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Professional GMing

I had a chance to game with Tavis Allison, the president of Behemoth3 [1], at this year’s GenCon, and after the con he asked me if I’d write about their latest project, Otherworld Excursions [2], here on Treasure Tables.

I agreed, for three reasons: Tavis is a very nice guy, we swapped a bit of free PR (which is always good!), and I think it’ll make for some interesting reading and discussion here on TT.

So what’s the idea behind Otherworld Excursions? In short, they’re a lot like gaming cruises: private vacations led by a famous game designer, centered around that designer GMing a game for you. That’s a nifty idea — and a great springboard to ask two questions: what is professional GMing, and how should it work?

Otherworld Excursions (OE) has three initial offerings — here are brief summaries (you can read the full descriptions on the OE site):

• A day tour of Chicago’s occult architecture and a gaming session with Kenneth Hite (author of GURPS Horror, GURPS Cabal and many, many others), for $175
• A tour of Stefan Pokorny’s studio (Stefan founded Dwarven Forge [3]) and 18 hours of immersive gaming over the course of the weekend, for $350
• A weekend exploring a defunct military base and a 19th Century castle, culiminating in a game run by John Tynes (creator of Delta Green for Call of Cthulhu), for $550

Attendees are responsible for their own travel costs, making this essentially a highly-personalized gaming convention. The first two things that jump out at me are that this is a lot of money, and that it sounds like a pretty cool experience — particularly the Abandoned Military Base Getaway Weekend [4] with John Tynes.

I’m a huge Call of Cthulhu fan, and Tynes’s work with Pagan Publishing [5] is excellent — I’m sure he’d be an amazing GM. Setting the mood for that session with a personal guided tour through an abandoned military base, and then a castle that’s rumored to be haunted, sounds like it would rock on toast. That said, it’s not cheap — which raises some interesting issues.

For starters, gaming is a hobby where you can, if you like, spend very little money and have a lot of fun: you buy a core book, write your own adventures, and you’re set for a few months. Not everyone does it that way, and plenty of gamers (myself included) by a ton of supplements and other related goodies, but it’s definitely an option that sets gaming apart from a lot of other hobbies.

Second, stack that cost up against a major convention like GenCon: not counting travel costs or the exhibit hall, GenCon this year cost me about $250, which covered my share of a hotel room, my badge and all of my events, and it lasted four days. I’m sure the Excursion with John Tynes would generate a lot of great memories, but so does GenCon — and even though I know that they’re different types of experience, I don’t see myself spending that kind of money on an Excursion (though I wish I could!).

But would I lead one, or go on one that was held locally (avoiding travel costs) and cost less money? I’d certainly consider it — and Behemoth3 has thought of this, too. They’ve got a PDF survey [6] that you can fill out and mail back to them, and it includes questions about how far you’d be willing to travel and how much you’d pay for an Excursion. From talking to Tavis, I gather that they’re hoping to take OE to the point where there are a wide range of Excursions to choose from (with different price levels), in a variety of different locations and with famous and non-famous folks leading them.

There’s also a contact address for you to inquire about leading your own Excursion, which would be a form of professional GMing. I don’t know what this entails, and I there’s not much on the site in the way of details. It does lead nicely into our two questions, though: what is professional GMing, and how should it work?

So far, we have the twofold Behemoth3 model: famous game designers lead fairly costly tailored Excursions, presumably for pretty substantial compensation; and regular GMs have the opportunity to lead smaller-scale Excursions, probably for a bit less money. It’ll be very interesting to see how this shakes out — and it goes without saying that I’d love to hear some attendee testimonials once the first Excursions have taken place!

Then there’s the model used by the online roleplaying site GhostOrb [7]. They’ve got a pay scale for professional GMs — folks who have proven that they can run GhostOrb adventures online — in the form of a percentage payout based on the fees that users pay to play your games. The scale goes from 35% to 65% depending on the GM’s rank on the site. GhostOrb is a fairly new site, and I don’t know how well this is working out for them or for their GMs — but again, it’s a neat idea and I’m curious to see how it goes.

