GM Burnout?

Well, another comment on my Google+ post leads to another spin off post.  Saul Morales mentioned that my post yesterday about bringing my Pathfinder Mojo back sounded a bit like GM Burnout.  I have to say that I think he has a point too.  So I thought I would do a little post about this topic to help those of us that fall into this situation.

I tend to GM far more than I play

GM burnout critical hit die
Sometimes gaming can lead to burnout

This is a quote I read or hear daily in my wanderings among the sea of RPG content that I look at.  It seems of recent times that most people that play RPG’s fall into the GM category or the player category.  I certainly find that the most vocal people online tend to be GM’s at least.  This may be because of the amount that I talk about GMing or it may simply be that players as a rule read a lot less blog material than do GM’s.

So if the above is the case, surely there must be a lot of GM burnout occurring around this large blue planet of ours.  GM burnout has varying degrees of effect but the one thing that it has in common at every stage is it makes GMing seem like a chore.  I mentioned that yesterday and I have truly been feeling that way.  I have been forcing myself to run the games and getting no enjoyment out of it and it took me some time just to sit back and realize that I was not having fun and rectifying that in my mind and find the fun again.  To me that is a very mild case of GM burnout.

I once knew a guy, good friend, who ran the absolutely most amazing games in 2nd Edition AD&D.  Everyone raved about his games and we all were really chasing him a lot to run games.  However he ran in his own time when he wanted to.  In the end his stuff got “stolen” and he could not run anything anymore.  It may have occurred that way but I think that he just wanted to stop GMing.  The games collapsed and we never got to go back to it again.  He ran other games as one offs later but never in that setting.  This was a serious case of GM burnout where it lead to the complete collapse of a game.

So there is no one thing that you can point at and say “that is GM Burnout” because it varies by the GM.  I find that the initial indicators for me is that I just struggle to read any RPG content at all.  Reading RPG’s is one of my favorite things to do so it becomes obvious to observers that I am beginning to go downhill if I just cannot be bothered with a new book.

Enough of the depressing stuff about what it is.  Let us talk about strategies of how to beat it.  There are a number of different ways that we can face this from a GM perspective.

GM Burnout read the basic GM advice again
Rereading the basics helped me a lot
  1. Just admit to yourself that you are in a rut or suffering the burn out.  Think about the things that are dragging you down and then reflect on the reasons that you love gaming.  This is what I did, and it was that which gave me the ability just to say “Yeah, you know, I am just whining about a small amount of problem areas but on the whole it is very cool”
  2. Read some of the basic GM advice in the rule books.  I did this yesterday and found a lot of the GMing 101 stuff really backed me up on what I was saying and allowed me to refocus myself on having the fun I need to.  It may be the simplest GM advice is some of the stuff we forget first.
  3. If you find that you are still down about it, talk to your players.  You might be having huge problems in an area that you can’t see a way past and they will go “Hey, I have a solution for that”, or they may even just give you the confidence to go on,  ‘Hey, I didn’t notice, you are an awesome GM!”.  Be specific about what you are feeling and try to work as a group to come up with some solutions.  Some solutions may be;
    1. Play a one shot of a game system the GM has been wanting to try
    2. Have someone step in and take over GMing for a one shot, or even take on the game that you have been playing
    3. Get the players to take on some responsibility (like recording initiative and turn counting, or doing the summary of the previous game, or playing minor NPC’s in interactions where their own character is not present)
    4. Do something different for a week like a board/card game or go to the movies to see the latest smash hit
  4. If you can come up with nothing it might be time just to have a little bit of time off.  Shelve the game where it is and take a game off.  See where your head is at after that and evaluate if you are ready to go back

Remember, gaming is meant to be fun.  For everyone.  That is why it is called a game after all.  It is a social activity that is designed for enjoyment and when that enjoyment is gone it may be time to take a break.  Sometimes those breaks can be long and rarely they become permanent for some GM’s.  That is OK.  You have to look out for number one and if you are not getting any enjoyment from the games then you need to step back.

As players you need to be aware of how the GM is travelling.  There is a LOT of work that goes into running a game well.  There is a lot of work that goes into running an average game too and though some of us thrive on it we can struggle to get it all ready on time and then beat ourselves up because it did not run the way we had hoped.  Tell your GM that you are having a good time.  Make sure you say at the end of the game that you had a great time or you had fun.  It is these little things that can at times keep us afloat.

As a player try to have an open mind to things too.  If you have been playing the same campaign for a year or so and the GM says “Would you like to try a one off of Risus?” or something similar, give it a go.  The GM may just be trying to recharge their batteries and you may find that Risus or any other game they want to try is right up your alley.  It is OK to say “Sounds like fun but it is not going to be forever right?”  The GM understands that you are attached to your characters and your game and are invested in it.  After all, so are they!

Well, that was a lot longer of a post than I was planning.  This had obviously been playing on my mind.  GM burnout happens.  Sometimes it takes a comment on a blog to realize that it is what has been happening with you.  The important thing is that you address it and keep moving forward.  Talk to people and get it out there.  You will find that the dreaded GM burnout may be just a call to reevaluate and make your games better, or to try something new for a while.  Keep rolling!

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