Why is there so much disdain for pay to play GMs?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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A quick aside about economics and supply and demand:

Spoiler:
Economics is a social science concerned chiefly with description and analysis of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Or, in essence, the science that studies the handling of scarce resources.
Economics is not about money. Money is just one imperfect tool to measure and compare value.
Same goes for supply and demand. Even in Soviet Russia, when the demand exceed the supplied, people had to "pay" with longer lines.

Personally, I don't see the issue of premium games or paid GMs. It is not different from giving a free share of the snacks to the GM or paying to play at a convention, GM's there are usually paid "free" admissions tickets and extra goodies. There might be some potential pitfalls with GM seeing players as costumers rather partners, like the GM pulling punches too much and reducing the sense of risk in combat or extra complications kicking out a problem player. I imagine there shouldn't be any problem as long you manage properly the expectations of everyone at the table.

Best of lucks,
Yawar


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
AnimatedPaper wrote:

I’m a little surprised at how many in this thread don’t seem to know “hustle” is now slang for “income stream”, usually specifically referring to a side gig or something that is not a job. Like selling your services as a GM, or knitting scarves in your spare time, or delivering groceries.

I hardly expect everyone to keep up with all slang; Aroden knows I’m old enough that I’m no longer plugged in to everything, but I thought that was more a generally recognized term. Even if it’s a Very Online term, this is an Internet forum.

This is not snark. I’m genuinely surprised.

Yeah, I've definitely referred to part time jobs I've held, particularly less conventional ones, as side hustles. But I also grew up in a pretty intersectional environment so my vernacular is all over the place. I'm pretty sure I can attribute my own use of the term to my buddy playing me Katt Williams clips.

If you're raised in a more monolithic environment then such things are probably less familiar.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Hustle has more or less been used in analogous way to 'scam' and/or 'illegal activity' where I'm from. So there may be a language issue.

'Gig' has been used for 'side jobs', as well as 'thing'.

Someone up-thread asked how buying a GM the source material worked -- for our group, it worked really well because it meant an investment of money on the part of the player that wanted something new, an investment of time on the part of the GM.

The added benefit to the GM was that it would also provide new story and plot hooks. The added benefit to players was increased character options.

Mileage May Vary.

That being said, there's a preconception that GMs have oodles of time on their hands and simply 'exist' for player benefit (and that's been going back over the hobby and industry at least thirty years).

A realization that this is not the case is kind of important, lest folks go too far in the other direction and use their GMs as 'employees in all but name and compensation'.


Someone I was working with, and mentoring once suggested I look into getting myself into the paid DM gig, I did a fair amount of soul searching and have opted not to.

I'm a curmudgeon, that's set in his ways, with some odd houserules that were developed over a couple decades of running games, that are not going to be universally popular. Such as crit fumbles occurring on a 1 followed by a roll that would miss by 5 or more, or running things at a moderately high power scale.

I also pour ... a great deal of time into the games I'm already running, as well as a large amount of time into learning new rules for the odd game I get to PLAY in.

That, and I've heard far to many horror stories for me to be comfortable with the idea of opening up a game to all.

That said, I've no problem with someone trying it themselves, and I wish RD (and anyone else trying to break into the field) a great deal of luck.


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Tbh, it seems a lot of people (or at least a lot of americans) get really upset when people make money through non standard means.

Professional cosplayers, people with only fans accounts, etc also get similar backlash, and while there's a sexism element in my examples that might not be as present as professional DMing, I think really it's just we get so used to thinking of "work" as going to the office doing soul sucking paper pushing or backbreaking factory labor that doing anything else feels like "cheating" because it's perceived as easy. Some side hustles tend to get a little bit of slack if they superficially resemble an accepted form of exchange, such as someone who crafts stuff and sells it, but even then, a lot of artists and creators get a lot of flak for charging fair prices for their work, because there's a perception that the artist is also indulging in a hobby. Needless to say, these types of work have an unholy amount of labor, effort, and skill that is hidden behind the scenes, but unless you actually do them, you won't typically be aware of it.

