Matt Burnett

Game Mastering & what it means to me

March 16, 2022
Definition (wikipedia):
A gamemaster (GM; also known as dungeon master, game master, game manager, game moderator, referee, or storyteller) is a person who acts as an organizer, officiant for regarding rules, arbitrator, and moderator for a multiplayer role-playing game. They are more common in co-operative games in which players work together than in competitive games in which players oppose each other. The act performed by a gamemaster is sometimes referred to as “Gamemastering” or simply “GMing”.

Basically, a Game Master (or Dungeon Master if you’re playing Dungeons & Dragons) is the person who runs a tabletop roleplaying game. They are the person who makes the core story, role plays multiple non-player characters, throws things at the players, prepares a game session, organizes game sessions, knows most of the rules & nuances of the setting or game system, & tries to create a great experience for the players. And it’s a hell of a a lot of fun! Game Masters are just another player at the table even though they are playing all the antagonists, they are still a fan of the players & on their side.

A game master is usually running a tabletop role playing game, like D&D, but a game master can also run other types of board games, wargames, or any other tabletop game.

I am happy to be a player or a game master, but being a game master is much more therapeutic for me. It’s not something I want to always do, but it’s something that scratches almost all my creative itches.

  • I’m not a great writer, but I can tell a good story. Being a GM lets me help tell a good story & build a coherent world. (the players are just as involved!)
  • I’m not a actor, but pretend or improvise anyone even if it’s done badly & I love doing weird voices.
  • I’m not an artist, but painting minis & building scale models to increase the immersion for the players is really fun & rewarding. I mean I even created a business dedicated to this!
  • I’m not comfortable public speaking, but being at the head of the table & improvising new things off the top of my head as the players throw twists at me is something that really helps my anxiety.
  • I’m not a game designer, but I understand good game mechanics & how to make them fun. GMing lets me exercise this, because I am the one interpreting the rules.
  • I’m ambitious, but not an outgoing person or comfortable in crowded places, except I am an extrovert. (technically I’m an ambivert.)

You get the idea.

Games I play and/or run

Dungeons & Dragons is by far the most popular tabletop role playing game out there, but it’s not something I enjoy very much. I have played it & would play it again, but I’d rather not play it given the choice. My tastes fluctuate a lot, so I am partial to generic systems, so I can play a lot of different settings & while still sticking to a system that is well tested & has proven gaming mechanics. Not all the games I play are done in generic systems, it just tends to be my favorite way to pick.

My favorite systems and/or games

  1. Savage Worlds - Deadlands, Holler, 50 Fathoms, Crystal Heart, Wise Guys
  2. Year Zero Engine by Free League Publishing - Mutant Year Zero, Vaesen, Alien, Coriolis
  3. Powered by the Apocalypse - Fluxfall Horizon, Root RPG, Avatar Legends, Ironsworn/Starforged, Monster of the Week, Dungeon World, City of Mist
  4. TinyD6 - Tiny Wastelands, Tiny Dungeon, Tiny Frontiers
  5. Forged in the Dark - Blades in the Dark, Wicked Ones, Scum & Villainy, Copperhead County
  6. Fate, Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green, Dungeon Crawl Classics / Mutant Crawl Classics, 2D20 games, etc.

And lots of others. I’ll play just about anything at least once. I tend to gravitate more towards rules light, rather than “crunchy” games with a lot of rules. I feel like rules should help the game not be the game & the game itself should be about collective storytelling.