Getting Paid to be a Game Master

BlackLens

Villager
I recently began developing a website that caters to helping GM market themselves and provide tools to make planning events and payments easier.

Does anyone on this forum provide paid GM services? I'm finding that a lot of people are not just finding paid individual groups, but also new an interesting venues working with team-building groups, corporate contracts, and working out of table-top cafes.

What are your experiences in paid GMing and how has it been going for you? What challenges have you come across?
 
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Princelucianus

Explorer
I recently tried to set this up with a few friends (after doing a few Teambuilding and D&D sessions at 2 companies, but we couldn't make it work for us.
Why?
First we tried event or teambuilding organisations, but they said that one game host for 5-6 players was not good for a profitable turnover. They had a minimum of 1 game host for 10+ players.
Furthermore, they wanted to know if we could use the term D&D exclusively (which we couldn't) or if it was even possible to use on their website (which was never cleared).
Most were not interested in a fantasy role playing event, they wanted ''Dungeon and Dragons'' to be used and the fan base usage page from ''Wizards'' doesn't clear this up. Multiple requests to their helpdesk only resulted in ''Look at our internet page''.

So, we still have the website, but without advertising or an organization to back us.

Which basically means, it's dead.

So, I hope others can bring more positive remarks, for us it was not working...
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I recently tried to set this up with a few friends (after doing a few Teambuilding and D&D sessions at 2 companies, but we couldn't make it work for us.
Why?
First we tried event or teambuilding organisations, but they said that one game host for 5-6 players was not good for a profitable turnover. They had a minimum of 1 game host for 10+ players.
Furthermore, they wanted to know if we could use the term D&D exclusively (which we couldn't) or if it was even possible to use on their website (which was never cleared).
Most were not interested in a fantasy role playing event, they wanted ''Dungeon and Dragons'' to be used and the fan base usage page from ''Wizards'' doesn't clear this up. Multiple requests to their helpdesk only resulted in ''Look at our internet page''.

So, we still have the website, but without advertising or an organization to back us.

Which basically means, it's dead.

So, I hope others can bring more positive remarks, for us it was not working...
Who was “they” in this scenario?
 

BlackLens

Villager
That's a bummer that it didn't work out. Why was it so imperative that they use the D&D name? Did they want you to work for them to contract to other companies or was this the team that needed building making the request?

How many companies did you reach out to? Was this the same answer from every company?
 
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Longspeak

Explorer
Never done it myself, but I see a lot of listings for Paid GMing on Roll20. You might ask there.

On the one hand, it'd be cool to be paid for doing a thing I love. On the other, turning a thing I love into a thing I have to do sounds like a great way to fall out of love with it. And I already have a thing I don't love that I get paid to do.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
Furthermore, they wanted to know if we could use the term D&D exclusively (which we couldn't) or if it was even possible to use on their website (which was never cleared).
Most were not interested in a fantasy role playing event, they wanted ''Dungeon and Dragons'' to be used and the fan base usage page from ''Wizards'' doesn't clear this up. Multiple requests to their helpdesk only resulted in ''Look at our internet page''.
The Fan Content policy seems pretty clear to me...
One word: F-R-E-E. You can use Wizards’ IP (except for the restrictions listed in #3) to make Fan Content that you share with the community for free. Free means FREE:
  • You can’t require payments, ...
...
Unfortunately, no. You cannot incorporate Wizards patents, game mechanics (unless your Fan Content is created under the D&D Open Game License), logos, or trademarks into your Fan Content without our prior written permission.
Pretty clear to me that you can not use their IP for commercial purposes unless you obtain a specific license to do so.
 

Princelucianus

Explorer
They = Teambuilding or event companies.

Furthermore, I know what the website said, but it's confusing since it talks about fan content. Since people have been selling their DM service to companies quite openly online, I assumed:
Wizards doesn't care about this.
The DM's haven't talked to Wizards and sell their DM services without Wizards' knowledge.
They have organized some permission (I tried to do that, and was simply redirected to the fan page), but the two online attempts I spoke with said they didn't.

I also contacted Hasbro (Netherlands) who told me they (many they's) would come back to me..... what they (again) never did.
 

Princelucianus

Explorer
That's a bummer that it didn't work out. Why was it so imperative that they use the D&D name? Did they want you to work for them to contract to other companies or was this the team that needed building making the request?
It's way easier to attract people/companies by
''We can organize a session of ''Dungeons and Dragons" for you and your colleagues''.
Instead of
''We can organize a session of fantasy roleplaying for you and your colleagues''.

If I say to my colleagues that I play D&D, I often hear ''I always wanted to play that''. If I say I play fantasy roleplaying games, they more often look like Jen from the IT crowd.

How many companies did you reach out to? Was this the same answer from every company?
We contact around 16 companies that were involved with teambuilding. Three of those responded, two of those with the D&D specification. We had a face to face discussion with one of three.

