Monday, October 7, 2013

The Depressed GM's Lament

So, I stepped away from my blog for a few weeks due to Real Life smacking me upside the head. Add on top of that an Exalted Podcast I'm 2 months tardy on. And well, my work and such is part of why I haven't done much but another is both simple and frustratingly complex. Depression.

Now, I'm not going to go off on a wild yarn about the causes, or such. But I am going to talk about GMing when Depressed. Or more correctly the lack and quality there in.

Every GM hits a slump or a burn-out phase. But a GM Depression, that's the worse. Nothing irritates the depressed that someone, especially demanding players, saying "Well get back on the horse" "Kiss your sad spot and get glad" "Game for the fun of it, you'll feel better." It frankly doesn't work that way. Unless you take time to face the source of your Depression, build up the mental reserves to handle it, and then find a way to cope. It's like forgetting to breath, you either know how to or not. And sometimes it comes and goes depending on how lift is treating you, like the tide. You can't fight the tide, at least not easily.

So it's sad and all, but what does that have to do with gaming?

When Depressed GM's tend to fall into what I call mono-plotting. Depressed GMs fixate on some feature of the game and grow increasingly frustrated when the players deviate. It's not railroading per say more a passive creep towards defeat. After all the GM is losing his plots, ideas, and desire to game what's one more loss to the players? That's right, the players themselves can batter a Depressed GM into retreat.

Depressed GM's also give out warning signs. proto-Depressed GMs tend to call game early, they tend to have a hard time with game prep, react badly to massive character change, grow quiet to distracted for long periods of time during game working on other things. They also can be overly fond of attacking the players in fights, or having plots resolve badly just for the sake of resolving them. I call it Suicide Via Railroad (plot). The GM is more or less trying to throw the players off so the game stops. If a great GM suddenly takes a massive DIP in quality of game and interactions, you might be looking at a Depressed GM.

Why do they keep playing? Well GMing is fun most the time if you like to GM. They are desperately trying to run a game, but they are really running themselves into the ground.

But you as players can help!

Like catching GM Burnout, watch for Depressed GMs. Look for signs of the apathy that creeps in. Stop the game (at the end of a session, or during a break and talk to them.) Don't confront, but come at them with offers of help.

Ask the following:

Can we switch GMs for a while to give you a break. I love your game and want to continue playing, but if you need to relax and just chill for a while that's fine. I'd rather you feel good while GMing so you enjoy it too.

Is there anything we can do to lower the stress while you game? Is the group being to catty? Are we doing things that bother you? It's a 2 way street gaming, be open with us and we'll try to accommodate if you are willing to compromise.

Do you want to take a break for a week? Next session we do a movie night and have a big meal/snack/beer/whatever?


Sometimes you need to run a new game, take a break from the existing story. Other times a short to medium break is all that is needed. Others, the GM needs to step away for a while to sort their life out.

I've read that No Gaming is Better Than Bad Gaming. But it's hard to say that in the face that a lot of gamers enjoy gaming. It IS their release from the day to day. And well, bad gaming is them trying to enjoy the game. Especially if Depressed.

Just something to consider. Try to catch a Depressed GM before it gets out of hand.

As for me? I'm better, it has been a trying few months. Being a Papa, Career minded fella, and gamer is a juggling act. But in a weird way, blogging about my experiences IS therapy for me.