There is a vast gulf between the phrase “my players” (or “your players”) and the phrase “the players” when used to refer to your gaming group, or to another GM’s group.

It’s not just semantics — it really makes a difference in how you think about GMing, how you approach the games you run, and how you treat your group.

It can be hard to break the habit of saying (or writing) “the players,” but there’s a reason you never see me write it here, or hear me say it anywhere — because it’s a completely bullshit approach to GMing.

A Completely Bullshit Approach to GMing

I think of “the players” as a distinctly old school thing to say.

Not old school in a good way, like retro-clone RPGs and hearkening back to the days of dice you had to ink yourself, but old school in a way that smacks of adversarial GMing, sticking it to your players, and generally being a giant cock as a GM.

I’m not saying that if you use the phrase “the players” regularly, you’re a giant cock. I used to do it (I still slip occasionally), and I have friends who say it. While the jury’s out on whether or not I’m a giant cock, my friends are not — there’s no direct correlation.

But — and it’s a big but — anecdotally I see a pretty direct correlation between GMs who use “my players” and “your players” and a style and philosophy of GMing that focuses on making the game fun for everyone at the table, treating your players with respect, and generally not being a giant cock.

“The players” are interchangeable, just guests at your table. They can be replaced with other players, and they certainly don’t know as much about the game, or how to play it, as you do.

There’s a sense of stewardship, of a personal connection, and of a drive to run a fun game that’s implied by “my” and “your,” and it’s completely absent from “the players.” Those three things — stewardship, connections, and a drive to show everyone a good time — are three hallmarks of a good GM.

GMs who think like this are the ones I enjoy gaming with — and that’s also the kind of GM I try to be.

Try It Free for 30 Days

Don’t believe me?

If you’re a) not a giant cock, b) have excellent taste in RPG blogs (check!), and c) say, write, and think the phrase “the players” in reference to your own gaming group, you qualify for a free trial.

For the next month, shift gears. Stop using “the players” and use “my players” for your own group and “your players” for other groups — and see how it affects your mindset.

It had a huge effect on my mindset. This is the cornerstone of my philosophy of GMing (if you want to call it that), and while it may be a small thing in many ways, in some ways it’s not. It really does make a difference.

Whether you agree or disagree, or try this technique or not, tell us about it in the comments (and try not to picture any giant cocks on the way to the parking lot).