Daily Archives: July 1, 2011

Running on Fumes, or GMing When Your Brain Just Isn’t Working

Thanks to Lolth from #stargazersworld for turning bloggers block into a topic.

It happens to everyone who has ever GMed.  It’s game night, and you’re looking over your notes, shuffling them around and realize that you’re actually unable to think.  It’s like writer’s block, except for running a game.  Exactly the same, except you’ve got several people who have set aside a couple of hours of their lives to show up for your game.

What do you do?

I’ve been in this situation far too many times for me to be happy about it, and to be honest, I don’t think I have all the answers to this situation just yet.  The creative mind is a fickle thing.  Sometimes your muse is right there feeding you with a seemingly endless stream of amazing ideas.  Then it just stops.  Your brain mocks you with memories of when you were able to run stuff on the fly and everything just fell into place effortlessly.

So what do I do in these situations?  I can’t promise that these will work all the time, but some things that have managed to help are:

  • Relax – Sometimes forcing yourself is bad.  Much like a prelude to hernias, straining your brain and kicking it around to squeeze an idea out is not the best way to go about things.  Try to relax, tell your players you need a brief moment to sort things out.  Have a smoke, get coffee, do something else than sit there glaring at your notes.
  • Run something else – Some player groups might be willing to try playing a one-shot if you can’t think of anything for the campaign you’re running right now.  It doesn’t hurt to ask, and sometimes running something else gives you the time you need for your brain to come up with fresh ideas for your previous campaign.
  • Ask the Players – Some groups have success with just asking the players what they want to do for a given session.  Handing the reins to the players does have the advantage of letting them actually pursue story threads that have interested them.  Given them a chance to set the direction themselves and see if it doesn’t inspire you to do something with it.
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