Glossary of geeky terms
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 significant percentage of these words are in the dictionary, but we lobbed them in anyway. For convenience, and because there can be specific connotations.
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.
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.
“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.
Or animé. Japanese cartoons, existing in a wide variety of genres and art styles.
An evil alien planet, ruled by the evil god Darkseid. It is a major part of Jack “the King” Kirby’s Fourth World mythology. Over time it became important in most versions of the DC Universe.
Arsed, to be
Common British colloquial phrase, especially in Australia. “I can’t be arsed to do this” is an equivalent of “I can’t be bothered to do this”, the implication being that one would need to get off one’s arse to perform said action.
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. They’ll thus roam as an immaterial ghost while their physical body is left behind.
Common abbreviation for “breaking and entering”. May involve skillfully dealing with security systems and locks.
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.
A Britishism that’s short for “banter”. Kinda like “zingers”, but as improved witticisms that often have a sarcastic and/or provocative aspect. Exact meaning may change considerably depending on region, age and class.
In video games, a short, stock line of voiced dialogue. Barks are usually played during combat, with simple examples being characters yelling “Incoming !” or “Grenade !”. More elaborate lines exist, though they can get repetitive.
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.
- 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.
A kind of magician/priest/hedge wizard in vodun traditions. In folk tales, bokor know both good and bad magic. In Western pop stories such as comics, however, bokors are usually presented as evil wizards focused on zombies, curses and poisons. The Black Talon (Samuel Barone) is a bokor.
A character with massive strength and durability, but often — not always — lacking in speed and mobility.
In super-hero comic books history, this is a shorthand for an era that goes from (roughly) 1974 to 1986.
A very small shield, almost closer to a forearm protector as it usually leaves the hand free. See our shields article for more.
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).
A series of tabletop role-playing game sessions that form a single story. The term is derived from a military campaign.
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.
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.
Short for Character Optimisation. Using character creation rules in a RPG so that a Player Character (q.v.) will be remarkably capable.
Traditionally, this was mainly done with those editions of D&D with such an enormous amount of classes, kits, feats, species, etc. that charop was a sort of puzzle game in itself.
To communicate using chemicals such as pheromones. Usually the province of insect-like aliens.
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.
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”.
The physics of time travel.
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.
Common military abbreviation for Commanding Officer. The person in charge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Military abbreviation for Close Quarter Battle, basically meaning a gunfight that takes place indoors.
A literary science-fiction genre about a dysfunctional future. Often features giant corporations ruling the world, cybernetic implants, amoral adventurers and advanced firearms.
The reverse of a buff (q.v.). Temporarily lowering the acumen and strength of an opponent in battle, often through magic.
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.
Something that happens in-universe, that the characters can perceive. That’s opposed to something that the viewers/readers/gamers/etc. can perceive, but the characters can’t. A simple example is music during a movie. Normally it’s just the movie’s musical score and the characters can’t hear it. But if it’s heard because the scene has a band playing, a character turned on the radio, etc. then the music is diegetic.
In this context, regarding realms of existence that are not our universe. For instance the astral (q.v.) plane from Dungeons & Dragons and folklore about magic, or the Negative Zone (q.v.) in Marvel Comics.
The replica, the double of a person. Often some sort of evil twin, supernatural being, alien impersonator, etc.. Don’t forget the umlaut !
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.
Wielding a weapon in each hand in combat.
The fine art of exploring a complex (often an underground ruin), facing monsters and traps, puzzles and perils.
This simple structure was frequently used in early role-playing games and computer role-playing games. It is still found in retro or low-budget games.
The enchantment on a magic item, its magical “charge”. Mostly a Dungeons & Dragons jargon word.
Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-4…
See our article about the Ages of DC Comics.
The technical name of the “main” Marvel Universe. This is opposed to parallel Earths, possible futures, other dimensions (q.v.), etc..
