Character Catchphrases

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 8, 2011

“I’ll be back.” “D’oh!” “Go ahead, make my day.” A clever catchphrase is an easy way to make a run-of-the-mill character more memorable. As you play more and more characters over time they’ll likely start to blurring together in your memory. Distinguish you next character by giving him a catchphrase.

If you’re playing a public game at your FLGS or at a convention then you often end up at a table with six complete strangers. What better way to distinguish yourself and your character than with a clever catchphrase.

The Wizard that shouts in a funny voice “Heeeeeeeeeere comes my missile” may seem annoying at first, but I guarantee that when you tell your friends about your last D&D game you tell them all about that PC. Meanwhile the other characters all fade into the background.

The key to a good catchphrase is to realize how often you should use it. Think about characters in pop culture that use catchphrases. You may think they use them all the time, but the best ones are used only at specific times. In D&D a character that just keeps repeating his catchphrase is bound to get knifed in the back by the other members of his party just to shut him up. But if a clever catchphrase is used at just the right time and with just the right frequency then it will certainly add something to that PC and to the game.

Types of Catchphrases

The Battle Cry Catchphrase

The most common catchphrases in D&D are the battle cries. Divine characters will often shout out the name of their deity as they charge headlong into melee. Martial character likely just bellow at the top of their lungs, perhaps shouting an insult or two.

A truly clever player can easily come up with something suitable and more memorable than just a growling yell. The Thing from The Fantastic Four always yells out “It’s clobberin’ time!” when he’s about to smash someone to a pulp.

Puns are often criticized as being the lowest form of comedy, but when it comes to a catchphrase they can work really well. A maul-wielding Dwarf who runs into battle screaming “It’s hammer time!” may not seem very imaginative, but he’s certainly going to be memorable.

Not all catchphrases need to be called out in the heat of battle. Before killing someone, Jack Nicholson’s Joker asked “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” and Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules from Pulp Fiction quoted an entire bible verse before killing someone. This certainly makes your character memorable but it will have limited uses in most games. In the case of Jules, his catchphrase probably took almost a minute to complete. That’s 10 rounds. Your character may not have that kind of time.

The Social Catchphrase

Depending on how often your gaming group engages in social role-playing you may find a different kind of catchphrase more appropriate. Something as simple as the way you introduce yourself can work wonders, just think of that famous British secret agent, “Bond, James Bond.”

Nonsense Catchphrases

Sometime the most memorable catchphrases are nothing more than someone mispronouncing a word, saying a name in a funny way or just blazingly announcing their most common attack strategy. The words may not make sense outside of that first initial contextual usage, but as far as the party is concerned that character wouldn’t be the same if he didn’t keep repeating it.

Catchphrase Origins

Accidental

In my experience accidental catchphrases are better and tend to have more staying power. They often come about when a character does something stupid or unexpected at a key moment. The player says something off the wall, inappropriate or over the top. Assuming the character survives the gaff, you know that it’s likely to be repeated the next time a similar situation is presented.

Sometimes the character who coined the phrase never ends up using it again; rather the rest of the party uses it to mock his initial foolishness.

Intentional

Intentionally creating a catchphrase is risky. Although your desire is to create a memorable and defining battle cry for your character, there is a good chance that the plan will backfire. In many cases catchphrases just come off as contrived and forced. But that’s not to say that they don’t work.

If your objective is simply to have people remember your PC, even a bad catchphrase will do the trick. The problem is that people may opt not to include you in their next game if you insist on playing the guy with the dumb catchphrase.

Catchphrases are certainly not for everyone. A party in which everyone has a catchphrase or two is likely to unravel into chaos really quickly. Choose your moments carefully and make sure that your catchphrase helps define the character you want to play.

If you’ve never thought of using a catchphrase for your character I encourage you to give it a try. Whether you run into battle shouting “It’s clobberin’ time!” or “Leeeeeeeeeeeeeroy Jenkins!” a character catchphrase is sure to leave a lasting impression at your gaming table.

What are some catchphrases you’ve used or heard at your gaming table over the years? Have any catchphrases ever been so bad that you’ve insisted another player stop using it?

Related reading:

Looking for instant updates? Subscribe to the Dungeon’s Master feed!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alton April 8, 2011 at 9:34 am

One of the classics and still brings a chuckle whenever said at the table. ‘Leeeeeeeroyyyyyyy Jennnnkinzzzzzzzz!’ Good article. I love a good catchphrase and think that the accidental one is the one that will stay at the table the longest.

