It’s not the most intuitive notion, but taking a break from gaming is a good way to improve your GMing. Don’t just take a break from GMing, take a break from gaming.

(Some of you may know that my wife and I had our second daughter recently. No, this is not the result of sleep deprivation; I had this piece half-written before the third trimester.)

I’ve taken a few breaks from gaming. One was nearly 20 years, during which I pursued a broad range of activities and became a much more well-rounded person than I was in high school. Many of my experiences make me a far better GM; nearly all of them make me a better person.

I took over a year off from GMing for my first daughter’s birth, and went from being a prep-heavy, rule-bound D&D 3.5 fan to an improv-loving Savage Worlds fan. That much of a jump in GMing style would have been impossible without a break. (No, a break needn’t be that long.)

Why should you consider taking time off from gaming?

  • A break allows you to immerse yourself in the real world, to learn about people and things that may have been occluded by gaming. When the break’s over, you can bring these things back into your game, and it will be a better game for it.
  • A break lets your creative batteries recharge. Your ideas will fully mature and become deeper and more solid before being put into play.
  • A break lets you drop bad habits and predictable behaviors, and come up with new approaches to GMing.
  • The ideas and thoughts bubbling around your subconscious can come out and play, instead of being pushed aside for ‘more of the same’. This is how I went from being a by-the-book 3.5 gamer to an improv-heavy Savage.
  • A long enough break gives you the time to learn a new gaming system, embrace a different genre, or tweak existing ones.
  • Your gaming group may change as the result of a break. This is not a bad thing; many groups get stale, and keep covering the same ground over and over.
  • During a break, you’ll be spending more time with the people in your life, or meeting new ones. This is definitely a good thing.
  • When you come back, everything will look new again. You’ll see things you hadn’t seen before, and take approaches you hadn’t considered before.
  • Finally, when you come back, you’ll have more enthusiasm and energy, which will translate into a better game for everyone.

I’m currently taking a break from gaming, mainly because of the birth of our second daughter. I’m still a gamer, and still a Gnome, but I’m also pursuing other hobbies and activities in my time away. Heck, I’ve already stumbled on my next campaign concept, but that’ll have to wait until another time…

Have you gotten positive results from hanging up your dice for a while? Think that life without gaming, even for a month or two, is impossible? Sound off in the comments and let us know!