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Professional GM Diary: Final Preparations

Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
edited March 2009 in Critical Failures
For those of you who don't know about "Caravan of Blades", it is a pioneer pay-for-play DnD 4e campaign that I'm planning to run as a part-time income supplement from March into August.

I've had to delay it alot but I'm doing this in four days from now no matter what.

Day #1 is going to be next Monday, March 9. The website support should be ready by tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow I'm going to be putting out flyers for the campaign. There are two locations for the campaign that I've narrowed the list down to. I'm making my final decision tomorrow after I check out both places one last time before Monday. They're Cafe 28 and the South Street Seaport shopping area food court (NYC). I'm leaning more towards Cafe 28 though because it has a good reputation among local gamers as a place to meet up.

The sessions are going to be 4 hours long, with an entry fee per player of $12. The price is equivalent to the average movie ticket price in Manhattan. Considering this is a city where paying $35 for a bowl of soup or $60 for an off-broadway ticket is not unheard of, it seems like a good target price.

Earlier I had considered 2-1/2 to 3 hour sessions but the quality of the sessions would have suffered from the time constraint. 4 hours is a good number especially if I organize all the paperwork well and avoid common problems that produce time lag in gameplay.

There will be 2 sessions per day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and 1 session on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Each session will have a maximum of 7 players at the table but I expect an average of 5 at least after the first couple of weeks.

Entry fee is going to be paid up front but I'm making refunds available during the first hour of a session so I have that first hour to convince the players that my work and performance as a game master are worth paying for.

So challenge of sudden death right off the bat with the first session.

I've had a couple of months to figure out how to make my game mastering unique and professionally entertaining compared to most free campaign game masters. There are some game mastering techniques that only a rare few game masters can pull off successfully. I'll be describing some of what I'm going to be doing at the end of the first week in a new thread (Saturday or Sunday of that week). Why I can't reveal my special techniques now is because they may be difficult to take seriously until successfully used. I'll be chronicling my exploits in a series of weekly threads.

I'm designing the flyers tonight after I finish setting up the web support. I'll post a description here later.

Captain_Commando on

Posts

  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I'm intrigued to see how you do. Good luck to you anyway.

    By the way, four days notice from advertising to event seems very short, do you have 'clients' already lined up or are you just very optimistic?

    PS Stick to one thread.

    Jam Warrior on
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  • Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
    edited March 2009
    I'm intrigued to see how you do. Good luck to you anyway.

    By the way, four days notice from advertising to event seems very short, do you have 'clients' already lined up or are you just very optimistic?

    PS Stick to one thread.

    Actually, I've got a focused marketing plan targeting rich people, business people, and college students (there are a healthy number of universities on the island).

    I'm not trying to fill a 100 tables full of people, just 7 chairs per session once or twice per day. Properly focusing the advertisment goes a long way.

    Okay. I'll put all the weekly updates here on one thread titled: Professional GM Diary: Campaign Chronicles. It's going to be a 20 week campaign so I guess 20-21 updates.

    Captain_Commando on
  • crimsoncoyotecrimsoncoyote Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    You can just rename this thread by editing the OP.

    crimsoncoyote on
  • SUPERSUGASUPERSUGA Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I'm nowhere near NY but here are my thoughts.

    I know I'd be wary of paying in advance for something you associate as being free. I wouldn't mind at all if I was confident of the quality of the game, but this can be as dependant on the other players as the group GM. The one-hour refund is a step in the right direction, have you considered making the first session for each player a free sample? I know I'd definitely try it out for free and there's a good chance I'd be hooked into coming back for later sessions. If I'm paying in advance and only having an hour to decide if I want the refund, as well as having to interrupt the session to stand up and ask for that refund, I'd probbaly pass. If you do go with the hour are you planning to have this first hour run straight into the rest of the session or are you going to take a break with the group and check if they want to continue?

    Just my thoughts, interesting in hearing how it goes.

    SUPERSUGA on
  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I'm interested in Captain_Commando's GM experience; years of playing, games he's familiar with, etc. One or two games a week for friends can be time-consuming; eight groups of strangers seems daunting.

    Whom this will appeal to and attract will ultimately come down to how it's advertised, but I can see ways it could appeal to either inexperienced players, veterans, or both. Or it could easily mutually exclude both.

    New players will definitely want some kind of primer indroducing them to the rules and helping them make their charcters, as well as assurance that roleplaying isn't weird and inaccessible, and that their GM is an alright guy who knows what he's doing. Most people learn from friends over drinks and chips or at a store's open/introductory gaming night; paying up front to a random person from a flyer with 3 days notice (who may or may not provide everything they'll need to play or prepare) probably doesn't facilitate this so much.

