Your Handy Dungeons & Dragons Vocabulary Starter Guide

Powered by Geek & Sundry

Maybe you’ve been watching our Twitch stream and learning about tabletop gaming. Maybe you’re so drawn into the narrative potential of Dungeons & Dragons that you want to start up your own game. Awesome! We love to help you guys discover the joy of gaming, so here is a quick compilation of some standard D&D terms to help make understanding the process a little easier.


Strength (STR) – The character’s physical strength. This effects the potency of melee attacks.

Dexterity (DEX) – Agility and accuracy. This affects ranged attacks and dodging.

Constitution (CON) – Physical resilience. This affects hit points and some physical resistances.

Intelligence (INT) – The ability to process problems and wield certain magic. INT affects the number of skill points received.

Wisdom (WIS) – Common sense and spirituality.

Charisma (CHR) – Social skills and sometimes physical appearance.


Barbarian – A primarily melee combatant who makes a good guardian for other players. They can enter a temporary rage.

Photo credit: Vin Diesel

Bard – A versatile class that uses both combat and magic. They offer buffs (status bonuses) for party members and can apply debuffs (status impairments) to enemies.

Cleric – Priests and warriors who focus on divine magic. They make excellent healers and can often repel the undead.

Druid – Nature attuned mages with the ability to transform into animals.

Fighter – A versatile, weapon-oriented warrior.

Monk – A martial artist who specializes in unarmed combat.

Paladin – A holy knight of a chosen deity, usually committed to the path of righteousness.

Ranger – Hunters and woodsmen, mainly skilled with bows, crossbows, or dual wielding.

Rogue – A stealthy fighter capable of disarming traps and sneak-attacking enemies.

Sorcerer – A master of innate, arcane magic who does not need to memorize spells, but is limited in which spells they can cast.

Warlock – A generally evil mage who invokes magic through pacts with supernatural entities.

Wizard – An arcane spell caster who can choose to memorize different spells each day.


Good – Having a respect for life, altruism, and selflessness.

Evil – Wicked and often selfish or oppressive.

Lawful – Abides by a core morality or honor system. Can also be judgmental and close-minded.

Chaotic – Free-spirited and sometimes unpredictable. Can also be reckless or reactionary.

Neutral – A balance between Lawful & Chaotic or Good & Evil.


Human – Pretty self-explanatory. They are very diverse and can play just about any role.

Elf – Long-lived and graceful humanoids with signature pointed ears. There are several possible variations of elves.

Half-Elf – A mix race of humans and elves. They have low-light vision and immunity to sleep effects.

Drow – “Dark elves” with ebony skin and white hair. Usually evil and residing in the Underdark.

Dragonborn – Humanoid descendants of the greater Dragon God.

Dwarf – A stout and hearty humanoid, usually bearded.

Gnome – Small humanoids with an affinity for magic and illusions.

Half-Orc – A blend of orcs and humans. They tend to be large and strong, but more agile than full orcs.

Goliath – Blue-gray giants and the largest playable race.

Halfling – Humanoids of half normal human size who are well suited for the art of thievery.

Tiefling – A humanoid of demonic lineage (depending on the game edition) usually with horns, sharp teeth, and orb eyes.

Skills & Skill Checks

Characters have a variety of proficiencies. Skill checks are often used whenever a player attempts to accomplish something. Checks can include lock picking, determining character motives, swimming, climbing, crafting, etc. All skills are rooted in one attribute, so each rank in a skill gives a bonus to a roll based on that root attribute, if applicable.


Divine Spells – Magic drawn from holy sources or deities. Tends to focus on protection and healing.

Arcane Spells – Pretty much any spell not derived from a divine source. They tend to have more variety and dramatic effects.

Schools – Magic specializations such as conjuration, illusion, enchantment, and necromancy.

Effects – Elemental or status-effecting outcomes of a spell such as electricity, poison, or fear.

Spell Component – Physical items required to cast a spell. Some DMs choose to omit this requirement.


Image credit: WendyDoodles

Initiative – The order in which players and enemies take their turns in combat.

Feat – Additional abilities players can acquire to improve their combat and skill checks.

Sneak Attack – A special rogue attack that does massive damage when they surprise or flank an enemy.

Critical (Crit) – When a character rolls a natural 20 (or lower with certain feats or spells), they do bonus damage to the enemy.

Botch – When a player or DM rolls a 1, it leads to a critical failure, usually with dire (or hilarious) consequences.

Hit Points – The amount of health a player has. Damage decreases hit points and incapacitates the player at zero.

Melee – Close combat using striking, slashing, or piercing weapons.

Ranged – Combat from a distance using bows, arrows, guns, thrown weapons, or magic.

Rage – A Barbarian skill that can add bonuses to Strength, Constitution, and Will saving throws as well as temporarily increase hit points.

Saving Throw – A roll of the die to determine if a player resists and effect.

“How Do You Want to Do This?” – What Critical Role’s Matthew Mercer says when a player is about to slay an enemy in an epic manner.

Feature image: Courtney Kraft

Top Stories
Trending Topics