TT reader, RPG freelancer and author of
Opening Credits via PowerPoint
Walt C. emailed me about the most basic division of the GM’s roles. I thought this would be a good topic for discussion, and Walt gave me the thumbs-up on turning his email into a guest post. Thanks, Walt!
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While there are a number of ways to parse a GM’s job into “hats,” the two critical ones are Creator and Manager.

The Creator is an adventure/campaign/world designer. He writes his own material for each session and spends a lot of time between sessions developing the game world.

The Manager actually runs the session. She takes the adventure and makes it come alive during the session.

We often lump these two together as what a “GM” does, but that’s not necessarily accurate. On alternate Sundays, I run a Freeport/Bleeding Edge campaign. All of the material was written by Green Ronin’s stable. In essence, I only manage the games. For my Friday Witchcraft game, I wear both hats. I design and run the adventures.

In the past, I didn’t consider “manager-only” GMs to be true GMs. It was the mark of a lesser GM that needed to rely on published adventures and was no good at writing his own material.

I’ve learned since that it can be just as much or even more fun running through published materials than a GM’s homebrew. Also, from a GMing standpoint, it feels less personal if the players criticize an adventure that you didn’t script.

Thinking about this division, what I wonder is this: Do people still think of a good GM as someone that can handle both, or is the managing aspect enough to mark one as an excellent GM?
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(Other TT posts on the role of the GM include GM as Meeting Facilitator and The Game Master is the Leader of the Group.)