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View Full Version : Help - GM and RPG batteries are empty



vspieles
08-23-2013, 10:25 PM
GMing and gaming has begun to feel more like work than fun.


Looking for suggestions for recharging the GM and RPG batteries which are both on empty.


Where do you look for inspiration and mojo?

Malruhn
08-25-2013, 01:05 PM
In over 30 years of gaming, I have found two things that help.

1. Putting the dice away for a while.
2. PLAYING rather than DMing. Be the VICTIM rather than the deity.

That's it. Don't sweat it - it happens to all of us from time to time. Just step away from the GM side of the table and either go do something else (read, exercise, look at the stars, touch yourself, whatever...) OR, just walk to the other side of the table and don't do ANYTHING GM related. Just PLAY!

In a month or two, you'll see the spark return.

catty_big
08-25-2013, 01:29 PM
Good advice there. I'll go you one further: at my home group (not my home, the GM's) we've been playing a Space 1889 campaign since mid-January. From time to time we take a break from the campaign to play one-shots, or a boardgame. And Malrun is right, you should step the other side of the table from time to time. We did this a few weeks ago when the GM wanted a break, and I ran one of my games-in-progress. Two of the other players have also offered to run games in similar circumstances in future. We haven't quite reached the point of stopping gaming completely and watching a DVD, say, or going out for drinks, I think because after all we're there to roleplay, opportunities to do so being hard to come by.

vspieles
08-26-2013, 09:43 AM
Thanks Malruhn and catty_big for the suggestions and advice.

Ampolitor
08-26-2013, 08:18 PM
I agree, sometimes when the game group can't all get together it helps to do a "Distraction Night" play a one shot of all flesh must be eaten, or something totally different from the regular game so you can recover from the DM burnout. We all get it, I remember a time when it felt like all I was doing on my free time was scratching notes, reading over plot lines, stating monsters, it drains you after a bit. I also recommend if you are playing too much scale it down a bit. If you are playing every week maybe take a week off, or do it every other week. Trust me if you feel like it's more work the game will suffer, the fun meter drops, the players won't want to play then the game is totally dead.

catty_big
08-27-2013, 11:10 AM
Thanks Malruhn and catty_big for the suggestions and advice.No worries, that's what we're here for :o.

nijineko
08-27-2013, 04:46 PM
as has been mentioned, changing gears is the best rest.

we could brainstorm possible activities if you are interested.

Hybrid Children
08-30-2013, 09:10 AM
You must play occasionally to recharge your batteries. Leap off your celestial throne and join the mortals in the dust. You will never sing until you have cried with the mortals.

Also you need to watch old movies and TV shows your players have not for "yeast" (i.e. a pool of good ideas).

Some examples that helped me:
"Kolchak: The Night Stalker"
"Twilight zone"
"The Outer limits"
"Buck Rogers in the 25th Century"
"The Thing" (1982)
"Labyrinth" (1986)

I also have found gold and inspiration from reading old science fiction and fantasy.

Some examples that helped me:
"Starship Troopers" - Robert A. Heinlein
"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" - Robert A. Heinlein
"I am legend" - Richard Matheson
"DUNE" - Frank Herbert
"Wizard of Oz" - L. Frank Baum - (Read all 13 books)
"Peter Pan" J. M. Barrie
"Alice in Wonderland" & "Though the Looking Glass" - Lewis Carroll

You must feed and thus fuel the forge lest it will flame-out.

Be well.

TorteStone
09-07-2013, 05:02 AM
I've been in GM brain burn recently myself! I like all of the above suggestions, especially the "Take a break" idea- seems simple, but it can be hard to think of at times!

I know that for my Roleplaying drain times, I'll end my current campaign at a good spot (Your party has freed the city of Hlondeth from the serpent men, and retire in the city, I need a break guys.) and after a break, switch speeds to a different type of game (I generally switch between D&D and White Wolf systems).

