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%

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Yeah, and it's that mindset that is the problem, IMO.
Agreed.
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.
I've tried. Nothing I've done has moved that needle one iota. In my experience, players want RAW, RAW, and nothing but RAW. Any change will be a constant fight. I ran a 5E West Marches game almost constantly for the better part of a year...first day to last day...players complained about the tiniest house rule. Players there from the start or new players coming in, didn't matter. They expect RAW and they'll tell you all about it and how wrong you are for making house rules. It never seems to occur to them to not play though. They have a right to play and a right to RAW and you're a terrible referee if you violate either.
Changing the rules won't always change that mindset (and even when it does, that change isn't always positive.)
I've only ever seen it evoke a negative response, never a positive one.
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.)
I can't change the expectations players have when they sit down at my table, the devs can. In part, the devs set those expectations in the books. The rest of the players' expectations come from the community. There's nothing I or the devs can really do about that. And don't get me started on players just shouting out skill checks without describing what their characters do in the fiction.

I have to work with what I'm given. But I can't change people, nor their preferences, nor their playstyles...and honestly I don't really want to. That's not my job. I can marginally affect their behavior at my table, but I can't really affect their attitudes. If someone's a hardcore power gamer, nothing I say or do will change that. If someone's a hardcore roleplayer, nothing I say or do will change that. Best I can do is get them to tone things down ever so fractionally to keep the game moving and not suck for the rest of the table. I can't break players of the notion that they should get to win effortlessly 90% of the time. Nor can I seem to break players of the notion that they're entitled to whatever they want at the drop of a hat.

If a player isn't a good fit for my table, no harm no foul. We'll go our separate ways. That's not an attitude shared by most players, however. They seem to have this notion that any and all 5E games are open and friendly to whatever style or preferences they bring. Regardless of whatever the referee explicitly tells them when first discussing the game in question.

DM: "This is a game for X. This is not a game for Y."

Player: "I dislike X but like Y, therefore this is a game for Y but not X. Got it."
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
When you say the DM is carrying the load, do you mean the prep work? Or is there more to it in your view?
I enjoy worldbuilding. So the "work" that I do anyway, might be alot for other styles.

On the other hand, as a worldbuilder, I am tired of fighting against the Players Handbook that the players read.

I am tired of the Forgotten Realms gods hopping up and down on the sand castles that I am trying to build.

So. 2024 could do MUCH to make my DM job easier.


But other DMs complain about the prep. Creating monsters/NPCs. Micromanaging fiddly rules. And other stuff. That seems could be easier.
 

Yep. Every single time I've sat down to prep an adventure for the last few years. I don't do much prep anymore but sometimes it's hard even to get the bare bones of an outline together. But I usually get through it enough that when an hour before game time comes around, I'll drink a few beers to loosen up and I'm good to go. My players are happy to just hang out, have a few drinks and game. Our expectations at this point aren't very high, nor is the game too serious so that actually works in our favor and makes our sessions more fun.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I've only ever seen it evoke a negative response, never a positive one.

I can't change the expectations players have when they sit down at my table, the devs can. In part, the devs set those expectations in the books. The rest of the players' expectations come from the community. There's nothing I or the devs can really do about that.

DM: "This is a game for X. This is not a game for Y."

Player: "I dislike X but like Y, therefore this is a game for Y but not X. Got it."
Yikes. Thankfully I've never had to deal with that kind of disconnect...I don't have any real advice on how to fix that. At any rate, "Oh yeah? Well the rules say this!" probably isn't going to help your players fall in love with X.

If you've only ever seen a negative response, maybe try getting their input? Ask them if they have any ideas on how to make X more appealing, and be willing to sacrifice pieces of Y in order to get there?
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I enjoy worldbuilding. So the "work" that I do anyway, might be alot for other styles.

On the other hand, as a worldbuilder, I am tired of fighting against the Players Handbook that the players read.
Just so.

DM: "In a world without drow..."

Player: "But the drow are in the PHB! They're my favorite! I have to be able to play a drow!"

