Do other DMs get really anxious before A session?
By - Roliolioli
Yeah I still do, 4 years in. I like it. Feels like pre-show energy and it shows you care about the players and their experience.
I know it fades for some DMs over time but as I say I think it’s good sign.
EDIT: Also I bet your prep is great
I completely agree, its a sign you give a fuck. As a dm who has completely freestyled sessions and meticulously planned others, I find the more planned and anticipated by others a session the more pressure I put on myself for the session to kick ass.
In the end you've got to remember you're only in control if your DMing, its still up to the players to pick up the ball and run with it. I think conditioning your players on what to expect and how they can be good players is just as important as running a good game.
Pre-show energy is the right way to explain it. You're excited to do something fun and terrified everything will go wrong and you'll embarrass yourself. But when you remember that your players are expecting you to be a human being who makes mistakes and still have fun, it makes it a lot easier.
Doesn't mean you don't still get the jitters!
> Feels like pre-show energy and it shows you care about the players and their experience.
Exactly! It's always useful to remember that that feeling, the butterflies in your stomach thing, is a very low level biological response to something happening that you feel is important.
Whether you interpret that as "anxiety" or "nerves" or "excitement" or "I'm so fucking pumped up!" is almost entirely a learned response from a much higher level cognitive process. It *can* be a concious choice, although it can be difficult to change your normal response once you have one.
My first time DMing a proper campaign I made myself, using roll20 for the first time, I was nearly sick with nerves. After game I didn't sleep for hours from adrenaline. Game was great! Even if I overcomplicated the combat.
These days (~ 9 months later) I feel varying amounts of nerves, or if I'm fighting depression before game, but as soon as I do the recap and set the players loose it all just drops away.
Even if I spend most of a 3-4 hour session running complicated combat, by the end of the night I always feel better. Part of that is the players, who are amazing.
Personally I’m a planner by nature. I have major anxiety not being prepared for things and that is the challenge with Dnd. If you over plan and over prepare it’s stressful for you and it forces your players to conform and use less imagination. The key to less anxiety is finding the sweet spot where you feel prepared for what you want to happen, and also for what may happen, without making a rigid storyline that has to be followed exactly. If you have a plot outline have a general idea of what you want to happen in session and let the players actions guide you through it.
This comes with experience and practice. Making mistakes is part of the process. Ive been started to do story specific plans and general plans. I try to have something available if the players are looking for a side quest. And those encounters don't go bad. You can use them later in different scenarios with different context. Efficient planning is by far the best way to combat nerves. That takes practice. Mistakes are a big part of the learning process
Important thing as well: most of the time your players will not notice you've made a mistake. Maybe you wanted this character/fight/quest/whatever to be a bigger deal and it wasn't much of a thing. Players won't know, and in my experience at least, will still have fun even if your "cool" thing didn't work out the way you wanted it to.
First time this ever happened to me I was thinking "oh man I fucked this up, been thinking about it for x-weeks and now its fallen flat". Players had a great time and were really happy with how it all turned out. So. You learn to go with the flow. Unless OP is actively a bad DM in some way (which if they are worried about having bad sessions, I doubt it), they'll be fine.
To add on to this: I am also a planner, but I have learned to intentionally leave myself unprepared gaps to allow a little flexibility.
For instance in my last session the PCs found a minor villains transport. I hadn't detailed the untroubled at all in my planning, just adlibbed it in the moment. Not had I decided the combat tactics of the gargoyles defending the transport. Sometimes I'll leave while rooms in my dungeon planning blank, and fill it with whatever I need in the moment.
I have also found it useless to plan for what my players decide to do. Writing down DCs, if/then statements, etc is pointless. Better to spend that energy elsewhere, and instead decide what my NPCs and monsters will do. That's all you can control ultimately.
Yes, I like to plan encounters and then fit them into my story. It could be a prisoner instead of a prince but it gets the point across
What is a good balance? I want to do some ad libbing, bit I know that sometimes it ruins immersion
I made an entire ork storyline that wasn't used, hopefully remember it when needed. However, it had been a hot minute so who knows. My players don't know and that is all that matters. A lot of prep can be recycled so not completely wasted
Exactly, I stopped really "prepping" outside of just understanding the NPCs and maps/overall plot beats. Everything else is in the players hands.
