A story of D&D 5th Edition, vicious circles and mistakes made

The last time I wrote a post on this blog I was preparing a D&D one-shot for a group of dear friends. I had prepared a very simple dungeon adventure designed by Matt Colville which took me longer and more energy than I anticipated. I have written about my DM struggles before and it seems I still am not totally out of the woods yet. The session was awesome, everyone had great fun and it was just a great evening. For the one shot I had prepareda couple of pregenerated characters, so for the next session we decided to create new characters from scratch.

Unfortunately character creation took a bit longer than expected. Scheduling was as difficult as ever and so we eventually decided creating characters not as a group but each of the players either met with me or we organized a video conference. When the next session came up we decided to play online because we didn’t want to infect each other with the cold or any other nasty bug going around at the time.

After I knew which characters my players would play, I started to work on the setup for a first adventure, and – oh boy – it was a struggle. I have had these struggles before and unfortunately I never really found a way to deal with those. Making up my mind how I wanted to start the campaign felt impossible. After a while I started to procrastinate, do everything else than work on the game. Things were made even harder by the fact that I just don’t have that much free time than I had before. In the last few months I have taken on more responsibilities in the labor union, which binds a lot of my free time. I also noticed that my work on the staff council – which I enjoy tremendously – still leaves me pretty exhausted in the evenings.

With only a few days left before the first session I came up with a simple premise, grabbed a few maps from Dyson’s Dodecahedron and hoped my improvisation skills would save the day. Running 5E online was definitely more stressful than in person, but I handled it pretty OK. I used D&D Beyond a lot to look up rules and monster stats and even though I was not particularly happy with how the session turned out, my players seemed to have enjoyed the evening aside from one player who finds gaming via video conference terribly unimmersive and stressful. We then decided on when to meet next (in person this time).

I know that I definitely need to prepare a bit more for the next session. I am just not comfortable with 5E enough that I can make up things on the fly as I am used to in other games. Unfortunately my free time is limited and I feel a growing tendency to avoid preparing the game. Thinking about D&D 5E starts to make me feel stressed. I have had this before and back then I decided to cancel the campaign after getting my players approval. Perhaps 5E is just not the right game for me to run. As a player I’d love to give it another try, especially now with all these cool options available to us. But I am not sure if it really works for me as a GM.

I hate to cancel another campaign, but I feel it will be inevitable. Perhaps running campaigns is just not for me. I have had great successes with one-shots and short campaigns, but as soon as I try to run a great campaign which hopefully spans many, many sessions, things start to fall apart pretty quickly.

I feel like I have written this article many times before. I keep running into the same problems repeatedly and sometimes I feel my excitement often gets the better of me. I bite off more than I can chew. And each time I hope things will be different than before. I guess I should discuss this predicament with my friends and ask them for advice and help. Perhaps running one-shots works better for me. Or I should stick to rules-light systems like the Cypher System. Whatever I decide I should try to get out of this vicious circle before my love for the hobby ultimately gets crushed.