Games: A Primer

I recently was lurking on CA’s forum when someone said that they wished that they played WoW so that they could understand the jargon. It ended up being a specific thing, but it made me think that many people may not know the terms that I, and others like me, use on a regular basis. So, here we go! I may use terms in definitions that will be defined later down the page. These are not in a particular order, although some relevant ones are grouped together.


Buff: Any change that causes something to become more powerful. Something may have a temporary buff, such as a spell that temporarily increases a character’s intelligence stat, or a permanent buff where the programmers change the thing to make the game balanced. Something underpowered gets buffed. The opposite of a temporary buff is a debuff.

Nerf: The opposite of a permanent buff. An OP thing gets changed so that it doesn’t break the game. Normally leads to players screaming in agony. Example: “Fucking hell, they nerfed Pyro AGAIN?”!

OP: Overpowered. Programmers are constantly playing the game of balancing the abilities of all the weapons and classes in a game so that a single thing can be reasonably challenged by other abilities. For example, if a rifle-mounted grenade is considered OP by the programmers then it might have its damage nerfed or the effective range reduced. See Paladin

Wipe: A situation where everyone in the party dies. Plainly put. Usually blamed on lag.

PUG: Pick-up group. A situation where people that don’t know each other play though a game as a team. Usually fail-tastic.

DoT: Damage Over Time. This includes spells like Corruption, which does X damage over Y seconds, or simple bleed effects where you lose health over a period of time, like Sniper’s new weapon. Can lead to Yeah You Killed Me But You’re Fucked Anyways.

Squishy: Low defense or low health. Usually used in a derogatory way. Clothies, spellcasters that wear cloth armor, are usually squishy.

PvP: Player versus player.

PvE: Player versus environment. Usually fighting against enemies in the world or in instances.

Carebear: Deragatory term used for people who avoid PvP and stick to PvE.

Mat: “Material”, items used for crafting.

AoE: Area of Effect, blast damage over an area.

Afk: Away from keyboard. Holds up party for indefinite amount of time. For biological needs, bio is usually used.

Roll: A throwback to the pen-and-paper D&D days which required dice rolls for stat creation, “rolling” a character means creating a new one. Excessive rolling of new characters in MMOs can lead to alt-coholism, where an alt is any character that you play in addition to your main. Using the resources from your main to buff your alt is called twinking and is generally looked down on.

Drop: When something drops, it means that you receive that item off the corpse of the slain monster. Also, patches can drop from the corpses of slain programmers.

Tell: Private message between two characters. Could be used for important communication, or simply to bitch about someone in the raid. Beware tank-to-healer tells, you mob-pulling DPSes.

Newb: Someone new to the game, he sucks because he doesn’t know the mechanics yet. May improve with time.

Noob: Someone who has played the game a long time and still sucks at the game, and yet refuses to get better. Faces any suggestions with hostility. Bonus points if he vehemently defends his decision to outfit his mage in strength-boosting gear.

CC: Crowd Control. Any skill that allows you to disable enemies so that you can focus on another one without it smacking you around. Favored by squishies. Also used to freeze enemies in place while you leg it. Comes in three forms.

Snare: Movement impairing/slowing.

Root: Movement stopping, but still able to function.

Lock: Stun/fear/sleep/polymorphing, anything that takes away control of the monster from the player/AI.

Fire: Anything that damages you by standing in it, whether it’s acid, fire, frost, or so on. Usually shouted as “Get out of the fire, you n00b”!


Tank: A class of character that is decked out in armor and taunts. A tank’s job is to hold aggro and keep the enemies from killing the “softer”, aka lower defenses higher attack, allies. In a word, their job is to take all the damage.

Aggro: A system for determining what character the monster attacks in a battle situation. Every monster has an “aggro table”, which keeps track of the “threat” that each character has towards that particular monster. The person with the most threat, and therefore is the highest on the table, is the one that gets attacked by the monster. Tanks use taunts, which are skills that boost them to the top of the table temporarily, and attacks that generate a lot of threat to keep the monster’s attention. To “draw aggro” or “have aggro” is to be at the top of the table. To draw “parent/spouse aggro” is to have them bitch you out for playing MMOs.

Pull: The first action the engages a mob in battle. This could be a deliberate action, or it could simply be caused by a character standing too close to the mob and causing them to attack. The latter is called an add. Example: “Stupid noob rogue, let the tank pull! You don’t need to pickpocket everyone”.

Mob: A group of enemies that attack as one. A moving mob is referred to as a pat, which is short for “patrol”.

DPS: Stands for “Damage per second”. These classes are simple damage dealers, their job is to burn down an enemy as quickly as possible without drawing aggro.

Burn: Two meanings.

1. To “Burn something down”, like a boss enemy, is to pull out all the stops, pop every cooldown, buff everything to get as much DPS on a boss as possible. Usually used in desperation after the tank or healer is dead in an attempt to kill the boss before a wipe.

2. To burn a skill or item means to use something that runs off a cooldown or is limited in number. For example, if one of your DPSes gets aggro, then the tank will have to burn a taunt, which then goes on cooldown.

Cooldown: In order to prevent players from spamming abilities, many skills have cooldowns. Simply put, these prevent the spell from being used for a set period of time. There’s two kinds, the global and the specific.

Global cooldowns are short periods after you use an ability where you cannot do anything else. This is usually not an issue as skills take time to cast, but it does help cut back on spam. These are only about a second long.

Specific cooldowns are usually applied to single spells that are cast instantly or are so powerful  that spamming them would lead to them being OP. These can be anywhere from three seconds to a half hour long.

Pop: Use

Healer: Class that heals damage done to party members. Arguably the leader of the group. Must balance his supply of mana, the health of his comrades, and his position on the aggro table.

HoT: Healing over Time. Ability that heals X damage over T seconds.

Pot: Potion

Rez: Resurrect, bring back from the dead. See Wipe

WTS: Want to sell.

LFG: Looking for group.

Stunlocking: Where a class with a certain set of abilities can utterly disable another player, killing them before they can break the stun. See Paladin, Rogue, and OP.

Ninja: Bastards who exploit looting systems to steal all of the gear for themselves. Main reason for loot paranoia.

Spec: Short for “specialization”, used for MMOs that allow you to choose what skills you want to improve by assigning points to them. Also, for games like EVE Online where every skill requires training, what you decided to specialize in.

These should be all the big ones. If I’ve missed anything, let me know. I have no doubt that more will be put in here as I think of them.

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