The is a meta-tag and should be burninated:

The criteria:

  • Only Tag: If the tag can’t work as the only tag on a question, it’s probably a meta-tag.
    • doesn't really describe any area of a problem.
    • It just describes who is asking about the problem
    • a tag: would be a meta tag, so thus as is also
  • subjective meaning: If the tag commonly means different things to different people, it’s probably a meta-tag
    • what is a new GM? is it first session, first campaign, first time with a new system, is it getting a new GM, it it having only GMed for 6 months, or 6 sessions?

Looking as the questions there seems to be no clear pattern amongst them. It is closely tied to the and the tags. Also to some of the and related tags.

However do correct me if I am wrong and we should keep the tag.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to add that scrolling through the list of new-gm questions, gm-techniques would be a better fit sometimes. And sometimes the tag is entirely unnecessary, and used as a kind of apology for not knowing something, like here. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 14:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @MrLemon You're right that it doesn't belong on that last question, and I've removed it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note at if you're going to action this, do it in small batches (about 6 per day, I guess, maybe more if spread out?) to avoid churning the front page. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 8:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ mm, I should stop for now. I have been removing it from questions it don't belong on. (Not from everything) as per your answer \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 8:04

4 Answers 4


The low-hanging fruit has been...


SSD made a great point: there are usages of where it isn't a meta tag, but it just gets overwhelmingly used as one.

I've gone through [new-gm] and eliminated it from the questions using it as a meta tag. I've targeted questions where it's been used as a meta tag simply to describe skill level because the GM happens to be new, not because it's describing a critical part of the question.

When in doubt, I've erred on leaving the tag present. There may be more meta usages yet to burninate.

I still think we can do better than [new-gm] for a tag to describe these questions. Now that its meta-tag usage has been mostly cleared up, we may be in a state to actually work out what to do.

Usage patterns

What remains are 75 questions, 22 of which are closed (leaving 53 open). The questions that remain seem to fit generally into the following categories:

Whew, that's 24 of the 53 open ones. There's others that might belong here, and some of these might still be meta tag usages.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If we can find a better tag matching its current proper use, the bonus of switching and making [new-gm] a synonym is that someone misusing the [new-gm] tag will get it replaced with a tag that's obviously wrong, making cleanup easier for us and them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 20:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie We're down from 200 questions to 78, and still going - I still have work to do on the last ~30. 22 [new-gm] questions are closed, meaning there are only 56 open questions. That could drop to the 30-40 range before I'm done with the low-hanging fruit. Almost there! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 0:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie DOOOOOOOONE \o/ \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 13:49

It's not a meta-tag…

It's possible to use alone on a question. Consider the hypothetical question, "How do I start GMing?" Assuming it was asked in a way that wasn't too broad, it would need at least one tag, and the only one that would fit is .

Hypothetical demos aside, there are a number of questions we have where the newness of a GM is an inherent part of the problem, and those do justify the tag's existence. A hypothetical [experienced-gm] tag isn't symmetrical to : there are no problems inherent to being an experienced GM,† so it unlike it would only be a meta-tag for labeling the asker.

It's not a great tag, but it's not a bad tag either and doesn't deserve burnination.

† You could argue that being experienced can lead to becoming a hidebound GM, but that's being a , not being an experienced GM.

… It's just being misused as one

For questions where the tag is being (mis)used only to indicate who is asking, or as an apology, the usual solution suffices: remove the tag.

To that end, the tag wiki should probably be worked on to emphasise that it's not for describing the asker, it's for tagging problems that are inherently entangled with being a novice GM. That won't stop it from being misplaced on questions, but correct tagging is the job of experienced users anyway and gets misused way less than a tag like , which we're fine with having to clean up after constantly. It only looks like a lot of misuse now because we haven't been paying attention and have let it get out of hand. Going forward, it'll be easy to keep it from being abused as a meta-tag, just like it's easy to keep from being used for the current edition. (Easier, actually, because we don't need to wait for the asker to clarify before we can fix misplacement of the tag.)

It's extremely valuable in Search

Unlike [beginner]-type tags on sites like SO, where searching on it would get you a useless mix of problems about disparate, unrelated programming languages, searching on the here effectively provides an ever-improving guide for new GMs. Provided we're curating posts properly and taking the tag off questions where it's being misused as a meta tag, what remains is a selection of common problems and pitfalls of novice GMs, with ready solutions.

Right now that search doesn't look so great here, but the tag is way overused and due for cleanup to eliminate its meta-tag mistags. A selection of our top-voted questions shows what we could have after cleanup:

See how awesome those are, when they're grouped together like that and the unrelated questions are cut out? Quite frankly, I actually didn't expect them to be that great a list, but now that I see what the tag could be, what kind of resource we've been sitting on and neglecting, now I'm actually quite excited to tackle pruning the tag to bring out this list of awesome on the actual site.

