The pilot program will feature game masters Amr Ammourazz, Landon Cornell, Simon Moody, and Joie Martin running Magpie’s popular superhero role-playing game, Masks: A New Generation.
Sessions start April 24 and will run through May 10. Single four-hour games are available for $10, with campaigns available for $40. Players can purchase multiple tickets for friends or family.
Sam Saltiel, Magpie’s director of marketing and sales, said the program didn’t come as a response to social distancing, but it was certainly on their minds.
“This is actually something we’ve been thinking about doing for awhile,” Saltiel said. “But in light of all of our conventions being cancelled, and the fact that people are looking for spaces to play games online, we figured this would maybe be the best time to launch this program.”
But, this is more than giving people games to play while being stuck at home. Magpie sees this as an opportunity to provide access and build a sense of community around their games.
Saltiel said that while Magpie games have become more popular, it still can be hard for people to find others to play them with. They are hoping this program will help them connect.
But, don’t call it organized play.
“Organized play programs, which is why we wanted to lean away from that term, are more about giving people specific adventures to play,” said Saltiel, “We’re more focused on the people, where we’re like, we’re giving you these GMs.”
Saltiel didn’t dismiss the possibility of custom content in the future, but said they wanted to focus this pilot on the game masters.
Magpie will be paying the game masters a fixed amount for the games no matter how many players attend. It is hoped this will take the pressure off the game masters to fill seats in the games.
Game masters will host the games on digital role-playing platforms, like Roll20. Each will pick the platform they feel most comfortable with.
Magpie found the initial game masters out of convention communities they worked with.
“We know they are very skilled and experienced, and we’ve developed that sort of trust with them,” Saltiel said.
Simon Moody is one of the first four selected.
Moody connected with Magpie through Gen Con, where he ran games for them. That relationship continued at PAX. Moody is the co-director of Enkindle Storytelling in Boston, where he designs and directs live action role-playing games. He also does voice over work.
He thinks it’s a big step that the game masters will be compensated, but says he is so passionate for gaming he would probably do it for free.
That said, he hopes program will get people comfortable with the idea of a professional game master, even if that is a lofty goal.
Moody says there is a unique set of skills to game mastering, and it has a lot of overlaps with psychotherapy and education.
“If we fairly priced out what a game master actually puts in terms of emotional labor and mental energy, it would be a ton of money.”
And while Moody is hopeful of the possibility of something sustainable, as a way of life, or career choice, he is not driven exclusively by it. Game mastering is just part of a variety of things he does.
Moody said the timing of the project seemed perfect. “We process a lot of our difficult, real world issues through play, and I think role-playing games are a great way to do that.”
Magpie isn’t the first company Moody has represented as a game master, but as a non-binary Latinx, he does has a special affinity for them.
“I know that I’m helping out a company that tries to do a lot of work for marginalized people in gaming, that tries to make gaming a really accessible space, and a really safe space, and I appreciate the dedication there is to making sure that everyone feels heard and respected at the table.”
Saltiel said Magpie is focused on building sustainable program, rather than adding a new revenue stream. She sees it as a mix of marketing and community building, and believes the program can succeed even after people reconnect and conventions return.
“If it’s a thing people want, I don’t think conventions will affect that. Not everyone can go to conventions, they are pretty expensive. Conventions are only once a year,” Saltiel said. “I don’t think conventions will negate the need for this.”
Magpie are purposely limiting the program during the pilot, but hopes to expand it to more of their games.
Find the Magpie Curated Play Program is available on their website.
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