Apart from being compensated for running games at a convention (often in the form of a free con badge or other swag), those are the only two avenues for professional GMing that I’m aware of. Significantly, I’m willing to bet that neither of them hits one part of the definition of “professional” — that you’d be able to make a living doing it.

But is that what professional GMing should be about? I’m a professional writer, but I also have a day job — I’m not trying to make a living from my writing, though many others do just that. If you want to go down that route through OE or GhostOrb, doing it professionally in the sense that you get paid for it, but aren’t making a living at it, then I think both certainly qualify as “professional GMing.”

More importantly, though, how do you feel about the whole idea of paying someone to GM games for you? I know I’d feel weird charging my players for my games, and I’d certainly feel weird about paying for a game myself — but at the same time, I can see where knowing that I had to deliver a session that was worth the entry fee would change my perspective. It would also dramatically change my players’ expectations, as it should: if I run a lousy session now, they’ll probably chalk it up to a bad week — but if they paid for it, they might not come back.

If I step back a bit and think about the time and money that GMs put into running their games (prep time, money spent on books, etc.), however, it sounds a bit less odd to me. I can’t think of any direct analogies in other industries at the moment, though — blogging comes to mind, as does giving a museum tour, but neither are a perfect fit. Mainly, I think that gaming has been around for thirty-odd years without professional GMing, and the whole concept has a bit of an uphill battle as far as gaining adherents goes.

What do you think of Otherworld Excursions and GhostOrb? How about the whole idea of getting paid to run games? Do you know of other avenues for professional GMing? What have I overlooked, in terms of the big questions and their potential answers? As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!

23 Comments (Open | Close)

23 Comments To "Professional GMing"

#1 Comment By Johnn On September 11, 2005 @ 7:20 pm

Interesting topic. Random thought: one approach might be to look at your potential target markets. Who would want to consume an interactive storytelling entertainment service or package? From there, you can research rates, consider game style, consider who and how you’d pitch your biz.

Some examples of target markets off the top of my head (with no consideration of profitability or likeliness of purchase):

* Corporations. Approach nerd, geek, and information tech companies with a team bonding, creativity enhancement service.

* Parents. a) Concerned parents want to know what their kids are getting into. Offer an introduction to D&D session. b) Parents looking to spend time with their kids? Pick RPGs instead of going to the movies.

* Community services. Would the government sponsor a program that helps folks learn to read, perhaps? Would Big Brothers like an ongoing campaign run three nights a week for three different groups of kids and adults? Storytelling 101 course through the local rec centre?

These ideas are crummy, but the principle of brainstorming and researching target markets might put pro GMing within reach for some.

#2 Comment By Bannister Nicholas On March 22, 2017 @ 8:19 pm

As a Professional GM, I’ll fill in some information for these approaches (as I’ve tried them all now)

Corporation Events works best, better if they agree to a regular gig, which you can get if you pull off a decent once-off as a team building exercise. This requires some level of HR Training & development on your own behalf, so the Corp will even consider you, (and gives them a fair idea of whose budget it comes out of) Getting a small stash of CEOs to yell across the desk at the dice is amusing too.

Running a club for kids, so the parents know where they are and what they are doing “expanding their minds, math skills, logic & puzzles, logistics.. etc” was how I started.. it lasted 4 years until I had expanded beyond my abilities and didn’t know how to keep it going, so it imploded.

