The RPG Cliche List

After discovering an online list of the various cliches in computer/console RPGs, I failed to escape the realization that our own brand of role-playing games deserves a list, too. So, for your amusement, here is the grand list of cliches and absurdities that occur (and occur, and occur...) in traditional RPGs and LARPs – either in the books themselves or in the actual playing of them. These are just the ones I've personally observed over the years – feel free to tell me about any that I've missed.

I would like to humbly thank Joe Iglesias, Malcus Dorroga, Peter Joyce, Scott Lynch, Gary Thompson , Eric Eves, "Rosencrantz Is Dead", Matt Troedson, Andy Foster, and RPGnet in general for their contributions.



Abused Artist. Stereotypical player character in many Vampire LARPs. The character has an artistic bent and was abused in the past – typically before their Embrace (see also the Law Of Capitalization) – and now attempts to be aloof and sophisticated. Depending on the acting skill and actual sophistication of the player herself, the character will come across in varying degrees of pretentiousness. Often, you can pry out the details of their abuse through conversation, but there isn't any point to it.

Amber Law. Gamemasters and players can be fully expected to try and screw each other over, even during character creation. (So named for a game that actively and legendarily encourages this. For similar reasons, this also could have been called the Synnibarr Law, but there is no reliable evidence that anyone actually plays that game.) See also Mode: Zero Sum Game.

Amoral Jerk. Another stereotypical player character in Vampire LARPs. The character/player is amused by his own cruelty and destructiveness, especially to kine characters that do not have to be represented by human players. Typically a lackey to some other powerful player.

Ampersand Law #1. Early RPGs always had names in this format: [Something] & [Something Else That Usually Begins With The Same Letter]. (Dungeons & Dragons, Tunnels & Trolls, Villains & Vigilantes, Chivalry & Sorcery, etc.)

Ampersand Law #2. Even when RPGs have ampersands in their title, people rarely bother to write the ampersand, using "and" instead.

Anarchy Law. No matter how many people they kill or beat the shit out of, player characters are rarely if ever arrested or brought to trial for their actions.

Armageddon Effect. Any place where an RPG has more than three typos on one page. (So named for the first edition of Armageddon, likely the most poorly edited and typo-ridden RPG ever.)

Assamite Law. In any game where there are no monsters (or where the players are monsters), the players will be stalked by hunters/assassins with alarming consistency. See also Grudge Monster.

Auckerman Mode. When a gamemaster allows a player to bitch his character's way out of certain destruction.

Avenging Wallflower. A horrific variation of the common Wallflower in LARPs. These players play characters with a vast amount of unheralded, unseen power and go out of their way to be meek and unassuming, at least until a dramatic confrontation occurs in their vicinity. Whenever active, outgoing characters do something interesting near them, they will feel an unholy compulsion to leap into action, screaming and blowing things up with their incredible powers, simply to interfere in the process and thereby feel that they've done something.

Axebeard Law. In fantasy games, all dwarves should have the words "axe" or "beard" somewhere in their names. (Exception: Dark Sun) See also the PineSol Law.


Black Trenchcoat Rule. In modern-day games, black trenchcoats are comfortable attire in any climate and ideal for concealing swords and/or shotguns.

Blender. A mentally unbalanced gamer whose sole pleasure in life seems to be the alchemical combination of mutually exclusive game species and factions. Most often seen in World of Darkness LARPs. ("I won't join unless you let me play my White Howler Kinfolk Verbena Mage who was Embraced by the Assamite Clan so he could start a detective agency with his Shadow Lord partner!")

Bomb-Bomb. Peculiar stereotypical LARP player who, no matter what class or faction or persuasion of character they might be playing, have their character build a huge bomb and carry it around with them. Whenever they are upset, the bomb goes off and the game is over for the evening. (So named for one of those stupid suicidal walking bombs from the Super Mario Bros. video games.)

Brave New World Law. Players entering mysterious new worlds or dimensions can often expect their equipment and/or powers to function abnormally, if they'll work at all.

Brujah Physics Major. Stereotypical character rarely found outside Masquerade LARPs. These are invariably combative players who dress in skin-tight clothing (jeans, t-shirt, tank top, black fishnets, etc.) and insist on carrying a prop card that indicates they are concealing a huge anti-personnel weapon (AK-47, RPG-7 grenade launcher, etc). Not just carrying, but concealing. Only the strong of stomach should enquire as to where these weapons might truly be hidden.


Calvinball Rule. In the end, many gamemasters use their own setting and/or change a game's rules beyond all recognition anyway. If we wanted to be really silly, we could also call this the Law Of The Golden Rule.

Colon Law. Most modern-day occult games have names in this format: [Something]: the [Something Else].

Crappage Law #1. Every computer/console RPG system, without exception, is based on some variant of Dungeons & Dragons. (So named for the easiest – and, some would argue, most appropriate – pronunciation of "CRPG".)