DM: Sigh.

Every single change from the PHB is a fight waiting to happen. Players have expectations set by the books. The referee can either conform to those expectations or get ready to fight. Doesn't matter what it is. Doesn't matter if it's something anyone at the table wanted to actually use or not. Someone will fight you on any change you make just on principle.
So. 2024 could do MUCH to make my DM job easier.
Yes, please.
But other DMs complain about the prep.
Depends on the prep. I like rolling on a bunch of tables to see what's in the world. That's my prep.
Creating monsters/NPCs.
As long as you don't use the official rules to make monsters it's great. Use the 5E MM on a business card and/or action-oriented monsters and you can make fun monsters in minutes.
Micromanaging fiddly rules.
That's the one that's the biggest sticking points for me. Arguing about ranges. Arguing about how many spells a PC can cast in a round. Thanks internet for making my players think they can cast like 9 spells in a round, btw. Arguing about LOS on spells. Arguing about the legality of some stupid power gamer build. Arguing about cover. Arguing about carrying capacity. Arguing about whether their characters and their pack animals actually need food. (Yes, really.) On and on and on. The players expect the referee to run the game like a computer would. With the same precision and perfection. Input, output.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I enjoy worldbuilding. So the "work" that I do anyway, might be alot for other styles.

On the other hand, as a worldbuilder, I am tired of fighting against the Players Handbook that the players read.

I am tired of the Forgotten Realms gods hopping up and down on the sand castles that I am trying to build.

So. 2024 could do MUCH to make my DM job easier.
I'm not sure I understand this bit. Do you mean perhaps that you change things and the players don't know that you did or ignore it? For example, dragonborn are not a thing in your world, but players are clamoring to create dragonborn anyway? Or like you're using Greyhawk gods but they want to suddenly be clerics of Ilmater or whatever?

But other DMs complain about the prep. Creating monsters/NPCs. Micromanaging fiddly rules. And other stuff. That seems could be easier.

The DMG could do better on telling people how to prep. There are also a lot of tools online that DMs can use to make things quicker. I'm not sure whether that's the best thing to publish in something like a DMG though as those tools' availability may change over time. Certainly encouraging DMs to look for things online would be useful. Some more guidance on creating sandboxes and using tables to generate content would also be good. It has some of that in the DMG, but it's not obvious how to pull it together in a way that's going to work easily. I just put together an island-hopping hexcrawl using the Saltmarsh ship rules and overland travel and it's really tight and easy to manage. It will generate content for over a year easily. And I'm not even planning on running it for my group. I just wanted to do it.

I don't find the rules all that fiddly, but then I've been playing for 7 or 8 years now so maybe that's just faded to the background for me. I also don't really pay attention to the players' sheets. That's on them to manage. I have a general sense of when something doesn't seem right for this edition and ask occasionally if I'm not sure if something the player did was rules legal. Other than that, I don't see this as much in the way of overhead.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I'm not sure I understand this bit. Do you mean perhaps that you change things and the players don't know that you did or ignore it? For example, dragonborn are not a thing in your world, but players are clamoring to create dragonborn anyway? Or like you're using Greyhawk gods but they want to suddenly be clerics of Ilmater or whatever?
Some flavor stuff is "containable". I could literally cover it with one or two post-it notes.

Or if I wanted, take a black marker and simply delete a sentence, and never deal with it again.

But other flavor sprawls everywhere on almost every page, in class descriptions, in race descriptions, in spell descriptions. The "gods" and the especially the Forgotten Realms version of gods, are everywhere.

I would literally need to rewrite the Players Handbook from scratch to delete the gods.

I even tried to do that. Tracked down a Players Handbook on a Word doc. But it just is much too much. Not worth it.

Anything relating "setting" must be in the DMs Guide. It doesnt belong in the Players Handbook. Especially doesnt belong in the Cleric class.
 

