Switching Around Systems Due to Burnout?

Retreater

Legend
One thing I've noticed about my RPG hobby is that it's very cyclical. I get very invested in a particular system and collect and play only that game for a long time. Usually this is an edition of D&D or "adjacent" system (like Pathfinder). Then I get burned out, want to try something new, etc. I then flip-around various systems for around a year or so, with no campaign lasting more than 2-3 sessions. Then I go back to D&D (which, by then, is usually starting a new edition).

Right now I'm in the "flip-around" season. I'm tired of 5e, PF2 didn't stick, and now I'm trying out systems like Monster of the Week, Forbidden Lands, WFRP 4e, and looking at others (Soulbound, Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, etc). My "flip-around" games of seasons past include GURPS, Savage Worlds, 13th Age, Hollow Earth Expedition, Star Wars (Fantasy Flight).

Do you do something similar? Or do you predominantly stick with one game for its entire print run? Do your "flip-around" games last more than 2-3 sessions?
 

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Li Shenron

Legend
I don't see anything wrong with you being cyclical, it sounds like you're getting out a lot from many games!

I haven't actually strayed much from D&D. I bought and played a lot of 3.0, then quit the hobby during the 4e era, and started again with 5e since its playtesting. I haven't bought or DMed other game systems, but I have been a player at their tables, albeit sparsely.
 


Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
One of the challenges of any RPG system is finding people to commit and play with you. Part of that has to do where you live. If you happen to be in or around a large city, or a community with a strong base of roleplayers and gamers, you'll have a better shot of finding people who are willing and adventurous enough to try something new with you. Smaller and remote places, and areas where gaming isn't the social norm, will limit your options.

Getting around those logistics, however, doesn't make it any easier. Learning a new system can take time, effort, and money. Most players when they decide to commit to a particular game don't want to just play it. They want to be good at it, or at the very least, comfortably proficient. D&D is the comfortable old shoe that nobody wants to throw out before they've thoroughly worn through it. And when they do buy a new shoe, they replace it with the same exact one. Why? Because they like how it feels, and they trust it.

As an example, I was very fortunate to find a group of friends who are die-hard Star Wars fans when I wanted to run an Edge of the Empire game. They were already familiar with the system, and we had a GREAT campaign going for about 6 months playing every other week. I ran used Beyond the Rim and blended in some other modules, as well as some made up stuff. We were halfway through when I decided to call for a break, anticipating to get back to it in about a month or two. But then the pandemic hit, and I just haven't gotten back to playing in public since.

During that time, however, I ran the introductory game several times for different people, including twice at the local PAX convention. Players were generally receptive, picked up on the mechanics easily, but they couldn't seem to get into it. I know it took me a while to get a grasp on the idea of an RPG that didn't play like D&D, but that turned out to be the real key. It isn't anything like D&D, or other similar RPGs. There's no levels, no piles of treasure to claim, no defined class templates, no expectations to kill everything in sight, etc. It was so different because it actually was different kind of game. And you don't get to see what makes it so great if you decide in one practice session whether you're going to give it a real try or not.

I don't know if I really answered your question, but maybe...?
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Do you do something similar? Or do you predominantly stick with one game for its entire print run? Do your "flip-around" games last more than 2-3 sessions?
I do something different. Generally our table will have a "core game" that we play (for the past near-decade-oh-grod-has-it-been-that-long it's been 13th Age) and when I start feeling burn-out as a GM we'll go on a hiatus from it and play some one-shots or short mini-campaigns in another system. It turns out that I'm the one who hits that system burn-out first so we've never hit a point where my players are asking to play something different.

Recently we've mostly been cycling in either Icons mini-arcs or Lasers and Feelings hacks as one-shots depending on the mood and who can show up. I've got an itch for sci-fi recently and want to cycle in a lightweight sci-fi game as another options, but so far none of the ones I've considered are things I think are lightweight enough for my players. ( They all are more casual TTRPGers and only invest in one rules-heavy system at a time, which is why the things we cycle out from that are so rules light and why L&F really works for a few of them).
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Do you do something similar? Or do you predominantly stick with one game for its entire print run? Do your "flip-around" games last more than 2-3 sessions?
I have done something similar. My group got started back in college. We played 3e then 3.5e. The group’s composition changed, and we ended up doing other games like nWoD, Dogs in the Vineyard, and Unknown Armies. When I started running again for our current iteration, I ran Pathfinder 1e. We played a full Kingmaker campaign and then tried various other APs. Rise of the Runelords went well until we TPK’d due to some bad decision-making by the players (“You didn’t heal up before the final encounter? I think you would have done that. Do you want to retcon that? No? Okay … ranger dies on the AoO and then it snowballs). Eventually, I just started burning out on PF1.