I also even stopped staying on top of my players character sheet, like what spells they have and such. I just trust they have what they say and I will have my NPCs react accordingly. They will always throw me through a loop no matter how I prepare so its easier to just react and improv.
There are a number of good Alexandrian articles on how to "prep situations, not plots" that are incredibly helpful in finding the exact balance you are talking about.
lots more explanations here: https://thealexandrian.net/gamemastery-101
I've been running games off and on for 30+ years. I'm nervous every single time. It happens. It's natural.
30 years? I've only DM'd for 7, I would be honored if you could offer advice or tell of some epic tales from your table.
I have only dmed for 7 as well but I would like to say that the group enjoyment is paramount including the dm. I had a party pull an entire dungeon an outsmart them with spells. It was low level but very smart and even if they "beat you" it is very compelling as a story.
Probably the wildest thing was just trying to play growing up in the heart of the Bible belt in the middle of the satanic panic of the 80's. We had to cut our books up and put them in trapper keeper binders just so they didn't get confiscated. It finally got too hard to hide, so we switched to Star Wars. Oddly enough, no one cared about Star Wars.
That's... Something else to be sure.
Yes absolutely, anxiety over "messing it up" has kept me from dm'ing as much as I would like for my family. I have two games I run off and on for my wife and teen daughter. They proclaim to have fun any game I run but I get too much into my head over messing it up. One of the games is Curse of Strahd so I start stressing over doing something to "mess up" the main story line, and the other is a temp agency game I run where you can literally play a different character every time if you want and the characters get points within the temp agency towards magical items.
Maybe not *really* anxious, but sometimes yeah. I’ve been DMing for fifteen years and out of those I’ve only just now started considering myself good in the last five.
I still get butterflies though. I want to put on a good show that everyone enjoys so sometimes there’s performance anxiety.
If I didn’t get at least a little nervous then I would stop DMing because it’d mean that I didn’t care.
Yep. After five years of DMing for this group, I am still anxious before almost every session.
Not so much in very combat-heavy sessions, but any time there are NPCs for the PCs to talk to I am nervous as hell the whole time. "Don't contradict previous shit, don't cut off future plot options with an improvised offhand comment, don't accidentally create a plothook for a story that doesn't exist", etc.
I try to channel that anxiety into preparation fuel. Thinking critically and trying to anticipate as many possible scenarios as I can helps calm me down and make me feel more in control. Writing it ensures anything I don't use that session is banked for later and thus not wasted, and I think the act of writing it down itself is also soothing.
Yes, and I’ve been running games on and off since the late 70’s. Some of us are just wired that way.
I usually don't.
Matter of fact I don't even prepare a lot.
I set up some general premises and I then DM by reacting the things the players does.
Most of the things I just make it up during the session itself.
I've gotten the feeling that the more prep the more pressure to remember it in perfect detail. A general outline of the plot and how to integrate hooks to individual players and an NPC name sheet has gotten me through a lot. This might be a hot take, but it makes the world feel a lot more natural since it's mostly reaction to players.
Edit: my game is more sandbox.
It sounds like predetermined vs pregenerated and I like it. There is a big difference between choosing a story and choosing a setting that I think a lot of dms fall into. Yes players will not choose your story but what are they actually interested in?
I do the same, but I've tried making extensive notes. Usually I just have a bullet list of what needs to happen
When I let go and accept that I can roll with anything that happens and still have fun it relieves SOOO much pressure, which can actually improve my GM performance, IMO. I listen to the last few minutes of my recording from the previous session and maybe make a few bullet points or jot down an NPC name I forgot. It has changed my game completely.
*Edited grammar and clarity*
Me too. Thought i do have a bunch of random NPCs, locations and events that i wrote and can just pull up if i need them or think they will fit. Its hard to plan for players, both the roleplayers and min maxers in my party tend to take unexpect choices and just put the spotlight on me to react to them. I do enjoy the moments that arise from the creativity.