    Experienced players who have the time and resources but don't already have a group will be looking for the most 'bang' out of their buck. They'll want somebody more experienced than they are and who can fit their gaming preferences better than other (free) gaming venues. You'll have to keep track of 40-50 characters and tailor the consequences of the actions of 8 parties for each week's sessions. You'll have to convince them the twelve bucks is worth it for a better story (and perhaps more importantly a less-squirrelly environment) than a local store or uni gaming club for free.

    I think two useful methods to 'professional' GMing is relying on word of mouth for advertising and only charging money for campaign groups established after 1-2 intro sessions. Most paid speakers/social-oriented prefessionals get their footing on established repuation, and that often requires doing things for free for many months.

    And word of mouth not only assures potential clients you are recommendable to them, it helps ensure your clients are recommendable to you. In all constructive honestly, be prepared for a lot of people who are either too clueless to find a GM or too difficult to stay in a group. If nothing else, your flyers are going to enable those kinds of players.

    Utsanomiko on
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  • RendRend Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Keep us updated, I am heartily interested.

    Rend on
  • SUPERSUGASUPERSUGA Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Utsanomiko wrote: »
    I think two useful methods to 'professional' GMing is relying on word of mouth for advertising and only charging money for campaign groups established after 1-2 intro sessions. Most paid speakers/social-oriented prefessionals get their footing on established repuation, and that often requires doing things for free for many months.

    And word of mouth not only assures potential clients you are recommendable to them, it helps ensure your clients are recommendable to you. In all constructive honestly, be prepared for a lot of people who are either too clueless to find a GM or too difficult to stay in a group. If nothing else, your flyers are going to enable those kinds of players.
    Some very good stuff here.

    Also, I'd forgotten about chararcter generation, as that's something I feel really benefits from being carried out as a group. Doubly so if you're with a group of new people, as it can be a great ice-breaker.

    SUPERSUGA on
  • ForarForar #432 Toronto, Ontario, CanadaRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    The first detail that jumps out for me is paying $12 for a 4 hour session with up to 6 other players. Assuming equal time and attention paid to each (including things that affect the whole group being counted for everyone), that doesn't seem like much time per person. Compared to a movie, it's a reasonable rate, but with a movie I'm not having to deal with 4-6 other people for my entertainment. I sit down, passively enjoy (or don't) the film, and move on.

    Something like this strikes me as closer to a team sport; the enjoyment of the whole group will certainly base heavily upon the quality of the leader/coach (you), but the qulaity (or lack thereof) of the rest of the group may wildly shift a person's enjoyment of the session. Everyone's paying the same fee to be on the team, but your success or defeat may rest upon the shoulders of others, who may or may not carry that weight with poise and grace.

    Speaking as a GM and a player, I find that even the most improv-friendly of players, groups and DM's will struggle with ensuring each person receives time in the limelight while keeping things moving enough for the whole group at a given time such that the majority aren't bored.

    Off the cuff, I'd be intrigued by such an advertisment, but would likely either wish to quietly sit in and observe a session or pass entirely before potentially tossing $12 out the window.

    And to be fair, I've had my share of table top experiences that I would've paid significantly more for, had such a fee been required or requested, but those were with DMs and players I knew, trusted and considered close friends. 4-6'ish random people who may or may not be mouth breathing rules lawyer neckbeards would be a much harder sell.

    Forar on
    First they came for the Muslims, and we said NOT TODAY, MOTHERFUCKER!
  • Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Utsanomiko wrote: »
    New players will definitely want some kind of primer indroducing them to the rules and helping them make their charcters, as well as assurance that roleplaying isn't weird and inaccessible, and that their GM is an alright guy who knows what he's doing.

    I do have a primer on the support site for the campaign, as well as a short bio, and other details. The primer is finished up to the point that a quick tutorial and a cheat sheet handout can ake up for the rest but I should have that done by noon (hopefully).

    I'm actually putting out the flyers tomorrow as I've had to go over and edit the online support content a lot. It's fine though. Even if just 1 player shows up I can run with it. I don't expect much on the first day or even the first week.

    You can see what I've got up so far in the Crystal Core Campaign Setting board at:

    http://ffd20.orgfree.com/phpBB2/index.php

    Captain_Commando on
  • Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
    edited March 2009
    (Sigh)

    Anyway, I've realized that there are more things that I want to post up on the site than two days will allow so I'm pushing to Wednesday, March 11. That's the date I'm putting on the advertisements.

    Keep in mind how populous Manhattan is and how much of that population is college students, gamers with families, and businessmen in need of a gaming fix. Remember how many seats I actually need to fill, the fact that the high price is average price for the local area, and the fact that none of the players have to be committed/regular.

    Captain_Commando on
  • Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Here's another hint: There are psychological components to GMing that I've discovered as I've worked on developing my professional GMing methodology.
    Anyway, I said that I'd tell everyone about how the sessions went at the end of week #1. So wait until Sunday. Have some patience.

