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Friday, April 4, 2014

What Role Should a DM Fill at the Table?

What role should a DM fill at the gaming table?

Sure, he is sometimes referred to as a Referee, but that rarely defines the role in total.

Facilitator, director, storyteller - they are all aspects of the persona of most DMs.

If you were to read and attempt to run many of the recent LotFP releases, especially James's, you would suspect the role to be played is that of adversary - or even destroyer of parties (Monolith From Before Time and Space comes to mind).

I think, above all, the DM is there to ensure that the group has an enjoyable time, and the role adjusts to the party's needs.

How do you see the DM's role?


  1. I liked Zak's concept of "The DM is throwing a party and it's his job to make sure all the guests have a good time."

  2. Sunderer of their plans, stealer of their wealth, disenchanter of their magics, slayer of their henchmen!

  3. I tend to adapt myself to the desires of the players. If they want more of a gritty campaign, expect NPC carnage and more potential player death, of they are looking for something more LOTRish expect adventures with commensurate risks and rewards, if they want more social and less conflict that is possible (though usually boring for me) too. The key is their involvement and mine, boredom and dissatisfaction ends the game in a more final manner than any TPK.

  4. Narrator of descriptions, Controller of NPCs, Referee (between players, and between players and NPCs), etc.

    Director of the campaign for sure, though if your players are "sandbox-y" players, your direction will be minimal. However most groups I've played in like the DM to drive the pacing of the action, making sure that the shared story advances and that players don't get bored.

    1. "like the DM to drive the pacing of the action..." What about Driver?

  5. The DM provides the framework for the story to be told by the players, which includes portraying the other characters, as well as personifies fate within the world in the form of die rolls. He also acts as arbitrator in terms of the immutable laws of the world and what can and cannot be done therein.

  6. Referee states it very well. If a game requires a definition beyond that, perhaps it is the game that needs examination, not the role of referee.

  7. "I think, above all, the DM is there to ensure that the group has an enjoyable time, and the role adjusts to the party's needs."


  8. While DMing, I see my role as a facilitator of fun.

    - Ark

  9. I like Leicester's word, "enabler." The GM is the person who makes things possible. Not the person who does things. S/he's the person who creates the framework that allows the players and their characters to do things, such as "have a good time," "face challenges," "create a story," etc.

  10. One of the models I like to use when I'm thinking about the role of the Referee/GM/Whatever is that of the way that comic books are run. There are the writers, who come up with the viewpoint characters and storylines, but there is also the editor, who ties the stories the various writers want to tell together, sets up larger plotlines, and sometimes comes up with adversarial characters. Obviously, the Referee in a RPG takes on a slightly greater significance, in that she has much more input in regard to adversaries and their reactions, the setting, and so on.

  11. We occasionally played TFT:ITL with a monster player who could look at the map and knew what creatures were where. This was partly because it isn't all that easier to run the monsters than the PCs, but it also allowed the monster player to "take the blame" for cunning tactics, cruel traps, etc. and the GM/DM/Judge/Ref to stay above it all and claim impartiality. Although there was a fair amount of conspiring going on and we all knew it (I think).