5718 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

FAQ – Glossary for non-geeks who’d like to understand


Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Writeups.org primarily discusses stuff that doesn’t exist. This in turn often means using a specific vocabulary.

These are words that are generally known among geeks, and particularly role-players. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that *you* know them, especially if English isn’t your first language. So let’s explain them.

Oh, and this article uses the “q.v.” abbreviation, which is *also* jargon. It’s short for Latin quod vide, more or less “look it up”. Meaning that the term is defined elsewhere in this article.


A

AARPG

Action-Adventure RPG. A type of computer game based on the landmark 1996 computer game Diablo. Some examples of AARPG characters: Diablo IIAmazon or Assassin, or the Torchlight Vanquisher.

Adamantium

An imaginary super-metal in the Marvel Universe. “Secondary” adamantium is really tough ; “primary” adamantium (usually just called adamantium) is practically indestructible. Wolverine’s claws are coated with adamantium, and Captain America’s shield is made of an unique adamantium alloy.

Amalgamate

This is a reference to the Amalgam comic book line of the 1990s. This was a joint imprint between Marvel and DC, where the two universes had fused. Many characters with similar niches were thus fused into one character. For numerous examples of such “mergers” between DC and Marvel characters see our profiles in the Comics > Other Universes > Amalgam category.

Anagathic

“Which suspends aging”. Used for the powers and chemicals some comic book characters use to slow down or suspend their aging, since it’s a short and specific term.

Anime

Japanese cartoons, existing in a wide variety of genres and art styles.

Astral

In many settings, the astral plane is a dimension (q.v.) that coexists with the ordinary world. However, those in astral form are normally invisible, intangible and silent and cannot interact with the physical world. Both magicians and telepaths are capable of projecting an astral form in most super-hero settings, roaming as an immaterial ghost while their physical body is left behind.

B

B&E

Common abbreviation for “breaking and entering”. May involve skillfully dealing with security systems and locks.

Bang Baby

In the Milestone Comics super-hero setting, a person who gained superhuman power during the so-called “Big Bang”. This major rumble between gang bangers went even more out of hand when an experimental tear gas ended up mutating and empowering many of the persons present.

BFG

The name of a weapon in the classic Doom video game. The abbreviation is widely assumed to mean Big F*cking Gun, and has been used for a variety of large guns – particularly advanced energy weapons that make big explosions.

Blaster

Usually means a gun firing energy bolts, like in Star Wars. It’s also a dated slang for a firearm. Sometimes, it is RPG jargon for a character who primarily fights by shooting energy blasts, like Cyclops.

Brick

A character with massive strength and durability, but often — not always — lacking in speed and mobility.

Bronze Age

In super-hero comic books history, this is a shorthand for an era that goes from (roughly) 1974 to 1986.

Buckler

A very small shield, almost closer to a forearm protector as it usually leaves the hand free.

Buffing

Gaming jargon. ”Buffing” somebody is to reinforce one or more of their abilities, often through magic. For instance of you cast an enchantment on an ally to make them stronger during a battle, you are buffing their strength (and perhaps making them more buff for a spell, so to speak).

C

Campaign

A series of tabletop role-playing game sessions that form a single story. The term is derived from a military campaign.

Cantrip

In a role-playing game context, informed by Dungeons & Dragons, this usually means a small magic spell fit for beginner mages. A cantrip has but minor effects, but it also requires little knowledge and power to cast.

Character sheet

In a RPG this is where the quantifiable data about the capabilities of a character is recorded. Physical strengths and weaknesses, social strength and weaknesses, intellectual acumen and blind spots, training, etc..
Thus, “so-and-so uses a different character sheet by this point” means that there are lots of observable, quantifiable differences in their abilities compared to previous depictions.

Chem, to

To communicate using chemicals such as pheromones. Usually the province of insect-like aliens.

Chi

Focused life force in harmony with the universe. In fiction, this is the go-to explanation for cinematic (q.v.) or superhuman capabilities produced by martial artists through extraordinary concentration, meditation and training.

Chronal resiliency

In chronophysics (q.v.), the tendency of a timeline to revert to the same general flow of events even though time travellers are tampering with it. The traditional example is “if you murder Hitler, then some other person simply takes his place and little really changes in History”.

