DDO Terminology from A to Zed

By Shayalyn (with a little help from

“Give me a DC25 UMD check.”

“Make an opposed grapple check.”

I asked Zed, one of DDO @ Ten Ton Hammer's resident D&D
aficionados, for some examples of D&D jargon. Those were the
examples he gave me. My response was a slack-jawed, “Huh?”

I learned that “Give me a DC25 UMD check” is something a dungeon master
might say to ask a player to make a Use Magic Device roll versus a
Difficulty Class of 25. (I don't know about you, but I'm still saying,
“Huh?”) An “opposed grapple check” is, according to Zed, “A combat
option. Essentially a creature/player is attempting to grapple and pin
another creature. Opposed checks are made. Each character/creature has
a basic grapple score (BAB + Str +Other) and they add that to a d20.”

Yeah, that makes sense. (I think.)

Terms like these make me grateful for DDO, where there's a computer
rolling the virtual die and tallying things up appropriately. Even so,
you'll hear a variety of terms used in DDO that hark back to the
pen-and-paper (PnP) game, D&D. In fact, many of the terms used in
today's MMOGs--terms such as experience points (XP), hit points (HP),
and armor class (AC)--originated with D&D. But one has to admit
that there's a lot more jargon tossed about in reference to DDO than
most MMOGs due to its direct connection to D&D.

Fortunately, we're here to clear up any confusion with this nifty
reference guide to DDO terminology. Read on, dear adventurer, and
educate yourself. The research I did for this article certainly
educated me.

DDO Terminology Reference Guide

Ability – Abilities are what
many MMOG gamers think of as “stats.” They are (say it with me):
Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.
Your ability scores form the backbone of your character, helping to
determine what he's good at, and where he's weak. Or perhaps he's a
generalist, not particularly able in any one area, but well-rounded
across the board. How your character plays out in combat is determined,
in large part, by his ability scores. As a 1st level character in DDO,
your scores for each ability will range between 8-18.

Ability Check – Ability checks
occur when a character attempts something that requires a specific
ability. The computer (behind the scenes) rolls the virtual dice for
you and adds any modifier to determine whether or not you'll succeed at
the action.

Ability Modifier – This is the
bonus (or penalty) your character gets for having a good (or poor)
ability score. Certain equipment, spells and potions also modify your
character's ability score.

Alignment – Alignment
determines how your character reacts to the world around her. How moral
is she? How lawful? In DDO, truly evil alignments are reserved for
monsters and other bad guys (and that's generally the way it's done in
D&D, too). Player characters (depending on class) can be lawful
good, lawful neutral, neutral, neutral good, chaotic good, or chaotic
neutral. See our guide to alignments for more information.

Armor Class (AC) – This number
determines a character's or creature's ability to avoid being hit in
combat—the higher the AC, the harder one is to hit. Whether or not you
hit a creature (or it hits you) is determined by AC and yet another
roll of the virtual dice. An opponent's attack roll must equal or
exceed the target's AC in order to hit it. If, for instance, you're up
against a bugbear with an AC of 17 and the computer randomly rolls a
15, you're going to whiff. It's as simple as that.

Attack roll – A virtual roll of
the dice to determine whether an attack hits. This is affected by
various modifiers. If your attack roll equals or beats the opponent's
AC, your attack will hit.

Buff – Vin Diesel is buff, but
that's not what this term refers to. When you cast a beneficial spell
on another player to make him stronger or better at something you're
“buffing” him. This is a common MMOG term, but our little terminology
guide wouldn't be complete without mentioning it.

Check – This is a method of
determining whether your character succeeds or fails at an action. Most
checks are either ability or skill checks. The computer rolls the dice
and adds any relevant modifiers. If the roll meets or exceeds the
pre-set difficulty class number for the action (which is determined by
the game, which serves as a dungeon master of sorts), the action
succeeds. If it doesn't, well, then you've just failed that lock pick
or triggered that trap, or…whoops! You get the picture.

d20 - The 20-sided die that's
arguably the most funky among the Dungeons & Dragons dice set.
You'll see a little graphic of a d20 rolling away, making your AC
checks, as you're flailing away at monsters in DDO.

Dungeon Master (DM) – The
dungeon master in D&D is represented by a live person who runs the
game. In DDO, two things represent the DM—the game itself and all its
core mechanics; and the text (and in some cases voice) that appears to
add color, or tell you something about your surroundings, or warn of
impending danger. DDO is unique in that, unlike any other MMOGs, it has
a DM that actually talks to you and serves as an omniscient guide,
giving the game the distinct flavor of its pen-and-paper (PnP) roots.

