Game EducationHow to PlayMechanical Design

Dungeons & Dragons Vocabulary to Know

Character Alignments

Good: Respectful and kind

Evil: Selfish, oppressive, and rude

Lawful: Follows a strict system of code, whether laws or honor. Can be unwavering.

Chaotic: Unpredictable and reactive. Also free from hindered rules.

Neutral: Balanced between good and evil or balanced between lawful and chaotic.


Combat Vocab

Critical (Crit): When you roll a natural 20, that’s referred to as a crit. You get bonus damage to your target in most cases! The opposite (rolling a natural 1) is called a critical fail.

Feat: Feats are add-on abilities a player can gain to improve skill checks in combat and other checks.

Hit Points: TThere are max hit points which the highest number that player can have unit they level up. Damage removes hit points and at zero a player becomes incapacitated.

Initiative: Players roll at the beginning of combat to establish initiative which is the order that players, monsters, and non-player characters take their turn during the combat sequence.

Melee: Combat done within 5 feet of space, typically. Close-range combat by hand using slashing, piercing, and striking damage weapons.

Ranged: Ranged combat is done from a distance and utilizes weapons such as magic, bows, and arrows.

Rage: Rage is a skill specific to barbarians that adds advantage and bonuses in combat.

Sneak Attack: Sneak Attack is special to rogues and can do a surprising amount of damage when surprising a target.

Saving Throw: You roll a savings throw to try and resist certain effects or situations.


Character Skills

Strength (STR): Your character’s physical ability. How well can your character crush a tomato?

Dexterity (DEX): How well can your character dodge a tomato being thrown at them?

Constitution (CON): How well would your character be after eating a rotten tomato? What’s their physical resiliency?

Intelligence (INT): Knowing that a tomato is a fruit.

Wisdom (WIS): Knowing that, despite a tomato’s technical fruit label, it’s best to not base your fruit salad on it. This is your character’s common sense.

Charisma (CHR): If your character is charismatic, they might be able to sell a tomato-based fruit salad.


Character Classes

Barbarian: Barbarians are the bodyguard of a party, mostly working with melee weapons. They also have the ability to rage. Build your first barbarian character with the help of this post.

Bard: Bards are the entertainer or performers of a party. They typically use both magic and combat. They have the opportunity to offer buffs and debuffs. Build your first bard character with the help of this post.

Cleric: Clerics are a critical part of any party as the go-to healer. A cleric is much like a warlock in using a patron’s magic, only they come in the form of priests and warriors and only use divine or holy magic. Build your first cleric character with the help of this post.

Druid: Druids are animal shape-shifting mages and nature nerds. Build your first druid character with the help of this post.

Fighter: A fighter is a warrior that focuses on weapon use and can be quite versatile otherwise. Build your first fighter character with the help of this post.

Monk: A monk has powerful fists of combat and specializes in weapon-free martial arts. Build your first monk character with the help of this post.

Paladin: Paladins are the holy knights with sacred missions. They also have a deity like a warlock but are “good” guys. Whatever that means. Build your first paladin character with the help of this post.

Ranger: Aragorn from Lord of the Rings was a ranger. They’ve can wield more than one weapon and are proficient with bows and crossbows. Your typical rugged woodswoman or woodsman. Build your first ranger character with the help of this post.

Rogue:  Everyone wants to be a rogue because they’re successfully sneaky little fighters with lots of stealth. Build your first rogue character with the help of this post.

Sorcerer: Sorcerers use arcane magic and don’t need to memorize their spells the way that a wizard does. They’re limited in their spell lists. Think of the witches and wizards of the Harry Potter world as a sorcerer. Their magic comes down through a bloodline as opposed to studying or patronage. Build your first sorcerer character with the help of this post.

Warlock: Think of the witches of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina as your standard warlock. Someone that receives power through a magical pact with a deity, typically an evil one. Build your first warlock character with the help of this post.

Wizard: Also an arcane magic user but through rote memorization and study, as opposed to bloodline or patronage. Build your first wizard character with the help of this post.


Races, AKA Species

Human: The most diverse of the races, much like IRL.

Elf: Elves live a LONG time and look like humans but with the telltale pointy ears. Also, they can be pretty tall. There are a few sub-races of elf, including high moon elves, high sun elves, and drow elves. Build your first elf character with the help of this post.

Drow Elf: These are your underground sub-race of an elf with purplish, ashy skin that doesn’t spend much time in the sunlight. Sorta like a goblin? But an elf. Yeah.

Half-Elf: Half human, half elf. Build your first half-elf character with the help of this post.

Dragonborn: Think of Dragonborn like people dragons. They humanoid but draconic and have special ancestry features based on color. Build your first dragonborn character with the help of this post.

Dwarf: Short, stout, beard-y humanoids. Build your first dwarf character with the help of this post.

Gnome: Also small humanoids, but more whimsical and magical and tinker-y. Build your first gnome character with the help of this post.

Half-Orc: Half human, half orc. They’re tall and powerful. Build your first half-orc character with the help of this post.

Halfling: Half-sized humanoid. Make good burglars. Think hobbits. Build your first halflingcharacter with the help of this post.

Tiefling: Tieflings have horns and tails and decent from devils! Build your first tiefling character with the help of this post.



Arcane Spells: Dramatic effect spells not derived from sources of divinity. The go-to for wizards. Lots of variety!

Components: The physical requirements for casting a specific spell, such as hands, words, or ingredients.

Divine Spells: Divine spells is a type of magic that comes from deities or other holy entities, usually to protect or heal.

Effects: Spells that affect status or elements.

Schools: The different specializations of magic in Dungeons and Dragons such as necromancy and conjuration.


Other Vocabulary

Buff: Any effect that can temporarily increase a player character’s stats. An example of this is the spell Greater Invisibility which turns another player character invisible for a minute, including clothes and items worn, without the need to use an action.

Debuff: Any effect that can temporarily decrease a player character’s stats.

Status effects:  These act like a debuff for player characters. An example is being poisoned or knocked prone.


Written by
Beth the Bard (@ItsBethTheBard)

She/Her | Pro DM & Coach | ADHD | Best-Selling DnD Author of Feminist Curse of Strahd Book | D&D in a Castle DM | Creator of TTRPG University

Related Articles

Game Education

Meet the “Write Your Own TTRPG Adventure” Summer 2023 Cohort!

Oh, the places we’ll go… Behold the Summer 2023 cohort for our...

How to become a freelance TTRPG writer
Game BusinessGame Education

How to Become a Freelance TTRPG Writer

Freelance writing is the core of the TTRPG publishing industry. Who knows?...

How to PlayMechanical Design

What is a polyhedral dice set? A guide to the “math rocks” of D&D.

Hey, there! I’m your resident go-to when learning how to play various...

Game EducationGame Mastering

How Game Masters Can Avoid Burnout

Being a Game Master (GM) can be a rewarding experience—but it can also be...

Skip to content