Crappage Law #2. Almost every computer/console RPG takes place in some high fantasy world. Also, these worlds rarely bother to make any bow to realism or logic in any way, shape, or form.

Crystal Power Law. In modern-day occult games, all Wiccans (or variants thereof) are automatically good and in tune with the secret truths of the setting. (Exception: Unknown Armies) See also the Kill Whitey Law.


Damsel In Distress Law. Any princess or maiden the players have to rescue can never be unattractive or even average. They must always be beautiful. (Male hostages, on the other hand, can be handsome OR ugly.)

Dark Lord. Stereotypical villain in most fantasy games and any other game with a fantastical bent. Dark, scary, and obviously seeks the complete subjugation of everything. In the earliest games, these guys rarely had any motive beyond "well, he's evil – you need more?" but nowadays (thank you, White Wolf) they're also likely to be severely maladjusted and/or have two-dimensionally colorful histories.

Dark Dungeons Law. At a certain character level in Dungeons & Dragons games, Dungeon Masters begin teaching the players real magic. Unfortunately, no gamer has ever been able to determine which level this would be, and – strangely – the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide have absolutely no information on the matter. Of course, it has to be at some level, right? After all, the Christian fundamentalists who presented this information would never go against their religion by bearing false witness, would they?

Dark Dungeons Corollary. Every game that claims to have its magic based on "real occultism" is just a thinly veneered D&D-like system. (Nephilim, Authentic Thaumaturgy...)

Deal With The Devil Law. Player characters cutting deals with demons, evil sorcerors, evil dragons, and other villainous beings will always get ripped off in the end, even in cases where it will predictably inspire the players to hunt the little backstabber down and kick their ass.

Deck Of Many Things Law. In Dungeons & Dragons games, players will always screw around with a Deck Of Many Things if they find one. (Exception: most players in a new game right after a campaign that ended because of a Deck Of Many Things.)

Denizen of the Underworld Law. All underground races in an FRPG are evil and have black skin (this despite the natural tendancy towards albinism). Note that humans are an exception to this rule – that would be racist.

Describer Goon. Pernicious and highly annoying player type in many LARPs. These players enjoy playing characters with quirks and, rather than acting them out, tell other players about these quirks. (ie "Hey, you notice that my character has a limp and speaks with a French accent," as opposed to actually miming a limp and adopting a French accent.)

Desert Gorge Maneuver. The damnably silly process of throwing one party of replacement characters after another against an enemy lair, in order to wear them down through attrition. (So named for the Desert Gorge strip in KODT, in which the Knights created and expended hundreds of characters before finally managing to exterminate the inhabitants of an old west town.)

Domain Of Satan Rule. Without exception, all RPGs based on Christian ideas suck horribly and/or quickly go out of print.

DP9 Fanboy Law. Beyond the occasional GM screen, no Dream Pod 9 product can ever receive a bad review. Even indifferent reviews are pretty rare.

Dravenclone. A young LARPer who has recently discovered The Crow films and comic series. They then have the startlingly original idea of painting their face in the fashion of said Crow, and/or playing Crow archetypes at Masquerade LARPs. Dravenclone makeup must be applied in less than twenty seconds, and never while actually looking into a mirror and paying attention. These individuals are often embryonic Gothlings.

Dwarven Beard Controversy. The much-debated (and very trite) question over whether or not female dwarves have beards. These arguments usually start when a gamemaster – right in the middle of a social encounter – surprises a player by assuming/insisting that his female dwarf character has a beard.


"Everyone sucks but us." Normal guards and security forces are worthless – anyone sneaking into the players' (or their allies') stronghold / starship / city / whatever to cause trouble will get away with it or force the players themselves to deal with them.


Facial Hair Law. The style and amount of facial hair on any character will indicate alignment and general tendencies: goatees are either evil or poseurs, full beards are lovable big guys, long beards indicate wisdom, and scraggly, unkempt beards mean insanity. This is never more true than in fantasy games.

Felton's Law. No party is so powerful that a clever trap can't defeat them.

First Edition Law. The first editions of most 90's era games suck, and will suck worse as the game industry grows older. Despite this, gamers can be counted on to ignore the track record and buy the (much better) second edition of the game, too. This is especially true of the World of Darkness games (except for Hunter: the Reckoning, which will probably suck in all editions).

Freeware Law. Free RPGs almost always suck. 85-90% of all free RPGs are created by gamers who have (at best) only a vague idea about how to actually design a game system. At least 5% more were created by gamers who simply took existing systems and altered them, usually by just changing the dice type(s). (Exception: Fudge)

Freud's Cliche. Like Seagalism, except that the player is male and the character is always a beautiful, bitchy, idiotic woman.

Fringeworthlessness Law. All multiverse/parallel world games suck horribly and/or are out of print and/or are throwaway sourcebooks for universal RPGs. (Fringeworthy, Multiverser, GURPS Time Travel and Alternate Earths, etc. Continuum is an exception, but it's only barely in print now.)

