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Battling the Instinct That Wants You to Fail at D&D

by Mike on 8 November 2021

"You're not ready to run your next D&D game."

If you're like me and lots of other DMs out there, you hear this voice in your head nearly every time you're getting ready to run a D&D game. This voice tells you you're not ready to run your game. You may never be ready.

This voice doesn't want us to fail. It wants us not to even try.

For a video on this topic, see "You Are Not Prepared for your Next D&D Game" – Battling the Resistance.

Many DMs feel this anxiety before they're going to run a D&D game. Creating art is hard and creating art in front of our friends is even harder. Add on that we don't really know what sort of art we're going to create at the table and it's even easier to see why it can be so scary.

Whether you've DMed hundreds of times, only just a few, or you haven't DMed at all — that feeling of anxiety, the feeling that you're not ready to run, is common.

Experience doesn't make this instinct go away, but it does help us recognize it and learn how to get past it.

Combatting this Instinct

I propose three ways to combat this instinct pushing us away from running games:

Having some sort of system to help you prepare your games helps get past this anxiety and inertia. I think that's why so many have found the eight steps from Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master so valuable. It's one system, one that works for a lot of people, and helps you say "I know I'm prepared enough because I've gone through my steps and have what I need to run a game". Even if you modify the steps to fit your style or even if you have your own unique steps, having some system to help you prep helps you get past the voice pushing you away from creating art.

The tools you keep on hand to run your games helps as well. If you've used these tools before, they help remind you that you can do this because you already have. Think of your tools as totems to keep away the evil spirits telling you you're going to fail. You'll be fine. You've done it before.

Finally, our friends are on our side. They just want a fun game. They're not looking for the best game ever. They're looking for a good time sharing a few laughs while enjoying fantastic tales of high fantasy. Your friends are with you. Don't let this voice tell you otherwise.

We need not fight this instinct. It's a part of us. Don't arm-wrestle it. Thank this feeling for its service helping us avoid getting eaten by sabertoothed tigers. Set it aside. And get back to running games for your friends.

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This work includes material taken from by Michael E. Shea available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

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