1. p.n., from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide, an immensely powerful magic item that permits its possessor to cast multiple high-level spells; named for Orcus, a Latin god of the dead.
2. in gamer lingo, used to refer to any magic artifact so powerful it should never fall into the hands of a mere player character. Ex: Player: “So, now I can buy the nuclear bazooka, right?” GM: “Oh, sure, and why dontcha pick up a Wand of Orcus while you’re at it?” See orc (addendum #4).
n., in a role-playing or wargame, random encounters that make no sense, and seem to exist for the sole purpose of inflicting damage on characters and making them burn expendibles like healing, arrows and spells.
Addendum: I saw the term “Wandering Damage” in an old Dragon Magazine April Fools article about “How to Be a Killer DM.” Wandering Damage was offered as a better option than Wandering Monsters, since the DM just gets rid of the middleman. My favorite phrase from that article was an entry from a table: “Cut yourself shaving — consult Limb Loss table.”
Bryce Nakagawa, Frank Steven Gimenez
p.n., a franchise of high fantasy computer games, board games, collectible card games, novels, and associated media published by Blizzard Entertainment beginning in 1994; the games include the real-time strategy games Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, and the MMORPG World of Warcraft. See StarCraft.
Addendum: Please note that Warcraft is little “c,” while StarCraft is big “C.” Why? It is a mystery of the ages.
pl. n. wargs; p.n. Warg
1. in the works of JRR Tolkien, a ferocious race of intelligent, speaking wolves that live in the northern Vales of Anduin, and possibly elsewhere in the north of Middle-earth; from Scandinavian varg “wolf.”
2. in fantasy gaming milieux, any giant wolf or dire wolf, usu. evil; based on the wargs of Tolkien.
pl. n. wargames; n. wargamer; v. to wargame, wargaming, wargamed
1. in general usage, a simulated battle or campaign to test military concepts, usually conducted in conferences by officers acting as the opposing staffs; or, a two-sided umpired training maneuver with actual elements of the armed forces participating; term does not predate 1920s.
2. in gamerese, a genre of simulation gaming that involves recreating battle situations, often involving miniatures of units and weapons in a modeled diarama; wargamers may recreate historical battles, or simulate science fiction or fantasy battles. Examples include (historical) Avalon Hill’s Advanced Squad Leader, War Times’ Journal’s Battlefleet, and Game Designer’s Workshop’s Command Decision; (fantasy & sci-fi) Games Workshop’s Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, and West End Games’ Star Wars Miniatures Battles .
pl. n. werewolves; also were-wolf, were-wolves
n., a human being transformed into a wolf, or capable of assuming a wolf’s form or wolf-like characteristics; from Middle English, from Old English werwulf (wer “man” + wulf “wolf”); predates 12th c. Also werewolfism, lycanthrope, loup-garous, lupine, wolfman. Also wolf-were, a wolf that can take the shape of a human. See garou, shape-shifter. See also Werewolf: The Apocalypse.
Addendum: European werewolf myths go back as far as the berserks, Viking warriors believed by their contemporaries to take on ursine (berserk) or lupine (ulfsark) characteristics in battle.
Addendum #2: Well, this sucks.
p.n., occult “gothic-punk” tabletop role-playing game published by White Wolf Games; also Werewolf: The Wild West and the LARP Mind’s Eye Theatre: Laws of the Wild; part of the World of Darkness series; also GURPS Werewolf: The Apocalypse. On Amazon. See garou, werewolf.
1. n., in hacker jargon, the human brain or human thought processes; from hardware, software. Ex: There’s nothing wrong with the software, she just doesn’t know how to use it — it’s a wetware error.
