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


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AnotherGuy

Explorer
Just for comparative purposes

As a DM who hosts, my average spend per session, since I primarily provide the primary meal (players provide drinks & snacks), is around $15 (translated as I'm not in the US). Pre 2020 we were playing face-to-face twice a month, so that was a dedicated $30 spend. These days I run 3-4 online sessions and 1 face-to-face per month.

When I'm a player and have to travel and purchase snacks/drinks I spend around $10.
 
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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.
That time zone difference could be ideal for some. One could live in Australia and host evening games for Americans during regular Australian office hours, and then have your leisure time at the same time as your mates who work normal jobs.
 


Iry

Hero
I charged $20 per person back in the day, so a 5 man group was $100 a night.

The biggest issue BY FAR is getting decent people. I had to deal with some genuinely entitled, disgusting, and sometimes even abusing people. Don't get me wrong, there were some really nice ones as well, and those are the ones you want to court for regular sessions. But "building your business" really is the golden truth here. You have to spend months weeding out the bad ones to build up a roster of good people. And you have to do it over and over again to cover you for 5 days worth of players.

I ran the same campaign for multiple groups, to reduce the amount of planning it takes. Granted, each group tackles problems differently and goes in different directions, so there is still quite a bit to keep track of. What did surprise me is a few players showing up for the same campaign on another night just to play a different character and adventure with different people.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Uhm, sure? $10 sounds kinda cheap, honestly.

Where I live, the norm is ~$40.
Honestly, because of this article, I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. At least a couple years ago people at my local FLGS were crying about paying $2 for a spot at a game table. Attitudes certainly have changed and I’m not quite comfortable yet with idea of paying/charging for the game I do currently.
 

I think, obviously, there's an element of sensationalism to the story ("Someone is getting rich on their hobby! And they don't make a product!"), but I wonder for all the ads on Roll20 and DDB how successful they are. As was pointed out, you have to get solid people into the game, and have something they want or need to come back for.
There's always been a disproportionate number of players:DM - the game is set up that way, one person running it and X players. Now that there's the internet available, I think people who may not live in reasonable distance of a gaming store, or don't like the people there, or have the spare money to invest in another session (another fix?) would probably content to pay $5+ for the opportunity. As a person who would DM and then burn out - I'm a frantic idea guy and my ideas don't always stick - I couldn't imagine doing this for a job or even a side hustle.
I did/do see a post I like on reddit and Roll20 where the DM explains why he charges, and I think his number one point felt the truest: if someone pays for an event, you are way less likely to ghost on it, you're more apt to have decided to commit to it, and you're probably apt to get a more commited group of people who want to be there versus people who have nothing better to do.
 


jgsugden

Legend
There are people that run "corporate events" games, where they specialize in running a 15 minute introduction and then 90 minute game for 5 or 6 new players. It is a 'team building' activity with a couple encounters that is more puzzle based than anything, and they can get pretty big checks for doing this for a day at a work place and then providing scoring for teamwork, etc... They can pull in numbers similar to other small group speakers, which can be a thousand dollars for the day of 4 sessions (6 X 4 = 24 players, so this is above $40 per player - for 2 hours each).

I've seen DMs charge $10 per person per session - but it all went to the game. Some went to the game store to pay for the table, some went for table snacks, some went for miniatures/terrain (which the DM kept). When I saw this, it would generally be one DM doing it, then others trying to follow the lead and finding they couldn't get players because other DMs were doing it for free.

I have a wishlist of D&D related stuff that my players generally know about, but it isn't usually a cash transaction situation. Further, they're usually things that I want that require a little skill rather than just coin. Drawings of the party, paining some of my miniatures, building terrain, etc... I don't expect to get these things, but occasionally someone gives me something on the list (or asks to paint something) and it fills a gap in my collection.
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I've done it a little bit (charged $10 per person per hour for up a four hour session).

I find being paid changes the expectation of play a lot - and that's okay - but I think anyone who wants to try pro DMing has to accept that people are not likely to want to pay you to run your home campaign for them - but the difference might also be that I come from a D&D is challenging and deadly tradition of the game - so I had to temper my instincts to keep everyone involved and focused in a way I am not as wary of when playing with friends.

So yeah: $40 per person.
 
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Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
I DM professionally, both in person and online, and also act as an agent for a pool of 8 other pro DMs, hooking up paying players with pro DMs for a small commission, matching their scheduling needs, play style, adventure requests, etc. with the DM who will be the best fit for them. I started the "agent" side when I had more requests for games than I could take on myself. About 1/3rd of our business is running games for kids, incidentally, for which there is a big demand.

We also regularly run free games online. Our biggest source of paying players are people who played in our free games and enjoyed them, and we also want to always make at least some games available for people who can't afford to pay.

I would be happy to answer any questions about it: cast-party.com
 

AnotherGuy

Explorer
Another thing to consider, as the one in the group that usually DMs and realistically never gets the opportunity to play, I could see myself joining an online game to try it out with a complete group of strangers and at the very minimum learn something from the experience, if not make friends and enjoy the game.
 


darjr

I crit!
I DM professionally, both in person and online, and also act as an agent for a pool of 8 other pro DMs, hooking up paying players with pro DMs for a small commission, matching their scheduling needs, play style, adventure requests, etc. with the DM who will be the best fit for them. I started the "agent" side when I had more requests for games than I could take on myself. About 1/3rd of our business is running games for kids, incidentally, for which there is a big demand.

We also regularly run free games online. Our biggest source of paying players are people who played in our free games and enjoyed them, and we also want to always make at least some games available for people who can't afford to pay.

I would be happy to answer any questions about it: cast-party.com
Oh! Thank you!

What software do you use? Do intend to do mor in person gaming after the pandemic? How do you recruit DMs? How do you keep track of thier quality?
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Oh! Thank you!

What software do you use? Do intend to do mor in person gaming after the pandemic? How do you recruit DMs? How do you keep track of thier quality?

When we launched, the intention was to be an entirely in-person company. It's a side project for my theater company, so we did theatrical, site-specific games with live actors as NPCs, lighting, live music, custom-crafted props and handouts, etc: Live Events

The pandemic largely shut all that down, obviously. We did manage to do one small, socially-distanced outdoor game event in September 2020 when the numbers here in NYC were very low.

We pivoted to running online games in April 2020 and the business quickly blew up. We started by running a TON of free games so that people could sample our quality and we have found that to be an important element of our business plan.

For online games, the software really varies by DM preference, but MOST of our DMs use the following:
Roll20 for maps & tokens & sometimes the official adventures
DNDBeyond for character generation & management
Beyond20 (free extension for Chrome & Firefox that allows DNDBeyond to communicate with Roll20 for rolls, initiative, etc)
Zoom or Discord for voice and/or video (Roll20 offers this but it's notoriously bad)

Barring catastrophe, we will return to in-person games with a big event in September or October.

One other note: we have an actual play podcast of Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus, which we hoped to use to promote the pro DMing by showing off our play style. In fact, the opposite has happened - our pro DMing is way more visible than the podcast, and lots of people only find out about the podcast because of the pro DMing. Podcast: PodCast Party: Descent into Avernus
 
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