Fudge Law. Regardless of what other details are provided, most gamers (for some reason) require a game system's attributes to be clearly defined before they will count it as an actual game system.


Gamma World Law. It is acceptable for companies to put out one edition after another without bothering to put out sourcebooks or any other support.

GenCon Rush. The process of publishing a game prematurely in order to make it available during the ultra-all-important GenCon. Of course, doing this invariably prevents the editors from getting a good look at it, and results in a game that is even more pathetically edited than most RPGs already are.

Geriatric Gygax. An admittedly cynical and derogatory term for a very, very old gamer (almost always resembling the creator of D&D, even down to the gray beard and ponytail) who joins a LARP troupe because their pending retirement depresses them. A disturbingly high percentage of these individuals are also mansluts.

Gothling. A young LARPer who has seen actual goths or pseudo-goths and decided they want to be just like them. Gothlinghood leads to repeated purchases at stores like Hot Topic, repeated experimentation with Type O Negative albums, and repeated confusion of cathartic notebook free-verse with actual poetry. While many goths are actually cool, gothlings tend not to get that far.

Gothic-Punk Law. In 90's era games (particularly modern-day occult ones), the very mood and atmosphere of a game is so precociously special that it needs its own special (capitalized) name...especially if this name can use the word "punk" somehow.

Grudge Monster. Non-planned monster/adversary a gamemaster secretly puts into the adventure after the players piss him off. The alarming tendency of gamemasters to use these could also be called the Primoscene Law. See also the Assamite Law.

GURPS Law. Universal systems usually suck more at emulating genres than the already-present systems they were designed to hopefully replace. (So named for GURPS, probably the blandest, most inflexible universal system ever devised.)

GURPS Metaphysics Law. If a magic/psionics system works for one setting, then it is perfectly suited for all settings! (Exception: GURPS Mage: The Ascension, GURPS Voodoo...but that's about it.)

GURPS Sourcebook Law. Many, many more gamers buy GURPS sourcebooks than will (or should) ever actually use the system.


Heroic Fortitude Law. When wars occur in fantasy games, the heroic side typically loses almost every battle, but will somehow win the war.

Herzog's Law. Given a choice between gaming and dating, many gamers would be surprised that they actually have a choice.

Hiding In Plain Sight Law. Players in "inconspicuous monster" modern-day occult games will never play an inconspicuous character. In addition, players who actually try to play inconspicuous characters will inevitably be told by the gamemaster that they're "being difficult" and that their characters either don't work well with the party or are "difficult to fit into the plot".

Highlander Law. "True" immortal beings (ie non-undead ones) in modern-day occult games are always more vulnerable to decapitation than almost all other forms of injury. (Exception: Nephilim)

Holocaust Rule. In modern-day occult games, the Holocaust is always the work of mortal humanity, never supernatural beings or conspiracies, who at most merely took advantage of the already-occurring atrocities and horror. (Exception: Immortal)

Honest John's Law. Anything the player characters obtain that seems too good to be true IS too good to be true - it can never just be simply what it appeared or was advertised to be, with no hidden drawbacks.

Humanity Loss Law. Cybernetic implants inexplicably strip you of your humanity/empathy. Each new implant brings you closer to becoming that berserk sociopath you've always wanted to be. This idea has never appeared in cyberpunk literature, being just a ploy to keep power gamers in check. In games with supernatural elements, implants eat your soul, too (Rifts, Shadowrun, Obsidian, etc).

Hunter Law #1. A RPG's artwork does not need to have anything to do with what the game is actually about.

Hunter Law #2. Player characters should always kill someone if the voices in their heads inform them the person in question is a monster. See also the Psychopath Law.


Illiteracy Law. RPG books always have far more typos than any other type of publication known to man, including pornography, online personals ads, and religious tracts. From a professional standpoint, RPG books are at best remotely comparable to other books, but typically they aren't even that good.

"I'm Different, Too!" Law. In a typically feeble effort to establish their own style, most games (especially modern-day occult ones) will invent alternate terms for "gamemaster" and "campaign". The worst of these games will also find alternate terms for "player" and "game session". This law is also known as Ackels' Law, after the creator of Immortal: the Invisible War, a game that redefined almost every single gaming term (yes, even "character action" and "levels you have in something").

Infravision Law. In all fantasy games with nonhuman races, all the demihumans will have some sort of special vision. Humans will not.

Innkeeper Law. Innkeepers in fantasy games have to be either fat and grumpy, or fat and jovial. (If we're in The Last Paladin, they're also allowed to be wide-chested.) Either way, their daughters are always beautiful.

InQuest Syndrome. When an (allegedly) independent magazine fails to give its highest ratings to games that aren't published by a certain company, typically TSR/WOTC.

Inquisition Rule. In modern-day occult games, the Inquisition is always secretly still around.

Intervention Of Reality Rule. D&D-based novels do not in any way take into account that powerful D&D characters can survive massive amounts of damage without blinking.


