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The acknowledged role of a given person to establish anything into the Shared Imagined Space.

Content authority - over what we're calling back-story, e.g. whether Sam is a KGB mole, or which NPC is boinking whom. This includes preparing such information at any point as well as revealing it in play.

Plot authority - over crux-points in the knowledge base at the table - now is the time for a revelation! - typically, revealing content, although notice it can apply to player-characters' material as well as GM material - and look out, because within this authority lies the remarkable pitfall of wanting (for instances) revelations and reactions to apply precisely to players as they do to characters.

Situational authority - over who's there, what's going on - scene framing would be the most relevant and obvious technique-example, or phrases like "That's when I show up!" from a player.

Narrational authority - saying how it happens, what happens - I'm suggesting here that this is best understood as a feature of resolution (including the entirety of IIEE), and not to mistake it for describing what the castle looks like, for instance; I also suggest it's far more shared in application than most role-players realize.

Historical assumptions

That one specific person holds most or all of all four types of Authority. Such an arrangement is viable, but the assumption that the four types must be represented by one person is not. Holding that assumption while not actually applying it in play can cause trouble at the Social Contract level.

Related issue: The Good GM.

See also Credibility.

Relevant threads

Silent Railroading and the Intersection of Scenario Prep & Player Authorship