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D&D General Professional DMs making $45k/year off it?


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tommybahama

Adventurer
Cost per player - $10 per session.

Not bad, but would you pay $10 per game session?

$15/session is the going rate. There is a business that operates on Roll20 that I believe provides all the campaign materials to a DM and splits the $15 fee with about $12 to the DM and $3 going to the service. I can't vouch for the service, but it would be a way to get into paid DMing without a lot of startup costs.

The first articles on paid DMing I read were geared towards corporate team building events, birthday parties, bachelor/bachelorette parties and the like. I remember one DM quoting $300 a session.

I'm not a fan of the channel linked below but it was in my YouTube recommends a few months back. I just remembered it while writing my reply:

 

Blue Orange

Explorer
Economics states that price is determined by supply and demand. The higher the demand and the lower the supply, the higher the price. (There are intersecting curves but that's the idea.) Now labor is a commodity as well, which helps determine wages. (There are other factors, of course.)
The fact that some jobs are more pleasant than others produces compensating wage differentials--a garbage collector gets paid more at least in part because the job is dangerous (people throw out lots of awful stuff), arduous (you have to lift trash all day), and smelly. A pleasant job, all other things equal, will pay less as the supply will be greater at any given price.

Now lots of people are willing to DM for free because they enjoy it. So I can't see it becoming a big moneymaker except for a few people.
 



payn

Hero
$40-$60 is a dinner out or movie with the family. It's not a lot.
You are not doing this with your family tho; Its just you (unless you spend double, triple, quadruple, + to play together as a family). Also, you don't have the flexibility to spend that money in other ways month to month. The price itself isnt steep, but locking it up every month is a factor.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You are not doing this with your family tho; Its just you (unless you spend double, triple, quadruple, + to play together as a family). Also, you don't have the flexibility to spend that money in other ways month to month. The price itself isnt steep, but locking it up every month is a factor.
It's not a contract. You aren't forced to play month in and month out at that price. If it becomes too much, you back out.
 



jgsugden

Legend
Oh, please. If you're charging for admission, you're never going to make a decent living. Have we learned nothing from modern microtransactions and video games?

Getting into the game has to be free. Get them hooked on the story, on their PCs, etc... Then, you start putting the PCs up against challenges they can't beat without certain magic - and the only way to get it is to buy it from you with cash. If you find the right player, you can get $45K from that one player.
 



ninjayeti

Adventurer
As someone who has been a player in paid online games in the past, I can say that the economics IRL doesn't often work out as well is it would look on paper. There are several reasons for this.

1) Scheduling: on weekdays people are realistically only going to want to play in the evenings. So unless you have a multi-continent client base (and some Pro DMs do) you are probably only going to get one session per day on weekdays, MAYBE able to double up on weekends. So you are unlikely to see a 40 (paid) hour week.

2) Group size: you are usually getting paid per person, so you want a group of 6 or so to maximize your pay. But getting - and keeping - a full group is challenging. Paid players know that they can find another paid game easily so are much more willing to drop (often ghost) then they would be in a free game. And in addition to all the normal reasons people drop games, when people's finances get tight the paid games are usually the first expense that gets cut. When you lose players mid-campaign it is hard to replace people - people who are going to pay for a game have choices, and they are probably going to want to start one fresh instead of jumping in the middle of one.

3) Competition: lots of people are doing this, from college kids looking to make a couple extra bucks to companies trying to pimp out "gig" DMs. The barrier to entry is posting some games on Roll20 or similar site. When a new WotC adventure drops there are dozens of paid games starting up on Roll20 to run that adventure. So good luck filling up 6 seats for five or so games a week when you are starting out without an established client base.

Ultimately, yeah if your are a skilled DM and willing to treat DM'ing as a job you can eventually develop a loyal player base and make a reasonable income, but it takes time to build that up, and even then losing a couple of games in a short time period is going to be a big hit to your income that you may not be able to replace for some time.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
As someone who has been a player in paid online games in the past, I can say that the economics IRL doesn't often work out as well is it would look on paper. There are several reasons for this.

1) Scheduling: on weekdays people are realistically only going to want to play in the evenings. So unless you have a multi-continent client base (and some Pro DMs do) you are probably only going to get one session per day on weekdays, MAYBE able to double up on weekends. So you are unlikely to see a 40 (paid) hour week.
You could pretty easily triple up on the weekends.
 

Wolf72

Explorer
Holy Cow ... I remember this discussion back when Eric Noah and Pirate Kat (as a mod) (Kevin -- last name eludes me) ran things. I'm not sure where everyone stood on the matter, but it seemed almost a negative thing (that's like almost decades ago ... my memory is sketchy at times).

Given today's virtual meet technology, I guess that has changed quite a bit. Considering you could quite literally have a party made up of an international base.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
45k isn't terrible money, but it isn't all that great when you consider that you're self employed (which means you have to pay your own taxes, including double social security because your employer is normally required to pay half) and you're not getting medical insurance (which is quite expensive). At 8-10 four hour games per week plus prep, you're probably looking at a 40+ hour work week even if you are able to reuse a lot of material. If you can't reuse much material (running West Marches or something and the groups are running in different directions) then you might be looking at 60-80 hours.

That said, if you love DMing (which many people do), there's a lot to be said for doing what you love.
 

CubicsRube

Adventurer
Supporter
I suspect, although it's not spelled out in the Polygon article, that a lot of these pro DMs are recycling the same content over and over again, so they get a lot more out of those prep hours than an amateur DM would, who's unlikely to run a given adventure for different groups more than once or twice, especially in the same month.
I used to teach English overseas and I can confirm that reusing lessons is the way everyone goes.

That's not to say you can't tweak it a little, but that requires a lot less work than creating from scratch.

Best part is you refine and improve your lessons. So I think the players playing in later games will benefit from an improved gaming session.
 

CubicsRube

Adventurer
Supporter
45k isn't terrible money, but it isn't all that great when you consider that you're self employed (which means you have to pay your own taxes, including double social security because your employer is normally required to pay half) and you're not getting medical insurance (which is quite expensive). At 8-10 four hour games per week plus prep, you're probably looking at a 40+ hour work week even if you are able to reuse a lot of material. If you can't reuse much material (running West Marches or something and the groups are running in different directions) then you might be looking at 60-80 hours.

That said, if you love DMing (which many people do), there's a lot to be said for doing what you love.
In Australia we don't have the medical insurance issue and can run as a Sole Trader, so no double tax. But the challenge here would be finding enough of an audience in the time zone, or doing weird hours to work with US/UK time zones.

And sadly in the big cities here USD45K is quite tough to live on.
 


cbwjm

Hero
Converting that to NZD, it's just a few thousand less than I earn now, however the reality would probably be that I'd have to charge the same amount ($15/session that people are talking about) meaning I'd likely earn less than that. I think the only problem would be that it'd probably kill DnD for me since I'd be turning it from a hobby I enjoy into a job.
 

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