17. RPG Burnout

So continuing our journey into the great world of Role Playing Games I start by changing the title of this post. I mean lets face it we all know there is a lot to talk about both good and bad in the RPG world. The last thing I or anyone else needs/wants to see is title after title called My RPG Journey Part (fill in the number). No, I made it a whole two posts before I looked at myself and said “Self, its time to look at those post titles again, because keep that up and things will get VERY boring!” So I am sorry for scaring you all there, and hope such a lack of judgment wont happen again. Consider myself punished.

I plan on getting back to that story about how I got started into RPG games, but I had something happen over the weekend that I thought was worth writing about. Every two weeks I have a very full schedule when it comes to both running and playing RPG games. The scheduale goes something like this…

Friday Night: Serenity (Player)
Saturday Night: Shadowrun (Game Master)
Sunday Afternoon: Star Wars (Game Master)

Normally I love it a whole weekend packed with gaming, adventure, silliness, and excitement.

This was not one of those weekends!

So it does happen from time to time, but it is possible to get burned out on gaming. The reasons are different from person to person, but for me it generally orbits around bad game play. This past weekend started as usual with Serenity, and I was happy to find new players there. Our new player had never played an RPG before, and was excited to start. He seemed like a very nice person and got along with our group very well, and I was excited to watch a new player come into the fold of RPG gaming. Imagine my disappointment, when the GM handed our new player a book and told him to make a character while the rest of us played.

Now I feel the need to point out that the GM for this game is a brand new GM, and overall I think she has done a great job! Being a GM takes learning and practice, just like any job or skill. This post is not to criticize her or her skills. This post is only to illustrate certain things that can cause burnout. In fact I am a little disappointed in myself for not speaking up, and saying some things that might have helped out both our new player, and our new GM. For that I am sorry to both!

As I have pointed out handing a book to a new player is not a good starting point into the world of RPG gaming. I have also mentioned that I could have been more proactive, but I was so excited to start playing that I didn’t say anything. As the game progressed I tried to come up with ways our new player could enter the game, and made a few suggestions, but the GM wanted to run the game in her own way. This is a common problem with new GM’s. As a GM you have a great deal of control, and when players start offering suggestions new GM’s can see this as an attack. It was once described as the child trying to parent the parent, something I would imagine that does not go over well. Anyways this whole thing made me very frustrated, because I know what my first game was like and I want everyone to have the same experience. I just couldn’t figure out how to do it without stepping on the GM’s toes or hurting her feelings.

The other problem was that near the end of the game I wanted to do something that was clearly not in the story line the GM had prepared. This is a common problem. As a GM you just cant anticipate every choice or action your players will take, and you have to have the ability to improvise a story when your players go “off script”. Again for new GM’s this is a very hard skill to learn. Even though I knew that the GM was not prepared for my decision I still wanted to move forward with it. I felt it was the choice my character would make and I felt it would be good for the story. After some discussion with the GM out of game I let the issue go. I didnt want to put her in a situation that would make her feel uncomfortable, and as I have said before she is learning, and so far has really done a great job.

Bottom line I left that night feeling like I had not had my RPG needs filled, but it was still a fun night, and I had enjoyed the story and the company with friends.

The next night I had prepared a great story line for my Shadowrun players, and was very excited to see where they would take the story. The story was very open ended, and the success or failure of the story depended a lot on what the players decided to do. As the game progressed I saw that my players really didn’t seem to have very much direction in where they were going or what they wanted to do. I tried a few times to give a push here or there, but the story required me to be more hands off the usual. Any pushing from me could effect the whole outcome of the game. After about 3 hours of gaming I confessed my frustration not with the players but with the story. I could tell my players were not having as much fun as they had in the past, and I saw they too were frustrated. They all told me not to worry about it, and they would get through it one way or another.

They didn’t. At least not on Saturday. We will have to pick up where they left off in two weeks, because we ran out of time. I felt upset because I felt like it had been my fault that my players had not met the objective. I felt if only I had given them more information or pushed more here or there they would have been able to achieve more. So once again I left another RPG game feeling like my RPG game needs were left unmet.

By this point I was so tired and worn out that I went home and canceled the Star Wars game for the following day. I was just burned out, and couldn’t stand to have yet another RPG experience leave me wanting. This happens from time to time. The nice thing is it does not last long. Give me two weeks and I will be back up and ready to game!

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