On Professional Gamesmastering

Are you a High School or College Student who loves Role Playing Games and has fantastic story ideas rolling around in your head that you'd love to spring on your unsuspecting Players to their delight and amazement? Or are you a gainfully employed Corporate Warrior who thinks there's nothing more fun than having a pack of your favorite Players launch off on a Quest across the Galaxy to save the human race from the Reptilian Mind-Flayers of Delgon? Or are you a creative, artistic person with fabulous stories in your mind that you'd love to share with players in an interactive story-creation game? Are you a creative genius with incredible awe-inspiring Worlds to share?

Do you wish that somehow you could parlay all of this creative drive into a money making operation as well, either as supplemental income (or even possibly as a full time career)?

WE have something in common!

Yes, it is possible. I know because I have done it before. Several times in fact. I will outline here how, and try to provide you with some resources to help you do the same.

The Basic Concept

Professional Gamesmastering, as I conceived it and ran it, is a kind of glorified baby sitting service for busy parents who have kids that they'd love to have entertained for a number of hours, probably on a Saturday, and are willing to pay roughly the going rate for it. To get this going you have to appeal to two or three groups of people:

1. You need a venue. That can be a local Community Center, Library, Game Store, or even someone's house provided they have an appropriate amount of space, tables, chairs, and so on.

2. You need to get the Parents on board with the idea. Sell them on the concept that this is both fun and educational for their kids. They will intuitively grasp the value of having a big block of free time to spend on whatever they like, so you don't need to pitch that.

3. You need to get the kids on board. That, friends, is the easy part. Once they start playing, provided you have some skill and talent for the job, they'll clammer to come back week after week. Believe me. There's some tricks to the trade which I will try to impart, learnings that I derived from my experiences, and I will roll those out as time and interest shall suggest.

Here's some basic information about how I organized my efforts in this direction in the past.

The Community Center Game Club: $ / hour

First, a little bit of history on my own successes with it. I started my first professional GM gig in 1992 by applying to a local Community Center. I explained to them that I would be happy to run a Game Program for Middle School kids, and I would charge the Community Center $6.50 / hour to run the program. The agreed and I advertised through the Community Center to the local Middle School. I got 35 kids signed up by the third week. I started during Spring Break when the kids have some free time and the parents might have an inclination to find something for their kids to be doing for a few hours. Each game lasted 4 hours.

The adventure it self was quite fun. They played a roving caravan of warriors patrolling the desert outside a secret city on the edge of the mountains. The city was kept a secret because there were dire forces at hand which might destroy the city. They came upon various monsters, the most memorable of which was the attack of the giant scorpion. You could hear a pin drop in the group as we played that adventure, so on the edge of their seats were the children. It was really fabulous.

It went rather well, but that gig was more of a proof-of-concept than a full time job, and after a few months I let it go. Why? Because managing 35 kids for $6.50 / hour is crazy. But even so, I will give some details as to how I managed it. There are a number of useful concepts that I developed during that experience. I was making about $26 / game. If memory serves me correctly, in the end I played about 24 games and made about $600.

Privately Organized Game Club: $ / Hour / Player

The next Professional GM gig took place a few years later, in 2004. This time I organized The Elthos Game Club directly with some local Parents who had kids that were interested in playing a Role Playing Game like D&D. I of course was interested at the time in play testing my Elthos Visual Basic Application, and so I organized the effort and rounded up 12 kids between the ages of 10 and 12. We played at one of the Parent's houses in the basement. This time I charged a much more reasonable rate of $4.00 / hour per child. So instead of making $24 / game I was making about $264 / game (there was on average 11 kids per game, as some could not make it but attendance was usually almost full). I played once per week for 12 weeks. This was the original Hamfest Campaign featuring the Hamfest Hell Hounds Adventure Group. It was one of the most fun and memorable games I've played to date. As it happens kids of that age are fantastic role players as their sense of immersion is great, and their creativity is usually unhampered by the forces of civilization. It was magnificent in fact. The adventure itself involved their quest to save a fairy princess from The Weasel King, as aided by the Queen of the Ants, and the Mice Generals (who were themselves quite unlucky as those of you who may have read Aesop's Fables might recall). Yes, it was a remarkable adventure indeed. In the end I made roughly $3200.

How to Get Started

Since I found that the second methods of a privately organized game paid better I will focus on that. You should keep in mind that you could potentially make the same deal with your local Community Center that I did with my Privately Organized Game. I approached this as a professional and created a proposal, and worked out how I wanted to run the club in advance. Here are the steps I took.

Step 1: Organizing the Game Setup

Actually, you need to have a pretty well organized game setup to begin with. I created The Elthos Game Club for this purpose. It made it "Official" and gave the participants something to hang their hats on. The Game Club has a Website. Aat the time I used Yahoo Groups to Organize the Club, and at this point there may be other options. On the other hand, Yahoo Groups has some significant advantages. Namely, it lets you store a lot of different kinds of data, including files, photos, and even lets you create single table databases which are searchable, all in a centralized place for everyone's convenience. It also lets you utilize the messaging board and he Calendar feature for Scheduling purposes. I recommend checking it out. Conversely, you can also look at creating a free website for yourself using WordPress, or a number of other free website services out there. Look around. But yes, whatever platform you choose, I recommend having a website for yourself.

