RPG Professionals Handbook

Publication date announced for RPG Professionals Handbook (1st Edition). ISBN: 978-0-692-16185-2

RPG Professionals Handbook (1st Edition): ISBN: 978-0-692-16185-2

Additional details coming soon!



Table of Contents (earlier draft, final ToC still pending)

Table of Contents

Preface & Why This Book Came to Be
Transition from Hobby to Profession
1st Edition
Request for Comments
Future Editions
Submission Process for Future Editions
Not a lawyer
Not an accountant
4 Professional Pathways
Base Theories Summary
RPG Model
RPG Formats
Avedon Interaction Patterns
Flow State
Small Group Formation & Communication
Tuckman’s Theories
RPG Optimization Summary
Minimum & Recommended Baseline Equipment (by Format)
Environmental Variables
Electronic Devices
Group Size, Session Length & Duration (by Format)
Optimizing Camaraderie
Comrade/Fellowship Focus
House/Team Building
Location Building
Characters, Pregenerated & Custom Built
Campaign Duration
Short Multi-session
Long Campaign
Years-long Campaign
Genre & Setting Considerations
Non-fiction Based
Science Fiction
Horror / Supernatural
Super Hero
Alternative History
Old West
Police Procedural
Medical Procedural
First-responder Procedural
Law Procedural
Adventures & Campaigns
Degrees of Railroad vs. Sandbox
More “Sandboxy”
More “Railroady”
GM Styles & Archetypes
GM Styles
GM Archetypes
Player Styles & Archetypes
Player Styles
Player Archetypes
General Professional Issues
Standards of Practice
Liability Considerations
Disclaimers & Documents
Privacy Statement
Physical Security
Virtual Security
Insurance Coverage
Advertising & Marketing
On-site Services
Mobile Facilities
Business Plan
Business Type
Business Licensing
Sole Proprietor
Employees & Volunteers
Individual Taxes
Business Taxes
Intake Process
Assessment Tools
Accounts Payable
Accounts Receivable
Accounting Software
Open Source Options
Recreational RPG Professionals
Birthdays & Family Parties
Company Parties
Remote Work Considerations
Entertainment RPG Professionals
Stage Theaters
Remote Work Considerations
Educational RPG Professionals
Before Kindgarten
Community & Other Locations
Non-Classroom Learning
Civic Skills
Public Transit Skills
Remote Work Considerations
Therapeutic RPG Professionals
Significant Caveats
Client Privacy, HIPAA, & Similar
Local, Regional, & Country Considerations
Recreation Therapy / Therapeutic Recreation
Assessment Tools
Behavior Modification RPG Considerations
Dungeons & Dragons
AD&D 1st Edition
AD&D 2nd Edition
D&D 3.x
D&D 4
D&D 5e
Doctor Who
Super Hero
Remote Work Considerations
Photos, Tables, Diagrams, & Charts
Assessment Tools
Other Resources
About the Author
RPG Research
RPG Therapeutics LLC
RPG Publishers dba

Preface from an earlier unedited draft:


This book is specifically targeting role-playing gamers (RPGer) that wish to become paid professional service providers in recreational or entertainment settings. While it does cover the beginning steps for RPG professionals in educational and therapeutic settings, those are covered in much greater detail in separate upcoming books for those professionals.

This book assumes you are already an avid and experienced RPGer and GM. You don’t need to be convinced of the merits of role-playing games (there are separate books available for that), and that you have had notable success in your gaming groups as a game master (GM). You would now like to find some way to monetize your investment in time and resources. This book will help as a starting point and checklist for the burgeoning RPG Professional. Just like most RPG rule books, you these as suggested guidelines for starting out, and then modify as best fits your and your clients’ needs.

It is strongly recommend that you continue to run free hobby games once every week or two, or especially as a player once every week or two, to stay sharp, look for new ideas, and avoid being stuck in the professional bubble.

This book does have general RPG Optimization summary information that may be helpful to less experienced GMs, but this is not a book for newbies (there are plenty of resources available out there already). RPG Optimization is only covered at the very surface level, if you want more in-depth information about how the suggestions were developed from research, and the many other variant information available, check out the book Optimizing the RPG Experience (current working title) by W.A. Hawkes-Robinson available through RPG Publishers dba.