Chronophysics

The physics of time travel.

Chronoportation

Time travel.

Cinematic

When used about a character or their abilities, it means a level of proficiency that isn’t realistic, but not super-heroic either. It is closer to something you might find in an action movie. Hence the term “cinematic” to designate an intermediary zone between the mundane and the clearly superhuman.

CO

Common military abbreviation for Commanding Officer. The person in charge.

Combot

Short for “combat robot”.

Comic book limbo

A comic book character is “in comic book limbo” when they’re still alive and active in-universe, but don’t appear much or at all in published stories. They’re out there but we don’t get to see them, or hear much about them.

Continuity penumbra

The Worgmeister’s term for specific eras of DC Comics continuity. These usually happen after a cosmic crisis, where the universe has changed but there’s not yet a firm, shared understanding of the new facts among all writers. This means that for a while, continuity glitches occur. Usually because elements from the previous continuity are erroneously thought to still be valid.
So it just means “a span where the writers didn’t yet have all the continuity facts they needed, so grain of salt”. See the Ages of DC Comics article for more about continuity reboots.

Cosmic cube

In the Marvel Universe, a special cubical receptacle that can potentially tap immense reality-rewriting cosmic power from otherdimensional (q.v.) entities called Beyonders. A “charged” cosmic cube can essentially do anything.

Counter-Earth

In the Marvel Universe, a replica of Earth created by the High Evolutionary. Originally it had the same orbit as the Earth, but was always on the other side of the Sun.

CQB

Military abbreviation for Close Quarter Battle, basically meaning a gunfight that takes place indoors.

CRPG

Computer role-playing game (including gaming console RPGs), such as Mass Effect, World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy.

Cyberpunk

A literary science-fiction genre about a dysfunctional future. Often features giant corporations ruling the world, cybernetic implants, amoral adventurers and advanced firearms.

D

Darkforce

An extra-dimensional (q.v.) for of jet-black, solid energy. It is used, with small variations, by characters such as Darkstar, Blackout, Black Mamba, the Left Hand, etc.

Debuff

The reverse of a buff (q.v.). Temporarily lowering the acumen and strength of an opponent in battle, often through magic.

De-cel line

A special type of rope that allows for super-heroic urban acrobatics like the ones performed by Batman or Daredevil. Doing this stuff with normal climbing ropes is impossible.
The term “de-cel” appears in DC Comics, primarily the ones written by Chuck Dixon.

Dimensional

In this context, regarding realms of existence that are not our universe. For instance the astral plane from Dungeons & Dragons and folklore about magic, or the Negative Zone in Marvel Comics.

Doppelgänger

The replica, the double of a person. Often some sort of evil twin, supernatural being, alien impersonator, etc.

DPS

A video game abbreviation (Damage Per Second) that stands for characters whose main role is to inflict damage to the enemy ; whose abilities are focused on offence.

Dual-wielding

Wielding a weapon in each hand in combat.

Dweomer

The enchantment on a magic item, its magical “charge”. Mostly a Dungeons & Dragons jargon word.

E

Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-4…

See our article about the Ages of DC Comics.

Earth-616

The technical name of the “main” Marvel Universe. This is opposed to parallel Earths, possible futures, other dimensions (q.v.), etc.

Elseworld

A term used for a while by DC Comics to designate a story where one of their characters exists in a completely different setting – for instance the Batman of Victorian-era London rather than modern Gotham City. This is a form of “what if” scenario (“What If Batman existed in Victorian London ?”).
“Elseworld” being a convenient term it is used in multiple profiles on writeups.org. Unfortunately DC stopped using that brand after a while, which now makes this word an obscure one.

EMP

Electro-Magnetic Pulse. A burst of energy that disrupts and shuts down electronics and other electricity-powered equipment unless they are sufficiently hardened. Among other things, this is a side effect of nuclear explosions.

EOD

Explosive Ordnance Disposal. Disarming bombs.

ESL

Common abbreviation for “English as a Second Language”. People who speak English but not as their native tongue.

Exo

Usually short for “exoskeleton”, usually meaning a strength-enhancing motorized frame worn by a person. Exos are usually similar to power armour (q.v.), though some (such as the power loader used by Ms. Ripley near the end of Aliens aren’t armoured.