They used the ship they own and a tribe of kobolts (with a wererat leader) to overthrow a colonial settlement by taking over a coastal fort and using its gunpowder stores to destroy the settlements defences to overthrow the governor who tried imprisoning them.
Now i couldnt have predicted or planned they might do this so almost all the session bar the imprisonnent was semi planned. And the party was very creative in how they escaped, fought and bargained with their allies. This session used up a lot of those NPCs i had planned and laying around ha.
I have constant anxiety about everything.
I also have this issue. However half of my anxiety stems from the 2 times this campaign has actually failed (the people I tried playing with were friends who just weren't into d&d enough to make the commitment and it kept fizzling out).
The crew I'm with now are amazing, and despite how anxious I get just before the session I always just go over all my notes, listen to my music selections, and I find that once the session starts, and I see everyone having fun, my anxiety melts away.
Stage fright is normal. It's important to set realistic expectations for the session and maybe not be so hard on yourself and your abilities as a DM. Remember it's just a game. If all else fails, talk to the group about how you're feeling and maybe that you need to step down as DM. Your mental health should always come first.
Yes. All the time. I usually need the first 2 minutes of a game railroad prepped so that I know what we're doing.
After the momentum gets going, I can improvise with the best. But it's hard to *get* going.
I think it's normal to be a little nervous before a performance.
Becoming comfortable with my style of dming and my ability to improvise took away most of it though.
Usually if it's like the very first session for a campaign or your first time in general. But after the first go and I see how my player go, I kinda just go with the flow and it ends up being a really enjoyable time
Totally normal. Even different types! Anxiety over messing up your plans, about not handling a big reveal properly, about balancing secret backstories...even about letting down one's friends if the session isn't 100% entertaining.
It's normal, so just try to remember that it's also just a game, played with friends, for fun. If you mess up something story-wise, there'll be more opportunities. If you have a bad game, it happens, you can just try to do better next time. Remember that this kind of pressure you put on yourself is usually the type of pressure you might expect from your actual job, where doing a bad job might get you fired or in trouble. But this is a hobby! It's okay to stumble, to admit to your players that oh you didn't plan for what they just did, etc.
I'm about to run a session in less than an hour. My players have taken these characters from 1 to 17, including a whole official campaign followed by some homebrew adventuring. I've been playing d&d with these guys, my real life friends, for about 7 years, playing 1-2 times weekly. These guys shower me with compliments about my DMing, never miss my sessions, and always seem to have fun.
I am nervous right now. It happens to everyone. It gets easier.
For me I usually get it literally just a few minutes before we start. Its as if all the confidence I had in my prep work suddenly vanishes and my mind derps out during the recap of the previous session haha. Once things are going after a few minutes however I'm usually fine.
I usually attribute it to my imposter syndrome however immediately casting doubts. Imposter syndrome is fairly common when you're sharing creative work. Might be the same thing for you?
Every. Damn. Time.
Then we play and everyone enjoys it and I freak out after whether or not everybody did enjoy it while I'm prepping for the next one.
Rinse repeat every time I dm.
So I will tell you upfront I do get nervous before session 100% of the time. However if you have people that keep coming back for every session clearly you are doing something right. It sounds like it is obviously too late to do a session 0 with the current group but a check in is never a bad idea just to be like “hey if there is something about the game that you have concerns about or whatever either tell me after the session or text me if you don’t feel comfortable talking about it in the context of a group setting.” I had a player from one group sit in on the session of a second group I run because he wants to learn to dm and he had a similar worry, my advice Friday night was you will always get nervous but there are ways to mitigate that worry and faith that your players will see a person who is trying to make sure everyone else is having a good time and give you a little grace if you stumble
It varies from group to group.
For three of my four groups, yes. For the fourth group, no.
In the no-anxiety group, everyone has been a long term DM or GM and everyone is at least a decent roleplayer. They know what it is like to be behind the screen and that means that they know what player conduct makes life as a DM easy or hard.