Community Service, recently The Australian govt was handing out grants to ‘investigate’ how to keep the elderly mentally fit, I was not the only contender so more traditional “bridge clubs” won the grant, yet my research into this revealed mostly it would be a hard slog to battle against the established “card clubs” to get ‘members” and old people either fit into two (very generalised) categories.. already doing things, no time to try something new, or not doing anything and just waiting.. the second group was my target audience (for the grant) and honestly I think the effort won’t come to fruition (until the 1970s D&D market starts to retire…)

Some others that have worked out as once off’s:

Stage performaces at ART/COMEDY festivals, invite the audience to participate.
Conventions, being paid by the convention to run a Legacy -“once off”.
Groups that have no GM but just REALLY want to play.. I started with “pay for my share of the meal” then later “plus petrol money” then later “prep time costs”

Regardless of how & when I did this, the biggest issue is making sure you offer more than a casual.. “My friend is the GM” kind of sessions. I have a legacy world(s), structured logistics & ecomonics, NPC growth, time passing changes the landscape, mutliple GMs running within that world, we share notes to allow the BBG several heroes trying to defeat them. I’ve often included mood lighting & background noises to enhance the experience. Once I was set up, my regular gigs took over from my regular job and I only stopped to change countries, careers and raise a family.. (I’ll get back into it soon…)

#3 Comment By Tavis Allison On September 11, 2005 @ 8:55 pm

A PR swap sounds so calculating, Martin! I thought we had a mutual admiration club 😉

Thanks for the info about GhostOrb and the Roleplay Workshop/Abantey Program. I’m doing a seminar on professional GMing opportunities at UnCon and Gen Con So Cal, and it’s great to be able to share info about these. I especially like the GhostOrb model because it uses a dynamic market to set payment based on GMing skill (if I understand “rank on the site” properly).

Let me pose some questions for further discussion:

Would your GMing improve if spending time on supporting yourself financially and spending time preparing for your next game meant the same thing?

Would you still run an “amateur” game – literally, a game for love’s sake – if you had a full-time GMing job?

#4 Comment By Martin On September 11, 2005 @ 9:13 pm

Chris: The Roleplay Workshop link was fascinating — I had no idea anything like that existed! I knew if I’d missed anything, it would come up in the comments. Thanks for a great link. 🙂

(Johnn) Random thought: one approach might be to look at your potential target markets. Who would want to consume an interactive storytelling entertainment service or package?

This makes perfect sense — it certainly worked in spades for WotC with D&D 3e, and it seems like it would work for putting together a pro GMing effort.

Tavis, is there anything you can tell us about what kind of research — apart from the booth at GenCon and your survey form — Behemoth3 has done for OE?

(Tavis) A PR swap sounds so calculating, Martin! I thought we had a mutual admiration club 😉

I’d just rather cotton to the fact that PR is part of it, sort of like putting “(affiliate link)” next to my Amazon text links. The mutual admiration is there as well. 🙂

To me, your (excellent) questions seem related, both to each other and to freelance writing. Let me explain.

They’re related to each other because while I think my GMing would certainly improve if it was also my job, it might cut down on my interest in doing it in my leisure time, as well. And they’re related to freelancing because I currently freelance part-time, and if it was full-time I wonder whether I’d have the energy to keep up this blog.

I love GMing, and I love writing, but — like most things — I also like the fact that I can do other things when the mood strikes me. That said, I suspect I’d still do leisure-time GMing even if I was full-time pro GM, because it would be an ideal test bed for the pro stuff. 😉

(And welcome to TT, Johnn and Tavis! I know we’ve corresponded outside of the site, but it’s kind of a tradition. :))

#5 Comment By Dotan Dimet On September 12, 2005 @ 5:48 am

Your links (the first two) are broken, which also messes up the RSS.

#6 Comment By Deslock On September 12, 2005 @ 8:15 am

Here in Brazil the idea had been proposed ten years ago and dismissed. One of the strongest arguments against it was: “If there´s a professional GM, why not a professional player?” After all, both need to know the rules very deeply. So, why not have both professionals?

Beside the ideaof professional players, we didn’t got consesnus on a minimum curriculum needed to teach new professional DM and how to select the ones who would teach and be considered already professionals.

I hope that our experience help you to develop yours.

#7 Comment By Martin On September 12, 2005 @ 9:14 am

(Dotan) Your links (the first two) are broken, which also messes up the RSS.

That was whoopstastic on my part — they’re fixed now, and thank you for pointing that out!

(Deslock) “If there´s a professional GM, why not a professional player?”

