Dungeons and Dragons Lingo & Vocabulary Guide

When you are learning to play Dungeons & Dragons, there is a lot of common lingo and vocabulary used by players that aren’t in any official rulebooks or are acronyms of the rules that you may not associate with a specific rule.  This can make it difficult for new players to understand what is being said during a game, or if they are reading forums about D&D.

This page will assist you in learning the most commonly used terms as well as a few others.

Dungeons and Dragons Lingo

This is a list of common terms used when playing D&D. It includes common lingo or slang, as well as words that are commonly used in the D&D community but aren’t part of the rules.

  • 3rd party – content from an unofficial publisher that is not Wizards of the Coast.
  • Beer & pretzel game – a casual game style where the focus is more on fun than rules.
  • Botch – to botch a dice roll is to roll really poorly, usually a 1.
  • Broken – when a game mechanic doesn’t work well or is overpowered or underpowered.
  • Buff – Or buffing, when you do something (eg. cast a spell or drink a potion) to add benefits to someone.
  • Character interaction – the interactions between characters when playing.
  • Core rules – content from the core rulebooks, that is the Players Hand Book, the Dungeon Masters Guide, and the Monster Manual.
  • Crit – critical hit (see Critical Hit definition below in vocabulary).
  • Dungeon crawl – a style of play where you are generally romping through a dungeon and fighting monsters rather than focusing on a storyline and roleplaying.
  • Fluff – used to describe backstory or story descriptions that have no impact on the game.
  • Homebrew – content or rule sets the DM has made up.
  • House rule – a rule created by the DM for only your game.
  • Metagaming – a character unfairly using the knowledge they have acquired out of the game within the game.
  • Min-maxing – when a player creates their character with the intent of making their stats as powerful as possible.
  • Murderhobo – a player who always chooses to fight and murder people rather than social interaction and trying to work things out in a different way.
  • Nat20 – rolling a natural 20, i.e. rolling a 20 on a 20-sided dice, which generally is an instant success or critical hit.
  • Nerf – Or nerfing, is the opposite of buffing, that is when you make a player weaker in some way.
  • Number crunching – how much you refer to the rules of the game and how much you are looking at stats rather than role-playing.
  • One-shot – a single stand-alone game session.
  • Railroading – when the DM leads the characters down a specific path on their adventure.
  • Reskin – changing the flavor or description of a monster or item to something else in order to make it fit the storyline better.
  • Rule of Cool – when the DM allows something because it’s fun.
  • Rules lawyer – a player who wants to stick to the rules exactly as written and will always call them out if misplayed, often at the expense of the fun of the game.
  • Sandbox – a style of campaign that is very open world and lets the players do and explore whatever they want.
  • Slog/Grind – when something feels boring or a drag, often refers to a fight, but can refer to adventuring and traveling too.
  • Tank – the toughest character who goes in front during battles to absorb all the damage for the team.
  • Vanilla – a game without homebrew content, played according to the rules.

Dungeons and Dragons Acronyms

An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of another word, for example, D&D. D&D players love to use acronyms to shorten words because let’s face it, we are way too lazy to say “The Players Handbook” when we could say “The PHB”.  Here is a list of commonly used acronyms:

  • 2d6 – a way of showing dice in the game, 2d6 means you should roll two 6-sided dice.
  • 5e – 5th edition of the game.
  • AC – Armor class (how good your armor is at protecting you from being hit).
  • AoE – area of effect, that is the area a spell affects.
  • AD&D – Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, a very old school version of D&D rules.
  • BBEG – big bad evil guy.
  • CR – challenge rating (how difficult a monster is).
  • d20 – a twenty-sided dice.
  • DM – dungeon master.
  • DC – difficulty class, which means how difficult something is to do.  It’s a score you need to roll above in order to successfully be able to accomplish the task.
  • EP, GP, SP, CP – electrum, gold, silver, and copper pieces, the currency in the game.
  • FLGS – friendly local gaming store.
  • HD – hit dice (the number of dice rolls to determine the health of a character or monster).
  • HP – hit points (the health of a character or monster).
  • LFG – looking for a group, used online when posting that you are looking to join a gaming group.
  • NPC – non-player character, a character that is played by the DM.
  • OP – overpowered, when a character or monster stat is not balanced and makes them too powerful.
  • PHB, DMG, MM – the Players Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual, the 3 core rulebooks for D&D.
  • RAW – rules as written, anything official.
  • RAI – rules as intended, it might not be official but it makes sense.
  • Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Chr – Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, the 6 key attributes of a character.
  • TPK – total party kill.
  • TTRPG – a tabletop roleplaying game which is the type of game that D&D is.
  • WotC – Wizards of the Coast who are the company that makes D&D

Dungeons and Dragons Vocabulary

I’m not going to go through the definition of everything in the rule books, if you are going to play D&D you should at least read the basic rules and have an understanding of the game.  But even after reading the rule books, there are still a bunch of terms that are commonly used that you may not have fully picked up on. So here are a few of these terms, along with examples of how they’re used in the game.

  • Ability scores – The six attributes of your character, Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, etc. that say how good your character is at something.
  • Ability check – a check where you roll a d20 and add the relevant ability to see if you are successful at an action.
  • Ability modifier – the number you add to your dice as a result of your ability score.
  • Attack roll – A roll made to determine if your attack is successful, generally, you roll a d20 and add one of your stats, such as strength, to determine your final roll.
  • Advantage – a rule in the game that lets you roll two d20 dice and take the highest roll.
  • Alignment – The alignment of a creature is its moral code.
  • Armor class – Armor protects your character from attacks, it works by requiring the attacker to roll a higher number than your armor class in order to hit you.
  • Backstory – the history of your character or an NPC.
  • Battle map – a gridded map used to represent combat with miniatures.
  • Campaign – a series of interlinked adventures telling a larger overarching story over numerous sessions.
  • Critical hit – when you roll a natural 20, your hit does extra damage.
  • Disadvantage – a rule in the game that makes you roll two d20 dice and take the lower roll.
  • Downtime – the period between adventures where you are doing other activities.
  • Encounter – when players go through a situation, which can be a social encounter, an exploration encounter, or a combat encounter. Because combat is the most common type of encounter, an encounter is often used to refer to a fight.
  • Forgotten Realms – a very popular setting that a lot of the D&D lore and official campaigns take place in.
  • Modifier – the number of additional points you add to your dice roll because of a skill or ability you have.
  • Module – a pre-published adventure book.
  • Movement speed – how fast you move, generally translated to how many squares in the grid you can move at once.
  • Natural 20 – when you roll a 20 (as opposed to getting a 20 with modifiers).
  • Roll for initiative – roll to determine the order of turns in combat.
  • Ruling – when the DM decides on a certain outcome.
  • Saving throw – when you roll and save against an effect.
  • Session zero – a pre-session to a new campaign where expectations and what’s allowed in the game are generally discussed.
  • Spell slots – the number of spells you know and can cast per day.
  • Spell level – how powerful a spell is, the level of spells a character can cast is determined by their character level.

Conclusion

D&D is a complex game with lots of rules and terminology. As the game has evolved, the community has developed its own terminology and ways of describing things.

Hopefully, we’ve helped you decipher some of the D&D lingo so you can better understand what’s going on and get more enjoyment out of this fantastic game!

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