The Monetization of D&D Play
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  1. #1
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    The Monetization of D&D Play

    A couple of recent events have me concerned about the monetization of D&D play. That is, charging people to play D&D. I am curious what other people think about this trend.

    I recently attended an Adventurer’s League day at a local game store in a neighboring town. The store charged $2.50/player/game. The money went to the DM in the form of store credit. At the time, this seemed entirely reasonable to me. It created a very low bar to entry and encourages people to attend games for which they have signed up. I know a lot of FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) struggle with the sporadic attendance of AL night. It also gives a little something back to the DM, always appreciated.

    The following week, my regular FLGS announced that after the completion of AL season 7, they would begin charging $5/player/game on AL night. A third store, a geek themed retail store with extra space (not a tradition gaming store), also recently announced AL night for $5/player. They included a sentence stating that players could pay ‘$10 for exp once every three months’. I am not sure what they mean by that, but it appears they are suggesting players can buy experience points for their AL characters, illegal under AL rules.

    These announcements have led to conflicted feelings on my part, for several reasons.

    First, $5 is starting to turn into ‘real money’. One of the players at my table often attends with his two sons. That would be $15 for 3-4 hours of D&D weekly. While many of us are lucky enough to absorb a cost like that, for people in lower paying jobs, it can be a significant expense. The player in question has already told me he will not be playing next season due to the fee.

    Second, if DM begins to earn $30-$40/session, there begins to be minimum expectations. Truthfully, some of the AL DM’s I have played under have been abysmal. There is no real mechanism in place by the FLGS to ensure ‘customers’ are getting ‘value’ for their ‘product’. Even I, with 40 years of DM’ing experience, would feel performance anxiety if I were running a game charging that type of fee.

    Which leads us to the third point; it feels wrong for D&D play to be a ‘product’. Historically, playing D&D has been free. In fact, I recall that being one of the great things about playing D&D as a teenager. You buy the books once and get hours of entertainment at no additional cost.

    I understand the need for FLGS to make money to stay in business and I admit I am not sure how best to do that, but the monetization of D&D play feels ‘dirty’ to me.

    What does everyone else think about this apparent trend in our hobby?

    [Update: The retail store that advertised paying for experience has changed their posting, they are now offering non-AL D&D]
    Last edited by AriochQ; Wednesday, 14th March, 2018 at 01:11 PM.
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  2. #2
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    The store offering EXP for cash should be reported. Otherwise... I'm of a mixed mindset.

    I'm fine with locations charging for use of their space, not so much for playing a specific game (unless it involves further use of their stuff e.g. miniatures).
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  3. #3
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    While I don't charge people to play in my games, I don't have any issue with it. I've gifted modules I wanted to play to other DMs, but have never paid a session fee or the like. If someone wants to kick up some money to the DM for his or her time and service, that seems fair enough to me. As for AL, I don't know what the rules are for that, but it seems like the stores are responding to some kind of dearth of DMs to run the games and creating an incentive for more DMs to turn up. That also seems fair. Let the buyer beware and, if the pricing gets out of hand, the market will sort it out.

  4. #4
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    How much do you spend regularly at the stores each time you go? Not including the fee. The Magic card players at my local store carry the rest of us. My local store does not sell a lot to us on game night except $1 soda. What I do is switch out buying from Amazon to Buying from the store. Amazon is CHEAPER BUT LONGER. The Store allows layaway and my product is there on the game night on release.
    And anytime a hobby is getting to be real money, you can't afford the hobby.

  5. #5
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    I look at the list of pay to play games on roll20 and wonder if I could make a living as a DM.

    Then I laugh at the madness of it and get back to designing adventures made for my table instead of made for a market.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasper View Post
    How much do you spend regularly at the stores each time you go? Not including the fee. The Magic card players at my local store carry the rest of us. My local store does not sell a lot to us on game night except $1 soda. What I do is switch out buying from Amazon to Buying from the store. Amazon is CHEAPER BUT LONGER. The Store allows layaway and my product is there on the game night on release.
    And anytime a hobby is getting to be real money, you can't afford the hobby.
    I usually spend between $5-$15 each AL night. I am lucky enough to have a decent job and make hobby related money on DM's Guild so I make a point to buy a miniature bubble pack or box when I play AL (even though I have way more mini's than I need!). Ironically, the store would probably lose money by charging me $5 to play as I would no longer feel the obligation to buy miniatures. I also DM when needed, which means I would get store credit to offset the limited edition hardcovers I purchase from the FLGS.

  7. #7
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    So The $5 would be a cover charge like hitting a bar/night club/ $5 movie night. So don't spend as much. Oh there are two game places here my town. FLGS which doesn't charge us. And the LBGS (local bar gaming store) which charges a $5 cover per night. But at LBGS my player age range would be limited.

  8. #8
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    I've stopped handing out treasure in my games, instead I charge players $10 for a roll on the level-appropriate hoard table in the DMG. 5E doesn't assume that characters will have any magic items so it's not like the players who don't pay are really losing out, it's just a bonus for premium players.
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  9. #9
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    I’m fine with a nominal fee for AL play. My space doesn’t charge, but I always buy something to drink there. $5 doesn’t sound that bad at all. I’ve paid far more to go to concerts and club nights in my time, and this way I don’t come home smelling like cigarettes.

    When I’ve gone to events at my FLGS, they’ve not charged, either. But I always buy from there when I go. Even if it’s just a couple of dice, I’d feel rude not doing so.

    Now, the pay for XP thing, that seems like someone saw loot boxes and thought it’d be a good idea to put that into the real world. Ugh.

  10. #10
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    I insist my players bring snacks (and actually tie inspiration to it, I should list that as a bad DM practice in the other thread).

    And beer is really appreciated.

    But money, who could sink that low?
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