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From The *Somewhat Twisted* Mind Of Dulux-Oz

Why I Oppose Paid Games

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First of all, this is not aimed at any one individual or group of individuals. Instead, it is an explanation of my views on an activity, not on the people who engage in that activity.

For the record, when I use the term "paid game" I am referring to RPG sessions where the Players pay the GM to run the game for them.

As the title of this blog indicates I am opposed to paid games. I find the idea... distasteful, even cheap. While I hold no ill will to those who do engage in paid games, it is not something I can support or even condone. Others will, of course, hold different views, and I respect the people who hold those views, even though I may disagree with them and they with me.

Role-Playing Games are exactly that: they are games. Games are ment to be a fun activity, typically shared between friends. True, most activities grouped in under the "games" umbrella are competitions, but RPGs are different, even unique in that the Players don't compete with each other, nor do they compete with the GM - well, at least not in a properly run RPG, anyway. Yes, there are a handful of board and other games which are co-operative, but even with most of these the Players are competing against something, usually the clock or some other random element such as a deck of cards or such-like. No, it is only in the RPG hobby that the unique aspects of this "non-competition" are found.

So these games are unique, and are shared among and played by friends. As a GM I construct my games with care because I'm presenting something that I can enjoy with people I want to spend my time with: my friends. When I put together a new group I'm not looking for just Players; I'm looking for friends, both old and new. When we sit down and game we're not just rolling dice and playing at being "Murder-Hoboes"; we're building a relationship between friends and telling personal stories. I find it... uncomfortable to pay or be paid to be someone's friend.

Can you imagine paying someone to play a game of tennis with you? I don't mean as a coach or with both of you being paid to play as a spectacle, but just as a "friendly" game between two people? I know it could happen but its certainly different from just two friends having a game.

Then there's the idea of corruption. As a paid GM, do I go easy on the Players because I'm afraid that if I'm "too tough" they won't come back and therefore I won't make as much money. Or as a Player to I insist of having an easier time of things for the same reason. I know that this can happen in a regular game, but surely the temptation is greater when there's a direct, tangible reward on the table. We all know (those of us who have gamed for a while) that the best games and the best stories are the ones where the Players aren't handed everything on a silver platter (or even a copper platter, for that matter). And even if as a player I don't want the GM to go easy on me, how do I know that this isn't happening even sub-consciously on the GM's part when the GM's getting paid, and therefore I'm not getting a "true" RPG experience. Again, this ties back to trust and to friendship: how can I trust a "friend" who is only there because money is changing hands?

On a different note: How much hubris does a person have to have to think that they're a good enough GM to charge others for the privilege of playing in one of their games? I've been GMing for over 30 years, and I've gamed with a number of other GM's over that time who were as good or better than I am. And where as I'm one of the most arrogant, stuck-up know-it-alls that I know, I don't have the sheer balls to think I'm good enough for people to actually pay me - well, actually, I do. I just don't think that much of myself to actually go ahead and charge people. And I can't imaging any of the other GMs I know - the true Master GMs - changing people either, for the same reasons that I'm outlining here.

The more I wrote, read, re-wrote and re-read this blog the more I realized that the best analogy to this situation was one of sex versus "making love". Sex is fun, it is shared between two (or more) people (depending upon your personal level of kink), and is usually done by those with a relationship; with friends (or lovers). True, you can participate in a "one-shot" one-night-stand; in a series of "casual" encounters with people you know; but the best sex is when it moves beyond just sex into "making love": when the campaign of the physical act takes on the spiritual aspects and you find yourself sharing an intimate story with someone you trust and respect and genuinely care for: your "friend".

While you can certainly pay for and be paid for sex, you can't really pay for or be paid for "making love", because the trust, intimacy and "friendship" just isn't there.

And its the same (to my mind, at least) with paid games: you can't really get the full effect of the game when you have to pay someone to run the game for you - its like paying someone for sex: you get the physical act, but you're missing out on the deeper, more spiritual level.

