3 GM Tips To Keep That Storytelling Wonderment Alive (And Avoid Burnout)

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GM Tips, hosted by the talented veteran Game Master Satine Phoenix, is our show to help Dungeon Masters and Game Masters improve their craft and create memorable roleplaying experiences. Last week, we talked about running multiple story lines at the same time, and this week is all about maintaining that sense of wonder.

We’ve been covering GM Tips since Matt Mercer started this forty-seven episodes ago, and like many GM’s, campaigns can run for over a year easily. So how do you maintain that enthusiasm without suffering burnout over all these years? What keeps the hobby going for you?

On GM Tips with Satine Phoenix Luke Gygax shares his story about maintaining wonderment even though he’s grown up with the game his entire life. Take a gander below and get brought up to speed for the article ahead.

There are some age secrets about the creation of D&D and certain monsters are contained within that video. If you’re looking for more insight, here is advice on keeping your storyteller’s sense of imagination healthy.


How have I written this many articles and, in not one of them, I have mentioned to feed your storyteller? Players, take heed; it takes hours of prep time and work for your GM so bring the food to keep people vertical. I kid, I kid… (no seriously, do it). The real advice here is that food is tied to smell and taste, which are some of our most powerful memory receptors.

If you find your game getting stale as a storyteller then plan an in-game feast for everyone. I don’t mean just dial-up 7th level spells and say there is chicken on the table either. Take a step aside and actually go back through your adventure and world. Find a location that brings back fuzzy memories, plan the wait staff, the cooks, the music being played and the smell of each dish. Going back in time to something simple for an adventure is a great way to reflect on the campaign and the journey so far.

If you add real food to this and actually make the dishes or have them brought over—it’s a perfect way to remember why we run games.

Twist The Iconic

Running the same style of game for thirty years is going to take its toll. You fall into habits, get salty when new products are released, and perhaps even grouse about new products being released. It’s easy to lament about how the game was back in the day, but it’s a sure sign that you’ve started to become jaded. So how to you recapture that sense of wonder without tainting the well further? Here is something that I’ve personally found useful—go to your wall of game books, close your eyes, and randomly grab one.

Even if it’s some outdated 1st edition printed material from the ‘90’s the book you find is relevant to your interests. Sit with it, read it, recap the fictions inside, thumb back through it and spark your memory and ask yourself… why aren’t you running this? Is it because of game system creep? Everyone you know plays the latest edition, so that’s what everyone does? These are valid questions but there is nothing stopping you, the creator, the god of your world; from injecting this old fluff back into your current campaign. Hell, even if it’s from a different game system—twist your iconic material and make it work for you.

Fire Your Players

Your Fired Gif

This is an extreme way to recapture that storyteller sense of wonder, and also a way ignite it under your players as well. End their storylines and campaigns and phase them out of the game and replace them with new players who have never played before. Before the pitchforks come out, please let me explain: Everyone suffers from game and system burnout and sometimes players themselves are unwilling to let go. It’s a hard call to make but its part of GMing; knowing when the time comes to refresh the roster. There is no hard advice or set rules for knowing when one player needs a forced break, it’s something handled on a case-by-case basis.

But this doesn’t mean cut those players out completely. We are talking about recapturing wonder. Let them out have them take a break from the game for a few weeks while you run for others. Then… start handing them rare books, things that they’ve never gotten to play before, or talk to them about the new player shenanigans. These are your veteran players, you can trust them with the rare material, the broken classes, or the advanced stuff. Once you start planting these seeds that they can slip back in with this new concept… often times they are off to the races. With new players at the table, it’s more likely they bring back the A-game to show off a bit.

What method do you guys use for keeping the inner flame alive? Tell us your GM tips below or your great game experiences!

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Featured Image by: Red Dragon, Tyranny of Dragons, Wizards of the Coast and Tyler Jacobson

Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, and a storyteller with a focus on LARPs, writing Dread modules, Eclipse Phase, and many more. You can follow game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook.

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