Why This Book?

Why this book? Short version: scalability. I can’t keep up with demand, and individual training is taking up so much of my time, it is hoped this will help grow the qualified talent pool to meet demand.

I have posted a lot of requests for comments (RFCs) since 2004, and this first edition book is also a large RFC. It is hoped that readers will be inspired to comment, provide feedback, and ideally send submissions for inclusion in the planned second edition, which is hoped to have many other authors included.

In short, someone had to start somewhere to address these issues, and this is just a beginning.

Much longer version:

Feel free to skip the rest of this section and get to the chapters with the meat of the matter. If you are curious how this evolved, and the author’s evolution, then read on…

I have been involved with role-playing games since the mid-1970s, shortly after moving from California to Utah where a cousin introduced me to D&D when I was about 7 years old.

I began software development around 1979, and one of my first (BASIC) programs was an if-then style text-based adventure with random dice rolls. Over the following decades I wrote many RPG related programs, most of them just used internally and among friends, but some freely and publicly available on BBS/DARPA/ARPA/Internet/Web.

By 1983 people kept asking me to be the Game Master (GM) even though I preferred to play. For whatever reason they preferred my GMing style, despite the many mistakes I was making along the way.

Also around this time the backlash against role-playing gamers was rapidly ramping up. In response I began researching all I could find about the effects of RPGs, there wasn’t a lot of empirical information available at the time, but from a combination of what I could find, combined with my personal experiences and interviewing others, I put together an 8-page essay for a current-events assignment at school. The teacher later asked me to read it in front of the whole school because the topic was becoming such a hot-button issue in the media and within the school.

Also around later 1983 I began charging for the RPG sessions. It was only $1/person per session, but since I was running 3 groups each weekend (2 on Saturday, 1 on Sunday), this added up to about $24 a weekend, which is about $60 in 2019 terms adjusted for regular inflation. To help put this in perspective, back then AD&D rulebooks were only $12 each, miniatures were only around $0.25 (humanoid) to $0.75 cents (larger), event the Ral Partha Dragons were only a few dollars each! So at 13 years old, this was a great way to “feed the habit”. There was enough demand that if I hadn’t been in school I could have been running groups all week, and at higher rates, which I would occasionally do during summer and other school breaks.

By around 1985 I had the opportunity to run a role-playing game class 5 days a week during last period, where students could either choose “study hall” or attend my RPG course. I have been involved with RPGs in educational settings since.

After diverse careers in multiple fields, at one point after a reasonably successful career in computer science and information technology working up from lowly PC technician to CIO & CTO and working with companies anywhere from “mom and pop shops’ to Fortune 500 companies and “doing the dot com thing”, in 2003 I had the option to come home and focus on raising my three young sons. At that time I also began looking ahead to what should I do next once tshe kids are grown, go back to tech, or something else?

The short version is I went into recreation & music therapy, neurosciences, & research psychology. In 2004 I kept reading books and research stating what a shortage there was of cooperative activities, especially tabletop but also in other forms. I kept thinking of course RPGs solved that, and a few professionals in psychiatry, psychology, and related fields seemed to suggest the same, I could not find a single recreational therapist that published or stated anywhere they had even considered RPGs in their practice.

I dug deeper, started aggregating all of the research I could find on RPGs, as well as creating and implementing new research and clinical programs for various populations (first under university guidance then as practitioner), and so in 2004 began the public community oriented research repository website that would become The RPG Research Project.

From 2004 through about 2016, RPG Research was mostly a solo effort, though I worked with hundreds of others through universities, community centers, and many other organizations around the world in partnership, and with dozens of others helping contribute to the website community directly.

2004 is also when I began working on my own early musing drafts about RPG Theory, the RPG Model, and RPG professional standards considerations for certifications parallel to technology, medical, and educational certifications. Over the years I acquired training and/or various certifications in many fields including but not limited to: automotive (ASE), nursing (CNA & LPN), habilitation therapist, environmental technician, educator training and certifications for teaching at various colleges, technology professions (MCP+I, MCSE, CNA, SCSA, GCIH), and others. I have posted a lot of requests for comments (RFCs), most without response (usually folks replied TLDR), but occassionally with some useful feedback here and there.