I also like to switch moods. If the last campaign is a splat filled dungeon crawl, the next game will be a serious drama fest or an "evil" campaign (Shiny! Let's be bad guys.) One summer I ran the Dragon Warrior video game as an absurd, gain 4 levels per session, 3.5 D&D game and it was awesome! (Yup, there's no night time. Everyone only says one thing, whole towns consist of 3 buildings etc.)

Did you you ever recover from DM drain? What helped?

-Will-

nijineko
09-09-2013, 11:30 AM
for me, i work on other projects that i have for a time. sometimes i'll play with different people / systems, depending.

vspieles
09-09-2013, 11:46 AM
I've decided to take a complete break from running any and all RPGs for a whole month.

I'm reading Sci Fi and horror graphic novels and books, and I"m watching all the movies I missed out on while GMing.

I'm trying to avoid anything having to do with sword & sorcery fantasy.

I left both campaigns I'm running in park at non-cliffhanger points.

Some of the players were a bit annoyed. I was annoyed that only one of them was willing to step up and run any other games, one shots, board games, or card games.

I said you can run anything from a munchkin game to Monopoly. I just don't want to have to run anything AND I will still host the game session ... crickets from 7 out of 8 players.

I told both groups I would see how I feel at the beginning of October as far as GMing and what I want to play/run next.

nijineko
09-09-2013, 03:40 PM
goodness. next, offer to charge a door fee of one to three bucks per session and see how they react. ^^

jpatterson
09-10-2013, 08:09 PM
I think the idea about running anything else is a good one. I've often found ability to reimagine or reapproach an old project or game if I've spent some time doing an activity that differs in its medium from the usual, so if its RPGs, sometimes a break to a card game, or dice game, or tabletop board or skirmish game, can help readjust attention spans and cement ideas and resolutions to the RPG.

catty_big
09-11-2013, 04:27 PM
Some of the players were a bit annoyed. I was annoyed that only one of them waswilling to step up and run any other games, one shots, board games, or cardgames.
I said you can run anything from a munchkin game to Monopoly. I just don't wantto have to run anything AND I will still host the game session ... cricketsfrom 7 out of 8 players.
It's often said that there are some people who expect the GM to do all the work for them. It's usually said in the context of players who expect the GM to do all the work during the game session, but it's totally unreasonable for a player groupto expect the same person to run a game for several weeks and without at least offering to share the load a little bit.

People who donít GM a great deal forget how demanding a long-running campaign can be, in terms both of the energy expended each session and the constant need to come up with new stuff, AND deal with RL sh1t at the same time. One thing I didn't understand: 'crickets from 7 out of 8 players'. What does this refer to?

vspieles
09-12-2013, 09:03 AM
'Crickets from 7 out of 8 players' means I emailed all my players asking them if any of them would like to GM. What I got back was the sound of crickets meaning I heard nothing back from the players.

I suggested how about GMing a single evening adventure, or GMing a short published adventure or module. I even suggested getting together to play any kind of board game or card game on our game session night. One player offered to bring a fun zombie board game. None of the other players bothered to even respond to the email.

It was a bit disheartening as a GM and RPG player to think that the only reason we get together is for the game I'm running. I would have thought a couple of the other players would have said "Hey the GM needs a break, I'll step-up and offer to help by running a game I always wanted to try. Maybe its a superhero game, a mystery game, a scifi game, etc.. Its only for one night so its not a lot of prep. That way we can still all get together and have some fun as players and friends."

nijineko
09-12-2013, 02:47 PM
i would have thought that encouraging as a gm, as it seems that they like your game.

you could be evil gm and draw names from a hat and declare that that person is responsible for the next session and see what happens when they go from the frying pan to the fire....

TorteStone
09-13-2013, 05:38 AM
That's exactly what I been running into! I finished running a year long 3.5 D&D campaign for a group of roughly 6 players in their mid 20s to early 30s (we have some guys that only game once a month or so).