2 RedNightmare April 8, 2011 at 11:07 am

My Eladrin Swordmage has a very simple social catchphrase: “My name is Aramil Alanar, Adventurer extraordinaire.” preferably followed by kissing the hand of the maiden he is introducing himself to. I tend to picture him as a sort of established hero with a bit of an ego.

3 j0nny_5 April 8, 2011 at 11:09 am

“Spooooon!”

4 Svafa April 8, 2011 at 11:12 am

“Elf needs food badly.” became the catch phrase of the entire party for one of my games.

5 Francois B. April 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Our adventuring team, called the “Reign in Blood”, being no nonsense or diplomatic group (ie kill everything in sight.. then talk) , created the following slogan : “We kill for free, but work for gold !”

And Switch, our portal-lovin’ changeling thief who almost TPK’d the group, cried this out the last time he fell in a hole “I thought it was a portaaaaal… ” then the group was in tears for a few minutes..

6 Erik April 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm

My warforged’s catch-phrase is “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.” Of course it makes the rest of the table groan every time I say it, but it adds a little extra humor and I don’t say it often enough to become annoying.

I’m trying to convince my wife to use “ARROWED!!!” for her shifter bow ranger.

7 David Flor April 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I use to follow a “play by post” game in which one of the players would always over-enunciate casting “Blazing Starfall” as if he was Captain Caveman.

BLAAAAAZING STAAAAAARFAAAAAALL!!!

8 Dave April 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm

One of my all-time favorites:
“Hello, my name is Enigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

9 Alphastream April 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I always think of The Tick. The Tick would cry “Spooooon!!!” as his battle cry and Arthur would say “Not in the face! Not in the face!” Has there been a better duo of catchphrases that so perfectly reflects the PCs?

10 Alphastream April 8, 2011 at 4:00 pm

(j0nny_5 is clearly a ninja)

11 Rabbit is wise April 8, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Our party consists of 3 minotaurs a Goliath and a drow… the drow was added after the fourth minotaur bit the dust. “Cobble me some shoes elf” became the catch phrase of the party, anytime he had an idea, until he was fully intergrated.

12 Dan April 8, 2011 at 6:35 pm

“It’s only a flesh wound” (or any other quote from Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail) = best catch pharse EVA!!!

13 Kilsek April 9, 2011 at 11:25 am

@Svafa: Haha, yes, loved Gauntlet!

It’s not really D&D without us coming up with a hilarious and timely line or catchphrase, is it? I mean it’s sacrilege NOT to! From Monty Python, to Ahhhnold’s many quotables (especially in Predator), to Jean Luc’s “Engage!” I know my playgroups got the borrowed ones covered!

14 maverick0023 April 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I played an Avenger and every single time I used my Oath I would swear a different oath out loud. It was great fun and everyone remembered it.

Some of the most I had was changing known catch phrases into my own quotes; such as Jules in Pulp Fiction or the Green Lantern oath.

15 Marku91 April 10, 2011 at 10:57 am

I’ve got a plan for a Tiefling Fighter who’d headbut people he doesn’t like.
My idea for him came from a question I asked myself;
‘Those horns must be good for something’,
think bull or goat horns and I think you’ll get it.

16 Marku91 April 10, 2011 at 10:58 am

@Marku91 forgot to add he’d say something like ‘Heads up’ or ‘Hells Bells’.

17 Vance April 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm

My giant-axe-wielding Goliath would often say “Let me Axe you a question” just before he splits someone in two. I patterned him after Arnold in Conan, so he regularly swipes an Arnold phrase and mis-appropriates it – even a non-Conan phrase said in his accent does the trick:
“Get to the Tavern!” (instead of “Get to the Choppa”)
“Come with me if you want to live” (said to a friendly NPC)
“If it bleeds, we can kill it”
“Your clothes…give them to me” (while searching bodies for magic loot)

18 david April 13, 2011 at 5:08 am

The group I DM/GM has a few catch phrases and one signature action. The one catch phrase that is frequently spouted off by the “worst thief eva!” is “LOOKOUT!” just as the resulting trap trips and usually wreaks havoc upon the other players as the thief merely makes his save and take no damage. Its pretty funny because when it counts he’s the worst trap disarmer, and usually fumbles rolls left and right. Its quite comical.

The signature action is by our resident “cleric”. The group is mostly evil characters/necromancers and the cleric has become a crossbreed animus/lich like character, but the signature action started very early on, infact as soon as he could cast animate dead!

