seek the author's permission to use it in any game you are designing.)

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).

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