    Meanwhile...

    I've just revamped multiclassing one last time for the purpose of the campaign. Once I finish up with the new swordmage multiclassing feats, the Character Creation Guidelines thread will be ready. Afterwards, I'm going to finish up the gameplay rules thread and add more lore to the setting. Within the next couple of weeks, I'm adding a lot of goodies such as fiction, setting lore, and two new classes: the dark knight and the dragoon.

    I'm also adding some more info about Café 28 later. The place is incredible for gaming purposes. Every kind of food and snack you could want, relatively quiet table area (surprisingly large seating area), and the service is very casual (pay for your food at the counter and sit down at any unoccupied table). Having been there myself, I don't think there is any other place in the city where I could do better. It's perfect.

    Captain_Commando on
  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    That's a lot of campaign and game information for people to look up on that forum. Have you done a lot of world-building for previous campaigns?

    How long have you been game mastering?

    Utsanomiko on
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  • Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been busy.

    Playing: I'd say about 11 years of assorted ADnD, DnD 3.5, Earthdawn, and DnD 4.0.

    GMing: 4 years Dark Sun, 6 months DnD 3.5, 5 months DnD 4.0

    The last year of DnD sessions lasted an average of 7 hours each.

    Maybe number of hours prep and perform is a better indicator of experience than number of days, months, or years?

    Anyway, I'm rushing to get ready for day 1. The site has all the basic info right now necessary to start the business. I'm adding more everyday and I'll be advertising everyday (except Sunday for obvious reasons). The first few days are supposed to be slow. I'm hoping at least 2 or 3 players this first week so I can prove my theories about GMing methodology correct. Heck, even if just 1 player shows up, It'll be a good indicator if that person doesn't ask for a refund.

    Next week will be the real litmus test because everything will be set up completely and I'll hopefully have had at least 1 session where players showed up on my belt to drive me forward.

    I actually wanted to move it further to Friday but I'll be ready to go with a first session by Wednesday so what the heck. If no one shows up then I'll at least have my notes with me to finish up further improvements on the site and I'll put up more flyers.

    Tomorrow I'm going to hand out flyers at the NYU campus and leave a stack at the Compleat Strategist. I left late today because I wanted to get the picture on the flyer just right. I'm also going to post the pregen list.

    Captain_Commando on
  • Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
    edited March 2009
    I forgot to mention: I did indeed get permission to hold my games at Café 28 even though normal limit per table is 2 hours. It's apparently fine since I'm not running them during lunch hours and I asked politely.

    I'm going to put the first level of Dark Knight up before I go to sleep (sometime within the next 5 hours). It should capture a good "shadow defender" feel. I'm building it as a defender/secondary controller (sort of). This is also in the same board as the campaign.

    I added a significant improvement to the scheduling. If nobody shows up for the full 5-1/2 hour session, I will offer a 3-hour short session for $10 per player 30 minutes after the full session was supposed to begin. 4:30 PM-7:30 PM, before prime time TV and after school hours. Full refund offered within the first hour.

    People comment on my marketing plan but no one has said anything about my game designing. Sigh.

    Captain_Commando on
  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I'm interested to see if the money is worth it to you.

    It may sound pretty good as far as the table time goes. but as far as the hours you put into preparation... not so much.

    Horseshoe on
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  • Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
    edited March 2009
    This is for those planning to try or observe the session today:

    Due to physical exhaustion, I will not be able to perform today. I over-stretched myself the past few days so I need some rest. I'm sorry.

    Therefore I am cancelling today's session (March 11). I will still be present at Café 28 today at 4:00 PM-4:30 PM in case players come in unaware of this development. You can at least meet me and I'll answer some questions about the first regular session which is moved to tomorrow (March 12).

    Captain_Commando on
  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I read a bit of the website, particularly the new feats/class restrictions. I didn't find much of it interesting; it's too different from the traditional fantasy feel for me and an awful lot to ask people to read so they can pay to play your game.

    Compare this to the Seattle guy who makes money GMing, wherein he's paid to run their game for them at the time and location they want. I was going to point that out earlier, as I think the distinction will produce some very different results than what most paid GM anecdotes produce.

    Utsanomiko on
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  • mightyspacepopemightyspacepope Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I'm curious if the public venue will keep people away from paying to play in your game. I wonder if the college kids, gamers with families, and businesspeople in need of a gaming fix will be too shy to do something like this where other people can openly see them.

    I also think you're shooting yourself in the foot by running a Final Fantasy game rather than a D&D game. You're making a niche market even more niche.

    I wish you the best of luck.

    mightyspacepope on
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  • Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Considering I'm being allowed to use a board at a Final Fantasy d20 forum, it would be counterintuitive to make the campaign straight DnD. People will expect final fantasy elements and that's what I'm going to give them.

