Indie Game Designer Primer Entry #35
Posted by Nathan P. on April 27, 2006
The GM is a myth.
There is no such person as the GM. The GM is a set of duties and responsabilities, which vary from game to game. These duties have traditionally been assigned to one player of the game, but this is not the only way that these duties can be divided among a group of players. Some of these duties are formal and written in a game text, while others are informal, and sometimes unspoken. These duties often include, but are not limited too:
*Providing antagonism for the player characters.
*Playing the roles of non-player characters.
*Looking up and arbitrating rules disputes.
*Disseminating rules amongst the group.
*Providing a physical space for play.
*Creating the backstory or world for play.
*Creating the plot for the story the group will tell.
*Being proactive and driving the player characters forward.
*Being reactive and drawing the player characters onward.
*Writing up the stats for non-player characters.
*Giving out rules rewards (like experience points, treasure and other game resources)
*Enabling and arbitrating the distribution of reward amongst the players (like fan mail).
Again: different games give the GM different duties in the text. Many groups also assign GM duties that pertain to that particular group and game. These duties are sometimes centralized in one person, sometimes divided amonst multiple people, and sometimes as evenly distributed among the group as possible.
Understanding which GM duties are called for in your game, and dividing them in a way that supports your design goals, is a critical part of design.