Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Burned Out!!! (and possible solutions)

I suspect this is a condition that affects all DMs eventually, and I've wrestled with it in the past, but for the past couple of months I've felt Burned Out as a DM. Interestingly enough, this burnout seems to be the result of non-RPG-related factors.

I'm not going to go on a "woe is me!" jag here....I know I have it better off than the majority of the folks in this world and that you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But brooding about crap has a way of impairing one's enthusiasm and creativity, and I haven't been working on Algol material (and another "secret" project) nearly as much as I'd like.

I'm not about to 86 this blog or give up on DMing (although I've been considering a brief sabbatical), but I do feel a need to re-charge my RPG creativity, and have been considering several projects in order to take a break from Algol/alternate with Algol/do some one-shot's (or micro-campaigns) and get Stoked! again.

Some of the projects that I've been mulling over include:

- A small, digest-sized, free to download, Sword & Sorcery/Weird Fantasy/Science Fantasy D&D zine; crudely illustrated by myself and done in a punk rock/underground comic style. Something in the 8-16 page range, done for fun. I've considered the following names: Cyclopean; The Jewel Throne (..of the Earth),  IIIrd Gatekeeper; and Voronya...I was going to go with "The Black Ziggurat"...but the Black Ziggurat belongs to everyone. Let me know if any of these names tickle your fancy!

- A Vancouver Old-School Micro-con: Certainly not an original idea, but it would be great to set up a weekend for some awesome old-tyme rpg antics, especially if some of our neighbors from BC, Alberta and the USA were able to make it (yes, I am talking about you! If you are 10% as awesome in person as you are on the internet you could help make the best weekend ever!). Rent some cheap hall or meeting facility, set up a schedule, and play a butt-load of D&D, Gamma World/Metamorphosis Alpha, Traveller, Boot Hill, Tunnels and Trolls, Runequest, Call of Cthulhu, Star Trek, Car Wars, et al...

- "The Vance Sector:" interstellar sci-fi adventure campaign heavily, heavily inspired by Jack Vance. I'm waffling between Traveller, Terminal Space, X-Plorers and Stars Without Number for this.

- Dune D&D: A houseruled D&D game in the universe of Frank Herbert's Dune, although probably quite a while before the events in the book. Space Feudalism!

- Fallout!: I'm not sure if I'd use Gamma World or Mutant Future's Mazes & Mutants as the base, and I'd probably incorporate a 3E style skill system, but it would involve the post-apocalyptic Canadian prairie, vault-dweller PCs, Canadian Tire money, way too many kinds of firearms and ammo, Mad Max-esque vehicular warfare, and using soft drinks instead of booze for the "heal 1d6 hp once a day" houserule.

- Gene Wolfe tribute campaign: Either set on a post-historical Earth or in an O'Neil cylinder; although it would definitely not be a railroad, there would be a "central campaign quest" in the vein of The Book of the New Sun and The Book of the Long Sun. Would every PC be unaware that they are a Cleric? ;)

- "The Lemurian Age", a Sword & Sorcery campaign set in the Lost Prehistory of the Indian Ocean: The Kerguelen microcontinent, Kamari Kamdan, Africa, Mesopotamia, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, & Prehistoric Marsupial Megafauna. Inspired by Conan and Atlantis: The Second Age.

- Empire of the Petal Throne: Using the original OD&D variant rules...but set on Mars! With additional Barsoom, HG Welles and The Dictionary of Mu influences.

- 80s Action! Movie campaign: Something in the vein of Commando and Miami Vice. Mini-Uzis, sinister Eurotrash in turtlenecks, crazed coke dealers, and rescuing The President's Daughter!

- Carcosa: Although Algol is heavily influenced by Carcosa, Geoffrey's creation is an entirely different beast, far more grim and far less "Jack Vancian" than my Algol game. OD&D and crazy dice conventions!

- OD&D: Of course this could be combined with several of the above ideas, but I want to try out pre-Greyhawk style LBB OD&D; d6s and d20s only!

Man, just thinking about the above options gets me fired up, just the thing to get me out of this rut...I gotta run these ideas past the gaming group.


  1. Wow, those all sound like good projects, and I'd love to see you develop them all eventually. However, all but one have some element of writing, so I vote for the Vancouver OSR-con, since you'd get to focus purely on playing and give your mind a rest!

    And as far as writers block/creative bloc goes--been there, I hear ya! ;)

    /previous post was crud, sorry!

  2. For someone burnt out, you do have a ton of incredible ideas. I kept saying "yes" and "hell yes" in my head at each one.

  3. Exodus started out as a licensed 3E Fallout tabletop rpg till someone realized another company was squatting on the rights to a pnp rpg:

    I have a pdf of the rules and it's 99% Fallout with the serial numbers filed off. Feats actually make sense here, as they emulate the Fallout system.

