26 November 2017

Living the dream?

There is an interesting article at Wired that readers of this blog may want to check out: “It’s a Living: Meet One of New York’s Best Professional D&D Dungeon Masters.” It profiles Timm Woods, a ‘professional DM.’

Some bits:
“Woods is … busy these days. He’s currently overseeing nine games a week, all of them focusing on either Dungeons & Dragons, or the kid-friendlier, D&D-influenced game Dungeon World. His clientele is made up of an assortment of armchair-adventuring adults, students, and families (including one with a few Oscar wins, though he’d prefer to keep their identity a secret). He’s spent the past few years doing all of this while also working to earn an RPG-related doctorate (his dissertation title: “Anything Can Be Attempted: Table-Top Role Playing Games as Learning and Pedagogy”).” 
“But while Woods is one of several DMs-for-hire out there, this isn’t his hobby or a side gig; it’s a living, and a pretty good one at that, with Woods charging anywhere from $250 to $350 for a one-off three-hour session (though he works on a sliding scale). For that price, Woods will not only research and plan out your game but also, if you become a regular, answer your occasional random text queries about wizard spells.”
Fifty or more dollars per player for a 3-hour session? Eh… that’s way too rich for my blood. But all the more power to Woods if he can support himself in this way. I have to confess that a part of me is envious.

However, I can’t imagine ever paying someone to DM a session. RPGs for me are a social activity among friends. ‘Employing’ a DM would change the dynamic at the table. It would alter an act of friendship—the creation and sharing of an idea, and the subsequent collaborative activity of determining how that idea develops, by the players and the DM together—into a commercial transaction.

Anyhow, it’s a fun article, despite some sloppy writing (e.g., “There are seven different dies, from four-sided to 20-sided”—um, ‘dice’ is the plural of ‘die’!) and the author’s occasional ignorance of the game about which he is writing (e.g., “skeletal beasties called Gnolls”—wtf?).


  1. I don't know that I would call Dungeon World "kid friendly"?

    1. Yeah, based on my limited knowledge of DW that does not strike me as an accurate description.

  2. I balk at playing convention games with strangers, so to pay one to run a game is pretty far fetched. But I imagine if you live in NYC $50 and hour is scraping by, especially if you aren't playing 8 hours a day!
    On the other hand there were a couple of guys offering to run kid's parties, bringing all the stuff needed to play a scenario in few hours for whatever number of kids, pizza, pop, and snacks, let the kiddos keep their figure or dice as party favors -- that's something I can understand people wanting to pay for.


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).