Several years ago, a GM that I was acquainted with organized his weekly group into a club. Everyone paid a fee and the GM would ostensibly use this money to purchase gaming materials that he would keep after use.
A few years later (but still several years ago…darn I feel old!), I was discussing this arrangement with a fellow gamer buddy. He had a rather heated reaction against it, as he felt that he shouldn’t have to pay anyone to play an RPG and if a GM at a table he was sitting at tried to institute such a plan, he’d leave the group in a heartbeat.
My reaction was different. As the regular GM for my groups, I often fork out $100s more in game materials than anyone else at the table. I also invest a lot of time in prepping adventures. It didn’t seem out of line to me for a GM to ask for “financial aid.” My inner gnomish capitalist wouldn’t even mind if the GM charged a compensation (pure profit) fee if she could get the group to agree.
The only time I’ve ever actually paid a fee was for LARPing, which primarily covered the cost of the venue (although the GMs involved did pocket the remainder). In other cases, I’ve borrowed books while running a campaign. I’ve never seriously considered charging for my time and expense.
So the Hot Button question is this: Under what circumstances would you deem it okay to charge money to run a regular gaming group? Do you currently charge (or pay to play) and, if so, what are your circumstances?
Bonus question: Would you have different expectations of a GM if you paid a fee?