Glossary of 90+ text-based RPG terms

Updated
A headshot of Andruid, shaded blue.
By Andruid

Writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other." 

Table of Contents

    Tired of sounding like a newb? Below is a glossary of terms commonly used across various types of writing games.

    Adding these terms to your lexicon will help you better understand the world of text-based roleplaying games (RPGs).

    I’ve also provided some additional glossary resources at the end of this post for related niches.

    What does RPG stand for?

    RPG stands for roleplaying game. In RPGs, players take on a role in a story and perform actions on behalf of their character, often using dice rolls or similar mechanics to determine failure or success.

    RPGs can take the form of tabletop games, video games, and text-based games.

    Glossary of text-based RPG terms and their meanings

    Not surprisingly, much of the terminology and slang used in other types of online multiplayer games are also used by the text-based gaming community.

    You’ll find a lot of overlap between this glossary and those focused on RPGs more broadly.

    A-E

    AFK – Short for “away from keyboard.” Used to inform other players that you’re not at your computer.

    alt – Short for “alternate.” Another character that you play or one that you play on the side. Different from your main (see below).

    antag – Short for “antagonism” or “antagonistic.” Antag RP occurs when a player pursues conflict, crime, or tension in their roleplay.

    app – Short for “application.” Some games require “apping in” or filling out an application form which must be approved prior to play. Games that don’t require an app may be referred to as “appless.”

    ASCII art – Art created using text characters. Still popular among many multi-user dungeons in lieu of images but not very screen reader-friendly.

    ban – When a player’s account is suspended, preventing them from participating further. Bans can be temporary or permanent.

    blackballing – Social ostracization. When one player besmirches the reputation of another, usually with the intent of getting other players to avoid contact with that person or treat them differently in-character.

    builder – Someone who creates the rooms, areas, objects, and/or NPCs that populate a multi-user dungeon (MUD).

    canon – Refers to anything already established as part of the game’s setting, such as major characters, events, and lore.

    CC – Short for “canon character.” Refers to a character already established as part of the game’s setting. In some games, players can play CCs, in other games, CCs are reserved for admins and special events.

    character – A person in a literary work or piece of writing. In the context of roleplaying games, a character can be further categorized as a player character (PC) or a non-player character (NPC).

    chargen – A process or area in a game devoted to the creation (generation) of a new player character. Some character generators involve the use of dice to determine a character’s statistics; other games simply require you to fill out an application or form.

    CNC RP – Consensual non-consent roleplay. Occurs when players agree beforehand to act out scenes of a non-consensual nature, such as BDSM. (See also: consent, mudsex)

    codebase – The underlying server (software) upon which a multi-user dungeon (MUD) game is built. The codebase determines things like what kind of commands players can use and how to handle combat, turns, actions, skills, and events.

    Screenshot of the AresMUSH home page.
    AresMUSH is a modern codebase that is used to run various MU* games.

    coder – A programmer. Someone who writes the underlying software that makes up a text-based game. When it comes to MUDs, most coders spend the bulk of their efforts modifying an existing codebase.

    crossover – Multiple meanings, depending on context. Crossover roleplay occurs when you take a character designed for one genre and play it in a different setting; this form of roleplay is popular and encouraged in many fandom games (see also: fandom glossary at the end of this post).

    Alternatively, “crossover” can refer to a form of metagaming that occurs when you use knowledge gained on one character to the benefit of another. It can also mean allowing your real-life feelings to cross over into your roleplay in a way that undermines or is disingenuous to your character. Finally, it can refer to the OOC transmission of IC knowledge between players (“IC/OOC crossover”).

    CYOA – Short for “choose your own adventure.” A type of text-based game in which you assume a role in a story and make choices on behalf of the protagonist. Differs from RPGs in that CYOAs are not designed to be multiplayer.

    DM – Short for “dungeon master,” synonymous with GM. In chatroom games, can also mean “direct message.”

    doxxing – A form of toxic behavior that occurs when one player intentionally reveals sensitive or personal information about another against their wishes, usually with the intent of embarrassing or causing them harm.

    emote – A freeform way of describing your character’s actions. In MUDs, emotes are often compared to socials, which are coded actions that require only one or two commands to initiate, and says, which are just for dialogue.

    ERP – Erotic roleplay. Any roleplay focused on physical intimacy – especially roleplay leading up to and including sexually explicit behavior. See also: mudsex.


    F-J

    FC – Short for “faceclaim.” The portrait used to represent a character. More often seen in forum, social media, and blogging games.

    FOIC – Short for “find out IC.” A phrase used in roleplaying MUDs to force new players to learn the game’s complex mechanics, lore, and other information via in-character means. Often considered to be frustrating and oppressive among players new to RP games, especially those who are already struggling with the steep learning curves typically found in these games.

    freeform – Refers to writing and roleplaying games that do not require strict turn-taking, stat sheets, or dice rolls to play.

