The words I learned playing Dungeons & Dragons

In the early 1980s, I was one of those kids: a devoted player of Dungeons & Dragons. I was introduced to the role-playing game in the school cafeteria when I was in the 6th grade. My friends and I spent time exploring a tomb of horrors and taking an expedition to the barrier peaks, among other adventures.

Sure, D&D was geeky, and at a time when geeky wasn’t cool. It’s only been in recent years that it was OK to admit that you played it.

But I’ve realized how much I learned from D&D. A big part of that education came from the game’s fantastical lexicon. Here are some of those words, many of which I still use today:

Properties, places and attributes

  • Alignment
  • Dexterity
  • Charisma
  • Clairvoyance
  • Elemental
  • Encumbrance
  • Ethereal
  • Dimunition
  • Initiative
  • Melee
  • Milieu
  • Ochre
  • Valhalla

Characters and creatures

  • Alchemist
  • Asp
  • Bard
  • Brigand
  • Chimera
  • Cleric
  • Doppelganger
  • Druid
  • Familiar
  • Gargoyle
  • Henchmen
  • Imp
  • Lycanthrope
  • Paladin
  • Sage
  • Spectre
  • Succubus


  • Amulet
  • Ballista
  • Censer
  • Gauntlets
  • Mead
  • Periapt
  • Quiver
  • Rune
  • Scimitar

Am I still carrying around a lot of trivial information from the game too? Of course. But even that has some use: I understand references to “rolling a natural 20” and the occasional LOL silliness.

So thanks, D&D. You made me a better writer and editor.



  1. The creators of Futurama dedicated “Bender’s Game” to Gary Gygax. You’d clearly enjoy the references, if you’re not already familiar with it.

  2. Thank Gary Gygax, may he rest in peace. He sure wasn’t concise, but he was very well-read and had an enormous vocabulary. One of the best things about reading the first edition Dungeon Master’s Guide was reading about, say, social classes in the game, then suddenly finding oneself veering into a short discussion of the hierarchy of ancient Persian nobility. Thanks, Gary.

  3. Being a nerd really enhances the vocabulary. I learned all sorts of words from the sci fi and fantasy books I read as a kid, not to mention the nerd-girl’s go-to books: the Anne of Green Gables series.

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