I've absolutely experienced burnout. It's been a while. For me, I think a lot of my burnout came from other problems beyond the "DMing isn't fun for me right now/Can't come up with any ideas I like" that I think comes to mind most frequently when I think of burnout. When the game is going well, with good players that all gel together, and no external factors horning in, D&D becomes a machine that just generates more ideas and more desire to play.

When it's not, though, when scheduling is a nightmare, or one or two players are causing trouble at the table, or there's a mismatch between DM and player expectations, I think it can be easy to lose the joy of the game and view it as a chore, or lose that spark of inspiration. For me, that's what frequently leads to burnout. I'm not tired of the game, I'm tired of dealing with the problems at the table.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Yikes. Thankfully I've never had to deal with that kind of disconnect...I don't have any real advice on how to fix that.
You're lucky. But then in talking with people on here and other forums, apparently I have a uniquely bad experience with players. Doesn't really help stopping it, but at least it's not wide spread...I guess.
At any rate, "Oh yeah? Well the rules say this!" probably isn't going to help your players fall in love with X.
I don't need them to love X, just to not sign up to play a game where X is a thing only to endlessly complain about X being a thing.
If you've only ever seen a negative response, maybe try getting their input?
I did. The responses I got fell into two camps. 1. Don't do that. 2. Reward us for playing along, don't punish us.

I tried 2. They just ignored the rewards so they didn't have to deal with the limitations. Effectively reaching 1.

As an example, wearing armor while resting. I used the Xanathar's Guide rules for limiting armor wearing while sleeping. The players objected, I asked and they told me 1 and 2 above. So I started rewarding inspiration for not wearing armor while resting...so everyone just kept on wearing armor while resting and accepted they wouldn't get inspiration for playing along. I also increased the amount of inspiration a PC could have, so they could have more than one and keep them so there was no "lost" inspiration for playing along.
Ask them if they have any ideas on how to make X more appealing, and be willing to sacrifice pieces of Y in order to get there?
Literally nothing. RAW or RAW or RAW. Your options are RAW. In my experience, 5E players do not want anything limiting their characters in any way at all. They will sacrifice nothing. They will risk nothing. I've had players rage quit over their character taking 1 hp of damage.
 
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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
You're lucky.
[....]
They will risk nothing. I've had players rage quit over their character taking 1 hp of damage.
Player: "But the drow are in the PHB! They're my favorite! I have to be able to play a drow!"
[...]
Every single change from the PHB is a fight waiting to happen. Players have expectations set by the books. The referee can either conform to those expectations or get ready to fight. Doesn't matter what it is. Doesn't matter if it's something anyone at the table wanted to actually use or not. Someone will fight you on any change you make just on principle.
[...]
Arguing about ... Arguing about ... Arguing about... Arguing about ... Arguing about ... Arguing about ... Arguing about ... On and on and on. The players expect the referee to run the game like a computer would.
Ugh...that sucks. I don't know of any DM (myself included) who would put up with that for long.

The more I learn about your gaming group, the less convinced I am that the 5E rules are the problem. Were they this contrary to earlier editions of D&D? Because I get the feeling that no matter what the game developers produce in the years to come, your players are going to find a way to make a problem out of it.
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
Ugh...that sucks.
Well, at least it's over now.
The more I learn about your gaming group, the less convinced I am that the 5E rules are the problem.
There were two main problems. 1) I wanted to house rule 5E. The players objected. 2) The players wanted to be the main characters of a grand epic centered on how awesome they were. That's nowhere near the style of game I run. I made both clear up front. Didn't matter.
Were they this contrary to earlier editions of D&D?
No idea. This was a new group that formed for that game. If any of them had experience with earlier editions, I don't know about it.
Because I get the feeling that no matter what the game developers produce in the years to come, your players are going to find a way to make a problem out of it.
It's not that they had expectations that differed from the 5E rules, it's that they wanted RAW 5E exactly and I wasn't doing that. Combined with the more neagative aspects of OC style play. Main character syndrome. RPGs as stories. Etc.

Anyway, this is a tangent.
 