Another common criticism I've heard is just, well, pro DMs take the game more into the mainstream, and a number of ttrpg players still strongly tie being part of a fringe hobby into their personal identity; and each step ttrpg takes into becoming a popular hobby, the less they can claim this counterculture status. I've seen this a lot too with people hating on D&D youtubers and such, too.

The one and only concern I've heard against professional DMing that I feel is valid is the possibility for gentrification within the community, but even then, I think it's a bit farfetched. It's not like all D&D is suddenly going to become pay to play just because some people are charging for their services. It does raise the possibility for it becoming harder to form a pick up group at a game store or online that isn't a premium game, but tbh, I don't think the number of ftp DMs will drop, so much as there will be a rise of premium DMs.

Liberty's Edge

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Alchemic_Genius wrote:
The one and only concern I've heard against professional DMing that I feel is valid is the possibility for gentrification within the community, but even then, I think it's a bit farfetched. It's not like all D&D is suddenly going to become pay to play just because some people are charging for their services. It does raise the possibility for it becoming harder to form a pick up group at a game store or online that isn't a premium game, but tbh, I don't think the number of ftp DMs will drop, so much as there will be a rise of premium DMs.

Yeah, it kinda sucks how since the NBA was founded I haven't been able to get a pickup game down at the park.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Alchemic_Genius wrote:
Tbh, it seems a lot of people (or at least a lot of americans) get really upset when people make money through non standard means.

A dear friend of mine said nearly the same thing: that there were so many forces in the world trying to stygmatize and stamp out non-standard means of earning an income, forcing more and more people into the regular 9-5 paradigm.

Alchemic_Genius wrote:
The one and only concern I've heard against professional DMing that I feel is valid is the possibility for gentrification within the community, but even then, I think it's a bit farfetched. It's not like all D&D is suddenly going to become pay to play just because some people are charging for their services. It does raise the possibility for it becoming harder to form a pick up group at a game store or online that isn't a premium game, but tbh, I don't think the number of ftp DMs will drop, so much as there will be a rise of premium DMs.

I agree. It's a valid concern, but also a bit farfetched (for the reason Shisumo states above).

That being said, looking at the Roll20 listing last week, I noted that 2/3 of the games were pay to play. I know that's anecdotal, but it certainly surprised me.


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Shisumo wrote:
Yeah, it kinda sucks how since the NBA was founded I haven't been able to get a pickup game down at the park.

Agreed; ever since the Olympics had archery, I can't find a single place to recreationally shoot, it's positively horrifying!


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Alchemic_Genius wrote:

Tbh, it seems a lot of people (or at least a lot of americans) get really upset when people make money through non standard means.

Professional cosplayers, people with only fans accounts, etc also get similar backlash, and while there's a sexism element in my examples that might not be as present as professional DMing, I think really it's just we get so used to thinking of "work" as going to the office doing soul sucking paper pushing or backbreaking factory labor that doing anything else feels like "cheating" because it's perceived as easy. Some side hustles tend to get a little bit of slack if they superficially resemble an accepted form of exchange, such as someone who crafts stuff and sells it, but even then, a lot of artists and creators get a lot of flak for charging fair prices for their work, because there's a perception that the artist is also indulging in a hobby. Needless to say, these types of work have an unholy amount of labor, effort, and skill that is hidden behind the scenes, but unless you actually do them, you won't typically be aware of it.

Another common criticism I've heard is just, well, pro DMs take the game more into the mainstream, and a number of ttrpg players still strongly tie being part of a fringe hobby into their personal identity; and each step ttrpg takes into becoming a popular hobby, the less they can claim this counterculture status. I've seen this a lot too with people hating on D&D youtubers and such, too.

The one and only concern I've heard against professional DMing that I feel is valid is the possibility for gentrification within the community, but even then, I think it's a bit farfetched. It's not like all D&D is suddenly going to become pay to play just because some people are charging for their services. It does raise the possibility for it becoming harder to form a pick up group at a game store or online that isn't a premium game, but tbh, I don't think the number of ftp DMs will drop, so much as there will be a rise of premium DMs.

It is the old Protestant work ethic. People believe slogging through work makes you a better person.


