D&D: Top 10 Tips to Avoid DM Burnout

Of all the players Dungeons and Dragons table, the dungeon master is often expected to do the most work. The usual J&D The structure assumes that the DM will bring a mostly, if not entirely, prepared adventure, complete with monsters, NPCs, environments, and treasure.

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Preparing all of this, then thinking quickly on the fly when players are heading off in an entirely opposite direction, can understandably lead to some DMs eventually burning out. Not as many people are ready to run J&D as are interested in playing it, so it’s important for the band as a whole to keep a given band’s DM fresh and ready to play. There are many things a DM can do to keep their head in the game.

ten Consume tons of different media

Functioning J&D is often a process of using a ton of different media to create inspiration and then adapting, tweaking and recreating that material for play. tired of the same old tropes. Looking to other film or television genres can be a great way to inspire a new twist in a campaign. Looking to other media, like books, video games, comics, or even real-life events, can help push the inspiration even further.

9 Play with other groups

DND DM Readiness Quest Scope

Each group has its own habits, jokes and house rules. Developing that sense of camaraderie can be one of the most rewarding things about roleplaying, but staying with the same group can also lead to things looking the same.

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Playing a few games with other groups, especially if it allows them to play a character instead of running around, can be a good way to break out of familiar routines.

8 Watch and Listen to D&D Podcasts

Key art for The Adventure Zone Petals to the Metal

Learning from other SMs is one of the best ways to improve. There are loads of great RPG podcasts available today, in both audio and video form. It is important to remember that in many cases these shows are professionally directed and heavily edited. That doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t be great inspirations both in terms of content and DMing style. Getting some new ideas on how to run encounters or portray NPCs can help keep things fresh for any DM on the verge of burnout.

7 Get other players to participate

DND DM Readiness Dialogue

One of the most common sources of DM burnout is the fact that they have to do a lot of legwork. This can be one of the most rewarding things about DMing, but it’s also something to watch out for. A great antidote for a DM feeling overwhelmed is to invite players to contribute to the story and setting. Instead of spending hours writing down a city, for example, a DM can ask players to flesh it out. This works especially well for areas that tie into player stories or will primarily serve as the party’s base of operations.

6 Play other games

rpg spans the globe wrestling rpg city of mist and mausritter

J&D is far from the only RPG on the market, and playing other games can really help with DM burnout. Running a game in a totally different genre can help shake off the dust and keep things fresh.

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There are also tons of games that don’t require a game master at all, but instead share narrative responsibility among all players. This is even more effective, as it creates a collaborative storytelling environment that will likely carry over to the regular campaign as well.

5 Run a One-Shot

dnd blue slaad fighting a tiefling ranger

Sometimes a DM can feel stuck with the story of a campaign, working desperately to tie everything together and move the story forward. A good way to stay on top is to pause the main story and launch one-shots. If the group feels like it, these could be tangentially related stories set elsewhere in the game world. Alternatively, they could be completely independent in order to give the DM more time to think.

4 End campaigns when they need to end

Dnd Dungeons and Dragons Dragonlance Campfire Meeting

Unfortunately, all J&D campaign gets a satisfying ending. Sometimes scheduling issues get in the way, while other times the DM just burns out. Managing scheduling issues is an entirely different topic, but choosing to end a campaign before burnout sets in is a key skill to develop.

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Not all stories need to run from level one to level twenty, even if the impulse is to try. Finishing a campaign on a high note will keep everyone’s spirits up and ensure that the next campaign starts off on the right foot.

3 Set a realistic schedule

A bard faces a large green dragon.

Functioning J&D is as much about what happens between sessions as what happens during sessions. Setting aside enough time between sessions to decompress for a few days, prepare for a few days, leave the material alone for a bit, then revise the preparation sometimes means that the optimal schedule is not as often as the group might like. For campaigns that are meant to last a long time, it’s essential to set a sustainable schedule and be prepared to change it.

2 Organize a really awesome group

People in a J&D group are its lifeblood. Ultimately, roleplaying is about spending time with friends. It can also be a great way to meet new people, but playing with strangers is a gamble. Just as a good band can create a magical experience, a bad band can be one of the worst experiences ever. DMs, or any other player for that matter, shouldn’t be afraid to be selective about which players they play with. Sometimes even close friends can be less than pleasant to play games with, and that’s okay.

1 Stick to what’s fun

A D&D monk as seen on Magic: The Gathering Adventures in the Forgotten Realms card Dragon's Disciple

The biggest thing a DM can do to avoid burnout is to follow their heart. If the game is fun as is, keep it up. If it stops being fun, make a wild change. Follow each small impulse to its conclusion and invite players to accompany you. All of this must be done within reason, of course, and with the full cooperation of the rest of the group. At the end of the day, J&D should be fun, and DMs shouldn’t be afraid to do what makes it happen.

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