RPG Lexica:STU

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Skarka's Law
This is an observation, originally attributed to now banned RPGnet poster Gareth Skarka, that there is no subject so vile or indefensible that someone won't post positively/in defense of it.

The law is generally intended as a roundabout way of saying the person invoking the law is correct and the person the law is invoked against is an idiot.

A character with high skill, usually considerably over and above the skills of other characters. Implies that these skills are the main thrust of the character. Often concentrated in a particular area; for example, he may be very good at thief skills, enabling him to steal almost anything with impunity, or at social skills, making him a master con man.

A german expression (SpielLeiterFicken) that is used when it becomes obvious that the GM's "Significant Other" is getting an advantage of being the significant other. Also used when a player tries to charm a GM of the opposite sex into doing as they wish.

A player who attempts to ensure their character has abilities that are unique or rare in the setting, usually writing a character background focused on attempting to justify this. Taken from the classic children's observation that "every snowflake is unique", or possibly from the movie Fight Club, in which Tyler Durden tells recruits that ".. you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.."

Social Contract
The (often unstated) rules that govern the interactions taking place during an RPG. Not a statement of basic social etiquette, which is assumed to be in force regardless: rather the social contract of an RPG defines the expectations and responsibilites of the players with regard to the entertainment of the RPG session. For example, many games have the rule that the GM may break the rules if doing so is to the good of the game; the social contract would include the definition of what "the good of the game" means in the particular group. As mentioned above, these are often unstated and not discussed, which can later lead to friction in the group.

Social Skills Problem
A problem arising in many RPGs where social skills are modelled as part of the rules system. The typical problem is that resolving the results of these skills via a simple dice roll, as usually mandated by the rules, will leave the players and GM with no idea of what was actually said or done by the character - highly unsatisfactory. On the other hand, if the player is required to speak in-character and to play out the social situation, then the situation will be determined by the player's social skills, not the character's.

Specialisation problem
A game balance (q.v.) problem arising in games where characters are able to specialise in particular fields. Typically, the problem arises when a group contains only a single specialist in a particular area: any hazard in that area that is challenging to the specialist is utterly impossible for the other characters, leaving their players with nothing to do but sit and grow bored; and any hazard that would be challenging but possible for the other characters is trivially solved by the specialist, again leaving the non-specialist players with nothing to do. (A concrete example would be, in the d20 system, a fighter with a +22 attack bonus and a wizard with a +2 bonus. Any enemy that the wizard has a chance of hitting, the fighter can never miss; and any enemy that the fighter will not always hit, the wizard will never hit. D&D introduces special rules for handling very high attack bonuses to prevent exactly this situation arising.) This can lead to player boredom and disengagement and in extreme cases may result in players attempting to manipulate the game story to ensure their characters' specialised talents get used and those of other characters do not.

The general term for a subgroup of characters, especially one that player characters are expected to belong to. Origin: back-construction from "splatbook".

Any of a series of books going into extensive detail on a small subgroup of characters in a RPG, especially a group that player characters are expected to belong to. The implication is that the series of books are similar enough that their titles are interchangeable except for one word. White Wolf makes several of these, such as the various "Clanbook: ______" books for Vampire: The Masquerade, each of which details one specific Clan.
Origin: From "splat" as a name for the asterisk (*) character (which itself is because of the squashed-bug appearance of the asterisk on early dot-matrix printers), and the fact that the asterisk usually means "Match with anything" when used in searches in computer documents or on the command-line. (For example, the above books could be found by searching for "Clanbook: *" in some editor programs.)

A numeric value representing a character's competence at something. A shortening of statistic, used in reference to player statistics in sports which are used to retroactively measure the sportsperson's performance in terms of what they have previously achieved. In RPGs, the numbers are set by other methods and then used to calculate the character's performance and achievements in the future. Thus they are technically parameters rather than statistics, but the name has stuck.

Stinking Cloud
An infamous Dungeons & Dragons magic spell which causes clouds of caustic green vapor to be emitted by the spell caster. Also, sarcastically, the aftereffects of the typical game-table diet.

