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It's fairly common to see games (especially D&D) choose someone as the bullet-swallower - one player becomes the emulation engine on which the game runs. The bait is the ability to take charge of the game, and be the rule arbitrator, referee and otherwise master of the game. The price is a significant chunk of work (and often change) associated with preparation for each game session, and with running it.

How do you compensate your GM for his hard work? Do you compensate him at all? Are GMs for hire common anywhere (performing the GM duties in exchange for actual money payment)?

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We compensate ourselves by killing characters :-). –  C. Ross Aug 25 '11 at 19:53
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And pizza. We also accept bribes :) –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Aug 25 '11 at 21:13
    
Please keep in mind how we make subjective questions acceptable, which is the Good Subjective/Bad Subjective guidelines. Answers about how you have, or have seen, a GM be compensated and how that worked out are the only answers that are on topic, not random opinions. –  mxyzplk Nov 25 '13 at 2:49

12 Answers 12

up vote 51 down vote accepted

I am rewarded by having a consistent, enthusiastic group of players, willing to attend with regularity for years on end. They record our games as blogs, beg for more when I'm out of plot for a night, and rearrange their schedules to assure they can attend.

They treat the game with respect, they take risks (within limits - I'm never gonna get them to play Grey Ranks or Steal Away Jordan), and play their characters to the hilt. They trust me and each other. They make the story a thousand times better than I ever could alone.

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Ahh, for a group like that. Lucky DM. –  YogoZuno Sep 25 '11 at 23:12

As a trade-in gm the things that make me happiest is when i get constructive feedback, players telling me what they liked and didn't like. I also appreciate bribes.

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For me, creating the story and the challenges, and reacting to what my players do is the main source of fun (and thus reward). However, recently I've asked my players to contribute towards buying the Adventure Paths we're using, so those (plus any supplies I use the leftover money to buy) are technically mine afterwards.

In short, I'm compensated in fun and supplies to produce more fun.

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I play in a group where everyone is a DM for their own game(s). We'll play an adventure, then switch to another DM/GM/Referee/Storyteller. If a game goes on long enough, we tend to informally give the DM the "right" to pick who we order dinner from. Unless someone vehemently disagrees, we tend to order whatever it is the DM wants to eat.

Intangibles, however are the main DM Currency. Since the group has been together for more than 10 years, we also tend to have characters/groups that have significant buy-in from players, and the Modern Nights Vampire Chronicle we have going has been going on since 1999 or so, and the Storyteller only reacts to whatever the characters do. We, the players, tend to provide most of the plot in that game. Some of our ideas are so crazy, the Storyteller only makes up bad guys and sits back laughing at us.

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The GM is also a player and can have much fun in the session. It is very rewarding to watch the players unveiling the story, you already know. To laugh at their failed attempts and to give subtle hints if they are stuck. :-)

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One thing our group has done is alternate who GMs over the same characters/world. That way everybody can play, you can have multiple long term events on going, and everybody gets to experience GMing. You have to trust everybody in your group not to give out super powerful things, or alter the world in immense ways (or you can just undo things like this next time you GM). I've found it's a good way to keep games fresh for everybody.

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So do you, as GMs, accept the experience of running a game as compensation? –  Dave DuPlantis Aug 26 '11 at 13:28
    
We compensate our GMs by giving them a chance to play as well. –  Opieus Aug 26 '11 at 18:22
    
I hate to say that my experience with this didn't work too well. The game became too episodic and there was little driving us forward. –  Hand-E-Food Oct 6 '12 at 13:14

"Thank you for your time, I had fun." is what I want as compensation. Failing that, I'd like that a player discussed with me why they weren't having fun with no fear of retaliation, in front of others or away from the table if necessary. The purpose of the game is to complete the adventure but the intent is for you to have fun doing it.

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There is no better compensation than showing respect for the task your GM is performing. Show respect for the story he is weaving. Show respect for the characters he impersonates, for the battles he conducts and for the environment he has devised.

Most GMs who like their task do not seek or even want any compensation other than a group of players who get involved in the sessions and help build a good story from it. Play your character according to her description (it's called *role*playing after all) and do not take any action that might hurt you character as a personal offense.

Compensation comes from the player group talking about events that happen in the story as if they had happened in real life, from them remembering how they collaborated to solve a quest or win a battle, form them talking about the villains form the story as if they were their own nemesis and from them coming back to the next session even when in the last one a couple of them died and the rest had to flee leaving behind their most valued possessions.

Respect, friendship and good laughs is what your GM will mostly appreciate.

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Welcome to the site! Awesome answer so +1 ! –  Pureferret Dec 30 '11 at 11:05

We take turns buying books. The choices are strongly influenced by what the campaign needs and what the GM wants. And, after buying them, we let the GM borrow them for a couple weeks to read through them and prep for the relevant section of the campaign.

We rotate through the group, and each member buys a book that they like that will benefit the campaign (nobody wants to get stuck with a book they don't want).

Example: (GURPS) GM bought Magic, I bought Low-Tech, my friend is probably about to buy Mass Combat, etc.

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GMing is its own reward. Creatively I get a lot more out of GMing than out of playing.

But that doesn't always work out so well financially. In the past I've tried to give gaming gifts to my GMs. It was never a formal thing, like I had to spend $n dollars per y hours of game time. But I often purchased books or painted minis for my GM around his birthday or the holidays.

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As a player, gifts to long-standing GMs, particularly when they retire, have included all players chipping in for an engraved pewter tankard. That GM is a big real ale drinker, so he liked that, and it was engraved with the party name (which, unfortunately, was The Fellowship of The Gland - don't ask).

As a GM, heartfelt thanks from the players are what I'm most after. If they've had a brilliant time and want to do it again, I'm happy. Occasionally, they have bought me a nice set of metal dice, or more recently for a campaign set in Greyhawk's Duchy of Tenh, they got me a set of d6 with the Tenh crest in place of the "1". I don't expect gifts like those, but they are lovely when they turn up.

And once a ten-year-old player, son of the above-mentioned GM, gave me two lovely d8s (which he clearly wanted to keep, and equally clearly felt I should have) which I also treasure.

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First off, any recompense in any currency; be it social, financial, material, or emotional, is/should be directly in relation to the amount of effort said 'bullet-swallower' puts forth. I'm a little surprised this has not come up. If the GM is a figurehead using premade modules on a bought campaign with a RAW bought game, that is very different that the GM who has a thousand page wiki about his homebrew world and his own ruleset. The Gm who puts an hour of prep per session should expect a different return than the GM who puts five hours of work into every session.

Secondly, the social aspect of the game comes into play as well. Is there a huge history of shared play, or is this a new campaign? What is the emotional investiture in the characters? Are the sessions social events with wine, dinner, and spouses coming along to do quiet busywork and the whole group being friends outside of gaming, or is a coke and pizza session with people who barely know each other?

Thirdly; how invested are the players in the shared creation of the game? DO they write long backstories and ties stuff in to the GMs background work, helping him flesh out areas and creating a web of contiguity; or do we have Bob II the fighter?

As backstory, I have been paid a few times back after college, and there was a full decade where one of my groups paid all my travel expenses, since I was living a few states away from that group.

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