The first thing that jumps to mind for me is that in most RPGs, the players have a lot less to worry about between sessions.

There’s certainly quite a bit for a player to keep track of during the game, but there’s no real work to do outside of the game (beyond writing an initial background and levelling up, let’s say). Also, in an “average” group of 1 GM and 4 players, I think it makes the most sense for the primary “content provider” — the GM — to be the pro.

I’m very curious to hear how this was proposed in Brazil — by whom, and with what specifics? You said “we,” so it sounds like you might have been involved in that effort — is that right?

(And welcome to TT, Dotan and Deslock! :))

#8 Comment By Frank On September 12, 2005 @ 9:40 am

(Tavis) Would you still run an “amateur” game – literally, a game for love’s sake – if you had a full-time GMing job?

That question raises the biggest issue for me about professional GMing as a career. For me, RPGs are all about being a social activity with friends (or potential friends). Bring money into the picture, and suddenly you have to put a distance between those friendships (and ethical issues may arise also, can a professional GM date one of the players?).

I have to say that one thing that makes me uncomfortable running games at a convention where the players have to pay to get into specific games is the issues of semi-professionalism. I feel I owe those players a lot more, and that feeling can put up a wall between concentrating on having a good time.

On the flip side, what sprung me out of my small circle of friends was GMing at a small game convention at MIT. Up until then, I had been playing with a few friends but one had convinced me to go to this convention. I arrived a bit late and he was quite anxious for the game to start, but I had to register (and go through an experience I now know to expect on arriving at ANY big event – I just need some time to “arrive” and get in the groove and let the tension of travelling release). So by the time I arrive at the table, 16 players have assembled. And almost all of them were older than me (I was a sophmore in high school [I think], most of the players were college students or even graduates – wow!). And I ran a game. And several of the players complimented me afterwards for running a good game. And I got invited to join MIT’s game club.

But there was a big difference between that session and when I’ve run Evil Stevie’s Pirate Game (LEGO pirate miniatures/role playing game by Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games) at GenCon. Those folks had only paid a few bucks to get into the convention for the weekend. The people at GenCon were paying three bucks per 4 hours of gaming.

Worse was the time I ran an RPGA Deadlands game, having never really run Deadlands… That was a big disaster, the module sucked, I wasn’t familiar with the rules. Had I just been running an informal game, it would have been a lot better. Everyone would have known that I was looking for an avenue to try out this neat cool new game. I wouldn’t have felt constrained by a crappy RPGA module.

So where does this leave professional GMing? I think the idea is neat. I could even see myself paying for the right type of experience (I really wish when I had gone to Origins last year that I was leaving later on Sunday so I could have gotten into Greg Stafford’s RuneQuest game – that would have been worth 10 bucks to me).

Frank

#9 Comment By ScottM On September 12, 2005 @ 12:13 pm

For me, the difference seems to be clear. If you’re playing with friends, it’ll tend to be free (since it’s something you enjoy doing together). If you’re GMing for strangers (at a Con, or any of these other systems), you do it for pay. A sex/prostitution analogy seems too obvious…

Anyway, I imagine that there is a market here. Lapsed gamers, people without groups, people without time– they seem like good targets for Excursions, Ghost ORb, and the like.

#10 Comment By varianor On September 12, 2005 @ 2:00 pm

This sounds like not only a great idea, but something I’d like to do. Both as a guest and someday as “one of the pros”.

I would absolutely continue to run my own games on the side if it were possible to become a pro. After all, you don’t have a boss so you’re only responsible to yourself under those circumstances.

I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to consider that people would pay for a getaway weekend with a well-reputed DM as host. This is similar to radio talk-show hosts doing cruises. Since there are people I’ve seen come to Gen Con just to join in games because of the DM, if they had the money they’d probably do something like this.

That said, I think it would take a while to get the pay scale up to the point where it matters.

Now the GhostOrb model also looks interesting. Very interesting. But I think I’d probably pass on that because I know I do better in front of a live audience (if I were the DM) and as a player because the face to face time is really part of the fun for me.

