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 imaginary 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.

Expectations of a GM

A GM selects, or creates, a role-playing game. They then select or design a scenario. Finally, they create and adjudicate the events that occur in that scenario in response to player actions.


The term GM was originally an acronym for game master, but is now a widely understood term in its own right.

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, when the role was described for Dungeons & Dragons in 1975's Blackmoor supplement by Dave Arneson, the term used was Dungeon Master (or DM). This term 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 game. These alternative terms include:


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 On The Vocabulary of Role-Playing by Phil Masters
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Other terms for Gamemaster at the Forums
  3. Haven: City of Violence at Geek Native
  4. Review of The Riddle of Steel at
  5. Review of Weapons of the Gods at

External links

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