D&D General "I have Experienced What I'd Call 'DM Burnout'" (a poll)

True or False: "I have Experienced What I'd Call 'DM Burnout'"

  • True.

    Votes: 126 84.6%
  • False.

    Votes: 23 15.4%

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Definitely and irritatingly "true."
It's not so much burnout on a particular campaign or with a particular group, so much as the feeling I'm burning out once and for all. My creativity, focus, and drive have all declined significantly in the last few years.
I'm not actively GMing at the moment, only "tinkering," so hopefully I'll get my mojo back when I'm back in a place where I can re-engage more fully. Because this seemingly perpetual state of semi-burnout really sucks athach-- and for reasons that go way beyond how it impacts my favorite hobby.
 

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Irlo

Hero
Oh, yes, very true. One major burnout after a 10+ year campaign starting with 2e and transitioning into 3e, when my new status as a parent coincided with the help of prepping high level adventures for 3e. I stopped DMing for over a decade but eventually started a 5e campaign. That one ran for about 3 years before the second instance of burnout set in due to my own actual real life political- and public health- related burnouts and, worse, player disengagement (or at least what I perceived as disengagement — we were playing hybrid in-person/remote games and more than one player was dealing with heavy out-of-game distractions). Every session was a disappointment, so I pulled the plug.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
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.
This is probably easier for online games, but what I have found is that a player pool solves scheduling issues. You have X number of players in the pool and only Y seats at the table, where Y is less than X. Then you set a quorum and it's first come first served for sign-ups that week. Almost never do I have to cancel sessions and that tends to happen only when everyone's on vacation or the session falls on a major holiday.

Online games also solve for people who can't make it because they need to stay at home for one reason or another, but who could pay attention to the game while home. It also makes it easier to opt in because you don't have to get yourself together and travel to the game, then travel home afterward.

I'm happy to say that dealing with player scheduling is a thing of the past for my groups, so it doesn't contribute to DM burnout.
 

Yes I do. It's guaranteed. Fortunately, I planned for this and told my group that "eventually I'm going get burned out and someone else is going to need to DM if we want to keep playing." We just started our second campaign with a new DM🙂
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
This is probably easier for online games, but what I have found is that a player pool solves scheduling issues. You have X number of players in the pool and only Y seats at the table, where Y is less than X. Then you set a quorum and it's first come first served for sign-ups that week. Almost never do I have to cancel sessions and that tends to happen only when everyone's on vacation or the session falls on a major holiday.

I can't imagine this working for a game with continued serialized campaign where adventures can take several sessions to complete. If Session #1 ends with the party deep in the lower level of a dungeon and then at the next sessions half the group is made up of different people with different characters because they were the first to sign up, how do you handle that? I know some people just handwave that kind of thing - but I would not be satisfied with that.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I can't imagine this working for a game with continued serialized campaign where adventures can take several sessions to complete. If Session #1 ends with the party deep in the lower level of a dungeon and then at the next sessions half the group is made up of different people with different characters because they were the first to sign up, how do you handle that? I know some people just handwave that kind of thing - but I would not be satisfied with that.
Wherever possible, we end sessions outside of the adventure location. In cases where it doesn't make sense to do that, then it's handwaved. Some characters fall into the background of that episode and others come to the fore. They're always "there" though.

It's either that or live with scheduling problems. I'll take the above over scheduling problems every day of the week except next Friday at 7 pm. (I'm busy.)
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I have had it happen on occasion. Thankfully I have been able to wrap the campaigns up quickly so there was still a proper ending to them though. I usually can power through the last few sessions to get to that point.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
It's either that or live with scheduling problems. I'll take the above over scheduling problems every day of the week except next Friday at 7 pm. (I'm busy.)

I guess I'm the opposite. I rather deal with scheduling problems than play that way. Though, I guess that is easy for me to say, as I have been blessed with pretty dedicated groups who make it a point to be there. This past week was the first time in nearly 3 years of playing with my current group that we had to push a session back because someone could not make it last minute - though twice we've had to have players join into the face-to-face game via zoom because of COVID diagnoses or exposure.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
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.
Absolutely. I see the first as a life thing not really connected to the game, so it's more life gets in the way than DM burnout, to me. For it to be burnout it needs to stem from the game itself. System, players, etc. But yeah, 2 and 3 are killers.
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.
Exactly. My burnout comes from the system being too complex and the players breaking Wheaton's Law. That's why I nuked my 5E West Marches game. I just got tired of fighting the system to get it to play how I wanted and fighting the players to keep them from constantly breaking Wheaton's Law.
It looks like the 2024 edition needs do doubledown on "DM friendly" convenience.
Yes, please. Cutting the rules by half or more would do wonders to alleviate a lot of my burnout. If we could get it down to 20 or so pages that would be great. Less than 5 pages would be ideal. Getting the players to stop thumping the rulebook as if it were some kind of authoritative text would also do wonders. Do both and that would mostly finish off my sources of burnout.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Huh.

