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A GM (also known by other terms, see below) is a participant in a multi-player role-playing game whose role is to describe the game world that the player characters inhabit, including by controlling NPCs. A GM is sometimes considered to be a player, but that term is also often used to describe game participants other than the GM.

GMs are so common in multi-player role-playing games that a game without a GM role is usually called GMless.

GMing tasks (responsibilities and expectations)[]

The GM role is associated with certain tasks. Depending on the system, a specific task may be a GM's responsibility, an expectation that falls on them, or (less often) a player's responsibility. Even when the task falls on the GM, the system may give them sufficient authority to delegate it to one or more other players.

GMing tasks include:

  • Propose or pick the system that will be used (published game, rules, house rules, etc.).
  • Understand and interpret the rules being used.
  • Make rulings when the rules are unclear or do not cover something.
  • Prepare and present details about the setting or imaginary world (from a published campaign setting if necessary).
  • Prepare and present a scenario for the player characters to respond to (from a published adventure or module if necessary).
  • Portray the non-player characters.
  • Set the scene for the player characters.
  • Narrate what is happening in the game world (see also authorial privilege).
  • Allow or encourage players to make meaningful choices for their characters.
  • Respond to player character actions and resolve moments of uncertainty (either through fiat or other game mechanics).
  • Set the stakes for resolution mechanics.
  • Set the difficulty in resolution mechanics.
  • Describe the outcome (effect) of resolution.
  • Manage spotlight on the players (which may include calling for initiative when necessary).
  • Host the game or agree where the game will be hosted.
  • Schedule the game for the appropriate players.
  • Provide or otherwise arrange for the relevant game aids (e.g. dice, miniatures, index cards) to be present at the table.

Terminology[]

GM is a commonly recognized acronym derived from the term game master.

The term game master existed in tabletop gaming before the creation of modern role-playing games with Dungeons & Dragons in 1974. For example, it appeared in the 1973 rules of the miniatures wargame Ironclad by Guidon Games. However, the first term used in original Dungeons & Dragons was referee (also used in wargaming)[1], before a new term was created specifically for Dungeons & Dragons in 1975's Blackmoor supplement by Dave Arneson: Dungeon Master (or DM). The term Dungeon Master was trademarked by TSR, and related specifically to the fantasy dungeon crawling style of play in D&D, so other early role-playing games (such as Tunnels & Trolls, Bunnies & Burrows in 1976, and Chivalry & Sorcery in 1977) reverted to the pre-existing term game master (or gamemaster, game-master, or GM).

The early terms game master and Dungeon Master have faced criticism, both because they imply a high level of control over the story by the GM (as opposed to the players) and because the gendered term master implies that GMs are male.

Many other terms for the GM have appeared in discourse or specific role-playing games. These other terms may have been used to address the criticism mentioned above, or to more closely align to the tone or setting of the specific games, or the role of the GM in those games. Some examples are included in the lists below.

Alternative terms for GM[]

