3 Things To Do When You Get Bored With Your Campaign
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1146
Are you bored with GMing? RPT GM Michael asks:
I’m a beginning DM that has DMed two dozen sessions of a campaign in the setting of Mystara (Known World) using the B.E.C.M.I. version of Dungeons and Dragons.
I’ve taken the group through one and a half of the 1980s’ B series Basic D&D modules – King’s Festival and Queen’s Harvest.
They’re great and the party is having fun but I am not – I’m bored.
We enter a room. Kill what’s inside. Enter the next room. Kill what’s inside. Etc.
I’m really bored and want to do something else for the campaign but I honestly don’t know what and I do not at all enjoy bookkeeping.
Largely, I want to give them outdoor adventures.
Thanks for the question, Michael. I’m sorry to hear you’re not having more fun at every game.
Here are a few thoughts on what you might do to get unstuck.
The first thing I’d do is make a Bucket List of game experiences and game elements you’d love to run.
Let me grab my homebrew world of Duskfall’s Bucket List here and throw out some examples:
- Mind flayers are villains who control a world deep under the crust – it’s a planet within a planet
- The new gods killed or trapped the old gods and hid the bodies whose energy seeps into the world as different types of magic
- Dusklords are realm leaders who grant followers boons based on their qualities, such as giving minions Advantage on rolls at night
- Factions are like corporations that compete with kings, tyrants, and Dusklords
- A mafia of mages is trying to corner the entire magic market => all wizards must be members or are hunted/assassinated
- There are three moons – one controlled by celestials, one by devils, and one by demons, and they constantly fight via battle and subterfuge on Duskfall
I also have a Bucket List notebook for my Murder Hobos campaign:
- Game of Thrones meets Battlestar Galactica
- Returning Stones take people to keyed locations to make hexcrawling easier
- Magic items come in sets that grant boons when worn or wielded at same time – collection quests
- Guild of lycanthropes with each were-type distinct and fighting for power
- Hotha ride dinosaurs and use ritual magic to control weather and other “macro” effects
- Floating city of devils – made out of “driftwood”, crafted by star elves, Gotham meets Blades in the Dark
- Against the Giants => Collosai nation secretly controlled by mind flayers, giant dungeons hold precious Collosai artifacts and symbols of power
I also have a house rules Bucket list, but I’ll move on to my next point. Today, I use Campaign Logger for my Bucket Lists because it’s so easy to ideate with its generators and to connect ideas together, but here’s a photo of my three old Murder Hobos idea books:
So why should we maintain Bucket Lists?
These are ideas that excite us. They are seeds from which to build cool adventures and launch awesome campaigns.
If we cannot get ourselves excited, we aren’t inspired.
If we’re not inspired, we won’t GM.
If we won’t GM, our friends won’t play.
You are the most important player at the table.
Chances are, you organize the games for your group. You set the game dates, herd the cats, and cause games to happen. Without you, the group would fold.
Therefore, you need to be excited to be the game master.
And to do that, you need a wishlist of stuff you are just dying to see hit the table.
Another common ailment is GM burnout.
We get tired of doing the “same old, same old” all the time.
We feel trapped in our campaigns because they don’t let us wield exciting ideas.
And game prep feels like torture. We’ll do anything else (including chores!) just to avoid prep.
I’m not sure if this is a factor for you, Michael, but think about it and check if it’s the case.
If GM burnout is a root cause, then these tips might be of help:
- 9 Symptoms Of GM Burn-Out: Avoiding GM Burn-Out Part I
- 8 Tips For Recovering From GM Burn-Out: GM Burn-Out Tips Part II
- GM Burnout: Tips For Prevention and Recovery
- Playing With Fire: Dodging GM Burnout
- Remedies For GM Burn-Out
- The Care and Feeding of Your GM
Try a 5 Room Dungeon
“Escape” your current campaign by running that outdoor adventure you want.
The cool thing about 5 Room Dungeons is you can drop them in anywhere, even mid-campaign.
They are short, self-contained, and have a complete story – exciting beginning to climactic end – baked into their structure.
So think about using them as one-shots to break things up.
For example, let’s say your group’s deep in a dungeon right now…
…And all you can think about is big skies, forests and hills, rivers and roads. Great adventure awaits outside, just nine levels up.
So throw in a magic portal that leads to a wilderness pocket dimension.
Once the 5 Room Dungeon outdoor adventure story’s complete, you’ll know two things:
- Did you enjoy the change of scene, or is your boredom coming from something else?
- Did your players enjoy the different environment?
You don’t want to have a heart-to-heart with your players and have them agree to let you change things up, only to discover you’re still bored despite the changes.
I did that after my Riddleport campaign, resulting in three aborted campaigns in a row.
Your players start to lose trust in you when that happens, and enthusiasm to game (with you, at least) slowly fades.
Therefore, run a few trial balloons to see what you really want.
You mentioned running modules. The B series is excellent. They are some of my favourite all-time adventures.
Have you tried building your own adventures?
I ask because homebrewing can be incredibly rewarding.
It flexes your creative muscles in ways that studying and running published adventures don’t.
It not only lets you build cool plots, challenges, and encounters tuned for your specific players, but for your specific interests and Bucket Lists too!
Homebrewing to me is like a glorious puzzle.
It’s a game unto itself as I get to steal ideas, cook up my own, and grab clever ones from my players, and turn them into fantastic gameplay experiences.
For some game masters, running adventures isn’t enough.
We are driven to create. We’re creators. And we want to set our creations free and let them fly.
Often though, we get stuck with how to get started homebrewing our own amazing adventures.
If you’ll allow me a bit of self-promotion, I can help with that through my Adventure Building Master Game Plan, which offers a complete blueprint for homebrewing adventures your players are sure to love.
If interested, read about that here.
No matter what path you choose, I highly recommend getting your note-taking tool of choice out, some graph paper and crayons, and start building what you really want to run.
I hope these tips help, Michael.
RPT GMs, do you have any additional thoughts and ideas on how to help Michael become enthusiastic about his campaign again?
If so, just hit reply!