#11 Comment By Itzhak On September 12, 2005 @ 10:28 pm

Well, here in Israel there is another kind of something that could be termed Professional GMing. There are two companies that offer children role-playing games as after school activities. They provide a DM, and charge money for these “lessons”.

Thus it is possible to make a living out of GMing, in Israel, but as we all know the preparation time, and the fact that you need to move from place to place to the different groups menas that few chose this as a full-time job, and instead use it as a part-time thing.

#12 Comment By Martin On September 13, 2005 @ 9:45 am

(Frank) I could even see myself paying for the right type of experience (I really wish when I had gone to Origins last year that I was leaving later on Sunday so I could have gotten into Greg Stafford’s RuneQuest game – that would have been worth 10 bucks to me).

This seems like the basis for the first offerings in the OE project — people you know will provide a good gaming experience, because they’re famous. I’m more interested in seeing what happens if (hopefully, when) OE reaches the level where non-famous folks can get paid a bit to lead Excursions.

Along the lines of what you said, I’d happily pay Luke Crane (who designed Burning Wheel) $10-$20 for a session of BW — my GenCon group seeks his events out because they’re consistently superlative. He could be running “Turd: The Boringness,” and it would be good — that’s the kind of magnetism that I think would make the lower-cost Excursions work. 🙂

JSimpson: Welcome to TT, and thanks for sharing your story — that’s the first time I’ve heard about that variety of pro GMing!

I tracked down your follow-up post on your blog, but it was a bit hard to find. You might consider putting a link in each on to the other, to make it easier for visitors to get to. 🙂

Scott: Your point about lapsed gamers is a good one — I’d put “folks who’ve been trying (and failing) to find a game for awhile” in a similar category. I know I get pretty punchy when I can’t find a game, and if pay-to-play was an option that would certainly be a situation in which I think some gamers would be more likely to consider it.

(varianor) I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to consider that people would pay for a getaway weekend with a well-reputed DM as host.

Nor do I — I’m just curious how much they’d be willing to pay, and at what point the cost bar will be lowered to the level where “most” gamers can participate.

(Itzhak) Well, here in Israel there is another kind of something that could be termed Professional GMing. There are two companies that offer children role-playing games as after school activities. They provide a DM, and charge money for these “lessons”.

Neat! Do they offer full-on RPGs — i.e., things you could buy at a gaming store — or specially-constructed “educational” RPGs? (And welcome to TT! :))

#13 Comment By Tavis Allison On September 13, 2005 @ 11:13 am

Itzhak, that’s very cool. Do you have links to the webpages of those Israeli after-school companies?

#14 Comment By Martin On September 13, 2005 @ 1:52 pm

Tavis, your longer comment somehow wound up in the moderation queue, and I only just noticed it — sorry about that!

(Tavis) Youth groups. Some of my first & best D&D experiences were at my hometown library, with DMs who were paid by the town’s youth commission. Ahh, tax dollars for gaming – those were the pre-Satanic-controversy days!

I’m glad you brought this up — much like Itzhak’s experience, this a) makes a lot of sense, because gaming teaches useful skills, and b) is fascinating, because I’d imagine this would be a tough sell in the US these days.

#15 Comment By Rudolf Kraus On September 13, 2005 @ 10:06 pm

You know, by your earlier criteria, I -am- a professional judge. And yes, I do still run games for my friends for fun, for free.

As a RPGA judge, I ran events the entire day day before GenCon, and earned 18 dollars. For 12 hours of work. The RPGA has found that recruiting judges who are willing to learn the rules really well, put up with the occasionally annoying player, and run a fun game need a little something to say thanks. That’s the spirit I take it in. “We don’t have bags of money, but we appreciate what you are doing. Here’s $5 and some free soda”

I think the real limit is what players are willing to pay for a slot. Gamers can be notoriously cheap, and why pay when you can get together and play a nearly infinite number of games for the cost of one set of rulebooks.