The campaign ended at the start of August, with saying "Guys i'm burnt out- you've beaten D&D, who wants to run the next game" I also sugggested card games, board games, online games, whatever so long as didn't have to run for a time, and I got dead silence or, "What me? I can't run a game!" from that whole group.

I like nijineko's idea to charge per session for such groups! Luckily, in my area I knew a seperate group that is made entirely of GMs (each likes a different system best, so each GM will run their system for us "I'll run tonight- if you're up for Supernatural"). It's only too bad that such a wonderful group can only meet rarely due to our real life schedules! I'm also getting recharged by listening to the fine people here at Pen and Paper!

As a GM type, i've regained my juices by reading the White Wolf SAS system format (free pdf at Drive thru RPG) and i've been writing my new campaign in that different format, which I find refreshing (I was previously using the format used for Dungeon magazine adventures, which is also really good).

-Will-

catty_big
09-13-2013, 09:16 AM
iwouldhave thought that encouraging as a gm, as it seems that they like your game.
It would be nice if that's what it meant but sadly I think it just means they're being lazy gits. Charging them probably wouldn't work but would be perfectly fair, as the GM's time spent running games is at the opportunity cost of doing lots of other things. But I think we're looking at a wider problem here, well two problems in fact, namely (1) if a person gets a name for GMing, if they're not careful thatís pretty much all theyíll ever do, as con organisers will put pressure on them to run games, folks at their club will probably do likewise, and players in home groups will relax into passive mode. Obviously, the longer the campaign, and to some extent yes, the more enjoyable it is, the worse this problem becomes. (2) An awful lot of people just will not GM. Forex I know a gamer whoís a superb roleplayer but she absolutely refuses to GM. Why not? Maybe itís fear, stage fright, all that kind of thing, and thereís probably not a lot that can be done about it, aside from continual encouragement and bolstering (not pressure).

However, I think the other problem, particularly with reference to club and home games, is solvable. You simply state upfront, right from the start, that membership of the group brings with it the responsibility to run x number of games per year,and if you donít pull your weight youíll have to find another group. Harsh? Maybe, but as long as everyoneís clear about it, as I say, right from the beginning, prospective members can either agree or say ok then this clubís not for me.

Will you lose members that way? Perhaps, but I have a shrewd feeling that most people, faced with the choice of running the odd game or desperately searching about for another club to join (no easy matter, at least here in the UK) will accept the responsibility. Letís face it, these days thereís no shortage of low-prep games you can whip out at a momentís notice.

Time to get tough dudes!!

nijineko
09-13-2013, 10:18 AM
like in all aspects of life, giving to others is very important, but even so, one must draw lines... and be prepared to enforce their meaning.

vspieles
09-14-2013, 10:13 AM
Thank you all for the words of wisdom, advice, and support.

Will (TorteStone) can you post the link to the White Wolf SAS system format? I would love to see how other RPGs structure their adventures and campaigns.

Thanks,

Vic

vspieles
09-14-2013, 10:26 AM
I like your thinking catty_big.

I think I may reassemble the group based on the idea that everyone can play in the group IF everyone playing is willing to take a turn as GM over the course of the year. Or is willing to bring and run a board game or card game on their night.

I will remind them that no one is being graded on their GMing skills. And I have never heard of a GM dying from embarrassment. I'm starting to think people view GMing like having to give a speech. Really its not like that. These are 3-6 people that you typically know pretty well.

Some folks may find out they like GMiing and can stretch from a one night adventure to several game sessions.

And as you stated there are lots of low-prep games, published adventures in gaming magazines, and published convention adventures.

Thanks everyone.

vspieles
09-14-2013, 10:39 AM
Things I've read to recharge the batteries.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples
Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance
Orchid mini series by Tom Morello and illustrated by Scott Hepburn
Orbital series by Sylvain Runeburg and illustrated by Serge Pelle
Prophet series various writers and illustrators
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

Trolled around Deviant Art, CGHUB, and Conceptart.org for visual inspiration.

