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Best Practices for Game Masters
Dougbear the Bugbear avatar
Written by Dougbear the Bugbear
Updated over a week ago

If you have signed up to be a Professional Game Master on our site, chances are you are looking for ways to make yourself stand out and start getting business.

Attend the StartPlaying GM Onboarding!

Devon, Sarah, and Hunter give some useful GM onboardings.

These GM onboardings are where you can get a step-by-step on how to set up your profile, write great adventures that will pull in new players, give you some incredible tips/tricks, and give you a space to ask questions you may have.

Filling Out Your Profile

You will first want to check your profile and ensure it is fully filled out. You want to provide as much information as possible for your potential players, you want them to feel like they know you after reading your profile. In addition to filling out your profile, you may want to consider addressing the following:

  • What do you love about playing these games?

  • How long have you been playing?

  • What makes you special as a Game Master?

    • What do you bring to the table that is unique to you?

    • Talk about what makes you an amazing Game Master!

Choosing Your Profile Picture

In today's era, many people have learned to make an immediate assumption about someone based on one picture. Your profile picture should be clear, engaging, well-lit, and show a bit of your personality while avoiding just being a selfie. For example, here is the picture I had on my profile when the site launched. I think it's a cool picture, but it is dark, grainy, and overall, it doesn't look professional.

Now here is the picture I have currently. It's bright, clear, and fun. It draws the viewer in instead of blending into the background.

Setting Up Games

Once you have finished filling out your profile, you will want to list a few games on the site so you can start getting bookings!

When filling out your game information, shoot for 2-3 paragraphs for the description, and give your players as much information about the game as possible. Make sure you also let players know if they will need a webcam/mic/software for the game.

Some important terminology to learn at StartPlaying:

  • Game Template - We wanted to make it easy for you to set up your campaigns and one-shots. Do the detailed writing once, and then make small tweaks to the info once you create an Adventure from your Game Template.

  • Adventure - These will be your Campaigns and One-Shots that show up on the Find Games page and your Profile Page.

  • Session - These are the actual games you run with your players. An Adventure can have one session or multiple sessions, depending on how long you decide to run your campaign.

You'll first need to create a Game Template. You'll use these Templates to create Adventures and then schedule Sessions for those Adventures. Scheduling a Session is the only way for your game to appear in Search.

Pictures are a very easy way to ensure your game listing is attention-grabbing, but make sure you aren't using any licensed art (Your templates will never get approved if you do).

You can find the FAQ on how to create and schedule here.

Attracting New Players to Your Game

Early Bird Discounts

StartPlaying has an Early Bird Discounts feature that you can turn on when creating a new Adventure. This will help attract players quickly by giving the first two players to sign up for the session a 50% discount on their first paid campaign session. We've seen new GMs successfully gain repeat players using this feature!

Previous Players

Another way we've seen new GMs quickly become successful is by getting their previous players to join their games.

When players are looking for a game, one thing they'll be looking at is how many seats are already filled. Having your previous players join your first few games allows you to fill your seats quickly and gain new players in the process!

Amazing Game Listings

This will be one of the most important ways to gain new players!

Having a fully filled-out game listing allows your players to see what the adventure will be like, what details they'll need, what safety tools you use, content warnings, and more! These things are incredibly important because they allow players to understand what world they're jumping into. We find it best to approach your game description like the back of a book. A simple 3 paragraphs at most. Telling the reader what their character can expect from the adventure. We usually recommend not to do a huge lore dump. (That can be in your prep materials)


Sometimes games have content or situations where a player or GM may feel stressed out, unsafe, or otherwise not having fun. Safety tools are a way for players and GMs to communicate and check in before, during, and after a game to ensure everyone is still having fun and provide the right support when needed.

Ensure your content warnings and safety tools are clear, so your players know the best games for their style and interests! It's never a good time when your player's expectations of game content differ from your actual game content.

You can also think of these tools as player retention tools. If your players are feeling safe and like their ideas are implemented into the story, they will likely keep booking with you!

Prep Materials

Make sure you’ve added information to the prep materials section. This is only viewable to folks who have joined the game. Here is where you put things like your Discord link, Zoom link, a welcome message, etc.

Adding this information has led to a higher retention rate for players for GMs.