Expy

A version of a fictional character existing in an unrelated fictional world. For instance, most comic books universe have a jungle lord type with a minimal bit of leopard-skin underwear, a knife, great strength and agility, etc. That character is a Tarzan expy.
Sometimes an expy is a parody, sometimes it’s an homage, sometimes it’s a rip-off, sometimes it was just felt that a fictional world had to have a version of that archetype.

Extra-dimensional

Originating from another dimension (q.v.).

F

[Foo] or (foo)

The traditional name for a variable ; a placeholder word in a technical phrase. For instance in the expression “Paired Weapons (Foo)”, “Foo” indicates that one must specify the weapons in question within the parentheses.

4-colour

This is a reference to the time when comic books were printed using a four-coloured-inks process, and intended for a very young audience. The term is now a metonymy to allude to the characteristics of old comics with simplistic stories, goofy internal logic, incoherent power levels and other charming but dated elements.

FPS

Abbreviation for “first person shooter” – a video game that is primarily about gunfights, and where the player sees the world through the eyes of their character (a first-person perspective)

Frex

Short for “for example”, because I’m *way* too cool to actually pronounce words.

Fridging

A common trope  where a character (almost always a woman) is killed off to motivate *another* character (almost always a man), with the slain character being reduced to a disposable, cheap dramatic beat.

FTL

Abbreviation for “faster than light” – space travel at speeds exceeding C (the speed of light), through some sort of violation of the laws of physics.

G

Gadgeteer

An expert at creating the sort of weapons and tools you find in super-hero comics, from what’s on Batman’s utility belt to what’s in Mister Fantastic‘s labs.
In this context, the word “gadget” doesn’t have its common connotation of something of questionable utility. On the contrary, it is often very useful to get out of a tight situation.

Gamemaster

The person who runs a pen-and-paper role-playing game session, in collaboration with their players.

Gamma mutate

A mutate (q.v.) caused by the fantasy version of gamma radiation in the Marvel Universe. The best-known example is the Hulk. Gamma mutates are usually but not always green, and often possess immense superhuman strength.

Ganev or gonif

Yiddish word for a scoundrel. Here and elsewhere, is employed specifically for a person with ties to the mob and performing shady activities but who are not themselves, technically and legally, a criminal. Often some sort of fixer.

Geas

A concept found in many Celtic legends. This is a magical foretelling, often a prohibition, laid on a person (usually a hero). Geasa are often bizarre and specific, such a prohibition from kissing blonde witches, being unable to be named except by a specific person, or being unkillable in certain circumstances.

Genegineered

Short for “genetically engineered”.

Gestalt

In a fantasy/super-hero/sci-fi context, this often refers to an entity composed of multiple consciousnesses. A collective being. For instance the early Firestorm is a gestalt entity made up of two different men.

Glamour (or glamer)

Is normally used here in its original sense – a magical enchantment. In RPGs it has come to often mean a minor illusion disguising the true nature of a person or object, often to make it more attractive or to pass as something non-magical.

Glass canon

RPG jargon for something that has very good offensive capabilities, but very poor ability to withstand attacks (hence the image of a large gun made of glass). This traditionally applied to heroic fantasy wizards who could cast devastating spells such as fireballs, but were physically outmatched by a soldier in good shape.

GM

Gamemaster (q.v.).

Golden Age

In super-hero comic books history, this is a shorthand for an era that goes from (roughly) 1938 to 1951.

Great Old One

A reference to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos . In this context, “Great Old One” becomes a shorthand for an unfathomably alien and ancient creature of cataclysmic power, representing the cold hostility of a meaningless universe.

On the gripping hand

An old-school geek expression replacing the “on the third hand” joke when contrasting 3 things rather than 2 (“on one hand, on the second hand, on the third hand”). It comes from the 1974 novel The mote in God’s eye .

To grok

Another old geek expression, meaning to have an intuitive yet accurate understanding of something (“she’s never played this, but she seemed to just grok everything”). It comes from the 1961 novel Stranger in a strange land .

Gynoid

A woman shaped-creature, often of artificial origin. A she-android.

H

Harbinger

In the Valiant Universe, a superhuman mutant.

