How Your Tabletop RPG Money Can Make You Money
Calling all Dungeons & Dragons lovers! (Pathfinder, Fate and Cyberpunk lovers, too.) Tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPG) are more popular than ever. And with popularity comes opportunity. There are newbies to teach, dice to sell and campaigns to write.
“The pandemic changed everything. I think we as a society realized the need for social interaction and imaginative play through TTRPGs,” professional Game Master Michael Pucci told The Penny Hoarder. “I’ve been playing since it was something you felt you had to hide. Now my daughter is DMing for her D&D club which hosts multiple tables in the library after school.”
The surge of popularity has allowed Pucci to work full-time doing what he loves: running sessions of tabletop RPGs.
Could your passion for TTRPGs make you money, too?
How Your Tabletop RPG Hobby Could Make You Money
1. Become a Professional Game Master
Always a Dungeon Master, never a player? You might as well get paid for your efforts. People pay real money to play TTRPGs with an experienced Game Master.
James McFadden is a self-described “forever DM” who gets paid to run multiple games per week.
“It’s hard to find a DM sometimes,” McFadden said. “Especially a DM who’s going to be consistent and wants to run and create those adventures. And I was willing to do it.”
If you’re the entrepreneurial type, you can set up shop as a professional DM on your own. Some DMs make $100 per hour or more that way. But don’t underestimate how tough it is to market yourself! When McFadden launched a website to sell his services, he didn’t have much luck.
“I got nothing,” McFadden said with a laugh. “Eventually my wife’s cousin got one of her sons to sign up for a game.”
Luckily, he found StartPlaying, an online marketplace for paid Game Mastering. As of this writing, he has led over 500 paid games through the platform.
Getting started is simple. Sign up for StartPlaying, set up a profile, list a game, and wait for the player sign-ups to roll in.
For best results, point your profile at your target market. McFadden works with a lot of new players, so his profile includes words like “teacher” and “introduction.”
“I’ve been able to cut out a niche for myself,” McFadden said. “People feel comfortable with me being the person who’s going to teach them the game.”
A Game Master running a one shot with six seats for $15 per player per session would get just over $80. (That’s including StartPlaying’s 10% cut).
Not bad for playing D&D for a few hours!
2. Write Tabletop RPG Campaigns
Everyone loves a good homebrew campaign. Players can explore an apocalyptic wasteland or a sporting tournament; a necromantic university or a magical menagerie.
There’s a marketplace for that. On DriveThruRPG, you can list your custom campaigns, characters, weapons, and more. As long as it doesn’t infringe on a company’s intellectual property rights, the sky’s the limit.
Do you have an idea for a campaign that takes place in Wizards of the Coast’s proprietary settings, such as the Forgotten Realms? Good news! You can publish that on Dungeon Masters Guild.
Similar platforms exist for other game systems, including Storytellers Vault for Vampire: The Masquerade and Pathfinder Infinite for Pathfinder.
Make sure you understand the rules for using a company’s intellectual property before selling your campaign! Read about Wizard of the Coast, the Open Game Licence, and Dungeon Masters Guild here.
3. Create Tabletop RPG Content
If you’re a D&D nerd, you’ve probably heard of Critical Role. And The Adventure Zone. And Hello From the Magic Tavern. (We could go on.)
There are a lot of D&D content creators out there, some of them incredibly successful. Critical Role rakes in $14 million a year on Twitch alone.
Reality check: you’re probably not the next Critical Role. But if you already have a TTRPG game going and your fellow players are interested in sharing it with the world, why not give it a shot?
4. Sell Tabletop RPG Accessories
In theory, you could play D&D — and most TTRPGs — with nothing more than your imagination and a dice app. In practice, most players use accessories. They have to buy them somewhere – why not from you?
You truly become a TTRPG player when you stop borrowing your friends’ dice and buy your own. As long as there are TTRPGs, there will be a market for dice.
The most common way to make dice is to purchase molds and pour resin into them. You can jazz them up with unique designs. Top-selling examples on Etsy include snake eye and mushroom dice.
Don’t take resin lightly! It can cause serious health problems if touched or inhaled. Always take proper precautions when working with resin.
The Theater of the Mind is great and all, but many players enjoy enhancing their TTRPG gameplay with miniatures.
One way to produce miniatures is 3D printing. To make a long story very short, you’ll need to download or design a 3D model, then print it. If you don’t have a 3D printer lying around, check your local library, university, or makerspace.
A more low-tech way to make minis is with good old-fashioned wire and clay. This is a lot more time-consuming, but it also has a lower barrier to entry.
The most successful TTRPG accessory may be something that doesn’t exist yet.
Jon Irons was playing D&D with his friends when he noticed a problem: Between the pencils, paper, dice, miniatures, and phones on the table, things were getting pretty messy.
“I created Dungeons Box to be a solution for that,” Irons said. The portable wooden box includes a phone stand and pen slot, plus space for dice and miniatures. “I gave it to all the people around the table, and they were like, ‘wow, this is a really cool idea.’”
Now, Dungeons Box is a thriving company gearing up to launch another product: Dungeons Pop.
“What I wanted to do was combine the idea of flat maps with pop-up book technology to make something where you instantly can have a battlefield that has scale and you can interact with,” Irons said.
But a great idea for a D&D accessory is just that: An idea. How do you actually get it off the ground?
“I’m a big proponent of crowdfunding,” Irons said. “There’s a huge inbuilt tabletop community on Kickstarter.”
Another popular place to list your product for sale is Etsy.
“I love Etsy, but there’s a lot of fees involved there,” Irons said.
Consider building your own website to avoid losing money to the middleman.
Ready to Turn Your TTRPG Hobby into Something More?
These businesses aren’t just about the money. They’re about sharing the joy of playing TTRPGs.
“It’s very rewarding to be appreciated for going all out on world building, map making, plot progression, and making the world feel alive and real,” Pucci said. “To get paid for it is a dream come true.”
Contributor Ciara McLaren is a freelance writer with work in HuffPost, Insider, and The Penny Hoarder. You can find her on Substack (@camclaren).