So why do people pay for a game? I suspect its similar as to why people pay for sex - its "easier" than developing a relationship with a "friend", or its because its quicker to pay someone for a "one night stand" or series of "one night stands" to satisfy their passing "fix" than it is to take the time to find and develop the friendships necessary to fully enjoy this fantastic hobby. Its the "quick fix" versus the "delayed gratification", where everyone knows the delayed gratifications is way, way better in the long run!

I know it can be hard to find a gaming group - its hard to find a true friend and partner, too. But my advice to Players (and GMs) is stick with it, keep looking, and don't limit yourself to just the "popular" gaming systems but expand you horizons and try different systems. A lot of good GMs run games in different systems than the "popular" ones, and we play Role-Playing Games, not just a single game. And if you still can't find a game, seriously consider running one yourself: you become the GM - it's really not that hard, and yes, everyone can do it. After all, most RPGs are designed to be GM'd by 12 year olds - you're smarted than a 12 year old, aren't you?

And don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with showing your GM some love and appreciation, especially if they do run a good game. Chipping in and helping out your GM with some of the costs of running the game (buying Rulesets, Tokens, Maps, or Adventures and other Modules for your GM, or even your own Standard FG License) is a fine way to say "Thank you" for putting on a good game, as is the exchange of Christmas and Birthday Gifts as friends do (as my own group does).

So that's my take on paid games. I think SmiteWorks has taken the best stance they can with the topic, and I applaud them for the stance that they have taken as a decent compromise to the situation. But me personally: I don't like paid games, I don't support paid games, and I don't believe paid games are necessary; just deceptively convenient. I also strongly believe that those who participate in paid games are missing out on the full experience of the RPG hobby, which I consider is a real tragedy.

Good Luck and Good Gaming,

"And may all you rolls be 20s"

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  1. Stuart's Avatar
    Absolutely agree, I think "distasteful" is the most apt descriptor.
  2. Bidmaron's Avatar
    Wow is this really a thing?
  3. LordEntrails's Avatar
    "Distasteful" I agree. Following through with the sex analogy, it makes me feel similarly as to when I think of prostitution. I have trouble finding a moral objection to sex for money, but it (like paid GMing) gives me a sense of ... sorrow and regret. I guess I would feel better about paying for play (& sex) if it was in addition to a 'free' relationship(s) and not as a substitute or alternative.

    I understand social anxiety, and the difficulty many have finding friends (or lovers), but it truly is worth the adversity to find that group of friends to play an RPG with. Its possible, the RPG community is full of unique people with every type of difference.

    Yea, paid GMing/gaming is a thing. I've seen people over the last year advertising for such on various forums and blogs and a few video teasers. I'll be surprised if it ever becomes very successful over a wide spectrum.
  4. Full Bleed's Avatar
    The fact that some are willing to pay for someone to provide them with a more "professional" gaming experience strikes me as no less reasonable, or distasteful, than paying someone to cook them a meal.

    I know that my time is my most valuable commodity. And the only reason I don't run pay-to-play games is because I seriously doubt anyone would be willing to pay me what my time is worth. But, make no mistake, in order for me to justify running more than the games I do run... I'd need to put a price on that commodity.

    Welcome to the wide world of capitalism. Which, btw, is the only reason this industry even exists.
  5. dulux-oz's Avatar
    I would debate that there is anyone who is more "professional" than those of us who have been GMing for a number of years.

    I take your point on your time being valuable - I consider my time valuable as well - but it come back to the idea of "Prostitution" - just because you charge people to have sex with you doesn't make you better at sex (or more importantly, better at "making love"), it just makes you better at milking people for money for an activity that the rest of us engage in and enjoy for free.
    Updated September 30th, 2017 at 15:18 by dulux-oz
  6. Full Bleed's Avatar
    Charging someone doesn't make you better. But in the real world the cream does usually rise to the top. Quality of service and demand usually sets the market value of something.

