At the end of last month I was laid-off from my job of 13 years. I have been given a severance package, and I have been on several interviews since then. I am very confident that I will probably have a job before the end of the month. You never know, but for various reasons I am highly optimistic given the situation.

But my GMing plans have suffered. All of my free time has gone into networking, job hunting, and preparing for interviews. Plus there are all of those little tasks that need to be addressed as well – closing my old retirement fund, applying for COBRA to keep my health insurance coverage, and even just responding to queries and concerns from family members and friends is draining. Add to that the stress and uncertainty that comes with the situation and I am finding myself in poor condition to run a game.

Let’s face it: My game is not a priority right now, nor should it be. I have a real life issue to deal with, and we all know that real life comes first.

But my game is also my steam valve. It lets me vent away some of the pressure in my life. Running a game makes me feel better, and right now I can really use that bi-weekly dose of happiness that GMing gives me. I cannot prioritize my game, but I want to give it some of my attention. How do I balance this equation?

Well here are a few tips that have helped me, and if you find yourself in a similar situation perhaps they will help you too.

Tell Your Group About Your Problem

Pride might tell you to keep your problems to yourself, but your pride can recover after you have resolved the issue that plagues you. For now let your group know what is wrong, or at least that something is wrong and that you have to focus your energies elsewhere for the time being. The game might be put on hold, or it is not going to be as good as it could be for a while.

Scale Back Your Game Plans

I was hoping to run an Open D6 game for my group right before my job was eliminated. That requires a lot more work on my part though, because I was going to have to do a lot of game design as the system uses a generic setting. Plus my group was going to have to learn a new set of rules. I do not have the mental bandwidth for that at this time, so instead I am going with a MicroLiteD20 game. We know the basics of the system, and the game is much simpler and ready to be run as is. I can always take a stab at my Open D6 game on a future date.

Focus On the Fun Parts

Indulge a little and throw game balance out for the time being. If you enjoy more roleplaying in your games then focus on that for now, or focus on combat encounters if that is what makes you happy. Just be sure that your group understands why you are doing this. Everyone needs a time when they focus on themselves and what brings them joy. You will eventually adjust back to your normal mode, but for now have that second slice of GMing cake whatever it may be.

It Gets Better

It really does. You will sooner or later see the silver lining to whatever dark cloud is passing over you. Just keep your chin up, focus the majority of your energy into dealing with your real life problems, and try to use your game as a stress reliever and not let it turn into another point of stress instead.

I hope that helps any of my fellow GMs out there who might have hit a patch of bad luck. Do you have any tips for dealing with GMing a game while dealing with a serious personal problem? If so, share what you have learned with the rest of us by leaving a comment below.