Tuesday, December 10, 2013


My partner Tamara read yesterday's rant and remarked, "I guess you really are back to posting, yes?"

She knows me so well.

I guess the thing to talk about today is my unreasonable insistance at being called a 'DM' and not a 'GM.' Clovis Cithog  tried to warn me the other day that the term "DM" is owned by Wizards/Hasbro, and that they vigorously guard this ownership.

Thing is, I'm not trying to sell a game. The Advanced Guide in no way challenges or undermines the sale of any game by Wizards of the Coast, nor does it offer any competition to those sales. In fact, the book should actually HELP their sales, point to be made. My only copyright concern here is that I don't misrepresent the term DM in such a manner as to cause libel or slander. Which isn't my intention at all. Fair use indicates that I am entitled to reproduce copyrighted material (in this case, two letters) for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, TEACHING, scholarship and research. These things are not an infringement on copyright.

So welcome to my classroom.

Still, is the use of the term DM dead?

I had written a small note to the subject that I had intended to include on a lonely page prior to the preface:

"This book has been written to teach the reader how to be a better ‘Dungeon Master,’ or DM. This is the term originally used to describe the administrator of the Dungeons & Dragons game, the first role-playing game I encountered. The title DM is anachronistic. Many present-day enthusiasts prefer the term ‘GM,’ or ‘Game Master.’ I have never been happy with that watered-down alternative. The original title had zeal. The original title had mystery.

A ‘GM’ is a general manager, a modernistic, shareholder-serving drone, a caretaker of someone else’s business, fitting a neat, round, limited hole. I do not conceive that my role is to manage generally. My role is to master the dungeon of the player’s soul. This may variously be understood to be a cage, an asylum, a catacomb … or the dark, unplumbed tombs of the player’s psyche. I see my role as the builder of elaborate cages of gilded design, with far-flung boundaries and untapped possibilities. I need a title that carries weight. I need a title that promises the world. So I have always embraced the atypical, unique appellation of Dungeon Master. I am loathe to surrender it."

But perhaps I am being unreasonable. Perhaps I am being a literary Luddite. Perhaps it is time to accept the inevitable, and label myself a Game Master, and let the matter go. There is, after all, much wasted effort that is applied to shouting at the wind. I'm a long standing wind shouter; and in this case, perhaps it is time to let the wind win. Perhaps it is time to bend.


  1. I say go ahead and include it. It isn't a big deal on its own, but to me the term GM represents the shift from the more unique, imaginative style of early D&D with the bland, written-by-a-committee feel of 4e and other modern systems.

    I don't understand the choice the choice between calling yourself a GM or shouting about calling yourself a DM, to the wind or otherwise. It seems like you could just calmly refer to yourself as DM, take a moment to explain why, and move on to more important things.

  2. Well, I'm asking, "Am I shouting at the wind?" That's one from Ozzie that I'm not.

  3. Dungeon Master is a far superior term. It's specific to the game, it's colorful, and it gives the DM a lot more implicit character than the dull Game Master. A GM dresses business casual and has a nice little collection of pens. A DM has fortune-telling skulls and a dagger that can reshape stone. Definitely stick with Dungeon Master.

  4. Alexis, you need to include that note (which I find is a better way to tell what I'm thinking).

    And please don't drop the DM appelation in favor of GM: soon enough it will turn into being a StoryTeller

  5. Yeah, good on ya for going with DM. It resonates and it reinforces your point that roleplay is not merely a "game."

  6. Part of your charm are your idiosyncrasies... much like D&D itself. :)

    Keep the term and keep the above explanation on a lonely page upfront as intended as it serves the purpose of succinctly introducing the reader to both your personality and your view of the what the game truly is.

    Also, I'd love one of those 5,000 word previews.

  7. I guess I figured the evolution was more due to the lack of dungeons in most non-fantasy-themed games. If you're playing Gamma World or Traveler or whatever, you might well think being a Dungeon Master is athematic, so GM became a general term that would apply to running a game regardless of theme.

    But there's certainly no question that DM is a more flavorful term for fantasy games.


If you wish to leave a comment on this blog, contact alexiss1@telus.net with a direct message. Comments, agreed upon by reader and author, are published every Saturday.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.