What is a GM? (GM’s Day 2016)

Today I’d like to muse a bit on a definition of Game Master (or Gamemaster or GM or Dungeon Master or DM or Storyteller or Referee, etc.). GM’s Day 2016 is coming up this week and I think it’s about time I actually defined what that role actually means to me personally.

gmsday-logoA GM is a Referee. Sometimes. Games have rules and someone must adjudicate. Sometimes that means pausing a game for 30 minutes as the Rules Lawyers break out the books to discuss the proper application of an area of effect or a brief exploration of geometry to discover that no, that enemy didn’t have a clear shot and should have been at a penalty to hit. Most of the time it means making a snap ruling at the table, getting agreement, and researching rules questions after the session is done. I find that more than a few minutes of debate can totally derail a session and staying in the moment is a better goal.

A GM is a Location Scout. Knowing the setting the PCs are currently exploring to some degree is paramount. Some of that can be handled through a combination of random tables readily available to provide the odd detail here and there, but keeping an area consistent from session to session and building it up over time requires careful note taking at a minimum.

A GM is a Prop Master. Items are a good way to keep your players happy. Make some fun ones and you can stay happy too. 🙂

A GM is Everyone Else. Those NPCs are the way the GM interacts with the PCs in a social way. The bard telling stories in the bar. The bartender who used to be an adventurer and has advice on the latest adventure. The blacksmith who has heard rumblings through the grapevine that another kingdom is ramping up for war. You can’t just march up and tell your players what’s going on… they must interact with the world. And they do that through the GM’s portrayal of everybody other than the PCs!

A GM is a Storyteller. The PCs are at the center of the action, but that leaves a lot of tales to tell around them. Every NPC has their own plot line. Every location has a bit of history. And it’s up to the GM to focus on those areas where the tales intersect with the PCs. One NPC may have a piece of the puzzle and an item thought lost to history in a buried ruin may have another. Allowing the story to grow organically around the characters but still moving things forward is a key.

Ultimately being a GM is all about helping your players have fun. Hopefully you have fun along the way. 🙂

What does being a GM mean to you? Leave us your thoughts in the comments!!

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