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 Gotham rather than the mdoern day . This is a form of “what if” scenario (“What If Batman existed in the XIXth century ?”).
“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.
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.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal. Disarming bombs.
Common abbreviation for “English as a Second Language”. People who speak English but not as their native tongue.
Esprit de corps
A specific kind of camaraderie, usually found in the military. It emphasises solidarity, honour and an ability to seamlessly work together. It also implies pride in being a member and respect for its traditions.
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.
A version of a fictional character existing in an unrelated fictional world. For instance, most comic books universe have a jungle lord type with 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 its version of that archetype.
Originating from another dimension (q.v.).
[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.
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.
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)
Short for “for example”, because I’m *way* too cool to actually pronounce words.
A common trope where a character (almost always a woman) is killed off to motivate *another* character (almost always a man). The slain character is thus reduced to a disposable, cheap dramatic beat.
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.
“Government Man”. A subgenre of 1930-40s pulps (q.v.) depicting infallible, untouchable, super-competent cops (usually Federal investigators). Such stories were meant to dampen loss of faith in police during the 1930s.
There still were echoes of the genre in comics for a while. Such as the early adventures of Jimmy Woo and other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
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.
The person who runs a pen-and-paper role-playing game session, in collaboration with their players.
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 (sometimes “geis”)
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 or Geneered
Short for “genetically engineered”.
In the Wildstorm Universe, a compound capable of turning people into superhumans. The descendants of people altered using the Gen-Factor will also likely be superhumans.
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 men.
A human personality that has been transcribed as computer code, usually to survive the loss of their physical body. A ghost-on-a-chip. Akin to a sapient (q.v.) artificial intelligence, but once was a biological person. Robotman became a ghostcomp after his brain was destroyed.
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.
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.
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 .
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 .
A woman shaped-creature, often of artificial origin. A she-android.
In the Valiant Universe, a superhuman mutant.
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.
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.
A manner to acquire knowledge. In practice, that usually means a methodology to solve problems or explore data. It comes up a few times on WORG since statting fictional characters for a RPG is an example of heuristic technique. As is doing profiles about fiction.
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.
A pseudo-scientific term used by mutant supremacists in the Marvel Universe to refer to mutants. They usually apply it to superhuman mutants.
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.
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).
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.
Improvised Explosive Device. A home-made bomb or mine.
In DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes original setting, a nearly indestructible metal (BODY 30, in DC Heroes RPG terms).
Affecting several dimensions (q.v.)
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.
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).
A slang term in American Wrestling, denoting a bad guy who always loses.
A Japanese-style destructive giant monster such as Godzilla or his foes.
With a power level broadly similar to Superman’s.
Vigorously complaining about something, at length and in considerable detail – preferably with wit.
This is storytelling jargon. When there’s a seeming incoherence/unrealistic genre convention/exceedingly unlikely coincidence in the story, *and* one of the characters points that out, they’re “lampshading” said incoherence/stylisation/coincidence. This can be overt fourth-wall breaking, or this can be subtle.
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.
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.
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.
Life Model Decoy. In the Marvel Universe, a special sort of android or gynoid (q.v.) that looks like a perfect, lifelike replica of a a given person.
Abbreviation for Light Machinegun. See our Heavy Weapons article for more.
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.
A subgenre of heroic fantasy stories. In low fantasy things are more realistic, less high-powered, grittier and less magic-heavy than in high fantasy. A Game of Thrones or Dragon Age are examples of low fantasy settings.
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.
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.
Japanese comics, existing in a wide variety of literary genres and art styles.
A person who creates manga.
MAN-Portable Air Defence. A shoulder-fired anti-airplane missile.
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.
A person with enhanced analytical and intellectual capabilities, often serving as an advisor. The term comes from the vintage science fiction epic Dune.
Short for mercenary.
In the post-Crisis on Infinite Earth DC Universe, the genetic marker allowing a person to have superhuman powers.
A being capable of assuming a wide variety of shapes.
