Last week, I posted about how using natural language instead of jargon in your game is useful, but I acknowledged that sometimes jargon can be necessary or helpful (such as when presenting game statistics). That got me thinking about some of the jargon I use in this blog, and how I'm long overdue to explain what I mean by some of these jargony terms. If these are all well-known to you, that's great (and you probably review lots of games and game blogs). I try to explain terms I focus on, like "boxed text" or "subsystems," when I use them. But here are some terms and phrases I've used without much explanation that are nevertheless useful to know:

GM: Game Master, the person running your game. The specific term "Dungeon Master" or "DM" is used strictly for Dungeons and Dragons; other game companies have adopted the more general "Game Master" or "Gamemaster" instead. (Some use variants like "Storyteller" instead, but these are often limited to a single game system). I think there's some real benefit in having an overall term for this role, and I would like GM to be this term. I imagine even Dungeons and Dragons might jettison "DM" in favor of "GM," particularly as the games move further and further from strictly "Dungeon" settings.

PC: Player Character, the players other than the GM in the game. This is a combination of the Player (the real person physically sitting at a gaming table with friends or in front of a screen) and the player's Character (the in-game persona the player takes on), and its use is a bit unhelpful. Does it mean the person rolling dice, or the fictional person swinging a longsword? It can mean both, even at the same time. I think this muddies clarity, so I've made a concerted effort to use "player" or "character" as terms on this blog. (At work at Paizo, I still use "PC," as that's Paizo's standard for the time being).

Cognitive Load: This isn't strictly a gaming term, but it's a very useful concept. It's how much stuff you have to keep in your mind to accomplish a task. If you're a GM, for example, you have to know what the adventure you're running is all about, what your player's characters can do, what the relevant monsters can do, how the relevant rules from your system apply to the game session, the real-world time of day for planning your session's conclusion, whether everyone has enough pencils, and so on and so on. Players have less things to keep in mind, but they still have a lot. An increase in cognitive load past a certain point (which varies from person to person) can make someone feel out of control or unhappy, so I often talk about thinks that can "decrease a cognitive load" on someone. Doing so is a fundamental utility design goal of a lot of what I write.

Textual Assumption: This is something the text assumes is a valid option. This is not strictly delimiting in a game, but it often guides game play. For example, if an encounter about getting a special brooch from a cunning merchant details how you might use Diplomacy or Intimidation to force her to give it up, or how you might steal it from her, those are the textual assumptions about how the characters get it. The characters might also just straight-up buy it, establish some elaborate ruse to get it, or even forego getting the brooch altogether. Those are outside the textual assumptions but are also valid. When I talk about textual assumption, it's usually about creating a large enough net (or establishing clear enough guider rails) to encompass the most possible player actions. But no textual assumptions catch them all--that's part of the delight of roleplaying games.

Player Engagement: This is a measure of how focused the players are on the game, and how invested they are in its outcome. Things that create more player engagement are good; things that detract from player engagement are bad.