GMpreneur Burnout: Too Much, Too Early?

It’s good to go in on your passions. Regardless of anything else, there’s a special feeling of confidence and competence that comes out of your own unique mix of skills and curiosities.

The danger, though, is in letting your pursuit of passion blind you to the rest of your life – or forget that passions are, ultimately, more about people than achievement. On the weekend gone, I learned that even GMpreneurship isn’t immune to this problem.

The Deathwatch roleplaying game. Image from Fantasy Flight Games.

I had this big announcement planned for Saturday. After a few weeks of not-so-subtle hints, I was gearing up to reveal the new podcast project I had been working on: A weekly show based on the fortnightly get-togethers of four friends and I to play Deathwatch, the RPG I’ve mentioned more than a few times on this site.

I had big plans and all. I planned to monetise the podcast via Patreon, and was secretly harbouring the idea that it could earn me a few hundred bucks a month from Warhammer 40,000 fans. The sort of money that would not just take a few fiscal pressures off my wife Vickie and I but also give us a decent disposable income.

Who knows? Maybe it could be the first serious step in becoming a serious GMpreneur, the first mile on the road to Mercerville, playing RPGs for theatres, auditoriums, hell, stadiums of folks.

On top of that, a local mate asked me a few weeks ago if I could introduce her and her friends to Dungeons & Dragons and I had a blast doing so at their place, so much so that it was starting to look like a regular thing; between their game and Deathwatch, I was looking at a four hour session once per week.

For a guy who still had (and has) his doubts about his GMing abilities, it was one hell of a high.

Then came Friday night and a reality check – accompanied, sadly, by a downer.

7AM Saturday was the next get-together for my players and I for Deathwatch. We were going to be down two, so I was expecting a comparatively short session (an hour or so instead of four), but I still wanted to get a decent amount of sleep in before I got up at 5:30 or 6 to get set for the recording.

It was just after 10PM on Friday night, and after some couch time with Vickie I was thinking about showering and going to bed when the Jean Claude van Damme movie Hard Target came on TV. Vickie hadn’t seen it before and wanted to watch it with me (I’d seen it but not in years). So we watched until midnight. All the while, though, I had half an eye on the living room clock.

I showered, slept some, got out of bed at 6AM and had the session. After it wrapped, I tried heading back for bed – to discover that Vickie had only had three quarters of an hour’s sleep all night.

There’s something I ought to explain. For the past few years, Vickie has had chronic health problems. Last year was particularly bad, seeing at least eight separate trips to the hospital with kidney stone related trouble (five of those by ambulance). This year’s not been as bad but Vickie’s had around three trips by ambulance so far, and two scheduled day procedures that turned into at least overnight stays when she came out from under the general anaesthetic in more pain than the doctors were expecting.

Our back yard has felt the effect of this. It’s probably obvious who the green thumb is out of Vickie and I, and we have a big yard (1,300 square metres, including the house). Thanks to her medical woes, Vickie can’t spend anywhere near as much time in our back yard as she’d like, and the yard has gone somewhat neglected beyond regular mowing.

Vickie’s been determined to get it sorted, but she needs help. And sometimes, she needs a little distraction from the pain and some attention from the man she loves.

Instead, said husband had been chasing a dream, patting himself on the back for his cleverness at getting so much gaming going and keeping one eye on the fucking clock rather than being mindful of the most important person in his life.

I decamped to the spare room to let Vickie get some decent sleep without our dog pacing up and down the bedroom wanting attention, and after a nap, the downer came rolling in. I shut the Facebook group I’d set up for the Deathwatch podcast down, backed out of the one I’d set up for the D&D game and a bunch of other groups, unsubscribed from a heap of entrepreneurial groups and podcasts and announced to both groups of players that I was quitting the games the RPG hobby and even podcasting (yup, had another “shut Paid to Play down” moment).

Just ask my lady and mates how many times I’ve done shit like that.

Later on Saturday, I had a good chat with Vickie about what was going on and the overall goal of GMpreneuship (yep, prime communicator, me). She pointed out a lot of what I’ve said above and how four hours (plus travel and/or setup) every weekend was being pretty cheeky right when she needed me. Also, Vickie reckoned that I was wearing myself into the ground trying to monetise, and that I ought to just game for the fun of it for a while.

The solution, as we saw it, was to stick with fortnightly gaming for the moment, which meant that I had to choose one of the two games – and, sad to say, especially as I was going to be disappointing some good mates after I’d roped them into playing, I honestly felt more satisfied playing Dungeons & Dragons with my new local friends than playing Deathwatch over the web. (Thankfully, my friend was still very keen to go on with me as GM, so our session this coming Sunday is back on.)

And oddly enough, despite the potential for GMpreneurship and Patreon backing (even if the hoped-for hundreds may have been a bit away), I had to admit, it is a relief to not worry about monetising.

Vickie and I wound up spending most of the weekend at work in the yard and I feel a lot better for it – not only that, but the yard is looking a lot better. There’s some work still to go, though, and then there are some bits and pieces around the house that need doing (especially in light of my fortieth birthday party in around a month).

An annoying part of me wants to put a date on when I can get stuck back into GMpreneurship and maybe even warm Deathwatch back up, but I think I need to ignore that for now. I’ve recently realised that roleplaying games aren’t about the books, the rules, the planning and the sessions, they’re really all about the people, and as long as you’re sharing a good time with folks whose company you genuinely enjoy, anything else is gravy.

Hell, before Critical Role became the premiere Dungeons & Dragons live stream, it was the regular game of a bunch of longtime mates (who happened to be voice actors) just playing because they wanted to (before Felicia Day caught wind and made them An Offer They Couldn’t Refuse).

So for now, I aim to ease back, have fun, do some genuine work, look after my wife and see where life takes me for a bit. I don’t know what that makes me as an entrepreneur, but I think it’ll make me a saner human being.