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New Game Masters: RPG Acronymns Explained

Updated: Jul 16, 2022

Holy Toledo, there are a lot of acronyms in the world of D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) and TTRPGs (Tabletop Roleplaying Games). Part of the hurdle of becomes a GM (Game Master) is just understanding the language. Well look no further, my friend. We have all the acronyms you're likely to come across explained right here.

General Acronyms

AC (Armor Class) - A creature's armor class determined how difficult it is to be hit by an attack.

AoE (Area of Effect) - This is used to determine what area of a battlemap is affected by a spell such as fireball.

BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy) - The "Big Bad" is the boss or main villain in an adventure or campaign. Usually, a fight between the party and the BBEG represents the climax of an adventure, a campaign, or a story arc.

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d20 (Twenty-Sided Dice) - The d20 dice is synonymous with tabletop roleplaying games. With 20 sides, there is a 5% chance of any one number appearing. In Dungeons & Dragons, several dice are used including the d4 (Four-sided Dice), the d6 (Six-Sided Dice, the dice most commonly used in board games), d8 (Eight-Sided Dice), d10 (Ten-Sided Dice), and the d12 (Twelve-Sided Dice).

DMPC - (Dungeon Master Player Character) - This describes any hero within the party that the GM/DM controls.

GM (Game Master) - This is the person who is running the game. The GM controls the monsters, the NPCs, describes locations that the party visits, and determines the results of the characters actions. This is essentially the same thing as DM (Dungeon Master) except that DM refers specifically to GMs who play D&D where a GM applies to any tabletop roleplaying game.

HP (Hit Points) - A creature's Hit Points represent how much health it has. When a creature's HP drop below zero, depending on the system, they are usually dead or unconscious.

NPC (Non-Player Character) - An NPC is any character not controlled by the players. This could include the tavern's bartender, the captain of the town guard, the noble who was kidnapped by bandits, and the bandits themselves.

PC (Player Character) - The Player Characters are the heroes of the story who are controlled by the players.

RAI (Rules as Intended) - This is the philosophy that the rules of your game system (which can often be complicated, confusing, and contradictory) should be implemented by the GM/DM based on their intent rather than necessarily their literal meaning.

RAW (Rules as Written) - This is the counter-philosophy to RAI, that the rules should be followed to the T based on their literal meaning rather than attempting to interpret their intent.

TTRPG (Tabletop Roleplaying Game) - Any tabletop pen-and-paper game where players control characters and engage in shared storytelling. RPG can sometimes be used synonymously with TTRPG but RPGs can also refer to Roleplaying Video Games.

XP (Experience Points) - Experience points represent experiences from which the PCs learn and improve when they defeat monsters, solve puzzles, and overcome challenges. XP are used to level up characters when they reach XP milestones.

System Specific Acronyms

5E (Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons) - Fifth Edition is the current edition of D&D that is being played and is the most popular roleplaying system in use, representing more 50% of the people who play TTRPGs. Third Party publishers (such as ourselves) use 5e or Fifth Edition as shorthand for the system when we want to show that an adventure, campaign setting, or supplement is optimized for D&D 5E.

CR (Challenge Rating) - A monster's challenge rating - based on numerous factors such as its HP, its AC, and the average amount of damage it can do per turn - represents how poowerful it is and how difficult it is to kill.

D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) - This is just simple shorthand to describe the world's most popular TTRPG. DnD is also frequently used shorthand.

DMG (Dungeon Master's Guide) - This is an abbreviation for one of the three core rulebooks in D&D 5E. The DMG contains guidance and random tables to help DMs run campaigns and includes a large collection of magic items and potions with which to rewards PCs.

MM (Monster Manual) - This is one of the three core rulebooks for D&D 5E that includes hundreds of stat blocks for monsters that the GM/DM can throw at the party.

OGL (Open Game License) - This is the license that makes it possible for 3rd party publishers (like ourselves) to publish content made for D&D. The OGL does have some limitations - the most obvious of which is that 3rd party D&D products (except for those published on D&D Beyond) can't actually say D&D or Dungeons & Dragons. This is why we say 5E and Fifth Edition instead.

OSR (Old School Revival) - This is a movement that has gained traction over the last several years to bring back early editions of D&D and to modernize them and create new content for them.

PHB (Player Handbook) - This is one of the three core rulebooks for playing D&D and the most important one. It contains all of the basic rules, mechanics, player options, and equipment statistics.

PF (Pathfinder) - This is the second most popular TTRPG system. It was based off of the popular D&D 3.5E.

SRD (System Reference Document) - This is a free PDF put out by WotC (Wizards of the Coast, the publisher of D&D) that contains all of the rules needed to start playing D&D right away. With this, some free printed-at-home character sheets, a couple of pencils, and a dice simulator phone app, you can play D&D for absolutely free.

Did we miss an acronym? Let us know in the comments below!

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