What is Professionally Necessary?
Recently I began offering my services as a DM for hire, and created a website to advertise it. If you’ve got the time, check it out here. I am calling myself an Adventure Specialist, and have given a lot of thought over the years as to how one would go about doing DMing professionally. I know I have the experience and the skill to run a top-notch game experience, since I’ve already done it for so many people in so many different situations. However, I’ve compared myself to other DMs, and talked with friends and other players about some of the “theatrics” of running a roleplaying game, specifically, if any of them are necessary for new players paying money. Here is what I’ve come up with.
First, I’ve written before about how DMs will choose what they want to include, and if they leave things out, that is totally fine. Plenty of DMs don’t use minis for example, and I’m ok with this (especially because I don’t). I’ve wondered though if there is a need to add certain elements to the game if I’m going to charge people to have me run a game for them. I know that a lot of people will be coming to D&D from seeing Critical Role, or various media portrayals of the game. In these cases, because it is for the entertainment of viewers, it’s much more important to have visuals, and do character voices. I’m not a professional actor though, and have never done character voices, so I am not very good at them. Including them would likely be more uncomfortable than entertaining. In my games, players are not just viewers; they are the ones inside the game.
I also, as I mentioned, don’t use maps. I don’t even know where a DM would get maps that they could lay down that are large enough for the players to see. And how do you have enough maps? I can’t draw, so I’m not doing them by hand. In any case, I have considered using maps that do not have grid lines, and maybe getting a few minis just to give a general idea of where the party is in relation to other things. However, because of my lack of experience with them, I wonder if I will simply find them restricting in terms of locations I want to use or if players would start to feel like every tavern we enter is the exact same layout. Still, I can’t help but wonder how necessary some players will find this feature of the game if they have expectations from where they’ve seen examples of it.
What features would you expect from a professionally run game? What parts of the game are so critical, that it would not be a high quality game without them?
At the end of the day, I know that the most important thing is that I provide players with an engaging and fun game by whatever means best use my skills. I know that my story lines are not contrived and are deep and interesting enough to have people talking about them long after the game is done, and that’s what matters most. I know when to say yes and when to say no, and I am great at following cues from players. It makes sense I’d be a bit self conscious going into this business endeavor, since DMing always gives me a little anxiety since I want every game to be great. I keep reminding myself that what people really want first is to have the chance to play a character they create and control, and experience a story that is exciting and memorable. All the other trappings are just extras.