    And I know for a fact that I don't approach the games I run as a "professional" (largely, of course, because I'm not being paid). And I bet you don't either. So I'm not sure why you're question the veracity of the assertion. I might show up 5 minutes late... or pick up a phone call... talk to the wife... talk about politics, religion, or something personal that happened to me that week... I might even belch amoungst friends... curse unnecessarily or say something provocative that has nothing to do with the game... take a bathroom break when I could hold it... eat and drink without muting... let a player derail the game... be sloppy with my syntax or recollection of something. I would, in short, run the game exactly how I felt like running it. And so long as it seemed like everyone was having a reasonably good time, and the game was moving, I'd be ok with it. So, pretty much nothing like I am when I'm doing something "professionally".

    I would also argue that GMing is, indeed, a more tangible skill than you seem to indicate. Like public speaking. Or teaching. Storytelling. Writing. Etc. I've seen teachers that have been teaching for 30 years that I thought were horrible. And teachers that had only been doing it for 2 that were awesome. Experience is not the sole indicator of quality, let alone professionalism. Charisma, Wisdom, and Intelligence--for example--aren't just stats in a game. Real people posses these traits, too. And what they do with them matters.

    And there is certainly a VAST differentiation in the quality of GMing out there. And quite a spectrum of the kind of campaign any particular GM might be good, great, or awful at. Some might be great at story telling, at running efficient combat, at varying the behaviour of enemies or NPC's, keeping the players moving, subtlety across the board, rules mastery/application, the art of compromise, conflict management, improvisational skills, and on and on and on. Every cut of meat isn't the same.

    I just don't agree that the people willing to pay for a GM are like johns at all. On the flip-side, I'm more inclined to think people who think they're "good GM's" are probably like all those guys that think they're awesome in bed. I mean, how many guys have you ever heard say they were terrible in the sack? I know of none. However, women will tell you otherwise (when speaking about their exes, of course... their husbands and boyfriends are awesome. )

    A lot of people play golf for nothing. Some can get paid to do it. Almost everyone can grill a steak. Others get paid to do it. Some people do wood-working as a hobby. Some people get paid to do it. Some people love to paint and draw. Some people get paid to do it. Some people can play guitar. Some people get paid to do it. Some people spend time on forums helping people they don't know figure out how to set up their networking. Some people get paid to provide technical support. Some people program for a hobby and share the fruits of their labor for nothing. And some people get paid to do it. Some lawyers and doctors get paid millions. Some do a lot of "work" pro-bono.

    Getting paid to do something that you're good at doesn't make you a bad person. And paying someone for something they're good at doesn't make you socially deficient. Maybe it just makes you practical. If you go over a friend's house and they cook a meal, you won't hold it to the same standard that you would hold a $100 meal at a restaurant. And that's fine. But, ya know, maybe you want that $100 meal instead of mushrooms in the sauce when you don't like them, or medium-well when you want medium-rare, or white wine instead of red.

    So, yeah, if you think GMing is--inherently--a worthless, skill-less, valueless commodity that anyone can do at the highest level... then, sure, no one should ever consider paying for it.

    Others, as you've acknowledge in your opening, probably beg to differ.
  7. dulux-oz's Avatar
    No, I don't think GMing is inherently (or otherwise) a skill-less or valueless commodity - I don't think its a commodity at all, and anyone who treats it as a commodity to be bought and sold is missing both the point and the true joy (the deeper, more meaningful aspects) of gaming, just like anyone who buys and sells sex is missing out on the true joys (the deeper, more meaningful aspects) of "making love". Not everything is nor should be subjected to "market forces", and I maintain that GMing is one of those things.