We should keep the tag, and aspire to make it a small, well-curated set of questions that maintain high value and are immediately useful to someone learning (or stumbling over) how to GM, kind of like a set of frequently-asked... questions!

Besides which we'd have to keep it anyway, so no burninating

For discoverability, any replacement for the tag would need to have as a synonym, because that's the most natural phrase people think to type when looking for or asking the sorts of questions above (and why it was folksonomied into existence originally). Burnination prevents the tag from being re-created, so what we'd end up with is more people just putting the reviled tag on more things for lack of any other tag they can find.

I don't think we can synonym or burninate our way out of people trying to label themselves in the tags. For a tag that has a mix of good non-meta uses and bad meta uses, burnination doesn't improve the situation and might make it worse. That brings it back to the same conclusion as way up above: it's our job to fix question tags that new users misapply. We do it all the time, and adding to the "regular offenders" is a drop in the bucket.


  • Leave the tag alive because it's useful,
  • clean the ever-loving crap out of our questions that only (mis)use it as a meta tag,
  • then just keep it in mind during the usual cleaning edits on new questions.

The questions that still have the tag after that will be a collection of solid gold awesome.

  • \$\begingroup\$ We don't need to make [new-gm] a synonym. We just get rid of it altogether, which will force people to just tag it with anything else about the topic they're asking, which they're already doing. Which is pretty much mission accomplished. So they might type 'new', see nothing, and add nothing. People use [gm] already anyway, and we're progressively burninating that one, so that one will go away too. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 4:02
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener For the badly tagged ones, yes. For the ones in the list above, they're not going to find the right tag and many have no other right tag. We already deal with this with [rules-lawyering], where people want to rules lawyer, add that tag, and we fix it for them with either [optimization] or [rules-as-written]. It's just not a big deal to take care of this tag the same way. We've just been remiss long enough that it looks worse than it is, and I think that's causing overreaction and unwarranted calls for torches. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 4:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mentioned this option (but less well discussed) on chat. I am glad you are taking it and expressing it better than i could. This post is getting kind long. Perhaps it could have a summery of recommended dot point actional items? (a TL;DR; this is what we should do) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 4:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Oxinabox The TL;DR already pretty much says it: leave the tag alive, clean the ever-loving crap out of our questions that only use it as a meta tag, then just keep it in mind during the usual cleaning edits on new questions. EDIT: But actually I like that phrasing better, so done. ;) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 4:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah right, I missed the TL;DR cos it was at the bottom... :-P \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 7:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Oxinabox I tried putting it at the top, then putting a notice at the top, but it broke the flow too much. I'll just assume that if someone literally skips down the page, they'll notice the larger "TL;DR" header that's there now. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 17:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...or maybe we could keep the [gm] tag and clean that up into a useful search resource. Just sayin'. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 11:54

It is a meta tag

Stack Overflow's [beginner] tag is one of the canon examples of a meta tag from our canonical meta tag blog post. As a reminder, I'll quote part of that blog post:

The reason meta-tags are a problem is that they do not describe the content of the question. They describe some other aspect of the question, like the author’s skill level, or the author’s motivation for asking it, or generally what “kind” of question it is (poll, how-to, etc.).

[beginner] was used alongside questions like "[c#] What is operator overloading?" to indicate the person asking the question was new, but it never added much substance to the question. It described the author's skill level, rather than the content of the question.

All of that is exactly the same as how is defined (see their tag wiki extract) and how it's used. It's the same for .

SevenSidedDie brought up the hypothetical "How do I start GMing?", suggesting that [new-gm] was the only valid tag. That's not the case though: this is a question asking for an introduction to the arts and methods and skills of GMing, which fits . [new-gm] on the other hand doesn't describe the topic, just says the person's new. Perhaps a general tag on GMing would fit better, but this might be the only case we use it, and we're already busy eradicating that one ().

As SevenSidedDie pointed out, lots of problems arise because someone is a new GM (or player). But that doesn't make it tag-worthy. A lot of our [new-gm] questions take the form of "I am new to this game and do not understand {thing}," but that's not substantially different to a straightforward "I do not understand {thing}." The latter could be asked by someone at any skill level. If you're a new GM, you're new and asking about something, and there is probably a tag for that something, and you can just use that, describe your situation (and confusion), and we'll explain.

Try it, and see what [new-gm] actually adds: Go through the questions. Imagine the [new-gm] tag falling off, pretend the person's been playing for a few months, see if it fundamentally changes anything much.

Questions on newness: let's find a new tag for them.

SevenSidedDie collected a bunch of questions that are inherently about newness to the game. Those are pretty awesome. So it's clear our site has a subset of questions specifically about newness.

However, for those questions, we can and should do better. [new-gm] is still a meta tag on those, because it describes the author and not the topic of the question. The topic is "GMing fundamentals" or something like that.