    I removed maybe the biggest rule change though. I've decided not to mess with the DnD wizard spellbook feature.

    Speaking of the hassle not being worth the price...Here's some "big" news I'm letting everyone know.

    I'm in pain right now (my back is killing me) but my suffering has helped me come to an important decision.

    When I changed it to a 5 hour session per day 6 days of the week, it was so I'd have the earlier half of the day to get a decent stable job. My mother was able to rent out a couple of empty rooms so I should have enough time to get that job. This campaign is ultimately supposed to buy more time, not solve the problem.

    I went through a lot of different price changes over the course of planning this campaign. When I raised the price to $20 per session, I over-exerted myself trying to make the sessions worth that much. I could do so but only at the expense of my health and too much of my time.

    Therefore I am halving the entry fees to $10 per full session (5 hours) and eliminating contingency short sessions since no one will come in on the off chance that nobody came in for the $10 entry fee which should be reasonable for the hours of entertainment provided.

    I might not give the greatest session in the world but I will perform and prepare professionally to provide a consistently good storytelling and game coordination service.

    Oh and the refund time limit is back to first hour of session considering the price now.

    Captain_Commando on
  • mightyspacepopemightyspacepope Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Considering I'm being allowed to use a board at a Final Fantasy d20 forum, it would be counterintuitive to make the campaign straight DnD. People will expect final fantasy elements and that's what I'm going to give them.

    It wouldn't be that difficult for you to host the forum on a non-FF forum. If you're advertising this to people as running a D&D game, they're going to expect a more traditional game. Also, like others have said, you're asking people to do a lot of work to familiarize themselves with your game world.
    I removed maybe the biggest rule change though. I've decided not to mess with the DnD wizard spellbook feature.

    You're introducing brand new classes/races that you're making from scratch. Random Joe off the street might not know what a "Moogle" is, but they'll know a Dwarf or an Elf. I'm not trying to put down what you're doing, but I do think you're limiting your potential customer base.

    mightyspacepope on
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  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    It's a lot more counter-intuitive to not have everything they need to know simply on the flyer. If you were running a custom campaign for its own merit I'd say homebrew whatever you want. But considering you're attempting to supplement your funds, your first priority should be accomodating potential players.

    And as I understand it, FFD20 are not your potential players. They're not reserving full sessions, anyway, so there's little point in accomodating them over the full NYC casual playerbase. I'd recommend ditching the site and running your games by the book.

    If you really want a website with more detailed information (a FAQ, directions, schedule, etc), put up a free webpage on Tripod or the like.

    Utsanomiko on
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  • tastydonutstastydonuts Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Utsanomiko wrote: »
    It's a lot more counter-intuitive to not have everything they need to know simply on the flyer. If you were running a custom campaign for its own merit I'd say homebrew whatever you want. But considering you're attempting to supplement your funds, your first priority should be accomodating potential players.

    And as I understand it, FFD20 are not your potential players. They're not reserving full sessions, anyway, so there's little point in accomodating them over the full NYC casual playerbase. I'd recommend ditching the site and running your games by the book.

    If you really want a website with more detailed information (a FAQ, directions, schedule, etc), put up a free webpage on Tripod or the like.

    Man... I remember Tripod. If you decide to put up a website with detailed information, I'd recommend getting a domain instead of using free hosting like one would find in tripod (banner ads everywhere, etc). Having this would give your homebrew a more well, professional/official feel to it.

    However, you really need to play to/for your market base.

    tastydonuts on
    “I used to draw, hard to admit that I used to draw...”
  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    The main thing is it shouldn't need detaield information and keeping it straight-forward and accessible is the best bet. Flyers that tell people where it'll be run and assure them they don't need to bring dice or books or premade characters, and use the first free session to create characters and explain the rules.

    Also, take lots of notes to keep track of each player's character.

    Utsanomiko on
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  • Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
    edited March 2009
    I regained some of my sanity on the subway ride to Café 28. I regained the rest while waiting there for nobody.

    I'm pulling the plug on Caravan of Blades. My business plan from beginning to the near end was never going to work. My new business plan might have worked but it's too risky and would require more time than I can afford.

    There were too many problems going in and I knew it. I still went forward like an idiot. I am an idiot.

    When my father was alive, he was the one always taking care of things. Ever since I dropped out of a chemistry major I'd been kind of wandering lost, not knowing what to do with my life. I was also afraid of responsibility. When my father died several months ago, I got hit with the responsibilties of life pretty hard. In hindsight I think it was my fear of something I never really had to deal with that precipitated the whole mess of this debacle.

    There are a lot of things that would be needed to make paid GMing work.

    -credentials
    -a website made just for the campaign
    -video footage of my "methods"
    -ads that make $ whenever a hit is made on the site
    -a campaign design that didn't need too much work to maintain
    -ads in the papers or magazines
    -a financial safety net
    -sessions that can be cancelled easily

    There's certainly more.

    I think I was desperate not to face the harsh reality of my father's absence, and the pressure it puts on me to be a breadwinner.

    A pay-for-play campaign is a risky venture if you don't already have a stable financial situation. Gming for hire probably requires knowing the right people.

    It was an epic crash and burn but I think I'll be okay now. There are jobs I'm going to go look at to tide things over.

    I went a little nuts at the end. I'll leave the funny stuff up on the ff d20 website while I take down the business stuff.

    Captain_Commando on
  • Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Sorry to disappoint. I'll mention some of what I was going to do in a future thread about GMing techniques.

    Captain_Commando on
  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    better to end a bad business venture before it is made

    rather than stick it out on principle and lose the time you could have been spending to develop something that works

    it ain't no failure

    Horseshoe on
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  • DarianDarian Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    The mere fact that you realized this and got out of it before sinking too much of your own money and time on the venture means it wasn't a failure at all. Good luck with what you decide to work toward, next.

    Darian on
  • Captain_CommandoCaptain_Commando Registered User
    edited March 2009
    I ended up sleeping for 14 hours straight. My back doesn't shoot up when I turn or twist anymore.

    Since some of you might be curious, I'll follow up a bit with what I'm doing in the aftermath of "Caravan of Blades".

    I'm looking through a book called "How to Find Work in the 21st Century" by Ron McGowan. It's got sample resumés and a CD-ROM.

    I starting job-hunting by googling for waiter jobs in NYC. The first thing I found was this club opening up in Manhattan on the 20th. It's offering part-time work at $12 per hour. I'm going to keep searching today until I've got a good list of possible opportunities.

    I'll also try to find someone to help me get a website up with uploaded videos of demonstrations of my "pro GM storytelling" and other goodies related to RPGs. Maybe I can make a few bucks on the side from website ads from people checking out the site. That is how that works right?

    Captain_Commando on
  • Roi KuroRoi Kuro Registered User
    edited March 2009
    You know I'm actually working on something similar to this myself.

    I'm throwing together a website and I've got a stable of GMs who are willing to go out and get paid to run games. A couple of them are even of the female persuasion (which I'm hoping will amp interest).

    We are looking at a two tiered pricing structure: One for games run at a local store, and one for games run at people's homes. Store games are relatively cheap, home games are a little more expensive and involve a small fee for hauling stuff around and driving all over creation.

    A lot of people have come up with TONS of arguments against running something like this. Usually everybody is concerned with the "sacred bond of GM and player" and how it is "about fun not money" or how you will NEVER find somebody willing to PAY for a GM.

    If you knock around any of the web communities or social networking sites there are always groups of people looking for a DM/GM. I can hardly recall how many times I've read something like "Great group of 5 players, 20 years experience each, looking for DM to run games twice a month." Usually I try to keep up with those guys to see how they fare. Call it "market research" if you will. Usually they just never play (even though they obviously have a group of people able to DM themselves) because they can't get a DM.

    I've also had a few people offer me cash to be able to buy a seat at some of my regular games. One kid even went so high as 50$ to get in on my Hunter campaign. I still told him no because the group was full (of my friends...).

    There will be people willing to pay to play in a game. There are groups looking for DMs that wont mind putting out 20$ each for a session. There are people out there who want to play, but cant find a group or a DM. That's just how it is. Put together a pay to play system and see what happens. That is what I am doing.

    Roi Kuro on
  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    No offense, Captain C... but $12 per player. That's $60 for four hours. For the session alone you are only getting $15/hour. The time you put into developing all the stuff that you did waters it down significantly. It is not nearly enough... you can do much better than that if you work at Starbucks, or as a server at any place where people tip any kind of decent. Not running your pay for play was a good thing. The universe did you a favor when nobody showed up.
    Roi Kuro wrote: »
    A lot of people have come up with TONS of arguments against running something like this. Usually everybody is concerned with the "sacred bond of GM and player" and how it is "about fun not money" or how you will NEVER find somebody willing to PAY for a GM.

    You are talking about running a business.

    Those are not good arguments.

    They have nothing to do with the business itself.

    Boring quick and dirty small business hoohah:
    Back of the envelope calculation.

    Let's say you run a four hour game. Let's say it takes you roughly 2 hours to prepare all the custom encounters and 2 hours to get all the bells and whistles together that make it special and better than playing with a "regular" group and thus worth the money. Alright so that's 8 hours of work.

    So how much do you have to charge to break even? Your time is worth money. Let's say you're worth $20 per hour. If people are willing to pay since you're a good GM you should be worth at least that. You're going to have to add some to that amount for your overhead costs... you've got to have a computer, printer, you've got bills to pay, you have to pay for your GM materials (books, minis, etc) you need medical insurance and a way to commute and advertising etc etc. Let's set a modest arbitrary overhead of about 20%. Okay that's $24 an hour.

    For your eight hours of work for a play session that's $192. If you are GM'ing for the standard 5 player party you're going to have to charge $38.40 per session.

    But that's not all... all you've done with that $36.80 per player is pay for yourself and your overhead costs. You haven't made anything for your business itself so it can grow and continue to make money rather than just get by... and you need a profit margin for that. Especially if you want to bring other people into your business. It has to be worth your time to coordinate all that stuff.

    Now there's other RPGs out there that people can play. World of Warcraft costs $15 per month. And you can play as long as you want to at any time with whomever you please, and the arbiter of the game is a computer program that doesn't make you roll dice or have to explain the rules to you.

    If you're charging twice the monthly fee of another RPG out there you've got some serious market research to do so that you can determine what need it is you are fulfilling, what competition you have, how much that competition costs and whether you can charge a competitive price without wasting your time and your money that would be more profitable to invest elsewhere.

    Find a local non profit economic development corporation. Write a business plan. Be honest with yourself. See if you can pull it off. If the numbers work, give it a try. If they don't, think of something else.

    Horseshoe on
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  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I don't think Roi is talking about running a business.

    It sounds more like a gaming club/community service, where the end goal is to enable more people to play, and charging for the GM's services is simply incentive to get experienced GMs involved in this 'labor of love' by covering some basic travel and supply costs; just enough to justify doing something they enjoy and would want to do with their time anyway, but normally only for close acquaintances.

    Captain Commando was the one approaching it like a business with a profit margin.

    Utsanomiko on
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  • Roi KuroRoi Kuro Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Utsanomiko wrote: »
    I don't think Roi is talking about running a business.

    It sounds more like a gaming club/community service, where the end goal is to enable more people to play, and charging for the GM's services is simply incentive to get experienced GMs involved in this 'labor of love' by covering some basic travel and supply costs; just enough to justify doing something they enjoy and would want to do with their time anyway, but normally only for close acquaintances.

    Captain Commando was the one approaching it like a business with a profit margin.

    You've basically got it figured out from my perspective.

    The idea came up once because there was a group of people who asked me to GM a Werewolf game for them. I looked around at the group and made the decision not to do it. No offense intended, but I can't really stand to spend a lot of time around the people in question. I could never see myself having fun running any game for them let alone one that I'm not particularly interested in.

    I already run upwards of 10 sessions a month as it is. I'd probably be open to running more games if I had something to show from it. I'd be MORE willing to run games for certain groups if there was money involved basically.

    I've talked to a few people I know that GM and they all expressed interest in the idea. If I put together the website with all of the different GMs, the games they run, and prices per session and nobody is interested... it wont make any difference to me.

    If we end up running some games for a few groups that would otherwise go without, then it will all end up being worth it. 8-)

    Roi Kuro on
  • Roi KuroRoi Kuro Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Horseshoe wrote: »
    No offense, Captain C... but $12 per player. That's $60 for four hours. For the session alone you are only getting $15/hour. The time you put into developing all the stuff that you did waters it down significantly. It is not nearly enough... you can do much better than that if you work at Starbucks, or as a server at any place where people tip any kind of decent. Not running your pay for play was a good thing. The universe did you a favor when nobody showed up.
    Roi Kuro wrote: »
    A lot of people have come up with TONS of arguments against running something like this. Usually everybody is concerned with the "sacred bond of GM and player" and how it is "about fun not money" or how you will NEVER find somebody willing to PAY for a GM.

    You are talking about running a business.

    Those are not good arguments.

    They have nothing to do with the business itself.

    Boring quick and dirty small business hoohah:
    Back of the envelope calculation.

    Let's say you run a four hour game. Let's say it takes you roughly 2 hours to prepare all the custom encounters and 2 hours to get all the bells and whistles together that make it special and better than playing with a "regular" group and thus worth the money. Alright so that's 8 hours of work.

    So how much do you have to charge to break even? Your time is worth money. Let's say you're worth $20 per hour. If people are willing to pay since you're a good GM you should be worth at least that. You're going to have to add some to that amount for your overhead costs... you've got to have a computer, printer, you've got bills to pay, you have to pay for your GM materials (books, minis, etc) you need medical insurance and a way to commute and advertising etc etc. Let's set a modest arbitrary overhead of about 20%. Okay that's $24 an hour.

    For your eight hours of work for a play session that's $192. If you are GM'ing for the standard 5 player party you're going to have to charge $38.40 per session.

    But that's not all... all you've done with that $36.80 per player is pay for yourself and your overhead costs. You haven't made anything for your business itself so it can grow and continue to make money rather than just get by... and you need a profit margin for that. Especially if you want to bring other people into your business. It has to be worth your time to coordinate all that stuff.

    Now there's other RPGs out there that people can play. World of Warcraft costs $15 per month. And you can play as long as you want to at any time with whomever you please, and the arbiter of the game is a computer program that doesn't make you roll dice or have to explain the rules to you.

    If you're charging twice the monthly fee of another RPG out there you've got some serious market research to do so that you can determine what need it is you are fulfilling, what competition you have, how much that competition costs and whether you can charge a competitive price without wasting your time and your money that would be more profitable to invest elsewhere.

    Find a local non profit economic development corporation. Write a business plan. Be honest with yourself. See if you can pull it off. If the numbers work, give it a try. If they don't, think of something else.

    Those are the arguments that a lot of angry RPG nerds hammered me with when I brought up the idea to them. These were all players who had never (and will probably never) GMed a game in their life and they were seriously offended that they may have to pay to play at all because they had been spoiled by free games their whole life.

    Business or not, they wanted to make sure they knew what they felt about even the IDEA of paying somebody to GM a game for them.

    If you are at all interested, feel free to read some of the rants they sent me:
    I'd be a little worried about this, actually, if I were you. Many people paying you to DM would likely feel that they ought to have a lot of say in what goes on in the game - not just in the overall ground rules, but in how munchkinly they get to be, how munchkinly other players don't get to be, and in whether the GM is allowed to (insert random GM-type action here).

    You might be lucky and not find people who do that kind of thing, but I suspect they will be even more common if you've been hired than they are normally. (That said, people are weird. Maybe they'd be more willing to treat you better if they saw you as someone providing a valuable service...)

    Personally, I don't think I'd hire anybody to GM for me, but maybe that's just just because I'm so poor I have to borrow almost all of my gaming materials. Maybe it's also the sheer amount of sleaze I associate with internet money-related sites...


    I think that it would be cool to get compansated for GMing, if only to pay for all the materials that I have purchased to run games, which I know has passed the $10,000.00 range a while back. But in general I know that the cash was spent to bring the passion I have to others. Then again, the program I made in school I DO get paid for. Hm, well then there is still the issue of having some group pay you for DMing and invite you to their home then slaughter you... That would not be a good thing, and there is no reset button for that.


    I would never pay a GM to run a game. They should run it for the fun of it, not for profit. I would never ask any of my players to pay me when I run a game. At the most, I would ask for a chipping in for snacks during the game and that's about the extent of it. I think the idea of playing these games is to find a way to meet new people and make new friends and if there is money involved, it's a business relationship instead of a personal relationship and that just wouldn't be fun for me.


    Until joining this group I was the GM more often than not, and speaking as a GM I really find the idea distastful. Getting paid implies that running a game is work or a chore. Now, yes, sometimes it takes effort, but even preparing adventures should be fun and if it gets to be a chore the solution is to take a break or start something new. That's always been my solution anyway.

    Now, tokens of appreciation such as someone bringing beers to the game or someone baking treats are always nice to see, but should never be expected or taken for granted.


    And besides, players could then "demand plots" you don't want to run for a variety of reasons. This could lead to more headaches than its worth & gamers may drop like flies. This is for fun, not a customer service job.

    This idea, however, for convention events is a decent idea. You cheapen the cost of the convention and charge like 5 bucks for each session you wish to participate in. However, I'm more of a fan of the pay one price thing at a con that includes all and not the "Burger King your way" approach.

    And, dissatisfied gamers (and there is always one) will want their money back, which is another headache.

    And I never want to think of GMing as a job or chore, i have a weekday job for that.

    Now... comparing a tabletop game to a video game or MMORPG is something that I don't agree with. They are two completely different animals. I personally can't stand to play any MMO for more than a week so I might be a bit biased in my assessment here, but I'd rather play ANY tabletop game than sit in front of my PC to play WoW ever again. 15$/mo to play WoW or WAR is great, but it's not even close to sitting in on a session of D&D.

    That being said, MMOs have seriously crushed the local gaming community around me. I used to play WH40K with a huge group of people all weekend and a couple of weeknights. Slowly they all stopped showing up and we lost touch. I later found out that they started playing WoW and that was that. Those aren't the kind of people that have the NEED that a venture like this would fill anyways. They are the type of people who probably wouldn't enjoy a regular RPG campaign anyways.

    As for setup/pre time costs... You only have to do it once. I've got four or five regular campaigns running right now. I already did all the prep for them months ago. I have countless other home brew settings, custom campaigns, exciting adventures, one-shot sessions, etc. etc. etc. all just sitting at home in notebooks (the really old stuff) and on my PC.

