Pay to Play – Buyer Beware

dmforhireI’m a DM, and sometimes I forget what it is like to be a player.  I often offer advice to my players, but I fear that I give that advice from a DM perspective and forget about who actually runs the game which is the players.

DM’s are facilitators only.  The players drive a story and normally it’s their story, created by the choices they make and directions they go.  That being said, keep in mind that is my own personal opinion, and there are lot of DM/GM’s out there that can dispute it with it was their adventure and the players are just participants but that is another topic.

I saw something today that shocked me.  Pay to play games!  Yes, it’s true.  DM’s charging for their services and players need to fork out $5 to $10 a session just to play a game.  Wow, have times changed that much where a DM can charge for the service of running a game?

There is an incredible article I was directed to, written by The Angry GM. which is really in-depth and very well written on the subject.  I’m not going to touch this topic, but rather focus on if you are going to pay to play what you should know before handing over your hard earned coin to a faceless DM on the internet or in person at a local game store.

3f7So before you decide to send your 5 gold pieces to play you need to know a few things that all consumers (because that’s what you are when you pay for a service) should know.

Even if you don’t pay you’ll find this helpful because some of us have entered a game only to find out the DM/GM is a power hungry devil child that shouldn’t be running a game or maybe they are just not the correct fit for you as a player.

What should expect for your money can vary depending on what you are looking for.  I run 4 groups that are all very different in the way they play and I’ve moved people around into the group where they would best fit according to their play style.

Play Style is very important and you need to acknowledge what your play style is before you head into a new group to make sure it will suit your needs as a player.  There is nothing worst that placing a super awesome role player into a group of murder hobos.

So first establish your play style.  Maybe you enjoy the role play and the chance for adventure aspect of the game or maybe you just want to run around and slay numerous evil beasts and gain power.  These are questions you need to ask yourself.  If you don’t know what your play style is do a little google search on player play style and read about each one. You should be able to find one that is suited to you.

Before you pay single copper to the DM you will want to interview them.  Seeing the pay to play sign sent up red flags.  Why are they charging to run a game?  Are they any good? These are questions you need to ask.  Think about applying for job.  That is how you should treat these DM’s.  If you’re are going to pay them they need to pass the interview process.  You need to interview them just they were applying for a job right?dont-go-that-way

There a couple of things I would ask right away and a few more that would be more personal.

The first thing I would ask for is references or examples of their work.  Check these references.  There is no harm asking other players they have DM/GM’d what they thought or how the game ran.  If they are charging for the game they should have something to back up their claim to able to charge for it.

Ask if you can sit in on a game just to observe and see if it will work for you.  You are not playing just watching or listening.  There should be no reason why someone who is willing to charge you not allow it. If you do this, be respectful and don’t interrupt.  You can leave anytime so don’t’ feel like you need to stay for the whole session.  You should be able to pick up the vibe of the game quickly.

You will want to ask about any special house rules they have.  Are they adaptable to meet your needs or set in stone?  I find that there are a few people who run games the way they see how it should be and morph rules that go way beyond using them as guidelines.   There is nothing wrong with this as long as you are made aware of how they work and if they work for you.

Your new employee should have a starting point and story that sounds exciting.  See if they are willing to share past stories.  Are they creating their own adventures or using one of the many campaign books?   These are very important details to note, since you might become an active participant in the story.

You need to ask question regarding races and class that are allowed or not allowed.  If they allow pixie barbarians you might want to stay clear of that train wreck.  Alignment restrictions are a must to know.  Is the adventure based on saving the princess or kidnapping her?  I would ask what source books are being used as that can make a big difference.  How much is homebrew and how much not.

best-dmI know as a DM/GM I do a quick interview of new players, but I also leave room for them to ask questions as well.  Not everyone will get along with everyone.  You might want to talk to the other players as well to see if you are good fit for you and the group.  Sure, the DM/GM might be incredibly amazing, and has great stories tailor fit for your brand new adventurer but…… the other players are a complete mess and don’t mesh with  themselves let alone a new player.  This is why I suggested you ask if you can sit in on a session and just observe the play.

disgruntleOne thing to keep in mind is as soon as enter a pay to play adventure the table dynamic will change dramatically.  Unless you get a Matt Mercer or a Chris Perkins you will most likely encounter a bad session now and again.  The DM/GM may forget small details or mess up a rule etc.  Since you are paying for the session your expectations are going to a lot higher regardless of what you are paying.   This causes the issue of disgruntle players turning into upset paying customers.  It can ruin what might have been a funny whoops that happen session into an angry customer walking out and demanding their gold back.  Once money is exchange it changes everything.

There are so many more details that you might want to consider before hiring one of these professional DM/GM’s.  That word “Professional” alone is something to think about.  What does a professional DM/GM look like to you?  Is there such a thing, and I laugh at this because I’ve been asked to run a game for money and I turned them down because personally that not how I roll.   I don’t consider myself a professional at all, and I have almost 40 years of experience behind me.  I play for fun and I run games because that is my hobby and I enjoy it.  I make mistakes and screw up and learn every game.  Once you pay money you will expect something better than that.   I feel for the poor DM/GM that accepts money and then attempts to satisfy everyone.  Anyone with enough experience will know that sometimes your rogue is not the center of attention and you just spent 10 gold to watch the fighters of the group rule the table.  It’s going happen.

Pouch_of_Gold_(GOLD)As a final note think about what type of group you want.  There are other options to paying a DM/GM.  Find a group and perhaps chip in for a pizza once in a while or bring a shareable snack.  This DM/GM loves the shareable snack players.  One of my players once brought a special craft beer and it made my day.  Perhaps as a group you could pitch in a little to upgrade the free roll20 account to a pro one. I do know of many groups that already contribute to the latest campaign books for the DM/GM to run them through and in return the DM/GM gets to keep the book.  This is also good form of payment for a service.

Above all else remember the words “Buyer Beware!”