Thursday, April 12, 2012

Should Players Pay for D&D?

I realized today as I was walking the neighbor's dog that I have an expectation that players don't pay for the game they're playing, but the referee covers all the costs of the rules, setting, adventures, etc. I'm wondering how common that is.

When I was a player, I played in a 3.5 campaign and didn't spend a cent. I didn't even buy my own dice; I borrowed them from the DM or another player- I can't remember which. This worked out great for me, especially since 3.5 is NOT the game for me and I'd regret any money I'd spent on it.

When I started refereeing, I carried that same assumption into my games. I bought a big plastic container of polyhedral educational dice that I bring out whenever I play face to face with people who don't own dice. I buy (or download- I've downloaded a lot of free stuff, thanks to the OSR) the rules and sourcebooks and grimoires that I use and don't expect my players to pay for any of it.

From one perspective (the one that I agree with), this makes a lot of sense. The referee paying for his own stuff means that he has total creative control over what he uses. Players don't have to pay for things they don't particularly want. I'm glad that I didn't have to pay to play in a 3.5 world and I'm pretty sure that my former DM, who plays in my Swords & Wizardry world, is glad that he doesn't have to pay to play in it. We both have played in each other's worlds because we are friends with each other and would rather be roleplaying than not roleplaying, but I think we're both happy putting our own money towards investing in our own games and settings.

From another perspective (that I can understand, even if I don't agree with it), this hardly seems fair. What about the players who never referee? They get a free ride; the referee both shells out all the money for the rules and prep and does the hours of prep, while the players just show up. That hardly seems fair.

(My counter-argument would be that if the referees don't mind, and they usually don't, fairness really isn't a problem. Besides, the players hopefully will pick up the tab for snacks or meals during the game, and they are [hopefully] providing pleasure to the referee by playing in his setting. But I'm sure there are counter-counter arguments against this as well.)

Another perspective is that, especially since AD&D, players need to, or at least should, have enough mastery of the game that it's really a good idea for them to own their own copies of at least part of the rules. There are, in a sense, two different libraries that players and referees can purchase, together investing in the game. This, I think, is more and more true with newer games, as opposed to the games I play (ACKS is the prime exception that jumps to mind here).

So what about in your gaming groups? Does the referee buy everything? Do the players ever chip in? Do you figure out some arrangement that you feel is fair, or is fairness really even a priority that you particularly worry about?