They dont ignore quest hooks (though they naturally decline some), they explore and interact with the world, they interact with each other, they're fans of each other's characters, and they take initiative in general. All that sounds small but it takes most of the weight off of my shoulders.
Yes, every session. I think one of the most important things is to make sure that there's no actual cause (i.e. a problem player or you don't like where the campaign is going) that you can directly address. If there is, you gotta address it. If not, I think one of the best ways to get out of your own head is to start with 10-15 minutes of ooc banter with your players. Talk about what they think is gonna happen this session, if they've been looking forward to it or not, things tangentially related so it's easy to bring it back for session time. This is also a good way to find out if something you've been doing is bothering a player, as if they tell you they aren't looking forward to session either there might be an underlying issue there (perhaps this is the cause you were looking for initially, or maybe it's unrelated. Either way, it's good to find these things out). If nothing really comes up though, it's usually a good way to remind yourself that your players are enjoying themselves, which is usually helpful to ease those pre-session jitters.
Yes. The first session I ever ran (online), I got so nervous I logged out and texted everyone I had technical issues. Got back on 10 minutes later once I got my shit together.
I get the same feelings here and there before a session if I "haven't prepped enough" because everyone is expecting me to have something great for them.
Its usually fine and everyone has fun. It goes away over time.
Every single time; that or I feel this feeling of “I really don’t wanna play tonight…” as soo as I start playing and push past all that I am really happy.
Oh yeah, for sure.
I've been doing this for 10 years now. I run 3-6 games a week, and I do this professionally. I still get jitters before every single session.
The thing that really helps for me is going over the material again. A couple hours before the session I just sit down with my maps and notes (and the module, if I'm running a published one) and read it all again to fix things in my mind. I find that as long as I'm actively prepping the material, my brain quiets down.
That said, it's inevitable that you will make some mistakes, at some point. That's okay. You don't need to be perfectly planned or perfectly knowledgeable. Players don't come to the game expecting a perfectly-predicted experience. If they did, they'd read a novel, or maybe play a very linear video game. One of the best skills you can learn as a DM is how to accept that you won't always get everything right and think of "mistakes" as practice, rather than as failure.
In the words of Timothy Zahn: "Anyone can make an error. It does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it."
I wrote a book about simplifying our game prep and have used it to prep hundreds of sessions and I still get nervous before my games. I think it’s part of the natural process of being creative in front of our friends. I find that having a system, any system, to help you prep and *feel* prepped helps. Good luck!
I get nervous after the session. I think about all the things I did and could have done better. What rulings I made and if they were unfair, inconsistent, or irritating. I nitpick my improv and yell at myself for not being smarter.
The only time I am nervous before a session is when I feel like I didn’t dedicate time enough to prepare for it, or I don’t know where the players will go. But most of my worry is spent on whether or not I am good enough after the session.
Yes, you are not alone.
I can only speak personally, I have been DMing for a couple of years and still get this feeling. I think so long as you go into the session with the mindset that you are there to have fun and provide the fun for others then 99% of the time you'll always come out feeling like a champ.
Keep on keeping on! You got this!
Yeah, I've only been DMing for a month or 2 and the hour leading up to game time is taken up by nausea, double and triple checking my notes and logging in to roll20 multiple times to make sure all my maps are right and dynamic lighting is set up.
I'm usually fine once we get underway but that initial play time is nerve wracking as hell.
Yup, every time.
I love to DM and I'm pretty good at it, but right before each session I'm very anxious.
Absolutely! I'm someone who has suffered from an anxiety disorder for decades but somehow the anxiety before a game is more akin to the excitement anxiety before performing in a big concert or at a public event. I try to have all my prep done before the day of play, or at least a few hours before to give myself the time to relax and shift my brain into dming mode.
I find it harder to deal with restless energy after the session ends, probably because we play online, Im missing out on feeling any closure, sometimes we hangout online and chat but often people leave because it's midnight, which I understand.
