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Role-playing games often concoct their own rules governing in-text presentation of game terms, and these rules sometimes violate the rules of Standard English. For example, in Dungeons and Dragons, Third Edition, and its kin, initial capitalization is used in the term Hit Dice, periods are omitted from the initialism AC, italics are used for the names of magic items and spells (including spell-like abilities), and so on.

Likewise, sometimes a common term will have a different use such as fortune (not capitalized when used generally for the celestial powers of Rokugan—the setting originally for Legend of the Five Rings role-playing game but included in the 3e product Oriental Adventures—but capitalized when used as a proper noun as in the Seven Fortunes or the Fortune of Storms—as originally used in this question). Also, sometimes a word may be wholly fabricated like nonepic (used in Dungeons and Dragons, Third Edition, and its kin to describe a thing of less than epic stature—as originally used in this answer).

Should an editor make game terms into Standard English for readability or for Standard English correctness?


Note: Although it may seem like I'm picking on Oblivious Sage for daring to edit me or whatever, I'm really not; I appreciate the time taken by anyone to read any of my often loquacious questions and answers and doubly so if they're afterward edited. But I do want them to start out as good questions and answers, and if they're better and more useful in Standard English than in game terms, that's cool, but I'll have to make some mental adjustments.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll just take this opportunity to point out that while I generally agree that we should use game terms, I'm not sure that I agree that "nonepic" is, in fact, a game term. It's a convenient compound word for describing magic items that are not epic, and while it has a specific meaning within the context of the game that's not quite the same as being a game term. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Jan 5 '17 at 18:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I made the change because I felt it was correct spelling and, more importantly, easier to read and understand. (I can provide links to support both of those positions if people feel they are relevant.) I didn't realize it was spelled "nonepic" in the book, though, and I think this is a valuable discussion to have. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Jan 5 '17 at 18:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage I appreciate your understanding, and, again, thank you for taking the time to read and edit my stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 5 '17 at 19:01
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For clarity, you should use the terms the way the game does. There is negative value in changing, for example, AC to A.C.

In some cases people don't know and happen to mis-edit, then just like with the AmEnglish vs BrEnglish follies, everyone should just be calm, the OP should revert to their intent and the editor should take it in good grace.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You answer's last line reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" with the slight twist being "it's not the editor who counts" -- \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 4 '17 at 21:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ In Britain, we dispensed with the full stops between the capital letters of initialisms, such as in AC, decades ago. They more often served to hinder than assist the process of reading, so they went. Text looks cleaner and is easier to assimilate when you read DM, HD, AC and PC. Don't you prefer them to D.M., H.D., A.C. and P.C.? I'm glad Wizards do! \$\endgroup\$ – Clearly Toughpick Jan 5 '17 at 3:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ClearlyToughpick The same thing happened in Russian, btw, for the same reasons. \$\endgroup\$ – Baskakov_Dmitriy Jan 5 '17 at 15:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ClearlyToughpick I can't think of many initialisms in the US that are still punctuated. Not sure what any style guide has to say about it, but we don't write, for example, U.S.A., F.B.I. (Federal Bureau of Investigation) or D.O.H.C. (dual overhead camshaft). \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Jan 5 '17 at 16:54
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My personal opinion would be that, when discussing a specific game, it's usually better to stick to the terminology and spelling conventions used by the official sources, however idiosyncratic they may be, as long as doing so doesn't get in the way of clear communication.

On the other hand, the point where something gets in the way of communication, or simply feels annoying, is necessarily subjective. Thus, to avoid needless arguments over trivial matters, it's IMO better to defer to the original author's preferences, even if they happen to differ from your own.

So, yes, IMO both "Hit Dice" and "hit dice" are perfectly fine, and I would not edit a post to replace one with the other (at least, not unless I had other reasons for extensively copyediting it anyway, and was reasonably sure that the original author wouldn't mind). But, all else being equal, I would generally prefer to use whichever spelling the official sources used — again assuming, of course, that this did not compromise readability in my view.

As for the specific case of "nonepic", I must admit that, official or not, the unhyphenated spelling kind of annoys me, simply because my brain keeps trying to parse it as "none-pic". So, despite everything I just wrote above, I do personally feel that your answer looks better with the hyphens. But if you were to edit them out, I certainly wouldn't object, especially not after you'd made your preference clear in the comments.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have that same "nonepic" -> "none-pic" parsing going on in my head and feel the hyphenated version ("non-epic") is more pleasant to read regardless of book content. I guess that means there's a good time for not using game terminology: when it winds up irksome somehow. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 6 '17 at 15:04
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The issue I would take with Standard English is that it changes over time. To use an Oxford comma or not, is it you and me or you and I, do I put periods after each letter in an acronym or not (what if I'm trying to reinforce that I'm an evil corporation?). In short, Standard English is anything but standard.

Personally, I do land development and many township ordinances will use terminology that can vary from town to town. One town defines 'impervious cover' to include buildings and paved areas, another just includes paved surfaces, and a regulatory body that focuses on surface water will tell me it's all of those things as well as any area that has compacted gravel and Type D soils. In short, the audience matters.

Thus, because we are discussing terminology with defined definitions in a distinct rule book, I think it makes the most sense to retain the rule book's spelling and grammatical preferences as it not only makes the text more universally recognizable, we also avoid the issue of instilling our own personal definitions onto what these defined terms mean.

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