Professional Gamemasters For Hire. The solution for boosting the RPG community?

After reading that blog entry, I can’t keep thinking about the possibilities around an expansive system for hiring and paying GM/DMs to run games. Curious, I looked up “DMforhire.com” and found a DM in Canada offering his services through that website. Looking it over, it’s clear that John is offering a premium service: props, music, miniatures, theatrical touches etc. John is obviously just promoting himself—what I envision is a “Uber” of GM services. A scalable platform that:

  1. Allows GMs to create an account and offer their services. This would include the types/systems, play style, availability, pricing and a feedback system that rates the GMs.
  2. A scheduling and payment system to allow a GM to host an event that will manage signups and handle payments.
  3. A search function that allows a group to find a GM or an individual to find a game session.

This software solution is already “off the shelf” functionality. A combination of Angies List, Constant Contact and Meetup and some websites already trying to offer part of the concept. This includes sites like: nearbygames.com and rpggamefind.com. What I’ve found is that these “game finder” sites don’t really work—they are not enough content, participants or incentives.

However, I think the issue is not the number of interested games, but the number of available GMs. If you read forums and blog sites you’ll find quite a few articles about the challenges of GMs: finding time to prepare material, the cost of game books, the cost of snacks, players not taking things seriously etc. Being a GM is rewarding, but it can be time consuming and costly. Let’s say that an average GM can charge $5/hr: that’s $25/hr or $150 per day long session. Does that seem like a lot? Maybe for ready to play material, but what if the GM is writing proprietary material, providing appropriate miniatures (and painting them), drawing battle maps and drafting dungeon layouts. 10 hours of prep, 6 hours of game time comes out to about $9/hr. So not great, but if you are a top rated GM that can charge $10-$20/hr/player then it starts to look better.

Almost like a DJ, a GM could build their brand by a combination of hosting games and selling their own content. Would this motivate more people to become GMs, create their own material and work to improve their craft? Is a GM no different than any other performance artist, director or event planner? Is professionalizing GMs the last step to formalizing the RPG economy? A recent thread post over at the RM Forums made me think that this solution addresses a lot of issues that people are just picking around the edges.

Some other possible benefits:

  1. Brand building could allow game companies to target to rated GMs to use their game systems.
  2. By paying, players should get a more professional and polished session.
  3. Since they are paying, players may take their role-playing more seriously, and game sessions may be less prone to distractions.
  4. More GMs mean more game sessions, which boosts active players, grows the community and thus, the industry as a whole.
  5. A more formal structure gives game companies the ability to sponsor top performing GMs. That could entail paying travelling expenses to convetions, new products or even subsidizing their service fee.

I’m not suggesting a “pay for play” solution across the board, only as a supplement to the current hobby. Most parts of this have already been tried: scheduling software, find-a-game websites, sanctioned GMs, and sponsored GMs to participate at conventions. The one piece missing? GMs being paid for their work, effort and creativity. I think it could be a solution worth exploring.

4 Replies to “Professional Gamemasters For Hire. The solution for boosting the RPG community?”

  1. GMs could stream selected sessions, with the players consent, so potential customers can see what they are getting before they part with any hard earned cash.

    You can live stream now to Facebook as well as youtube.

    I cannot imagine any barriers to enterprising GMs doing this. The more that do it then the better the standard of game will be. Poor GMs will soon get low review scores on sites like TrustPilot or even TripAdvisor.

    I think this could be as big an industry as Murder Mystery Weekends. Imagine if the custodians of monuments or castles had a resident pay to play GM?

  2. Agreed, sample session videos, a menu of adventures you could choose to play, ratings would all be essential. However, GMs are already doing this, its just decentralized and inefficient. What I’m suggesting is that someone “makes a market” through a website/app that centralizes and standardizes the process. WotC is probably the closest to doing this on their own with the dmsguild.com–but so far they are just focusing on creating a 3rd party content market (like rpgnow.com) for their own ecosystem.

  3. I think the PBP sites would be well placed to launch a service like you outline. I use rpol and they already have a big cohort of GMs seeking players and players seeking GMs. That is what you would need is a big audience for day one to populate your app.

    1. and a formalized payment system to professionalize the process, force players to have “skin in the game” and for GM’s to take their work seriously.

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