Those who have run or played role-playing games (RPGs) may enjoy this summary of the Laws of Good Game Mastering booklet. It describes seven GM behaviors – The World Builder, The Duelist, The Plotmeister, The Master of Ceremonies, The Actor, The Director, and The Provider – and draws distinctions between them based on objective, behavior, and interactions with the players.
I wouldn’t call these hard-and-fast distinctions. Actually, I think that different archetypes would describe me at different times, depending on the game: Arcadia was a game about ritual and atmosphere, and so I tried out a hard-line Master of Ceremonies angle, whereas Threshold was World Builder all the way. Perhaps that makes me a Provider, but I would say it makes me a restless experimentalist.
Indeed, the Provider is the archetype that I find least compelling. Shouldn’t every GM aim to please his players? Aren’t all of these archetypes modes of behavior, tendencies perhaps but hardly rigid codifications? Why then create a separate slot for GMs who meander from one mode to another?
Instead, I think it would be sensible to define “The Provider” as a sort of meta-classification: how many archetypes does this GM adhere to, and under what circumstances, and why? That is to say, how does the GM make these archetypes serve him? “The Provider” sublimates his own preferred archetype(s) to the interest of his players, whereas a “Hard Liner” might stick with one archetype no matter how well or poorly it’s working, and a “Scientist” might try out a different archetype each time.
If you’ve run a game, how would you describe your GMing? Are the descriptions in the Laws of Good Game Mastering a good fit?