And it still gets used as a meta tag everywhere else to say "I am new, here is my question." Its usage sucks. So for these newness questions, we should find a tag that won't be misapplied by every new GM to every question they ask just because they're new.

We should work out what new tag we can use, retag those questions with it, then burninate [new-gm] from everything else.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Noo, [gm-techniques] is already suffering scope creep. It's not a straight replacement for the bad-old [gm] tag, it's for questions about specific skills of the trade. It should not get press-ganged into replacing [new-gm]. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 0:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie When did I suggest it should replace new-gm in general? I responded to your example question where you said new-gm was the only tag which fits, but it's asking about the specific skills of the trade, so gm-techniques fits that question too - and actually describes the topic. In general, the new GM should use the tag for whatever it is they're asking about. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 0:38
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ As for the [beginner] parallel, it doesn't map. Beginner programmer questions are off-topic at SO because they don't accept how-to-program questions. We do field beginner-level GMing questions though, and the tag describes the problems inherent in learning to GM, not just the asker. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 0:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie [c#] [beginner] "How does operator overloading work?" - Beginner wasn't a tag for how-to programming questions, it was a tag used when someone was a beginner. And it was useless. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 0:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm referring to the suggested replacement on "How do I start GMing?" [gm-techniques] isn't a blanked about-GMing tag, it's for specific questions about specific techniques, few of which have ever been named. Much like asking generally about a magic system doesn't use [spells], since [spells] is reserved for Qs about specific spells. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 0:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, useless at SO. It could not stand on a Q alone. [new-gm] can describe a question on its own, because you can learn GMing skills separately from a system, unlike programming. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 0:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ (For most of your counter examples, the [new-gm] tag is just being misapplied and should be removed.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 0:45
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie If there are cases where new-gm is valuable and important and indispensible and you would add it if it were it not already there, I suggest you add those to your answer to aid your case. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ In any case, I find the assertion that [gm-techniques] is not for a general question about techniques to be without substance. (I also find your magic-system comparison to be a bad comparison: we have a [magic] tag which is about magic, like how we have [gm-techniques] about techniques. I'm not asking about spells if I'm asking about magic, tagging it [spells] would be stupid.) And, no, [new-gm] can't stand on its own, because we can do better than use it on its own for any question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 0:58
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the challenge, it helped. I've gone through and done a hypothetical curation of the tag, pulling out just those questions that really seem to warrant it according to their subject matter rather than the status of the asker, and edited it into my answer. The result is kind of awesome, and I think overwhelmingly demonstrates what kind of greatness the tag could be if we cut out all the meta-tag "I'm new and have a problem with [other tag subject]" uses of it. Many of these (when cleaned up–some still have [gm] on them) appear to only be described by [new-gm], from all our tags. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 1:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I noticed, and that list is awesome and we should probably have a tag for them. I think that tag shouldn't be [new-gm] though. (See the last section of my answer.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 1:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ HMM. I'm not convinced, but that might just be a matter of mulling it… Something like [gm-fundamentals] wouldn't describe everything, as much as I like it though. This one for example isn't about GM fundamentals, it's about literally making a new GM. Burninating [new-gm] would leave that without any fitting tags. (It has [gm] as well now, but shouldn't.) Maybe we need more an one replacement? Because [gm-fundamentals] is a pretty nice tag idea… \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 2:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Yeah, it's possible that tag isn't the best fit or the only necessary replacement. It could be resolved in its own meta Q. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 2:41

Speaking from the standpoint of answering questions, I'm fine with New-GM being on the list of tags. Quite frankly, I assume anyone I'm answering is knowledgeable about their system and wants to broaden their scope. When I see "new-gm" I see the need to be more specific, articulate, and to offer things that aren't inherently in the question because the OP might not even know the analogous options are even a thing. There's a lot that I think regular users on this cite take for granted as sources and lingo and as of yet, there is no master index saying "look here first" by system.

  • \$\begingroup\$ They could also describe that in their question if it's important. (A lot of the time, it isn't.) Not all meta-details of the question should be in tags. Just like we don't have a [former-dnd-player] tag for Fate questions, even though we might be attentive when someone's problem relates to coming from a D&D background. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 6:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would see "new-gm" as useful for anyone new to the system they're asking about, regardless of extrasystemic knowledge. But that's just how my brain normalizes the data. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 6:45
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ While i think this answer is well written and you have put thought in to it, I disagree. I feel we should always be writting the best answers possible because we want them to be useful to anyone who runs into the problem again,and so that anyone could be a new-gm as it were. So all answers should be written this way -- and editted and improved until they are. (ideally). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 7:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I thank you for your respectful response, even in opposition. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 13:22
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The unspoken alternative to having [new-gm] as a tag is to, like all background information and relevant context, expect that the asker puts it in the question's body. (Most people who use [new-gm] do say so in the body of their question.) Given that, can you expand on reasons to keep that information in specifically tag form? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 16:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .