What is says on the tin! Definitions of various tropes or phrases that I regularly use. The list will grow and evolve as I use more tropes or phrases regularly.


Archetype: (Gaming, Writing) Similar to a stereotype, these are the basic or ‘typical’ form of a thing or concept. A archetypical fighter will be big, strong and generally of average or below average intelligence, for example. They provide a basic skeleton or framework from which a more complicated characters or ideas can be fleshed out.

Blank Page Syndrome: (Writing) The phenomena that prevents writers (or any creative artist/designer) beginning a new project or section. Can be caused by indecision on what to write, concerns for the quality of what they’ll write, or because they don’t know how they want to begin that project or section.

Board Game: (Gaming) A game that plays off of a specifically designed board.

Deus Ex Machima: (Writing) Literally translates as ‘god in the machine’, this is a regularly used phrase for when something unexpected and/or previously unexplained or explored features in the plot to save the day/heroes/story/world. Can easily break the reader’s suspension of disbelief or immersion by virtue of making them stumble or draw out of the story to try and remember where or if they ‘deus’ had featured previously. This can include, but is not limited to, the sudden unveiling of a new character power, ability or knowledge; the appearance of a new or very briefly mentioned character who assists the heroes; the villain having some coincidental weakness never previously known or referred to in any way; or the heroes finding an object or device that helps them overcome a problem without ever knowing such device ever existed or where it could be found.

Fantasy: (Gaming, Writing) Something set in a pre-modern era, or in an story world with pre-modern technology. Magic may feature, but does not have to, and the same stands for fictional races or creatures, like elves, dwarves, ogres or dragons. Usually less conceptual and more story/adventure driven, but can explore things like the purpose of magic in a setting, or the moral application or ramification of developing newer (or modern) technologies.

RPG/Role-Playing Game: (Gaming) A game in which players take on a created character or ‘role’ as part of the gaming experience. Examples of this include Dungeons and Dragons or Mass Effect. The extent to which this role is adopted varies on play group and/or game – for example, World of Warcraft is technically a roleplaying game but requires no actual roleplaying. Mass Effect encourages roleplaying (in single player) through the Paragon/Renegade system, as well as allowing the player to build relationships with different NPCs. In an analog session of Dungeons and Dragons, the players may spend the entire time playing their character, surfacing only for rules clarifications or toilet breaks. Their is nearly always an experience-based progression system (‘levelling’ or ‘leveling up’) and a skill tree of some description via which the players can improve their character’s abilities.

Scientifiction: (Writing, Gaming) An earlier, somewhat archaic contraction of Science Fiction. Refers specifically to ‘scientific fiction’, or fictional science, and usually explores concepts, processes and invented science, e.g. by firing a shot burst of light through the layered refraction pyramids in the focusing chamber, and then releasing it through the cycling lenses in the barrel, we can make a laser rifle.

SciFi: (Writing, Gaming) contraction of Science Fiction. Often uses fictional science but does not try to explain how they work or came about, e.g. the soldiers had laser rifles.

Show Don’t Tell: (Writing) process by which a reader is presented with an idea, concept, action, event or thing in a descriptive way rather than via a technical or simple explanation. Usually uses examples or demonstrations – e.g. instead of “Richard was stronger but James was faster”, “Richard’s blows splintered bark from the trees and shattered rocks, but James slipped and dodged around them before they could land”. Or instead of “Jason was the smartest man alive”, “Jason had outwitted every single person sent to hunt him down, and then again when they’d combined their efforts”.

Table-top Game: (Game) A game that can be played off of a table-top or similar surface, i.e. does not require a specific board.