Good luck with your prep and dming tummy butterflies!
I’ve been DMing off and on (mostly on) for close to 20 years now, and I still get pre-show jitters from time to time, but it’s not as bad as it once was.
My advice: run a couple of one-shots where you don’t prep a single thing. In my experience, Lasers & Feelings and Everyone is John are really good for this. The more experienced/comfortable you are with your ability to make an entertaining session off the cuff, the less anxious you’ll feel about not being prepared.
Yes, every time, and I’ve been playing since the 80s.
Trust that you know what you’re doing. You do.
Trust that your players will forgive or not even notice any mistakes you make. They will.
Trust that your players are going to do their best to make sure everyone has a great time. They will.
Trust that you have the skills to create a safe, exciting, surprising space for your players to play in. You do.
Trust that even if your game session isn’t perfect — and there’s no such thing as a perfect session anyway! — you can make your game session a great one. You can.
You’ve got this. You really do. Only crappy DMs never worry about whether or not they’re good enough.
Everyone gets nervous. Anyone who claims that they don't is either a sociopath or a liar, or both lol. Everyone always tells me how good I am at speaking in front of large groups and when I tell them that inside I was actually a nervous wreck and that if only they could see my knees shaking behind the podium, they always say they can never tell. So really the issue isn't about being nervous, its about handling your nerves. You honestly just gotta power through and do it. You'll always be nervous to some degree, but experience is what helps you handle it better.
I don't agree with the "everyone gets nervous, anyone who claims that they don't is either a sociopath or a liar or both" part, because I know people that truly don't feel nervous and are also definitely not sociopaths or liars. They are a lucky bunch.
I do however agree with the rest of your comment. I've always been terrible (or terribly nervous) at presentations, leading groups, meeting with clients at work and other things where people focus on me and where I have responsibilities. Over the years that has changed though. At first I was just as nervous as ever, but at least the quality of my presentations improved because I 'faked it', faked the confidence. And after some more years I guess I 'made it', as in "fake it til you make it". I'm no longer nervous to the point that I feel sick, or that I would like to do nothing more than cancel whatever it is I have to do. It took a lot of practice and patience, but these things are a skill that you can get better at. I now love to DM'ing, in I fact volunteered to do so because I think it's the most fun part of D&D. I don't think I would've asked to do such a thing 10 - 15 years ago, instead leaving it up to others to take on that role.
Always but I'll say that it gets better when I run regular sessions (every two weeks) with the same players.
As we go on, I figure out what I can improvise with the group I'm DM'ing and what needs planned. Some parties I know are going to chat up the bartender for an hour. Others are gonna be hitting the major quests without any consideration for NPCs that aren't labeled with a giant ‼️ on their head.
Once I get a feel for the party and what they like, my time gets much easier.
That said, I always, ALWAYS should prep my monster and NPC stat blocks on a sheet for easy access somewhere. Whenever I don't, I just have way too much to track while improvising other things. If I forget the DC for a check on something I made up, it can break immersion with the inconsistency. A little piece of notebook paper goes a long way.
I just had my last session for a half year long campaign, i came with two maps from google.......and that's it, by the end 2 PC died, everyone cried, i made up the monologue, their influence on the world on the fly with regards to how I felt the moment needed to be felt.
You cannot be always prepared, just let it flow as it should, you are the captain in the sea of unknown, the players and dice roll that one.
I drink for this reason. The guys have a blast. (Roll20 ans discord).
I used to,but after a few years it, or more so after many games with your party. You just get real comfortable with them. Though sometimes when i have like a cinematic at the start i get nervous. But afyer 1 min i am settled in.
I get that shit days in advance, not so much right before.
3 days at work beforehand “I’m a shit DM and this hobby is stupid I should quit”
Day of: “RIDE THAT FUCKIN DRAGON BABAY!”
Yes. Just yes.
For me it's a thing that happened due to high standards of DMing I had seen on YouTube or streams. So for a lot of the sessions I had this nagging feeling of me not being as good as Matt Mercer or whomever.
