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I was making a printout from dndbeyond.com for a magic item that I'm hoping to give out in the next session, and noticed something that I found a little odd.

For the item Wand of Wonder (dndbeyond link, physical DMG p. 212), there's a line where dndbeyond says "An object of the GM's choice", whereas the physical book says "An object of the DM's choice". That is, dndbeyond uses the term "GM" where the standard D&D term and the term used in the paper book is "DM".

I checked a couple other places and found the same pattern for Necklace of Prayer Beads (dndbeyond, DMG p. 182) as well as Ring of Spell Storing (dndbeyond, DMG p. 192), where online uses "GM" and the book uses "DM".

Since it's consistent, I'm assuming that it isn't some sort of editing error, but an intentional difference. And while it doesn't really affect anything, my curiosity is piqued: Why are they using different terms?

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DM is a trademark. GM is not.

Wizards of the Coast has a trademark on the term Dungeon Master (DM). It is considered product identity, and no other game than Dungeons & Dragons can legally use that term in its rules or content without permission.

The term Game Master (GM) is not a trademark and is not considered product identity. In addition, it's a generic term used in many games. The licenses Wizard of the Coast grants governing open game content allow the use of the term GM in place of DM in any open content, including open content released by Wizards themselves, but not the term DM.

Published books by Wizards of the Coast use Dungeon Master/DM almost exclusively. However, when they release open content, they use the term Game Master/GM instead due to the licenses involved with that content. For example, the System Reference Document (SRD) is a subset of the Player's Handbook which includes only open content, meaning it excludes any product identity and trademarks. Therefore it uses the term GM exclusively, barring any oversights in editing. Since open content can be shared and legally reproduced as part of other works, the SRD has to use the term GM even when Wizards or its third party proxies are releasing it.

Much of the content on D&D Beyond comes from the System Reference Document and is available free for anybody with an account to use. As such, this content uses the term GM instead of DM, because the term DM is not to be used in open content. Both magic items you referenced are in the SRD, so they are both open content and use the term GM in order to ensure that freely available content follows the licensing rules, even if D&D Beyond is officially supported by Wizards.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems to be correct. The exact same item description in the DMG in the Compendium section uses "DM" there (where the direct item description from the SRD uses "GM"): dndbeyond.com/compendium/rules/dmg/magic-items-a-z#WandofWonder \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 10 '18 at 3:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't have access to any paid content on D&D Beyond, but that doesn't surprise me, since the same distinction exists in the SRD versus the print DMG. I surmise D&D Beyond is contractually required to copy content verbatim from each respective source to comply with copyright and licensing. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Jun 10 '18 at 3:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ So even though D&D Beyond is run by Wizards (or is it a separate company with a license?), the free content (which is all I've used of the site) uses the "public" SRD version, while the paid content uses more D&D trademarks? \$\endgroup\$ – user37158 Jun 10 '18 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Peter It is a separate company with a license. And yes, that's correct on free vs paid content. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jun 10 '18 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCooperJr. It doesn't matter who runs or releases it: unless they wish to relicense the trademark, then anyone who received the item being released would be unable to redistribute it — thus probably violating the terms of whatever ‘open’ license they are using. Would cause a lot of hassle for people during litigations. \$\endgroup\$ – can-ned_food Jun 11 '18 at 3:00

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