GM Advice: How to handle “GM’s block”

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GM’s block is a problem you’ve probably experienced yourself in the past. It is the inability to run or prepare roleplaying sessions due to lack of creativity or inspiration. I have had that problem several times in the past, especially when I was in stress. There are a few methods that can help you to get out of this crisis.

  • Ask someone else to be GM
    Ok, that’s the cop-out. But it could help to be in the players’ shoes for some while to give you new energy for running your own adventures again. But don’t stress yourself. Perhaps the new GM is enjoying his new position and wants to run a campaign. So lean back and enjoy the game!
     
  • Use a pre-written adventure
    If you don’t have any ideas of your own, don’t hesitate to pick up an adventure written by someone else. If finding ideas for your own stories is your problem, just run some else’s adventure. If there are no adventures for your game available for sale (or for free over the internet), take an adventure from another game and make it fit.
     
  • Don’t be perfectionistic
    Sometimes the problem is not that you don’t have any ideas but you have to many ideas. And on your quest to create the perfect world, campaign, adventure you just can’t stop. But sometimes you have to accept some flaws to get things done.
     
  • Do one-shot adventures
    Sometimes it’s easier to just run one-shot adventures instead of coming up with a full-blown campaign. If you start to feel overwhelmed focus on shorter adventures instead of trying to run the “epic-campaign-that-will-end-all-campaigns”.
     
  • Change to another game/genre
    You just can’t come up with another adventure for your current game? Try a different game/genre instead. Most game masters have lots of roleplaying rules and settings lying around, so why not try that Shadowrun game you picked up at the last con or the new D&D 4E you read so much about?
     
  • Talk to your players about it
    Don’t be shy and talk with your group about your problem. That’s much better than rescheduling the game “to next week” forever. Perhaps a player has an idea or ask them what they would like their characters to do next. Perhaps turning the whole campaign into a “sandbox campaign” could be the solution. Sometimes improvising during the session is much easier than planning the game beforehand (don’t ask me why), so why not concentrate on improvisation while the players drive the story?
These are some strategies that helped me overcome “GM’s block”. What do you do to fight that problem? Or is this phenomenon totally unknown to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

8 thoughts on “GM Advice: How to handle “GM’s block””

  1. The method I've used in the past is to take a break from D&D/RPG for a week (or so) and play something out. We have a few awesome games that we throw down when D&D isn't working, such as Battlestations, Lifeboat, and even Axis and Allies.

  2. Taking a break is always a good idea. Arkham Horror is always a great replacement for playing Call of Cthulhu for example. 🙂

  3. Almost all of these suggestions also work for dealing with an outside time restriction…for when you just don't have the time to be on the managing end, be it temporary or more long term.

  4. I just start making a map of some kind, the brain simply can't help but fill stuff in. I am lucky on one aspect though, we only play on every 3rd Monday, which gives me plenty of time to prep, however the downside is that I always have to deliver, which usually isn't a problem because I generally know exactly where everything is going.

    My biggest beef is when characters suddenly decide to quit during pivotal times. I had a group stop play right after defeating the dungeon boss, but I had things designed in such a way that I needed them to escape the dungeon before I could continue prepping the next session. It all worked out in the long run, but I felt that it could had been better if I could had gotten them to just finish the damned dungeon.

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