  • Admin - e.g. in White Lies[2]
  • Administrator - e.g. in Top Secret[3]
  • Arbiter - e.g. in Archetype[2]
  • Author - e.g. in Age of Empire[2]
  • Authority - e.g. in Misspent Youth[2]
  • Campaign Master - in Star Ace[2]
  • Caretaker - in Small Things[2]
  • Chronicler - e.g. in Witchcraft and Armageddon: The End Times[4]
  • Control - e.g. in Agents of S.W.I.N.G.[2]
  • Director - e.g. in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Roleplaying Game and other Cinematic Unisystem games by Eden Studios[5], Night's Black Agents[2]
  • Dungeon Master aka DM - The original thematic alternative term, introduced in 1975's Blackmoor.
  • Editor - e.g. in Pandemonium![6]
  • Game Control - in Spycraft[5]
  • Game Guide - in Pip System[2]
  • Gamejudge - in Phantasia[7]
  • Game Leader - Equivalents of this term are common in other languages, including Norwegian Spilleder (SL), Finnish Pelinjohtaja (PJ) and German Spielleiter[1]
  • Game Manager (GM)
  • Game Master (GM)
  • Game Maven (GM)
  • Game Moderator (GM) - e.g. in Over the Edge[8], Wild Talents[2]
  • Game Mother (GM) - e.g. in Alien: The Roleplaying Game
  • Game Operations Designate (G.O.D.) - in The Legend of Yore[9]
  • Games Operation Director (G.O.D.) - e.g. in Haven: City of Violence[10]
  • Game Operator - in Legacy[2]
  • Game Organizer - in Dystopia Rising[2]
  • Game Organizer and Decision-maker (G.O.D.) - in Now What?[2]
  • Game Shepherd - in Spiritual Warfare[2]
  • Gamesmaster (GM) - e.g. in Victoriana[2]
  • Guide - e.g. in Don't Look Back[2]
  • Host - e.g. in Ironclaw[2]
  • Judge - e.g. in Marvel Super Heroes[2]
  • Lead Narrator - e.g. in Valiant Universe[2]
  • Leader - e.g. in Shadows of Esteren[2]
  • Master of Ceremonies (MC) - e.g. in Apocalypse World and other games Powered by the Apocalypse
  • Mistress of Ceremonies (MC) - e.g. in The Watch[11]
  • Moderator - e.g. in Blue Planet[2]
  • Narrator - e.g. in Seven Leagues[12], Houses of the Blooded[2]
  • Producer - e.g. in Primetime Adventures[5]
  • Referee - e.g. in Traveller[13] or RuneQuest 2[8]
  • Storyguide - e.g. in Ars Magica[13], ChthulhuTech[2]
  • StoryHost - in Enter the Shadowside[2]
  • Story Master - e.g. in Dungeons the Dragoning 7th Edition[2]
  • Storyteller - e.g. in Vampire: The Masquerade and other games by White Wolf Publishing
  • Weaver - in Tribe 8[2]
  • WorldMaster - in Adventure Maximum[2]

Game-specific terms for GM[]

