Giving Up the DM Chair

3 Feb

After two years, I finally decided to give up the dungeon master’s role in our Monday night group and just be a player. Although I had been burned out for quite some time, I still feel sad letting it go. Why?

For those of you who’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, it’s a role playing game (the original RPG) where everyone takes a character and pretends to be them while walking around fantasy universes. The difference is that you’re telling a story–not showing them one. You have maps and miniatures, but in the end, it happens all in your mind. And the one who makes it happen is the dungeon master.

Two years ago, when my son Asher was 11, he got SUPER into D&D. So I figured the only way to slack his thirst was to actually go to someone else’s table and experience the game as a not-family activity. So the local game store had Adventurers’ League going (a system that allows folks to come in or out with characters and not dedicate themselves to a single campaign) and we sat down at a table.

Asher had a lot of fun for a couple weeks. The problem was–there got to be WAY too many people at the time and we needed several folks to break off and form a new table. Which meant, someone needed to run it, and I volunteered. In the end, it was a good move, because I enjoy running a game far more than I do playing a game. There’s too much downtime, whereas the DM never has any; always engaged.

I was able to build up a following of dedicated players at the game store and frequently had eight people around the table (about the max I could handle). A few came and left, but over time, there was about four or five core people I could count on. Then COVID happened last year (about this time) and I offered to move the game online to Roll20. We kept it going–lost three players, gained two more–but that was to be expected. Online is simply not the same as tabletop in person and it takes a different perspective.

But I was fading in my joy of this and I knew it. Part of me just wanted to keep the group going until the game store reopened–then the store decided it wasn’t going to stay open–at least, not with a gaming area. But I loved hanging with these folks, so I didn’t want to lose that. I just didn’t love running the game anymore. So I offered the DM’s chair to someone else and decided to simply play. True, it’s not as engaging, but I get to still hang out with my gaming friends, and I can simply enjoy being there… instead of dreading it until I actually get there. I might get the chair back at some time, but I should simply enjoy not having to do the prep work.

So it’s the right decision, but I don’t feel great about it. Have you had this situation? You keep something going even though your heart isn’t in it anymore? Share with me on the comments below!

5 Responses to “Giving Up the DM Chair”

  1. Silk Cords February 3, 2021 at 9:40 am #

    I doubt there’s a person alive, past or present, that hasn’t felt that way about at least one thing in their life. You give something up because it’s become toxic (essentially) even if part of you clings to old memories, etc… and self doubt combines with nostalgia to make you wonder if you should have done something different, tried harder, etc…

    Heh, what do you know… DMing is just like being in a relationship, ROFL. Although writing the above, I was thinking more of past hobbies and jobs I’d given up on. 🙂

  2. Michael February 3, 2021 at 3:38 pm #

    Sunstones its hard to keep the energy going. And equally hard to not change your mind. But might just stur another person into sharing the burden leaving you open to return or guest in future

  3. joanne the geek February 4, 2021 at 6:09 am #

    I miss roleplaying. I haven’t been in a campaign for about five years now.

  4. Mal February 4, 2021 at 10:38 pm #

    In the group we’re forming, there are at least two of us that want to DM. I think it’s important to share the load and be able to keep the game fresh for everyone.

    You definitely haven’t done anything wrong, and I’m sure your crew is thankful you kept them going for as long as you did!


  1. “Who Would You Rather Be?” | Albigensia Press - February 6, 2021

    […] As mentioned previously, I gave up being a DM, and now I’m merely a player. Which means creating a new character in D&D… which like blog posts, are a great way to exercise your creativity. It’s not always your idealized self–just a different shade of you. […]

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