Shooting from the Hip – Professional GameMasters?

First, you may notice that I changed the title from daily rant to shooting from the hip. I  don’t want to restrict myself to just things that annoy me, and I find I have less things that really bother me than I thought I did going into the idea. So every weekday(ish) I will post something that I find interesting, annoying, exiting or just some random thing that pops into my head without trying to shoe horn it into a single emotional category.


So for today my sights are set on what I think would be a great business idea for some young, smart college kid with some free time and a head full of geekdom; Professional Gamemastering. I know that to many of you this will seem like abject heresy. “What?” you say,  “Pay for role-playing? You’re insane gunslinger!”


But consider this, my friend Raef Granger from The D6 Generation recently pointed out during episode 3 of TWIW that he plays World of Warcraft regularly, but would give that up in a minute to play an actual live rpg with real people online.


The reason he would do this, as would I, is that we are middle aged men with full time jobs, commutes and families. The likelihood that we will be able to schedule and maintain a regular role playing group in person is very small. Still Raef, myself and many of our over 30 geek brethren have very fond memories of those days in high school and college playing D&D or some other role playing game with friends.


The enormous success of World of Warcraft should show that there is a huge market for interactive online role-playing. The problem with such games really is the lack of role-playing that is involved. For most people this is fine as they just want to get online, grind out some levels, or raid for gear and that’s it. But the existence of role playing servers show that a significant, if minority, percentage of such gamers long for more.


The promised D&D insider tools should have provided a gateway, but I think they missed out on how to price this kind of service. People will be willing to pay 14+ a month to be able to easily play online with friends with quality easy to use tools. Yes there are free alternatives, but they are free for a reason as they are labors of love with highly outdated graphics, limited functionality and substantial time requirements needed to make them work with an individual game system.


What I believe would change the industry is for someone to offer everything D&D Insider was supposed to offer, and take it one step further. Give us the 3-D character visualizer, virtual miniature creator, 3-D virtual tabletop, online reference guide and add the option of a professional DM! Seriously, if I knew that I could join a group of 6 players from around the world, have a voice and shared virtual tabletop connection with a game run every week by a professional DM who ran one game a day for 4 hours, and prepped for the game for one or two, I would pay for that! I would pay $25.00 a month for that easy!


Before you say I’m nuts just think of the convenience, and the play experience you could have if someone who made a living making his games fun for the players working to prepare and support your game. I know this is just the tip of the iceberg for a concept like this, and that the economics and logistics would be hellish to manage. Still, I know I would choose something like this over the most polished and well designed MMO out there. And if even 1% of the WoW market would have similar interest, then it could really be the next evolution in online role-playing.


Call me crazy, but I would be first in line to plunk down my card number.


Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear your feedback!