D&D in the 21st Century

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torkill13
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D&D in the 21st Century

Post by torkill13 » Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:23 pm

As an "old school" D&D fan, it is exciting to watch as TTRPG becomes more and more acceptable in society. Long gone are the days of being teased and bullied, or being accused of evil devilry.

I think this evolution can be credited to many things. From the rise in popularity of fantasy shows and movies like Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and Stranger Things, to the better accessibility to play via video games and online platforms. If you aren't really sure what D&D is about, you don't have to look very hard to find a live stream on Twitch or YouTube to see the game in action. All of these things have greatly increased the popularity of our favorite pastime.

Bloomburg recently wrote an article on the popularity of D&D. I am happy to see that there is an estimated 40 million people playing, and I can understand that popular streamers earn money for playing games, but for some reason I have an hard time getting the idea of paying to play D&D.

I can't help but think that people paying for a professional DM, think they are going to get a Critical Role like experience. But that show is what it is because of the entire cast, not just Matt's skills as a DM. Not to mention the production team and costs.

While I don't mind paying for services like Roll20, or buying the new Baldurs Gate 3 video game, I cannot fathom ever paying for someone to DM a game. Am I just a stubborn old man? What am I missing?

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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by shesheyan » Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:39 pm

DMing can be seen as «service». If someone offers a professional DMing services and people willing to pay, why not! Also, some people offer introductions to D&D as birthday gifts. The package usually includes character creation, a short dungeon and the starter set or the 3 books. That is a really cool gift!

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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by timemrick » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:14 pm

There is a gentleman in our city who runs D&D day camps during spring and summer breaks. Each camp runs for a week, and has a slightly different focus: some are just him running games for kids from elementary to high school age; some are specifically designed to give very young kids (preschool-kindergarten) their first taste of RPGs; some are workshops to teach kids how to DM (from designing a world/campaign to running adventures for each other). He also does week-long day camps on related subjects, like painting miniatures. (The rest of the year, he makes his living producing RPG props such as detailed gaming terrain.)

My kids (both young teenagers) attended one of his D&D camps last summer, and are doing it again for a week this summer. It's not cheap, but is fairly reasonable compared to other day camps available to them--and they're practically guaranteed to be doing something they love all day long at this one.

I love gaming with my kids, and do it as often as I can, but my time for that is limited. This camp gives them another adult's perspective on the hobby, as well as experience playing with kids they don't know as well as the friends they usually play with. Those can be very valuable lessons for young gamers.
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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by Havard » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:30 pm

I remember people talking about this back in the 90s(?) where DM's charged money to run games. I'm sure it has happened through the history of our hobby.

The new technology of course presents new ways of making money off GMing through streaming etc.

I am wondering if this changes the role of the GM however. A GM charging money for his services is no longer a player like the rest of the people around the table. People will now come to him (or her) with different expectations. Is the GM entertaining enough? Why did this game end in a TPK, when I paid for it? Why doesn't this DM know all the rules when I pay? Why doesn't he bring is A-Game all the time?

Similarly, I see people playing on streaming services or YouTube etc as shifting their roles from people enjoying a hobby together to that of being entertainers. I am sure that even the most relaxed YouTube or Twitch gamers are aware of their role as entertainers to the degree that they play the game differently than they would at home.

Not saying there is anything wrong with what they are doing, but I think it is almost a different thing that what the rest of us are doing. I would never pay anyone to DM for me and I would never charge anyone for sitting down at my table.

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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by Angel Tarragon » Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:58 pm

timemrick wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:14 pm
There is a gentleman in our city who runs D&D day camps during spring and summer breaks. Each camp runs for a week, and has a slightly different focus: some are just him running games for kids from elementary to high school age; some are specifically designed to give very young kids (preschool-kindergarten) their first taste of RPGs; some are workshops to teach kids how to DM (from designing a world/campaign to running adventures for each other). He also does week-long day camps on related subjects, like painting miniatures. (The rest of the year, he makes his living producing RPG props such as detailed gaming terrain.)
That's pretty darn cool! :cool:

Heck, if there were gaming camps for adults (more affordable than a plane ticket and lodging for GenCon), I'd be In Like Flint.
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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by Kythkyn » Fri Jul 12, 2019 7:07 pm

torkill13 wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:23 pm
While I don't mind paying for services like Roll20, or buying the new Baldurs Gate 3 video game, I cannot fathom ever paying for someone to DM a game. Am I just a stubborn old man? What am I missing?
No, this is correct. We used to joke that we paid the GM in snacks (as in, if I was GMing, someone would buy me Monster), but that was play. Actually paying someone opens up a lot of issues. Like, am I paying for the experience? Does my character have immunity? How much say do I get in the story? Spotlight time? Like, if it becomes a service, then we're looking at an entirely different experience than it is just doing it for the love of the game.
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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by torkill13 » Fri Jul 12, 2019 7:37 pm

timemrick wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:14 pm
There is a gentleman in our city who runs D&D day camps during spring and summer breaks. Each camp runs for a week, and has a slightly different focus: some are just him running games for kids from elementary to high school age; some are specifically designed to give very young kids (preschool-kindergarten) their first taste of RPGs; some are workshops to teach kids how to DM (from designing a world/campaign to running adventures for each other). He also does week-long day camps on related subjects, like painting miniatures. (The rest of the year, he makes his living producing RPG props such as detailed gaming terrain.)

My kids (both young teenagers) attended one of his D&D camps last summer, and are doing it again for a week this summer. It's not cheap, but is fairly reasonable compared to other day camps available to them--and they're practically guaranteed to be doing something they love all day long at this one.

I love gaming with my kids, and do it as often as I can, but my time for that is limited. This camp gives them another adult's perspective on the hobby, as well as experience playing with kids they don't know as well as the friends they usually play with. Those can be very valuable lessons for young gamers.
See, now this I could get behind! A summer camp is one thing. You would learn a lot and there is a clearly defined schedule so you know exactly what you are paying for. Paying a DM per 4-hr session is completely different.

That seems like it could very easily be taken advantage of by someone making a living that way. Just end ever session on a cliff hanger. Get those customers wanting to come back. Also, what happens when you have different types of paying customers in the same group? One wants combat, combat, combat! The other is looking for a more RP-centric session spent exploring the town, meeting merchants, etc. And since there is no measure to know what quality of DM you are getting, anybody can give it a shot. I highly doubt that it is like an infomercial with 100% money-back option if you are not completely satisfied. Call me a skeptic, but in this day and age it takes an awful lot for me to trust people.

I guess the other route is to have contracts, NDAs, and other legal documents clearly defining what your customer can expect to get for their money. But that doesn't really feel like the true spirit of D&D to me.

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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by RobJN » Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:12 pm

So what we need to come up with is an Angie's List, but for DMs :D
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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by talsine » Sat Jul 13, 2019 1:26 am

timemrick wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:14 pm
There is a gentleman in our city who runs D&D day camps during spring and summer breaks. Each camp runs for a week, and has a slightly different focus: some are just him running games for kids from elementary to high school age; some are specifically designed to give very young kids (preschool-kindergarten) their first taste of RPGs; some are workshops to teach kids how to DM (from designing a world/campaign to running adventures for each other). He also does week-long day camps on related subjects, like painting miniatures. (The rest of the year, he makes his living producing RPG props such as detailed gaming terrain.)
This kind of thing, I am all about. In fact, if I had the time, i would honestly look into trying to do something like this. I know a couple of teacher friends that would defiantly have the time and maybe even the contacts, to try and setup something similar.

As far as paying someone to just run a game for me, i don't know, I've talked to people who have done it, but once it changes from a 'Groups of Friends" to "me paying for a service" that changes the dynamic of the game and I don't know if I could enjoy it as much. And, as mentioned above, I would be upset if the game was run poorly, or a TPK happened, or what have you. It just doesn't feel right to me. But I also don't understand how people can watch someone else play D&D. I have tried to watch Critical Roll, but its just so boring, I don't want to watch people play RPGs, i want to play them.

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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by Big Mac » Sat Jul 13, 2019 4:35 pm

Nice topic!
torkill13 wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:23 pm
As an "old school" D&D fan, it is exciting to watch as TTRPG becomes more and more acceptable in society. Long gone are the days of being teased and bullied, or being accused of evil devilry.