2. in cyberpunk gaming milieux, hardware or software that interacts with, or is directly implanted into, the human brain. Ex: I didn’t know how to fly a hoverjet until I had the wetware installed — now I’m a pro.
p.n. Wicca; adj. wiccan
n., (wih’-kuh) a New Age system of religious practice inspired loosely by pre-Christian European paganism, in particular Druidism and the pre-Indo-European Goddess Cult; often confused, entirely erroneously, with Satanism; from Old English wicca “male sorcerer.” Also witchcraft, white magic, goddess-worship.
pl. n. wights; also n. barrow-wight, pl. n. barrow-wights
1. n. barrow-wight, in Tolkien’s legendarium, evil spirits, possibly the ghosts of northern kings, that haunt the barrows of the Tyrn Gorthad, serving the Witch-king of Angmar; they are destroyed or scattered by Tom Bombadil; term devised by Tolkien, from barrow “burial mound” + Middle English wight “person”; c. 1954.
2. in Dungeons & Dragons, an undead corpse that drains its victim’s life force by touch; one of the original D&D monsters, inspired by the barrow-wights of Tolkien; c. 1974. Also wight undead dragon, lavawight, vile wight, slaughter wight, dust wight.
3. in fantasy literature and gaming milieux, wraiths or spirits inspired by the wights of D&D; they appear in A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin, the MMORPG World of Warcraft, the roguelike computer game NetHack, the CCG Magic: the Gathering, and many others.
Addendum: Note that “wight” as an equivalent of “wraith” or “ghost” does not predate Tolkien.
pl. n. (usu.) will-o’-the-wisps (but shouldn’t it be wills-o’-the-wisp?); also jack-o’-lantern, hinkypunk, hobby lantern, friar’s lantern, spook light, ghost light, orb
1. in European folklore, esp. English, fairy or ghostly lights that lure travelers off of safe roads; a folkloric explanation for the ignis fatuus, a phosphorescent phenomenon that occurs on marshy ground; from English Will “William” + wisp “bundle of sticks, torch” ; c. 17th century.
2. n. will-o’-wisp, in Dungeons & Dragons, one of the original monsters, a chaotic evil glowing ball that flies by telekinesis, and lures travelers into pools or traps so it can feed off the electrical energy in their brains as they die; possesses an electrical touch attack; also will-o’-dawn, will-o’-deep, will-o’-mist, will-o’-sea; c. 1975.
pl. n. witches; also n. witchcraft
1. in Anthropology, a member of a tribal culture who is believed to have innate supernatural powers; often credited with punishing or rewarding the behavior of other tribe members, and credited for the positive or negative fortunes of the tribe as a whole; such an individual may or may not be aware of their designation as a witch, and may or may not actively attempt to perform magic; from Middle English wicche, Old English wicce “male sorcerer“; predates 900 CE.
2. in Christian and Islamic mythology, a female believed to possess pagan or Satanic powers, and often persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, banished, or killed by religious authorities; such women were often innocent of any heretical beliefs.
3. in modern parlance, an adherent of Wicca.
4. in fantasy and occult media and gaming milieux, a female practitioner of magic, usu. with pagan and animist overtones (as opposed to a traditional Hermetic wizard), based loosely on the witches of Christian myth; usu. divided into “white” (good aligned) and “black” (evil aligned) varieties; often associated with black cats and broomsticks; in D&D 3.5 ed., witch is a character class. Also warlock (a male witch).
5. in the Wizarding World of JK Rowling, any female person with magical blood.
6. in the 1964-1972 sitcom Bewitched, a race of generally malevolent and disruptive quasi-immortal humanoids with godlike reality-altering, teleportation, and time travel powers; capable of breeding with humans.
Addendum: According to a popular theory, this is why witches “ride” broomsticks.
Addendum #2: This is my favorite Miyazaki movie.
pl. n. wizards; n. wizardry
1. in general use, one skilled in magic; from Middle English wysard, from wis, wys “wise.”
2. in the works of JRR Tolkien, a common name for the five Istari, maiar in human form sent by the Valar to aid Elves and Men in their fight against Sauron. See Blue Wizards.
3. in fantasy literature and gaming milieux, syn. with mage. See also spellcaster, magic-user.
Addendum: Best known for the Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon collectible card games, WotC acquired TSR Inc., creators of the Dungeons & Dragons adventure game, and Five Rings Publishing Group Inc., creators of the Legend of the Five Rings role-playing and trading card games.
Kunochan, Paul Gofberg