  • Absolute Judge - in Mechanical Dream[2]
  • Action Guide - in World Action and Adventure[2]
  • Adventure Master - in Dragonraid[2]
  • Airedale - in Knights of the Road, Knights of the Rail[2]
  • Al-Rawi - in Capharnaüm[2]
  • Animator - in Toon[13][2]
  • Antagonist - in Agon First Edition[14][2]
  • Ape Master - in Terra Primate
  • The Authority - in Misspent Youth[15]
  • Bartender - in Tales from the Floating Vagabond[2]
  • Big Cheese - in Rat Pack[2]
  • Big Mac Daddy - in StuperPowers![2]
  • Booker - in Kayfabe[2]
  • Boss - e.g. in Low Life[2]
  • Cannibal-in-Charge - in Cannibal Contagion[2]
  • Castle Keeper - in Castles & Crusades[5]
  • Cat Herder - in Call of Catthulhu[2]
  • Cavemaster - in Cavemaster[2]
  • Chill Master - in Chill[2]
  • City Planner - in Nightlife[2]
  • Commanding Officer (CO) - in MASHED[2]
  • Consul - in Super Dungeon Explore[2]
  • Continuum Master - in TIMEMASTER[2]
  • Corporation - in Merc[2]
  • Corpse Master - in Rotworld[2]
  • Creative - in World Wide Wrestling[2]
  • Creek Master - in Creeks & Crawdads[2]
  • Croupier - in Fastlane
  • Cryptkeeper - in The World of Tales from the Crypt[2]
  • Dawg Master - in Dawg the RPG[2]
  • Dealer - in Dust Devils[2]
  • Dean - in East Texas University[2]
  • Demiurgo - in Lex Arcana[2]
  • Dispatcher - in Ninja Burger[2]
  • DJ - in Spirit of '77[2]
  • Dolphin Master - in Everything is Dolphins[2]
  • Dorn Keeper - in Dorn[2]
  • Dungeon Master (DM) - a trademarked term used only in Dungeons & Dragons (since 1975)
  • Editor-in-Chief - in Rotted Capes[2]
  • Eminence Grise - in Agone[16] (Grey Eminence if translated from French, but eminence grise is an understood term in English too)
  • Engineer - in Steamfortress Victory[2]
  • Everyone Else - in Everyone is John[2]
  • Evil Mastermind - in Scared Stiff[2]
  • Excursion Master - in Excursions into the Bizarre[2]
  • Fairy Godmother - in I'm a Pretty Princess[2]
  • Fairytale Teller - in Wiedzmin (translated from Polish)[2]
  • Fate - in The World of Synnibarr[17]
  • Fatemaster - in Through the Breach[2]
  • Fixer - in Leverage[2]
  • Frontier Master - in Strange Frontiers[2]
  • Galaxy Master (GM) - in Starfaring[2]
  • Game Sheriff - in Dzikie Pola (translated from the Polish)[2]
  • Gamekeeper - in Tales from the Wood[2]
  • GeekMod (GM) - in Way of the Geeky[2]
  • General Management (GM) - in Time & Temp[2]
  • General Manager (GM) - in WWE: Know Your Role[18]
  • Genteel Magistrate (GM) - in Victorious[2]
  • Ghostmaster (GM) - in Ghostbusters[2]
  • Gore Master (GM) - in Dead Meat[2]
  • Grand Master (GM) - in Witch Hunter: The Invisible World[2]
  • Groundskeeper - in Bluebeard's Bride[2]
  • Hand of Fate - in The Secret of Zir'An[2]
  • Hazard Master - in Perilous[2]
  • Hollyhock God (HG) - in Nobilis[5] and Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, both by Jenna Moran
  • HoLmeister - in HoL[2]
  • Interrogator - in InTERRORgation[2]
  • Journey Master - in Dangerous Journeys[2]
  • Jump Master - in Jumpers[2]
  • Karma Fate Destiny Master - in Refuge in Audacity[2]
  • Keeper of the Arcane Lore, or just Keeper - in Call of Cthulhu[13]
  • Kennel Master - in Woof Meow[2]
  • Labyrinth Lord - in Labyrinth Lord[2]
  • Lejend Master - in Lejendary Adventure[2]
  • Loremaster - in The One Ring[2]
  • Maelstrom - in Maelstrom Dreamers[2]
  • Magister or Magistra - in Kata Kumbas[2]
  • Maim Master - in F.A.T.A.L.[2]
  • Mallrat - in Visigoths vs Mall Goths[19]
  • The Man - in Starchildren[2]
  • Marakame - in Nahual[2]
  • Market - in Red Markets[2]
  • Marshall - in Deadlands[2]
  • Master Creator - in The Secret Fire[2]
  • Master of Tales - in Cursed Empire[2]
  • Mastercyb - in CYB: Gioco di ruolo in un lontano futuro[2]
  • Mayor - in Kobolds Ate My Baby[2]
  • Meister - in Das Schwarze Auge (German language)[2]
  • Minister of Revels - in Under Hollow Hills[20]
  • Mission Director - in Recon[2]
  • Mutant Lord - in Mutant Future[2]
  • Mythguide - in Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth[2]
  • Mythmaster - in Mythender[2]
  • Navigator - in Mermaid Adventures[2]
  • Negotiator - in Magicians[2]
  • Neighborhood Watch Captain - in Dead Scare[2]
  • Netmaster - in Project Darklight[2]
  • Ninja Master - in Night of the Ninja[2]
  • Operations - in Wilderness of Mirrors[2]
  • Operator - in Qi: Living Energy[2]
  • Overlord - in Descent[2]
  • Overplayer - in Swords Without Master
  • Overseer - in Catacombs[2]
  • Owner of Arcane Rules - in Pokéthulhu Adventure Game[1][2]
  • Parser - in Parsely[2]
  • Playwright - in The Play's the Thing[2]
  • Pocket Master - in Pocket Fantasy[2]
  • Programmer - in Engine Heart[2]
  • Project Director - in Morrow Project[2]
  • Prophet - in The Seventh Seal[2]
  • Puppet Master - in Puppetland[8][2]
  • Q - in Star Trek: Alpha Quadrant[2]
  • Quest Master - in QuestCore[2]