    Look, I find you arguments unconvincing and/or "false flags", but I'm not going to argue with you further because it is obvious neither you nor I will convince nor be convinced by the other. I've laid out my arguments to my position and you've laid out yours. If people want to engage in paid gaming or not then its up to them, just like its up to the individual to oppose paid gaming if that's their view. I and others are not in favor of it; you are, and so let's just leave it at that, shall we?
  8. LindseyFan's Avatar
    I of course agree 100% with Dulux-Oz. I think everything he said in the OP and follow-ups are pretty spot on in assessment of this bizarre habit. A comment that struck me though is how the game play experience may be altered because those that pay may expect an easier time (ala pay-to-win). I now know I personally could never be paid... I crave the tears of anguish that can only come from a solid TPK. I wash my dice in them (both in the physical and virtual world). There is nothing like seeing how trembling fingers type and mispell: "bbut do do I gget a ssssave?" Ctrl+F3 - my macro for the response "No!" hehehehehehe

    Seriously though, how much fun is a person paid to tell you about a treasure you found? Compare that with someone who waited all week to make sure every copper you place in your pouch is done so with blood soaked hands. Does a paladin truly feel brave confronting beatable foe after beatable foe? Or does she truly live when she tells her friends to run while she holds back the horde?

    I pay to watch movies. I play with my friends to experience a different life. That and to collect those salty tears... love 'em!
  9. LordEntrails's Avatar
    GMing is a valuable skill. Not everything that has value should be traded for money. Or has the same value when it is traded for money. imo.
  10. LindseyFan's Avatar
    Kind of like CPR.
  11. GunnarGreybeard's Avatar
    I think I might find it hard to kill a PC or not fudge rolls when $$$ is involved. Kind of invokes a 'quid pro quo' that I wouldn't really be comfortable with, but maybe that's just me.
  12. Myrdin Potter's Avatar
    I don’t have an issue with someone charging to run a game, and if people are willing to pay, then it is their money, their choice. Paying for entertainment, especially entertainment done well is really not a big deal.

    Would I charge to run a game? For charity, yes. Otherwise, no I would not. I am paid quite a high rate when I work as a consultant and I place very high standards of performance on myself because of that. There is no way that I would charge someone to DM as I enjoy it for its own sake.

    The hobby itself and this program and these forums are supported because people pay for them.

    I respect and mostly agree with dulux-oz’s opinion, but the counter balance to that is that I will not interject my dislike of their behavior into thread or conversations where it is not wanted. The new forum rule to keep aggressive advertising down is enough and they are welcome to their own threads and personal business.
  13. Lunalight's Avatar
    I think I understand the points you are making. Please correct me if these are unfair reductions.

    1. Roleplaying games are an activity to be conducted amongst friends. Paying people to be a friend is problematic. Therefore, paying for your roleplaying games is problematic.
    2. Paying for someone to operate your game misaligns their incentives, giving you an inferior experience.
    3. You are getting ripped off because the money you spend does not result in a better experience.
    4. You are better off searching longer for a free game/making a game yourself than paying for a readily available game.

    If I have this correct, then I have a few counterpoints.

    Addressing point 1, I don't think that roleplaying games are conducted with friends in the traditional sense of the term. Especially online, people who play games with each other have very little if any commitments to each other, and can often be flakey. I think we are united by a common hobby, but that doesn't make me friends any more than going to a convention makes me friends with everyone who attends. Roleplaying games are an opportunity for friendships to foster for sure, but there is something inherently attractive about people being committed to the game for reasons that you can control.

    As for point 2, I agree that definitely can be the case. When paying for games, the expectations should be made very clear what sort of experience will be delivered. If a player actively seeks out an easy mode and is willing to pay for that experience, I don't mind them cheapening their own experience, but the problems stem from the group nature of games. If some players seek a challenge and others want easy mode, then the GM cannot deliver one experience without compromising the other.

    For point 3, you are half right. You are correct in saying that there are amazing GMs who do not charge the players for the experience and that having to pay for an experience doesn't mean that it is worth money. However, I think it is weird to say that GMs need to be good at being GMs to justify charging for their games. It doesn't have anything to do with quality, but instead availability. Maybe I want to spend a few extra hours working on making my campaign a more enjoyable and compelling experience, but I could also spend that time relaxing or working more hours. Undoubtedly the most dedicated to the game will accept the sacrifice of their relaxation or opportunities for additional income, but if you just wanted more people to expend such effort, paying them is an efficient way to create that result. More people are willing to create quality experiences for money than those who are eager to do so for free. There is excellent and unique value in a GM who is willing to spend their time and resources towards creating a fantastic experience for their players, but there are just not enough of them to sustain all the players looking for a high-quality game.