A big-time storyline that exists behind the ordinary storylines in the setting. For instance one could have a RPG about vampires with all sort of vampire stories and conflicts and intrigue. But these stories would often brush against the fact that, behind the scenes, *something* is taking place involving the primal vampires and the end of the world. And that this advancing scheme is slowly affecting the setting and touching the “smaller” stories.
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.
Missing In Action. When a soldier or agent type doesn’t come back from a mission, but no corpse is found either.
An universe that exists on an immensely small, sub-atomic scale. These are usually reached by shrinking to such an infinitesimal scale that you enter a new reality. In some older stories, worlds within a microverse were actual atoms.
This is how Asgardians — the people from Thor’s dimension — often call Earth.
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).
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. More in our heavy weapons article.
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.
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”.
Military occupation skill – a soldier or officer’s job.
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.
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.
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.).
A fantasy metal in the DC Universe, which can manipulate gravity under certain conditions. Mostly associated with Hawkman’s wings.
Handy Pittsburgh slang, short for “and that”. Meaning “and all these related but unspecified things as well”.
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.
More or less a synonym for nanomachines. Microscopic robots, often depicted as being able to manipulated matter when in a large enough swarm. There’s little you cannot explain with nanomachines.
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.
Standard abbreviation meaning “No Last Name”. Frex we list Rogue of the X-Men as Rogue (Anna-Marie NLN), since she doesn’t seem to have a last name.
FWIW it should be NFN for “No Family Name”, since in quite a few countries the family name is given first.
Nap-of-earth flight – flying very close to the ground.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
This is a DC Heroes Role-Playing concept. 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.
A Yoruba term for a god and/or a major spirit. From there it went on to be used in a number of religions, such as various descendants of Vaudou faiths. In the Marvel Universe, the term is also used in Wakanda to designate certain kinds of gods.
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.
This term was invented for the late 1990s Metal Gear Solid game.
Which comes from another dimension (q.v.). That and “extra-dimensional” are usually synonyms.
Original Video Animation – an animated movie made for direct sale rather than for TV or cinema. This is primarily used in a Japanese context.
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).
In the Marvel Universe, the main faction of transmode (q.v.) aliens, hosting the techno-organic virus (q.v.).
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.
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.
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).
A general term for any form of organised society – probably a government. On writeups.org the word is often used when we don’t know how a society is organised (a tribe, a democracy, a feudal system, anarchy, a plutocracy…) and thus what to call it.
See our article about the ages of DC Comics.
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.
Price of Magic
During the 1990s, the role of magic in the DC Universe was formalised a bit, primarily in the Books of Magic LS . One theme was that mastering magic normally had a of-terrible, person-specific price/curse. For instance, the Phantom Stranger pays through perpetual solitude.
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.
A telepathic communication channel, often of a psionic (q.v.) nature. A psi-link usually exists in a permanent or semi-permanent manner between two given persons. This is what makes it distinct from casual telepathic communication.
Mind powers with a science-fiction feel such as telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance, etc.
Electronics circuits having to do with psychic powers. Psychotronic devices often serve as protection against psionic (q.v.) powers.
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”.
Very cheap novels and short stories that were popular in the US during the first half of the XXth century. Many pulps 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…
Slang term for a person possessing the gift of pyrokinesis (q.v.).
Mental creation and/or control of volumes of flame.
Like dual-wielding (q.v.), but for people with 4 prehensile ends.
In the context of an American police force, a more experienced officer serving as a mentor for a newcomer to the force.
Modern firearms can have standard mounting points called “rails”. So if you affix a flashlight to your shotgun, using such a mounting point, the flashlight is “railed on”.
In sci-fi jargon, a process by which an Artificial Intelligence may go rogue and threaten organics. Primarily use in Halo, but has leaked a bit.
See the “Earth-616” definition.
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 ?”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Possessing human-scale (or higher) intelligence. The word “sentient” is more commonly used, by less technically accurate. Not that it matters much, mind.