I think this evolution can be credited to many things. From the rise in popularity of fantasy shows and movies like Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and Stranger Things, to the better accessibility to play via video games and online platforms. If you aren't really sure what D&D is about, you don't have to look very hard to find a live stream on Twitch or YouTube to see the game in action. All of these things have greatly increased the popularity of our favorite pastime.
Hmm. Well like you said, that "satanic panic" stuff was a long time ago. And it never really happened in the UK and some other parts of the world. But I do see journalists digging it up a lot recently. The original stories were part of an attempt to cause controversy and shut down D&D. I'm not so sure what the motivation is for the more recent stories. But there is an element of sensationalism to them.

I think the popularity of fantasy shows and movies is partially built on the popularity of tabletop RPGs. And it's not just them, but it is also fantasy computer games (like World of Warcraft).

But it's not all coming from tabletop games. Lord of the Rings predates D&D, so you have some cultural influence from that and other cultural influence from LoTR into D&D and then out into other fantasy productions. (It's hard to say exactly where the idea of elves as taller than humans and very beautiful comes from, but that idea seems to be overtaking the idea of them being small creatures that make shoes and help Santa.)

Partly, I think this is down to creative people playing older D&D games and either getting jobs working on newer versions of D&D (or other tabletop games). And partly I think this is down to head-hunters stealing talent from tabletop RPG companies (like TSR and WotC) and getting them to work on computer games, board games and other things that are inspired by various fantasy and legendary sources.

So I think those general trends that you observe are true, but there are a lot of other things going on, as well. There must be people who have read Lord of the Rings and played Lord of the Rings computer games, who have never played a roleplaying game in Middle Earth. How would their experience differ from a D&D player who is familiar with legendary races and monsters from D&D games, but who watches the LotR movies and sees things like orcs and trolls as D&D elements leaking into movies.

No doubt there will be more cultural feedback over time, with fantasy elements being recycled until they end up with shared origin stories.

I think that science fiction has a lot of shared elements (robots, hyperspace and terraforming) that are now tropes that appear all over the place. Even time travel is endlessly recycled. I don't think there is a big science fiction RPG that is as big as D&D is, so I think that it is harder for people to see shows and movies as being born off the back of sci-fi tabletop games. But I do know that the Star Wars games from West End Games helped keep the Star Wars universe fresh in the minds of a lot of people.

The other interesting thing about science fiction fandom, is that there doesn't seem to have been a satanic panic. So journalists don't have that to dig out, when they want to talk about old science fiction origins. I have seen a few people digging out the panic caused by HG Wells doing a radio show in the US and talking about a Martian invasion of the USA, as if he was doing a news broadcast.
torkill13 wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:23 pm
Bloomburg recently wrote an article on the popularity of D&D. I am happy to see that there is an estimated 40 million people playing, and I can understand that popular streamers earn money for playing games, but for some reason I have an hard time getting the idea of paying to play D&D.

I can't help but think that people paying for a professional DM, think they are going to get a Critical Role like experience. But that show is what it is because of the entire cast, not just Matt's skills as a DM. Not to mention the production team and costs.
You could be right there.

I know that various people have run charity D&D games for years and years. That is people paying for games, but it's not quite the same thing as the DMs are not really earning from it.

Then you have Wizards of the Coast trying to push entertainment events, where D&D players pay to get in. Maze Arcana did something called D&D in a Castle last year. I'm not sure if that is still going. But they have also been pushing stage-show D&D games, where lots of people watch a GM and a set of players playing a small one-shot game.

But how big is that sort of thing?

Critical Role is undoubtedly big, but I'm not sure all the other shows that are trying to ride it's coat tails are. It kind of feels very much like a gold rush to me, with a lot of people jumping in and throwing money at trying to establish D&D as something people pay to watch. Will it work? Or will there be a bubble that bursts, with lots of people (probably not Matt Mercer or Matthew Coleville) ending up out of pocket and giving up.

I think that only time will tell. This quote from the article is interesting:
Mary Pilon at Bloomberg wrote:“It’s a new trend, and we’re aware of it,” says Nathan Stewart, vice president of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise at Wizards of the Coast, which has published the game since it acquired the original publisher, TSR Inc., in 1997. “The idea that people are making a living being a professional dungeon master is cool and mind-blowing.”
I have to wonder if this is really happening (in significant numbers) or if this is something that WotC and others are "talking up".