TorteStone
09-16-2013, 01:53 AM
Here's the SAS system link http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/54404/Storytelling-Adventure-System-Guide (You may have to sign up, but it's free!)

I like your reading list- Have you heard of the Riftwar saga (D&D portal story) or the Heralds of Valdemar (Magic Horses~ semi girly)? I've also been going through the Michael Moorcock Elric Series, and it's amazing and unique stuff (inspiration for Drizzt maybe?) If you have a year to just read books or are a speedreader, there's also the Malazon Book of the Fallen series- it makes Game of Thrones look like a cute and sparsely populated world.

-Will-

catty_big
09-16-2013, 07:53 PM
I like your thinking catty_big.

I think I may reassemble the group based on the idea that everyone can play in the group IF everyone playing is willing to take a turn as GM over the course of the year. Or is willing to bring and run a board game or card game on their night.

I will remind them that no one is being graded on their GMing skills. And I have never heard of a GM dying from embarrassment. I'm starting to think people view GMing like having to give a speech. Really its not like that. These are 3-6 people that you typically know pretty well.

Some folks may find out they like GMiing and can stretch from a one night adventure to several game sessions.

And as you stated there are lots of low-prep games, published adventures in gaming magazines, and published convention adventures.
You're welcome:D. Firm but fair is the watchword. Let us know how you get on!

nijineko
09-19-2013, 11:22 AM
perhaps it is because they are afraid that they will get argued down as a gm the way they argue about stuff when they are players? ^^

vspieles
09-20-2013, 08:37 AM
We haven't had an argument over rules, game play, or GMing in years. The last argument we had as a group was two years ago when I kicked a friend of one player out of the group after 3 game sessions without telling the player. The friend showed up late 3 game sessions in a row, and made fun of the other players about their character choices and wanting to role-play instead of killing everything. The player was mad I didn't tell him in advance, which I apologized for. Then he apologized for inviting friend to play with the group.

I think I may have scarred them away from GMing by being an overachiever. I like to use big color maps and lots of visual reference for NPCs, locations, and objects.

I may have to run a couple of game sessions with just a dry erase marker and vinyl gridded battle map. Or no map or minis at all. Sometimes I really miss those days.

TorteStone
09-21-2013, 05:09 AM
I say run what's fun!

I've been greatly enjoying setting up my next campaign with no set date to run it (Not running right now, but setting up a campaign) and for this new one I'm changing the system i'm using, reading all new books, and it's very enjoyable!

I love the minis and maps myself, even if they are a pain to lug around.

Maybe it's time for a different tone of game? I finished running a hevy roleplay heavy Underdark campaign in the Forgotten Realms where the party was chosen by the Dwarven gods to open up the Great Rift to it's neighbors, forge a trade route through the Underdark to a halfling community, and fight off a duerager army, and it burned me out hardcore.


So I switched it up for the summer (as none of my other player wanted to run) and used the Narfell region as a Diablo-esque style campaign, with one town (an encampment of the Nar Barbarians) and a nearly in game marked level one dungeon that after cleared out would fill up with monsters again (The well of Bildobaris, where merchants dumped their coppers for good luck, and filled up with scorpions, cause why not?).

The party could finsh the dungeon and go right back at again, or try out the level two dungeon (A goblin outpostat the bottom of a mountain full of goblins). As players drifted in and out of the game through the summer, I made new guys make a level 1 character and run with the remaing guys, who would "power level" the new charaters. Looting and characters grinding away! It was super fun for all involved to switch gears.

-Will-

Saulster
09-21-2013, 11:01 AM
Everybody needs a break from time to time. And if you have "always" run it can get tiresome, especially if your group just automatically assumes that you will GM forever. It is good to be appreciated and if you don't get at least that you really need to take a break. The players will be eager to play again and more importantly you as the GM will be motivated to run again.