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Hello and welcome to Crash’s Course, a short form podcast where I share my thoughts and advice on playing and running tabletop role playing games in roughly about 5 minutes.
In this episode I want to talk about that horrid thing that affects many a “Forever DM”: Burnout.
You know that pang of relief, mixed with guilt over that relief, that you might feel when a game session has to be canceled, so you spend the time instead playing a video game, reading a book, or staring into the endless void and pondering the futility of all you attempt to accomplish?
Well, that’s an early warning sign of burnout. Like Tennis Elbow, it’s a thing that will likely get worse if the early signs are ignored, but taking proactive steps can keep your games running more smoothly for years to come.
Some of the advice I’ve mentioned in previous episodes has honestly helped me with my own burnout, but let’s focus on new information:
- Cut back on the sessions.
Burnout started hitting me when I was running 3 campaigns a week and playing in another one as a PC. Short term, it was very fun, but I have a day job I don’t intend to quit. Now I do 2 games a week, with one of them being an after school club running a published module and the other being two at-home campaigns played on alternating weeks. Technically I’m still doing 3 campaigns, but that’s a lot less prep and stress.
- Set a timer.
Because I record my home sessions in OBS, I have a running timer that tells me how long we’ve been playing. Around the 1 hour mark (give or take based on plot…) we take a break. This isn’t just for the players or just to allow bathroom runs, it gives the DM time to not be “ON,” role-playing as every NPC while keeping all the moving parts in mind.
At the two hour mark (give or take), we end. We might end earlier than that if we had a late start or we hit the perfect stopping point plot-wise, but two hours is an upper limit.
More than half the time, I’m not the one who points out we’ve been playing for an hour. (It’s become something of a meme in our game and I love it.)
I also don’t keep track of character spell slots. Or what the spells do. Or how many arrows the ranger has. Heck, I’m not even in charge of the world map for one of my campaigns. One of the PCs has an interest in cartography, so now it’s her job to document it.
My responsibilities involve remembering PC backstories, ongoing plot, and a basic understanding of the rules. This takes a lot of stress off of me, and as a result helps me stave off burnout for another month.
That’s all for this episode, subscribe to just this podcast at is.aaronbsmith.com/@crashscourse or all my D&D podcasts at aaronbsmith.com/cogwheel for future episodes.
Music is Deadly Windmills by JAM from modarchive.org, used with permission, as it’s public domain.
This podcast is distributed under a CC-BY-NC-ND license.
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MP3 Download: Crash’s Course Ep 05: Burnout