We also contacted 5 event organizers. Only one responded.

So, the response rate was pretty low.

I still hope to hear from people who actually made this work.

p.s: This was the website we have/had:
Office Dungeon Masters
 
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Jacob Lewis

The One with the Force
I recently began developing a website that caters to helping GM market themselves and provide tools to make planning events and payments easier.

Does anyone on this forum provide paid GM services?
Yes. Or at least I will be, as soon as I get a few more things set up, like my own website, etc. I've been working towards this for several months now, but I started thinking about it last year, doing research in my area and making preparations and plans for success.

I'm curious to know what you're doing and what you plan to offer. Is there somewhere I can learn what your website does, how it works, etc? Or are you just planning and developing at this point?
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
Where you, in my opinion, would run afoul of the IP restrictions is if you were to use any of the logo's or trademarked/restricted names in your company advertising or marketing. I believe, but haven't checked, that the term "Dungeons & Dragons" is trademarked, hence the problem/challenge.

Now, it seems like you might be able to advertise that you use Dungeons & Dragons in a team building exercise... or similar, but that is going to be heavily dependent upon your local laws. i.e. you would need to get a lawyer to tell you want you can and can not do in terms of such a reference. I think of it like "kleenex" a store can say they sell such, and don't have to say something like "we sell the most popular brand of tissue." But I know their is a line there. Just don't know where it is.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I've never charged for DMing, though I've happily accepted free snacks. But I have paid to play, so I can share some thoughts from the consumer side. It would be interesting to here what paid DMs thing about my experiences.

First, one form of paid DMing I've seriously thought of making use of, but haven't yet, is the personal convention model. There is one group in my home town that will set up half-day, full day, and two-day weekend events for groups. It include game spaces, catering, and a DM team with custom adventures and all the terrain and gaming materials. It is quite costly, even with a group sharing the costs. But it would be a fun event for a birthday or other special occasion. I've not done it yet, because of travel and budget, but it is something I would like to do.

So far all my experience as a consumer of paid DMing is with online games.

As someone with a demanding job that requires a lot of travel and long stints away from home, often in places where it is next to impossible to find gaming groups, being able to find a game run by a prepared, engaging DM to run a game online is worth paying for.

My main problem is that I am usually looking for one-shots whereas most of the successful DMs for hire tend to only be interested in campaigns. Financially, it makes sense that DMs would want repeat customers and predictable income. But my schedule doesn't allow for that. Also, many make you go through a vetting process. Usually this involves just responding to a written questionnaire, but I've also had some DMs that also require an interview by Skype/Discord.

While I understand wanting to make sure that a player will be a good fit and that they want to make sure expectations are properly set, I doesn't sit well with me, and I've never been very comfortable with, having to go through an interview process to play in a game.

In terms of finding professional DMs running games, I've not found any good platforms for this. I've had the most success with Roll20's tools for finding games. For one-shots, however, I find it easier to find last minute pick-up games for free than any for-hire DM games. But those can be very hit or miss, with many being cancelled at the last minute.

What I would love to see would be a site set up like a gaming convention site or War Horn where there would be scheduled games and you would sign up for games that had seats. Perhaps there would be a monthly subscription or you would by passes or credits and the DMs would get paid a certain amount per player signed up for their game. Such a site would track the number number of slots available and filled and make the overall process of matching sessions to players easier.

In terms of how much I'm willing to pay, USD 3-5 an hour seems to be the sweet spot.

Why would I pay / what would I expect? Pretty much what I would expect from a DM running a convention game:

1. DMs with a solid understanding of the rules, who are a good teachers, and are evangelists for the systems they are running

I don't expect perfection, but the DM should have a good enough grasp to run the game smoothly and quickly and efficiently help new players understand what they need to know to play. They should also be excited about and enjoy the system they are running.

2. Has thoroughly prepared for the adventure

If you are charging players, this should not be the first time you ran the adventure. Or, if it is, it should not be obvious that it is.

3. Expert use of the VTT tools used

Most of my experience with paid DMs is with online games. One thing I appreciate about paid DMs is that they tend to be far more adroit with VTT tools. They help get their players up and running and they have all the maps well prepped. They know the tools well enough that they can focus on the story and running the game and keep everything running smoothly. Even with players who are new to the tool.

4. Punctuality and good time management

Paid DMs should be ready to start the game on time and they are able to run a satisfying adventure in the time allotted.

5. Setting forth expectations for behavior and the game style in the game's description

For paid-for campaigns, most paid DMs will offer the first session free, which can act as a session zero. But for one-shots, like convention games, there isn't this luxury. You need to set forth expectations regarding the content, behavior, language, maturity level, etc. in the game description. It is good to reiterate it quickly at the start of the session, but players need to know what they are signing up for before they reserve a spot.