Have Pre-Gen Character Sheets

Many players who are new to TTRPGs use our site for their first game. It is essential to make it easy and welcoming for them to jump into a game if you want them to be repeat players.

We suggest having the option for a pre-generated character sheet for anyone who wants it. This is also great for last-second players who join your game!

Instant Book

Our data shows that games with Instant Book turned on have a 30% higher conversion rate (people booking them) than games without! That's insane!

Schedule Games

We recommended having 3-5 sessions scheduled for any campaign you are running on the site for the best booking rate.

Remember, 99% of bookings come from Game Search, and less than 1% of bookings come from private bookings on the GM profile page.

Add Recruiting Notes

Recruiting notes are great for a 1-2 line detail about your game. Is it weekly or bi-weekly? What are the current party members playing as? Don’t add too much text here, it’s just meant to supplement the game listing!

Images and the Product Catalog

We are advertising your games for you!

StartPlaying advertises your games via our product catalog. These ads show up on places like Facebook and Instagram. These social media ads have catalog requirements. We highly recommend making sure your game meets the specifications shown in ads.

Product Catalog Specifications

1. Game image must be in .jpeg form and under 1MB

2. Game must be listed as public

3. Instant book must be on.

4. Schedule 3 sessions out for campaigns

5. No more than 4 adventure tags (genre/themes/etc)

Other Ideas

If you’re having trouble filling up your game, test and experiment! Change the title to something new or more descriptive, swap out your artwork, etc.

The average time for a new GM joining the site to running a paid game is about 3 weeks. (give or take 2 weeks)

Other Games Besides D&D

While D&D 5e is the most popular system on our platform, other publishers and systems have been incredibly successful. We often host events promoting these systems and gaming weekends to help expose players to new games. Participating in these can help expose you to new players!

Devon will post in the StartPlaying Discord in the Updates channel and the Events section.

How Much Should You Charge?

The average price of a game is $15-$20, but charge what you feel comfortable with. You can always raise your prices in the future as you grow as a GM!

What Virtual Tabletop (VTT) should I use?

We always say, use whatever you feel you can run your best game with. Players often are more concerned with an amazing GM, than the VTT they use. Some GMs don’t even use Virtual Tabletops, and instead do all Theater of the Mind.

When is the best time to schedule games?

Run games on whatever schedule works best for you! We want to make sure you're having a good game/life balance.

But since you're wondering, our data shows that evenings and weekend games in US timezones are the most popular game bookings. We’re occasionally seeing midday and European primetime games getting booked as well.

How long should your games be?

We suggest having an hour spread on your game lengths, ie; 2-3 hours, 3-4 hours, etc.

Players have been vocal about hesitancy around games that have anything more than a 1 hour spread. (Eg 1-3 hours). Most games are 2-3 hours or 3-4 hours long.

How long out do people book?

Around 50% of players book within 10-13 days of a game, and the other 50% book within 48 hours of the game on average.


Reviews are incredibly important. All players who take part in one of your games will be able to leave you a review afterward. You can also send your review link to up to 20 players you have played with in the past so that they can also leave feedback.

Some important StartPlaying terminology:

  • Verified Review - A verified review is a review from a player who has played with you on the StartPlaying platform.

    • The review will list how many games this player has played with you, along with a blue check mark.

  • Unverified Review - An unverified review is a review from a player who has played with you but NOT on the StartPlaying platform. These could be friends you've played with in the past, or perhaps you've GMed at a gaming conference like GenCon and gave those folks your review link!

    • Unverified reviews will not have the blue check mark.


Communication is vital in any industry. Be responsive!

If someone messages you, make sure to get back to them soon. If people apply for your games, approve them or deny them quickly. Make sure your players have all the information they need for your game as soon as you can!

In addition to players, if you are looking to talk with other GMs, swap ideas, and talk about problems you are having, join our Discord! There is a very active community of GMs on there who will be happy to help! Do make sure you follow the community guidelines.


We have tons of articles on the site for you to read, so we have compiled a bunch of the GM related ones here for you!

Still Having Trouble?

Make sure you’ve joined our Discord; the GM Help channel is amazing for collaborating with other Game Masters who have found success and are willing to give feedback and valuable insight.

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