By 2014 the demand for the RPG services side of my private practice as RPG Therapeutics LLC was completely outpacing my ability to keep up, so I began trying to find people I could hire to help with the demand, spreading the word and posting on various job placement websites.

By 2015 I was completely overwhelmed by demand locally and globally, but after over a thousand resumes (most of them not even remotely close) and several dozen interviews, only a handful of applicants were even in the ballpark with a somewhat appropriate combination of skills for educational and therapeutic settings and RPG (where I had the greatest demand), but they didn’t have enough knowledge combining the two, so I couldn’t hire them to “hit the ground running”. Everyone needed extensive training to be ready, and I just didn’t have any spare time to train folks. So, as the Merovingian in The Matrix paraphrased, “who has time, who has time? Of course if we don’t take time, how can we ever have time.” So I adjusted my life to take the time to focus on training more than direct client services for a while.

It also became clear that Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (TRSs) were the best professionals to consider because of their training being the most easily mapped to professional RPG programs in any pathway, but in 2014 I could not find a single one with any RPG experience (outside of a few video games).

It became clear that I needed to put more energy into the training programs, and the way to reach the most people the fastest, was to better formalize the training process on a larger scale than the smaller scale consulting and mentoring I was doing through the LLC. So I switched more of my energy back to the non-profit RPG Research.

In 2016 John Welker, founder of the Spokane Area Gaming Alliance, also with RPG experience dating back to the late 1970s, joined as volunteer number two at RPG Research. His vast experience with organized play and conventions has been a wonderful boon. By early 2017 RPG Research had volunteer number six, by August 2018 volunteer number thirty, and by January 2019 we were above fifty! About half of the volunteers were located in Spokane (some having recently moved from Florida, California, and other locations for the opportunities in Spokane), the rest scattered around the world, across North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, India, Eurasia, and East Asia!

This forced requirements for better streamlining of training, documentation, training manuals, training videos, etc. During this growth period I was frequently putting in many long volunteer hours per week trying to keep up with the demand working towards the long-term payoff of the organization reaching self-sufficiency. Unfortunately all this training and administrative work has delayed a lot of my research and publication writings, and thus the slipped release date of this book. But the added experiences and further streamlining and input from a broader set of minds has helped to further improve the benefits of this book.

Do not be surprised if a second edition is quickly in the making in just a year or two, pending everyone’s hoped-for input.


This is not by any means a completely comprehensive book. In fact it will frequently refer the reader to other resources for greater depth of information. This book is meant to be more broad than deep. A checklist of considerations for anyone thinking about “going pro”. A lot of areas will just be simple sentences or paragraphs to touch base on a topic, and then refer you to where to get more in depth information.

This book focuses on the rapidly growing RPG services industry through four professional pathways: recreational, entertainment, educational, and therapeutic.

This book does NOT cover much in the RPG publishing field. First of all there are many other resources already available for that, and secondly the author does not feel strongly qualified to be providing advice in this area.

This book also does not cover creating and running large scale conventions, again there are others more qualified and would probably be a book unto itself, though it does cover some considerations for conventions. Perhaps pending other professionals submissions, future editions could add such useful content. This book does cover some information on small to medium scale events.

Everything in this book is best effort. When possible to cite research, it will be done so, but even then, in the RPG field, there is a need for a lot more research for definitive answers.

I will attempt to couch most statements with appropriate terms that attempt to make this book not dictatorial, rather more a useful reference resource as baselines for consideration.

I do not believe “my way is the only right way” by any means, whatever “my way” is keeps changing as new experiments and experiences lead me to reconsider prior approaches and assumptions.

Especially with this first edition, I expect (and hope for) a LOT of (hopefully constructive) criticism about the recommendations in this book (though I will don my flame-retardant undergarments in preparation), and hope it will spur others to consider sending their suggestions to be added to future editions of this book.