Things that don't matter much to me, but are appreciated when the DM can pull them off:

1. Voice acting

I don't expect DMs I pay to be professional voice actors. I don't expect that I'm hiring Matt Mercer when I'm paying a few bucks an hour. I can enjoy a game just as much without any attempt at voice acting. When a DM can pull it off, it can be fun, but I don't expect it.

2. Music

Some paid DMs seem to think that they need to make use of all the bells and whistles to wow their paying players, but I find they can be distractions. When done well, it can be nice, but for me that mostly means mood music and it should not distract from the game play. It can be a nice touch, but there is a danger of it just becoming an annoying distraction.

Lastly, one pet peeve of mine is the heavy use of Discord in online gaming. Maybe I'm getting old and have finally hit upon a platform I don't get, but I really can't stand Discord. First, most VTTs have voice baked in. Having to fire up a second tool/site is annoying. Second, if the VTT's voice functionality has quality issues, there are much better options than Discord. If you are charging you should be able to afford VoIP/Web-meeting tools that don't require me to sign up for another service. Third, I just find Discord to be a confusing, busy, interface that is unpleasant to use. Lastly, I experience far more connectivity and sound quality issues with Discord than just about every other tool I use. Google Meet, Google Hangouts, Skype, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, GoToMeeting, JoinMe all are far more reliable for me than Discord.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Where you, in my opinion, would run afoul of the IP restrictions is if you were to use any of the logo's or trademarked/restricted names in your company advertising or marketing. I believe, but haven't checked, that the term "Dungeons & Dragons" is trademarked, hence the problem/challenge.
This isn’t good legal advice. A mechanic can advertise that they repair Ford vehicles. You an advertise that you run D&D games. Fan policies are literally just that — company policies. They aren’t laws, and they aren’t enforceable.
 

BlackLens

Villager
Yes. Or at least I will be, as soon as I get a few more things set up, like my own website, etc. I've been working towards this for several months now, but I started thinking about it last year, doing research in my area and making preparations and plans for success.

I'm curious to know what you're doing and what you plan to offer. Is there somewhere I can learn what your website does, how it works, etc? Or are you just planning and developing at this point?
I didn't want it to come across as spamming the forums, but the link for you to learn more and sign up if you're interested is LFGM - LookingForGM.com
 

BlackLens

Villager
I absolutely would suggest that people be safe and considerate when referring to specific IP, but just anecdotally, I have tried my hardest to get this specific information and it feels as though Wizards (just because they're the biggest example) is doing everything to stay out of the conversation of paid GMing. I've never seen them take an official stance nor give any concrete answer to anyone asking them of it.

I would agree with Morrus in his Ford repair example.
 

tommybahama

Explorer
My main problem is that I am usually looking for one-shots whereas most of the successful DMs for hire tend to only be interested in campaigns.
How about online Adventurers League one-shots? There might be a base of players willing to pay for higher tier play in adventures with especially rare and juicy magic items. Or low tier players if you market it as their chance to play the bugbear bard-warlock-barbarian of their dreams.

Lastly, one pet peeve of mine is the heavy use of Discord in online gaming. Maybe I'm getting old and have finally hit upon a platform I don't get, but I really can't stand Discord.
I'm not a fan of Discord either but I see its advantages. It allows sms phone messaging and text based chat forums as well as voice. This could allow a DM to develop a community around himself.
 

Helldritch

Adventurer
I know a few GMs who get paid for their services but they're not in my area. They charge 20 bucks per players for a 5 to 6 hours session. With a minimum of 5 players and a maximum of 6. That is about it. They even have a waiting list for players wanting to join. These two play about 4 to 5 times a week and they're near a good university. So no shortage of customers.
 

Longspeak

Explorer
I'm not a fan of Discord either but I see its advantages. It allows sms phone messaging and text based chat forums as well as voice. This could allow a DM to develop a community around himself.
I really like Discord. It's a solid platform for voice or text, but the way it lets me set up my own servers and channels is what really sold me. I can keep all my players in contact between games, and even in my game with the three different groups, Discord gives me an easy way to talk to all of them at once, or to let them talk to each other across groups, since they are all playing part of the same larger group. It also lets me be part of several similar groups.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
How about online Adventurers League one-shots? There might be a base of players willing to pay for higher tier play in adventures with especially rare and juicy magic items. Or low tier players if you market it as their chance to play the bugbear bard-warlock-barbarian of their dreams.
Not sure if there are any rules about using Adventurer's League for profit.

My main issue with adventurer's league is that unless you play frequently, it is really difficult to player higher tier adventures. I would much rather have a one-shot set for a specific level and with pre-generated characters.

But, I would certainly consider playing online Adventurer's League, free or paid, if there were regular one-shot options available.
 

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