During my time running various campaigns for my friends, I’ve experienced a bevy of highs and lows that have both energized and exhausted me to different extents. Today we’re going to be talking about the latter and how if left unchecked, can wear you out pretty easily.
A little under two years ago I took the plunge and started running a campaign for my friends in D&D that went off the rails a few times, which ultimately led to me rebooting the campaign and home-brewing a story of my own. It was exciting, terrifying, and a ton of work that would be piled atop the rest of my responsibilities and projects. It wasn’t a bad thing by any stretch though, because I was already working on other things like finishing out my degree and working on this website. I was firing on all cylinders from a motivation aspect.
But recently I handed in my final assignment of my last class which was a massive weight off of my shoulders. The unintended side-effect of that however, was that all the fatigue and exhaustion that I had managed during these busier times finally caught up with me. Almost the second after I hit the ‘submit’ button on my final, I felt like a truck hit me, and all I wanted to do was just relax.
Shortly after that, we convened online to play the latest session I had prepared for our Monster of the Week campaign, and once it ended I was thoroughly spent both physically and mentally. I wrestled with the idea of writing our next session and pushing this narrative forward for my players, something that had up until now, had been a labor of love. But I crumbled and ultimately had to pull the plug on the campaign and take a step back from that level of creative output that I was used to.
It wasn’t so much an issue of just running a game that had gotten to me, but the amount of extra work I had to do in order to make it all work that eventually got me. From creating the lore of this world, to fleshing out the characters, making a compelling plot, building on the players past decisions, making maps, making music and so on and so forth, the weight of all of that had just gotten to be too much to handle.
I explained the situation to my players who were all really supportive and understanding of my situation. After all, I had been doing this level of work for them for nearly two years, and they got that. I also made it clear to them that I still did want to play D&D with them, I just couldn’t be the one running the show for a while.
So there I was, with a clear head and a chance to finally unwind for the first time in a while. That’s when a different friend of mine reached out to me suddenly and expressed that his friends and him wanted to play D&D for the first time. Part of me instinctively rejected this idea outright, but then other, much stupider part of me chimed in and rationalized doing this whole song and dance again by suggesting just using the starter campaign on this group. I looked into it and discovered that the module on Roll20, like all of their D&D modules, was incredibly straightforward and easy to use, eliminating most, if not all extra work I’d have to do to make it work.
I still haven’t made a decision about it one way or another, because like I said earlier, I’m an idiot. But there’s something tempting about introducing these new players to D&D the way I was introduced to it, by using the campaign the creators themselves suggest using. I feel bad for even considering doing it at all because I had just told my group that running a campaign wasn’t something I could do for a while. I think the reality of the situation is that I needed to take a break from running these home-brewed games that required so much of me, at least for a while.
Ultimately, the treadmill of productivity that I was on up until now worked because I wasn’t thinking about how exhausting it all was, it was just part of my weekly routine. But once that routine got disrupted by the quarantine, and once more by finishing up school, I was unable to keep up that mental pace. A new DM has risen to take my place in our core group and I’m excited to just play D&D again for the first time in a while, but I’m also genuinely intrigued by the idea of introducing a new batch of people to role-playing games, as long as I don’t have to work too hard to do it.
If you’re looking for some sort of sage advice or piece of wisdom you can glean from all of this, I suppose I’d want to impart upon you the idea that it’s okay to step back and let those batteries recharge. If you aren’t excited about the game you’re running your players through, they’ll feel that too, and I’d rather not disenfranchise them to the idea of playing a campaign of mine again, and instead just end it graciously.