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Lake Watkins
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Lake here again with an update and request. I'm currently at 5 online groups with over 20 players total @ $7 per player per session over on Roll20. The lead groups are about half-way through the campaign (I've been running each group through the same original 50-session module, effectively).

It's been going great, but I could use some help. So far this has all been part-time, and while I think I can finish these groups, I did just get a big contract I've been working on for the past few years. So I'd rather focus on that starting in a few months.

Would any of you be interested in Co-GMing over the next few months? I'm willing to keep running the sessions, but there's a lot of prep work involved, and I could use the skills of any worldbuilders, artists, or writers out there. If you're considering breaking into professional game mastering, this might be a good opportunity, as I'd be willing to pass on these players to you once we've wrapped up these campaigns. This contract will be for the next 18 months, and I already have a waitlist of players, so I'm thinking that we could basically handoff players or groups while the other preps the next campaign. Of course, I'd be willing to support another GM behind the scenes if they'd come rescue me here.

I've tried working with some Co-GMs in the past, I figured I'd ask this group since y'all seem more serious. Also, I'm still looking for people that would be willing to mod or post to /r/lfgPro on reddit. The community's dead right now, but I have a chance to revive it.

Finally I'll try to answer any questions for those still curious how I've made this work so far.

Hi guys, this is Lake from the Ledge Foundation with a mid/post-mortem. Mark asked me to write a success story when I got then time, but I'm not quite prepared to call this experiment a success just yet. Ive got a few minutes now, so I'll share what I've got.

About a year ago I registered the Ledge Foundation as both an open-gaming foundation for organized play and a social enterprise for game-based learning. It's basically a non-profit modelled after an open-source foundation to handle my side projects in a more collaborative and professional way. We applied for and received a grant to make an educational mobile game for special needs kids which should start soon (final negotiations pending). Then about six months ago I started building a pay-to-play campaign on Roll20 based an earlier version that I had run with my local group. The first version was a very loose, theatre of mind political intrigue type game in a variant of Fate Core. I knew it would be fun for the people that enjoy that style of game, but that I'd also have to step things up for actual paying players.

So I sketched out a 50 session / 1 year long campaign using a more popular system (in this case D&D 3.5 / Pathfinder). I'm fine playing a crunchier style, so I started buying art and making maps for a slightly more tactical game. At first I was advertising on Reddit's Looking for Group subreddit (r/lfg), but I've just been informed that we're not to post pro game ads there any longer. Instead with one of the moderators there, I've made the new Looking for Group Pro subreddit (r/lfgPro) in which we're free to advertise. Let me know if you'd be interested in moderating that BTW, but for the rest of you I should note that once I built some momentum, most of my players started to come from Roll20's lfg postings, rather than Reddit. Before I started on their platform, I emailed the Roll20 team to clear it with them. They had some advice and ground rules (which I'll discuss in a minute), but if there's one piece of advice you should take away from this it's that asking politely will get you far. This whole thing wouldn't have been possible unless I asked a few folks for help or permission and gotten a yes back, so make sure to do that even if you think it's somewhat unlikely.

Now, based on some advice from another pro GM, Jeremy Black, I decided on $7 per ~4 hour session per player. If I could hit 5 weekly groups of 7 players each, then I figured that would be enough to support myself between contracts while also covering overhead. Each player would get a free trial session and a 1-on-1 text-based solo adventure once they became a regular (since 7 players per group is a lot and I'd like to make sure they get enough spotlight). Payment would be through paypal, patreon, or bitcoin. I knew it would be hard to ramp up, but that was my target starting out.

What I quickly learned is that online players are far more likely to drop suddenly and without warning than local players at the table. I won't speculate on the reasons for that, but I've had about a 50% retention rate compared to 90%+ in real life (I also founded a meetup group with 300+ players now). It's clear that expectations are higher and the sense of personal connection is lower, so beware of that. I try to interview all players, but the only good indicator of a strong group is when they're already good friends to begin with. Even when I added some of my good friends and experienced RPers that wasn't enough. Today I've got 4 online groups with about 20 regular players with the lead groups about 17 sessions into the campaign. One group fell apart completely but I've been able to keep the other ones together for now. I've revised my estimates for the number of weekly groups I would need to 6, given the reality of delinquent players and the difficulty of matching players with the right group. However, with this contract potentially coming up now, I don't think I'm going to take on any more groups.

Nowadays my biggest time sinks are putting together the maps/adventures and writing solo adventures. The admin work takes a lot of time too, but my co-gm Jean Boyden has been working on lore and other background materials to help me with that. I feel like I could still use other co-gms or content creators from here to help out, especially since running this as a commercial endeavor means that I can't just borrow art online under fair use. Notably, Jeff Hebert agreed to let us use Hero Machine for portraits and the Ryzome RPG artwork has been released under an open-source license, so thanks to them. Do any of you know of other large caches of open source art outside of opengameart.org? The Roll20 team allows us to advertise and run the game on their platform as long as we use purchased or licensed art and we don't reach out to players outside of our postings. If we use anything "from the web" through their art library interface, then we can't stream online. That's the biggest block preventing me from taking this to twitch or another streaming platform. I've gotta run, but if y'all have any questions or comments, let me know and I'll keep an eye on this.

TL;DR: ~$150 a week for ~60 hours of work. Not a huge success yet, but we're getting there.


Hey Everyone, Mark asked me to share some of the tools and resources I've found that make pro-gming easier. In no particular order:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ryzom/sets/72157645935788203/ (open source illustrations)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ryzom/sets/72157645463678069/ (open source concept art)
http://opengameart.org/ (general open source art)
http://www.heromachine.com/ (portrait creation)

http://wagn.org/ (wiki software, soon to be renamed decko)
https://roll20.net/ (virtual tabletop platform)
https://discordapp.com/ (voice app alternative)

https://www.reddit.com/r/lfg (a place where I advertise)

If you guys know of any other useful tools or especially open source art resources, let me know.
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