A Game Club should offer the Players / Parents a One-Stop-Shop for finding out all the information necessary for your Club. Do you have Rules and Guidelines for the Club? Age limits? Promo information about the nature and style of your Game? A specific RPG Rules System you're using? All of this kind of information should be posted there.

A standard Schedule? A Fee / Payment Policy? Awards for your Players? Current Events? All of this should be posted on your Game Club Website.

Step 2: Getting Connected to a Venue

The next thing to do is find a Venue. Use the Game Club to help you pitch the idea locally. Call your local Community Center and ask them "Can I run a Game Club for kids?" They'll probably say yes. Tell them you want to charge a fee, and you want to use the Community Center as a place to meet. Community Centers are often looking for ways to entertain / educate the local kids in the area. This could be perfect for everyone.

Or, if that doesn't pan out for some reason, you can pitch the idea at your local elementary or middle school. Just be sure to have an age range for participants that is appropriate. I would say age 10 would be my minimum age, with few exceptions.

The best experience I had so far is where one of the Parents involved volunteered their basement for our Game Club. Everyone would meet there on Saturday Mornings and we would play pretty much all day. It was a completely fabulous arrangement. The basement had enough room for chairs for all the kids, whom I had seated in their Character's Marching Order in the game, and a nice big table for me to sit at and run the game from. Splendid, splendid.

Step 3: Convincing the Parents

Convincing the Parents in my experience was not that difficult at all. In fact I only needed to convince one. That parent, once convinced, quickly convinced a bunch of others whose kids were all friends already. Once the ball got rolling it rolled and rolled and rolled. It was very nice.

Two things are important for the parents.

1. You are professional and presenting a clean, well organized, and safe environment for their kids.

2. The kids will have fun, and learn things.

That's it. You do that and you should be golden. Doing that is a matter of presenting your Game Club to the Parents in a professional manner, with enough explanation for them to feel you will be responsible and manage the game for the kids nicely. Not so hard to do. After all, parents send their kids out to do all kinds of group activities. You just need to present yourself as one of the many options available to them.

Step 4: Convincing the Kids

That's easy. Just make a poster that shows some cool looking Dragons, Goblins, Men, Elves and Dwarves on it with a Castle or something along those lines with a big title that reads "Action! Adventure! Excitement! Role Playing Game for Kids! Join the RPG Game Club Today!" Don't worry. They'll be stoked. Make sure the kids get the posters when you are introducing the Game Club to the Parents.

Some Examples

Game Club Proposal

What you can do is take my proposal and adapt it for your own purposes. Obviously I focused my efforts on the Elthos System because that's my baby. You're welcome to use it as well, but of course you may not need or want to. In which case simply change the Proposal to suit your own needs. You can obviously change the amount you charge or the number of players you allow, or your pricing structure. These are what worked for me. It doesn't mean the exact same formula will work for you. So make changes as you see fit and see how things work for you.

I recommend you send it to potential parents who might be interested in their kids joining your Game Club. Remember - from the Parents point of view this is a glorified Baby Sitting Service that the kids love, and has potential educational merit depending on how you Gamesmaster the thing. I recommend you pitch your game as 'educational' as I did with Elthos. The way I made my games Educational was to bring in classic artwork that reflected the scenes the kid's Characters would be tromping through, and then give a little speech on the artist, the year it was made the style of the artwork and ask a bonus question for some extra points in the game, or something. I would do the same for the music I played for the mood, and always chose appropriate classical music, and gave a little quick speech about the composer, and so on. Very easy. Parents liked it. Kids were interested. Worked well.

Send your proposal to whomever you think may be interested. Community Centers are a good bet. Libraries are not bad (though they may charge a fee for using one of their rooms). Comic Book Stores possibly. Or a parent's house, so long as there is adult supervision and at least one parent present it should be ok. REMEMBER: you are dealing in this case with people's KIDS. Therefore, this can raise potential issues for you if anything goes wrong. BIG ISSUES. So the solution is for you to conduct the games in a public venue, such as the Community Center. By no means would I recommend you hold your games at your own residence. This could become a big problem for you if anything happen to go wrong. So, I highly recommend you go public and avoid potential liability.

Game Club Rules

Elthos Game Club Yahoo Group


Please feel free to use the Elthos Game System for your games. It is light-weight, fast and flexible. It allows you as Gamesmaster to create and manage your own worlds, and your players to access their Character information on-line. It's a great little system with tons of online features to help you Gamesmaster.

The Rules for the Elthos RPG can be downloaded from the Main Screen of the Elthos RPG Mythos Machine Website, once you create an account and log in. Just click the 'Play!' button to get started.

That's about it for now. These suggestions and examples are here to help inspire you to get out there and begin your Career as a Professional GamesMaster. I will add to the examples, and clarify them, over time as time and interest suggest. If you have questions or comments about any of this, or would like further clarification, please write to me at:


Thanks and Great Gaming to you!


Gray Falcon
of Elthos

... Yup, yup ...