Superheroes, types of
Superhero RPGs enable players to play characters with any of several types of powers, like the characters in comic books. Certain combinations of powers and abilities occur frequently enough that shorthand terms have been created for them.
The following are some of the more common terms:
  • Brick: A character whose primary attribute is high strength (Superman, the Hulk, the Thing from the Fantastic Four), especially in systems like Hero in which Strength adds to defenses, making them tougher. Sometimes applied to games in other genres to refer to high-strength characters (such as a typical D&D fighter).
  • Dex Monster: A character whose primary attribute is high Dexterity. Usually has good weapon skill, classic “thief skills”, and is often quicker than other characters (though not as quick as a speedster, below).
  • Egoist: A Hero term for a Mentalist, below, since the main statistic they use in Hero is called “Ego”.
  • Energy Projector: A character that “throws” an energy discharge of some sort, such as a fire blast, lightning bolt, or just the blast of destructive energy typical of many comic book characters. Originally a Champions term.
  • Gadgeteer: A character that relies on technical ability and machines. May be applied to characters from other genres as well.
  • Martial Artist: A character that relies on hand-to-hand combat skill without necessarily having high strength. Usually skilled in Eastern martial arts (or fake pseudo-Eastern super martial arts).
  • Mentalist: A character that uses “mental powers” such as Telepathy or Telekinesis; in RPGs, often has a mental attack power that hurts someone they can contact telepathically. Also called a Psi, Psionic or Psychic. (Examples: Professor X, Jean Grey)
  • Powersuit: A character whose powers are granted by a powered suit of some sort, which provides protection, increased strength, and often other powers such as flight. Implies the person in the suit is either “normal” or comparatively weak without it (i.e., it's the suit that has the powers, not the pilot). Also called a Powered Armor, Battlesuit, or Suitguy. (Examples: Iron Man, M.A.N.T.I.S. from the short-lived TV show of the same name)
  • Speedster: A character whose primary power is high speed, often fast enough to be invisible when moving at full speed. Classic examples: The Flash, Impulse.
Note that these can be combined... Batman, for example, is a Gadgeteer/Martial Artist (and, in the movies, a Suitguy... sort of).

Symbiote problem
A spinoff of the specialization problem that arises when a group of PCs is composed entirely of specialists, each specialised in a different field. Because typically no individual PC will be able to survive or progress in any challenging situation that is not his/her specialty, the group is forced to stick together at all times, and tus almost all significant actions (such as where the group should travel next) will have to be decided on by the group as a whole or by a designated leader. This can damage the players' ability to role-play their characters as well as making the game session very boring for players other than the group leader who may get to do nothing in the session but declare when they are making use of their specialty. This problem is especially insidious because the group of specialists is often considered the best possible make-up for a party.


As a noun, an extremely tough character capable of taking lots of damage.
As a verb, for a character to deliberately place themselves in harm's way on the basis that if they didn't do so, another more vulnerable character would be there instead. This is a critical technique for protecting weaker party members in most RPGs. (This meaning is similar to meat shield, but with no implied pejorative.)
As a noun, also, any strategy for defeating an enemy that is based on resisting that enemy's attacks.

Total Party Kill
Any course of action in a RPG that results in the entire party of player characters winding up either dead or incapacitated. May be the result of bad tactics (the party biting off more than it can chew), bad luck (rotten rolls for PCs combined with excellent rolls for the opposition), or bad GMing (say, the GM cheating because he's annoyed at the players).

Abbrevation for (check for) Traps, Listen, Pick - the standard behaviour of a thief or rogue character when encountering an unknown door in a dungeon that the party needs to pass through.

Abbreviation for Total Party Kill. Sometimes verbed: "Man, I'm never playing with Ernie again... he had an argument with his girlfriend and retaliated by TPKing the entire group!"

Abbreviation for Tabletop Role Playing Game or Table Talk Roleplaying Game. An alternate abbreviation used in Japan, where the abbrevation RPG is usually taken to mean CRPG.

A player who avoids taking any action during the game unless it is either clearly necessary for their character's safety or obviously prompted by the GM. This behaviour is usually the result of one of several beliefs developed from previous RPGing experience: a) that the GM's job is to subject their characters to adversity, and therefore they must minimize the opportunities the GM has to do so, or b) that the GM is intending to railroad them and thus any proactive action would be doomed to fail as it would disrupt the railroad. Convincing a player who has learned to turtle to stop doing so is often extremely challenging.
Also, v. Turtling, to refer to this behavior.


"Use the force, Luke!"
(movie quote) usu. spoken to someone about to try something extremely difficult or that cannot be done under normal conditions.
Addendum: From George Lucas' 1977 magnum opus Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. Spoken by the recently deceased Obi-Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) to the young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

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