I then realised, as long as my party is having fun and I'm doing the DMing my way, it'll be fine as the party and my fun is ultimately what matters. The anxiety then slowly went way, but it comes back every now and then when I feel like I could have ran a session better.
When I first started DMing definitely but now that I've been doing it for a while it's pretty natural for me. I did run a one shot for a mix of my current group and some other players and that got me a bit nervous (also was with a brand new system).
I've always struggled with performance anxiety so I suppose on some level I expect it to be present. Learn to identify it, label it and keep on moving.
I used to, but one day a player (who DMs for his own games) told me I should try playing a full session with zero prep. I tried it and had more fun than ever before, and the players loved it too. Over time I learned to stop trying to plan out every detail and instead just learn the world that I wrote, and improvise their story, I stopped getting nervous. Nowadays I do maybe 10% of the prep work I used to do and games run so much smoother. It may not work for everyone but it definitely worked for me.
YES every time and then it goes great.
Yes, every time. I just want my players to have fun. I'm always worried I don't have enough planned but then once we get into it, they RP amongst themselves and fill up some time.
Then for the other time, what I have planned ends up taking longer than I thought so I always have more for the next session.
Yes. It is currently the night before my first home game in about three months (life stuff in the way) and I am bricking it.
Right there with you!!! I'm DMing 4 different campaigns at the moment with 4 different groups. Each group is very different and I'm always nervous about playing with each one for various reasons.
In my case, something that I do to help with the anxiety is taking time to breathe and tell myself that it's okay if a session doesn't go exactly how I think it will or how I've planned it to be. And it's okay not to be perfect. My players are coming to play and have fun, not to criticize how accurately I played a certain NPC or how I accidentally forgot about how a specific monster makes two attacks rather than just one. I'm still not a perfect DM and it's sometimes hard to do what I've said. But it's all good!
I hope this was somewhat helpful! Good luck with finding out what works for you! You got this!
Yes. ‘Nuff said.
Absolutely! It's like getting ready for a gig, you've got nervous energy, and even though you've rehearsed everything, you still worry it might all go horribly wrong — but it won't, because you're playing a game with your friends!
Dude, welcome to the world of DMs. Almost every single one of us gets nervous before a session because we’ve spent days or weeks preparing for it while balancing real life (Work, relationships, leisure time, etc) and now we’re wondering if we missed something important or are worried that we’ll mess something up.
Heck, I have the most chill party ever and I still worry about disappointing them.
So don’t worry about it: it’s natural and it shows that you care.
I have really bad anxiety before and starting session. Ways to combat this that work for me: Deep breathing, reading over notes, setting an hour beforehand to mentally prepare, listening to D&D mindset music, and MAKE SURE your players settle down and listen for the beginning of session since a lot of times the players aren’t in the mindset at first. Don’t worry about doing combat wrong or saying something wrong, your players will still love the story you tell.
I've been doing it for years and still get some pretty intense anxiety before every session. It always disappears as soon as we start playing though
You get better with time. The first few times i was nervous i was gonna blow it but then it went away after that.
Every time. No matter how much—or how little—prep. That nervous energy and pre-game anxiety can be a useful tool….channel it into your game session.
I did for the first session i ever ram cause i planned a ton of things i wanted to do for the campaign but now i’m just rolling with the game and i’m not really nervous even if i don’t have any notes for a particular session
i imagine its kinda like public speaking, you'll get used to it like with most things, just have faith that your players are having fun and go with it
Nope. Even if something goes wrong, we improvise, adapt and overcome. Anxiety is something i reserve for work and life altering decisions. I don't have any to spare for recreation.
I usually drink a beer before/during a session and call it a go
I get anxious before every game and I've DM'd the same group every week for 7 years, also I will sometimes have a huge panic attack after the game because of all the adrenaline still flowing through my body from keeping track of everything. I swear sometimes it feels like torture not fun, then I power through it and have so much fun I can't wait to put myself through it all again next week.
Almost every time. The more that I have to prep, the more nervous I get. If I'm running a pre-written adventure that doesn't require much adjustment on my part, it's a lot better, but I'm still at least a little nervous.
