There’s a few words that get tossed around a lot in D&D. I often forget that other people don’t know the specific D&D meanings of those words, so I thought I’d provide a short glossary of terms today.
The first word that I realized others might not know was teleport. None of the auto-spellcheckers I have used ever recognize teleport as a correctly spelled word (And now I’ve confirmed that WordPress’s spellchecker doesn’t catch it either). Teleport is a word that means to instantly appear somewhere else. The transporter in Star Trek and apparating in Harry Potter are essentially both teleporting. The act of teleporting is called teleportation.
Campaign: A series of adventures that the players undertake, often with an underlying theme. My players are in a campaign where they fight a vampiric empire. The campaign before that was an attempt to prevent the establishment of the vampiric empire (they failed in the end). Prior to that they were fighting an evil death wizard (or necromancer since this is the blog post to teach you these words).
Campaign World: The main fantasy world in which a campaign takes place. My campaign world is based off Greek and Roman mythology and takes place in a place far to the east that the Greeks called Cimmeria.
Plane: There are often other worlds connected to the campaign world. These alternate dimensions are called planes. They appear as pools in some of the prequels to the Narnia series. The other worlds could be parallel dimensions or versions of heaven or hell, or anything else you can think of.
Cleric: A cleric is a person who devotes their life to religion. In English we often associate specific words with specific religions. A minister is Christian, a rabbi is Jewish, an iman is Muslim, etc. To avoid that confusion, D&D uses cleric to refer to priests of all gods and religions.
Encounter: A single conflict between the players and an adversary represented by the DM. These conflicts are often violent, but they don’t need to be. A diplomatic negotiation could also be an encounter.
Adventure: A string of encounters that have a unifying villain or objective. Adventures are composed of encounters and campaigns are composed of adventures. Campaigns can also have overarching villains and objectives, but the individual villains in each adventure will often change. You fight the henchmen before you fight the villain (Deatheaters before Voldemort in Harry Potter).
Experience: When the players defeat an encounter their characters are awarded experience points (EXP or XP). These are used to make their character stronger. They’re an important extrinsic reward in the game. A character’s power is defined by how much XP they have. If a character is more powerful then they can take on greater challenges. A hero could start off slaying orcs, gaining more experience til he is slaying giants and dragons.
Level: As characters gain more experience they increase in level. Each level has a set amount of XP required to reach it. Thus power increases in a stepwise fashion. More and more XP is needed for the higher levels. D&D levels typically range from 1-20.
System: D&D is the most well known pen and paper roleplaying game, but its not the only one. Many others exist and most have their own acronyms as well. Generic Universal RolePlaying System (GURPS) favors realism over the fantastical heroism of D&D. Call of Cthulu (CoC) simulates the Lovecraftian horror genre instead of high fantasy. Star Wars is for science fiction and World of Darkness (WoD) is for playing in a world of vampires and werewolves. D&D is the flagship of roleplaying games, but it probably has less than half the overall market share within the business. The rules of D&D and the rules of all its competitors are called roleplaying systems.
Edition: All these roleplaying systems have different editions. D&D is about to release its 5th edition. I believe GURPS is on its 4th now. WoD is on its 2nd edition. My friends and I started off playing 2nd edition D&D and switched to 3.0 and then 3.5 when they came out. We became entrenched in 3.5 and never switched to 4th edition (4E) and are only considering it now. This unwillingness to change leads to what are called edition wars in D&D. Different groups will argue that their system or edition is far superior to any other. It’s a snobbish elitism that exists in any hobby from beer drinking to bird watching.
Class: A character in D&D must pick a class to decide what powers they have access to. Wizards can cast powerful spells, but can’t fight very well. Fighters can swing a sword, but they can’t sneak into buildings. Rogues can sneak around and lie to people convincingly, but they can’t heal wounds. Clerics can heal wounds and cast some of the weaker spells, but not the more powerful ones. The wizard, fighter, rogue, and cleric make up the 4 basic class types in D&D. Each character must be one of these classes or a variation on them. Each level a character has is in one of these classes. A character could have all of their levels in one class or spread them out as much as they like between the many variations on the basic four.
Race: Players pick a race or species when they first create their character. The basic races are human, elf, dwarf, halfling, half-orc, gnome, and half-elf, but there are many more. Each race gives a character a few small bonuses and penalties along with a set of typical physical features to choose from and a racial history to assist in writing a character’s backstory.
Skills: Characters have a few things they are good at. This could be something like cooking, playing an instrument, climbing, or using magical items. Most if not all roleplaying systems have skills.
Feats: Feats give a character additional options or bonuses beyond what their race, class, and skills give. A character gets one feat every three levels. Feats are unique to D&D. A feat could be something like the ability to create magic items, running for long distances without tiring, or using one weapon much better than any other.
That’s enough for now! With this info you’ll be able to understand my future posts on D&D a little better.