Healing factor

A fancy name for superhuman regenerative powers. A person with a healing factor has a body that stops bleeding, closes wounds, recovers from shock, etc. at a superhuman pace. They’ll often be able to regrow destroyed organs and limbs.

Hero Points

A role-playing game term. An expression of what makes a greater-than-life hero different from an extra. It often denotes the ability to perform extraordinary efforts at key moments of the story – as well as luck, determination, narrative immunity, etc. More for DC Heroes RPG players.

Homo Magi

In the DC Universe, the ability to wield “full magic” (as opposed to being an Occultist (q.v.)) usually depends on certain inheritable genetic markers. Such persons are called “homo magi”, though that’s not meant to be a proper taxon. Whether the “homo magi” concept is in continuity at any given point seems random.

Homo Mermanus

The pseudo-zoological term in the Marvel Universe about Human-like people who live underwater. Andromeda is Homo Mermanus, whereas Namor or Namora are mutant hybrid offshoots.

Homo Superior

A pseudo-scientific term used by mutant supremacists in the Marvel Universe to refer to mutants. They usually apply it to superhuman mutants.

Human

In case you’re wondering, we often capitalize “Human” when Humans are a species among many others such as Elves, Asari, Orcs or whatever, rather than the default. It would be odd to capitalize all species’ names but that one.

Hypertime

An interesting attempt to explain the constant continuity issues in the DC Universe, though it failed to be adopted by most writers beyond Mark Waid. Hypertime posits a structure where there are numerous echoes around the “main” timeline, and these parallel realities often intersect and merge with the main timeline (usually temporarily).

I

Ichor

In Ancient Greek mythology that was the blood of the gods. This has been expanded to mean the liquids that flood in the “veins” of various creatures, and particularly vampires.

IED

Improvised Explosive Device. A home-made bomb or mine.

Inertron

In DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes original setting, a nearly indestructible metal (BODY 30, in DC Heroes RPG terms).

Interdimensional

Affecting several dimensions (q.v.)

Ionic energy

In the specific context of the Marvel Universe, this usually refers to the empowering energy infusing the body of Wonder Man, Goliath/Atlas (Erik Josten), the Crazy Eight, Dallas Riordan, Luchino Nefaria and related characters.

Iron Age

There isn’t a genuinely agreed-upon definition for this proposed era in super-hero comic books. But it usually refer to the late 1980s and early 1990s, and specifically to a subset of (often best-selling) books that were aiming for a grim, gritty, violent atmosphere. It was often meant to appeal to an adolescent sense of masculinity (or “kewl” for short).

J

Jobber

A slang term in American Wrestling, denoting a bad guy who always loses.

K

Kaiju (怪獣)

A Japanese-style destructive giant monster such as Godzilla or his foes.

Kryptonian-class

With a power level broadly similar to Superman’s.

Kvetch, to

Vigorously complaining about something, at length and in considerable detail – preferably with wit.

L

Lazarus Pit

In the DC Universe, a rare but naturally-occurring kind of underground water source that can resurrect the recently dead. These have played an important role in multiple Batman stories.

Ley lines

A common concept in occultism, where the Earth’s energy flows more densely along certain axes. This forms a sort of planetary webbing, or circulatory system, of life force. The “ley lines” formulation borrows from Celtic myth, but loosely comparable ideas can be found in, say, Chinese geomancy.

Limbo

This usually means a dimension (q.v.) where time has unusual properties. Common cases are time not passing at all, not being linear, or flowing much more slowly that in most dimensions. Many limbo dimensions also look like non-places with odd spatial properties.

LMD

Life Model Decoy. In the Marvel Universe, a special sort of android that looks like a perfect, lifelike replica of a a given person.

LMG

Abbreviation for Light Machinegun. See our Grenades and Heavy Weapons article for more.

Lore-legal

Additional content that doesn’t contradict or otherwise clash with the established, official setting. This could be from a mod for a video game, or fan fiction, or a third party RPG adventure module. It’s “lore-legal” because it respects all the canon facts, history and atmosphere (the “lore”) of a fictional setting.

Lycantrope

Literally “in the form of a wolf” – another word for “werewolf”. In RPGs, “lycantrope” has broadened to encompass other creatures with two forms, especially if one is human and the other a bestial monster.

