A Deeper Look at Types of GMs



So, we had a lot of blowback about how we over-generalized the types of GMs. Everyone who noticed that was right, we did. We do that with almost every post we make. We don’t want to write a 2000-5000 word pieces that take an hour to write and 1/2 an hour to read. We are going to take today to take a deeper look at the last post. So without further ado, here are some of the types of GMs I have SAT under:

1. Monty-haul: The classic give tons of magical gear GM
Pros: Makes the game kind of interesting to me by never knowing what stop he was going to pull out.

Cons: The game can quickly get boring as you always have the tools you need to overcome any situation.

2. Killer: The GM who wants to kill his PCs, not because of incompetence on the PCs part but instead because he likes to hear their cries!

Pros: None. This is the only type of GM who has no saving graces.

Cons: This GM is a dick. Plain and simple. He wants to harm those who play with him, and thinks that the game is not a co-op game. He is set up to “defeat” his players.

3. Lost: This GM doesn’t know his story very well. He loses track of where he is and often has to take breaks to reorient.

Pros: When he is on, this is a great GM. His stories are strong and smart.

Cons: You tend to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

4. Know-it-all: This GM is the opposite of the “Know Nothing” GM. They know everything, at all times. Jesus Christ has nothing on them.
Pros: They know the rules, story and fluff like the back of their hand.

Cons: They are arrogant and (normally) unfriendly. They come off the wrong way to new players and can kill enthusiasm for a game.

5. Know Nothing: This GM knows nothing about his fluff, story or rules. He is lost most of the time and he fails to get games to stay together.

Pros: He is normally open to learning.

Cons: He is a weak storyteller. He doesn’t know the rules when he should and he makes up rules to cover that.

6. Rules-Lawyer: This GM rules with an iron fist! He knows the rules inside and out, and he lets you know it.

Pros: He knows his rules. He can make table rulings without referencing the books.

Cons: He is a jerk. He does everything by RAW, despite the fact that sometimes RAW doesn’t work right. He can never be told that he is wrong, and he will continue to be smarter than anyone else at the table.

7. Railroader: From the previous post, this type of GM likes to ram the PCs through his story. There is no variance, and the PCs get little or any choice.

Pros: His stories can be good.

Cons: His story would be better fit into a novel rather than a game.

8. Fly by the seat of your pants: The opposite of the Railroader. This GM does everything in a reactionary way. There is no real story.

Pros: The players get a lot of agency. The PCs define the story and the story can often turn out amazing.

Cons: The PCs can do some stupid shit. They can defeat themselves by not following any linear story, and can change at the whims of the PCs, not the actual story.

9. Storybuilder: This GM likes to tell stories. His stories are great, and they are deep.

Pros: The story part of the game is awesome. They have all the elements that are needed to make a strong game.

Cons: There is often little mechanical interaction in the game. Players don’t get the chance to use their abilities or really explore the game itself.

10. Worldbuilder: This is a variant of the Storybuilder, but instead he takes a lot of time to make his world.

Pros: His world is deep, exotic and fun.

Cons: Again, there is often little interaction with the rules.

11. Fanboy: This is a unique one. These GMs are slaves to one game, to the point that they will never play anything else.

Pros: They know a lot about the games that they love. You can never doubt their commitment to the game either.

Cons: This GM doesn’t know when a part of their system is bad or wrongheaded. They miss the glaring holes because they don’t explore other games that may do those things well.

12. “I Win!”: This GM is a variant of the killer, but he doesn’t try to kill. He, instead, puts the players in an unwinnable situation.

Pros: None, since this is a variant on the killer.

Cons: They like to watch as the players have to overcome something that they can never overcome. This is a dick move, and deserves to be panned.

13. Lack of Confidence: This GM just doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his abilities. He isn’t good or bad, per se.

Pros: He can learn to become better and turn into a great GM!

Cons: He often feels like his games are bad, and it leaks into his sessions.

14. Overconfident: Opposite of the above, this GM thinks he is hot shit.

Pros: He can be humbled, but only if the players are willing to speak up.

Cons: His arrogance can drive new players away. Most of the time he winds up with a table of people very similar to him.

15. New: This GM isn’t good, bad, or otherwise. They are newly minted.

Pros: They have the passion to learn to run games, and they want to enjoy the hat.

Cons: They have a lot to learn! Nothing wrong, per se, with that, but it does mean that their games can be rough for experienced players.

Hopefully that clears up the miscommunication over the types of GMs. This is still not a complete list, but it is deep enough. If you have one to add, please add it. If you don’t have anything constructive to add, then don’t add. As always, don’t be a dick.


6 thoughts on “A Deeper Look at Types of GMs

  1. I just went back and read your previous article and think I see one more type of GM. He is a variant of the railroader, I don’t have a name for him. He does not connect the dots until they MUST be connected, so that he can connect them as he likes behind the scenes.

    If he wants you to run into the lich, you will run into the lich – it just may be in the sewers you just entered, rather than at the end of the rainbow. If you want to visit the village next to the one the GM wants you to visit, a quick name-switch will allow the story to continue without you being the wiser.

    I have had people tell me that railroading is a horrible practice no matter what, but I always argue that a GM’s job is all about railroading seamlessly – if the players ignore that lich, I (as the GM) must decide what that lich will then do. Take over the world? Build up power for a final confrontation? Hire assassins? My job is to railroad by virtue of creating the storyline in the first place.

  2. you got the basic archetypes. i’m sure there are more, i mean, i’m an unintentional hybrid of the monty haul and the killer. i don’t so much intend a large body count, it merely happens because i apply common sense and my monsters actually use the items in their treasure budget to their own advantage. and well, i’m not above potion or oil abuse on a monster, but i kind of have to as a means to thin my hordes.

    i mean, i do give highly custom tailored loot, usually as a reward from a patron via commission in exchange for a favor, sure, you can choose to pursue a holy avenger at level 5, but i actually will make you work to get it,

    i mean, i won’t make you fight a balor to get one, but maybe raid an abbey that was corrupted by an incubus posing as the abbot.

    you could decide how you deal with the monks, and even avoid combat if you can prove their abbot is an imposter. so you have the route of the detective, or route of the raider, or whatever.

    i mean, the monks won’t all be “kung fu masters”. maybe a mix of clerics, retired fighters, brigands seeking asylum (rogues), and maybe scribes who are on loan to the abbot to help with the library (wizards) to include variety in cast.

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