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After the release of D&D 5e and reading through all the advice on the exchange me and a couple of friends decided to start running weekly sessions, I paid for most of the initial materials (map, books, dice) so we have the basic materials to start.

Now the extra costs are starting to arise, miniatures and food namely. Should I seek financial contributions from the players, and if so what's a fair way to go about it?

Edit- my apologies, I was to vague explaining our situation. We are the proverbial broke college students using a borrowed classroom for our games.

I now realize that the subjective nature of this question makes this more of a grey question than a cut and dry answer, and thanks for all the input and suggestions.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Joshua Aslan Smith, Wibbs, SevenSidedDie, KRyan, GMJoe Sep 19 '14 at 4:03

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ this depends on soooooo many factors, particularly around the way your group works, the backgrounds of individuals in the group, their financial situations, whether people are friends, etc etc etc, I'm afraid I'm voting to close as primarily opinion based. It might be rescuable with a lot more specifics about your individual situation and group though \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Sep 18 '14 at 15:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a social issue not really about RPGs, just sparked by an RPG: Replace everything in the question about RPGs with stuff about golfing or cocktail parties or a LAN-party club, and the fundamental problem is unchanged. On top of that, its answers will necessarily be primarily opinion-based. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 18 '14 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is sufficiently on topic. However, do NOT answer in comments, such will be deleted. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Sep 18 '14 at 19:33
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This is of course very depending on your gaming group, if someone in it is very rich or poor and what you people usually do, but I can tell you what worked for me and the reasoning behind it.

  • The manuals are pretty costy but in the end whoever gets to keep them should have paid for them. I've seen friends buying the game togheter and it always ended with someone keeping the book and the others having paid for nothing (except being able to play the game, that is).

  • Dice, I noticed everyone wants to have his own set. Sometimes they see dice of some color tey like at the shop, sometimes they don't want to depend on the communal set of dice the DM provides. I have three whole sets of dice plus small bags of d6 we use as counters to represent monsters, but that's because I run a convention and it was deemed useful to buy some dice for the event so I didn't really spent money on them.

  • Miniatures, I don't use them. I use counters, unused dice, paperfold tokens and whatever is needed. If you like miniatures more you should buy them. Ask your players who feels like contributing, if you're too few maybe you won't get them (yet).

  • For the food, I provide the place including light, heating and time spent keeping the place tidy. The other players bring food and drinks. This works for us. From time to time, I put something into the mix, but you can buy an equal part if you feel like it. After all, each player eats and drinks at the table so it's ok if everyone contributes. Tell them beforehand and they should agree with you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The one thing about food is that if you asked on "etiquette hell" you might hear from some people that it's terribly rude to invite someone to your home and not feed them (or invite them to a restaurant and not pay, and so on). If that's the kind of crew you hang with then it's not such an easy step to tell them to bring you dinner, but I think most people would see it as a reasonable quid pro quo if that's what the combined GM and host wants. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop Sep 18 '14 at 17:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's even more terribly rude to show up at someone's house and not bring something. At least a bottle of wine or a six pack of beer or soda. \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Sep 18 '14 at 17:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Something I've done in the past with a particular group was use Lego figurines instead of "official" miniatures. If anyone in the group is a Lego fan and has a large collection (or several collections among members), it can make customizing and using your figurine rather fun, and much cheaper (assuming you've already got the Legos). The Lego figurines fit nicely into the squares on our mat, too. \$\endgroup\$ – ajp15243 Sep 18 '14 at 17:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Never touch another man's dice. \$\endgroup\$ – BBlake Sep 18 '14 at 18:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ d6's are the classic and timeless miniatures that never go out of fashion. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Sep 18 '14 at 22:52
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"Fair" Is In The Eye Of the Beholder

Food

When you say a fair way, define "fair". It means different things depending on the people and situation. At my table, I provide food the most often, while one other person hosts at his cottage once a year and provides food then. Other people occasionally bring something, but there's no expectation to do so (and a couple of people have never brought anything in nearly two years).

Is that fair? By virtue of effort and cost, no it's not. I'm paying more and doing more work. But the game is also at my house, and thus I have a kitchen and time to work with beforehand. I can provide more (and better) food for the same money that anybody else can, because of that. I'm not paying for gas to get to the game, and I don't have to worry about traffic or road conditions.

