At My Most Burned-Out in 35 Years

But it's not anyone's fault that I've run myself to exhaustion - well, anyone but myself.
Yes and no.

As already implied in other comments: I think it would help if you spend some time contemplating why you keep doing something that is clearly not good for you. A therapist would probably be a good option, but in that case either you'll need to find a way to relay to your current therapist what is going on in your life and why games play an important role, or start looking for someone else. But maybe a good friend could do, too. It just should be someone not directly involved in the current situation.

But there's also the thing that RPG gaming groups can have this weird dynamic where the GM contributes 80% of the time and energy needed to keep the group going and it's considered perfectly normal. And that's definitely not healthy and you wouldn't be the only person to burn out on GMing due to it.

In any case: I think you need a break. Not just the long weekend type of break, but rather a GMing sabbatical. And I tend to say, you'll need to have a couple of honest conversations with people around you about how to arrive at a sustainable pace for your gaming activities.
 

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If they can't be bothered to level up their PCs, learn the rules, or keep notes, you have, IMO, a serious problem of expectations.

They seem to expect to show up and be entertained. Or they loathe 4e (not a bad thing).

Maybe switch to a better, less demanding system? Then start charging them XP to upgrade their PC sheets, to wean them off the habit.

As to the wife, point out that relieving GM burnout falls within her wifely duties....
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I feel almost too exhausted to write this post.

Over two years of two weekly games in different systems with only the occasional missed session.
Last weekend, I ran a bonus marathon session for around 8 hours (for different players in another system).
This weekend, I ran a game for a drunken wedding party that lasted until midnight (for yet different players in yet another different system) - turned around, drove 4 hours, and ran another 4 hour game.
Sorry, man. That sounds like it sucks.
In the regular game, people don't pay attention to their turns, don't know their character abilities, argue with me about their character abilities (that they don't know), have a "joke journal" instead of keeping pertinent adventure details.
From reading a bit of the thread it sounds like you're playing 4E. That's a lot of work to run even when the players know their characters and powers. That sounds really stressful.
Yesterday, I rushed home from the wedding party game. Got home just in time to level up 5 characters for the players, printed out 30 pages of character sheets, organized the table,
It really sounds like you need to offload some of that work to the players. If they're not interested in that specific system, at least enough to learn the mechanics and level their own characters, it might be better to run a lighter game that they can or will learn.
and had about 1 hour to lay down and feel hopeless that I had nothing to run for the group. (My previous planned encounters had been made worthless when the group decided to flee the adventure the previous session.) No suitable pre-made adventures were available, because I'm running a dead system notorious for bad adventures.
Regardless of the system, that's exactly why it's a bad idea to rely on written modules. Either you railroad the PCs or your prep gets tossed out the window when they zig while you expected them to zag.

I'd suggest this blog post (and the series) from the Alexandrian, Sly Flourish's Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, and The Game Master's Book of Proactive Roleplaying. They're all designed to put the players in the driver's seat, or at least ween referees off written modules.
Thankfully, we are taking off next Sunday for Mother's Day. I'm about to collapse - not kidding. I don't want to stop running the games and kill the groups. Also, if I take time off, that will be the same as killing the groups. In at least one of the groups - I'm the only person willing to DM.
Well, sounds like you can take time off from the other group, the one with someone else willing to run the show. That would lighten your load.
My wife - who is a player - literally got mad at me when I told her I was tired. ("I guess just tell everyone you don't want to DM anymore and that we're not going to play.")
Consider switching to less frequent play. Every week is a lot. Most people can't do that. Hell, not even Matt Mercer can do that and it's literally his job at this point. Try moving to every other week or once a month.
I don't know why I'm posting this. I guess to vent? Maybe to help organize my thoughts about how to try to recover from this?
Best of luck. It sounds like a crappy situation. Sorry you're burnt out.

If you're a YouTube video watcher, Ginny Di did a video on burnout. It might help.

 
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Rather than just cancel everything outright, maybe do something with everyone but NOT do roleplaying for awhile. Maybe go for pizza and beer somewhere with everyone and talk about what's getting everyone excited in the genre these days, what's been disappointment, what SF genres you all like and dislike. Maybe watch some good sci-fi shows together and just hang out. Maybe do boardgames for a little while. Or a hike or a concert or a movie. The key is to keep the social ties and remind yourselves why you're all friends, and that it all isn't necessarily about chaining you to the GM table every week. Maybe invite some new people along as well, to inject some new blood in the group.

You might also use the opportunity to encourage everyone to brush up on the rules, heck maybe do it together so that folks are more aware of what's been frustrating you. Be honest and just tell people how you are feeling.

I'd stop the marathon double shifts on gaming though -- do one or the other, but not both!
 
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bloodtide

Legend
I've been in your shoes.

So step one is asking yourself if you still even want to play the game or not.

Then, step two.....is the really hard part. You need to decide what you want. It might even be best to write it down. Try and avoid things like "have fun" and try to be as detailed as possible. How do you want to have fun? Break it all down.

Some of mine: "I wish to be the DM of a consistent weekly group of good players playing an rpg with total focus, immersion and dedicated game play above anything else." And "I strive to make my game radically different then all other games to make my game stand way out as unique". And "My game is hard core Old School, always"

Step three. Make it happen. You, yourself, have to take total control of everything around the game and make it happen the way you want it to. It is your game, so it is your way.