You’re going to need to show that a $10 game is noticably better than usual.

#16 Comment By Crazy Jerome On September 14, 2005 @ 1:16 pm

I probably would never be interested in working as a professional DM. I’d be only slightly more interested in playing in a game run by one. The reasons relate to Tavis’s last question about what would make it worth it:

1. Money changes hands equals “work”. Roleplaying is strictly a hobby. I don’t even want to write a gaming article for pay. The minute “professional” gets brought in, the responsibility rachets up and the fun goes out the window. Or maybe that’s just because of the responsibility required in my real work. Maybe when I retire, I’ll see things differently. (Nor is this strictly related to gaming. I turned down a college summer job offer to play baritone sax on a Mississippi riverboat for the same reason.)

2. The only way I’d be any good in a “professional” DM capacity is running a long campaign. This is what I do well, and why my group is closing in on 20 years now. Call me set in my ways. 😀

#17 Comment By Tavis Allison On September 14, 2005 @ 7:11 pm

(Crazy Jerome) The only way I’d be any good in a “professional” DM capacity is running a long campaign.

I would have guessed that long-span campaign play wouldn’t be suited to professional GMing, but I’m glad that JSimpson’s experience proves me wrong!

#18 Comment By Martin On September 15, 2005 @ 8:56 am

(Rudolf) You’re going to need to show that a $10 game is noticably better than usual.

One way to do this might be to record the session, and have the video (or clips from it) available online. I suppose some folks would be suspicious that it wasn’t staged, but some wouldn’t — and I know for some of the best sessions I’ve been involved in, this would be a great way to show them off. (And welcome to TT, Rudolf! :))

(Tavis) At some point I’ll post how these were ranked by respondents at Gen Con.

Count me in as being quite interested in seeing these results!

(CJ) Money changes hands equals “work”. Roleplaying is strictly a hobby. I don’t even want to write a gaming article for pay. The minute “professional” gets brought in, the responsibility rachets up and the fun goes out the window.

As a freelancer, I find this viewpoint interesting for two reasons: one, it doesn’t apply to me at all as far as writing is concerned (I love writing for pay, as with my freelance work, and I love writing for free, as I do here); and two, I worry that it would apply to me with GMing/pro GMing!

#19 Comment By Rudolf On September 15, 2005 @ 2:01 pm

Worth it…

To be worth it, I’d want to see the following elements. These come mostly from my experience with RPGA events and big cons.

1) Character creation needs to be fast and straight-forward. People want to play.

2) Focus. Don’t talk about how great some other adventure was, or how great anything else was. Use your time to make this adventure great.

3) Props. I’m not saying you need a costume, but there are lots of little goodies that make running a game easier for players. Illustrations, miniatures, maps, or whatever. For a more tactical game, you might want blast templates and a scale map. For more of a role-playing game, you might want player handouts.

4) Prepared. Ideally, the judge should not need to pick up the printed adventure until something wacky comes up. You should know where things are, and how people will react to most things that players will do.

5) Organized. When you scale this up to make money, you’ll need to get players to tables, judges to tables, and money to management. This needs to be quick, clean, and fast. Again, people want to play.

#20 Comment By Martin On September 15, 2005 @ 8:36 pm

Tavis: UnCon sounds neat, and it’s very cool of you to extend that invitation to TT readers. 🙂

Rudolf: Apart from the scaling up in your 5th item, I think much of your list is the baseline for many GMs. It sounds like consistency in those areas is what matters most to you, and that seems like an important point for larger-scale efforts at making pro GMing viable.

#21 Comment By Anonymous On September 22, 2005 @ 11:29 am

There will be a market for professional GM’s for the same reason people pay money for any other type of entertainment.

The reason is that there won’t be professional players is that generally there will be more demand by players to find a good GM, then there are GM’s willing to pay for players. If some type of tournament system develops, then there may be “professional players” in the same way there are professional gamblers, but it would be much more akin to wargaming than roleplaying – a contest based on strict rules. It is more liekly that Collectible Card Gaming players will turn pro than roleplaying.

