Alternate GM Titles

Recently, I’ve been using “the Guide” as my term for the GM because I really like the implications that name brings. Not adversarial, but not entirely hand holding either. Also too because I run a lot of narrative games with detailed mechanical processes (kind of like Blades in the Dark).

Before, I used to use “the Director” because of my film school background. At first, it was just to be clever. It was not clever. Then it was catchy because the term was used in a movie-based system and it fit better. But it always left an aura of being in charge, which is not what I want at the table. You want to try this game? You’ll need a Guide. Something about feels right for my style.

So I’m curious about about other alternate GM titles out there. Did they hit the mark? And what are everyone’s thought on using the word “master” and what that can imply to players, both good and bad?


When I play D&D, I think there’s no better term for my intentioned style than [meant to write “referee for”] old school D&D.

Otherwise, if it’s something more modern, emphasizing a more structured plot, I generally go with the generic Gamemaster. “Director,” perhaps, is more accurate to how I run. Perhaps the Problem-maker… the Situation-setter.

1 Like

Storyteller, from the WoD systems back in the day worked for me and the folks I gamed with. Helped us note that we were playing a game different than the other games we’d played before, and that meant we should have different expectations.

It also helped me lean into the idea of story and narration more than I did in my other games.

I’m also a fan of Keeper for Call of Cthulhu. Not sure if I like it because it’s evocative, or it’s just the term that goes with that game.


Well, there’s the original … Referee. Predates GM, predates role-playing. How I see it:

Referee - hearkens to the neutral ref in a war-game that adjudicates unusual situations or disagreements between players, also the designer of the battle scenario (often)

Keeper - CoC specific related to the person who keeps the secrets and reveals them in response to player actions or timing

Storyteller - WoD originally, a game facilitator who is planning/tracking behind-the-scenes agendas and weaving player agendas and actions into the overall fiction.

GM - Game Master, the arbiter of the rules. The person who has read/knows the rules, decides how the rules work, or makes them up as needed and describes/dictates the results of player actions and dice rolls. (Probably relates to the idea of system “mastery.”)

DM - Dungeon Master, as game master but specific to a game where the “dungeon” is the focus. [You might argue that this emphasizes being master of the world, but not necessarily the game rules. I don’t think it’s used that way, though.]

Whether you buy into these descriptions or have your own, the point is the same. Each label carries connotations and emphasizes different aspects of the game.


Ha ha! I meant to write “referee” in my post. Now I realized I completely left it out! I’m writing too fast!

Hmm. Language is not so cleanly delineated - if it were, we would have very little to talk about here. :slight_smile:

For example, acronyms are words themselves - and there’s backronyms

For me GM/DM are almost never expanded but pronounced Gee-Emm and Dee-Emm.

I’m happy to be a D&D (Dee-Ann-Dee) DM (Dee-Emm). I don’t to have dragons in dungeons for that to make complete sense.

It’s been almost 50 years for these linguistic patterns to settle…

“One player, however, takes on the role of the Dungeon Master (DM), the game’s lead storyteller and referee.” – D&D 5e SRD


DM is my standard no matter what the game is - I rarely use GM.
I like referee, but never use it - and the rest just seem (to me) to be gilding the lily.


I’ve never seen a need to use an alternate. I always use GM. I don’t see any advantage in re-inventing the name of the role for every game. Since dungeons play only a small part in most games, GM has always seemed more appropriate.

As to the “master” portion, I’ve always seen it as representing the role of creating the basic world and adventures for the game. The players all contribute to this, but the backbone is what is presented by the GM. “Master” in terms of orchestrating the proceedings. Much like “master of ceremonies”.


Keeper is also used in Monster of the Week.

MC is used in quite a few PBTA games.

I never liked anything with Master since it has male connotations and implies autocracy.

Guide, Storyteller and Weaver are my favorites.

1 Like

I just use DM, and don’t usually expand it out. GM is okay, but I don’t really feel like I’m “master” of the whole game, just the challenges that the players face. I don’t like referee, because it implies competing teams, and storyteller doesn’t fit the style of games that I run.


This is mostly a formality I see at Cons. Although, an important one. In my home game I use Jon.

But Ref and GM work for me in any system. Many new games bend over backwards to come up with their unique versions like Editor in Chief for Worlds of Peril.

1 Like

I use GM across the board, but for certain games try to respect the custom terms for mood and such. Delta Green’s “Handler,” etc. I rabidly avoid DM, and think GM can mean game manager as well as master. Not too hot on referee, as I think the role involves an awful lot more than being an impartial rule-enforcer…


Alien uses MOTHER as the GM. I think it is appropriate as the all knowing computer.

1 Like

I prefer Supreme Emperor, but it never seems to stick.


Game Lord for me! My handle on the Against the Darkmaster server is Game Lord Darken Rahl.

But, in seriousness, @Harrigan, Game Manager is pretty genius.


I usually stick with Game Master even if I am running D&D. The only time I think otherwise is when I am running a World of Darkness game, I fall back to Storyteller. But the title rarely comes up honestly, maybe in the name label if I am using Roll20 because we have two Mikes in the group, so I label myself GM Mike so everyone knows what color I have assigned myself. Usually it’s just “who is the person running the game?”

1 Like

I stick to GM mostly because it’s got a nice ring to it and you’re going to find the best search results typing in “game mastering” tips. The other term I like is Storyteller, but technically everyone is a storyteller in an rpg.

Thought it was Grand Poobah?

I think our group goes with “sucker”. “Hey, who’s the sucker running this game?”


Sad to say our group (briefly) used an interesting term when a few DM’s were switching back & forth frequently. The quote, from an evening where the players didn’t know which campaign we were playing that night:

“Ok, whose turn is it on the Dick Throne?”

Needless to say I brought the ban hammer down on that. I suspect there had been more that a few near TPKs and a dearth of treasure in the previous weeks of gaming.



1 Like

Yeah… that’s funny for like one evening of jokes. After that I’d be done with it.

1 Like