Do You Have What It Takes to be a Professional DM?

Professional DMing and GMing is becoming a reality. For some, being a professional DM is a full-time career. For others, it's a way to translate a particularly involved hobby into cash. Some people charge just enough to pay for their materials -- and others are trying to make a living at it. If the career seems interesting to you, it may be time for you to make the jump towards being a professional.

What is a Professional DM?

A professional dungeonmaster or gamemaster is someone who gets paid for running roleplaying games. It's that simple. Different DMs offer different services. Some run one-off campaigns, some teach children how to play D&D, and some even charge for roleplaying over the internet through Roll20.

DMs and GMs may use 5e, Pathfinder, 3.5e, or any other number of homebrew systems. They often craft a number of settings and provide pre-generated characters on demand. They essentially provide everything that a good DM would, with the understanding that they are also professional and reliable.

Who Needs a Professional GM?

In large metropolitan areas, professional GMs may cater to busy individuals who simply can't find a DM. They may want a game but may not be able to organize it on their own. They may not have anyone else to play with, so they may not be able to put together a group. They might just wat to jump into a one-off.

At board game cafes and game shops, professional GMs may run paid-for campaigns on weekends. These one-offs could be played for a low entry fee, such as $10 per person. This is an option for those who want to try out a game but don't have the time to commit.

But birthday parties and other events are also excellent occasions for professional DMs. Professional DMs can craft homebrew, one-off D&D or roleplaying campaigns that are based around, say, a birthday boy fighting (or befriending) a dragon. 

Do You Have What It Takes to be a Professional DM?

Whether you could be a professional DM doesn't just depend on you, but also your area. A few qualifying factors include:

  • How experienced of a DM are you? Most professional DMs have over a decade of experience. If you feel confident and competent in your knowledge, though, you may simply need to be naturally skilled and talented.
  • How connected are you in your community? For the most part, your initial clients are going to come from people you know. The more connected you are in your community, the better.
  • How large is your community? Not many people need a professional DM, so you can meet market saturation fairly fast. Larger metropolitan areas are usually better.
  • How much time do you have? A professional DM is going to spend a lot of time preparing campaigns, creating homebrew settings, and developing their own systems. 

The skill set of a professional DM is more than just knowledge of D&D, Pathfinder or Fate. Professional DMs also need to have superior social and organizational skills. The key word is professional: being a professional DM means you are going to be doing everything for your "customers," and that the materials you provide have to be exceptional. 

How Do You Get Started as a Professional DM?

It's advisable to start offering your services part-time at first. Online games through Roll20 and weekend games at your local game shop are a good way to get started. Pass out business cards and flyers, and try your best to build up a solid repository of content and information on your website, blog, and social media accounts; this is where a lot of people will look first for information.

The primary hurdle when becoming a professional DM is explaining what a professional DM does. Because it is a career that many people have not heard of, they may initially be skeptical. Don't worry: someone had to be the first at everything. Practice an "elevator pitch" that describes your services within a minute.

Being a professional DM isn't for everyone -- and most people aren't going to be able to make it into a full-time profession. Those that do, however, will find themselves making money doing what they love. As many of us know, being a DM at all can feel like a full-time job. Why not get rewarded?