GM Burnout Hits Everyone- How I’m Dealing With It.

Avast me harties!

It happens to everyone and it’s no surprise that it finally happened to me. I’ve been GMing for 15 years and have been going over a year strong without any substantial breaks. GM burnout finally hit me.

Rather than keep limping along and GM while unenthused by what we are doing I’ve decided that I will be taking a sabbatical from GMing for a few months (most likely start back up in January).

What is exciting is that one of my friends/players will be running his own campaign once a month and for shits and giggles he is running a Gamma Worlds campaign on Sunday. This will be the first time I’ve been a player in over 10 years.. It really has been that long. No wonder I have burnout.

What I HOPE to Accomplish

While I am taking a break from GMing and easing up on my RPG obsession a little bit for 3 months I am still working on improving my GMing and looking at what exactly I want from my table experiences.

I am also working on my next campaign– which will be a pirate game. I am going to insert Freeport (a really great city and a really great source book, btw) into the Pathfinder world of Golarion.

What I Want to Improve

Feel free to offer any advice or thoughts.

I want to improve my take on NPC personality. I think I do a good job most of the time, but I really want to make each and every NPC (the important ones) shine and be different.

I want to look at the way I craft my combat and start introducing complications that provoke thought and strategy and not just hack and slash mentality. I plan to have skills play rolls in combat and allowing varying outcomes.

I also am excited to try the E6 system with my Pathfinder game. I plan to have the Class Cap for class abilities be level 10. My players seem to be in favor of that and I don’t that it will make them extremely OP. I am tired of how sluggish things get at higher levels and I like E6’s approach.

To be Fair and Not Fair

I GM a large group. There are 10 of us, including myself. Now while I am comfortable GMing such a large group, I know it comes with some sacrifice. With this many players you tend to give up “Spotlight” time and have to speed things along. A trip to town to lounge around, restock, and further your character can be a whole 6 hour session with 10 players. And it usually is in my group.

There is a big part of me that misses GMing 5-6 people. Each person having adequate time to attempt to accomplish what they want. There is no player sitting around for extended periods of time, and there is WAY less booking for myself.

However this isn’t fair to my players. We all enjoy each others company and have fun. While I would like to run a smaller group- I also do not want to exclude any of my friends from joining in with us and having a good time.

I’ve rambled enough for today. I will be making changes and striving to reignite my spark for GMing (I honestly think I just needed a break) and see if I can’t push myself further than I have in the past.

Will I cut down my group size for the Pirate game, I’m not sure.. There is the possibility… It is something I am still meandering.

What about you? How do you deal with GM burnout? How do you deal with large groups? How do you handle combat?

Look forward to your thoughts!

Author: Mike Evans

I am the dude behind DIY RPG Productions. I have a fuck all punk rock attitude, love meeting new people, doing nature shit, and gaming (tabletop and console) and having a good time. I love craft beer (maybe too much), punk, grunge, and industrial music. I write books. Good for me.

7 thoughts

  1. I think one trick for me is to avoid or minimize prep. The less I have to prepare, the more energy I have for playing, and some times I prep sessions, where I leave most of the work to the players – and let them know, that tonight I’ll be leaning back, while they’ll be doing the hard work. For example one session took place at the opera – the characters were going to the opera, and I had the players playing the opera singers in the show improvising it from some sketchy material. It was an amazing session, we had great fun with it, and the opera was used as a comment on certain political events in the campaign.

    As an alternative I pick a story game with no prep like Shock: Social Science Fiction, Polaris or In a Wicked Age for some easy gaming for a single session or so.

  2. I’m completely the opposite of Morten in regards to prep. My own experience is that the more effort that I put into prep, the experience for the players increases their enjoyment which feeds into my motivation to continue prepping.

    There are other factors that I know that helps me mitigate burn out too–my current player dynamics and the game itself. My current players get along very well, don’t argue (much), and overall make an effort to enjoy the game. This makes our sessions stress-free where there is no player conflict.

    The game itself works well. I liked D&D 3.x and now am using Pathfinder. It clicks for me and makes my prep work fun really fun.

    As for group size, my current group size is four players though I am comfortable running up to six. Beyond six, things start to slow down considerably. Here’s been my experience in running players:

    At 3 players–games are very quick and so is combat. Pretty much all the elements of the session are sped up that I have to “double” prepare becuase the players will blow through a lot of material. We have eight hour sessions so sometimes it can be a lot of prep.

    At 4-6 players–significant drop in speed, but I don’t notice a difference between four players or if I had six. The first is usually combat, then followed by “shopping”.

    At 7+ players–game slows down even more to the point that I have to implement timer rules to keep the game moving and ban “shopping” during games sessions. Using 30 second timers is helpful and use it for most situations.

    Since 2000, I haven’t experienced burn out once and I’ve ran three complete campaigns from start to finish since then. I’m currently on my fourth campaign and have taken a tact of completely writing 100% of the material for the game sessions. It’s proving to be a fun exercise.

  3. All I can say is what we did. We split the group pretty much in two. Also on the topic of GM burn out. We alternate weeks between campaigns. Different campaign every other week.

  4. I back what Chuck said, because I’m in the other half of his group now! We had a bunch of folks, so now there are two different groups and both alternate campaigns, so that’s 4 parallel games. Gives everyone a lot of choice and opportunity.

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