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September 25, 2012

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I was talking with game designer Reinhart about the name for a GM.  He said that the M in GM was too authoritarian.  To him, M is Master.  As in Game Master.  To me it's Moderator, as in Game Moderator, though I know that Game Master is the original abbreviation.  To most non-gamers, GM as a title means General Manager, which might actually be an even better use of the term for a roleplaying game.

I would have quickly forgot the conversation, except that thanks to the NFL, I can't stop hearing the word "referee" lately.  I believe Cyberpunk 2020 called the GM a "Referee" -- which is a rather democratic term, implying the players are playing a game, and the Referee is just there to make sure they obey the rules.

I don't like Referee, though; because it implies that the only one who cares about the rules is the Referee; but it's just the opposite, really; the players are the ones who benefit the most from the rules.  Nobody can blame them if they play within the rules and the adventure falls apart.

Storyteller is the White Wolf name.  From this blog, you can probably tell I've played and run a lot of their games; but I don't like their name for the GM!  If the GM is the Storyteller, what are the players?  Story-listeners?  I would say the GM is more of a storyteller than the players are; since the GM is responsible for pacing, theme, mood, narrative structure, antagonists, conflict, beginnings, endings, tension, and other major dramatic components.  But the players should be talking as much as the GM or more, and it's their story...

Narrator, Reinhart's choice, is pretty good.  Consider that the players make decisions for their characters and narrate them themselves until there's a situation where conflict, risk, or strategy come into play.  Then the GM narrates the story, narrates the effects of the characters' actions, and narrates the NPCs' actions. Until there's conflict, risk or strategy, the GM's role is rather small.  He's just doing exposition and describing setting; which is also narration.

I like Game Moderator because a moderator is the chairman or facilitator for a meeting, orchestrating the discussion, planning and keeping to the agenda, or modifying it as needed, making sure everyone gets a chance to contribute, and presenting the questions or topics for discussion.


Anyway, thank the NFL for this post; because I had to imagine what would happen if all the GMs went on strike!

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