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I've posted in this thread enough, I know, but as someone who has made and continues to make money through incredibly nonstandard means, I want to push back on the idea that the only moral income is the standard 9-5. I was a circus performer for much of my young life and then transitioned to selling commissioned artwork. I 100% believe that people, especially artists, should be paid for the fruits of their labor.

But I also believe that a communal space for playing games is a really awful place to start monetizing, especially when the majority of the players at the table are paying another. Maybe I treat my games differently, but when I GM, I do it because it's a fun creative way to spend time with my friends. And I still feel this way when I play pick-up games with people I don't know as well. What I'm saying is, it's a game for me as well - and one that I'm adjudicating. This isn't me complaining that football players get paid a lot, this is more complaining that the football players are paying the referee's salary.

Your mileage may vary on these opinions, but turning a leisure-time activity into a source of revenue has always seemed like the fastest way to poison that activity in your life. But also, I might just be old and out of touch. The idea of waking up as a Twitch streamer and going to play video games for 12 hours every day sounds hellish to me, just as much as being a baseball player devoting every hour to "the game." But at least they're paid through neutral parties in the transaction.

I mean, I get that this is a place to discuss pay to play GMs, but the people in the thread opposing the idea (which I'll be the first to admit, haven't been many) haven't brought up the idea that it has anything to do with having a nonstandard workday (which I also rail against - the 9 to 5 selling of our lives). Please don't ascribe motivation to the opposing viewpoint when there's already valid points throughout the thread. Also, I'm not sure why this is being treated like a debate. I was under the impression that RD was looking for opinions (I'm not under that impression at all, actually).


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If I give you money my character survives, right?

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Tristan d'Ambrosius wrote:
If I give you money my character survives, right?

Not in my games, lol. Seriously, I had a couple of near tpks with the first group playing Rise of the Runelords.


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Ravingdork wrote:
that there were so many forces in the world trying to stygmatize and stamp out non-standard means of earning an income, forcing more and more people into the regular 9-5 paradigm.

Could be people just have legitimate issues with the service, rather than you being some sort of moral crusader leading a modern civil rights movement in the sphere of D&D.

I do not see anything wrong with a GM wanting to monetize their services if they can find the customer base for it, but this incessant self aggrandizement is just gratuitous.


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Reckless wrote:
Tristan d'Ambrosius wrote:
If I give you money my character survives, right?
Not in my games, lol. Seriously, I had a couple of near tpks with the first group playing Rise of the Runelords.

But I'm paying for a service, and what I want out of it needs to be taken into account.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Tristan d'Ambrosius wrote:
Reckless wrote:
Tristan d'Ambrosius wrote:
If I give you money my character survives, right?
Not in my games, lol. Seriously, I had a couple of near tpks with the first group playing Rise of the Runelords.
But I'm paying for a service, and what I want out of it needs to be taken into account.

Absolutely, and they wanted a challenge. If the group I was running for (pay or no pay) wanted low or no lethality for PCs, I'd work with that.


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Reckless wrote:
Tristan d'Ambrosius wrote:
Reckless wrote:
Tristan d'Ambrosius wrote:
If I give you money my character survives, right?
Not in my games, lol. Seriously, I had a couple of near tpks with the first group playing Rise of the Runelords.
But I'm paying for a service, and what I want out of it needs to be taken into account.
Absolutely, and they wanted a challenge. If the group I was running for (pay or no pay) wanted low or no lethality for PCs, I'd work with that.

Okay I'm done here, well reasoned Reckless. Well reasoned. :)


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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I've been gaming for almost 40 years, and I play in 4 games a week: two I DM for free, one has a DM who is a friend that doesn't charge, and one is with a professional DM that I pay, and who has now become a friend.

I've paid to play games for several years, with different GMs, and I'm incredibly happy with it.

* When it comes to online games, paying to play entails a commitment from players and whittles out the unreliable. I've never had a paid game fizzle because of crappy attendance. If I'm taking on a multi-year commitment to play an AP, I don't want it to collapse.

* When problem players manifested, they were dealt with immediately because the GM has a vested interest in protecting the majority from a toxic individual. In an ideal world, this wouldn't be necessary, but playing with internet randos requires moderation.

