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DMing while Broke

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Hey guys.
I wanted to take a different tack. Running games can be a lot of fun, and a great way to be creative and tell epic stories with good friends. But it can be expensive. Here's what you need to play a phsyical game and roughly how much it costs.
Set of d20 Dice- $5 for basic to $100 for really fancy artisinal dice
Bag or box for dice storage- $1.50 for really cheap bag to $70 for nice Wyrmwood boxes
Something to roll them on- The table's surface- Free to $50 for dice trays
Books- $20 for basics and used to $50 each for core books of current editions
Minitures- $3 each for a plain unpainted one to $30 each for Heroforge custom jobs.
This isn't even mentioning any fees or gas or Snacks. I happen to know my local Friendly Neighborhood Game Store (which is a cool place) charges a $6 fee for DnD Adventurer's League games. So basically RPGing can be a really expensive hobby to get into. How do you do it when broke or on a budget?

      1. Don't buy everything right away
        It might be easier on your budget to buy one or two things rather than buying everything all at once. You can afford 20 bucks out of a paycheck more than you can 300.
      2. Bundles are your friend.
        Sometimes game stores online will offer bundles at a really good price. I recently snagged 1700 pages of PDFs for $30 in a bundle on the Open Gaming Store. Humble has also offered Pathfinder books in bundles too. If you keep your eyes open, you can snag a lot of great books for not much dough.
      3. Digital is awesome.
        Really, Digital is pretty much free. Play by Post forums are free to join, and there's any number of SRDs and even apps online and on mobile devices that both save you a lot of money and make your job easier. I recommend for Pathfinder stuff. There's online resources for everything from rolling dice to generating character sheets and all kind of stuff. I recommend that you download a spellbook or grimoire app, it really helps to see what spells you have access to at a glance.
        If you go for Fantasy Grounds or similar online services, though, it can be really pricey.
      4. Homebrew it for sure
        While modules can be a good way for some people to play RPG games, It's far less expensive to make your own stuff. All you really need is a notebook and a pencil to plan dungeons, towns and the like. Notes on encounters and NPC as well as plot threads for your game, you can simply type up on your computer. Many of which have at least some kind of word processor installed by default. I have a notebook and a sketchpad less than a foot from my laptop's keyboard that I use in planning. (and i'm sure my players now wanna get a peek at those things)

      1. Go Used
        A Pathfinder Core Rulebook commands a $50 price tag brand new on Amazon. A good copy used is closer to $30. You can do the math.
      2. Substitute if you need to
        If you need something for a game, but you don't have it, you can always improvise. Use a lego figure for a minifigure or snacks for enemies. There's lots of ways you can do it.

Hopefully this gives you an idea on how to DM and play on the cheap. If you have any other idea, drop them in the comments section. Ciao!

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  1. Isada's Avatar
    This is so real. My group, all broke college students, used coins for tokens with colored scraps of paper taped to them.
    Books cost the most, so they basically floated and usually wound up with whoever was DMing.
    Somehow, we always managed to get snacks. I think some of them basically just grabbed stuff from family pantries, but yeah. Miraculously always stocked there.
    Totally carpooled, too.
    To hold things together despite all the dearths we ended up being big on homebrew maps. Full color and everything. I always made mine with crayon for the bonus waterproofing, ahaha.
  2. sarynkitamo's Avatar
    Lego Minifigs are amazing tokens. <-- for the Cheapest hardcopies of 5e.