    Lastly, on point 4, I think that while that is a valid subjective opinion, I can't say it will exist as commonly as you might want it to. For many people, roleplaying games are about having fun, and not having to deal with real-world problems. If I can pay money to make GMs and players adjust their schedules to fit mine, that is an enticing proposition. GMing, while able to be done by a 12-year-old, is something which involves a lot of management. If you don't find the act of GMing entertaining, then you will probably try to find someone who does. Failing that, it is usually easy to find people who enjoy being paid money in exchange for services.

    As an afterthought, I wanted to address your comparison of love-making to paying a prostitute. I admit, when you pay someone to GM for you, that makes it hard for them ever to become your friend. The power that you hold over them makes that prospect challenging. It could be the case that the pinnacle of the roleplaying experience could be lost through paying for your GM. But, the accessibility of the pinnacle of the roleplaying experience and that of finding a loving partner are significantly different. Most people have an intrinsic desire to be loved and to love. Few have the desire to be a quality GM for the sake of it. If it means that more people can play games of good quality, then the existence of paid games seems to be a positive force towards achieving that goal.
  14. wmsmitty's Avatar
    Free market enterprise. If players are willing to pay a GM money to run a game; kudos to the GM. Live and let live...what's the harm? If you don't believe in paying for the service of a GM, don't. If you are a player who is open to paying a GM to run a game, then who are we to judge? If the players are finding value for the experience of paying a GM for a game, then good for them. Personally, I would never pay a GM to play an RPG; but let's flip the coin. How many of us have paid to play RPG's at GenCon? You're paying to play a game there. So what is the difference? The experience of attending a convention?

    DM's spend a lot of time prepping their worlds, adventures, buying modules, miniatures and spending money on all sorts of gaming accessories to provide a great gaming experience. All players do, is show up with their character, PHB and maybe a miniature to represent their character and play. The opinion of the poster is a valid one and one I partially share; but it is an opinion and I myself am not one to judge the success or failure of players paying a GM to render a gaming experience. If money can be had as a paid GM, then good for that person. I wish them continued success; it just won't be me that will be contributing to their success.
  15. mbabbs's Avatar
    Doesn't bother me - if someone wants to make some money out of professional GM'ing and others want to pay for it then great. Got no problem with that.
  16. Felix4099's Avatar
    People spend entirely too much time talking about why they don't like this or that. It's not illegal. If you don't believe in paying for a DM, then don't. Go do something you enjoy.
  17. LordEntrails's Avatar
    Interesting article I just ran across; https://www.rollingstone.com/glixel/...-games-w479506

    It's from April 2017, so not new, but new to me.
  18. mervhd's Avatar
    A lot of good thoughts here. I for one am not apposed to pay to play games but I can see how people would feel like it cheapens the experience. With that said I can see how it can bring some stability to flaky games. Nothing more annoying than a player or DM flake out at the last minute... online or in person.
  19. wmsmitty's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by LordEntrails
    Interesting article I just ran across; https://www.rollingstone.com/glixel/...-games-w479506

    It's from April 2017, so not new, but new to me.
    I saw this a while back. I even checked out their channels. They're knowledgeable guys and know the game quite well; but nothing out of the ordinary. In my mind anyway. Their approach and content isn't anything that I haven't already done as a GM. ****, I've been GMing since 1988.

    But again, I don't fault them for making money on what they love to do and I don't fault the players that pay them. Basically, Youtube enabled them to do this. If there was no Youtube, these guys wouldn't be getting paid. They took advantage of an online medium early on and are now profiting from it.
  20. Saladin's Avatar
    Of course ó thatís why I pirate modules and software, and sneak in to concerts. Who do these greedy Capitalists think they are? Their time and creative abilities arenít worth anything.
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