Flip-a-Card: GM roles

March 09, 2020 - 3 min read

I divided authority in Flip-a-Card in the following ways:


Your goal is to move the spotlight from player to player in fun and fair ways. Any player can call for the spotlight to move, but you have the final say when it does.

Players who have the spotlight get to narrate for their character.

Move the spotlight:

  • toward a PC who’s placed at risk or in danger
  • toward a player who hasn’t acted recently
  • toward a player who has an interesting idea for how to move things forward
  • away from a player who just resolved a dramatic or decisive action
  • away from a cliffhanger or moment of tension
  • away from any player who’s had it too long


Your goal is to establish the history, setting, and canon of the world in which the game happens.

When someone asks, “what do our characters know about X?” and it’s not a question for an Ensemble Character (EC) to decide, you get to answer.

Any player can suggest an answer, but you have the final say on what’s true. If a specific PC’s heritage, origin, or interests concern the question, consider deferring to them.

  • Who was the greatest Hairfoot Paladin in history?
  • What languages might my character learn to speak?
  • When did the dragons disappear?
  • How does magic work, anyway?
  • Why are orcs monotheistic?


Your goal is to adjudicate questions about the rules of the game, and to make changes to the rules with the group’s consent. Any player can suggest how to handle a rule, but you have the final say.

Example rulings:

  • Is a given card applicable to this fictional situation?
  • How should a given card’s text be interpreted?
  • Is it time to create a new card?


The Principal Characters (PCs) are the focus of the game. The game also has Ensemble Characters (ECs), sometimes called Non-Player Characters (NPCs).

Your goal is to narrate the ECs’ actions and reactions. Decide on their agendas, then enact them in interesting ways.

ECs are allies, antagonists, or anyone else involved in the story but not at the heart of it.

  • Give ECs a name and identity
  • Find the essential humanity of every EC
  • Don’t steal agency or spotlight from the PCs
  • Initiate actions that prompt a PC response

Each of these cards has the following text on the back:

Several core rules are roles assigned to a single player.

These roles can be assigned individually to several people, or all given to a single player (“the Game Master” or “the GM”).

The roles can change hands during the game. You cannot take a role away from someone else, but you can ask someone else to give up a role.

If you’ve been assigned a role, you are bound by the Principles.

I’m interested in any opinions or feedback on this arrangement.