This frazzled DM unfrazzles with a beer…
Picture by Pirate Alice
The Frazzled DM
You love to DM. You enjoy planning and running adventures, but your favorite part of the RPG experience is gathering everyone together and showing them a good time. The problem is, you have trouble saying ‘no’. Your downward spiral begins with a few hastily-planned sessions and a few last-minute game cancellations due to other commitments. It culminates with the sad realization that you just have too many demands on your time, and that you can’t meet them all without some degree of mastery over the space-time continuum.
The Solution: You know how, in airline safety instructional videos, they tell you to put the oxygen mask over your own face before you try to help anyone else? The same applies to running a D&D game (minus the oxygen mask – probably). You have to take care of yourself before you can give your players a great game. Work on your time management skills and make sure you’re not neglecting family, non-gamer friends, or other real-life concerns. After you’ve given yourself enough time for your hobby and your other needs, learn to say no to further requests. Also, check out this article about overcoming DM guilt once and for all.
The Truncated DM
Does this sound like you? “Wow, this game system rocks! I have a great idea for a campaign! I’ll just do some planning, and— Ooh, wait, this game system rocks! I have a great idea for a campaign! I’ll just do some planning, and—Hey no, on second thought…” etc, etc, ad nauseum. If so, you suffer from the dreaded disease ADDD: Attention-Deficit DM Disorder. You start out with great ideas, then lose your enthusiasm once the game gets off the ground. Then you move on to the next game and/or campaign setting and/or game system, only to lose interest in that one, too. You don’t feel good about it, since it leaves your players in a perpetual cycle of hope and disappointment, but you just can’t seem to help yourself.
The Solution: You know how, when you really want to buy a firearm, some states impose a waiting period? The same applies to running a D&D game (minus the gun – hopefully). To keep yourself from taking brash actions, like starting up a game you’re not going to see through, give yourself some cooling-off time before you start recruiting players. Ask yourself why you want to run the game. Figure out how you’ll fit the game into your schedule. Take your time planning the adventure. Then, after a month or so, if you still want to run the game, you may proceed with my blessing.
The Controlling DM
You love being in control. You hate it when players ignore your plot hooks, react in an unexpected way, and walk all over your carefully-crafted adventures. You just want your game to progress to its logical conclusion in an orderly manner. You spend lots and lots of time planning your games, and lots and lots of time fuming about problematic players.
The Solution: You know how, in Jurassic Park, Ellie points out to the old man that his control over the dinosaurs was just an illusion? The same applies to running a D&D game (minus the dinosaurs – usually). D&D is a lot like life. You only have limited control over the outcome. Also, no Dm is an island; the game doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to you and your players. You can guide the players to a degree, but at the end of the day, no party will have a good time if you force them through a maze like so many rats. Develop your improvisational skills to better deal with the curveballs your players will undoubtedly throw at you. Learn what motivates the PCs, and exploit that knowledge to lure them in a certain direction. Also, experiment with non-linear games and learn to love the chaos.
Did you see yourself in the above examples? I’d like to hear how you (or a quote-unquote friend) overcame a DM dysfunction.