I never thought it’d be me. I would never let myself get so far gone as to dread Sunday afternoon. I was wrong. I no longer found D&D to be fun and exciting. I didn’t want to do the prep work each week in order to run the game. It showed as almost everything was run off the cuff and I’d have to stumble to find NPC names and the game dragged. I was experiencing DM Burnout.
We all get here eventually. There can be too much of a good thing and unlike other games, your friends can’t just play without you. Burn out can happen for anyone and for a multitude of reasons.
- The Inspiration is Gone: This typically happens at the close of a chapter of the campaign. As a DM it can be hard just to come up with what’s next. This is mostly a writer’s block issue.
- The Obligation is Too Much: Sometimes, schedules get in the way. As life gets busy, things fall to the side. When those things include the campaign, it can feel like you just don’t have the time to play anymore.
- It Starts Feeling Like a Job: If you do anything long enough and on a schedule, it will eventually start to feel like a job and I don’t care what your job is, when you have to do something, it eventually loses its fun.
So above are some ways that Burnout can surface. This opens the question as to not what we can do to avoid burnout, but rather what can we do to get back into action. Having dealt with this burnout recently, I wanted to write up my experiences with this.
To begin with, take a step back. You need to look at the problem from an outsider’s perspective. Why are you feeling burned out? Is it one of the reasons I listed above or is it something different? As you get an idea of the source of this feeling, you’ll better understand how to resolve it.
The next step can be hard. It’s similar to ripping off a band-aid but it’s necessary. Talk to your group. Let them know what you’re feeling. They may be in the same boat or may be completely caught unaware but letting them in on your feelings is an imperative step to solving the problem.
So we’ve talked to our group, done our research, and have found the root cause. Now what?
- Inspiration: How do we fix writer’s block? Many writers agree that the best way to get over being unable to write, is to not write at all. This may seem counter-productive but any time I start having trouble producing content, I start consuming it. My go to writer’s block is The Hobbit Trilogy. Tolkien takes me on an unexpected journey and I always come back again with ideas abounding. Find something to consume. It doesn’t have to be High Fantasy either! I’ve found inspiration from TV sitcoms and Sci-Fi movies as well. The point is, you spend all this effort feeding but when do you stop to get fed?
- Obligation: Is your game a once a week game? Do you have 30 other things going on each week and find that you’re locking yourself inside on game day to get that last minute prep in? Think about going to every other week. My first campaign was every week and when we started it was the best feeling to play every week. As we started our second campaign we all agreed that every other week was best. Then with the impending birth of our future Hobbit Dragon Slayer, life got hectic and even every other week was too much for a little bit. This week will be our first game in over a month and I’ve never been more excited to play.
- Feeling like Work: This is one where it helps to have a good group of friends to play with. Let someone else take over the helm for a little while. Run a couple of one shot games in that new system one of your players keeps talking about. Get yourself a chance to play for once and you’ll see it do wonders.
Burnout is a real thing guys. I never thought I would be able to find myself not wanting to play the game. When we start out, it’s the best thing ever and we can’t get enough and then we’re fuller than a Hobbit after second breakfast and we can’t imagine forcing anymore down. We dive in deep and need to come up for air every once in a while.
How about you? Have you experienced DM burnout? How about burnout as a player? Let me know what you think either below in the comments or on twitter.
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