Kill Whitey Law. In modern-day occult games, Western civilization is an active force for evil, or at the least dehumanizing and soul-numbing. (Exception: Unknown Armies)

Kitchen Sink Law. High fantasy games make perfect sense (evidently) with ecosystems mismatched with creatures from every mythology that has cool monsters.

Kull Effect / Kullism. When gamers in medieval fantasy games play heavy metal or alternative music during the game. (So named for Kull The Conqueror and its not-entirely-appropriate metal soundtrack.)


Law Of Capitalization. 90's era games (particularly modern-day occult ones) regularly must go out of their way to capitalize every possible setting concept and game term.

Law Of Magic(k). "Magic" is too passe a word – all games must now pretentiously call it "magick".

Law Of Ruleless Deformity. Any avant-garde game must cut out a majority of the rules, and provide only setting – and the rules they do provide must clearly suck. Especially true for modern-day occult games. Also known as the "Let's Pretend" Law.

Law Of The Humble Designer. Small press game writers are always intelligent, friendly, and (unlike many of their counterparts in large companies) show few signs of having their heads up their asses.

Lejendary Law. It is important to avoid even the most flimsy pretense for a copyright infringement lawsuit, even if it makes you look dumb. Also known as the Aeon Law.

Loonball. Although a highly useful general term, "loonball" here applies to a precise form of lunacy. Specifically, a gamemaster or storyteller who hates fielding rules questions from players, so much so that they don't even read or study the rules to the game they're running. Thus, every major confrontation in the game is soon complicated by the fact that the gamemaster/storyteller gets insanely irritated at their players for even mentioning the rules, much less asking questions about them.


Mainstream Impotence Law. Except for Dungeons & Dragons (and sometimes not even then), no attempt by RPG makers to spread their creations to other media ever succeeds on any impressive scale, however well done they might actually be. (Emperor Of The Fading Suns, Kindred: the Embraced, the D&D movie, the various novels for non-D&D games, etc.)

Manslut. A predatory, perpetually single male LARPer who spends every minute of every game chasing skirts. This behavior may verge from the passive and cute to the idiotic and destructive.

Mass Mediocrity Law. All the game systems of the largest game companies suck: Dungeons & Dragons (maybe prior to d20), Palladium System, GURPS, Storyteller, etc. (Exception: non-first edition Shadowrun/Earthdawn, arguably)

Matrix Fanboy Law. Every gamer group contains or knows any number of dimwitted gamers who are (or were) just dying to use The Matrix as the basis for an RPG.

McCracken's Effect. When a game designer interprets any criticism of his work (particularly bad reviews) as a personal attack, especially if he sends hate mail to the critic. (So named for Synnibarr creator Raven c. s. McCracken, who was, in the distant past, known to do exactly this. He's much cooler than that now, though.) Also known as Wounded Elitism.

Middle Finger Evolution Law. It is not important for companies and designers to improve or change their game systems, no matter how many years (or decades) they've been around. See also the Gamma World Law and SJG Law #2.

Ministry Of Truth Rule. Except where McCracken's Effect applies, game designers are incapable of acknowledging bad reviews. One good review is enough to prove it's a good game and quote repeatedly, even if there are several bad (and well-reasoned) reviews to outweigh it.

Mode: Downward Spiral. Any campaign where the futility of the players ever succeeding at anything beyond their own demise or the destruction of the world becomes apparent after three game sessions (or less). Usually degenerates into vast silliness as the players act any way they want to, knowing the same thing would happen if they actually tried and went on with the storyline.

Mode: Foot Bullet. Any period where the gamemaster has presented a not-entirely-logical puzzle and lets the frustrated players stumble around for hours without being even close to the solution. Most of these involve finding some kind of secret door, and are colored by increasingly bizarre and/or stupid actions as the players become more and more desperate.

Mode: Monty Haul. Any campaign where the gamemaster doles out huge amounts of experience/treasure/power/other rewards. Usually becomes stupefyingly pointless after the player characters become the most wealthy/powerful beings in the universe.

Mode: Schizophrenia. Any game where a gamemaster changes the game system he's using for his world more than once every three sessions.

Mode: Weenie. Any game where the gamemaster hates allowing player characters to die, and will secretly fudge die rolls and involve other deus ex machina to keep them alive. Once the players figure this out, the game typically becomes boring, although safe for the ego.

Mode: Wishful Thinker. Any game where the gamemaster is planning to write a novel based on the game's events. Particularly tragic, as most gamemasters never actually complete the novel and even if they do, they are faced with the fact that most game fiction sucks anyway.

Mode: Zero Sum Game. The Amber Law in effect: any game treated as a competitive event between gamemaster and players.

Modern-Day Occult Game. A game set in our modern, contemporary world, except that (unknown to mundane humanity) magic(k) is real, vampires and/or other monsters are real, conspiracies are probably screwing with society, blah blah blah, and we're usually expected to believe something about all this is horrifying. Referenced many other times in this list, the modern-day occult game has very much become a cliche unto itself, and the genre is quickly reaching the same point of gross oversaturation that high fantasy games reached in the 80's and beyond. See also...well, about half of this list.

