Become A (Dungeon) Master Of These D&D Slang Terms

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Before the days of MMORPGs like Fortnite, before even the World Wide Web, there was Dungeons & Dragons, popularly known as D&D or DnD for short.

D&D is the trademark name of a fantasy tabletop role-playing game that's been around since the 1970s. It continues to release new editions and has had a massive influence on role-playing games (RPGs) and gaming more generally. This means that, for the over 50 years that D&D has been around, a lot of jargon has developed around the game.

Whether you're a total n00b or a Dungeon Master, knowing the lingo of D&D is a key part (of the fun) of its gameplay. So, get out your dice—and get ready to enter the imaginative world of D&D slang.

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beware the smiling DM

On the internet, DM usually stands for direct message, but in D&D, it's short for Dungeon Master.

DM for Dungeon Master emerged after the original release of Dungeon & Dragons in the 1970s. DMs organize and referee the game, including guiding the narrative for all the character players.

The abbreviation is used by Dungeons & Dragons players everywhere. Some players may even view them with trepidation, as they can control the game—potentially to their downfall. This has led to the expression beware the smiling DM, who might have some tricks up their sleeve.

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crit

Things were looking doomed, but then I got a crit and killed the dragon!

Crit is gaming slang for a "critical hit," a blow that does a great amount of damage to an opponent. While the term didn't start with D&D, it was definitely popularized by players of the game.

Many tabletop and video games feature critical hits. They are most common, however, in games that involve statistics or calculations—such as Dungeons & Dragons, where rolling a 20 on a die results in a critical hit—to determine if and how hard a character hits an enemy.

Exactly when crit became a popular shorthand for critical hit is hard to pinpoint. Online, crit was used to refer to critical hits in Dungeons & Dragons on Usenet groups as early as 1989.

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metagaming

Metagaming is a major no-no in the world of D&D.

The prefix meta- (from Greek for "after, beyond,") is notably used in metaphysics, a form of which is recored in the 14th century for philosophy concerned with the first principles of things, the nuts and bolts of reality and existence. Heavy stuff.

Meta-, here, suggests “transcending” or “overarching,” helping it become a synonym for self-referential by the 1980s in postmodernism and popular culture (e.g., metadata is data about data).

In the world of D&D, metagaming refers to an in-game character unfairly using information gathered outside of the game world by their player. That’s pretty meta.

Meta has gone on in the gaming world to refer to anything out of the universe of the game used to affect the universe in the game. It's cheating, in a nutshell, making the game less fun for more earnest players.

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buffing and nerfing

While buff has a lot of different meanings, a buff player in D&D and other games is one that has been improved in some way—within the rules of the game, or not.

You can cast a spell or use a potion to make your player buff, or you could use a cheat. (Not cool.) You can also give a buff to someone else's player, say, giving them an item to help them out. (We only recommend this if you're actually on the same team.)

Referring to someone particularly strong as buff is what gamers had in mind in the mid-1990s when they began to refer to buffing up their characters in role-playing games. Early references to buffing up players come from games like Ultima Online, where gamers would exchange tips on how to exploit the rules to buff stats to make their avatars harder, better, faster, stronger.

The opposite of buffing a player is nerfing them—that is, making them weaker, referencing Nerf foam toy guns.

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skill monkey

While it sounds adorable (and a bit mischievous) like a real monkey 🐒, skill monkey has a different meaning in the world of D&D.

A skill monkey is someone who may not be the best in battle, but has other skills that make them useful and powerful outside of combat, as seen with Rogue or Bard characters. Such a player might have extra-keen perception or possess special medicines to promote survival, for example.

Some people complain that skill monkeys unbalance the gameplay or hog the spotlight. We say: haters gonna hate.

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heal sluts

Speaking of special skills, some D&D players are particularly adept at healing. Rather than kill players of opposing teams, their role is to keep their teammates alive.

In role-playing games, a healer is expected to heal as many different people as possible as often as they can (as if sluttishly so). These players are humorously, but vulgarly, referred to as heal sluts.

The term didn't start with D&D; it's found in such online RPGs as World of Warcraft. But, the expression heal slut has migrated to the D&D community, where people may discuss how to become a heal slut or find one for their team.

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tanks and meatshields

In keeping with the gendered terminology of heal slut, some of the toughest characters in battle—and who most need healing after—can be referred to as tanks or meatshields.

These terms, found in D&D and other RPGs, refer to the fact that such players protect teammates in battle, like military tanks or, more colorfully, meatshields (shielding flesh/bodies, i.e., meat).

Heavy armor and the ability to recover quickly, which allow them to withstand a lot of damage, make for strong tanks and meatshields.

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trippers

In D&D lingo, trippers are just that: players who are particularly good at tripping opponents, hence the name. (No, we're not trippin'.)

Trippers are usually equipped with a spiked chain or other weapon that can trip people. They are handy in battle because they can take out large numbers of the opposing team at once.

People on D&D forums may share tips and tricks on trips, among other activities.

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RAW and RAI

In day-to-day life, something raw is uncooked, but in D&D, RAW is an acronym that stands for Rules As Written.

The official rules of D&D are laid out in such titles as Dungeon Master's Guide, the Monster Manual, and the Players Handbook. There are myriad rules in D&D—and not all of them are considered canon by all players. After all, the rulebooks evolve as the game does.

Given the complexity of the rules, debates abound about what is and isn't allowed in gameplay. Some opt to follow the spirit of the rules rather than their letter. This is known as following the RAI, or the Rules As Intended.

Whether you follow the RAW or RAI, the most important thing is that everyone has fun. Right? Now, we hope you at least have more of a common language to do so.

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