Emirikol

Adventurer
Sure. It has caused me to grow afterwards (and usually involves kicking someone out of the group).
Since then, our groups are formed ONLY from players who also agree to DM/GM at least one session of an rpg per year. This requirement has gotten rid of 97.6% of flakes, leeches, zoom-dweebies, unpleasants, and selfish-ies.
Still...it's good when it happens. Means something needs to change or you need a break (usually both).

We are expected to run this every session..sometimes burnout happens.

tumblr_pphuq3k2am1ro2bqto1_1280.jpg
 
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James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
The year was 1990. I arrived at my friend Rob's house, set up my DM screen, got out my books, everyone sat down. And I...blanked.

I had nothing. There was the module in front of me, and my notes. But I just...had zero desire to run that night. I had no problems with my group- in fact, they were one of the best I've ever had. I had no personal problems.

It was like the part of my brain that let me run a game shut down. I apologized and told everyone I wasn't able to run that night. I went home and called a friend of mine who was a fellow DM and explained it, and they were like "dude, it's ok, it's DM burnout, it happens."

And sure enough, next session I was fine.

What I've found, in the decades since, is that being a DM really does require you to be a creative person. And many creative people find their process can be disrupted by all manner of things, some so imperceptible that you don't realize it. The most damning, of course, is self-doubt. I don't think I'm a good DM. Or a good writer. Or a good storyteller. I think I'm a hack.

My players, of course, are constantly telling me otherwise (if they aren't griping about the encounters, lol). And the fact that people still ask me to run for them I suppose is a good sign. But it doesn't take a lot to make me to start thinking of being a DM as being a job. To have the fun sucked out of the process. To make me spend long hours doing prep, when I'd rather do anything else. Like veg out watching YouTube videos, posting on forums, or playing video games.

And if there is a problem with the players, it's going to make me want to check out even more. When I started running for 5e, I ran into this problem full tilt. First it was the AL group I was part of, where the event organizer at the local game store insisted we try to stick to the books as much as possible.

Then it was the constant resistance to any ruling I made, when the books weren't clear, and players who saw no reason not to stop the game to complain to other DM's, the organizer, search for developer tweets, or even go to the back of the store and read the adventure when I wasn't looking to "prove" I wasn't doing it right!

Even after swearing off AL, and running home games, I ran into this a lot- had a guy who was so immensely proud of his Bard (before we even sat down to play!) that he would claim he could handle anything the party encountered.

While navigating a swamp on a raft, they got attacked by some gnolls. "Don't worry, I have this, I'll upcast command!"

That gave me pause. "Uh, I don't think you can do that."

"What do you mean?!"

"Well, don't they have to understand what you're saying? Do you speak Gnoll?"

"No...but surely they understand Common!"

"Not according to the Monster Manual. Tell you what, your character should know this, make me a DC 10 Wisdom check so you don't waste the spell slot."

He rolled an 8, the spell failed, and he sulked the rest of the session, doing nothing but shooting his bow.

Afterwards, half the group dropped out, and only one of them was willing to explain. They said they had gotten together at Steak N' Shake after the game to rant about how I was one of those DM's who doesn't let players do anything.

To which I pulled out the PHB and showed him the command spell, and the sentence that specifically says "The spell has no effect if the target is undead, if it doesn't understand your language, or if the command is directly harmful to it."

"Well that's dumb. No other DM has ever ruled that. And you didn't have to."

And that was the end of that game. I could have gone on. I could have gotten new players, but my brain was done.

But hope springs eternal, and whether due to nostalgia or insanity, I keep telling myself I'll get back on that horse again soon, and this time it will be perfect!

Yeah, my vote is insanity, lol.
 



