GM types @ Gamecraft

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GameCraft :: View topic – Georgios’ GM Types
Robin Laws player types are often heralded as one of the great pieces of gaming advice. I’ve always found them a bit lacking, mostly because they assumed that the GM had no interest of his own other than making the game fun for the players.

(Caveat: these GM-Types, much like those by Laws, aren’t mutually exclusive of course. Many, if not most GMs fall somewhere in-between. And two GMs of the same kind aren’t necessary alike. But I feel that they give you at least a rough idea, of what to expect and what is expected of you.)

The World Builder
has the goal of presenting an in-depth game world. It’s not just some random place, where faceless NPCs wander around boring building. The game world has a history. The landscape is diverse and exciting. NPCs are part of a living, breathing world, that features a nearly endless amount of details. The World Builder is someone who draws on sourcebooks, non-fiction books and genre literature to have a wealth of information to make the game world come alive. You might call the game world his work of art, and the players his audience.
Playstyle: If you’re playing with the World Builder you should take an interest in the setting and enjoy the complexity of the world. Especially when the World Builder uses a published setting, you’ll find many references (and also some intentional contradictions) to pick up on.
The Duelist is looking to compete with the players. He relishes playing the opposition to the characters. To him the game only starts when the group is fighting for something. That is not to say, that the Duelist only values combat. It’s more that he’s out to challenge the players. He loves victory to be hard-earned and have the players avoid defeat by a hair’s breadth. But if the players display great tactical or strategic skill he will not deny them their well-deserved win. To him it goes without saying that his rule calls must be hard, but fair. Otherwise every victory is shallow and meaningless.
Playstyle: If you’re playing with the Duelist you should never walk away from a challenge or base your decisions on anything other than tactics or strategy. With the Duelist you really have to work for everything you want, and have to prove yourself again and again. The Duelist’s word may be law, but it would be an offence to his honour as a gamer to be biased and give anybody (let alone himself) an undeserved advantage.
The Plotmeister considers himself the master of puppets, where all threads come together. He brings a complex and multilayered plot to the game, that the players have to unravel. To him the game world is not so much a place, as it is a web of cause and effect, with the characters caught in the middle. This can sometimes lead to even the simplest and most common plot hooks leading to a wide fog of surprising twists and unexpected developments. It’s the Plotmeister’s goal to constantly baffle and surprise the group, but doing so with plot developments which, looking back, are both consistent and sensible.
Playstyle: With the Plotmeister you should always pay attention to what happens and never lose track of even the smallest of details. He likes to give the players all the pieces of the puzzle, but it is up to them to piece together the big picture. As a player you should make notes and constantly exchange theories with each other. Never take any assumptions for granted and test them in the game first.
The Master of Ceremonies is all about running a very atmospheric and immersive game. A game with the Master of Ceremonies should be unique and allow the players to dive into a whole new world. He likes to use all kinds of aids to make the game more vivid and real. He’d use things like lighting, background music, carefully crafted props and fancy handouts. It’s also important to him that his NPCs talk and behave appropriately, that is to say.. authentically. To the Master of Ceremonies a roleplaying game is above all an experience and an act of escapism.
Playstyle: Gaming with the Master of Ceremonies requires the players to suspend their disbelief and keep heckling to a minimum. Nothing makes you more unpopular with him, than an out-of-character comment at the wrong time or an action that breaks the atmosphere. He especially disapproves of any kind of metagaming (which can include purely tactical/strategic play).
The Actor pours all his effort into the NPCs. He wants to present the players with many different NPCs with peculiar features or at least NPCs that are clearly and easily distinguishable. For the Actor the game world consists of characters with their preferences and dislikes, their strengths and quirks. To him roleplaying is all about character interaction. That of course requires the NPCs to have a consistent personality that is not subordinate to any rules or constraints of the game. The Actor wants the characters and their interaction with the players to be memorable.
Playstyle: To get along with the Actor your character needs to have character. Just like you have the opportunity to find out more about the NPCs and their motivation, the Actor wants the game to reveal more about the players’ characters. Who are they? Why are they the way they are? Contradictory actions of a character must always stem from some inner conflict. On no account should it be because the player didn’t care if his actions today are consistent with those from before.

The Director
considers roleplaying a medium to create stories together. In order for this creation to be exciting and entertaining he draws from all available means of roleplaying games (e.g. adventure structure, great challenges, dramatic conflicts, etc.) but also from any and all narrative art he’s familiar with (e.g. three act structure, genre rules, cinematic language, etc.). The Director is only interested in playing the “important stuff”. Actions that don’t advance the plot or reveal something about the characters, he prefers to avoid or completely cut out of the game.
Playstyle: The Director expects the players to work on bringing their vision to the game. That means, they should actively look for situations where they can forward the story. In other words, they should take charge in specific situations and push the story into a new direction. The Director wants the players to surprise him.
The Provider is the kind of GM, who doesn’t have his own stake in the game. He has fun, because the other players have fun. Many Providers simply enjoy the company and are only GMing because nobody else wants to do it. The adventure is often made up of the player’s preferences and he implements them according to the rules and to the best of his abilities. He’s also willing to give the players more power, if that would increase the player’s enjoyment of the game. The Provider feels obliged to meet the player’s expectations halfway.
Playstyle: It doesn’t take much to get along with the Provider. It’s one of the reasons why most players consider him the best kind of GM. But there are two things, with which any group can push him away. As a player you must have at least a general idea of what you enjoy in a roleplaying game. Nothing is more frustrating for a Provider than players who claim to like one thing, but in reality want something completely different. Additionally, the Provider – more than any of the other types of GM – needs confirmation that the game was fun. A group that doesn’t regularly tell him that he did a good job and they enjoyed themselves in his game, is practically chasing him towards burnout.
I’ve tried phrasing the descriptions as positively or objectively as I could. There are of course many negative variants of those GM Types. The Duelist can come across as a Killer GM, if the group isn’t actively pushing back. Some Plotmeisters are too lazy to put the necessary work and care into adventure preperation, run each of their games by the seat of their pants and try to convince the players that everything that happened was planned. The World Builder might get lost in his creation and bore the players with his endless monologues and excessive descriptions of random stuff. The important point is that all these are flawed approaches of the respective GM types, which shouldn’t be dismissed because of them.

And most GMs have a portion of all of these in their play. I’d rank my own tastes in these as follows, first to last:
The Master of Ceremonies
The Provider
The World Builder
The Plotmeister
The Actor
The Director
The Duelist



  1. Yes, every GM has a piece of these in themselves. The question is which one is a particular GM primarily, if something is primary.
    I am not sure its easy to tell for the GM herself to judge.

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