Plus, I have a deep fryer and enjoy making homemade donuts. They enjoy eating them. :) Everyone's happy, and that's good enough for me.

In your situation, you may not want to bear all the costs alone. You should bring it up next time everyone arrives, and explain that you can't continue to provide food every week entirely on your own. People are pretty understanding about money issues, usually. The group can work out how it wants to handle this, either by having people chip in, rotate who brings food, or simply not needing food at all.

Miniatures

Minis are a different beast than food, because they can be more expensive and because they're permanent. Someone who buys some, owns them. In my group, we're using someone elses minis (one of the players has a large collection he's letting me use). Other players occasionally have one for their character, but every NPC (and half the party) is from his collection. That's fine for us, because he already had them.

If someone wants the minis, that person should be buying them. They'll get to keep them after the campaign, after all. If nobody really wants them, you don't need them. When I don't have what I need, I use things like card stock folded paper (which I can write on), lego, action figures, or even whiteboard makers (my game board is a large whiteboard).

I've honestly never seen a game where a group tried to buy minis as a group, and had it go well. People generally want to own them. It's best for anybody that wants to have some to buy them and decide if they can be used in the campaign or not.

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Discuss, Discuss, Discuss!

I think the key to resolving this situation is simply to have an open conversation on the matter with your entire group. A lot of the other answers to this question make excellent talking points:

Communal Materials

Books, play mat, published adventures (if you're into that sort of thing).

These materials are shared by everyone, and fairly necessary for the game to be played. @Zachiel raised a great point with the issue of "who gets to keep/own" the materials, and the impact of that varies from group to group.

In my current group, I've bought almost all the communal materials, and for two reasons: I happen to make more in salary than the other players, making it less of a burden, and I had an interest in being the ultimate owner of these materials, making it possible for me to use them with other groups, etc.

In a past group I was part of, the load was shared more evenly. We each bought a book or two, and they "lived" with whoever was the current GM, along with our communal dice, playmat, etc. When the campaign changed hands, so did the materials. It worked well for us. This sort of arrangement lends itself well to a communal book fund/pool, where ownership is divided.

Due to the highly necessary and communal nature of these things, it's not unreasonable to ask for the others to contribute, though it may be unreasonable to simply expect them to do so.

Dice, Miniatures, and Other Semi-communal Materials

Some people are veeery particular about their dice, and will insist on having and keeping their own. Other groups are less concerned with this. In my current group, we have a large bag of communal dice (Thanks, Chessex!) but one or two players also have their own sets that they purchased, and which they keep as their own.

Minis are the same way—some of my players went out and bought miniatures for their characters, others use appropriately-sized toys or folded-over cardstock tokens. In the past, we've had LEGO minifigs, Risk tokens, bottlecaps, you name it!

In short, if there's a lot of interest in this, it's not unusual for players to purchase their own. If there's some interest in this, it's not out of the ordinary to pool resources for it, and if there's no interest, use recycled materials—they're wonderfully cheap.

Food and Drink

Now THIS one is, as I see it, the least controversial. If you're going to have snacks or a meal as part of your gaming sessions, then everyone should contribute, because everyone is taking part.

In the past, I've handled this a few different ways. Doing a round-robin with a different person responsible for food each session works well—simply make choosing the next person part of the end-of-session wrap-up procedure. (It doesn't hurt to remind the person a few days before that next session, either).

Having a communal food fund also works well. Ordering a pizza? Split the cost between yourselves. I would expect that sort of thing to occur at any gathering of friends involving a meal—the fact that gaming is also occurring is entirely irrelevant.

Hosting it at your place, and using your kitchen to cook a meal before the session? Great! A home-cooked meal and a satisfying session, that's a recipe for an excellent time. But even if you're not charging your friends for the time it took you to cook it (which I wouldn't expect) the ingredients aren't free, and asking for a contribution to help cover the cost is no different than splitting the pizza. Just make sure you discuss this beforehand, no one wants to be surprised with that.

In summary

Talk to your players, and see how they feel about the various costs. You will probably find a lot of support and understanding. Most of them have probably not volunteered any money because a) they didn't think about the costs, which you handled quietly by yourself, and b) they weren't asked.

Tone, phrasing, and timing make a large difference. Bring up the various costs, and ask for help covering them where it makes sense. Discuss costs ahead of time, and not after-the-fact, and make sure you're asking for their help, not demanding a payment.