Cruentus

Adventurer
You're lucky. But then in talking with people on here and other forums, apparently I have a uniquely bad experience with players. Doesn't really help stopping it, but at least it's not wide spread...I guess.
<snip>
Literally nothing. RAW or RAW or RAW. Your options are RAW. In my experience, 5E players do not want anything limiting their characters in any way at all. They will sacrifice nothing. They will risk nothing. I've had players rage quit over their character taking 1 hp of damage.
Nope, you’re not alone. The group I burned out with was the same way (unfortunately, this is the group I’ve been gaming with for like, forever). As I’ve gotten older, my interests in the RPG/DnD realms have shifted from power trips and min/maxing (not that I was heavy into those back then either) and have shifted even more to story, working within limitations (3d6 down the line, baby!), using smarts to overcome obstacles, finding hirelings, eventually establishing a holding/keep, etc. So I try to run my games along those lines (which they all signed up for - lower power magic world, more “historical”, more limited weapons and such, and so on).

What did they do? All made up magic using classes or MC’d into them, clamoring for magic items (which went unused in the bottom of the party treasury), ignored encumbrance, POWER POWER POWER, built to the ”I can see and attack the enemy but they can’t do the same to me and I can escape and I should never be able to be hit”, etc. As I’d tweak things toward our agreed start, I’d also get resistance.

So yeah, finding an online game that plays like what I’m looking for would be a dream… naturally.
 


payn

Legend
I had a burnout reversal once. Tossed together a group to run a Paizo AP. One of my gaming buddies and few new folks I recently met. The new folks were very beer and pretzel fart joke types and sort of chased my buddy from the group. Afterwards, I kept trying to keep the campaign going. Putting a ton of work into it and just not feeling the love. I've just about had it at the end of one session when we were packing up. One by one the plyers started telling me about how awesome the campaign was and that is much more involved then just dungeon delving and how much they looked forward to or bi-weekly game sessions. Was too difficult for me to bring up stepping back or out on them at that point.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Just so.

DM: "In a world without drow..."

Player: "But the drow are in the PHB! They're my favorite! I have to be able to play a drow!"

DM: Sigh.

Every single change from the PHB is a fight waiting to happen. Players have expectations set by the books. The referee can either conform to those expectations or get ready to fight. Doesn't matter what it is. Doesn't matter if it's something anyone at the table wanted to actually use or not. Someone will fight you on any change you make just on principle.

Yes, please.

Depends on the prep. I like rolling on a bunch of tables to see what's in the world. That's my prep.

As long as you don't use the official rules to make monsters it's great. Use the 5E MM on a business card and/or action-oriented monsters and you can make fun monsters in minutes.

That's the one that's the biggest sticking points for me. Arguing about ranges. Arguing about how many spells a PC can cast in a round. Thanks internet for making my players think they can cast like 9 spells in a round, btw. Arguing about LOS on spells. Arguing about the legality of some stupid power gamer build. Arguing about cover. Arguing about carrying capacity. Arguing about whether their characters and their pack animals actually need food. (Yes, really.) On and on and on. The players expect the referee to run the game like a computer would. With the same precision and perfection. Input, output.
I was creating a custom game world for Pathfinder 1e. My roommate helped me compile all the rules changes and made a PDF for them, with full art and all my descriptions of the unique races and rules, it looked very professional and easy to read.

I gave the pdf to all my players to read.

Day One: "Uh, why are there no Ninjas?"

"The area of the game you'll be playing with has no real contact with cultures that are anything like Japan or Asia, so I felt there was no reason to have Ninjas or Samurai."

"You could have Ninjas, just call them something else."

"I could have, but I didn't."

"Whatever."

Day Two: "Hey! No Paladins?!"

"I'm tired of all the arguments about Paladin restrictions limiting roleplay, and I honestly don't want to feel like I need to step in and dictate how you play your character. The fact that the Paladin has built-in restrictions on behavior that I then have to enforce is then self-defeating."

"But I want to play a Paladin!"

"You can play a Cleric and be a soldier for your God. Or Good."

"But I wouldn't be able to Smite."

"Take the Destruction Domain."

"Couldn't you just let me play a Paladin without the restrictions?"

Day Three: "Hey! No Dwarves?!"

"They exist in the setting, but won't be encountered in the starting area."

"So I can play a Dwarf then, I'd just be the only one?"

"No. I want to keep Dwarves a secret for now."

"Could I be a Dwarf with amnesia?"

"AUGGH!"
 

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