Monkey's Paw Rule. When players get wishes, the gamemaster will make every attempt to pervert the wording of the wish into something harmful (usually by interpreting the wish as literally as possible). Legendarily true in D&D games. This often leads to players taking several minutes (and multiple breaths) to recite a once-simple wish, in order to close every possible loophole that could screw them. (Example: "I wish for a Girdle Of Storm Giant Strength that doesn't have a storm giant or anything else already in it and that doesn't already belong to someone else and that isn't cursed and that I will receive immediately and that will remain in my possession and not just vanish or disintegrate or whatever [inhale] and that..." ad nauseum.)

Mook Law #1. Any NPC who the players join with and the gamemaster doesn't bother to name is an NPC that invariably dies. Also known as the Red Shirt Law.

Mook Law #2. Any time the gamemaster describes a character, the players will assume they're important and start screwing with/conversing with/stalking them (see also the Paper Clip In Socket Rule). On the other hand, gamemasters will rarely bother to describe anyone who is not important to the plot of the campaign.

MUD Law. Barring gamemaster fiat or point abuse, player characters in almost all RPGs start out at the bottom of the food chain, with relatively little power. Class/level systems and the World of Darkness series are particularly flagrant about this. (So named for online Multi-User Dungeons, which typically start characters off with such starkly pathetic capabilities that woodland animals are a worthy adversary.)

Multiverser Law #1. It is more important to defend oneself from Christian fundamentalists by embracing them than to avoid alienating the gamers who might actually have bought your game.

Multiverser Law #2. The more a game designer can needlessly write on and on and on about a concept, the better. Even simple concepts like surprise and skill advancement need huge, convoluted, long-winded passages to explain them. (This might also have been called the Aria Law, but Multiverser was a more insidious example of this kind of abuse.)

Multiverser Law #3. Before publicly declaring their game to be totally original and unlike all other games, game designers do not actually need to know anything about the history of RPGs beyond AD&D 1st edition. Similarly, these designers should expect gamers to accept their claims at face value, and condescend to those who don't.

Multiverser Law #4. It is acceptable to quote reviews out of context in order to make your game look good. In addition, posting the review with a running commentary for it cannot in any way be considered "editing". See also the Ministry Of Truth Law.

Munchkin. Player whose goal in the game is to amass as much power and kills as possible, whatever the costs to role-playing, the storyline, fairness, or logic (of course, as most munchkins play Dungeons & Dragons and other class/level games, things like role-playing, storylines, fairness, and logic have little place anyway). The Munchkin's Guide To Power Gaming (by Steve Jackson Games) offers a detailed and entertaining analysis of munchkins and their tactics.

Mysterious Illness Law. Serious diseases that threaten someone the players need to save can never be cured with common remedies or magics – it always has to be some some absurdly rare herb or antidote or power or artifact in some distant land.


Nephilim Law. In modern-day occult games, mortal humans are considered to have the same intrinsic worth as cattle. (So named for Nephilim, a game that is particularly blatant about this.)

Ninja Rule. If more than three ninja are attacking, they are invariably cannon fodder and will have their asses handed to them by the players. The inverse is also true: a single ninja will be death on legs.

Nixon. A LARP player who, no matter how charming, pleasant, and intelligent they might be in real life, is completely incapable of playing a character that doesn't immediately come across as slimy, underhanded, and leering.


Octopoidal Freud Rule. Any creature with tentacles invariably has some form of sexual perversion. Also called the Inju Rule.

Octopoidal Horror Rule. Creatures from another dimension or "beyond reality" always have tentacles.

Omnipresence Law. In superhero games (among others), the villains can show up in full force at any time to challenge the heroes. (But hey. Fast food joints, laundromats, and public restrooms make great battlegrounds.)


Paper Clip In Socket Law. Almost all player character groups will relentlessly screw with anything out of the ordinary (especially if it looks like it might contain something). If no better reason exists, they will do this simply because the gamemaster put it there. See also Mook Law #2.

The Paranoid Hetero. Any female character played by a male character will inevitably be a lesbian, out of the player's fear of someone thinking they are gay.

Path Model Rule. Supernatural powers in games (especially modern-day occult ones) must be divided into levels, with one effect or aspect of the power per level. (Exception: Unknown Armies)

PBEM Law. Play-By-Email RPGs invariably fail. Those that don't are instantly relegated to the realm of mythology.

PineSol Law. In fantasy games, all elves should use foliage types or some reference to the sun in their names. (Exception: Dark Sun, again) See also the Axebeard Law.

Power Kill Law. Any "moral" or "style" commentary on the gaming industry is an elitism fantasy.

Preteenage Fanboy Law. With the advent of the World Wide Web, it is now possible (and apparently necessary) for idiots to create and post D&D character classes based on their favorite TV show/movie/video game: tomb raiders, highlanders, vampire slayers, power rangers, predators, Matrix dudes, etc.