  4. Yeah, man, you're not burnt out -- those are some very do-able ideas. Maybe you just need to switch gears for a bit. I'd love to see that spacey Vancian campaign in particular. And the 'zine idea would rock. I vote for 'Cyclopean'! But whatever it's called I'd love to contribute.

  5. Oh hell yes! I am so with you on the crudelydrawncrustpunkdigestzine. I have thought about this myself many times, but alas I am lame. If you do the zine you must include this image on the cover.


  6. Zines are rad. I say do it. I hear you on the burn out.

  7. The zine is a lot of fun. I just started mine, a 12 page old-school zine, and it is invigorating to put it out there.

  8. IFY

  9. I think, you have the same problem like me. Too much ideas and not enough time.

    There are a lot of great ideas, especially the Dune, Fallout, Lemurian and EotPT things, but I think, Algol is still the best. :)

  10. Doing a Con sounds a great idea for recharging the creative batteries

  11. Also remember that you don't have to go the whole hog with these. Sometimes a one-shot is enough to get your fix of a certain setting and to blow away the cobwebs.

    So don't be put off by the number of ideas you have on the boil, because you could do all of them!

  12. Grief!!!!

    I wish I could be more articulate on the subject than that.

    Do all the things!

  13. * Jewel Throne (...of the Earth)
    * TekuMars

    These make me happy in my gaming parts.

  14. Do it all and take no prisoners doing it. We'd love to contribute to the 'zine if you're ever interested. TekuMars sounds frikkin' awesome.

    Why not just do Black Ziggurat and make it For everyone as well? That'd be even more DIY-punk ethic...

  15. Do the micro-con! And everything else!

    btw, I'll sue your ass if you call your 'zine Cyclopean. It's "tro" away from my fragile ego. ;)

  16. Thanks for the kind feedback everyone!

    As a disclaimer, it may seem like I'm bursting with ideas, but in actuality, regarding initiative and enthusiasm I am burnt out...but it's a work/finances/real-life stress thing that's impacting my creativity.

    It may seem like I'm bursting with great ideas, but it's more of a product of having 40-odd hours a week where my brain is desperate for intellectual activity :)

    @ Jay: Somehow I think organizing a mini-con may actually be more work than many of the other projects ;) BTW, congrats regarding the Brave Halfling/X-Plorers thing!

    @ Ckutalik: I have 40 hours a week when my brain is lying fallow...

    @ B. Portly: Thanks, that looks to be worth raiding for some material! I'd prefer to go with something GW or OD&D in nature for the game engine...I have enough problems powergaming Fallout via skills and perks and becoming an unstoppable angel of death when I play the game :D What I'm aiming for is using the "set dressings" (esp. alternate earth guns!) and perhaps a simplified skill system to do something Fallout-ish rather than emulating the game mechanics of the series.

    @ Greg: I'd love for you to contribute!

    @ Mkotschi: Haha, is that a more vulgar/literal "cockatrice?"

    @ Christian: I've said it before, but I've always found your enthusiasm contagious ...thank you!

    @ Dyson: Please tell me that the table of contents is a d12 random table...


    @ Mattias: Don't get me wrong...Algol is my baby and I love it, I just need something else to dump my rpg creativity into.

    @ Kelvin: That is certainly true..except for the Gene Wolfe thing, and one-shots would be great fodder for a con!

    @ Zak: "Earthworm...I'm a lot like you!" Somehow I knew Grief would incite you!

    @ Melan & Chris: You may have convinced me.

    @ Netherwerks: I'll take you up on the offer! I love The Black Ziggurat, but like I don't even want someone to end up with the misapprehension that it belongs to any one person. Now as a regular feature in the zine... that works with the BZ ethos.

    @ Cyclopeatron: that a challenge? ;)

  17. I would be so stoked on a Barsoomian Empire of the Petal Throne!

    Any of the above sound good though.

    We have exhausted a lot of the most exciting areas in the Algol hexmap.

    Although it would be a crime to leave so much of that megadungeon unexplored...

  18. Also, I'd run a classic dungeon for a mini convention here. And help with organizing, etc.

  19. @ Scrounger: Oh...have you? ;)

    That would be rad, thanks for the offer!

  20. If I weren't far, far, away I'd play a Crewman (Like Hethor or Jonas), in the Gene Wolfe campaign. Or maybe a non-evil Alzabo. Perhaps you could do it as a play-by-post? Then again, that's probably a silly thing to do just so that one blog reader can join.

  21. So cool! Wow, these all sound awesome. Don't be afraid to hibernate if you need a break. Usually you come back stronger and more focused.