Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DM Tips: Combating DM Burnout

The players have finally broken you. You have essentially given up on the game, for what is the point if you are not having any fun? Just like every other roleplayer, you are not a robot (unless you are, in which case I welcome my future overlords to the blog). As a human, you cannot last forever. If the demand of a game is starting to become too much like work, you begin to get weary of it. The hobbies you do for fun should not drain you. You fear the end if nigh. You, the Dungeon Master, have burned out. But fear not! There are methods you can take to save your game from certain doom.

Method 1: Have a Board Game Week

If you are having a problem with burnout, try taking a week off from roleplaying. Have a board game week, which is to say that it doesn't have to be limited to board games exactly but I suggest to keep it on the table instead of going digital.

As a further suggestion, try out some board games that promote team work rather than competition. Some such games include:
  • Dungeons and Dragons board games, like Castle Ravenloft or Wrath of Ashardalon, are perfect for something a little less plot oriented and more for dungeon crawling action. I have yet to play any of these but I have heard good things. Let me know when the price drops.
  • Betrayal at House on The Hill is a fantastic cooperative game wherein the entire group is exploring a mysterious mansion but things take a turn for the worst when a betrayer, chosen at random through items and the room they are in at the time, attempts to destroy the rest of the party.
  • Last Night on Earth is a zombie apocalypse board game! While I cannot personally vouch for its quality, how bad can it be? Zombies!
Of course, it is perfectly fine to play NON-partnership games. So, if you want something with a roleplaying twist to it:
  • The Munchkin card game series by Steve Jackson Games, no matter the genre, is an excellent example of a game with a humorous roleplaying twist. Equip your Race and Class, and kick in doors to do combat with vicious beasts of lore...like the Potted Plant.
  • Heroscape takes all that is awesome about tactical gaming from roleplaying games and puts it all into one fun pile. I personally own the Marvel version of the game. You may argue this should be considered a partnership game, but that depends on the scenario and number of factions vs. the number of people playing.
  • Inn-Fighting, a Dungeons and Dragons dice game where you are essentially beating each other up in a tavern brawl. SO much fun.
A typical day in the life of an adventurer.
Method 2: Run a One-Shot Game (optional: with a Different System)

This is a dangerous one, which I will explain in a second, but it can be very effective. If you allow yourself a break and run a different game for only one night, it...
  • ...gives your mind a breather. You don't have to worry about the old game's mechanics, story, or future.
  • ...allows you all the moment to blow off some steam built up from the previous game.
But, there are some dangers you need to look out for:
  • Your players may find this new game to be far more fun than the first. You'd be forced to junk all the work that went into your previous story.
  • YOU may find yourself wanting to play this new game. While you have technically defeated your burnout, you may end up leaving those who want to play the original game behind.
This image has nothing to do with the subject...I just thought it was cute.

Method 3: Be a Player in a Different Game

This option is the one that works best for me, personally. Have another DM, either in your group or otherwise, run another game. This can also be a one shot, but it doesn't have to be. It could be extremely healthy for a DM to be involved in a full game outside of the one he runs.

You'll find that being able to take part in this hobby without the pressure of being the DM can be quite relaxing if you are experiencing burnout. With only one character to worry about, you're free to relax when other players take the wheel.
I am SO glad to be on this side of the screen.

Method 4: Make Your Players Dungeon Masters

If your players are the reason for your burnout, MAKE them understand. It is my opinion, which makes it FACT, that Dungeon Masters make better players. They understand what it is like on the Other Side and will make a conscience effort to keep the game from going to All Hell. This is not to say that they too can be game devouring jerkholes (they are still players, after all), but they tend to make it less painful.

You can attempt to convert non-DM players by introducing a campaign with rotating DMs. Each player will have a chance to build upon the world as well as play in it. Plus, they'll gain the experience that come with the Other Side. With this new found respect, they will be more enjoyable players and games will push forward from there.

Nothing can hurt a Dungeon Master more than seeing their creation go up in smoke and inadvertently being the cause just makes it feel that much worse. Hopefully you've found this article helpful in your fight against burnout. Game on.

1 comment:

  1. I have the good fortune of a group that plays two campaigns. Both are 4e; I DM one and play a rogue in the other. We alternate weeks, so it's a good balance for me.

    I've thought about introducing other games, but everyone likes to keep the campaigns going . . . so the interest just isn't there.