GM Burnout

Image: What Job Burnout Feels Like

Two or more years of endless toil on your precious campaign, you feel like it’s been nearly perfect the whole run. Players are engaged, the story is moving along swimmingly with great plot twists, some introduced by you and some by your PCs decisions. Even the strongest of GMs have their limit; sometimes, we just need a break!

Seeing how I ran a total of 16 hours of games at Gen Con, I felt like it was a great time to address this topic. GM burnout is real, and it’s crippling. You could have a great game session but just not feel satisfied because your mind is stretched so thin. Right before Gen Con, I was feeling this with my Saturday 13th Age group. Things were going great, but I was just unhappy with the way things went (not story-wise, just mechanically) for reasons unbeknownst to me.

I’d been playing my game in the same system for too long without a break. Having two 13th Age games a week, even though in one I play instead of GM, it gets exhausting and needs to be shaken up a bit. So how do I handle GM burnout? Well, simply put, do something else.

Have one of your players run a game, preferably a different system just so you feel refreshed when you return to the other game. Let it go on for a few weeks. As of right now, my Saturday group is going to be playing Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars: Age of Rebellion RPG. Great system, we’ve played it all before and it’s not 13th Age. It’s actually kind of amazing how refreshing it can be on the other side of the screen doing something different.

Honing in on one character rather than managing a slew of NPCs and an entire setting really pulls the weight off of one’s shoulders for a while. The combination of a different system and taking on a different role in the game is a magical and healing combination.

Running parallel to this idea, you and your group could actually do something completely different. Have a movie night for a couple of weeks or play board/card games instead. This way your group still stays in touch and doesn’t get out of the routine of meeting every week but you still can have a break. If there’s a couple of players that simply come to the game for only the game, well, that’s okay too. The idea of running a GM hiatus for yourself isn’t necessarily for the betterment of the group, but for the betterment of your specific campaign. If someone chooses to sit out your hiatus, don’t take it personally. Some people would rather just wait it out to get back into the action of where you left off.

To back track to the root of this dilemma, one of the most important things is simply admitting that you’re burned out and need a break. Talk about it with your players, more often than not they’ll understand and be accommodating.

Experiment around with how you handle burnout, handling it the same way twice may not yield the same results every time. Be patient with yourself, and for you players, be patient with your GM and do what you can to help rejuvenate that spark.


Stay Metal \m/

2 Comments on “GM Burnout

  1. I’ve experienced this as well. 3 Game groups all meet bi-weekly, but I was GMing all of them and it was all the same game system (5E). We’re all on hiatus for August(busy month) but in Sept 2 of the groups are going a differnt direction. Sat will be Savage Worlds (Space Campaign) and my Wed is looking like Fantasy AGE (Titans Grave). New rules system to mix up the monotony.
    Personally I’d rather switch up systems every 6 months, so that I can get exposed to more of the newer stuff. See what’s going on in gaming.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been running 13th Age for almost 4 years now, since late 2012. Across 2 main campaigns back to back in addition to con games, one-shots, demos, and organized play. Which doesn’t even count all my writing for 13th Age both officially and on my Patreon. Burnout is a very very real thing. I’m lucky that I do get to play other games, but not as much as I’d like.

    Liked by 1 person

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