Behind the Screen: Getting through the doldrums…

2007 September 3
by Dante

We’ve all been here before. The Real World has seeped too far into our prep time, and we’re not feeling particularly motivated. How do I deal with it?

  1. Distract With Shiny Objects – allow the players to find some loot or some random magical items to pour over for awhile. Let them shop, and interact with the next town down the line.
  2. Roleplay with one another – stir the pot a little between two characters and let some good old fashioned roleplaying take place.
  3. Speak directly from your prepared statements – I prefer episodic content, so you can simply inject previously prepared encounters or side quests directly into the bloodstream of your campaign when times get tough. Think of it as a content transfusion.
  4. Throw a tantrum (in-game, of course) – Let the rogue wizard blow up an entire section of town, including your character’s favorite inn. Have someone from the thieves guild get caught pickpocketing an expensive magical item. Doing something unexpected could get you out of your rut and give your players something exciting to react to.
  5. If all else fails, take a week off – In cases of extreme lack of motivation, it might be good to have the group get together to play a different game, watch a movie, or do some other activities. Burnout happens, and sometimes allowing yourself to relax will help the ideas flow more freely. I wouldn’t suggest doing this every other week, but occasionally it can make all the difference.

Now that I’ve shared some of my secrets, how does everyone else fight those dry spells?

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Phil permalink
    September 4, 2007

    Doldrums, the DM’s bane.

    For DMs with high Improv skills, your solutions are perfect.

    For more Script-driven DMs (like this here commenter) a drop in motivation is nasty! That being said, a break at X-mas and a 2 month summer break does help alleviate this in our groups.

    My solutions:

    Lack of Adventure Prep Motivation:
    1)Preparing something light (1 or 2 scenes) by browsing through my battle Maps and my D&D minis.
    2)End the session earlier and play something else.
    3) Whip out a Dungeon Magazine short adventure.

    Lack of inspiration:
    1) Review my Dungeon Mags and Ptolus book for short adventures that can be easily weaved in the plotline.
    2) Prepare the early parts of the adventure

    Lack of energy, sickness
    Reschedule, play something else.

  2. Yax permalink
    September 5, 2007

    I’ve been known to cancel a game every now and them, but rarely.

    I usually manage to get pumped about my next game by just sitting down and writing down ideas.

    Then I’ll improvise – which I believe I’m decent at.

    I wrote about my thoughts on improv here:

  3. Yax permalink
    September 5, 2007

    I meant here:

  4. Infamous Jum permalink
    September 7, 2007

    Sometimes I get to the table and I find myself drawing an absolute blank. At this point I’ll just toss in a really hammed-up NPC to distract the players from the fact that nothing is really going on. So far, its worked pretty well. Too well, in fact, as the players now make it a point to visit the bard innkeeper who sings every word and force me to make with the horrible noise that is my singing voice.

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