As I've been on SE, I noticed that many questioners and answerers use 'GM' to describe the person running the game as opposed to 'DM'.

I know that DM stands for Dungeon Master and that GM stands for Game Master, but why do people use GM even when talking about explicitly Dungeons and Dragons?

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    \$\begingroup\$ [Related] When was the term “game master” first used? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 10, 2015 at 3:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a question for the main RPG.se site, not meta. \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Jun 10, 2015 at 7:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a question on our community's internal practices, this seems fine as a meta question. Definitely a similar question could be asked on main, but it wouldn't look quite the same. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11, 2015 at 4:11

3 Answers 3


DM, or "Dungeon Master," is a term used only by D&D players.

GM, or "Game Master," is a generic term used by players of many of the other 10,000 RPGs out there.

Therefore people with wider game experience tend to just say "GM" (many other games have goofy proprietary names for the GM as well, which are hard to remember). People who mostly have only played D&D tend to say "DM."

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    \$\begingroup\$ Other games (White Wolf) use Storyteller (ST). Some use Lore Master, Rules Czar, etc.. GM is seen as a nicely generic term at this point and can apply to pretty much any table-top game without upsetting anyone. Personally, I prefer Storyteller. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gavin42
    Jun 10, 2015 at 20:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Right, "goofy proprietary names" as I mentioned. :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jun 10, 2015 at 21:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I never liked "Storyteller." It always felt to dictatorial; Ars Magica's "Storyguide"always felt more accepting of player agency. But I say GM all the time anyway, because it's so universal that everyone recognises it. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jun 11, 2015 at 0:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for random chatting... \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jun 11, 2015 at 1:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I thought that in Meta, that was acceptable...? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Jun 12, 2015 at 16:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ We are more tolerant of discussion in comments on meta, but it needs to be on topic discussion please. plus we have some VtCs to move this to main, in which case that happens I'm just going to have to delete it all anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jun 12, 2015 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ "GM" also stands for Guild Master in many MMOs. DM may be used in this context to separate the meanings, if only for the one using them, even though they are actually separated by the context. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 19, 2015 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's also my impression that GM tends to dominate in many countries outside the US. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2015 at 7:27

Habit or ease. It's like how I could say "Volkswagen" or I could just say "car".

At this point, DM is just a fancy trademarked proprietary way of saying GM in the context of D&D. They're still the same thing otherwise.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Neither "DM" not "Dungeon Master" are trademarked. "Dungeon Master's Guide", however, is trademarked. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11, 2015 at 22:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GreenstoneWalker Dungeon Master itself as a term is actually in the US Trademark database, active, and owned by Wizards of the Coast. (As well as Dungeon Master's Guide.) Seems direct links to the trademark only last so long. I'll add a citation tomorrow. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11, 2015 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GreenstoneWalker “Dungeon Master” is USPTO registered word mark #1815460. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11, 2015 at 22:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Doppelgreener and SevenSidedDie, I stand corrected. I based my comment on the trademark block in the Player's Basic Rules, which does not mention "dungeon master". \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11, 2015 at 22:47

"Dungeon Master" is actually owned by Wizards of the Coast, who produce D&D, legally other game systems (even if they are fantasy based dungeon crawls) are not allowed to use the term. Therefore the generic term Game Master is used by most other companies, except for certain games that come up with special names for their system, like the Zero Meister in Space Ship Zero.

Like others have said, the people that use GM generally play games other than D&D and those that say DM have likely only played D&D. Personally, I use DM when talking about D&D and GM for most other cases, unless I am referring to a specific function of the GM like referee, narrator, etc.


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