So you’re wondering how to become a professional Dungeon Master in 2021? Before this year, you had to go through an arduous process of strife and failure. Now this profession is actually an option as there are easier ways to become a professional dungeon master.
There are many ways to become a professional Dungeon Master in 2021. You can work in-person, through your own website, hosting platforms, and more. In addition to this, players are able to find you online and pay to play for a quality experience. Now excellent Dungeon Masters can finally get their due!
This may come as a shocking statement, but becoming a professional Dungeon Master just recently became a realistic option. To understand how to become a professional Dungeon Master, we need to go over some of the basics of this development.
Becoming a Professional Dungeon Master
Time has changed many things. For Dungeons & Dragons, one of the biggest is the reach that the game has gained through the use of technology. Understanding the important concepts behind the D&D community will help you become a successful professional Dungeon Master.
The first thing you need to understand is that there used to more pushback from players and Dungeon Masters. Not everyone is supportive of the idea that Dungeon Masters can get paid for their services. Pushback can come in the form of bullying, false white knighting about you “restricting” people from playing a game, or even personal threats. This behavior used to be the norm about a decade ago. Nowadays, most people won’t harass you when you get paid to run games, since it is become more widely accepted.
Secondarily, there are new players joining the Dungeons & Dragons community everyday. This occurred primarily due to the rise of Critical Role and Twitch. Using Twitch can help you gain a secondary source of income, showcase the quality of your DMing skills, and get new people excited about D&D. The ever-growing audience of D&D players will give you a great pool of clients to pull from.
It is also important to note that having an experienced or professional Dungeon Master makes a huge difference. If you have a new DM, that DM will have a very limited skillset in comparison to a veteraned professional. Thus, new players can come to your games, learn from you, and gain a quality experience.
The best answer I have come up with on how to become a professional Dungeon Master in 2021 is to use a Virtual Table Top system. Before, everything had to be done in-person. Finding a group is already hard enough, and meeting in person can be extremely challenging. Now, with advanced virtual tabletop systems, you can play D&D with an improved experience. Some even prefer online play over in-person D&D. With people being forced to find virtual entertainment during Covid, online D&D has boomed more than ever before!
Lastly, it is more convenient than ever before to become a professional Dungeon Master. Before you had to make your own website, find a way to draw people in, and finally get paying clients that may or may not show up to a session. Now you can use online platforms that simplify this process immensely. They help deal with payments and getting you players, and connect you to a community of other DMs.
These are the basics on why it is not only feasible but easier than ever before to become a professional Dungeon Master in 2021! In the following sections we will go over in detail how to become a professional dungeon master. Next, we will go into how you can potentially do this on your own without the use of a game hosting platform. Finally, we will go over some essential topics on being a professional Dungeon Master in 2021.
Start Playing Games & Hosting Platforms
Start Playing Games (startplaying.games) is a table top RPG hosting platform. This type of website connects players with professional Dungeon Masters. Professionals create games and players sign up and pay for those games. Everything is done online, so you can play with people from across the globe. Suddenly it is easier than ever before to find people to play D&D with, and to get paid at the same time.
Using a table top RPG hosting platform has its pros and cons. There are several reasons why you might choose to use one, and some reasons that might steer you clear.
Pros of Hosting Platforms:
I am a professional Dungeon Master on the website, Start Playing. Using one of these websites is the most convenient way to begin your career. Simply go to startplaying.games and sign up to become a Dungeon Master. They draw players to their site, meaning you don’t have to worry so much about marketing.
This is the easiest way to start since it requires so little work. Your games even have the potential to get advertised on the Start Playing website. I say potential, because Start Playing has a lot of Dungeon Masters and even more games. Your game gets priority if it is new, or if Start Playing chooses to highlight you as a new Dungeon Master.
Start Playing deals with customer service and payments so that you don’t need to worry about horrible players. If there is a serious issue with a customer, just drop them and look for a new one. Your games are still completely in your control, without you having to deal with customer service or website issues. This is a very convenient way to start, but there are some reasons why you might not want to use one of these platforms.
Start Playing has a lot of Dungeon Masters. I mean, A LOT of Dungeon Masters. At the time I am writing this article, (July 2021), I counted 565 Dungeon Masters on the Start Playing platform. Due to the high competition, it is likely that you will struggle for a while to make this your main job and be a true professional Dungeon Master. Even if you wish to do this as a side job, finding players isn’t always guaranteed since there are so many Dungeon Masters for players to choose from.
Start Playing takes a 10% cut of your profits. While this is reasonable since you are using the benefits of their platform, convenience has a cost. If you want 100% of the profits or be completely independent, this might be a turn-off for you.
Start Playing is an extremely diverse site in the games that they run. There is a push to have as many systems on the platform as possible so it doesn’t focus exclusively on D&D. While this is good for people who wish to play different systems, this doesn’t help an exclusive Dungeon Master much. If you plan on only running D&D games, Start Playing might not be the best fit for you.
There are both pros and cons to using a table top RPG hosting platform like Start Playing. The pros far outweigh the cons for most budding professional DMs, but there are still reasons why you might not want to use this strategy. If you are more of an independent entrepreneur, let’s go over your options.
Paving Your Own Way
If you don’t use Start Play or another site like it, you will most certainly need your own website. A website is essential for transactions and letting your potential players peruse your services. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a good website if you want to be an independent professional Dungeon Master.
After you have made your website, you will need to attract potential customers. You can do this through traditional ads, but this is not the only way to do so. Word of mouth is another great way to get potential clients, but you need to be careful where you advertise your services!
