When you need a break from GMing, whether it’s a short one or a long one — or even due to burnout — nothing recharges your batteries and stirs up your creative juices like spending time on the other side of the screen as a player.

Every GM is different, and every break is different. Right now my group is alternating two ongoing games: Sam runs D&D 3.5e two weeks in a row, then I run Mage two weeks in a row. I love my two weeks on, but I love my two weeks off, too. I’m not burning out, so the kind of break I need is pretty simple.

Here’s why playing is the best break from game mastering:

  • Less to think about. When I’m a player, I show up relaxed — I usually treat it like a little vacation. Part of that comes from having a lot less to worry about at the table, as well as…
  • No prep. This is a big one for me: I don’t have to worry about the game before the game. Time I would have spent prepping can be spent watching movies with Alysia, playing video games, reading, whatever.
  • A different focus. Shifting gears slightly lets me flex different mental muscles and reacquaint myself with aspects of gaming that are downplayed when I’m behind the screen.
  • New tricks. I always learn stuff by watching other GMs, and even though I’m taking a break from running games, GMing is never too far from my mind. It’s fun to be able to absorb elements of someone else’s style, and it can make for a smoother re-introduction to GMing.
  • Getting homesick. Playing often makes me miss GMing. It’s not that I don’t enjoy playing — I love it — it’s more that GMing is my default mode. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that.

I’m lucky enough to be part of a group with multiple GMs, though that hasn’t always been the case. Even if you don’t have that luxury, though, there are always conventions, FLGS game nights and other ways to put this simple technique for recharging your GMing batteries into practice.

What’s your favorite break from GMing?