Content of the article: "Third degree burnout. Do I pull the plug?"
Being a 5e dungeon master used to be my favorite thing in the world. I was a lucky DM who found a reliable group that was interested in playing regularly, and our games were the highlight of every week. Daydreams would regularly whisk me away to fantasy worlds, and I was never at a loss for creativity. Three years later, and the end of a wonderful, epic campaign is drawing near. All of my players are incredibly excited for the future of our campaign.
Unbeknownst to them, I doubt I’ll see this game to a conclusion.
Every session, we play late into the night, and I immediately go to sleep afterwards. I lie in bed next to my significant other, who is also a player in my game, and all I can think is, “Wow, I really hated that.”
I don’t know when exactly it happened, but the joy I used to derive from DMing is gone. What few gratifying moments I experience in our game seem like a faint echo, shouted from a pleasant, but very distant past. The place where those feelings used to live is barren, haunted only by a few lingering shadows of frustration and resentment.
I am very good friends with all of my players in real life, to the point being in romantic relationship with one of them. But, in the game, I can’t stand them. I pour my heart and soul into preparing each session for hours to ensure that every player’s expectations are met. In return, I get mostly apathy and disrespect.
One player gets high before every game, despite repeatedly being asked not to. She often smokes too much, at which point she is liable to either roleplay completely inconsistently with her backstory, or just plain old zone out for the entire night. Games have been straight up ruined because of this.
Another player is passive aggressive. She’ll feel slighted by another player, and just choose to be quietly angry about it instead of addressing the problem. Predictably, this has led to intense awkwardness on multiple occasions.
Another member of my group wrote his character’s backstory while blackout drunk. I had to beg him for nearly a year to rewrite it, and when he finally did, it had none of the changes I asked him to make. As such, the character is a stagnant self-insert, and has no motivation, direction, growth, or story arc.
Last is my partner. We have an amazing relationship, I love her with all my heart, and I have never detested playing D&D with anyone as much as I do her. Just to be clear, she exhibits absolutely none of these behaviors outside of our game. Believe me, I wouldn’t be with her if she did.
She has no respect whatsoever for my station as DM, and never hesitates to halt the game to tell me how I should be doing my job. This is particularly frustrating because she has no earthly idea how to DM, nor does she really know what she wants as a player. I get accused of railroading if I so much as nudge the party in any direction. Naturally, this also means she gets angry when the party aimlessly spins their wheels. She didn’t trust me to run milestone leveling, so I acquiesced and began tracking XP. It became difficult and distracting after a while, so I switched back to milestone without telling anyone. She still loves thinking we’re leveling by XP, which illustrates her desire not for any specific gameplay change, but for control. She constantly interrupts me in the middle of descriptions, and rarely misses an opportunity to quash improv with an poorly timed “no.” Worst of all, she absolutely cannot be reasoned with when I approach her with my grievances outside of the game. Constructive criticism is met with tears, and I am reassured that anything that went wrong was mostly my fault.
These are all issues I have discussed with my group on multiple occasions. Some show improvement, but quickly relapse after a few weeks. But the most maddening part of all; they still love playing D&D. Everyone leaves each game excited for next week, and completely oblivious to my impending resignation. That ignorance makes me wonder if perhaps my players are perfectly normal, and my expectations of them are too high. I have seen them all play D&D magnificently many times before, and I really believe that they could easily maintain that that performance with just a little bit of effort. However, as the old saying goes; if you smell shit everywhere you go, check under your own shoes.
Regardless of who’s culpable, I’m miserable, and I’m starting to worry that these poisonous feelings are going to spill out into real life. This is a game. It's supposed to be fun. If the only fights you have with your partner are over a TTRPG, then obviously something is wrong. Frankly, I feel like the fucking Giving Tree, and I don’t really want to do this anymore if I’m going to keep feeling that way.
Thank you so much for reading this far. Here are my questions for you.
- Are my expectations too high? Why or why not?
- Can my game be saved? If so, how? If not, why?
- What do I do now?
- I feel like I am taken for granted. How do I bring it up with my players?
- I ghosted my players
- Exhausted DM unsure to continue a long-term campaign
© Post "Third degree burnout. Do I pull the plug?" for game Dungeons & Dragons Online.
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