Experience Points (XP) –
Anybody who's ever played a MMOG knows what XP is. After all,
experience points determine your character's progress toward another
level of advancement. While many MMOGs require you to defeat monsters
and complete quests to gain XP, DDO focuses solely on quests. You won't
gain XP for each monster you slaughter, but rather for each quest you
complete. Given that, avoiding melee combat during a quest is a
perfectly feasible tactic.

Feats – Specific combat
maneuvers or advantages that add to your character's capabilities or
performance. Some feats are simple bonuses such as Combat Casting,
which adds a +4 modifier to Concentration checks and increases the
character's ability to continue casting while taking hits during
combat. Others, such as Cleave, allow characters to perform certain
types of special attacks. Some feats are tied specifically to a certain
race or class, while others are more general.

Fortitude Save – A type of
saving throw (see definition) generally applied to things a character
resists through sheer physical stamina, such as surviving the effects
of a poison.

Hit Points (HP) – This is a
measure of your character's overall health. Any damage you take
decreases your total hit points. When you reach 0, your character is
incapacitated. When you reach -10, your character dies. Hit points are
restored either by magical healing (spells or potions), or by resting
at a rest shrine or recuperating in a tavern. (Getting up close and
personal with the bar wench will not regenerate your hit points any

Level – A measure of your
character's overall advancement. In DDO, there are 10 levels, and each
level consists of 4 ranks. You'll start the game at level 1, rank 1.
You'll progress to level 1, rank 2…and so on. At launch, the highest
possible level will be level 10, rank 4.

Multi-class – This is a
strategy for character development in which you choose to add levels
from a different class than the one your character started off with.
For example, let's say you've started off as a cleric. Upon reaching
2nd level, you might choose to take a level as, say, a fighter. This
would make you a 1st level cleric/1st level fighter. If you chose not
to multi-class, you would become a 2nd level cleric.

Non-Player Character (NPC) –
NPCs are characters controlled by the game. They represent the sort of
characters that would be controlled by the DM if you were playing the
tabletop D&D. NPCs have abilities and modifiers and skill checks
just like you do, but, as a rule, you can expect all those things to be
higher than your own. Why? Because that's what makes the game

Player Character (PC) – This is
you, and all those other people scurrying around being controlled by
some live person who, just like you, is sitting in front of her
computer playing her ‘toon.

Prerequisite – Sometimes
you'll need to meet a certain condition before your character can get
something; a certain feat, for instance. Let's say you want to take
Cleave as your next feat. You'll need to have Power Attack in your
repertoire and a Strength ability of at least 13 before you'll be
allowed to take the feat. Those requirements are called prerequisites.

Reflex Save – A type of saving
throw that relates to your character's ability to avoid a threat
through agility or quickness.

Saving Throw – The saving throw
is your saving grace. (Can I get an amen?) The computer rolls the
virtual dice to give you an opportunity to avoid or lessen the effect
of a special attack, such as a spell or monster ability. The three
types of saving throws are: Fortitude, Reflex, and Will.

Scroll – These are magical
items that give you a one-shot use of a single spell. Characters can
only use scrolls that are on their class spell list. If the spell is
too high level for them to cast normally, they'll have to make a caster
level check to pull it off.

Skills – Every character has
certain skills which represent their training and/or experience in a
certain area. Your character receives a number of skill points each
level based on class and Intelligence modifier. Skills are divided into
two categories: Class skills and cross-class skills. Cross-class skills
cost more—when you spend one skill point on a cross-class skill, you
gain half a point in that skill, as opposed to the full point you would
gain in a class skill. An example of a skill would be Concentration,
which affects a caster's ability to continue casting while taking
combat damage.

Special Abilities – Your
character's race and class proved special abilities. Dwarves, for
instance, receive a +2 bonus to constitution due to their hardy nature.
Elves are immune to magical sleep effects and receive a +2 bonus
against enchantment spells and effects.

Spell Resistance – These
defensive abilities help make a monster or character harder to affect
with spells. Your character might receive a potion of Resist Fire, for
instance, which would increase her resistance to fire-based spells for
a period of time. Buffs and equipment can also increase resistance.
Some spells, however, cannot be resisted.

Turn Undead – The supernatural
ability of clerics to drive away or destroy undead monsters. Turn
Undead is affected by the cleric's charisma.

Will Save – A type of saving
throw. Will saves determine your character's ability to withstand ill
effects based on their mental strength and willpower.

Zed – Our resident D&D
nerd, who helped me check and re-check this article for accuracy, and
who continues to dazzle the DDO @ TenTonHammer.com staff with his
godlike (or perhaps geeklike) knowledge of the game. (Thanks, Zed!)

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Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.