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5E – Writer’s Guide
August 3, 2015Posted by on
Style Guide for Dungeon Masters
I was looking for an official writer’s guide, or style sheet, from Wizards of the Coast for the 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. Perhaps they have one and I just couldn’t find it. So I took the copies I had from 3.5 and 4.0 and updated them for 5th edition. The following is what I came up with.
Capitalize abilities (Strength, Dexterity, and so on), skill names (Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Survival, and so on), feat names (Crossbow Expert, Healer, and so on), domains (Trickery, War, and so on), schools (Transmutation, Necromancy, and so on), names of languages (Common, Dwarvish, and so on), and sizes (Small, Medium, Large, and so on). The term “Dungeon Master” and the abbreviation “DM” are always capitalized. The term “Difficulty Class” and the abbreviation “DC” are always capitalized. Creatures, classes, alignments, spells, weapons, and magic items that do not include proper nouns are all lower case. Magic items and spell names are italicized. For example, magic weapons, potions, and other items should be fully italicized. If a magic item grants a numerical modifier, treat that modifier as part of the item’s name, placing it at the beginning of the name. Examples: +1 longsword, a potion of healing, +2 cloak of resistance, and a scroll of arcane lock.
Monster names. When you refer to a monster in a sentence, do not capitalize the monster’s name unless it is a proper noun. Example: Baphomet’s minotaur cultists often summon goristros …
Races. When you refer to a race in a sentence, do not capitalize the race’s name (unless English grammar demands capitalization). Example: Love of stories inspires many gnome heroes to become bards.
Character races are to appear in the following singular/plural terminology; dwarf/dwarves, elf/elves, halfling/halflings, human/humans, dragonborn/dragonborn, gnome/gnomes, half-elf/half-elves, half-orc/half-orcs, tiefling/tieflings.
Abbreviations usually use all capital letters and no periods (DM, DC, NPC, HD, XP). The abbreviations for hit points and coins use lower case letters and no periods (hp, gp, sp). The abbreviation for experience points is XP.
Ability scores are abbreviated as follows: STR (Strength), DEX (Dexterity), CON (Constitution), INT (Intelligence), WIS (Wisdom), CHA (Charisma), and are always listed in that order.
Class abbreviations are as follows:
Bbn = Barbarian
Brd = Bard
Clr = Cleric
Drd = Druid
Ftr = Fighter
Mnk = Monk
Pal = Paladin
Rgr = Ranger
Rog = Rogue
Sor = Sorcerer
Wiz = Wizard
Wrk = Warlock
Race abbreviations are as follows:
Hum = Human
Drb = Dragonborn
Drw = Drow
Dwf = Dwarf
Elf = Elf
Gno = Gnome
1/2Elf = Half-Elf
1/2Orc = Half-Orc
Hlf = Halfling
Tfl = Tiefling
PHB = Player’s Handbook
DMG = Dungeon Master’s Guide
MM = Monster Manual
You should type out the entire title the first time it is mentioned. Example: “Use the standard combat rues as described in the Player’s Hand Book (PHB).”
Do not abbreviate standard game units of time; i.e., round (alternatively; melee round may also be used), and turn should be fully spelled out.
When describing temperature, always use a degrees symbol; i.e., 100˚. When describing an angle or slant, always spell out the word ‘degrees’; i.e., 100 degrees.
Inches and feet
Never use ‘hash’ marks. Inches and feet should always be expressed as an abbreviation when used in a table or stat block – otherwise, they should not be abbreviated. When indicating the attribute being measured, insert a hyphen between the number and unit. Examples: 8-in wide, 12-ft deep
Movement rate in feet should always be expressed as an abbreviation. Example: 30 ft.
A creature may “have advantage” (or “have disadvantage”) in certain situations. A roll (saving throw or ability check for instance) may be made “with advantage” (or “with disadvantage”). Examples: The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, with disadvantage if the spectator is visible to the target. The owl bear has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight or smell.
I recommend that you not abbreviate the words advantage or disadvantage, but when you must – you can abbreviate advantage Adv and disadvantage Disad.
Always hyphenate class and spell levels when they precede a noun (4th-level rogue, 1st-level spell). Hyphenate compound adjectives before nouns (the red-haired, 18-foot-tall fire giant). Do not hyphenate before the suffix “-like” except after double-l endings (for example, snakelike, spell-like).
How many and what kind; a lowercase d followed by a number (4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 20, %) indicates a specific polyhedral die to be rolled. It is preceded by a number indicates the number of times to roll the indicated die; i.e., 3d6. It is not acceptable say, “three six-sided die,” to achieve the same result.
Die result; when specifying a die roll result that triggers some action, to specify the range of numbers use a dash to separate the low from the high; i.e., 1–2 on 1d6.
You should list the skill check in the running text with the DC number listed first. Example: Player characters must make a successful DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to climb the wall.
Generally, set DCs for tasks that characters can retry at 5 to 10 points higher than DCs for tasks that PCs can’t retry.
Write in the present tense. Wherever possible, avoid using the future tense “will” to describe NPC or monster actions. For example, do not say “If the player characters open the door, the golem will attack.” Instead say, “If the player characters open the door, the golem attacks.”
Use the phrase “points of damage” when giving damage in numbers or ranges. Always use a die range when giving damage, and always include a numeral before the type of die, even if there is only one. For example: “The skeleton deals 1d3 points of damage with each claw” is correct. Do not use “d3 points of damage,” “1d3 damage,” or “1d3 hp damage.”
Creatures deal or take damage. They do not inflict or suffer damage.
Example: “If the saving throw fails, the character takes 1d6+1 points of damage from the poison.”