Elements of Style: RPG Edition

Welcome to the most anal (and banal) blog post ever.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and don’t read this post. Skip it. Alt-tab. Do some work. Check your email. Post a status update. Or just press page down a few times and there’s some really nice art. You could be looking at that instead of reading this.

Still here?

Okay. Read on (but don’t say I didn’t warn you).

In working on Heroes Against Darkness I’ve come to the point where I need to edit the book to set a consistent and logical style, which is one of the most tedious and sucky tasks ever…

Apart from various speling and grammer issues (sic), the major task of the edit pass is to establish a consistent style for all of the key terminology used in the rules. For example, I have a terrible habit of capitalizing all of the terms that I can find, such as Anima Points, Health Points, Melee Bonus, and any other pair of words I can get my hands on.

So this post attempts to codify and document how all of the key terms in the game should be used.

Here are a few examples of style guides for other games and companies:

Icosahedrophilia’s D&D 4e Style Guide
Steve Jackson Games style guide

A few quick definitions:

Sentence case: Follows normal grammar rules, with the first letter of the first word of the sentence capitilized, and the same for the first word after a colon.
Title case: First letter of most words capitalized (except words like ‘the’, ‘a’, ‘and’, etc).
First word capitalized: The first word of the phrase is always capitalized.

Ability Scores

Format: First word capitalized
Terms: “Strength”, “Strength modifier”, “Strength bonus”
“Dexterity”, “Dexterity modifier”, “Dexterity bonus”
“Wisdom”, “Wisdom modifier”, “Wisdom bonus”
“Constitution”, “Constitution modifier”, “Constitution bonus”
“Intelligence”, “Intelligence modifier”, “Intelligence bonus”
“Charisma”, “Charisma modifier”, “Charisma bonus”
Abbreviations: Str, Dex, Wis, Con, Int, Cha, mod, bon
Example: Each character has six ability scores, Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, Constitution, Intelligence and Charisma. Each of these ability scores has an associated modifier and bonus, such as a Strength modifier and Strength bonus.


Format: Sentence case
Terms: “warrior”, “hunter”, “hospiter”, “mystic”, etc
Example: Warriors, berserkers and barbarians are martial classes, while hunters and rogues are specialists.


Format: Sentence case
Terms: “human”, “elf”, “half-orc”, “dwarf”, etc
Example: Human civilization is full of discrimination; usually targeting outcasts like half-orcs and tartareans.


Format: Capitalized when referring to a character’s specific level, otherwise sentence case
Terms: “Level ##”
Example: Characters can use martial and spell powers of their level or lower. So, a Level 4 character can use all powers up to Level 4.

½ Level Bonus

Format: Title case
Terms: “½ Level Bonus”
Example: Each ability score has an ability bonus, which is the ability score’s modifier + ½ Level Bonus.

Class Health Points

Format: Sentence case
Terms: “class health points”
Example: The character’s class health points value is used when working out starting health points or when gaining levels.

Anima and Health Points

Format: Sentence case
Terms: “anima points”, “health points”
Abbreviations: AP, HP
Example: A character’s anima points and health points can be recovered by taking a short rest.


Format: Always capitalized
Terms: “Attacks”
Example: Increases character’s Attacks by +2 until end of character’s next turn.

Attack Bonuses

Format: First word capitalized
Terms: “Melee bonus”, “Ranged bonus”, “Magic bonus”
Example: A character’s Melee bonus is usually added to the damage of the Melee Attack.


Format: Always capitalized
Terms: “Defenses”
Example: Increases character’s Defenses by +2 until end of character’s next turn.

Specific Defenses

Format: First word capitalized
Terms: “Armor defense”, “Evasion defense”, “Magic defense”, “Resilience defense”
Abbreviations: AD, ED, MD, RD
Example: Increases character’s Armor and Evasion defenses and by +2 until end of character’s next turn.

Spell and Martial Power Names

Format: Title case and italicized
Terms: All spell and martial powers
Example: Each character has a Melee Attack and Ranged Attack, hospiters also have Healing Touch and other spell powers.

Game Master

Format: Sentence case
Terms: “game master”
Abbreviations: GM
Example: The game master (GM from now on) is responsible for creating interesting situations for the players.


Format: Sentence case
Terms: “immobilized”, “stunned”, “blinded”, “baned”, “restrained”, “mired”, etc
Example: Target is immobilized (cannot move intentionally, -2 to all Defenses) until the end of their next turn.


Format: Boxed. Each rule is prefaced with “Rule:” which is capitalized and bold, and then sentence case for the rule description.
Example: Rule: Characters increase their current health and anima points by half of the amount that they’re depleted when they use their Rally power.
Rule: Characters can use Rally during a short rest.
Rule: Characters recover all of their health and anima points at a long rest.

Example Boxes

Format: Boxed. First line contains “Example:” which is capitalized and bold, and then the example text follows in normal sentence case.
Example: Example:
At Level 4, Charlange can cast the Level 1 spell Burning Ray (1 anima + X anima) for up to 5 anima (level + 1), giving a maximum X value of 4.

Narrative Boxes

Format: Boxed. Narrative text italicized and in normal sentence case.
Example: Delic stepped from the shadows and thrust his knife between the guard’s ribs, then lowered him to the ground.
Within moments his companions had spread through the bandits’ camp. The clash of swords and shouts of alarm soon woke the rest of the bandits, who joined the fray.
Delic weaved in and out of the combat, using the distraction of his allies’ attacks to inflict his own.


Normal: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20
Plural: d4s, d6s, d8s, d10s, d12s, d20s
Multiple: 2d4, 2d6, 2d8, 2d10, 2d12, 2d20
Variable: Xd4, Xd6, Xd8, Xd10, Xd12, Xd20

Ability Tests

Format: “ability test”, then the test is bracketed, (ability score vs. target number)
Example: Characters must beat the target in an opposed Strength or Dexterity ability test (Str/Dex vs. 15) to move through the target’s location.


Format: Capitalized and followed by the relevant ability score which is abbreviated and bracketed
Terms: “Tracking (Int)”, “Negotiate (Cha)”
Example: If the character has a background skill that could aid in the ability test, such as Tracking (Int) or Hunting (Int), then they can add +5 to their ability test.

You can find the full rules over at the downloads page: Heroes Against Darkness – Game Rules.

4 thoughts on “Elements of Style: RPG Edition

  1. Dude, this is a NECESSITY to having one's work taken seriously. It ain't sexy, but it is professional.

    I've been a part of many a game design and testing process, and I've been very vocal about style (in)consistency and the effect it can have on a player's understanding (or worse – interpretation) of the rules.

    Well done!

  2. I completely agree with JF – this kind of consistency is a very good idea. So good, that I am tempted to write a blog post on the very subject!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *