Tuesday, July 26, 2011

DMing for Fun and Profit

As I'm sure most of you know, I'm still looking for paying work out here in NYC. Lately, I've had an epiphany about that. Allow me to elaborate.

Back when I was a kid, I learned DnD from my Dad, who to this day remains one of the most highly skilled DMs I've ever had the pleasure of playing with. I grew up on that game, and to this day I still remember the life-lessons he was able to teach us while playing 2nd edition around our family dinner table.

After I got to high school, however, my string of fun games kind of dwindled. The only people I knew in High School who played were not the kind of people I wanted to hang around with, and when I did play in college, either the group never was very fun, or it was fun yet ended with the semester and never picked up again.

Now that I'm in New York City, I thought I'd take a risk and look for a group. Well, there's a meetup for everything else under the sun, so I went on, found a group for DnD players, and asked who was interested in starting a Pathfinder game in or around Manhattan.

Twenty people have said yes so far, and the number is still rising.

Now of course this is a logistical nightmare. What do we do? Cut 14 people out of the game? Split off into multiple, separate games with different DMs? Then the writer in me woke up to a great idea: why not run three groups all in the same world? Different groups, different places, but the same crisis, the same events, just from different points of view? I loved it. It would be horribly difficult, but I just grinned at the thought of that kind of grand-scale storytelling. But doing that would take so much time, I'd have to charge a cover fee or something: it would, in essence, have to become one of the partime jobs I'm still currently looking for. Either that or find 2 other DMs that can work well together and coordinate in the same world with me, which might be asking a lot.

But then I got to thinking: even with other DMs, why not charge anyway? Bear with me here.

DnD players buy dice, books, miniatures, and tons of other things, but no one actually pays for the game itself. The game is supposed to be done as a pastime among friends, after all. However, and those who've played with inexperienced groups can vouch for this, games have a tendency to fall apart. Either people aren't prepared, or people aren't focused, or they start arguing and the whole thing becomes not very fun for anyone. Why do people who shell out so much money for the merchandise have such problems actually playing the game? Maybe it's a value judgment: they've paid for the products, but the game itself is free.

It makes me think of street sports as a metaphor. If a bunch of neighborhood boys get together to form their own baseball team, more often than not half will stop coming to practice, and the other half won't stay on task. But take those same kids, put them in an organized league with coaches and someone footing the bill for them to attend, and the whole atmosphere changes. The same is true for adults: if you're paying to be in a league, it's because you value the game and want to play it with other dedicated fans who'll put in just as much time and effort. So why not bring that to the game we all know and love? Why isn't there a D&D league?

Here's the plan so far: create one giant world with multiple groups running through it. Each player pays a small cover fee to get into the gaming session, and the DMs each take a cut of that. Now, suddenly, it's an investment: the players are more focused and prepared because this is something they're PAYING to do. The DM, likewise, is now an employee and can be held to a specific standard of play. If the DM or players have a concern, they can appeal to a higher authority instead of simply imploding, which will be a breath of fresh air to many.

And the best part about this setup? It doesn't have to end. New people can add in at any time, whole groups of them if they want to get involved. If people leave, the narrative still goes on. A full-fledged D&D sports league, dedicated to improving the quality of the game we play. Maybe we could even get Tracy Hickman to come out and do training for our DMs.

I asked my Dad and he told me he knew people who did things like leagues back in his day, so there is some precedent for it. What do you think? Would you play in an enormous, ongoing, high-quality game if you had to pay a cover fee to do it?

Thanks you all, and I'll see you all at World Con,


1 comment:

  1. The shared league sounds workable, but there are so many freely downloadable games in continuing campaigns these days that paying for the shared world part would be a tough sell.

    I think the better model is to pay for good DMs. That's how some conventions work (in effect), and for some of them it creates a loyal base who return knowing they will have fun because the GMs are high quality.