It started when I gave Dungeon World a try. We did a short campaign. It was very silly. I also ran Murder in Baldur’s Gate with one of the last 5e playtests, which was a lot of fun. I also ran Tyranny of Dragons when 5e came out. I then did a Pathfiner hack of Fate, ran another PF1 campaign (that I cut short), and Open Legend for a bit. Most of these “flip-around” games lasted more than a few sessions but none of them were something we really wanted to make our main game (even though that may have been the assumption at the time). The only games that lasted a few sessions were OSE and WWN. The former because my players bounced off it pretty hard, prompting a switch to WWN, and the latter only technically because I’m now running an OSE/WWN hack rather than straight WWN.

Looking back over the last decade or so of my evolution as a GM, I’d say there was a period of experimenting with different systems to try to find the right one that worked for me and my group. I generally lean more Story Now and OSR than my players, but they really like 3e-style crunch. It was a constant struggle trying to balance using a system that kept me happy as a GM with one that had enough bits for them. What we’re doing now seems to finally fit the bill, or it’s something I can modify as necessary. It helps my players are usually willing to run something else, so I get exposure to other games and how they do things without needing to stop what I’m doing.
 

Mezuka

Adventurer
For the last two years, I alternated between Fantasy AGE, Modern AGE and the Expanse AGE by Green Ronin.

Now I'm GMing Shadow of the Demon Lord, preparing a Coriolis campaign and will propose a Modern AGE 80s super vehicle mixed with supernatural tropes campaign.

I started doing this kind of mix during the d20 OGL period. I'm never burned out anymore as I used to be when I played only D&D.
 

Hex08

Adventurer
I tend to rotate quite a bit. Up until a few years ago D&D/Pathfinder was always the dominant game for my group (except for the few years where I primarily ran Vampire: The Masquerade) but my gaming group would always take breaks to play other games as well, so burnout rarely happened. Towards the end of Pathfinder 1E I truly started to feel burned out on a game, as a DM, for the first time. I haven't stopped playing it but I turned over the DM reigns to one of my players and have settled on Savage Worlds as my primary system. I still have other games that I will use to break it up a bit, I am really looking forward to wrapping up my current Savage Worlds ETU game so I can try Blades in the Dark.
 

innerdude

Legend
One thing I've noticed about my RPG hobby is that it's very cyclical. I get very invested in a particular system and collect and play only that game for a long time.

I then flip-around various systems for around a year or so, with no campaign lasting more than 2-3 sessions. Then I go back to D&D (which, by then, is usually starting a new edition).

This describes my experience pretty well, only once I stop flip-flopping, it's with a different system each time.

For a long time, I gamed with a GM who would only run D&D 3 (then 3.5). That was 8 years.

Then did the flip-flop thing for a year and a half or so, played Star Wars Saga for 6 months, a couple of 3-5 session GURPS campaigns thats stalled.

Then I discovered Savage Worlds in mid-2010, GM-d my first game in 2011, and stayed with it 8 years until mid-2019. Then we started flip-flopping again until this month -- GURPS for 10 sessions, FFG Edge of the Empire for 2 sessions, Savage Worlds Weird Wars Rome for 7 or 8 sessions, Ironsworn for about 7 sessions, 5e for 3 sessions, and Tiny Frontiers for 10 sessions or so.

Now it looks like we're in for a long haul with FFG Star Wars. When I proposed a Star Wars campaign right before our December 2021 hiatus, everyone was pretty excited. I owned exactly two books, Edge of the Empire and Force and Destiny.

Imagine my surprise at session zero when three of the five players had all bought core EotE books, and two of the five had easily spent $150+ on supplements, specialization source books, and adventure modules.

Had our first "real" campaign session last week, and it was fantastic.

I can already predict we're going to spend 3+ years in FFG/Genesys, as I just picked up 4 more EotE supplements and adventures, and have Genesys + the Genesys Players' Companion + Realms of Terrinoth waiting in the wings right behind it.
 

payn

Legend
There is a few reasons that some offshoots only last a few sessions. It could be new to everybody. This is their first chance to kick the tires. Sometimes, the system is just too much and it gets in the way of fun. D&D can be pretty complex, but its also the RPG journey that most people take. D&D is often like that old pair of boots so broken in you just cant give them up. The toughness and sores of a new system can make you long for that.