As the hobby matures several things are becoming apparent. One is that some players who played when young continue to do so as they become older. They will have money to potentially pay any GM. Another is that they will have much higher expectations of the gaming experience than they did when they were much younger. It must be substantially better for them to enjoy it. A third is that because of family and work commitments, most will not have much time to devote to preparing for the game. The confluence of these three items point to the emergence of commercial GM’s at some point.

What is the job of a paid GM?
1) To know the rule system extensively.
2) To do all the preparation needed to run the game so that there is maximum value to the customer.
3) To consistently run an enjoyable game session for his customers.

Obviously there will be different business models. The guy who works weekends at the library to provide entertainment for teens is much different than someone who is paid by 40 year old professionals hoping for a night’s worth of fun. Likewise genres, themes, styles will be important to customer.

I suspect currently the market would not support true commercial GMing, but Otherworld Excursions indicate one is developing. It is possible as people become more affluent and the hobby develops more institutions, that GMing may become a viable occupation.

I think commercial GMing, an occupational GM, and a professional GM are three different things. Commercial GMing is simply being paid for it. This is already being done. A GM occupation is one where people can be paid enough to hold it as a full time job. This has not been achieved yet, but online gaming through MMORPG’s is developing towards this trend.

A professional GM however, is someone with credentials that indicate his expertise in running games. Most jobs are not professions. It will be a long time before GMing becomes a profession. When it does develop, I think it will be a case where the professional GM is a highly trained leisure industry operative. He would cater mostly to the affluent who could afford to pay him a decent fee. He may have interns under him learning from him that would assist him in his games while they run less expensive games of their own to the middle class.

He probably has various scenarios he could run repeatedly for different groups. These scenarios would require much preparation ahead of time, but once added to his repertoire could be performed repeatedly and efficiently. For more extensive fees, he could perform more customized scenarios. He probably has several gaming groups he sees every week who sign long term commitments that pay up front.

He probably works a staggered schedule, maybe nights W-F and days Sat-Sun if he has a traditional 40 hour work week. It may be that week nights he engages in a small number of groups in a table top game, and runs a much larger LARP on the weekend with costumes, props, etc. Such interactive roleplay may be assisted with people in the theatrical profession who do this for experience and some money as well. The LARPs probably provide the volume of people needed to have low fees for customers, yet earn enough money for the GM. This is the equivalent of paying for a movie. He probably uses it to identify affluent clientele for his more intimate table top sessions. Given that this is the future, he is probably assisted by a variety of relatively cheap multi-media applications to enhance the experience. Besides being paid for his services, the professional GM also makes money by selling various game material directly to his clientele – either directly or through network relationship with an established retailer and/or game company.

if this type of pro GM becomes established soon, it would probably to be a professional manager for established world wide LARP organizations. This is some time off. While some players in these organizations are successful professionals with the money to pay, many are also college kids or lower income. It may happen some point in the future, especially for people running large events for those multiple chapter LARP locations.

#22 Comment By Martin On September 28, 2005 @ 1:06 pm

(anon) What is the job of a paid GM?
1) To know the rule system extensively.
2) To do all the preparation needed to run the game so that there is maximum value to the customer.
3) To consistently run an enjoyable game session for his customers.

This is a simple distinction, and one that has been mentioned in other comments, but it’s quite striking to read: “player” becomes “customer.”

Many great points in your comment, anonymous — thanks for taking the time to put them all into writing. 🙂 (And I love the term “highly trained leisure industry operative.” ;))

#23 Comment By Martin On October 12, 2005 @ 11:50 am

Thanks for the kind words, David — and the link to your article! I agree that things seem to have changed since then, but it’s interesting to see your perspective on it — which is more or less completely different from, say, Otherworld Excursions’s perspective.

As far as coming to the discussion late, no worries there: I leave comments open on every post for about 30 days, and I keep pretty good track of them until then — for exactly this reason. 🙂