DM “Rewards”

As a DM, do you think you’re entitled to rewards or compensation for your services?  I’m not talking at home around your table, though if that’s true, more power to you.  I mean D&D public play, specifically D&D Encounters.

I’ve recently opted out of running Encounters on a regular basis.  One of two DM’s, the other being the shop owner, I ran approximately 70 weeks of D&D Encounters in a row.  Most of the time I loved going, but there were other times I felt I had to.  I hate feeling that way about a hobby.

Honestly, the majority of Encounters is teaching newbs.  The first couple seasons brought in a lot of veterans, but those haven’t been around for a while.  Each new season brings in a different lot, all the same, newbs.  More and more, with each passing season, the newbs grow in number.  Encounters went from a game, to me teaching D&D to a class of 4-7.

I could handle that.  It was fun for a while, but teachers get paid.  I got a calendar.

The store gives me 20% off anything purchased in the store.  This was helpful up until they cancelled Miniatures.  I got to keep all the adventures I ran, of which all I care about is the maps.  A while back Wizards sent me a side-trek adventure for Tomb of Horrors (as if it weren’t long enough).  All these things gather dust, low on a shelf.  I want something more.

I endured for another season, maybe two… honestly I lost track.  It became a part-time job.  I got burned out and said my goodbyes.  Good terms I hope, but I can’t help feeling I let folks down.

Recently I got an email from the store.  It was a generic email, sent from an email list, stating the stores need for DM’s and their new rewards program.

  • DM’s will receive $2 in-store credit per player participating in their game.
  • Some events they will now require players to purchase something from the store.

Seems like a pretty fair gig, right?  Still not enough for me to sign on full-time.  I said I’d love to help with any Game Day’s of course, would run a month or so of Lair Assault (I want to kill me some players), could fill in on an “as needed” basis with Encounters, but I just didn’t want to sign on for another 3 month job.

The best parts about running a game are outside the game table.  D&D Encounters robs DM’s of the power to create, reducing them to an adjudicator of stat blocks and tactics.  There, I’ve said it.

Obviously Wizards marketing is working, drawing in the new players (customers) and slowly erasing the stigma of a tarnished brand.  I’m glad for them.  I love to see 4e gaining more and more popularity, and even more glad to see the next generation of gamers rolling dice for their first time.  The thing is, if Encounters keeps going strong, DM’s will get burned out.  What are they going to do about it?

I don’t think it should be the stores responsibility to keep the DM’s motivated.  Wizard’s needs to step it up.  If each season had a special-edition large miniature, that would be worth it for me.  If each season had special-edition dungeon tile, I might go for that.  I want Wizards to give me something top-shelf, something other gamers would look at and desire.  Imagine a simple rewards system that appealed to the collector in all DM’s.  A system that makes DM’s want a part-time job teaching newbs.

Do you participate in D&D public play?  Always out of the goodness of your D&D-loving heart?  How does your store handle burn-out?



About j0nny_5

Mid-thirties and work a full-time job in beautiful northern Colorado. In my free time I play D&D, video games, and walk my two beautiful Bouvier des Flandres.
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6 Responses to DM “Rewards”

  1. Alphastream says:

    I ran the first two seasons, but had to stop so I could focus on Ashes of Athas organized play and my own home game. I miss it. I actually found DMing Encounters to be absolutely refreshing. I could prep an encounter while riding my exercise bike, then grab minis and go. But, more often than not I would think the encounter over, bounce ideas off of other DMs on the WotC forums, and come up with cool enhancements. We came up with great additions to the game. Dark Sun, for example, had a Green Age temple but little Green Age flavor. So, we put it back in. Elemental corruption to be restored, alternate ways to win, different monster motivation that was discernible. I found it to be really stimulating.

    At the same time, everyone burns out. Week after week does become commonplace. It is a good idea for a store or organizer to work through judges the way a basketball team does players. Judge a season, play a bit or take a break, come back and judge more. Never DM if you are burnt out. It isn’t about rewards because, ultimately, the real reward is the game. No loot makes up for not enjoying the game. When I burn out (happens about every 5 years for me) I switch to other game systems. Legend of the Five Rings, Spycraft, Shadowrun, a superhero game, etc. Swapping for even just a month can make good ol’ D&D seem refreshing once more. Also, vary your judging. Judge LFR for a bit, which I find to be very different from Encounters.

    And, importantly, take care of your health and the rest of your life. Colorado? Great place to step away from the game briefly, then come back with vigor. Extended rest…

    • j0nny_5 says:

      Thanks for the comment. I don’t want to come off as getting burnt out of D&D altogether. I too have my home game, I also play in a game. No, I love 4e. I’m burnt on teaching D&D. I agree with you about the ease of Encounters. I too like the grab and go prep that Encounters entails, and believe me, I alter. The problem is my store has had very few judges step up to the plate. A conversation with the store owner revealed he could get no one other than me to sign up with any consistency. That leaves me feeling obligated.

      I’m sorry if I came off as greedy, I don’t mean to sound overly so. I think the loot is necessary to make sure the store has their choice of DM. How many stores out there are scraping the bottom of the barrel with sub-par DM’s? How many are burnt out, with no one to take their place?

  2. Alphastream says:

    You didn’t come off as greedy at all. I totally understand. I think most stores have just a few DMs. I happen to work with a really good organizer and we have had the opposite. Tons of players have become judges. We see a really healthy rotation. Part of it is that we encourage the DMs to show how much fun they have and to step down when they aren’t feeling the fun. But some of it is just the good people we have. They like to give back just as we have.

  3. Samantha Umbra says:

    I am compensated by the store I run at with $5 in store credit. All this really does is continue to feed my growing M:TG addiction. As I near the end of my fourth season DM’ing, I am definitely starting to feel the burn, but I was actually refreshed to have three new players stop by last week. With Lair Assault launching soon as well, I am excited to have my regulars begin to take on another challenge while a new spat of players comes through for the Neverwinter season next time. How I’ll feel at the end of the Neverwinter season is anyone’s guess, but for now, it’s enjoyable.

  4. boccobsblog says:

    When ever gaming becomes a job you need to run away. It is supposed to be fun, when it ceases to be so, you need to change something. Good luck.

    • j0nny_5 says:

      Thanks! It’s been a couple weeks now and I’m already starting to feel better. I agreed to run Game Day (of course) and will see how it goes from there.

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