    FTB – Short for “fade to black.” Used to background all or part of a scene, such as the parts that are particularly intimate or gory.

    GM – Short for “game master.” An admin user or staffer. Someone who controls the game. See also: imm, DM.

    god-modding – Occurs when one player takes control of another player’s character without their approval or consent, usually by writing out their actions and reactions for them.

    griefer – A player who undermines the spirit of the game by harassing or provoking other players, thereby ruining others’ enjoyment of the game. Also sometimes referred to as a “bad faith player.”

    hack and slash – A type of game that focuses on killing non-player character (NPC) enemies to gain experience, levels, and loot.

    IAW – Short for “in another window.” Meaning, you’re not AFK but you’re not paying attention to your game window.

    IC – Short for “in-character.” Any writing or roleplay that occurs as part of the game and within the game’s setting.

    idle – When you’re logged into a game but not actively doing anything. For example, you could be IAW or AFK at the time.

    imm – Short for “immortal.” A member of the game’s staff. Also sometimes referred to as a “wizard.”

    A wizard with staff raised, casting a spell.
    In the context of multi-user dungeons, a wizard is just a regular person with elevated privileges that allow them to do things such as create items and monsters in the game.

    immersion – Occurs when players are able to immerse themselves in a game’s setting without out-of-character distractions.

    IRL – Short for “in real life.”


    K-O

    literate – A term denoting that a game prefers players who are literate and fluent in the game’s primary language.

    limbo – In some MU* games, an OOC area where players are placed in the event of a temporary ban or while awaiting a policy decision. Other names include “jail” or “hell”.

    L&L – Short for “Lords and Ladies.” Usually refers to roleplaying games that revolve around playing or interacting with members of a peerage.

    main – Your main character, if you play multiple characters.

    Mary Sue / Marty Stu – A pejorative term to describe a character unrealistically portrayed as perfect or having no weaknesses.

    metagaming – Occurs when real-life knowledge of the game influences a player’s in-character behavior, or when a player uses knowledge of the game to make in-character decisions in a way that disregards the character’s established personality, history, or abilities.

    min-maxing – When a player minimizes a character’s unimportant traits and maximizes others, usually for the purpose of winning or dominating some aspect of the game.

    moderator – A staff member or helper who assists new players and upholds the rules and standards of the game. Chatroom and forum games typically have moderators.

    MOTD – Short for “message of the day.” A message displayed on login or when connecting to a game or chatroom server.

    Screenshot of a MOTD output in Alter Epoch.
    Example MOTD showing game URLs, code updates, and current plotlines. MOTDs in some games will display faction information, instead.

    MU* – A text-based, multi-user roleplaying game, e.g. MUD (multi-user dungeon). Sometimes written as MUX (multi-user experience). Encompasses all types of games, not just those that focus on adventuring through dungeons. Additional variants include MUSH, MUCK, MOO, MUTT, etc.

    mudsex – An intimate or erotic scene roleplayed in a MUD. Also sometimes called “moosex” and “Tinysex.” The prefix “Tiny” is a reference to TinyMUD, a classic codebase that inspired several derivatives used by social MUDs.

    multiplaying – Playing more than one character at a time.

    mun – The player behind a character. Short for “mundane.”

    newbie – A new or inexperienced player. Sometimes shortened to “newb.”

    NPC – Short for “non-player character.” Any character controlled by the codebase (as in the case of MU* games), admins, or written as part of the background or environment for the purposes of storytelling.

    oldbie – An established or experienced player. Someone who has been playing the game for a while. Opposite of “newbie.”

    offscreen – In the background, not actively roleplayed or written about. Sometimes also referred to as off-camera.

    on-grid – In a MU* setting, usually refers to events or actions that happen in character and on the game map in an area where other players can reach. The opposite, off-grid, would be anything that occurs offscreen, in the background, or off the main map.

    OC – Short for “original character.” One that isn’t canon.

    OOC – Short for “out-of-character.” Meaning, anything outside of roleplay.


    P-R

    P2P – Short for “pay-to-play.” A game that requires you to spend real money in order to play. Pay-to-play games are usually offered on a subscription basis.

    P2W – Short for “pay-to-win.” A game that can be played for free but offers substantial, gameplay-affecting bonuses in exchange for real money. Also referred to as “freemium” if payment is subscription-based.

    P4P – Short for “pay-for-perks.” Similar to pay-to-win, but the perks may just be cosmetic things, like changing the color of your fireballs.

    PB – Short for “playby.” Same as faceclaim.

