Recently I had a game to prep for and I was mentally bankrupt. I had no good ideas whatsoever. Every concept that I came up with seemed tired and mediocre. Nothing clicked for me.
I thought about just foregoing my prep work and improvising the entire session, but I am making a serious effort to no longer rely on improvising as a GM. If a game goes over the edge and I have to rely on an improvised plot or encounter that is fine. I just do not want to show up with an empty notebook for my games as a GM anymore. I want to strive to become a master of the prepped game as well.
And there I was staring at a blank computer screen. Not a single idea seemed worthy of my players’ time.
What is a GM to do at this point?
#1 — Keep Brainstorming
Yeah it is easy to say “the mood is not right” or to convince yourself that you do your best work at another time. Even if those statements are true, so what? Keep pushing yourself anyhow. Force yourself to do the work, because it will only make you a better GM if you get yourself used to doing prep work when the mood is wrong and the time is not ideal for you.
#2 — Use a “Bad” Idea
The idea is probably fine, but for some reason it just does not excite you. Do not discard the idea just because it did not make you jump out of your seat screaming “I’m a genius!!!”
Take that “bad” idea and wrestle with it. Change the villain, change the setting, change the hook, and keep making changes until the idea starts to appeal to you. You might end up with something completely different, or you might only need to tweak one detail, but do not abandon that idea. You are already stumped, so the next idea is going to be just as “bad” anyhow. Time to condemn yourself to a fate of having to make this one particular idea work.
#3 — Stop Criticizing
Mentally you might be saying “This idea sucks. I can do better.”
Sure you can, but can and will are not the same thing. You must commit to “will”. You will make this game a great one. You will make this idea work for your game. You will not give up just because you feel like the well of ideas has run dry.
Push yourself past your own doubts and criticisms, and do not settle for “good enough.” You will deliver a great game by toughing out the moments when you feel that you have no good ideas left.
Designing sessions is not always easy, but it is through difficult work that we become masters of our craft.
By sticking with my objective and pushing myself to do my prep work I did eventually develop a couple of ideas for my next game. We played last Friday night and my players had a great time, and so did I.
Were these ideas my best? No. That did not matter though. The game was still fun.
Keep these three steps in mind if you ever feel like you have no good ideas. The truth is that you have plenty of good ideas, but you just have to commit yourself to making them work when they appear to be less than stellar.
Have you ever suffered from a lack of ideas? Leave a comment below and share with the rest of us how you overcame a lack of inspiration.