M

Mana

Magical energy, used to power magic spells like gas is used to power a car. How it works exactly depends on the story’s setting.

Manga

Japanese comics, existing in a wide variety of literary genres and art styles.

Mangaka

A person who creates manga.

MANPAD

MAN-Portable Air Defence. A shoulder-fired anti-airplane missile.

Mecha

Japanese term for an exceptional vehicle, often combat-capable. The typical example is the giant humanoid robot with a pilot inside, but all sorts of vehicles can be mechas as long as they’re about as cool.

Mentat

A person with enhanced analytical and intellectual capabilities, often serving as an advisor. The term comes from the vintage science fiction epic Dune.

Merc

Short for mercenary.

Metagene

In the post-Crisis on Infinite Earth DC Universe, the genetic marker allowing a person to have superhuman powers.

Metamorph

A being capable of assuming a wide variety of shapes.

MGH

Mutant Growth Hormone. In the Marvel Universe, this biological extract was sometimes used as a potent narcotic capable of giving temporary, unstable super-powers to people.

MIA

Missing In Action. When a soldier or agent type doesn’t come back from a mission, but no corpse is found either.

Midgard

This is how Asgardians — the people from Thor‘s dimension — often call Earth.

Millihawkmans

Writeups.org’s imaginary, tongue-in-cheek unit of measurement to express how incomprehensible and Byzantine a given character’s continuity has become due to poor handling and excessive retcons (q.v.). This is inspired by Hawkman, a DC Comics character who is notorious for this (and thus corresponds to 1,000 millihawkmans on this made-up scale of continuity clusterfudge).

Minigun

A kind of machinegun that has rotating barrels to avoid heat build-up from sustained shooting. Sometimes called a chaingun, though that’s technically incorrect.

MMO or MMORPG

Video game jargon – Massively Multiplayer Online game, or MMO role-playing game. An Internet game where many players operate in a shared world, like World of Warcraft.

Morph

To turn into another shape. ”Morph” rather than “transform”, “change”, etc. often implies that the change is achieved through some sort of power or magic rather than something physically explicable. Derive from “metamorphosis”.

MOS

Military occupation skill – a soldier or officer’s job.

Munchkin

In the context of an RPG — usually a tabletop one — a character that is optimised to be as powerful, dominant and special as possible, at the expense of verisimilitude and common sense. Normally used dismissively to snark at a juvenile power fantasy that doesn’t go well with the shared narrative and world-building of RPGs.

Mutate

Usually employed for a being who has been deliberately mutated, usually to endow them with superhuman power. This contrasts with a mutant, who wasn’t deliberately engineered.

Mythicals

Short for “mythical creatures” such as unicorns, dragons, ki-rin, etc.. This is generally used in settings where these creatures exist, and where a better definition would be “creatures that match the descriptions in popular myths and probably inspired those in the distant past”. Mythicals can be other-dimensional (q.v.).

N

Nth metal

A fantasy metal in the DC Universe, which can manipulate gravity under certain conditions. Mostly associated with Hawkman’s wings.

“Named”

A piece of video game jargon. A Non-Player Character (q.v.) who has a unique name, as opposed to, say, “An Orc Warrior”. The logic is that if this character has been given a name by the writers, then they have a higher narrative importance (and more Hero Points (q.v.)) than run-of-the-mill extras and enemies.

Negative Zone

In the Marvel Universe, another universe made of (the fantasy version of) anti-matter. The Fantastic Four had many adventures in this exotic space (after using technology to convert their body to anti-matter bodies), usually clashing with Annihilus or Blastaar.

NOE

Nap-of-earth flight – flying very close to the ground.

No-Prize

An imaginary prize that was traditionally handed out by Marvel Comics to readers who managed to explain away continuity errors in Marvel stories. By extension, a “No-Prize Hypothesis” is a made-up explanation to cover up discrepancies in published stories rather than simply pointing out the error.

NPC

Abbreviation of Non-Player Character. A character in a role-playing game who is not directed by a specific player. In a computer RPG they’ll be handled by the computer, in a tabletop RPG they’ll be handled by the gamemaster.

O

Occultist

In DC Heroes RPG jargon, a person who is capable of casting magic spells, but cannot do it on the fly. An Occultist needs to conduct a ritual (q.v.) with the likes of invocations, pentagrams, candles, sacrifices, the stars being right, etc.