It looks like the 2024 edition needs do doubledown on "DM friendly" convenience.
I'm not sure how they can make it more convenient. I mean, the rules are basically "here are the rules, but you can change or ignore the ones you don't like, and make up new ones if you want."
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I'm not sure how they can make it more convenient. I mean, the rules are basically "here are the rules, you can change or ignore the ones you don't like, and make up new ones if you want."
It's a weird paradox, but despite the players constantly wanting the book to back them up, when the referee does so it's somehow considered bad form. Every time I point to the bit in the book that says I as the referee can change the rules or make new ones, the players tell me they want the RAW or nothing. I've lost several groups to that mindset.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'm not sure how they can make it more convenient. I mean, the rules are basically "here are the rules, you can change or ignore the ones you don't like, and make up new ones if you want."
Perhaps oddly, for me the best way to make the game more GM friendly is to limit player facing complexities. i have never once been confused or frustrated by a monster ability or a rule for travelling or whatever, but PC class abilities, spells, and feats (especially in combination) are a constant frustration for me. Whether it is because a player doesn't know how their character works, or the player is a min-maxing power gamer, its PC abilities that are the problem. Always.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
It's a weird paradox, but despite the players constantly wanting the book to back them up, when the referee does so it's somehow considered bad form. Every time I point to the bit in the book that says I as the referee can change the rules or make new ones, the players tell me they want the RAW or nothing. I've lost several groups to that mindset.
Yeah, and it's that mindset that is the problem, IMO. The best you can do is be clear about your expectations and playstyle at the very beginning, and then stick to it for the first few games, until that mindset changes...gradually and peacefully. Changing the rules won't always change that mindset (and even when it does, that change isn't always positive.)

I don't really trust the game devs and publishers to try to change my table's expectations; that should be on me. (I promise that's not meant as criticism; the devs do great work...I just need a line between "what the publishers create" and "what I bring to the table." And 5E makes drawing that line really easy.)
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
I'm not sure how they can make it more convenient. I mean, the rules are basically "here are the rules,
I am referring to a concern I am coming across more often.

5e is super easy for players.

But it is the DMs who are doing the hard work and carrying the load.

In that sense, 5e isnt really a "light" game. It seems like that for players. But the DM is encumbered.

I am hearing that more often.

Now, with DMs mentioning burn-out, maybe 2024 can make help make the game "light" for DMs too.




but you can change or ignore the ones you don't like, and make up new ones if you want."
Heh. You mean even more work for DMs to do?
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I am referring to a concern I am coming across more often.

5e is super easy for players.

But it is the DMs who are doing the hard work and carrying the load.

In that sense, 5e isnt really a "light" game. It seems like that for players. But the DM is encumbered.

I am hearing that more often.

Now, with DMs mentioning burn-out, maybe 2024 can make help make the game "light" for DMs too.





Heh. You mean even more work for DMs to do?
When you say the DM is carrying the load, do you mean the prep work? Or is there more to it in your view?
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Not quite. What I mean is, 5E is as cumbersome as you want it to be.

Exactly. My burnout comes from the system being too complex and the players breaking Wheaton's Law. That's why I nuked my 5E West Marches game. I just got tired of fighting the system to get it to play how I wanted

Yes, please. Cutting the rules by half or more would do wonders to alleviate a lot of my burnout. If we could get it down to 20 or so pages that would be great. Less than 5 pages would be ideal.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
It's safe to assume I disagree, @Yaarel . I don't consider ignoring/changing the rules to be part of "fighting the system."
To me, that is "using the system as intended." If I want to ignore all but 5 pages of the rules, that is certainly possible and the rules allow it.

I can see your side of the issue, though. Everyone at the table has to be on board for any changes, and that can take a lot of time and effort that not everyone has.
 
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