D&D Glossary

D&D Glossary

D&D Glossary

D&D is full of acronyms and phrases that don't make much sense from the outside. People who have read the books or played a handful of sessions generally understand them, or can at least guess their meanings thanks to context clues, but they can quickly confuse anyone that isn't accustomed to them. Dungeons & Dragons was once a hobby known to but a few, but now that its taking a place on the world stage thanks to the internet and the advent of streaming games, more and more people are being exposed to these terms... and being perplexed by them!

To allay that trend, presented here are some of the more common or  confusing phrases and acronyms you might see or hear circulating around the hobby.


Ability Check- rolling a d20 modified by an ability score modifier

Ability Scores- the numbers that determine a creature’s aptitude regarding their mental or physical characteristics

AC- Armor Class, a value that represents how difficult it is to hit a target, a number calculated by combining the protection provided by any armor or shields you’re wearing and your ability to dodge and defend yourself

Attack Roll- rolling a d20 when trying to strike a target with an attack or spell, contested by the target’s armor class

Bonus- a number added to a roll

BBEG- Big Bad Evil Guy, an acronym referring to the ultimate villain of a campaign or one shot

Campaign- a series of consecutive sessions that all build upon one another to tell a story

Character- a creature in the fiction of the game that has personality. Could refer to an NPC controlled by the Dungeon Master, but usually refers to a PC controlled by a player

Check- a roll that determines success or failure in a particular endeavor

CP, SP, EP, GP, and PP- copper, silver, electrum, god, and platinum pieces, respectively. They are values of currency, in ascending order of value, and though various countries and kingdoms in a D&D setting may have different coinage, a “piece” is a standard measurement that represents the trade value of that material

Creature- any living (or undead) entity in the fiction of the game

Crit/Critical/Critical Success- usually synonymous with rolling a 20 on a d20, though there are exceptions. If rolled when attacking a creature, expect the attack to deal twice as much damage to its target

Crit Fail/Critical Failure- rolling a 1 o a d20

d4, d6, d8,d10,d12,d20, or d100- a die or dice with X number of potential outcomes when rolled, where X  usually corresponds to the number of faces on the die’s surface

D&D/DND- Dungeons and Dragons, the game we are talking about. A tabletop roleplaying game where several players and a dungeon master use their imaginations, dice, and basic math to collaborate in telling a story

DC- Difficulty Class, the target number that must be met or exceeded when making a skill check or saving throw

DM- see Dungeon Master

DMG- Dungeon Master’s Guide, a book for Dungeon Masters that provides instruction on how to create, fill, and manage a campaign of D&D

DMPC- Dungeon Master Player Character. This antithetical term is used to describe a character run by the DM as though they were a player, usually with a well-deserved negative connotation

Dump Stat- a character’s lowest ability score, or the one they consider the least important

Dungeon Master- the person playing D&D that populates the world with NPCs, arbitrates the rules, and guides the story

Encounter- a dangerous or delicate situation usually representing a potential turning point in the story. Commonly synonymous with combat, but not necessarily

Feats- special talents and abilities that characters can unlock as they advance through the game. It is a commonly used, though technically optional, rule

GM- Game Master, functionally the same as a Dungeon Master, but it is a system-generic term. Whereas D&D has its Dungeon Masters, Call of Cthulu has Keepers, and Vampire: the Masquerade has its Storytellers, all the people who fill that role are collectively and generically referred to as Game Masters

Homebrew- content created by an unofficial source, traditionally by the dungeon master running the game, but not necessarily

House Rule- similar to homebrew, and almost synonymous, but usually referring to rules of the game as opposed to game content. An unofficial rule for the game specific to the group that is playing

HP- Hit Points, a number representing how far a creature is from dying, similar to in a videogame

Initiative- commonly used to refer to the beginning of an encounter, or short for the modifier used when rolling to determine Initiative Order or your place in that order

Initiative Order- the order in which creatures take their turns in an encounter

Metagame- to allow your decisions in the game to be affected by knowledge that is possessed by the players playing the game, not the fictional characters they are portraying. Though it is usually used with a negative connotation, not ALL metagaming is bad.

Modifier- The number added to or subtracted from a roll

Monster- despite its ominous moniker, it is commonly used to refer to any generic antagonist in D&D. 

MM- Monster Manual, a book containing stats for monsters in D&D

Natural _____: the number shown on a die before adding or subtracting modifiers. Usually refers to the result of rolling a d20

NPC- non-player character, is about what it sounds like. Any character that the Dungeon Master is responsible for roleplaying

One Shot / One Off- A game of D&D that’s story was designed to be begun and resolved in a single session

Party- a group of PCs

PC- player character, is also self-explanatory. Any character that a player is responsible for roleplaying. Usually, each player has only one PC, and there are as many PCs in a game as Players

PHB- Player’s Handbook, the book outlining all the information needed to create and play a character in D&D, as well as many rules needed to run a game. A book needed by both players and Dungeon Masters

Player- Anyone involved in a game of Dungeons & Dragons who is not the Dungeon Master

Proficiency- denotes familiarity and comfortability with a particular action or item

Proficiency Bonus- a number added to d20 rolls to represent proficiency in a check, saving throw, or attack roll

Roleplaying / RP- the act of determining the actions of a fictitious character, and describing those actions

Round- The amount of time it takes for all creatures in the Initiative Order to take their turns, typically described as 5-6 seconds

RPG- roleplaying game, a game like D&D where the mechanics of the game are based around and depend on roleplaying

Running the Game- performing the functions of a Dungeon Master

Saving Throw- a d20 roll used when trying to avoid falling victim to a negative effect, such as a spell or trap

Setting- the fictional world where the events of a session or campaign of D&D take place

Session- A single occasion of D&D play, recently referred to as an “episode” in some circles, as regularly streaming games of D&D has become more prevalent

Skill Check- an Ability Check that is modified by a relevant skill’s proficiency bonus, if any

Stats- a creature’s modifiers, skills, attacks and defenses; sometimes used to refer to Ability Scores, as older editions of the game used this term to refer to them

Statblock- a collection of stats for an NPC or monster in D&D

To hit/To hit modifier- The total number added to an attack roll, or the combined total of this modifier and the associated roll

TTRPG- Tabletop Roleplaying Game, a roleplaying game traditionally played by a group seated around the same table

TPK- Total Party Kill, when all the player characters are dead

Verbiage around this hobby, much like language in general, is always growing and evolving, so this list is certainly incomplete If you'd like to contribute to this list, tweet your suggestions to @thedndwanabe. We're creating a document that the whole community can participate in compiling! A link to that Google Doc is at the end of this article.

Until next time, friends and adventurers! Don't forget to look for us on Twitch and visit us on YouTube for more of our content!