The first big step here is finding players and setting up a game schedule. Avoid the "I know your name so your a player in my game" friendship trap. Do a bit more of a lite interview. Your looking for people that agree with your basic ideas. Then decide how often you want to run the game.

I've very hard with attendance. If your late to the game, you don't get to play the session. If your late twice your out of the game. Miss a game, your out of the game. Leave early and you won't be invited back. I only want players that willingly want to show up on time, and more so players that don't have "wacky social lives" where they always have to "do something".

The same I'm very hard on paying attention. If a player gets on their phone for an hour and has to ask "what is going on in the game", they will just be told to leave. They will simply be told, "why not just stay home and endlessly use your phone?".

It can be hard, but soon enough you will get a group of ready players. They will come to the game on time....turn off their phones...and be ready to do nothing else except game.

Then, enjoy your game!
 


Retreater

Legend
Regardless of the system, that's exactly why it's a bad idea to rely on written modules. Either you railroad the PCs or your prep gets tossed out the window when they zig while you expected them to zag.

I'd suggest this blog post (and the series) from the Alexandrian, Sly Flourish's Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, and The Game Master's Book of Proactive Roleplaying. They're all designed to put the players in the driver's seat, or at least ween referees off written modules.
In this case, I had written my own adventure. Repurposed a map from another adventure, created around 7 encounters to be sprinkled throughout it. (So that would have been 2-3 sessions of prep, along with improv and story elements.) The group had one of the encounters, decided the adventure was too difficult, and fled.
Since starting this 4e game back in December, I haven't used a single pre-written encounter, much less an adventure (because they're all pretty bad, if we're honest). I had a hope I could run Madness at Gardmore Abbey, but I don't think I have it in me now.
I've read many of the Alexandrian's posts (including the new GM book), and listened to Sly Flourish podcasts and read Mike's articles as well. A lot of their GM advice unfortunately feels like that meme: "oh, you sweet, summer child..."
4e (as is my other system I'm running: PF2e) is too involved to be able to improv, to have the luxury of being a "lazy GM."
I think the only hope if I'm going to continue to DM that group is to switch to a lighter system. I absolutely can't go with the flow in a system as complex as 4e.
 

Lots of good and practical advice up thread. All I would add is you have to take care of yourself. If you don’t the burn out and stress will creep into the other parts of your life.

The only practical advice I’d maybe give is find a game to play in and dry and discover your hobby joy again. Even if it means tabling the other games.
 

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
In this case, I had written my own adventure. Repurposed a map from another adventure, created around 7 encounters to be sprinkled throughout it. (So that would have been 2-3 sessions of prep, along with improv and story elements.) The group had one of the encounters, decided the adventure was too difficult, and fled.
Since starting this 4e game back in December, I haven't used a single pre-written encounter, much less an adventure (because they're all pretty bad, if we're honest). I had a hope I could run Madness at Gardmore Abbey, but I don't think I have it in me now.
I've read many of the Alexandrian's posts (including the new GM book), and listened to Sly Flourish podcasts and read Mike's articles as well. A lot of their GM advice unfortunately feels like that meme: "oh, you sweet, summer child..."
4e (as is my other system I'm running: PF2e) is too involved to be able to improv, to have the luxury of being a "lazy GM."
I think the only hope if I'm going to continue to DM that group is to switch to a lighter system. I absolutely can't go with the flow in a system as complex as 4e.
I'll be honest, this feels like asking a "How" question ("How do I keep running these games so I don't burn out") when you need to be asking a "Why" question ("Why do I feel the need to run so many games for so many groups?").

Quite simply, you should only be running one group, max, and it should be a concept that "sparks joy" for you. If no one else is really interested, then you run zero games. If they feign interest but then aren't following through, you end that game too.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I've read many of the Alexandrian's posts (including the new GM book), and listened to Sly Flourish podcasts and read Mike's articles as well. A lot of their GM advice unfortunately feels like that meme: "oh, you sweet, summer child..."
To each their own. I've found their stuff to be some of the most helpful I've ever read. And following their advice has drastically reduced my stress from running games.
4e (as is my other system I'm running: PF2e) is too involved to be able to improv, to have the luxury of being a "lazy GM."

I think the only hope if I'm going to continue to DM that group is to switch to a lighter system. I absolutely can't go with the flow in a system as complex as 4e.
I can't speak to Pathfinder, but I've run and played the hell out of 4E. Combat encounters are dead simple to create and monster stats are pure math so easy to adjust. And that's the hardest part of 4E. Everything else is bog standard make a check against a level-appropriate DC (with a chart given) or skill challenges (which are simple to improvise).

Blog of Holding has the MM3 on a business card. Drop that info into Excel or similar and you can whip up a monster of any level at a glance. Like this. Or write down the stats for level-appropriate monsters for the PCs' level on a 3x5 card and keep that in your notes. When the PCs level, make a new card. Just like that you have all the monsters you'll ever need and they perfectly follow the official math for the game.

Encounter building is one standard monster per PC. Swap out one standard monster for a four-pack of minions. Swap out two standard monsters for an elite. Swap out five standard monsters for a solo. Swap one standard monster for a trap or hazard. Use a variety of monster roles to keep things interesting. Drop that encounter in an interesting bit of terrain or in an interesting location and you're set.

Depending on the kinds of players and how many you have, one 4E combat encounter is a full 3-4 hour long night of gaming right there.
 
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