This is a simple glossary of near-universal RP terms you may see around the internet. While some places-- especially larger and more established communities-- may have their own definitions, these can be a start. When in doubt, remember to ask for help!

Basic Terms

Alternate Universe (or AU) — A different universe from the one that the source material provides, such as sci-fi story having a "modern AU" where the fantastical sci-fi elements have been removed and the characters now exist in a more mundane, modern universe.

Can also be used for crossovers-- putting My Hero Academia characters in the Pacific Rim universe might be called a "MHA Pacific Rim AU," for example.

Canon (or canons) — As coming from the source material or true to the original story. It's canon that Tracer from Overwatch has a girlfriend named Emily, as it appears in the official Overwatch comics. Emily is therefore a canon character.

Crossovers — Two or more properties combined. Usually involves two universes, rather than one, and involves characters meeting (eg DC vs Marvel) as opposed to an AU (see Alternate Universe.)

Doubles (or doubling) — A type of roleplay where each person plays two characters (eg I play Medic from Team Fortress 2 for your OC, and you play Scout for my OC) to ensure that everyone gets what they want. Especially popular with people who ship OCxCanon (see Canon and OC.)

Fan Character (or FC) — Sometimes used in place of OC for characters created specifically for the universe of an existing piece of media-- a Star Wars FC was created for use specifically in the Star Wars universe and may have characteristics tailored specifically for use in that universe.

Headcanon (or HC) — An idea for a piece of media that isn't necessarily present in the source material (but may be hinted at or implied.)

For a long time, it was a popular Overwatch headcanon that Mercy's experiments had created the Reaper until Moira O'Deorain was released and confirmed to have done so herself.

In Character (or IC) — Basically any time you're in the headspace of a character, or speaking/taking actions as the character you're playing. As opposed to Out of Character.

Mun — You, or the writer of a particular character. Apparently derived from the word "mundane."

Muse (character) — The character you're playing. If I'm roleplaying as Kristoph Gavin from Ace Attorney, he is my muse. "Multimuse" implies a number of muses, as opposed to just one.

Non-Player Character (or NPC) — A character not played primarily by you or your partner. In a group chat, NPCs may be available to pick up by anyone as needed, or controlled by admins or dice rolls. In a 1x1, NPCs may be defined by characters you and your partner share or take turns portraying, but aren't writing as consistently as the main characters of the RP.

One-on-One (or 1x1) — A roleplay with only two participants, you and your partner, as opposed to a group roleplay which may have three or more members.

Original Character (or OC) — A character that the writer has come up with, who is entirely original and not necessarily tied to a specific piece of media (see fan character.) "Originals" is also a type of roleplay, compared to "fandom."

Out of Character (or OOC) — Posts and replies made by you, the writer, as opposed to from the perspective of your muse. Usually surrounded by double quotes to separate it from IC.

((Have you read the new comic or should I keep my mouth shut and not spoil it? Just checking before I write this next reply.))

Roleplay types

About this section: Almost everywhere you go will have slightly different definitions of each of these things. What counts as "advanced literate" and whatnot is actually a hotly debated topic in roleplay forums everywhere, and has been for a very long time. In my experience, when in doubt, round down.

Script style — A roleplay conducted as if it were on an instant messaging platform or a roleplay where the actions are taken in asterisks between bits of dialogue.

Hey. *He reaches out to shake her hand* I'm Ryan. How are you?

Paragraph style — A roleplay conducted in the first, second, or third person, with character actions taken in plaintext and dialogue surrounded by quotes.

"Hey," he says, and reaches out to shake her hand. "I'm Ryan. How are you?"

One-liners — A reply that is only a sentence or a small handful of short sentences long. Generally means less than 25 words per reply.

Multipara — Replies that are longer than one-liners and generally multiple paragraphs long. Has less of a negative connotation than "literate."

Semi-literate (or semi-lit) — Generally considered a few steps above one-liners, people who describe their style as "semi-lit" generally write shorter paragraphs and fewer of them. They may also be less concerned about typos and grammatical issues, as well as punctuation.

Literate (or lit) — Those who describe their style as "literate" generally refer to their grammar, syntax, spelling, and punctuation more than length, though it's not uncommon for this to be paired with "multipara" in a request. Those who write at a "literate" level generally derive joy from more serious roleplays and may additionally write more often than just when they roleplay-- they may dabble in fanfiction or other original ficton as well.

Advanced Literate (or advlit) — One of the trickiest literacies to describe. What most people can agree on is that Advanced Literate means that you will be typing multiple paragraphs per reply and that your grammar, syntax, spelling, and punctuation should all be correct. Additional qualifications may include caveats about characterization, storytelling, and complex plots.

Novella — A step above Advanced Literate. While a 500 word reply can be advlit, novella generally implies that each reply is upwards of 1,000 words, and written as if it could be published in a novel-- this means proper grammar, syntax, spelling, punctuation, etc. but also strong character development, plot progression, and overall polish. Many people who write "novella style" write as a hobby, or even professionally, and are looking for people who are similarly interested in the craft.

