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
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:
- Animator - in Toon
- Castle Keeper - in Castles & Crusades
- Director - e.g. in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Roleplaying Game and other Cinematic Unisystem games by Eden Studios
- Game Control - in Spycraft
- Game Manager (GM)
- Game Maven (GM)
- Game Moderator (GM)
- Games Operation Director (G.O.D.) - e.g. in Haven: City of Violence
- Hollyhock God (HG) - in Nobilis and Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, both by Jenna Moran
- Judge - e.g. in Marvel Super Heroes
- Keeper of the Arcane Lore, or just Keeper - in Call of Chthulhu
- Master of Ceremonies (MC) - e.g. in Apocalypse World and other games Powered by the Apocalypse
- Producer - e.g. in Primetime Adventures
- Puppetmaster - in Puppetland
- Referee - e.g. in Traveller
- Script Supervisor - in Golden Heroes
- Seneschal - in The Riddle of Steel
- Storyguide - e.g. in Ars Magica
- Storyteller - e.g. in Vampire: The Masquerade and other games by White Wolf Publishing
- Watchtower - in Smallville
- Wulin Sage - in Weapons of the Gods
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 On The Vocabulary of Role-Playing by Phil Masters
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Other terms for Gamemaster at the RPG.net Forums
- ↑ Haven: City of Violence at Geek Native
- ↑ Review of The Riddle of Steel at RPG.net
- ↑ Review of Weapons of the Gods at RPG.net