These are your friends (I assume!), they don't want to make you pay for everything, but they also don't want to be told to pay for costs they're hearing about for the first time. Be reasonable, and they'll respond in kind!

Best of luck!

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Asking for people to contribute to the game is not weird. I think the biggest thing people confuse here, especially in terms of etiquette, is that this is not a party in the traditional sense. You are not having a one-off game night where you are inviting your friends over for brats and burgers.

You are playing a game that is essentially a regular sports team equivalent. If you have a bowling league, or a softball team, or a darts group, one person does not buy everyone's food every week. Even if you have a horseshoe pit in your back yard, or a baseball field or a tennis court, it doesn't mean every week your team gets together you're paying for everyone. That is in my opinion an unfair assumption from your players/teammates.

You should not buy their gear (dice, miniatures, etc). You are already providing the baseball field (the campaign and the off-time to prepare it and maintain it), let the players bring their own bats and cleats. If they don't want to, then they don't get the benefit of owning those things.

Obviously having rules available to make it an ease of use is something that helps the game progress. If I buy monopoly everyone can play, I still own it. Rulebooks should be the same, unless the group is extremely money tight in which case it should still be a gift and one person should own it, don't mess around with group ownership.

People may think because this is played like a board game that it's a game night, and you call it a game night, but if you are meeting weekly you're actually more like a sports team and everyone should contribute equally for the teams success.

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Miniatures and other non-consumables

Dice, miniatures, and other related game-stuff should generally be financed by the players. However, there are usually free options available: you can print off tokens instead of using miniatures, and players could use smartphone apps to roll dice. If they want to buy a sparkly hand-scribed set of dice, that's fine, but the cost is on them, not you. When it comes down to it, the money and time you put into the books and other resources is far more than a set of dice or some plastic figurines.

I expect, however, that if you ask for a few dollars from everyone to cover the cost of miniatures, dice, maps, or whatever, no one will complain.

Food

Food is a different matter. What worked for one of the gaming groups I was a part of was a 'food pot': everyone contributed a certain amount of money for meals. He kept track of what everyone had donated in a spreadsheet, and would let us know when one of us needed to put in more money. He used the money to buy ingredients and make the food himself, so he only needed $2 or so a week, per person. Sometimes it was soup, though once we had steaks. It was up to the GM, since it was his house, and he was doing the work.

If you don't want to cook, you could order pizza or other takeout; split the cost of the food evenly between players.

Alternately, instead of a meal, players could bring snacks and drinks; everyone spending a dollar or two on a bag of chips or a bottle of soda means everyone gets snacks, but no one is out a lot of cash. I've found it is generally accepted that since the GM has spent time and money on preparing the adventure, he/she is usually exempt from paying for snacks.

Regardless, talk with your players, and let them know the options. I've found that players are a lot more willing to contribute money than you might expect.

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No

Why should you players pay you?

Yes

It is only fair!

Hum, maybe?...

That entirely depends on your friends and how you ask them.

Firstly, most of your players should get their own dice if you need them, if not see How do you play D&D when we don't have dice to play with? for ways to get around that. Ditto with paper and pens, I think it is reasonable for them to buy those.

Second, the books are yours so asking the other players for money for them can be tricky: Who owns the book afterwards? Besides, it is likely that they will buy their own copies in the not so distant future. In addition, consider buying PDFs as those could be hosted on several machines. If you had those to start off. Adventures could be communally bought and once played resold second hand. You might even exchange adventures modules at your local game shop or get them second hand. Everything else is extra. You don't really need miniatures. You can use Lego blocks for that. Or cardboard cut outs. Or a white board and magnets. Or... You get the idea.

Lastly, food at sessions is a tricky one. I tend to have fruit at sessions. You can order pizza and generally the person hosting gets to make coffee/tea so they don't have to bring snacks. But you do not have to have food at the gaming table. Drinks, yes, as you'll end up talking a lot. But a glass of water is not expensive.

So, should you ask for money? Yes, you should if the costs are getting out of hand and you cannot bear the burden. However, you probably can avoid a lot of those extra costs. When you bring it up, make sure not to alienate your friends. It is a concern, and if you bring it up as such, they might offer solutions you have not thought about.

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