Another reason is many systems dont have much in the way of mainstream setting material and campaigns. The more people know about something the easier it is to sign on. Sometimes there is just not much to the setting. Sometimes the GM just doesn't know the setting well and it leaves a wanting impression on the group. D&D has a long and deep history of settings and modules that continue to grow with each edition.

For me the system and the campaign material have to grab my interest. Lately, thats not happening with D&D/PF, so I guess im happily in that flip around season.
 

Retreater

Legend
I really hate it when players get invested in a new system and we drop it in a handful of sessions. Maybe their investment has been purchasing books, learning the system over a dozen hours, spending their free time to make a character, or even investing the enthusiasm to try something new. I've been GMing long enough to know that all of those efforts are in limited supply.
This is why I like to read a system, study, playtest, read/watch reviews, etc. I like knowing a game has a decent chance of being well received.
In truth, it seems like it's only D&D that lasts. Every other system for me has lasted a few sessions (maybe 4 months, tops).
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I'm a bit different. First, not every group is interested in different games. I am a member of one group that is strictly 5e - they might try a one shot of something else, but it's a 5e group and that's all that will be played in campaign. We flip around DMs between campaigns (and sometimes alternate weeks between campaigns), but even if I run there, the table will want it to be 5e.

I run a separate game but the player overlap with the first group is rather heavy. However, when my current campaign finishes (probably over a year left) I think I could convince them to try something else if we were switching genres.

I have a group I started 20ish years back, that has been slowing gaining and losing players. They are willing to try other systems, but we're neck deep in one of the others running Call of Cthulhu with a well known mega-campaign that probably has a few years left in it.

I'm running a game for my kids, niece and nephew. We just put the 5e game on hiatus, whihc was intended a bit as a training game, and moved ovber to Masks: A New Generation. It's a PbtA specifically about teen superheros. Lots of mechanics about the teen drama and challenges, it's not meant as a generic superhero system but rather one to emulate Young Justice, Teen Titans, My Hero Academia and other teens-becoming-heroes media.

I've joined a new group online with no one I've gamed with, just to try out some new games. We were supposed to start at the beginning of January but due to both illness and player shifting we haven't yet.

I find that for the most part, if I want another system I need to run it, and that means at times I'm running systems I haven't ever played. Which I'll do, but my comfort zone is to have played before.
 

payn

Legend
I really hate it when players get invested in a new system and we drop it in a handful of sessions. Maybe their investment has been purchasing books, learning the system over a dozen hours, spending their free time to make a character, or even investing the enthusiasm to try something new. I've been GMing long enough to know that all of those efforts are in limited supply.
This is why I like to read a system, study, playtest, read/watch reviews, etc. I like knowing a game has a decent chance of being well received.
In truth, it seems like it's only D&D that lasts. Every other system for me has lasted a few sessions (maybe 4 months, tops).
Im a GM a lot of the time. I gotta put the time and energy into getting other systems on the table. If you love it, show it. I know it isnt easy, but if you are persistent it will pay off. Sometimes it helps to go where the players are. I mean, you can lead your friends to mt dew, but you cant always make them drink.
 

I officially have Chronicles of Darkness, Lancer, and Blades in the Dark all waiting for rainy days and for me to take a break from regular pf2e games, along with that Avatar RPG Magpie is still working on. I do think I could use a system break sometimes, but my burnout seems to generally be related to other factors.
 

Do you do something similar? Or do you predominantly stick with one game for its entire print run? Do your "flip-around" games last more than 2-3 sessions?

I used to play only D&D and then my group switched to Pathfinder after a relatively short stint with 4th edition. We played that for a while and I was almost always the GM and I definitey started to feel burnout.

5th Edition D&D kind of gave me a boost and my group played that, and we still do, but I rotate other games. I also have jumped into a couple other games as time has allowed, and that’s really helped.

Currently, my longstanding geoup is playing 5th edition weekly with rotating GMs. But I also play in a Blades in the Dark game, though that will likely be wrapping soon. Finally, a couple of my friends were eager to get back to face to face gaming, so I set up a bi-weekly game which I intend to rotate. Currently I’m running Spire for them. We’ve had about 8 sessions so far, and I expect probably about 6 to 8 more. Ehen that wraps, I’ll likely run The Between.

I find that not alwys GMing ans not sticking with only one game has eliminated burnout. I’d actually love to play more games with more people if I had the time.
 

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