The action is usually performed behind the back of a NPC being questioned who is being “difficult” the cleric makes a throat slitting or hanging action, followed by putting his arms together then raising one of them to indicate that the group kill the NPC and he raises the corpse after asking the “questions three” from speak with dead. Its also quite comical as he’s come to doing it with every npc they’ve encountered who at the slightest instance shows “trouble”.

PC – How about I give you 5 sp and this fine dagger for the information on Villain X.
NPC – But sir! I tell you I do not know of whom you seek. (and he doesn’t as he’s just a shop keep they’re buying supplies from in a tiny hamlet)
Cleric – Sig Action
Group – Rolls their eyes, laugh, and usually agree and kill the NPC. (Hey they’re evil, and on the run all the time, for a reason! hehe)

-david
http://www.d4d6d8d10d12d20.com – My Gaming/RPG Blog

19 MC-3PO May 3, 2011 at 6:50 pm

I’ve always tried to incorporate appropriate catch phrases for my characters, and have had a lot of success with it.

My favorite will always be the Caliban Paladin (there’s a tongue-twister) I played in Ravenloft who worshipped a sun god. Far from the standard, banal “For the Morninglord!” a lot of PCs may have adopted, Grohn would usually bellow, “I bring the dawn!” before charging into battle.

Spider, the gunslinger I played in a Serenity campaign, was known to shout, “Hey, stupid!” to get the attention of whomever he was aiming at, and murmuring, “I hope you enjoyed your last drink” to the bodies he left behind.

“Shut up, stupid bugbear!” became the catchphrase of the entire adventuring group when a bugbear ranger joined our Forgotten Realms group and started dispensing advice (often good; he was the smartest member of the party), as the other PCs simply assumed that being a bugbear made him dumber than humanoids. Hooray for racism.

The D&D game I’m running now has a number of players with amusing catchphrases, from the law-conscious paladin’s “You will be judged!” and “Stand down or find no quarter!” to the war veteran cleric’s bitter, “Not this shit again,” or the minotaur warden’s panicked, “Fuuuuuuuuuck this!” (things often go poorly for these PCs), but my favorite by far is the pretty, sarcastic bard who often finds herself sighing wistfully and saying, “Mother wanted me to be a seamstress. I rather liked sewing.”

20 Andrew August 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm

My character, A Bugbear Wizard (Yes children it works) has a simple but effective catchphrase for messing up an attack roll, “oops my bad”
My DM named a rule that alowed faied attack rolls to hit close by creatures. I was level three, used my daily attack and killed our Cleric. Oops my bad has been a classic at our table since inspiring an artifact in the campaign we did next called Ukth, The Staff of S****y Spellcasting.

21 Benteroni January 28, 2012 at 12:49 am

I haven’t been dungeoning and dragoning for much more than three years, but I’ve seen the rise and fall of more than one party (one of which actually fell due to a catchphrase).
The first one I can remember is playing in a party with my immediate family. My dad was interested in trying the game with my brothers, but he was hesitant when he figured out how much thought goes into a character. So I set him up with a basic Minotaur Barbarian, and off we went. At some point in the heroic tier, our party leader Torinn (Dragonborn Warlord) and devil’s advocate Ryltar (Drow Assassin) were arguing with a banker over some math. They believed he was cheating them (which he was). Foosgar, my dad’s minotaur, gets fed up with it, and pushes the others aside, calculates the math for everyone (in his head), and glares at everyone. “Oh, right, I’m the big, stupid minotaur,” says my dad. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to do all this… math. Should I go hit him, then?”
The best catchphrase I remember occured with a party of my friends from different social circles, so they didn’t really know each other. One of them made a Gnome Barbarian, who was so unbelievably lucky that we were all afraid to say gnomes weren’t good barbarians. One day, our Warforged Battlemind decided he would throw the gnome into a group of zombies. Needless to say, Mr. Gnome had other ideas. He attempted to springboard kick off of the Warforged, however, he rolled a 1 on his Athletics check. Being the fun DM, I ruled that he kicked the Warforged in the face, and they both ended up prone from the ensuing squabble. Ever since, that party’s catchphrase has been “damn gnomes”. Well, right up until the other players tired of his chaotic ways.
Catchphrases: You gotta know when to hold ‘em, and know when to scream ‘em out at the top of your lungs.

22 tobie January 22, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Hey there! Nice read. Got here since you posted your link in my blog. :-) For those who might want more ideas, they can also check out my similar article, Catchphrases Made Easy at http://tagsessions.blogspot.com/2013/01/catchphrases-made-easy.html

23 richard February 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm

mine

your dead! oh wait thats after i get to you

Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: