Role-playing gamers have developed their own terms for use in describing various aspects of role-playing games. This page provides an explanation of many of these terms.


Indicates that a particular rules system includes a significant amount of "number crunching" (ie. detailed numeric rules). Crunchy systems tend to play slower than less crunchy ones, but generally provide more accurate simulations. For instance, the Genesys system uses dice with symbols instead of numbers, so there are no modifiers or other "number crunching" elements required. In contrast Dungeons and Dragons is a system that is "crunchier": it requires players to roll a d20 and then add a variety of modifiers such as their attack bonus or cover penalties, and compare it to a target number (eg. Armor Class).
Downward Spiral
A gameplay mechanic which encourages a progressively greater rate of failure, or in other words a "spiral" of failure. Such mechanics are often deliberately added to horror games, where they contribute to feelings of hopelessness, but are sometimes added to other games inadvertently, through poor design choices. For instance, imagine that to pass a "sanity check" a player had to roll under their "sanity score" ... but each failure made them lose a point from that score. As soon as they start failing they lower their chances of making any future checks, and so the game's design encourages a quick "spiral into insanity'.

Rules, content, or other "products" which were created by fans of a game, instead of by a company which is trying to sell the product.

Every gamer is familiar with official gaming products, such as rulebooks and adventures, produced by the official company responsible for that game.  Some games also have 3rd party products, made by other companies.  "Home brew" products are not made by any company at all, and are instead made by individual fans (or collectives) which created the product for fun.

Live Action Role-Playing (Game). While most role-playing games are played on a tabletop, LARP (or "LARPing") refers to playing in a real-world setting, almost entirely in-character. Some LARPers even go as far as to fight with foam weapons, but many others simply carry dice and use simplified RPG rules to resolve conflicts.
OSR, which is short for either "Old School Revival" or "Old School Renaissance", refers to games which draw inspiration and/or design elements from the earliest (typically 1970's) role-playing games, in particular the earlier editions of Dungeons and Dragons.
Playbooks are an alternative to "character sheets" which hold a character's stats, equipment, and other details, but also include the character's archetype (ie. class) information. In a PbA game this includes all of the character's unique "moves", providing everything they need to play in the book. Playbooks were originally pioneered by the game Apocalypse World, and you can freely download the playbooks for it at
Powered By the Apocalypse
The creator of Apocalypse World (at one point the #1 ranked game on RPG Geek) gave others permission to use the game's underlying rules system under a policy they called "Powered by the Apocalypse". This policy has resulted in more than a hundred different "PbtA" systems being created, all sharing many attributes in common (eg. playbooks, 2d6 resolution, and "moves").

A style of adventure where the party has little-to-no control over the course of events.  Although "railroad" adventures can still be enjoyable, this is generally used as a negative adjective.

Often contrasted with "sandbox" gaming, where the party has near-total freedom to control events.

A style of campaign where, instead of having linear adventures, the Game Master plans a virtual world (or slice thereof), and allows the party to explore and interact with that world however they may like. Some game systems provide lots of supporting material to encourage sandbox play (eg. charts and tables for auto-generating content), and so "sandbox" can also be used as an adjective to describe such systems. Sandbox gaming is often contrasted with "railroading", which refers to a very linear style of play.
RPGs which tends to have fights "swing" between one side or the other, with frequent shifts in who is currently winning, are often referred to as being "swingy". More generally the term is used to distinguish less predictable RPG rules systems. Various factors can determine a system's "swingy-ness". The most obvious is the type and amount of die rolls (eg. rolling 3d6 will be less "swingy" than a d20, because 3d6 has a higher chance of generating average results). Another factor that can contribute is how combat damage is handled: systems with permanent effects (hit point loss, crippled limbs, etc.) will tend to "swing" less than systems where damaged characters suffer temporary status effects.
A "d10" is a ten-sided die.
A "d12" is a twelve-sided die.
A "d20" is a twenty-sided die.
A "d4"is a four-sided die.
A "d6" is a six-sided die.
A "d8" is a eight-sided die.