Entry updated 5 March 2017. Tagged: Game, Theme.
Term used to refer to the individual who, in a group participating in a Role Playing Game, serves as both arbitrator of the rules and personification of the setting. Thus, the Gamemaster will take the part of any character not owned by one of the players, describe the appearance of the world, control events which occur "off stage", and so on. Some Gamemasters of "pen and paper" or "tabletop" Role Playing Games see themselves as neutral animators of a pre-existing world, and will try to simulate what might actually happen as accurately as possible; others attempt to shape events to provide the players with more finely balanced challenges or to construct a more satisfying narrative. In Live Action Role Playing games, however, the Gamemaster typically acts as more of a mediator and organizer, guiding the participants as they interact with each other and with the predefined aspects of the work. The term appears to have been first used in this sense in the Sword and Sorcery RPG Tunnels and Trolls (1975 Flying Buffalo) designed by Ken St Andre; other systems often use equivalent but more specific terms, such as "Dungeon Master" in the original Dungeons and Dragons (1974 Tactical Studies Rules) designed by Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson or "Project Director" in The Morrow Project (1980).
In Massively Multiplayer Online Games the term has recently developed a different meaning. Here it refers to an individual who operates within the simulated world to enforce the rules of the game and moderate disputes, often as a paid employee of the company running the game. Specially empowered players have acted in similar roles within persistent Online Worlds since the earliest Multi User Dungeons, in which they were known as "wizards" (or "witches"). In modern games their responsibilities often include the identification and expulsion of characters which are controlled by computer programs – "bots" – rather than humans (in order to automatically harvest as many valuable virtual items as possible, for eventual sale online), a task oddly reminiscent of that of the many science-fictional protagonists who must hunt down rogue Androids disguised as human beings. [NT]
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