Prophecy Rule. Any ancient prophecies are always correct. Also, if they mention Chosen Ones who will save the world, the players will be it.

Psycho Hose Beast Syndrome. Usually found on online RPGs, this is where the GM/game owner is a control freak and must inflict their own headgames and psychoses on the poor players who occupy the game. Sometimes found in tabletop games and LARPS.

Psychopath Law. In most games, player characters have absolutely no problem butchering anyone it would be helpful to kill, even if the player characters are supposed to be nice guys or were formerly non-combatants. (Exceptions: Unknown Armies, Kult) See also Hunter Law #2.


Railroading. Any time the gamemaster will not allow players to deviate from the adventure's one set path or even make their own decisions. Campaigns with heavy railroading offer few draws over CRPGs or (for that matter) the multitudes of solo game books that proliferated during the 80's. See also T-Rex On The Plains.

Raven Star Law. It is okay for game designers to not edit their books, as long as they at least have a bunch of cliches to build a setting from.

Reincarnation Homicide Defense. This is when players in games that prominently feature reincarnation (Kult, Witchcraft, etc) stop caring about how many people they've slaughtered, since the victims will eventually be reincarnated anyway.

Rolemaster Law #1. Games need so many charts that their gamemaster's screen literally takes half the average gaming table.

Rolemaster Law #2. Although Rolemaster is still played even today, its adherents have long since accepted the futility of defending it against criticism.

Roll-Playing. When character statistics and rolling dice (especially for combat) become more important than role-playing or telling a story. This is the first kind of gaming style to ever exist, and is often decried by gamers who forget that having fun is more important than "creating art". Also called Rule-Playing.


Salvatore. Taken from the name of the author of the Forgotten Realms Drizzt series. A player who always insists upon playing a character against type – especially when the rules expressly forbid it. Particularly popular in the World of Darkness games. In mild doses, playing against stereotype should actually be encouraged, but how many reformed Black Spiral Dancers can there really be?

Sanitary Metabolism Law. No matter how much they eat or drink or how long they stay awake, characters never need to go to the bathroom. Hell, with many gamemasters, they don't even need to eat, drink, or sleep regularly, either.

Sartin Mode / Sartinism. Any hideously transparent effort to run a controversial RPG (eg Kult) or Christianity-based RPG (eg Dragonraid, Multiverser, Rapture) in a manner that ironically mocks an organized religion, especially Christianity or Scientology. (Example: Player 1: "Okay, if we storm the local Temple of Ale-Rahn, mow down all the Working Zetans, and raise the Finger of Zee-Noo at the Pures (thus reactivating their flesh-zetans and de-Purifying them), what do we get?" Player 2: "An application for Probable Turmoil Source 6." Player 1: "Does rail gun ammunition come in hollow point?")

Saturation Law. At any given point, at least half of all gamers have plans or dreams of creating and publishing their own RPG. The fact that many of these gamers actually succeed has (by this point) lead to the arguable fact that there are simply too many RPGs in circulation compared to the total number of gamers.

Scrawny Mnemonic. Not necessarily a derogatory term, the scrawny mnemonic is one of those unassuming, small-statured LARPers (sometimes a Wallflower, as well) who has the awesome power to carry around a full copy of the rules, index and all, in their head. Frequently consulted by mere mortals on fine rules points. When Scrawny Mnemonics meet, they can bang mental databases for hours, and can be driven out of conversation only by the need for food, water, or sleep.

Seagalism. When a player attempts to play the same character type and personality in every game they play. (So named for Steven Seagal, who plays the same damned character every movie.) See also Freud's Cliche.

SenZar Marketing. When a game creator uses anonymous email accounts to secretly hype his own game in newsgroups and reviews.

Shades Of Nightfall Rule. It is okay for a game to criticize other games in its genre even as it openly steals from them.

Shawshank Redemption Law. Guards and controllers of prisons are always mean or outright sadistic.

SJG Law #1. Steve Jackson Games cannot keep GURPS setting books in print.

SJG Law #2. Keeping page references current is far more important than being able to actually update a game system. See also the Middle Finger Evolution Law.

Sociopath And Model Problem. This is when players don't get together during character creation and end up creating characters that are hopelessly, violently incompatible. (So named for a short-lived Kult campaign where the two player characters were a grating, brain-dead model and a misogynistic serial killer.)

Sovereign Stone Law. RPG writers and designers who were legendarily good in the past are not guaranteed to ever be good again.

Spandex Fallacy Law. All superhero games have rules that intrinsically suck. (Exception: Mutants & Masterminds, and Champions...I think)

Splat. Obligatory subspecies/subgroup/sub-something that supernatural beings in modern-day occult games are classified into. (Example: vampire clans, werewolf tribes and mage traditions in the World of Darkness games, prides in Immortal, covenants in Witchcraft, etc.) These subgroups are often stupid or illogical, and produce cookie-cutter characters.

Splatbook Law. No sourcebook based on a splat is ever worth buying or reading unless you're some fanboy who absolutely must have everything for the game line...or some embittered reviewer who needs something new to make fun of.

Star Trek: the Next Generation Law. In most games, if you expose an enslaved, mindless, or assimilated being to freedom, they'll convert to it in a minute or less and never want to go back. (Apologies to Heather Grove, who wrote about this far earlier than I did.)

Stoic Moron Law. Unless they fail a fear check (if the game even has fear checks) and the gamemaster specifically tells them they're afraid, most players will assume their characters are fearless and have absolutely no problem doing things like running through a tunnel full of tarantulas or sticking a piece of lit dynamite into a towering, screaming monster made of decaying flesh, twisted metal, and half-consumed victims.

Synnibarr Biography Law. High fantasy games with character levels, mutant super-powers, ultra-technology, magic, psionics, and other crap can "ring with authenticity" if the author has studied engineering.

Synnibarr Biography Law #2. Jumping off a diving board is an impressive enough accomplishment to merit mentioning in your author's bio note (or resume, for that matter).


Tavern Rule #1. In fantasy games, player characters usually not only start the campaign in a tavern or inn, but immediately become best friends. As with the Tolkien Law, this is one of the oldest cliches in existence...pretty much every fantasy gamemaster has used it.

Tavern Rule #2. PCs will invariably sit in the darkest corner of the tavern/inn/bar and will always sit with their backs to the wall.

Temple Orgy Law. Every RPG book, especially modern-day occult ones, must have at least one sexually themed picture, no matter how out of place the picture might be. (Clanbook Assamite was a perfect example: despite being vampires (who have no interest in sex or any other physical pleasure) and being Islamic, the Assamites evidently need to throw huge orgies.)

"The Best Game Since SenZar!" An obviously tongue-in-cheek line, best used by game designers who want to say "I'm pretty sure my game doesn't suck, but I don't want to sound pretentious."

Thieves Guild. Stereotypical organization that exists in most fantasy settings. Thieves guilds are shady, underground (literally), ever-present (despite their illegality), and take a dim view of "independent" thieves.

TINATH. Short for "Teen in a Top Hat." An admittedly cynical and derogatory term for the garden-variety young LARPer who, though attired in shorts and a T-shirt, somehow feels dressed to the nines by the addition of a top hat to their wardrobe. This term is generally used by older, more experienced LARPers who tend to see acting ability, wit, and social grace as being more important than a single expensive prop.

Tolkien Law. All high fantasy games have elves, dwarves, and halflings. Most have orcs/goblins, gnomes, and trolls, too. They also have a lot of other beings and monsters in common – way too many to list here. This is pretty much the oldest cliche of them all – archeologists have even uncovered evidence of prehistoric FRPGs like this. Okay, maybe not.

Trains On Time Rule. Any government overtly or secretly controlled by an evil force no longer has to worry about bureaucracies, internal politicking, citizen oversight laws, logistics, or budgets. (Exception: Dark*Matter)

T-Rex On The Plains. A particularly irritating form of Railroading where the gamemaster uses huge, nasty monsters (or high-level adversaries) to scare players back onto the path. (So named for a peculiar incident in an AD&D game where the players went off task and took a shortcut through a field they had heard about. It was a featureless landscape, but a T-Rex appeared literally out of nowhere and chased the players back onto the main road. Needless to say, the game ended soon after.)

TSR Apostate Rule. Gamers who swear that TSR's games were the worst games imaginable will nevertheless reminisce about them anyway.

Twinkus Rex. Existing in every LARP group, the Twinkus Rex is what horrifically results when munchkins get into LARPing. These players are the undisputed king of rules-abuse and stat-twisting in their local area. They have the awesome power to instantly discern which flaws or disadvantages will have no practical handicapping ability whatsoever and assign them all to their character, using the extra points gained thereby to create a hormonal monstrosity that can easily best Mechagodzilla in hand-to-hand combat. The art of the Twinkus Rex is a subtle one, and must often be witnessed to be believed.


Unfortunate Predecessor Law. All modern-day occult games in the 90's borrow/steal from White Wolf. (Exceptions: Kult, Unknown Armies) See also the Colon Law and Vampire Boy Scout Law.

Unique Snowflake Rule. Players will pick up on the latest hot movie/book and run it into the ground, even going so far as to quote lines from it in their own role-playing. (So named for the Tyler Durden speech in Fight Club.) Also known as the Flavor of the Month Rule.


Vacuum-Packed Dungeon Law. All high fantasy games contain underground complexes that no one built, full of monsters that need no food and never leave their assigned room or corridor. In addition, all the traps will work, even if they've been neglected for hundreds or thousands of years.

Vampire Boy Scout Law. Instead of the respectable monsters they once were, vampires in modern-day occult games are now typically brain-dead, hollowly angst-ridden, and almost as menacing (and respectable) as a below-average troop of boy scouts. See also the Unfortunate Predecessor Law. (Exception: Kult)

Vampire Boy Scout Corollary. The above law obviously cannot apply to Vampire campaigns being run under the White Wolf First Generation Law.

Vampire Fanboy Law. Characters in Vampire LARPs are, without exception, less interesting than their players. Even if the players have day jobs as accountants, engineers, or lawyers.


Wallflower. An inescapable but thankfully minor annoyance at virtually every LARP. These players actively avoid conversation, interaction, and conflict with a determination that eclipses mere shyness. Caution must be exercised, as their ranks sometimes conceal the dreaded Avenging Wallflower.

Watcher Group. Stereotypical "neutral" human group in most modern-day occult games that concerns itself with merely observing/studying the supernatural beings.

Webster. A player whose LARP characters invariably spout forth grandiose orations on every topic and confrontation at hand. This behavior can be entertaining or long-winded, depending on the skill of the player. These could also be called Churchills.

Weird Pete Myth. Many gamer groups actually do know a grizzled, thickly-bearded, overweight, irascible old veteran gamer. This individual usually does (or did) run or own a game store.

"What Does Not Kill You Makes You Stronger." Trite Nietzsche quote that was first used in Conan The Barbarian and has since appeared in no less than 8,000,000 different RPGs, including multiple games in the World of Darkness series. Usually appears in the foreword, the experience point section, or right before the setting details.

White Wolf/SenZar Law. A game designer who truly believes his game is the greatest game in the universe will assume that everyone else either a) also agrees, or b) disagrees because they're morons or too jealous/afraid of how great the game is. (So named for what was once the two most flagrant cases of this.)

White Wolf First Generation Law. Despite all their artistic and storytelling pretensions, many White Wolf campaigns end up being run with much the same hack and slash mentality as any Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Invariably Werewolf games.

White Wolf Headcase Law. Supernatural characters in White Wolf games are required by the game system to have serious psychological problems. (Exception: Mage, maybe, before paradox goes off the deep end.) This is also true in certain other modern-day occult games, notably Immortal.

White Wolf Line Writer Law. Sourcebooks for modern-day occult games must contradict other sourcebooks for the line.

White Wolf Shadowy Apathy Law. In modern-day occult games, the supernatural beings are always a secret, even if there are so damn many of them that they probably outnumber the humans.

Wick's Rule. Historical, cultural, or linguistic inaccuracies are acceptable as long as you change the country's name first.

Wick Violation. Any effort, successful or attempted, by a reviewer to state an actual opinion. Reviewers, of course, are stupid and evil beyond accountability, and people who read reviews are brain-dead assholes.

World Of Insufficient Light Law. No setting is so complete that the creators can't run it into the ground with four or five more games based in it, especially if they obviously didn't plan to do this in the beginning (and thus have plenty of contradictions).


X Marks The Spot Law. Ancient, wrinked treasure maps always actually lead to treasure (or something else of importance), as opposed to being simply hoaxes or directions to some village where you can buy really bitching stone idols.


Zero Law. RPG books are always expensive, even if there's no apparent need for them to be. This is probably because gamers are forever willing to pay this much, so the publishers do not need to change anything. (So named for Zero, an 80-page, $25 game of legendarily sparse content.)










Tedious But Probably Necessary Legal Note: The many uses of copyrighted names in this document are not a challenge to the copyright holders. Remember, we got paid zilch for all this. But, just for completeness:

Amber is a trademark of Eric Wujik.
Aria is a trademark of Last Unicorn Games.
Armageddon and Witchcraft are trademarks of Eden Studios.
Champions is a registered trademark of Hero Games.
Continuum is a trademark of Aetherco/Dreamcatcher.
Dark*Matter, Dungeons & Dragons, and Gamma World are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast.
Emperor of the Fading Suns is a trademark of Holistic Design, Inc.
Fringeworthy is a trademark of Tri Tac Systems.
Fudge is a trademark of Steffan O'Sullivan.
GURPS is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games.
Immortal is a registered trademark of Precedence Publishing.
Multiverser is a registered trademark of Vauldron, Inc.
Nephilim is a trademark of Chaosium.
Obsidian: the Age of Judgment is a trademark of the Apophis Consortium.
Power Kill is a trademark of John Tynes.
Raven Star is a trademark of Raven Star Game Design.
Rifts is a registered trademark of Palladium Books.
Rolemaster is a trademark of Iron Crown Enterprises.
SenZar is a trademark of Nova Eth Publishing.
Shades of Nightfall is a trademark of Silver Shadows Publishing.
Shadowrun is a registered trademark of FASA Corporation.
Sovereign Stone is a trademark of Corsair Publishing and Sovereign Press.
Unknown Armies is a trademark of Greg Stolze and John Tynes.
Vampire: the Masquerade, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Mage: the Ascension, and Hunter: the Reckoning are trademarks of White Wolf Game Studio.
The World of Synnibarr is a trademark of Raven c.s. McCracken.
Zero is a trademark of Steve Stone.