There sadly is a bit of a hype machine around D&D products. We have had "edition war" fights over negative PR being put out about older rules and there have been things like the "too many settings killed TSR" mantra that have blasted 2nd Edition settings. There is obviously some truth to these things...but it is also true that there is a monetary value to hype and propaganda that makes people buy new D&D books.

So, I kind of feel like we only start to see the true picture, after something goes out of print, they hype machine moves on and the edition warriors stop taking about something.

Perhaps we can look at older stories about professional DMs to see how well that has worked out as a viable career. And perhaps we could look at something like the first season of Critical Roll to see how many newbies are discovering it and bumping up the YouTube stats. :?
torkill13 wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:23 pm
While I don't mind paying for services like Roll20, or buying the new Baldurs Gate 3 video game, I cannot fathom ever paying for someone to DM a game. Am I just a stubborn old man? What am I missing?
I don't pay for Roll20. (I have a free account.) I guess that part of this is that paying someone to run your games feels a bit like paying someone to be your friend.

But I do see people paying other people to make D&D stuff. Anna Meyer has people paying her to spend time doing Greyhawk maps (instead of a day job). I think that Thorf has finally let people pay him to make Mystara maps. People even pay AuldDragon to run the Spelljammer game he runs once a week on his Twitch channel (although he doesn't link to his Patreon here much).

And people paid Matt Coleville a ton of cash more than he asked for to make a book, as they wanted him to have a TV studio to talk about D&D in.

So there are people earning money (or at least being subsidised) for doing D&D stuff, but the idea of the "rise of the profession DM" is not quite what I think is happening out there.
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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by dulsi » Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:30 am

People pay to go to conventions and play games. I don't see it being that big difference to do it for a longer time period. If you have a group of players with money and no body wants to DM, why not hire one? Are there a large number of people doing this? I doubt it. I don't think it brings in a large paycheck either.

As for watching a D&D game, I don't really understand the interest but I also don't understand the interest in televised sports. The argument of why watch soccer instead of playing it works just as well in that instance.
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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by talsine » Sun Jul 14, 2019 3:41 am

dulsi wrote:
Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:30 am
People pay to go to conventions and play games. I don't see it being that big difference to do it for a longer time period. If you have a group of players with money and no body wants to DM, why not hire one? Are there a large number of people doing this? I doubt it. I don't think it brings in a large paycheck either.
Playing a demo or a con game is very different from paying a specific person to run you and your friends through a game. There are completely different expectations there, I play Con games and demos very differently than I play home games because I know that they are one shots and i most likely won't see these people again. That's different from paying a GM where you are still going to see your friends after the game and, i assume, you want to be able to talk about all of the fun things you guys have done and will do in the campaign.
dulsi wrote:
Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:30 am
As for watching a D&D game, I don't really understand the interest but I also don't understand the interest in televised sports. The argument of why watch soccer instead of playing it works just as well in that instance.
I think an argument could be made, though not by me because sports are a waste of time and money, that watching sports is at least watching something that you can't do; or at least not on that level. Sure, anyone can play sportsball, but can anyone play sportsball like Lebron James or Bo Jackson or whatever the famous people are now? I don't waste my time on either of them, but sports kind of makes sense. But anyone can run and play RPGs. That's the disconnect for me

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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by Wangalade » Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:43 pm

dulsi wrote:
Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:30 am
If you have a group of players with money and no body wants to DM, why not hire one?
Because someone in that group of players should be willing/want to try dming.

Even in groups where I've been the only dm, and I wanted to take a break, someone was always willing to try dming for the first time just to see what it was like.
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Re: D&D in the 21st Centuty

Post by dulsi » Sun Jul 14, 2019 3:47 pm

Wangalade wrote:
Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:43 pm
Because someone in that group of players should be willing/want to try dming.

Even in groups where I've been the only dm, and I wanted to take a break, someone was always willing to try dming for the first time just to see what it was like.
Yes that is generally how it works. But I've seen groups where no one wants to DM or has the time to DM.

I'm not saying I would pay for a DM but I can see why some might use such a service. There are lots of things people pay money for that they don't necessarily need. Or pay money for things they could do themselves like mowing their lawns. People hire ghost writers. I don't see why DM should be singled out as something you can't pay for.
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