GMing can be a scary thing, even if you’ve done it for years. You spend hours preparing for one Friday night and the entire group is going to be focused on you. It can get stressful and it doesn’t help to be anxious about your game before it happens. If you’re constantly worried about your upcoming game read beyond the cut for 500 mg of chill…
While some people use role-playing games to forget about real life for a bit, sometimes it’s just impossible to ignore the fact that your rent is due on Monday and your check from work is taking too long to clear. I think the most obvious thing to state is that if you’re not ready to play then don’t play. Your rent payment comes first, and if you can’t find a way to play and get your bills paid on the correct date, then your group should take a week off. Even if you still want to get together for a little while then try picking up a board game instead. It’s simpler to run and most don’t take as long to play.
If you’re dead set on the playing the game, then your best bet is to try to clear your mind from your other troubles. Try to get yourself back into the game and get to the realization that you have this in the bag.
Prepare for Everything
If your group is anything like mine then players can begin to look to you for just about everything. GM we’re hungry. GM how much experience did I get last game? Sometimes players can get a little too needy and it puts undue stress on you. Don’t let this mess up your game. If you’re worried about building encounters, NPCs and writing a story then you should lean on your players to take care of the particulars. It’s hard enough to make sure that you’re running a fun game, without having to worry about what’s for dinner. It’s just going to make the game seem more like work if you have to organize every single piece of the get together.
In addition you should also make sure that you’re 100% prepared for your game. Try to make up your initiative charts ahead of time, and make sure you’ve got a good handle on all of your encounters. The added confidence about your game will help bolster your spirits.
If you’ve got a soundtrack for your game then whip it out. Music is a great way to help relax yourself and using music straight from your campaign can help get you in the zone. Try to go over the main plot points in your head–try to really visualize how the campaign is going to run. Visualizing that big dragon battle is only going to help you describe the epicness of the combat. It’s like making a music video in your head. It might sound dumb, but it really does help you realize how fun things are going to be at the table.
If everything else fails, then it’s time for you to think out your misgivings. Write a list of all the things you’re worried about and all the things you’re excited about. Most anxiety can be pretty irrational, so sometimes writing things down can help you rationalize your jumbled thoughts. The big battle at the goblin fort might be a TPK, but haven’t the PCs faced worse odds? And shouldn’t that + 3 against goblin weaponry you gave them give them an even better edge?
In the worst case scenario you find you actually do have a problem, but luckily you’ve identified it, and most likely it’s something easy to fix. Remember, everyone is going to the game to have a good time and so are you. They trust that you will run a good game and you can.
If you’re still not feeling up to it, then you should tell your players. You can either choose not to get together this week at all or you can do something besides playing the game. If you have board games in your closet then you should dust a few of them off. There’s nothing stressful about Ms. Scarlet in the conservatory with a candlestick or a rousing game of Apples to Apples.
What are some ways that you deal with stress before your game? Is there anything particular that sets off your stress meters? Tell us below.