I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder so... yes haha. Honestly, what has helped is just consistent practice. I'm a few sessions deep into my current campaign and I'm finally starting to feel more confident about my skills as a DM. The things that have helped me are being prepared within an inch of my life, asking for specific feedback on my sessions, and talking through the sessions with someone else later. I'm also DMing for a pretty small group (three people) so there's fewer variables and I am comfortable with each of my players. Knowing my players well has helped me stay in tune to how they're feeling about a session and whether or not they like it.
Another thing that's helped me is creating campaigns in known worlds. For example, I'm currently running a campaign set in Hyrule and am planning one set in Middle-Earth for the fall. At first it was stressful because I didn't want to get the details wrong, but I soon realized how much more manageable it made planning sessions. I already know or have easy access to what places look like and the lay of the land. And my love for the stories in these worlds helps my fears of running a shitty session.
Honestly, in some ways it never gets easier. I had a session last week that I almost quit on before we even started (one player was late and by the time she got here I had lost my gumption). But it does get more manageable.
I used to but then gained a lot more experience (starting my 4th campaign). Also to quote Bill Murray in Meatballs "It just doesn't matter."
Almost every time.
I used to but after starting a few campaigns I began to learn how to prep for a session more and more. For me home brewing is easier than following a module, once you figure out how each player may or may not react to certain scenarios things get interesting.
Honestly, I think this is one of the perks for running Play By Post. I ran a solo game for about a year for a friend, one of the best games either of us have ever been a part of. No anxiety about stuttering over descriptions, forgetting info, or otherwise messing up on my part. On top of that I can really get into RPing, scroll up to remind myself of something that happened a few days ago, and essentially play 24/7. I love it.
Yes. You are nervous because you want everyone to have fun and it matters to you that you do a good job. Which honestly should be commended because that is part of the secret sauce.
There is no magic potion to making it go away, BUT I do think it good to remeber that if they come back they had a great time!
9/10ths of life is just showing up and trying. You are going to have AMAZING sessions and ones that suck. Both are great because one showed me what I did right and the other what i can work on. But if i didnt put myself out there and try, I wouldn't have so many great memories of my friends enjoying adventures I created.
I fail a lot. I try stuff, it doesnt work and then I try something else and it might work. Those failures i will tell people like a badge of honor because the people who fail are the ones who dare to try. And what are the stories we tell as DMs but that in miniature? Heroes going out on adventure into the unknown to return with what someone needs. Or DMs being vulnerable and seeing what happens when we give our friends (or new friends) attention and respect.
When running for strangers, yes, when running for my #1 group no. I tend to get wound up and anxious afterwards instead and start to go over everything I should've done better.
Every single time I DM. I’ve been DMing on and off for almost 9 years, granted I’m an anxious person by nature but to me it’s part of the experience. Being a DM is a werid thing because it both requires that you be someone who likes control and someone whose okay with giving up control. One bit of advice as just accept the anxiety as a part of the process. Sorta of like how actors consider it normal to have “pre show jitters”. I consider it normal to have “pre session jitters” it doesn’t mean that I’ve under prepared or forgotten something, that nervousness is just a part of my process.
Nah I completely get this especially with new groups or modules. I think planning can really help but abit of nerves keeps me on my toes so I thrive a little on it.
My recommendation is to embrace it and if new players are joining take 20 mins and have a casual chat see if your players want to bring anything it helps you create a good environment too ! Give you chance also to help build abit of hype for the session.
Extremely normal for everybody who is even remotely anxious. :)
100%. I have been DMing for about 3 yrs now and I get anxious before every session. I think this is a sign that you really care about what you’re doing, which is great!
For advice, I would say planning always helps but know you can’t possibly plan for everything so it’s okay to feel unprepared. Additionally, just think that your players probably see you as a master storyteller and even your improv can leave them going “Woah, how did they plan for that?”
In conclusion, you’re doing great!
A little, but I always end up improving 80% of it and it works out!
