If you’ve played Dungeons & Dragons for more than a few months, chances are you’ve met someone who’s gone through DM burnout. DMing can be one of the most rewarding experiences on the planet, but it can also be trying at times. Most DMs get to the place where they feel like they need to take a break from D&D, or at least come out from behind the screen and just play for a while.
Unfortunately, playing isn’t always an option. While there are those that prefer to DM, the fact is that most of us have the role thrust upon us by the D&D group. If we don’t DM, chances are pretty good no one is going to be playing Dungeons & Dragons.
So, what do you do? Well, you can take some time of altogether. That’s one option. Sometimes, though, you simply need to look at your game from some different angles. Decide that you’re going to freshen up your game, and then do it.
Here are some techniques I’ve used that work wonders for keeping my D&D game fresh:
- Ditch your tried and true story ideas. One of the first things DMs tend to do when their inspiration wanes is to fall back on things that have worked before. Whether it’s betrayal by the party’s benefactor or whether it’s that same old evil wizard with a different name, avoid the temptation to raise the dead. Let ‘em stay right where they are, as good memories.
- Get inspired. There are tons of sources of inspiration for D&D. Read a good novel, or watch a movie. It doesn’t even have to be fantasy. In fact, a good Western can give give you great ideas for your D&D game. A fantasy novel or movie can actually serve to make things worse, as you find yourself simply identifying familiar tropes.
- Play a different game. There are tons of games you can play that aren’t D&D, but that can help your D&D game stay fresh. Try a session or two of Vampire, run a supers game, or play a little Call of Cthulu. If you have a hard time convincing your regular group to do so, try something new at a convention.
- Figure out what excites your players. Excitement at the D&D table is contagious. Figure out what would really get your players involved in the game. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. In most cases, it simply comes down to asking for their help.
- Dig into a published campaign setting for ideas. Even if you’re not running a Shadowfell-based game, there’s plenty you can draw from the campaign setting. Same holds true for Dark Sun or Neverwinter. One of my best campaigns was based entirely around a mid-level necromancer in the Cult of the Dragon who had about a 200-word writeup in the 2nd Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.
So, what about you? What do you all do to keep your campaigns fresh?