In the Marvel Universe, a polar “Lost World” area with jungles, dinosaurs, low-tech communities, hidden Atlantean secrets, the works.
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
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).
In the 1990s WildStorm comic book universe this meant a Marvel Comics-style mutant.
The power to step into shadows, disappear, and reappear in another, distant shadowed area.
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.
In super-hero comic books history, this is a shorthand for an era that goes (roughly and debatably) from 1957 to 1973.
Short for “situation report”.
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.
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.
Abbreviation for Sub-MachineGun, a light automatic weapon shooting pistol rounds. See our Small Arms article for more.
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 elements, for no stated reason.
Super-Powered Being. Mostly used in the Wildstorm Universe circa the year 2000.
An organism that can merge with a person, often giving them superhuman powers in so doing. The exemplar is Venom.
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. Spelled “synthesoid” in some WORG articles.
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.
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.
A person with the power to make mental contact with technological items, often to take control of them. A portmanteau of “technological” and “telepath”.
To communicate using telepathy.
Shorthand for “a person capable of telekinesis” (q.v.)
The power to move objects at a distance through force of will. Often a psionic (q.v.) ability.
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.
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.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
Abbreviation for “telekinesis”.
Jargon chiefly used when discussing comic book universes with sliding timeline. A date or detail is “topical” when it is not important to the story, and would be replaced by something equivalent as the timeline slides forward.
For instance, if a 1972 story shows President Nixon on television, this is understood to be a topical detail – the current POTUS is on TV, and which specific person it was can easily change depending upon which year the story is now assumed to be have taken place in.
Yes, sliding timelines are a mess.
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.
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.
Crossing from one dimension (q.v.) to another.
“Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story”. – Professor Henry Jenkins, who literally wrote the book about that.
The traditional example is Star Wars where stories snake through movies, novels, comic books, video games, animated TV series, toys, etc..
A being infected by the techno-organic virus (q.v.).
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.
A traditional, often small-scale community sharing a culture and (usually) a leadership.
There’s a debate as to whether the term is okay, or too mired in racist history. As of 2020 my personal take is that it’s usable if you’re well careful about connotations. In part because I reject this weird notion that more centralised organisations are “superior”, but this is getting off-topic.
A common abbreviation for Tabletop Role-Playing Games. This is to avoid confusion with the kind of role-playing game that you play on a computer. And, I guess, niche applications of role-play used in training, psychology, sex, etc..
Our handsome FAQ has a lot of material about TTRPGs.
In the long-since defunct Ultraverse comic book setting, short for “ultrahuman”. Which was how superhuman persons were called there.
Outside of somebody’s knowledge, unknown to them. Yes, it’s a real word .
For some reason several WORG contributors like the way this word looks (kinda like a beautifully crafted, old piece of furniture) so it tends to pop up. Heh, most people realise on their own that it’s some variant on “unknown”.
Using super-advanced technology (or other methods) to turn animals into sapient (q.v.) 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 .
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.
Video game logic
Something that makes sense when you’re playing a video game and are used to video games. But becomes really weird when you try to imagine it taking place in-universe.
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.).
This is often accompanied by the villain’s personality becoming blander as they’re just here to fill the baddie slot.
Jargon term derived from Star Trek character Worf. This is when a character is established as being incredibly competent (say, as a fighter). Yet they then routinely get overrun to establish that the flavour-of-the-week menace is, like, totally redoubtable.
Abbreviation of Writeups.org, as a vague pun about the monstrous wolves inspired by Tolkien .
A theoretical physics construct. Essentially a hole in space leading to another place or dimension (q.v.).
Literally “alien-shaped”, a technical-sounding term for a space alien monster. This comes from the Alien series of films.
Short for Executive officer. In the military, this is the second-in-command person for a unit. The XO is typically responsible for the day-to-day operations while the CO (q.v.) focuses on the bigger picture.