Other Important Terms

Dark or mature topics/themes — These terms can mean lots of different things, but generally encompass anything that wouldn't fall under "entirely SFW fluff RP." Some people will say "dark topics" and mean things like kidnapping, toxic, abusive, or otherwise unhealthy relationships, and torture. Some people will say "mature themes" and mean incest. It's best to always clarify exactly what you're referring to whenever you connect wtih a new partner. As a general rule, anything that falls under triggers (see triggers) will be considered an inherently "dark topic" or "mature theme."

Direct Message (or DM) — A private 1 on 1 message to an individual user, as opposed to a post in a public space where other people may see it. Exact definition varies by platform.

Faceclaim (or FC) — A model, celebrity, actor/actress, or other individual (sometimes an illustration) used to represent how a character looks. While this is most common with OCs (see Original Characters), it's not uncommon to see them linked to characters who are portrayed in a non-realistic manner-- eg, someone who writes a comic book character may choose a real-life actor to represent their character's appearance.

Fade to Black — Usually used when talking about writing sexual scenes, "fade to black" simply means that the actions will be implied instead of written outright, with the roleplay picking up in the aftermath. Very useful for people not interested in writing sex, but also anything else that can be a sensitive topic-- torture, for example.

Lines and Veils — A feature of the TTRPG safety toolkit designed to make playing TTRPGs safer by establishing boundaries for RP in the form of "lines" (a hard limit) and "veils" (a soft limit.) From this RPG Stackexchange comment, lines and veils are defined by:

A line is, well, a line — a hard limit, something we do not want to cross. Lines represent places we don't want to go in roleplaying.

"There is no torture in the events in our game. We don't do it, NPCs don't do it to us or to each other. Whether it happens elsewhere in the setting is not an issue in terms of enjoying play."

A veil is a "pan away" or "fade to black" moment. When we veil something, we're making it a part of the story, but keeping it out of the spotlight. Think of it as a way to still deal with certain themes while avoiding having to describe them in graphic detail.

"Torture does happen in the game world and may happen in our game in some way or another. But if and when it does, we do not role-play it directly or depict it verbally. Everyone is trusted to play their characters as reacting to it appropriately without us having to experience it vicariously."

[Gender]4[Gender] (often expressed as M4F or F4A) — The definition for this term is a bit tricky. Generally, people use the first letter to indicate the gender of the character they're playing, "for" the character of the second gender; however, it's not entirely uncommon for people to use it for their own gender and the gender of their partner. This is sometimes clarified by using the format [Gender] playing [Gender]4[Gender] playing [Gender], such as F playing M4A playing F for a female roleplayer writing a male character who is looking for someone of any gender writing a female character. Some examples are as follows:

Some examples are as follows:

  • M4M — Male [character] for male [character]
  • F4M — Female [character] for male [character]
  • NB4A — Nonbinary [character] for any gender [character]

All of these and any variations on this theme are considered valid (e.g. M4A, F4NB, etc.)

Ghosting — When a partner stops responding and/or ends or deletes a roleplay without explanation, sometimes including blocking you to prevent further communication. It's generally considered a bad practice, but is also incredibly common.

Godmod and Powerplay — Controlling the actions of another person's character without their consent. Comes from "god mode," like in video games. Generally considered a very bad practice.

Headcanon-based — A portrayal of a character that relies very heavily on headcanons, as opposed to canon material. This is especially common for side characters and other characters with minimal canonical lore.

Metagaming — The use of knowledge you, the writer, have, but that your character does not (or, rather, has been established to not have.) Often used to manipulate or influence plots in a certain direction.

Muse (roleplaying) — Your ability and motivation to write in general, or as a specific character. One may have high muse for Character A, but low muse for Character B. Or low muse for one roleplay, but high muse for another. Low muse is also known as Writer's Block.

Private (or closed) — Usually indicates a group roleplay that requires some kind of application and approval process to join. Standards are set by the individuals hosting the group roleplay, and therefore the requirements vary between private groups.

Rapid fire — Another hard to define word, but generally indicates replies every few hours, or at least several replies a day.

Retcon — short for "retroactive continuity," a retcon when you change something that's happened before (in a roleplay or in canon media) for the purpose of a roleplay being more engaging. It usually means that something is changed specifically for the sake of a roleplay itself, as opposed to changes in the source material; as such, it's not to be confused with an alternate universe, though many AUs do involve retconning canon.

"Han shot first" is a famous retcon, which is also technically not a retcon at all because it's considered an official change to canon. The more you know!

Real Person Fiction (or RPF) — Fictional stories about real people, such as celebrities or actors. Usually involves shipping them with each other or a self-insert.

Self-insert — A character who is a stand-in for the roleplayer/writer themselves (sometimes with the same name) to be used in selfship roleplays (see selfship). Not to be confused with an original character.

Selfship — A ship with a character or real person (in the case of RPF) that involves the writer themselves or a self-insert version of themselves.

Squicks — Less intense than a trigger, a squick is defined as "a source of psychological discomfort." See lines and veils; a squick is more likely to be a veil than a line.

Triggers — A trigger is a source of severe psychological distress, often far more intense than a squick. Triggers are often things that fall under dark topics, and are more likely to be a line than a veil. See lines and veils.