* When someone does have to leave - voluntarily or not - the GM is incentivized to find a way to continue the game, rather than letting it fade.

* The GM charges us (more than the GM who started this thread), but he also streams the games and puts them up on youtube, adding extra revenue streams for him. Doing this and running 8 games a week enables him to make an, adequate, living. He only publicly shares games this way, if all the players are happy to do so.

* The GM has a discord group for current and past players, and this has become a warm and inclusive community where I've met a lot of nice people. They've all been through the filter of being stable members of this GMs games.

I'm sure there are poor pro-GMs out there, but they're not a problem: you know after a session if someone will align with your personal needs and style.

Without this, I'd still be playing, but I'd be playing less often and I'd have fewer friends. I am grateful for the service he - and other professional GMs - provide. I would heartily recommend that path to anyone who can afford it, wants another game they don't have a group for, and doesn't want to subject themselves to too much game-fade.


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Thanks for sharing EvilArdvark! That’s really cool.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Tristan d'Ambrosius wrote:
If I give you money my character survives, right?

The Immortality Package is an additional $20 per session.*

*:
The Immortality Package merely prevents your character from dying of natural causes related to old age. To become immune to death altogether, you must purchase the Deluxe God Mode Package** for an additional $65 per session.

**:
To qualify for the Deluxe God Mode Package you must first have purchased the Immortality Package.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What a bargain!


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Ravingdork wrote:
Tristan d'Ambrosius wrote:
If I give you money my character survives, right?

The Immortality Package is an additional $20 per session.*

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

And I would say I'm paying you to run my game I'm not paying to play in yours. We (the players) providing the money have the control. Or if we survive maybe the GM should pay the players.


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Tristan d'Ambrosius wrote:
And I would say I'm paying you to run my game I'm not paying to play in yours. We (the players) providing the money have the control.

If I was running a pay-for-play game, I'd say, "I'm running this game for you. If you, the players, can all agree on what you want, like less lethality or fewer dungeons or more dungeons, then I will give you that, with the disclaimer that what you think you want might not be what you actually enjoy. But I suspect, as with every other group I've been in, the players will want different things, in which case you will have to accept the type of game I want to deliver as a compromise."

If I was running a free game, I'd say the same.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Tristan d'Ambrosius wrote:
And I would say I'm paying you to run my game I'm not paying to play in yours. We (the players) providing the money have the control.

If I was running a pay-for-play game, I'd say, "I'm running this game for you. If you, the players, can all agree on what you want, like less lethality or fewer dungeons or more dungeons, then I will give you that, with the disclaimer that what you think you want might not be what you actually enjoy. But I suspect, as with every other group I've been in, the players will want different things, in which case you will have to accept the type of game I want to deliver as a compromise."

If I was running a free game, I'd say the same.

You posted faster than me. I completely agree with that.

Actually, I don't think the GM can tell a story the players don't want to hear. Ultimately, they decide what will be the direction of the game, its tone. If the players want to turn the investigation adventure into a bloodbath, there's not much the GM can do to prevent it (and I even think it would be a bad idea to try to prevent it).

Liberty's Edge

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I have seen some awfully manipulative and toxic GMs who were not paid. I honestly think that for these people, if money got involved, they would be even worse.

And their usual players stayed, took the abuse and sometimes even turned complicit to it.


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The Raven Black wrote:

I have seen some awfully manipulative and toxic GMs who were not paid. I honestly think that for these people, if money got involved, they would be even worse.

And their usual players stayed, took the abuse and sometimes even turned complicit to it.

In the other hand lots of people stick with bad gms because for them no game is worse than a poor game. Having a pool of gms that will run games for you, albeit for pay, would give an Avenue for such players to find a new game.

Liberty's Edge

Malk_Content wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:

I have seen some awfully manipulative and toxic GMs who were not paid. I honestly think that for these people, if money got involved, they would be even worse.

And their usual players stayed, took the abuse and sometimes even turned complicit to it.

In the other hand lots of people stick with bad gms because for them no game is worse than a poor game. Having a pool of gms that will run games for you, albeit for pay, would give an Avenue for such players to find a new game.