There are many places where you should avoid advertising yourself. Reddit is generally averse to this, as are many other forms of social media. In order to sell your services, you have to master the art of selling to people without them feeling like they are being sold to. If you cannot do this, you will not be able to make it on your own.
If you chose this path, know that certain types of issues will be exemplified for you. While platforms like Start Playing are too big to give you direct criticism, you are but an individual. As an individual, you are a target for those who dislike paying for a professional Dungeon Master. You may have to deal with difficult people more often than you would with a bigger platform.
Lastly, you will have to contend with pricing. Pricing for most individual Dungeon Master sites range from $160-300 per session. This price might be normal for small individual sites with 1-5 Dungeon Masters on them, but it is still fairly pricey. On Start Playing and similar platforms, players can join a game for whatever the Dungeon Master chooses. Free games are not uncommon, as well as games ranging between $10-$20 dollars per player. This means it is not uncommon for Dungeon Masters to charge $100 or less per session on these platforms.
Competing with these prices is difficult. You already need a following of players who are willing to pay more for their games. Pricing is a big problem for many professional Dungeon Masters who want to make it on their own. You are not only managing games, but your website, advertisements, customer service, IT issues, and more. Naturally you will need to charge more, and this can be difficult.
Next, let’s talk about a possible way to get around these issues. Keeping your Dungeon Master profession to a local area is one way to avoid these problems.
In Person vs Online DMs
Almost all my games are played on a virtual table top platform (VTT). If you are interested on what they look like from a Dungeon Master’s perspective, check out my Twitch.
The decision of whether to be a local/in-person or online Dungeon Master is an important one. Once you make this decision, it would be almost impossible to change it since you will be essentially starting over. You have already seen some of the benefits of becoming an online DM. Easier exposure, impressive tech, the greater potential pool of clients, convenience, and more. But why be an in-person professional DM?
An in-person DM has some small advantages. While commuting sucks, the commitment from an in-person group to continue showing up and paying is greater than online. There is also a better personal connection when playing in-person than online.
In person Dungeon Masters also have the benefit of word-of-mouth. You can go to your local game store and talk to people, put up posters if they allow, and find more potential avenues for advertising. In addition, your name is out there to get people talking. People are more likely to remember and support a local Dungeon Master.
While in-person games have perks that cannot be replicated over the internet, online Dungeon Masters still have certain advantages. Firstly, you have a much greater client pool. Local Dungeon Masters won’t do well in a small area, so you really need to have access to a big city or metropolitan area to do well. If you don’t have enough people to market to, making a living will be nearly impossible. Remember that your profits will be cut by commuting, especially if you commute long distances for your games.
With all this in mind, how much should you charge as a professional Dungeon Master?
The current standard rate for a session on Start Playing is about 10-$20 per player, or $50-100 per 3.5 hour session.
Knowing the standard rates are essential if you want to become a professional Dungeon Master. You need to know why you should charge higher or lower rates compared to the norm.
The upper limit of the standard range is for higher quality, more experienced Dungeon Masters. If you are just starting out and are using an online hosting platform, then you should charge less to start out. It may take a year or two for you to improve your skillset and eventually climb to the standard rate.
If you are an in-person Dungeon Master, you should charge at least $200 per session, largely due to commuting. While most online Dungeon Masters can host up to two games a day, you will likely only be able to manage one. In addition to your commute, you will have to pay for physical products like dice, tokens, maps, books, and more.
With these prices, what sort of salary can you expect to make?
I know that you are excited about becoming a professional Dungeon master. But first we need to discuss your potential income.
If you run seven games a week as an online Dungeon Maseter, you can expect to make about 2.4k a month based on the higher end of the standard rate. If you make this amount consistently over a year, this brings you to a total income of 28.8k (before taxes). You might think that this is reasonable given that most games only run for 3 hours each (so 21 hours total of game time a week), but this isn’t the whole story. Session time is not the only time you will be working. You will spend a lot of extra time planning, preparing, and getting new players ready for your games. At the end of it all, you are looking at close to a full-time schedule.
You might be thinking to yourself, certainly I could run more than seven games per week. If this sounds like you, understand that seven games per week is nearing the upper end for most Dungeon Masters. Many people find that more than five is simply too much, so you will need to figure out what works for you. You do not want to take on too many sessions as it can become overwhelming and burn you out.
Sadly, being a professional DM just isn’t that profitable on its own. Because of this, you will need to think outside the box and find other ways to bring in income from your business. Some ways are to create and sell fan-made D&D products, running your own Twitch or Youtube channel, setting up a Patreon, and starting a podcast. Your D&D business should include more than your professional DMing.
Whatever you choose, don’t expect professional DMing on its own to be a replacement for a $60k income, 9-5 job. You will most likely be working more than 40 hours a week for relatively little money. This is why for many, being a professional Dungeon Master is no more than a part-time job that brings in a little bit of extra cash while you are doing something you love.
There are many ways to become a professional Dungeon Master in 2021. You can use easy access online platforms, make your own website, or run games in-person in your local community.
The issues that plagued the D&D community and made it almost impossible for professional DMs to flourish have mostly gone away. With the increase in technology, the influx of new players, and lessened resistance toward paying quality Dungeon Masters, you can in fact get paid to run games. However, it may not be as lucrative as you would like, unless you turn it into a multi-faceted D&D business.
If you need any further help, don’t forget to check the Dungeon Master Help and Damage Control sections of the website. I really want you to succeed as a Dungeon Master, and know you can if you put your mind to it.
This has been Wizo, and keep rolling!
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