Glossary of Terms and Phrases

It occurs to me that within my group, we have a lot of terms and phrases that may be unfamiliar to other people. I will attempt to compile a subset of the more common ones here. Some may be broadly used, well beyond our friend group, but I figured i’d define them here anyway in the context that we use them. Feel free to suggest others. For less common terms, I will try to define them in the post. Don’t hesitate to call me out on it if I fail to do so!  Expect this page to change frequently.


  • “GM” – The game master. The person or persons who are running the game. Not always synonymous with “writer”. They are the final arbiter of disagreements between players and interpretation of rules. We usually have them wear headbands of either white fabric, or cat printed fabric for easy identification (I’m told that at MIT, they use fabric printed with skull-and-crossbones). This is the term I use on this blog, but is fairly synonymous with “DM” (dungeon master; from D&D) and “ST” (storyteller; from the White Wolf Games).
  • “PC” / “NPC” – PC stands for “Player Character”, and is used to indicate the character persona representing a single player in the game world. NPC stands for “non-player character”, and is used to indicate any persona in the game world played by the GM, a guest attendee to the session, or abstracted completely. NPCs are also sometimes called “GM Plants” since they are tools used by a GM to guide the story or introduce information to the PCs.
  • “Spoilers” / “Spoiled” – Information about a game revealed during game, or is secret to the backstory of particular characters. These are the kinds of things we don’t want to share with people who have not played the game, but may get a chance to in the future. Often associated with games that are still “live.” Someone who is “spoiled” to a game knows too much about the secrets in game to play and be reasonably expected to avoid metagaming. This includes people who have played the game before, and people who have heard stories that reveal certain details (aka: Spoilers)
  • “Metagaming” – Inferring in game information from out of game information. For example, if someone has an ability that makes them invisible, we can’t actually physically make them invisible, so other players must remember that their characters don’t actually see the invisible character, and not later hunt down the once-invisible character for eavesdropping.
  • “GameTeX” – the package that overlays LaTeX and many of our games are written in.
  • “Darkwater” / “Darkwater combat” – A reference to the combat system that many of our MIT style games use. It derives its name from the otherwise unremarkable game “Pirates of Darkwater.” The system is very simple, and unforgiving. Every character has a Combat Rating (CR) which is used for attack and defense. Higher numbers win encounters, ties go to the defender. The system was designed to make it easy to take someone out quietly and quickly, and so tends to be more efficient and brutal than other systems that are designed for more cinematic combat.
  • “SGS” – The Stanford Gaming Society. A group of students and recent alumns with whom I started LARPing.
  • “Assassin’s Guild” – The MIT equivalent of the SGS. We borrow many of our games from them as they are a larger group, and have a longer, more continuous tradition than the SGS, which gives them higher game output than us.
  • “One-Shot”/”Campaign” – These terms refer to games that run in one session, or occur in (usually weekly) increments for usually several months, respectively. One-shots are games that are intended to be completed in some number of hours usually less than 12, and focus on solving a single crisis, or a few closely related issues. In our case, we usually break the sessions up with dinner in the middle. Campaigns on the other hand are intended to have much longer, evolving plots that usually cover months to years in game-time and address a number of sequential issues.
  • “Ret-con” – A change to previously provided or the addition of new information to players that changes the context of some aspect of game. Ret-cons are usually introduced to create continuity of story when something new needs to be added that was not originally part of the story and has implications for previous scenes/actions. We usually try to avoid these whenever possible as characters may have taken different actions in light of the new information, and this could prove challenging to incorporate.

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