Off-panel

When an event is reported to have occurred in a comic book, but the readers did not see it on the page. For instance it could be mentioned in a later conversation. This is the equivalent of a movie or TV series event happening off-screen.

OG

Older slang meaning Original Gangster. Usually a founding member of a street gang, though sometimes simply a street gang officer noted for his experience and influence.
In the DC Universe, this was tweaked to also mean Original Gothamite. These are the Gotham City locals who chose to live in the ruins rather than evacuate after a catastrophic earthquake.

Omni-Gadget

This is a DC Heroes Role-Playing Gadget. An Omni-Gadget is a piece of equipment carried by a character, that mysteriously turns out to be just what was needed to face a certain situation. This models characters such as Batman who carry an endless arsenal and/or have an uncanny ability to predict the dangers they will face. In many cases it also models deus ex utility belt writing.

OSP

On-Site Procurement. Obtaining weapons and other supplies in the field, rather than bringing them with you. Often refers to taking guns and ammunition from fallen enemies, for immediate use.

Other-dimensional

Which comes from another dimension (q.v.). That and “extra-dimensional” are usually synonyms.

P

Parallel reality/parallel Earth

Another version of reality, usually one where things occurred differently than in our own own. The archetypal example is “a version of Earth where the Nazis won World War Two”. A parallel reality exists as another dimension (q.v.), but extraordinary means allow travel between realities and dimensions.
In the Marvel Universe, parallel Earths are given a large number – for instance the “core” Marvel Universe is Earth-616 (q.v.) or Reality-616/Universe-616 if looking beyond Earth. In the DC Universe that has varied, but it’s usually a small number (such as Earth-2) or a letter (such as Earth-S).

Phalanx

In the Marvel Universe, the main faction of transmode (q.v.) aliens, hosting the techno-organic virus .

Phase / phasing

Short for “being out of phase with the physical world” – in other words, being intangible / immaterial. The best-known examples of characters who can phase are Kitty Pryde of the X-Men and Phantom Girl of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Vision of the Avengers also qualifies.

Player Character

In a game, a character who is controlled by a player (as opposed to a character managed by the computer (in a video game) or the game master (in a tabletop role-playing game)). For instance Pac-Man is a Player Character, but the ghosts chasing him aren’t.

Pocket dimension

A very small dimension (q.v.). Usually appears because somebody has a privileged access to it and uses them as their mini-realm (or as storage space).

Post-Crisis, pre-Crisis

See our article about the ages of DC Comics.

Power armour

A suit of body armour with motorized limbs, enhancing the strength of the wearer. Mostly comes from old science fiction (Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (1959) is the big one), but the primary example of comic book power armour is Iron Man.

Primary source

When researching fiction, “primary source” means concrete, factual events that are directly observed in the story and are as free of bias as feasible. This is opposed to secondary sources (q.v.), which involve additional layers of opinion and interpretation.

Psionic

Mind powers with a science-fiction feel such as telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance, etc.

Psychotronics

Electronics circuits having to do with psychic powers. Psychotronic devices often serve as protection against psionic (q.v.) powers.

Publication time

This means that events are assumed to have taken place during the year where the book was published. So if something is chronicled in a book published in 1973, the “publication time” approach means it took place in 1973, with Nixon being President, Roberta Flack on the radio with Killing me softly and everything. This contrasts with other approach that reinterpret the timeline as being shorter than “publication time”.

Pulps

Very cheap novels and short stories that were popular in the US during the first half of the XXth century. Many characters, particularly from the 1920s and 1930s, had a tremendous influence on super-hero comics books. Examples include the Shadow, Doc Savage, the Spider, Conan

Pyrokine

Slang term for a person possessing the gift of pyrokinesis (q.v.).

Pyrokinesis

Mental creation and/or control of volumes of flame.

Q

Quad-wielding

Like dual-wielding (q.v.), but for people with 4 prehensile ends.

R

Rabbi

In the context of an American police force, a more experienced officer serving as a mentor for a newcomer to the force.

Reality-616

See the “Earth-616” definition.

Relative future

What a given person at a given moment has yet to experience. When it comes to time travel, it is often necessary to use such notions, as saying “the future” may elicit the question “from the vantage point of which observer ?”.

