I mean, I am a Dungeon Master on AirBnB Experiences*. AirDnD is not a real thing (but it should).
If you’re not aware of AirBnB Experiences, it is a part of the global lodging marketplace that puts visitors in touch with local hosts offering food tastings, hikes, workshops, you name it. Of course, there are a few weirdos around the world who designed Dungeons & Dragons experiences as a way to share their passion for the hobby, or to try and monetise their DMing expertise**.
How do we do it? Well I’ve been running games for strangers at conventions as long as I’ve been a professional designer, so it wasn’t a big leap. If you haven’t been running games at events for twenty plus years, let me tell you what to keep in mind of when setting up your own AirDnD experience:
7 Tips to Host a Great AirDnD Experience
1. Be accessible. Even if you describe your AirDnD game as “The Most Difficult Dungeon Crawl Ever Designed”, you never know how familiar with D&D your guests will be.
- Have your explanations ready. Practice them on friends if you can.
- Have cheat sheets to help players who aren’t familiar with the game mechanics.
- The AirBnB interface lets you contact the guests in advance, use this feature to make sure everyone is on the same page when the session starts.
2. Be prepared. Does it bear mentioning that if you want to work as a professional Dungeon Master, you need to act like a pro DM. No looking up monster stats on your phone, no “hang on, I have to check this rule” or “what does this NPC want again?”. I don’t mean you need to be a machine; just make sure you have all the necessary information in one place before the session.
- Make a folder or binder with your adventure, NPCs, monsters, handouts, EVERYTHING you think you might maybe need. And then some.
- Pregenerated characters are a must! Unless character creation is part of your experience, or the game you’re playing includes character generation as part of its gameplay of course.
- Use Ze Internetz. Whether you have your stuff saved on Roll20, DnDBeyond, Evernote, or your own wiki, you can access it from a laptop or tablet. If you go the tech way, make sure you have a decent connection in your venue. Not a lot of ancient tunnel systems have wifi.
3. Be snazzy! Have some cool props on hand. Newcomers get confused when TRPGs don’t have some tangible element to them besides those weird dice, but even grizzled D&D vets enjoy a cool hand written scroll. Some ideas:
- Handouts like a map of the area, or an encrypted letter. Use parchment sheet or a lot of tea.
- If your adventure has an important magical item, you can design it from a cool object you own. Go to car boot sales and flea markets. Just don’t bring that realistic Zweihander to the pub you’re playing at.
- Dungeon tiles or a battlemat and minis always look good! Also consider buying cool looking dice sets just for the experience.
- Often overlooked, your Dungeon Master accessories will contribute to the experience if they look good – here’s what’s inside the DM kit picture above for example.
4. Be mindful of the time. Obviously you want to pace your session in the best possible way, given your time constraints. It’s just like a convention game really. Or any game, if you’re not a lazy DM like me… People have paid you and it’s nice to give them extra time, but bear in mind that guests often have made plans for after the game. Always agree on a schedule, especially if, two thirds into the session, you realise that you need another hour to wrap your AirDnD experience up.
5. Beware of bad venues. Find an underrated pub (that doesn’t have live music at the time you’re playing), well appointed games bar, cool community space, etc. Bonus points if you have access to a château or medieval cellar, of course. Wherever you end up playing, make sure you get in touch with the staff and book your table if necessary, and that you can play in a relatively quiet space (YMMV, but I tend to die after shouting for three hours.)
6. Be a nice guide. This isn’t directly game related, but your guests will be tourists, and they’ll appreciate pointers to places they might like (history museums and game shops jump to mind, but tips for good cafés and restaurants are always appreciated). You might be the first local they meet, so be friendly!
7. Cater to your audience. I mean, literally cater. This is something I haven’t tried yet, but some experiences on AirBnB offer food and drinks as part of the package (adjusting their price accordingly). It will obviously require that you work out something with your venue or a catering company (unless you’re a great cook as well as a pro DM, in which case you need to update your Tinder profile accordingly. Trust me.)
End of the listicle! These are the basics things to keep in mind when setting up your AirDnD experience. AirBnB also has tons of advice to help you become a great host. And I’m not going to teach you how to DM a game, right? You’re a pro after all.
* If you’re looking for my AirBnB Dungeons & Dragons experiences, here they are. I’m going to be busy and/or out of the country for the holiday season, but I’ll add some more dates in January. You can always reach out if you’d like to set up a game for a specific time and day.
And if you’re in Ireland and would like to hear more about playing D&D at work, I’m just an email or phone call away.
** I know a lot of people have reservations about DMing for money, so I’ll just slay this monster in its lair once and for all. People run games for profit it all the time: getting a free convention entrance in exchange for running a game; receiving swag from publishers for organised play or playtest reports; a game designer running a demo of a game they designed on Twitch is GMing for gain.
Gaming doesn’t have to be something we only do among friends.