Yes. If they can afford it.

Also I make a difference between bad GMs where players can walk away if they find an alternative for their gaming needs and toxic GMs where Cult of personality is the real name of the game.

Horizon Hunters

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Having played and run games for decades, I have a lot of experience at the table and in the industry.

It boggles me that folks are being disrespectful, but the misanthrope in me says that's what humans do.

Even in a regular pick up game at a convention (paying for a con ticket is fine, but paying a gamemaster is not? what? how?) exposes one to a roll of the dice, by mere fact that you are signing up to play with strangers.

Roll a d20:

1. The "strange uncle" has a torture fetish.
2. The nerdy kid fudges dice.
3. The jock starts bullying a minority player.
4. And then the slurs come out.
5. The cosplayer is getting leered right off the table.
6. One of the players decides half-way through to stand up to go to the bathroom and doesn't come back.
7. The game master is unprepared and is not good at improv.
8. The rules lawyer court is now in session.
9. "PvP! PvP! PvP!" chant that smoothly transitions into a real life brawl.
10. This sex scene with ants and octopi needed a fade to black 30 minutes ago.
11. All of the above.
12+. Hey a regular game. Grats.

So as a paid game master, you get blamed for antics of other players because the expectation is that you are also a baby sitter, because they paid you money to have a good game.

I don't like the expectation, but I don't have a solution.

Liberty's Edge

It is not a matter of paid GM or not.

It is part and parcel of the GM's role to also be an arbiter / judge / lawperson at the table. They, and it really should be only they, have the authority vested by the whole group to ensure peace. Players are expected to contribute, of course, but in the end, the GM is the Law.

I once played with a GM who was a very good friend who just hated having to assume authority, to say No to abusive players. Never again. Really.

Horizon Hunters

I have no trouble saying no to people.

But it can be difficult to spot a "problem" person before they do the damage and spoil the session for someone. Or everyone.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Freehold DM wrote:
Not a fan of pay to play DMs or Critical Role(we're not acting. We don't have a script. We swear.)

Just saying, I don't think anybody who claims Critical Role players have a script has ever actually watched full session of them playing :p I mean, sure, they CLEARLY are having scripted four hour livestreams where rolls and everything was planned out in advance. CLEARLY

Like just because they are voice actors doesn't mean you can't tell when they are doing improv(or as it is also called, roleplaying ;p), they say lot of way too real "player" things for it to be scripted

Anyhoo, I don't have strong opinion on this subject, I know that while I might be tempted to consider the subject if my career choices never work out, I'd find it too stressing if I knew players paid for my running :'D


Oakblade wrote:
Having played and run games for decades, I have a lot of experience at the table and in the industry.

Cool what experience in the industry?


My only issue with pay-for-game GM's is how to determine which ones are worth the money. I'm pretty picky about the people I game with, and for the most part, I only do RPG's with people I've known through other means for months or years. When I was younger, I had too many bad experiences with pick-up RPG games; it's the same reason I have no interest in PFS.

If I knew that a GM was going to give me a great gaming experience, I wouldn't have a problem with paying for it. Personally, I already like to do things like buy the GM drinks or food on gaming day to thank them for all the extra work a GM has to do between sessions that the rest of the player group doesn't have to do.


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Starfinder Superscriber

I would never use a pay-to-play GM because I think that having your players be your meal ticket represents a perverse incentive to retain obnoxious or toxic players who can't get a game by a normal means because of aforesaid qualities. And if I knew the person well enough that I was able to trust them to exercise said fair judgment, I wouldn't need a pay-to-play GM to begin with. I do understand that this is a "last resort" for some normal people, or a side hobby. Nothing objectively wrong with it, but I wouldn't trust anyone who's getting paid by another party to work in my interests without a bond or other legally mandated surety.

However advertising your services in an obnoxious manner on sub-forums devoted to discussion of the game and not giving you a meal ticket with no regard for rules against self-promo is crass, which is what OP did. (and don't invoke your children like that, it's shameful)

Lantern Lodge Customer Service & Community Manager

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Thank you for participating in the discussion here. I removed some recent posts and the thread is now closed.

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