So you’ve known one certainly. Maybe you’ve been one.
In the misty beginning, there was the DM and it was good.
But unto the third generation, there was the GM and it was better.
And yea, tho’ it was often professed that the GM was wise and puissant, when the drapes were pulled back, ’twas not writ that such was man or woman, only that the GM be crafty and fair.
So we are mostly beyond Dungeon Master. (But I’ve been called a DM for years when we were not playing D&D.) And in most cases everything has shifted to calling your referee/moderator, GM. (But hardly anyone says, ‘game master’.)
Has ‘GM’ become genderless? When your brain processes this data, is gender attached? Since we’ve also made it a verb (“Are you GMing this weekend or is Amanda going to?”), I vote that we’ve rendered the term gender-neutral.
Y’see, I object to ‘Storyteller’ or ‘Hollyhock God’ or ‘Keeper’ because of how those terms reinforce ‘control issues’ with the direction of game. Do any of those three terms seem collaborative? Not to me.
In that sense, GM is flat, boring but so suited as a white canvas to paint on. GMs do things differently; to your tastes or not. And if you don’t like a GM, that doesn’t mean you don’t like the game. A GM is allowed (or encouraged) to bring their own style to the process.
I have been part of conversations where someone says, “No, not that game with that GM” or even, “Uh, yea, that GM loves to play XXX, but doesn’t really make it fun for me.” And cruising the forums, you certainly run across GMs talking about wanting to try again to play Amber Diceless but never finding players who really do the canon material justice.
Aren’t they really saying ‘no one buys into my version of Amber Diceless fun’?
In some texts about B&D culture, I read an interesting article about the psychology behind being a Dom or Domme. As I recall (and this is inexact — my wife and I were flipping through different books in the “sexuality and erotica” section of Borders), the philosophy boiled down to “Care about them, pay attention to their needs, provide them with just the right mix of comfort and discomfort, keep them safe at all times… and never let them realize that you care about them.”
It surprised me how much that philosophy overlaps with DMing, for me. In theory, as the DM, I’m the one in charge. But what “being in charge” means, in this case, is that I do a lot more homework preparing the adventures than my players do getting their character sheets up to date, I bust my butt to give every player an experience that caters to their particular specialization/playing preference, I crunch numbers and adjust things on the fly to provide a challenge that is exciting but not frustrating, and I keep in mind at all times that if my players aren’t having fun, they can always leave and find another gaming group.
In theory, I’m in a position of dominance. In practice, as an entertainer, I’m in a position of service to the players… as most professional Dom(me)s are.
Yes, there it is again. Gaming and sex. Trust and responsibility.
OTOH, it also reminded me of my grandma when I was growing up. Odd? Well, here was a stranger who didn’t look like my parents (I mean, really! Tiny, wrinkled and no resemblance!) but seemed entertained to have us around. My grandma cared about us, paid attention to our needs, provide us with just the right mix of comfort and discomfort, keep us safe at all times…. and never let us think that the universe was all about US.
I miss her.
And I miss the great GMs I’ve had.