There is no doubt that Dungeons & Dragons has hit a major stride over the last few years as more people than ever are playing the game and more are joining in on the fun every day. It feels like each year Wizards of the Coast is coming out with more D&D products to account for its growing fanbase so there is no shortage of options for players who want to get started or just elevate their game. There is still one thing that seems to get in the way of players being able to get their game on consistently, and that’s finding someone to be the dungeon master. These days, however, that issue is becoming easier to rectify as many of us now offer our services to you as professional dungeon masters.
Many people still don’t know that this is a service that you can search out or they may have been turned away due to the strange stigma that exists around the community. Many people cringe at the term ‘professional dungeon master’ as they believe we are here to steal the hobby they love from them, but that isn’t true. We provide in-depth and entertaining adventures with consistent scheduling and an elevated one-of-a-kind experience. But how do you know which dungeon master is right for you and your playgroup? How do you know you’ll get your money’s worth before you play a game with them? Well, I’m here to help out with my list of five things you should look for when you want to hire a professional dungeon master.
Table of Contents
1. Clear and Open Communication
This first one should be somewhat self-explanatory. Whether finding a DM in person and even more so if finding them online, they should be able to communicate with you clearly and directly in all matters. Whether that is you inquiring about their services or asking for a rules clarification, they should be able to respond to you directly, and most importantly, professionally. If they are calling themselves a ‘professional’ they should be able to address your questions or concerns in a friendly and timely manner.
I know many people will see this and probably just think to themselves “I can find someone online to do this for free, why would I pay someone for it?” Sure, you can do that. It’s gotten pretty easy for people to do that. But, I have heard plenty of horror stories about signing up for a game and then getting stuck with a DM that has a ‘god’ complex. These kinds of DMs refuse to listen to input from the rest of the table and will make rule things on the grounds of “I’m the DM so it’s going to happen this way because I said it does.” This is not what you want to be getting from a professional DM. A good DM should be willing to listen to the input from the group, be able to consider advice from others, and make sure everyone at the table, not just themselves, is having the best time possible.
2. Documented Experience or Recommendations
This point is the most important, hands down. Anyone that is claiming to be a professional in anything should have documented ways of showing you that to make sure you aren’t giving your money to some worthless hack. At the very least, they should be able to show you reviews or testimonies from others that can vouch for the quality of their services. This can be in the form of customer reviews left online or it could even be a recommendation that you get through a conversation with a friend. Word of mouth is great, but as with a professional in any other field, you should be able to find tangible evidence their services are worth paying for.
When trying to hire a professional DM this doesn’t just come from reviews or word of mouth and their experience can be documented in many different ways. Here are a few of them:
- Published Content
- Do they publish and/or sell their written content for other players or DMs to use?
- Podcasting, Streaming, or YouTube
- Do they have a podcast, live streams, or create video content for YouTube? Do they make guest appearances on other people’s podcasts, streams, or YouTube videos?
- Social Media
- Even if they don’t do any of the above, which anyone claiming to be a pro most likely does, they should at least have a social media presence that showcases their activities as a dungeon master for you to find. If they don’t, I’d be suspicious.
3. Do They Run a Session 0?
These days, any DM worth their salt should run a session 0. This statement is so much more important for any dungeon master that is running games for groups of people that they don’t know well. As a pro DM, they will run plenty of games for folks they don’t know, and though it may not be as critical for a one-shot, a session 0 is critical for any group that plans to play together for a while, especially if they all don’t know each other beforehand.
A session 0 is a very helpful tool, not just to a DM, but to the players as well. This session takes place before any gameplay happens. This is a session where the group gets together to discuss several things, set expectations, and make sure everyone is on the same page. This gives the DM a chance to discuss with the group the kind of game they want and allows the players to ask any questions they have and make sure everyone is set up and ready when the big day comes to start the campaign. When I run a session 0, I have all of the players build their characters together as well. This allows for the players to set up the kind of party dynamic they want to have and to figure out their relationships with the other characters. Session 0 is a very helpful tool for any DM. For any DM that wants to provide an elevated experience, especially with people they don’t know hiring them, it’s a necessity.
4. Do They Run Custom Adventures?
They absolutely should! I would be wary of any DMs that only offer a selection of specific adventures or that only want to run published adventures. This means they’re trying to get by doing as little work outside of the game as possible. A professional DM will always be writing or coming up with ideas for new games all the time anyways just because we enjoy it, so running a custom game shouldn’t be an issue. Anyone can get good at running a campaign if they do it over and over. Getting to play custom games is what makes a pro DM stand out. They should be giving you a one-of-a-kind experience that you can’t get with anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of really fun published adventures out there, but your pro DM shouldn’t be relying on them to get by.
5. Do they Operate Online or in Person?
Now, this comes down to personal preference and what your playgroup is looking for, but is good information to know upfront. Chances are if you’re looking for a DM online, they will probably be running games online, or possibly both. I prefer to run my games in person but I run games online as well. There is no right or wrong here. If you’re looking for an online game things to look for is how will the gameplay be handled (VTT, theatre of the mind, etc.), how will communications be handled (Zoom, Discord, Google Meet), and if you need to have accounts or subscriptions for anything needed to participate.
Look for these things when hiring a professional dungeon master:
- Clear and open communication: Make sure they are respectful and listen to your needs and input.
- Experience: Make sure they have tangible proof of their skills.
- Running a session 0: Allows both the DM and the players to discuss their expectations for a campaign.
- Custom adventures: Make sure you can get a unique experience worth paying for.
- Online or in person: Can they meet the needs of you and your group?
If you’re interested in hiring a professional dungeon master for your next campaign, or even just your next game night, be sure to check out our DMs For Hire!