Sunday, October 08, 2006

Payin’ the Bills with Your D&D Skills

Yeah, this looks like it’s for real:

“So my friends and I, successful professionals, were considering hiring a GM full time but we don't know much much to pay such a person.” – Ian Noble

Don’t laugh. The idea’s not as crazy as it might look at first. When you consider how many people want a good RPG experience versus how many people actually seem to be having them, you can easily see how good GMing is, in fact, a scarce resource. I certainly didn’t have to search long or hard to find a thread like this. Economics teaches us that scarcity creates demand, and markets generally form to satisfy those demands. I’ve certainly gotten far more, and better entertainment, from an afternoon playing RPGs than I usually expect from a movie or TV show. Even bad gaming is consistently better than most TV.

This does, however, bring up all sorts of questions about the dynamics of gaming. How much of a good game comes from the players, and how much is the responsibility of the GM? If the players are paying the GM, that implies the onus of fun lies squarely on the GM’s shoulders. A paid GM will have to provide quality entertainment to keep the players, and the cash, coming. But if the players are unwilling to do a minimum of homework themselves, such as keeping up with notes in the game, maintaining their character sheets, or even learning the rules of the game, there’s nothing even the best GM can do to entertain them. It’s a bit more like having a personal trainer than a paid entertainer. A lot of what you get out comes from what you put in.

And I don’t think money like this would ruin the game. Most of the world’s greatest art was done for pay. Bach composed most of his organ pieces while he was employed as a church organist. Shakespeare was a professional playwright who fully expected to reap a percentage of the Globe’s box office. Michelangelo not only got paid to paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, but was practically forced to do so at sword’s point.

If you believe that “true art” springs only from the unsullied inspiration of unfettered artists, then art isn’t what you think it is. Cash and sex have been the root inspirations of almost everything now considered a classic.

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