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Should Professional Dungeon Masters Charge Money for Session Zero?

So today, I want to talk about why you should charge for Session Zero—and how you can get hesitant players on board.

 

As a professional dungeon master, I always charge for Session Zero. And I’m not alone; many other DMs do the same. For those of you who don’t know, “Session Zero” is a term used in the tabletop roleplaying community to refer to the first meeting of a new campaign, where the players and dungeon masters get to know each other and decide on what kind of game they want to play. It’s also the session to go over or review safety tools, consent forms, lines and veils, and expectations. Some people argue that this initial meeting should be free of charge, but I believe that you should charge for session zero. Here’s why:

 

The main reason you should charge for Session Zero is simple: it’s a professional service. Just like any other professional service, you should be compensated for your time and expertise, especially if you consider that many Session Zeros include help with character creation, overviewing the world, and other time-intensive preparations for the Dungeon Master. We could end this blog post on that note, but since you’re already here, we’ll continue.

 

Dungeon Masters That Need to Drop a Potential Player

Session Zero is important because it’s an opportunity for you, as the dungeon master, to get to know your players and their preferences. This is especially important if you’re going to be running a long-term campaign; after all, no one wants to be stuck playing with someone they don’t like for months or even years on end! This is a chance for you, as the DM, to determine whether you’re comfortable with each individual in the party or not. If you’re not, you’ve still been compensated for the time and having to go search for a new player.

It Saves Players Energy & Money

It’s also a chance for your players to get to know you and make sure they’re comfortable with you as their DM. I always tell my potential players that session zero is an investment—one that will pay off in spades over the course of the campaign. Not only will they have a much better time if they choose a DM and game that fit their own preferences, but they’ll also save themselves more money by paying for this one session than paying for several and realizing they don’t like your storytelling style.

 

Another reason to charge for session zero is that it signals to your potential players that you’re serious about this. Session Zero as a safety tool is a critical part of the process of bringing a new adventuring team together. If the idea of Session Zero is unimportant to a player, then they’re not really committed to the process, and it’s best to weed them out quickly. You can then focus on finding people who are truly invested in this game.

 

Finally, charging for Session Zero sets the tone for the rest of the campaign. If your players are used to paying you upfront for your services, they’ll be more likely to respect this later on down the line if they want additional content or services. Similarly, if you start off by working for free, your players will likely continue to expect free labor from you throughout the duration of the campaign.

 

Conclusion: Honor Your Time & Expertise

Session Zero is an important opportunity for both DMs and players alike—one that’s well worth investing in. If you’re having trouble convincing your players to pay for Session Zero, just remember to emphasize the importance of getting to know each other and finding the right fit. And be sure to offer some proof of your credibility; a preview of your professional portfolio can go a long way towards putting hesitant players at ease. With a little effort, you’ll be sure to find players who are excited and willing to pay for Session Zero—and your campaign will be all the better for it!

 

So next time someone tries to tell you that you shouldn’t charge for your time and services, just direct them to this blog post. 😉

Written by
Beth the Bard (@ItsBethTheBard)

She/Her | Pro DM & Coach | ADHD | Best-Selling DnD Author of Feminist Curse of Strahd Book | D&D in a Castle DM | Creator of TTRPG University

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