I count myself lucky that I have not experienced this. Inspiration can be found everywhere and there are some brain hacks I've figured out over time:
Play as much as I DM to recharge the batteries.
Watch others DM and play, especially games that aren't great. Think about how to make what the DM was trying to do work better.
Keep a calendar of when I have been the most creative or motivated to prep and figure out the pattern, then try to set aside that time as sacrosanct. (Mine is after dinner on weeknights or very late weekend nights.)
Break down big projects into tiny pieces and then do at least one tiny piece per day. Slowly prep the next campaign while playing the current one.
over 20 years of DMing I've definitely experienced it here and there. Normally I am able to hold it off until a campaign ends, and then take a break, but I have had scenarios where it impacted my campaign and I had to end it early.
First, identify that you’re feeling it and acknowledge that it’s ok to feel that way.
Discuss it with your group, and see if other members of the group will run a few one-shots, or two-shots to give you a chance to play as a character and recharge. If not, then you might need a new group of friends because merely ‘taking a break’ isn’t sufficient.
Yup. Had it happen after more than a year into a 5e campaign. Wasn't enjoying the campaign as DM, felt like I was fighting the rules, eventually it blocked up any creative energy I had. I shut down the campaign after a minor plot point resolved.
I'm using OSE now, and it feels so much more flexible and open, I'm enjoying myself more. Also exploring Alien RPG, and others, which has been great fun.
I think there are at least a few types of GM burnout, and yes I've experienced it.
The first, is just too much going on in your life to be able to dedicate running a great game and taking care of your life. Family, job, school, etc... Burning the candle at both ends can lead to GM burnout. This one is pretty obvious to see coming and doesn't have a lot of options for rectifying. Pass the GM wand or cut some other things out of your life perhaps.
The second, is system burnout. Obviously, this will be dependent on which game and/or edition you are using. Can be a combination of the system just making game prep take too much time, and the beast that high level play can become. This isnt something that is easy to see coming. You need to experience a system before you know how to sidestep this type of burnout. One of the reasons that early on in a new game/edition cycle you have many acolytes enjoying the journey, which eventually gives way to frustrated opinions from GM burnouts.
The third, player attentiveness, buy in, appreciation, playstyle, etc... The GM puts in a ton of effort to deliver a really great session and campaign. The players don't care and just tell fart jokes and cancel half the time. One of the hardest lessons I learned about TTRPGs, is that sometimes your best friends make the worst gamers. This type of burnout can be avoided by screening your players. Either through organized play, one shots, or whatever method you have of ensuring a likeminded playstyle is shared across the table.
If you ask a dozen people in this thread what "DM Burnout" is, you'll get 13 different answers.
"Bored with game prep."
"Frustrated with combat grind."
"Bored with the published adventure we bought."
"Tired of my players not taking the game seriously."
"Swamped by all of the rules and arguments."
I've experienced all of these things before, in varying degrees. But if we go with the WebMD definition of burnout ("a form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped; the result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress. Burnout happens when you're overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up"), then I don't think I have ever been. It sounds like true burnout requires a level of emotional attachment that I don't carry into my hobby. D&D is my refuge from that sort of stuff...a pastime, not my livelihood.
Bored? Yup, all the time. Frustrated? At least once per gaming session. Burned out? Nah, I'm not that emotionally vested.
If we define "DM Burnout" as the gaming equivalent of "writer's block" then absolutely. Periods where my creativity is at a low ebb are more common than I'd like (and frankly are getting more frequent the older I get, which I'm not happy about). Especially when my job also requires creativity - sometimes it just hits the point where my brain refuses to engage anymore and I have to set things aside for a while and sessions become board game sessions until I can get my groove back.
The third, player attentiveness, buy in, appreciation, playstyle, etc... The GM puts in a ton of effort to deliver a really great session and campaign. The players don't care and just tell fart jokes and cancel half the time. One of the hardest lessons I learned about TTRPGs, is that sometimes your best friends make the worst gamers.
IMX, this is by far the biggest issue that leads to problems. Game schedules and systems can be changed. But if the players aren't as committed as the DM, there's not much the DM can do that will lead to long term stability.
"True", unfortunately. When it happens, it's usually a "RPG burnout" in general.
Fortunately, compared to the professional burnout I experienced, this DM's burnout usually lasts a few weeks, at most a few months, instead of a few years. Eventually I see a series on TV, or a movie, or play a cool board game or computer game that rekindles the RPG flame, and then I have 15 ideas for games that I want to DM at once!
What has been harder was going back into an existing game after such a burnout.
I don't have time to play and DM at the same time, so I do eventually have burnout/fatigue. When that happens one of the players steps up and runs a short 4-6 month campaign and I get to play and recharge for a while.
I get very invested in RPGs and I tend to put a good amount of hours in prep, reading and designing them. But sometimes my professional or personal life becomes more intense or stressful and I tend not to notice until I'm exhausted and have to take a break. RPGs are not a relaxing hobby for me, like reading a book. They're a project, they require energy to invest. Everytime I had one such burnout it's because I had to keep the other aspects of my life in check.
I like DMing so much it's impossible for me to burn out on actual at-the-table DMing (or if it is possible, my limit is extremely high, like sky-high). I can literally sit for days adjudicating, improvising, listening to players relate insane and doomed plans, and so on, so long as I have stuff to run. I've DM'd for 12 hour days multiple days in a row (of course I played 16 hour days multiple days in a row one time).
I can and have absolutely burned out on prepping for sessions before. This is why I increasingly dislike RPGs that require me to do a ton of prep, and why I found purchased adventures that still want me to do more prep than just reading them through once to be incredibly obnoxious, even a rip-off (esp. as loads of TSR and 3PP adventures don't need you to do more than that). 5E innately requires about 2-4x as much prep for me as 4E did, as a combination of how it works + still-inferior digital tools for the DM (esp. re: customizing monsters/NPCs). Surprising when player-side it probably requires less than half as much effort from the players (as compared to 4E).
I have experience 2 primary causes of Gm burnout: 1) the system is too complex to sustain over time and i just can't muster the wherewithal to deal with it, and 2) a specific player or players are too much work to keep engaged or make happy or just put up with. Sometimes, those two thing collide (a crunchy system with a minmaxitaur player) and it's curtains for that campaign.
A completely different thing happens sometimes, though, and isn't really burnout: I have an idea for a campaign and get all excited and do prep work and invite players and then find out that it was just a passing fancy and I have no interest in doing that thing once a week for a couple years.