Challengist

Words matter, and I may have come up with a term I could put into my game books.

DM, GM, Storyteller, then all the more fru-fru titles. None of them seem to fit what a person in that role does, especially for more collaborative games. I have finally thought of one that, for me, cuts to the center of the role.

Challengist.

The GM prepares the challenges, adjudicates challenges the players set for their characters, and bears the responsibility for making the challenges as interesting and fairly handled as possible. Also, handles the world building, NPCs, and player dynamics as the person in the hot seat for coordinating everything.

Challengist. What do you do? You prepare interesting challenges and manage those that emerge during play as the expert, representing the world and coordinating interaction between players and the fiction. You present, curate, adjudicate, and interpret the challenges. That’s your biggest job.

Clarifying that role makes a difference in preparation and in how the role is seen by everyone as play unfolds. It’s been growing on me this week. I like it more as I think about it.

If I’m going to pick a term of art for the GM in my games, I want to pick one that has the potential to shape potential and play not just in a precious setting-related way, but in a way that defines the role with perhaps a new focus.

I like it.

Wherever they go, the story unfolds, but the story is really a line of challenges that resolve in the moment and over time. The heart of a story is conflict, and the heart of managing conflict in RPGs is managing the distance between what the players want and the other side of what stands in the way (both for players and their characters.)

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