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GM Burnout - Swapping GM Advice Needed

C-Moon

Suzerain Infomancer
Hi, having GM burnout is common for post TTRPG groups. One solution I've thought is with Suzerain's many realms, just letting a player and the GM swap out and run a one-shot in a different realm.

Now lore-wise, it's sound, no worries there, it's more the technical side of passing on the 'GM hat' as it where.

Question: What's a good way to summerise and organise story elements/locations/characters etc. to be passed to another GM for a one-off session that can be within the same world but not directly affect the main campaign? Is it best to just give a list of "try not to kill these people and stay away from these areas if possible" or is that too limiting? is it best to do a flashback one-shot? or to keep everything but the characters the same?

-Ciaran

Savage Mojo
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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
If there's roughly nothing in common between the one-shot and the main campaign, I don't see it as being so much to stress over. Just set it in a realm that doesn't connect much to where the main campaign is, and ask the one-shot GM not to connect it to the main campaign if possible; you might ask the players not to look to connect to where the main campaign is.

If there's more overlap than that--such as mostly the same characters--then things are probably a bit more complicated, and you want an adventure that pretty clearly isn't directly connected to the main campaign. You can accomplish that by either having it in a different time--prequel or sequel--or maybe a side-quest type of thing.

As a thought, if the main difference is that the usual GM is running a character new to the broader campaign, and the one-shot GM's character isn't involved, you could either have the adventure be centered on the temporary character or the missing character's being missing, if that makes sense.
 

Question: What's a good way to summerise and organise story elements/locations/characters etc. to be passed to another GM for a one-off session that can be within the same world but not directly affect the main campaign? Is it best to just give a list of "try not to kill these people and stay away from these areas if possible" or is that too limiting? is it best to do a flashback one-shot? or to keep everything but the characters the same?
I'd talk to the other GM, because depending on the level of burnout, they may not come back to this particular campaign. Most DMs I know usually need about 6 months before they feel ready to come back, and I've never seen one take back up a stalled campaign, preferring to start again fresh. If this is the case, then the GM can either give you his notes of what's going on with certain characters or you can just run with whatever you want.

If the GM thinks they might want to come back to it, I'd consider one of the following options to avoid too many problems:
  • Start a new mini-campaign
    • You won't be bogged down with existing baggage, and the original GM doesn't have to worry about any changes. Downside is that the player may not like putting aside treasured characters for a while, possibly forever.
  • Have someone/something teleport the party to another part of the world (let the other DM provide options they don't plan on using); alternately could be another plane of existence or even a dream (but don't let the player on to either of these options)
    • All the areas of concern are gone, because there's no NPCs or areas from the previous setting to mess up. It also gives you some free reign to do your own thing without too much worry about the original campaign. Downside to this is the original GM many not want to take back the characters, either due to new equipment, abilities, etc. gained while they're away (dream option here is really cool, because the GM remove whatever they don't want!).
  • Play another game for a while
    • There are a lot of RPGs out there, and this could be an opportunity to try one out. Worse thing that happens is that it sucks, in which case you can go back to the other options. Best case is you found another game to run periodically.
 

C-Moon

Suzerain Infomancer
I'd talk to the other GM, because depending on the level of burnout, they may not come back to this particular campaign. Most DMs I know usually need about 6 months before they feel ready to come back, and I've never seen one take back up a stalled campaign, preferring to start again fresh. If this is the case, then the GM can either give you his notes of what's going on with certain characters or you can just run with whatever you want.

If the GM thinks they might want to come back to it, I'd consider one of the following options to avoid too many problems:
  • Start a new mini-campaign
    • You won't be bogged down with existing baggage, and the original GM doesn't have to worry about any changes. Downside is that the player may not like putting aside treasured characters for a while, possibly forever.
  • Have someone/something teleport the party to another part of the world (let the other DM provide options they don't plan on using); alternately could be another plane of existence or even a dream (but don't let the player on to either of these options)
    • All the areas of concern are gone, because there's no NPCs or areas from the previous setting to mess up. It also gives you some free reign to do your own thing without too much worry about the original campaign. Downside to this is the original GM many not want to take back the characters, either due to new equipment, abilities, etc. gained while they're away (dream option here is really cool, because the GM remove whatever they don't want!).
  • Play another game for a while
    • There are a lot of RPGs out there, and this could be an opportunity to try one out. Worse thing that happens is that it sucks, in which case you can go back to the other options. Best case is you found another game to run periodically.
If there's roughly nothing in common between the one-shot and the main campaign, I don't see it as being so much to stress over. Just set it in a realm that doesn't connect much to where the main campaign is, and ask the one-shot GM not to connect it to the main campaign if possible; you might ask the players not to look to connect to where the main campaign is.

If there's more overlap than that--such as mostly the same characters--then things are probably a bit more complicated, and you want an adventure that pretty clearly isn't directly connected to the main campaign. You can accomplish that by either having it in a different time--prequel or sequel--or maybe a side-quest type of thing.

As a thought, if the main difference is that the usual GM is running a character new to the broader campaign, and the one-shot GM's character isn't involved, you could either have the adventure be centered on the temporary character or the missing character's being missing, if that makes sense.
Both super solid answers! Thank you so much!
 

Longspeak

Explorer
Question: What's a good way to summerise and organise story elements/locations/characters etc. to be passed to another GM for a one-off session that can be within the same world but not directly affect the main campaign? Is it best to just give a list of "try not to kill these people and stay away from these areas if possible" or is that too limiting? is it best to do a flashback one-shot? or to keep everything but the characters the same?
I have had players do this in several games. Most often just to have a short break, a couple of times because a player asked if they could take over for a story.

These were players already in the game, so they knew the lore. I just let them take over with the promise they would not overwrite or contradict any known lore. Any secret lore that hadn't been made public to the group I just would rewrite if needed.

My friend CW ran a fantastic adventure, wherein I took over one of my own NPCs who was the right level, and PCed him through dark times in Seattle, as a Certain Well Known Coffee Franchise was attempting to take over the world via mind controlling additives to their product.

My Friend EB took the reigns twice when I needed a break (and a few other times where he ran his own thing), once creating a whole new adventure within the setting where we all made new characters, and once taking all the established characters (and again, an NPC of about the right power level I ran) through his own crazy tale. That one actually re-wrote some of the undiscovered 'reality' of the world. It was awesome.

Anyway, the point is... if you're willing to roll with it, there is very little coordination needed. Don't restrict your fellow GM. "Yes, And..." him!
 
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aco175

Hero
A one-shot will most likely be contained to a place like a single dungeon and should not affect much of the rest of the structure. If a major NPC is killed or such, you can always bring him back or raise him as a vampire or something. Most may depend on the new DM and how skilled he is.

For example, if my son wanted to DM, I would expect him to grab some of my ideas and trash them. That would be fine since I could change or modify when I come back. If my father was going to DM, I would expect him to leave most of my stuff alone or even expand on a portion and leave most alone. He could take a single NPC and create more to him or add some background.
 

The solution to GM burnout is definitely not to give the GM work making sure there’s a proper handoff to a “guest” GM.

The way to counteract GM burnout is the GM in question simply stops GMing and someone else starts a completely new campaign.

Then the burnout-GM gets to simply be a player and a new GM steps up to shoulder all the responsibility and prep.

New GM should be ready to run for a couple of months minimum.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
For co-DMing in the same campaign, I would consider using using a campaign-management tool like World Anvil that support multiple editors.

Personally, I don't like co-DMing the same campaign. I'd rather have another DM run a completely separate campaign, preferably with a different system and genre and alternate sessions. Or just have someone run a one-shot if I need a break.
 

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