    PC – Short for “player character.” A character controlled by a player.

    permaban – A permanent ban. Usually reserved for the worst kinds of offenses.

    permadeath – Permanent character death. Once dead, the character can no longer be played, and the player must roll a new character instead. Many roleplay-focused games with permadeath also have rules in place that prohibit players from playing friends or relatives of their deceased character. This is typically done to prevent vendettas between players who might hold a grudge against one another.

    play-by-post – A type of writing game played using forums or message boards. Can be shortened to “PbP.”

    player – In a roleplaying context, a player is the person behind a character. More generally, it can be any participant in a game.

    playerbase – The group of players that play the game. Often shortened to “pbase.”

    plot – A story or plot arc that players engage in or use as motivation in their writing. Depending on the game and scope, plots can be directed by admins or storytellers or generated by the players themselves. (See How to use a character arc roadmap for tips on writing character storylines.)

    power-posing – Used as a synonym for god-modding, typically in the context of forcing another player’s character to react in some way without their consent.

    power-gaming – In text-based roleplay, used as a synonym for power posing. In video games, more synonymous with min-maxing.

    puppet – To take control of an NPC for the purposes of providing roleplay or furthering a story. Puppeting is usually done by admins or storytellers.

    PvE – Short for “player versus environment.” Refers to combat or challenges against NPCs or other aspects of the game not controlled by players.

    PvP – Short for “player versus player.” Refers to combat or conflict between player characters.

    pwipe – Deletion of player files, a reset. Some games undergo a regular pwipe so that players can replay the game differently.

    RL – Short for “real life.” Can be used as a noun or an adjective.

    roleplaying – When you perform actions on behalf of a character as that character and not as yourself. Your character’s choices should reflect their own goals and motivations, which may be separate from yours.

    roleplay culture – A set of norms or expectations shared by a group of roleplayers. Not always set in stone by rules or policies. Every game tends to have its own unique roleplay culture.

    roleplay hook – A device used to draw other players into roleplay. A hook can be anything that gives other characters a reason to engage or pursue something in character. Roleplay hooks can also be shared out-of-character as part of an announcement about an upcoming plot or event, for example.

    rollplaying – Playing an RPG for the mechanics or being more focused on mechanics (e.g. dice rolls) than on roleplaying.

    room – A location in a MUD that can be occupied by player characters. In this context, a room can be a literal room in a building, or it can be anything from a forested area to a spot along a seabed. (See How to write excellent room descriptions for tips and ideas.)

    RP – Short for “roleplay.”

    RPI – Short for “roleplay intensive.” Describes games for which the main purpose is roleplay, as opposed to simply “roleplay encouraged” or “roleplay welcome.” RPI games often have a strong separation between IC and OOC and lots of rules to prevent metagaming.


    S-Z

    scene – A roleplay scene or session. When characters get together and do stuff.

    screen reader – A program used to translate text to speech. Important for accessibility and enabling non-sighted players to play types of writing games.

    smallrooming – A form of MU* behavior that causes rooms to seem small because players forget to write out actions that acknowledge the broader environment in a realistic way, such as crossing a street to greet someone or raising their voice to speak to someone in a noisy or crowded area. (See Andruid’s Guide to Immersive Roleplay for tips on how to avoid smallrooming.)

    smallworlding – A form of metagaming that occurs when a character jumps to conclusions based on the player’s OOC knowledge of a limited playerbase. For example, deciding that MarySue is guilty of X because she’s the only PC who can do X, even though there are many NPCs who can also do X.

    social – A type of default action or behavior that players can take in MUDs to express themselves. For example: laugh, chuckle, or cry. They’re typically just for social use and do not confer any benefits or disadvantages during gameplay.

    sparring – A form of PvP combat used for training or duels that doesn’t end in permanent character death.

    storyline – Used synonymously with plot and plotline.

    storyteller – A person who focuses on creating activities, events, or plots for other players. May share some overlap with admin or moderator duties but not always.

    tavern RP – Roleplay for the purpose of socializing, as in a tavern setting. Also referred to simply as “social RP.”

    text-based RPG – A roleplaying game played primarily by writing or using written commands.

    toxic gamer – Someone who tries to lift themselves up by bringing other players down through griefing, trolling, twinking, metagaming, cheating, or acting in bad faith.

    TPB – Short for “the player behind.” Usually used as part of a signature to indicate that the commentary is coming from the player and not the character.

    trigger – Something that has a negative impact on the well-being of another player. Topics considered to be triggering are often avoided for the sake of one’s fellow players. Can also refer to a MUD client trigger when used in reference to things like aliases, macros, buttons, etc.

    trolling – Internet slang. Refers to the use of insincere or inflammatory language to provoke others.

    twinking – A broad term that encompasses many types of cheating and undesirable behavior. In MU* games, twinking occurs when a player consciously deceives others about their character’s abilities in order to give themselves an advantage. It can also refer to a form of cheating that occurs when a player knowingly takes advantage of game mechanics, including loopholes and limitations, to get ahead.


    Note: More words will likely be added to the glossary as this blog expands.

    Other word lists and RPG glossary resources

    This glossary isn’t intended to cover every possible term or slang word. There are other lists out there that delve more deeply into niche roleplay culture.

    Depending on your interests, here are a few other glossary resources you might find useful: