“Money changes everything”
Money Changes Everything – Cyndi Lauper
I confess I have, in a way, been paid to game master. This has happened at conventions (both physical and virtual) when I have been given items and swag and/or free memberships for my efforts as a game master. (But I have never been paid money directly to run a game.) So does that make me a professional game master? Or does it require direct payments of cash to a game master to make them a professional? I don’t know.
I confess I have also paid to play games. Usually at a convention (either physical or virtual) when they charge for individual events or via paying for a membership. I admit that when I pay for a game my expectations go up a bit, but I don’t necessarily assume I’m going to play with a “professional” game master. (Although, I have played with gaming professionals at conventions.)
Now normally, I wouldn’t even have thought about this, but when I decided to attend Roll20con, I discovered StartPlaying.Games. StartPlaying.Games is a site that allows “professional” game masters to market their game sessions and campaigns for money to potential players. Roll20con used StartPlaying.Games to manage its sessions.
Now at a convention, I don’t mind paying for my sessions and I didn’t mind it at Roll20con either (especially when there is no membership fee), but I will say that the costs were a bit out of line with other conventions I attend. Normally, conventions, if they charge for individual events, run about a dollar or less an hour. StartPlaying.Games averages $18 for a 4-hour session which is more than $4 an hour. That is pricey for a one-shot or a campaign session. Even one offered by a so-called professional.
This all leads to what constitutes a professional game master. I’ve played with a lot of game masters most at no cost to me but my time. Most of them are pretty average. (I include myself in this category.) I expect a lot out a game master that calls themself a professional. And that bar is set by my friend Dave Coulson.
Dave Coulson is a gaming professional. He runs a small company called Cut To The Chase Games. Dave is the best game master I have ever played with. He writes great adventures. He knows how to manage a table of gamers and keep everyone involved. He brings life to all his NPCs with his acting skills. He is imaginative and knows when to apply the rules and when not to. He is all around a great game master.
So in the end I guess, I consider the whole idea of professional game masters kind of silly but if people want to charge for their games (outside of a convention) fine, but if you are going charge that game, it better be great.