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%


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."


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?"

During the 3E era of my gaming, if anyone asked to play a Drow Noble I just told them to GTFO.

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Burnout, as defined as a DM losing the desire to run a game, is a regular problem. There's lots of things that can contribute, so I think almost everyone experiences at some point or another. Fortunately there's a decent fix for most: stop running a game for a few months and you'll likely be chomping at the bit! In a group with multiple DMs, this works out well, since you can rotate around. I'm currently on hiatus (almost 6 months now, having run constantly since the start of 5E), and have been working on a mini-campaign and ideas for my next full campaign. Unfortunately the other campaigns are in full swing, so I have to cool my jets before I can get back behind the screen again :confused:

I'm currently in the midst of DM burnout so... yes.
Hope you recover quickly!


High level 3.5e burnt me out. I remember when the druid summoned a third beast in a big fight against some giants - it broke my brain!

Been running Dungeon World for over four years now, haven't had any issue with burnout. Even if you take off six months for the various one- or two-week breaks we've taken along the way, three and a half years of regular sessions with no burnout as far as I can tell.

Some of it's because my players are troopers, or because I take their input and contributions very seriously. Some, of course, is that DW is a very light system. But honestly I think it's just that I've had a decade or more of thinking about what I might want to include in a campaign, tons of really great help From Viewers Like You, and enough flexibility to roll with whatever comes up.

Biggest reasons for my DM-burnouts:
  1. Private life troubles (e.g. too busy at work, no time/energy to prep)
  2. Too little engagement from players
  3. Plot-troubles: my plans didn't work, players went off the railroad, now the story is a mess


Yes. When I burn-out, it's usually off the back of an endless prep grind, where I'm only just keeping ahead of the campaign. When I'm fully ahead and ready for just about anything the PC's might do, everything is fine.

In the last few years I fixed this problem by agreeing to be our group's main DM only if I can take a break every few weeks to recharge. When I'm not in the hot seat, we play legacy or campaign-equipped board games (Imperial Assault being our main jam), and on rare occasions, someone else might step up to DM a brief 5E scenario, which means I actually get to play D&D from the other side of the screen as well. Inevitably, after two or three weeks away from the big chair, I'm itching to get back. This has been amazingly successful not just for me but for the health of the whole group.


He / Him
I voted False. I feel lucky that for me, running D&D (and other RPGs) actually gives me back more energy than I put into it. I often can't sleep after a session!

On the other hand, I do get burned out when I'm only playing. I've had to take breaks from campaigns in which I am only a player. Usually I have to run my own game as well to stick it out.

That's just the strange way my D&D brain works!


I answered False, since the game mastering and creativity aspects is effortless, my dear brain keeps bubbling out stuff.

At the moment though I am a bit burned out by superheroics in higher level D&D. The mechanics get messed up and the game forces me into plot framings I don't really enjoy if I am to challenge the players. But hey, I promised my table a full 1-20 campaign so I deliver, and the players have fun so all is well I guess.

Thankfully, after two years of weekly sessions the campaign will end late this fall. Then I'm off for a long palate cleanser with WFRP and The Enemy Within.


Moderator Emeritus
Okay, so I am going to answer my own poll for a change and say "False."

Now, that is not to say that I don't think DM Burnout is real or that I am immune. . . But rather that I don't think I have played often enough to get that burnout even when I played more regularly than I do now.

There have been times, however, that my attention has been drawn by other things leading to not being as prepared for the games I was running or not running games for some time - but I would not call that "burnout." For example, when I entered a PhD program in 2009, I moved to a new city, and I was just too busy with classes and teaching to work towards putting together a new group. Before that the game I was running was suffering a bit from a lack of my attention (finishing my masters, I got a new girlfriend, I was hunting for a new place in a new city from afar, etc. . ) and at the same time the group I was running for was so contentious and spent so much time arguing in and out of character that I was not having as much fun running as I had the game before it - but again, I don't call that burnout. I still enjoyed the "work" of play - it was just the specific conditions conspiring for me to not have the same amount of time to dedicate to the game and the response from players during the game was irritating me. Yet, I am pretty sure that if I had had a different group in that time and was not going through life changes my attitude towards running would have remained enthusiastic. It was not the DMing that was burning me out.

I guess I define DM Burnout as it is the DMing that is burning you out, not "I am burned out so DMing is harder" - but I may be splitting hairs.

I am starting to feel it right now.

It's not that I dislike running a game. In fact, I'm beginning to believe that I prefer running a game over being a player. It's mostly just I have so many other things going on in my life that finding time to prepare is hard to come by. When I do find time to prepare I'm never happy with how much I've gotten done. ("Hmm, my players will either blow through this in five minutes or it will take all night.") And since we've been playing on roll20, I find it a lot harder to improvise something on the spot. It's not as easy as just rolling out the mat and scribbling some "terrain" for the random encounter. So I definitely stress out over those things.

Thankfully, my campaign is wrapping up. I'll get to be a player again for a bit. Rest and recharge.


I voted "false" but it's kind of a lie. I've been burnt out during a session or for a moment while prepping (like writer's block), but I have never needed to take anything of a significant break from DMing.

I live for it.


It has not happened for a long time, but I have experienced burn out a couple of times. Each time it was a combination of frustration with the rules system and lack of prep time. Fortunately, that was before 5th edition.

I think one of the things that keeps me going is I have a built in break each fall with football season. I coach football and I reduce my sessions from weekly to about once every three weeks during the fall.


I love DM-ing but have occasionally struggled in the past when I was working ( my job as a school principal was very long hours) and exhaustion got in the way of creativity or motivation.
I play in a group of five face-to-face, one of whom is @TheSword from these boards, and he and I both run a separate campaign for one day at each of our monthly gaming weekends. It works really well as getting to play, as well as DM, seems to mitigate any danger of burnout.


I love DM-ing but have occasionally struggled in the past when I was working ( my job as a school principal was very long hours) and exhaustion got in the way of creativity or motivation.
I play in a group of five face-to-face, one of whom is @TheSword from these boards, and he and I both run a separate campaign for one day at each of our monthly gaming weekends. It works really well as getting to play, as well as DM, seems to mitigate any danger of burnout.
It helps a lot. It also reminds me what it’s like to be a player and therefore I can bring that to my DMing.

There’s also the purely practical side, that I travel down to our group usually after having a done a full days work so @GuyBoy can DM the Friday night and I can do the Saturday.

We have our groups mini-Convention next week. RyCon2022. Four days of gaming. Lots of takeaway, A one off delve into Undermountain, a session of my Odyssey of the Dragonlords, Guyboy’s finale to Saltmarsh, a bit of Warhammer thrown in. Possibly a testers of new rules, and a film or two no doubt.

Art Waring

I voted false, because while I have experienced burnout, its been as a player not as a GM.

I have had some bad experiences in gaming early on, but they paved the way towards seeking out games that were actually fun, and making my job as a GM easier.

I do all of my prep long beforehand, been doing it for years anyway, I have entire pdfs of monster and NPC volumes in abbreviated text form, giving me the the advantage of preparation so now when I run a game it's all there on my computer ready to go and easy to read. IME, prepping now for a weekly campaign takes ten minutes to come up a new scenario for the next session.

Yes, I did all the prep beforehand, but the payoff shows when you can draw on everything you need in quick fashion.

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