Burnout and Getting Back in the Saddle

Hi Open Legion,

I seem to be making a lot of posts in the Uncategorised section lately. This is one of them. I just wanted to share my experiences this year with GMing and how I am addressing burnout.

So, becoming a new Dad in March hit me like a freight train. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the greatest thing ever to be a Dad but sleep, scheduling and hobbies went out the window. Actually, as an aside, it was how I found out OL was worth it. I had to decide which hobbies to abandon and choose one or two to keep - TTRPGs was a no-brainer.

So! I crafted a campaign setting and made an awesome map. I gathered players and set a date. The players I got were wonderful, great folks. Some came from the OL community and others were Critters and friends. The first session was great but the rest began to dwindle. Old players left and new ones came on board - all good people. It stopped being fun and eventually my player count dropped too low to keep the campaign running.

I had never had this problem before. What was the cause!? Oh yes, prepping games from 1am to 6am while watching a baby then running the game on two hours sleep. That’ll do it.

I love GMing, but I decided I had to quit for a while or go insane. It’s a funny feeling choosing not to do the thing you love as the best course of action. Next began my foray as a player - same problem - I couldn’t keep to commitments and even the less complex task of running just one character. So playing went out of the window too.

Now. My daughter is seven months old and has started to sleep through most of the night. Lately, I have seen the emergence of free time again and have decided to ease myself back into the saddle. However, I do not want to repeat the mess I got myself into so I’ve decided to run one, repeatable, very short session per week with random players. If I can keep that up until Christmas then I will look as opening the gates to my setting again.

So my question to you all is, has anyone faced similar issues and what did you do to ease yourself back into the GM’s chair?


This is a tough problem, and not one I’ve dealt with the quite this extent. I’ve found that for scheduling problems, regular but less often online games worked for me. I’ve kept up with my old group by running a once a month game on roll20, on the first weekend of every month. By making it less often and setting the dates well in advance it’s less likely for us to have to cancel, though it does really suck when it happens.

As for burnout, the only advice I can offer is to take breaks when you need to. Your players won’t mind if you take a week off to recharge and get some planning done during daylight hours.

You’re going the right way about getting back in the saddle. When I’ve had a break from the hobby I always reintroduce myself with a one-shot or two. I make a load of mistakes, but it’s better to do it in the low stakes circumstances of a one off session so I can remember how to do it right before launching back into a campaign.

I’m sure other people have more experience with this than me, I hope they can offer a bit more advice.


Hey Sam,

Hope all is well in Chesterfield :slight_smile:

I like the idea of doing a campaign once a month. So do you do a “mammoth” session of 3-4 hours then? This may be a way down the line for me to explore stuff with short one-shots while still being able to run a long-term campaign (which I so dearly want to get back into).

Thanks for your input.

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It’s always interesting to hear other people’s views on things. For a lot of people, that is a “normal” session. For other’s it just slightly longer than normal, and then for some it is mammoth.

For me personally, a “mammoth” session would be like… 8 hours.

For one group, our sessions are usually 2.5 hours, for another we are usually 4 to 5 hours, each once a week (though the 2.5 hour group used to be 2x a week).

For burnout, REST. RECHARGE. RE-CALIBRATE. Go take a walk, read a book, watch a movie. Let your creative juices flow and charge that way.

Do something you enjoy, then come back to it. Sleep is an important thing that people downplay too much.

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I definitely had this experience when my first child was born, though you seem to be getting back into it a lot quicker than I did. It took me about 3 years before I ran another game at all (this past January-ish), and I’m still not running games regularly like I used to. I wouldn’t trade being a dad for anything, but it does take a toll on your free time activities.

I think that limited-scope adventures (one-shots or things that are relatively small, like A Star Once Fallen) are a great way to at least run something. That’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s taken some of the pressure off.

Another option that I’m currently working on is a West Marches-style game with at least one other GM. In my case, my (single, childless) brother will be a GM in the game as well, so there will still be someone available to run it when players want to play even if I can’t. I’m hoping to get that campaign started by the end of the year (realistic goal-setting is important).

Finally, just be up-front and honest with your players regarding what your real life looks like now. I’ve found that people tend to be understanding about this sort of thing.


Thanks Carl,

Good to get a POV from another Dad GM. One of my former players suggested the West Marches style and I have been toying around with the idea of using it. If I do go back to my setting, I think I went too big with “world changing” events etc. I’d like to maybe revisit a little village with something going on that isn’t an evil dark lord trying to destroy the planet. A few games in, and I may move it into West Marches style play.

Glad you are GMing again :slight_smile:

@Great_Moustache - Yeah I suppose “mammoth” is completely subjective :smiley: I personally would love an 8 hour session :slight_smile: Right now, I have tentatively started asking if anyone wants to meet up once a month for a session.

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Yeah 3-4 hours is a minimum. We usually end up going longer. I don’t consider that a “mammoth session” but I don’t like going longer than 5 hours or I end up with the kind of burnout I’m trying to help you avoid :stuck_out_tongue: One-shots tend to be shorter for me but that’s mostly because I got burned on the first couple I ran that ended up having to be cut short because I’d prepared too much content.


Exactly my problem. I had a Christmas one-shot that went on for so long that one person fell asleep and the boss battle had to be reduced to a single “did we win” roll :smiley:

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I had that happen with a boss I ran last night, I was so sad. I spent months working on the boss and custom mechanics, and the players got bored after round 3. :cry:

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I feel for you guys. Here’s to all busy GMs and players. Hope you will have full tables soon!


Raised glass

So a quick update - as a result of the awesome feedback here, I’ve started reaching out to local friends to do one session a month. I’ve had an amazing response from people I didn’t even know liked RPGs. Now I have a session of about 6 people coming up on the 28th. It’s in my own setting that I created a few months back and I have the narrative set. Just need to roll some NPCs and bad guys etc.

Telling myself it is just one session a month has made the stress from prep completely go away and I’ve got that “GM’s joy” back.

So thanks again Open Legion!


Good luck! Looking forward to hearing from your session!