Every GM can (and I daresay, will) burn out.
Like in any sort of creative endeavor, running a campaign is a very involved and taxing process. There’s a lot of variables to manage, from in-game mechanics, to out of game player dynamics and group management. Add the responsibility of knowing the rules, and the fact that you’re the guy running the show, and it’s easy to see how a GM might finally fizzle out.
Still, burnout is a curious phenomenon since it usually happens when something in a campaign breaks. Whether it’s the shattered expectations in a campaign, or a ruleset that just doesn’t work, or disruptive players, a GM often burns out when his idealized campaign no longer holds to it’s original design or intent.
I won’t go into detail as to the causes, but we can go to working on dealing with it:
- Take a Break – Stepping back from the campaign is a good thing. As the old RPG.net saying goes, “Not Gaming is better than Bad Gaming.”
- Play, don’t run – A good way to get back any lost enthusiasm is to join another GM’s game and play a bit. Enjoy the hobby without having the entire weight of the system on your shoulders.
- Re-Inspire - Go back to your favorite books, music and other media. Playing other things and seeking other input might be just the think to clear the bad taste of a burnout and make genres new and exciting again. Check out other games while you’re at it. A Sci-fi game might be just the thing you need to read to get the taste of that failed fantasy campaign, for example.
- Take your time – Don’t hurry back to running. This is like a GMing vacation to you, so don’t feel pressured to run something until you feel good and ready.
As a GM, I can sympathize when someone burns out. It’s not a pleasant experience, and can prove to be frustrating. Hopefully, by taking a step back, enjoying the hobby from a different perspective, and immersing yourself in new activities and media might prove to be just the thing you need to get back to running.