  • Rattenmeister - in Ratten![2]
  • Realm Controller - in Realms of the Unknown[2]
  • Regent - in Salem World[2]
  • Runner - in Rune[2]
  • Scenemaster - in Non-Essential Personnel[2]
  • SchoolMaster - in Alma Mater[21]
  • Script Supervisor - in Golden Heroes[5]
  • Seneschal - in The Riddle of Steel[5][22]
  • Sensei - in Chi-Chian RPG[2]
  • Sherpa Guide - in Sherpa[2]
  • Sholari - in Skyrealms of Jorune[2]
  • SIEGE Engineer - in StarSIEGE[2]
  • Skeptic - in Dude, Run![2]
  • Space Master - in Impulse Drive[2]
  • StarMaster - in Space Opera[2]
  • Strife Player - in Agon Second Edition
  • Superintendent - in Panty Exposion[2]
  • Superuser - in Freemarket[2]
  • Talespinner - in Crazy 8s[2]
  • Town Manager - in Turn[23]
  • Troublemaker - in Flatpack[2]
  • TWERPSMaster - in TWERPS[1]
  • Umpire - in Lace & Steel[2]
  • War Master - in Weird Wars[2]
  • Watcher - in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying[2]
  • Watchtower - in Smallville[2]
  • Winter - in Wolfspell[2]
  • Wulin Sage - in Weapons of the Gods[5][24]
  • Zargon, aka Morcar in the UK - in HeroQuest[2]
  • Zombie Master - in All Flesh Must Be Eaten[2]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Other terms for Gamemaster (page 3) at the RPG.net Forums
  2. 2.000 2.001 2.002 2.003 2.004 2.005 2.006 2.007 2.008 2.009 2.010 2.011 2.012 2.013 2.014 2.015 2.016 2.017 2.018 2.019 2.020 2.021 2.022 2.023 2.024 2.025 2.026 2.027 2.028 2.029 2.030 2.031 2.032 2.033 2.034 2.035 2.036 2.037 2.038 2.039 2.040 2.041 2.042 2.043 2.044 2.045 2.046 2.047 2.048 2.049 2.050 2.051 2.052 2.053 2.054 2.055 2.056 2.057 2.058 2.059 2.060 2.061 2.062 2.063 2.064 2.065 2.066 2.067 2.068 2.069 2.070 2.071 2.072 2.073 2.074 2.075 2.076 2.077 2.078 2.079 2.080 2.081 2.082 2.083 2.084 2.085 2.086 2.087 2.088 2.089 2.090 2.091 2.092 2.093 2.094 2.095 2.096 2.097 2.098 2.099 2.100 2.101 2.102 2.103 2.104 2.105 2.106 2.107 2.108 2.109 2.110 2.111 2.112 2.113 2.114 2.115 2.116 2.117 2.118 2.119 2.120 2.121 2.122 2.123 2.124 2.125 2.126 2.127 2.128 2.129 2.130 2.131 2.132 2.133 2.134 2.135 2.136 2.137 2.138 2.139 2.140 2.141 2.142 2.143 2.144 2.145 2.146 2.147 2.148 Lowell Francis (2019-07-24). "Age of Ravens: The Many Names of Gamemasters (2019 Update)". The Gauntlet. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  3. Other terms for Gamemaster (page 5) at the RPG.net Forums
  4. Conan McKegg (2006-02-24). "Review of Armageddon: The End Times". RPG.net. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Other terms for Gamemaster at the RPG.net Forums
  6. Clemens Meier (2003-12-15). "Review of Pandemonium! Adventures in Tabloid World". RPG.net. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  7. Chris Timmins (2018-09-10). "I'd score it four fingers... maybe a thumb...". RPGGeek. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Other terms for Gamemaster (page 2) at the RPG.net Forums
  9. Joe Walsh (2017-08-28). "Review of The Legend of Yore". RPG.net. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  10. Andrew Girdwood (2009-08-21). "Haven: City of Violence". Geek Native. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  11. Brandes Stoddard (2017-03-16). "The Watch" (review). Tribality. Retrieved 2020-02-25.
  12. Iain Fyffe (2006-08-25). "Review of Seven Leagues". RPG.net. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Phil Masters. "On The Vocabulary of Role-Playing".
  14. Christopher W. Richeson (2007-07-23). "Review of AGON". RPG.net. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  15. Robert Bohl. Misspent Youth: Core Rulebook. Misspent Youth. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
  16. Conan McKegg (2002-02-15). "Review of Agone". RPG.net. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  17. Darren MacLennan (2001-08-03). "Review of The World of Synnibarr". RPG.net. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  18. SirPhoebos. "WWE Roleplaying Game". FATAL & Friends. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  19. Lucian Kahn, Hamish Cameron (2020-07-06). Tweet and Screenshot of Visigoths vs Mall Goths. Twitter. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  20. Meguey and Vincent Baker. "A Playbill" for Under Hollow Hills. lumpley games. Retrieved 2020-02-25.
  21. Perdustin (2016-01-10). "The High School Role-Playing Game". Thoul's Paradise. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  22. Chris Safruik (2003-04-28). "Review of The Riddle of Steel". RPG.net. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  23. Jared Rascher (2019-10-08). "Turn Review". Gnome Stew. Retrieved 2020-04-05.
  24. Jye Nicolson (2005-08-22). "Review of Weapons of the Gods". RPG.net. Retrieved 2020-01-05.

External links[]

  • GM at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  • Dungeon Master at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.