Ritual

In DC Heroes, this is casting a spell through a ceremony rather than doing so on the fly, as if magic spells were super-powers. A ritual may require incantations, pentagrams, rare materials, occult tomes, astrological alignments, etc. – and most of all, time.

Robertbrucebannerization

A fix employed when there’s a mistake about the first name of a character. You retroactively declare that the erroneous name is actually their middle name (or the other way around). This tongue-in-cheek term comes from Marvel having employed this approach when they goofed about the first name of Bruce Banner a.k.a. the Hulk.

Roguelike

A type of video game usually characterized by 1/ a lack of multiple lives (when your character dies you lose), 2/ random generation of the adventure’s setting and often but not always 3/ turn-by-turn gameplay.

Ronin

A medieval samurai who no longer has a master. This is a big deal, since the entire point of a samurai’s life is to serve a lord. Occasionally used metaphorically for a person in a broadly similar situation.

RPG

Depending upon context, the abbreviation of either a Role-Playing Game or a Rocket-Propelled Game (a sort of light rocket launcher)

Retcon

RETroactively changing the CONtinuity of a story. Perhaps the writers changed their mind, or something was revealed to be different from what it was thought to be so far, or perhaps time travel changed the past. Or maybe a writer accidentally contradicted something previously established and it becomes the new status quo. See the Wikipedia article  for more.

S

Sapient

Possessing human-scale (or higher) intelligence. The word “sentient” is more commonly used, by less technically accurate.

Savage Land

In the Marvel Universe, a polar “Lost World” area with jungles, dinosaurs, primitive tribes, hidden Atlantean secrets, the works.

Schtick

Yiddish word for a gimmick, a trick, a signature move, a knack, a recurrent bit of flourish/style. Also a type of Advantage in the DC Heroes RPG

Secondary source

Something that isn’t the primary source, as strictly defined. For instance in comics the only primary source is the exact events the comic as published. Everything else such as sourcebooks, creator interviews, official online character profiles, etc. is a secondary source.
Even comments made by other characters in the primary source, or captions, are a secondary sources since they are opinions rather than fact.
Distinguishing between primary and secondary sources is necessary for researchers to ensure accuracy, and to handle contradictory accounts. You can’t argue with seeing the character lift a car above their head, but a secondary source saying that the character can lift a car above their head may include error or bias.
(Well actually you can argue with seeing a character do something, but that’s another issue).

Seedling

In the 1990s WildStorm comic book universe this meant a Marvel Comics-style mutant.

Shadowstepping

The power to step into shadows, disappear, and reappear in another, distant shadowed area.

Shi’ar

In the Marvel Universe, a species of aliens who run a huge empire in another galaxy. The Shi’ar have primarily appeared in X-Men stories.

Silver Age

In super-hero comic books history, this is a shorthand for an era that goes (roughly and debatably) from 1957 to 1973.

Sitrep

Short for “situation report”.

Skartaris

In the DC Universe, a “lost world” setting full of dinosaurs and jungles and necromancers and swordsmen in a loincloth. The core character in this setting is the Warlord.

Skrulls

In the Marvel Universe, imperialistic space aliens who can take the shape of any person or animal. They’ve caused a lot of trouble and damage over decades of comic book appearances.

SMG

Abbreviation for Sub-MachineGun, a light automatic weapon shooting pistol rounds. See our Small Arms article for more.

Soft reboot

Fan jargon for when a continuity element is rebooted, but without a clear statement that a reboot took place. Sometimes it’s called a “softboot”, or a “stealthboot”. A typical example is when a character receives a new characterisation and observably different capabilities and background element, for no stated reason.

SPB

Super-Powered Being. Mostly used in the Wildstorm Universe circa the year 2000.

Speedster

A character with the power of super-speed, like Quicksilver or the Flash.

Symbiote

An organism that can merge with a person, often giving them superhuman powers in so doing. The exemplar is Venom.

Synthezoid

An android made of artificial materials that mimic how the human body works. This term is normally used for certain Marvel Universe characters such as the Vision or the original Human Torch.

T

Tank

Video game jargon. A character who is very resilient and whose role is to stay in the enemy’s face, contain them, and focus incoming attacks on themselves to give their allies more breathing space.

Techno-Organic Virus

In the Marvel Universe, the T.O. Virus is an alien microscopic agent that can turn living being into living machines sharing a collective, hostile mind. It’s bad news.

Teep, to

To communicate using telepathy.

Telekine

Shorthand for “a person capable of telekinesis” (q.v.)

Telekinesis

The power to move objects at a distance through force of will. Often a psionic (q.v.) ability.

Terrigen

In the Marvel Universe, Terrigen mist is a powerful mutation-inducing compound. It is closely tied to the Inhumans civilisation, who spent centuries exposing their own to the Terrigen mist and cultivating these genetic alterations. Terrigen-induced mutation sometimes result in superhuman powers.

Tertiary source

These are even more removed from the facts of the story (“primary source” (q.v.)) than secondary sources (q.v.). These could be unpublished stories, drafts, fan pages from unauthorised persons, official material with catastrophic continuity problems… While tertiary sources aren’t normally used on writeups.org, we can still mention them as, say, the source of an intriguing hypothesis. As long as their status as tertiary sources is clear.

Tesseract

Strictly speaking, a four-dimensional structure that is to a cube what the cube is to a square. In stories and RPGs, the term has drifted to mean a structure that exists beyond normal three-dimensional space. A typical property of a tesseract in this sense would be to be much larger within than without, and/or to be essentially a pocket dimension (q.v.).

Themyscira

In the DC Universe, the island populated by the Amazons. Sometimes nicknamed “Paradise Island” as a reference to Golden Age (q.v.) Wonder Woman material.

They (singular)

Well-established in English for centuries, the singular “they” is a genderless 3rd person singular pronoun. It allows for avoiding the terribly clumsy “he or she” turn of phrase, and avoids impropriety when discussing a person of an unknown gender, non-standard gender or without a gender. It’s quite useful, really.

Timeline

This is often used in the specific sense of an alternate reality, usually a parallel Earth. For instance the possible future of the DC Universe depicted in the landmark graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns  is an alternate timeline.
The jargon comes from the image of establishing chronological lists of events that define that reality (an historical timeline), and comparing it to lists of chronological events that define other realities to analyse the differences.

TK

Abbreviation for “telekinesis”.

TPK

Role-playing jargon for an encounter that leaves all Player Characters (q.v.) dead or as good as dead. It’s an abbreviation for Total Party Kill.

TPS

Third-Person Shooter – an action video game where the protagonist is visible on the screen, rather than being played in subjective view as in a First-Person Shooter.

Transdimensional

Crossing from one dimension (q.v.) to another.

Transmode

A being infected by the techno-organic virus (q.v.).

Transmogrification

An old-fashioned way to say “transform thoroughly”. In genre fiction it is often used as “transforming something into something else by use of magic spells”. A typical example would be Jason Blood turning into The Demon, and vice versa.

U

Ultra

In the long-since defunct Ultraverse comic book setting, short for “ultrahuman”. Which was how superhuman persons were called there.

Uplift

Using super-advanced technology (or other methods) to turn animals into sapient beings. An uplifted animal (“an uplift” for short) will usually be enhanced so it can talk, manipulate objects and generally interact with humans and their tools. This jargon comes from novels by David Brin .

V

Vibranium

An imaginary super-metal in the Marvel Universe. Various isotopes and alloys of vibranium have impossible properties, such as nullifying vibrations or causing nearby other metals to melt.

Villain decay

The recurrent phenomenon where an antagonist is formidable during their first appearance, but becomes more and more of a pushover over time. Possibly an example of fundamental attribution error , in most cases. Mild cases can be handled by diminishing the amount of Hero Points (q.v.). More marked case require a new, weaker character sheet (q.v.).

W

Worfing

Jargon term derived from Star Trek character Worf. This is when a character is established as being incredibly competent (say, as a fighter) but then routinely gets overrun to establish that the flavour-of-the-week menace is, like, totally redoubtable.

WORG

Abbreviation of Writeups.org, as a vague pun about the monstrous wolves inspired by Tolkien .

X

Xenomorph

Literally “alien-shaped”, a technical-sounding term for a space alien monster. This comes from the Alien series of films.

Y

Z


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