    You only need to do the prep work once and you can use it as many times as you need to. Heck, the second time around you usually run it better anyways.

    Roi Kuro on
  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    If MMO's have "seriously crushed the local gaming community" that obviously there is a customer base that is being shared.

    That's why you'd need to do some market research to define who your customers are, how many of them there are, what need of theirs you are fulfilling, the right product or service you will be providing to fill that need, and finally what is a competitive price for it... which will ultimately tell you whether your business idea is going to put you in the black or in the red. This is all part of the business planning process.

    Work that you have already done is still worth something. If the campaign is that good that you're using it over and over again with great success, there might be a better business in selling the adventure than in running it.

    It can take some time to figure this kinda thing out.

    I'll once again recommend finding a local economic development nonprofit or something to develop your business plan, and take you through the process of developing things like the need you will serve, the sort of customers you wish to attract, your marketing plan, how much you need to charge, etc.

    Horseshoe on
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  • Roi KuroRoi Kuro Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Horseshoe wrote: »
    If MMO's have "seriously crushed the local gaming community" that obviously there is a customer base that is being shared.

    I disagree with this... MMOs have their own clientele. I've seen the community drained of players over the years because of MMOs, but the people who are now obsessed with WoW aren't the people interested in playing D&D. They don't have a need that the venture will fill. They can play WAR all day and not need somebody to DM for them. They are done, gone, out of the picture.
    That's why you'd need to do some market research to define who your customers are, how many of them there are, what need of theirs you are fulfilling, the right product or service you will be providing to fill that need, and finally what is a competitive price for it... which will ultimately tell you whether your business idea is going to put you in the black or in the red. This is all part of the business planning process.

    I agree, and I've already done this. I run a gaming group with over 110 members in it. I know the market I am trying to reach very well. I've got a reputation and a strong loyal "customer" base already. I'm a member of several other very large gaming groups in the NYC area so I can get my name out to a large number of people rather quickly.
    Work that you have already done is still worth something. If the campaign is that good that you're using it over and over again with great success, there might be a better business in selling the adventure than in running it.

    Who is to say that I'm not already putting my adventures into a .pdf to sell on Drive Thru RPG already? :winky:

    It can take some time to figure this kinda thing out.

    I'll once again recommend finding a local economic development nonprofit or something to develop your business plan, and take you through the process of developing things like the need you will serve, the sort of customers you wish to attract, your marketing plan, how much you need to charge, etc.

    I minored in business in college. I studied entrepreneurship and finance in Japan :P

    I've already run one small business for a number of years that was always in the black (computer repair) before I dropped it to have some personal time to myself. Working a "full time" job AND running a business on the side took too much effort. Even if I bought a 350Z with the money.

    I brought in over 1.5 million dollars (net meh) in my last job as well. I was the program manager for a very successful IT program at a small school. I doubled the profitability of my department in less than 2 years, started dozens of new courses and programs and put the organization on track to offering an associates degree in IT as well as having all of my courses approved for "recommended college credit."

    I know how to run a business I think. It's not something to enter into lightly by any means. I've got some business experience :P

    One of the BIG mistakes people make though is that your new business venture isn't going to make money for a while. I'm still working full time 9 to 5 at my current job. This would be a "nights and weekends" endeavor. It also wouldn't just be for me. I know a dozen DMs I could put up for games on the website that would be able to actually make a little money off of something like this.

    I guess the best way to think of it from my perspective is more of a website for GMs to post their games, adventures, campaigns and prices so they can offer their services to other gamers.

    Roi Kuro on
  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Roi Kuro wrote: »
    Horseshoe wrote: »
    If MMO's have "seriously crushed the local gaming community" that obviously there is a customer base that is being shared.

    I disagree with this... MMOs have their own clientele. I've seen the community drained of players over the years because of MMOs, but the people who are now obsessed with WoW aren't the people interested in playing D&D. They don't have a need that the venture will fill. They can play WAR all day and not need somebody to DM for them. They are done, gone, out of the picture.

    That doesn't mean that there isn't a shared customer base. If people are likely to play either but are choosing to play one, you're in a form of competition even though you're not providing exactly the same service.

    There are people who play WoW or WAR who may only play four hours a week, which is four hours when they could be playing DnD instead. There are people who don't play either game yet, but it would be something they would enjoy. There are probably MMO players that would play DnD if it were more convenient.

    I would think that including MMORPG gamers as potential clients and evaluating their needs and the marketing messages that will work for them would be a smart move.
    Roi Kuro wrote: »
    One of the BIG mistakes people make though is that your new business venture isn't going to make money for a while.

    Damn straight that's a big mistake.

    Not evaluating opportunity costs and not identifying all operating costs are two other pitfalls.

    Horseshoe on
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