It's like before you step into an examination hall, or step up to give a presentation. You need to enter into a specific mode of yourself that is lazer focused on a specific skillset and personality you have to perform to the absolute best of your ability.
What if this time, when accessing that state, you aren't up to par? What if you haven't prepared enough for this?
It's a mindgame that needs to be played everytime you need to enter, and the easiest way to get through the threshold is to just do it. Step into the exam hall, run up to present and give your biggest "Hello"...
Throw up the DM screen, clap your hands, and smile: "Our adventure continues,"
It always helps to have a ritual, or a gimmick you pull when entering that state. Try to find one that you're comfortable with and use it everytime you need to get in the zone to run the game.
For almost 40 years. Every Dang time. And it (almost) always works out. Totally worth it.
I definitely used to, but I’ve been DM’ing off and on for the same group for almost 20 years now. These days I just get excited that we managed to schedule a session (there are 6 of us and we’re pretty stubborn about everyone being present). If you stick with the same group I would guess the nerves will change to excitement
Very much so
I'm nervous the first few sessions with a new group or a new system. I was nervous tonight because I was DMing Pathfinder 2e for the first time with a new group. It went well so now I'm excited for the next sessions instead of worried.
I've got over a thousand games under my belt and it still happens every single time.
Not really. I’ve been lucky enough to not have too much of a problem with anxiety. I’m pretty laid back, and I roll with what the players want to do. I have a goal set in mind, but I don’t over plan sessions because they never turn out like you. I end up adlibbing much of the events between point a and b.
i get anxious before sessions, mostly because i just want people to have fun and worry that they won't with what i've prepared. drinking a couple beers throughout the session helps me loosen up and relax.
i'm not talking getting hammered and slurring your way through encounters, just relaxing.
I always get nervous that I don't have enough ready or I won't be able to improvise well. I try to remind myself that they keep coming for a reason, and that means I can't be THAT bad
I've DM'd for a year and 45 minutes before we have to start, I get awful, awful anxiety. Like fight or flight level of fear. It goes away 10+ minutes after we start and comes back during any breaks we take
It's also really important for a new DM to communicate with their party outside the game. When I started we were all learning the game together so it was important to be patient with each other while figuring out the game.
This is still really relevant even 5 years down the road. As a DM if I ever need to pause and think about a situation or go over my notes, I take my time. So I suggest you just take your time when you feel pressure coming.
I don't, but I only play with people I know well, and have planned ahead some number of sessions in advance. As you get experienced as a GM, you'll learn that you really only need to know somehow to get your PCs from A-? and that no matter how hard you prep, they'll take some road you didn't prepare.
If you're playing with people that respect you, understand the scope of the game, and where they're going, everyone should be comfy going into any game, knowing that you might fudge some rules to get them a fun end of session.
I'm curious: are you playing your own adventure or a module?
I found that the best thing for it was to just... tell my group that I get anxious before sessions. The anxiety almost completely went away after I did that and my players replied with "oh yeah, I get nervious sometimes too, but just like you told us we can ask for a break at any time, remember that you can do that too". Now when I feel the tension creeping up, or just realize that I need to go to the bathroom or should get something to eat, I just tell them, and it's done wonders for my wellbeing as a DM.
Every single time. Sometimes I even do cancel.
Yes i do :(
Yep. Early on for me I was always very anxious about it. But after doing this for going on 2 years, it's more like pre-show jitters now. I review my notes before the game with a drink and get ready to have a good time with my friends.
Being prepared for what I planned to do in addition to (if somewhat less so) what I think the players might do instead of that helps my anxiety, and that extra prep frequently helps me during sessions as well.
It also helps that everybody tells me they're having fun, they keep showing up, and nobody else wants to take over. Nobody better is stepping up, so why worry about it? I'm the guy. We're doing this thing.
Just use the Porky Pig technique.
So, I have social anxiety. I dislike attention. I love dnd.
So what do I do? I decided to post on reddit asking for people in my city if they wanted to play dnd. We got together at a public coffee house and I was sweating so bad it dripped on the table while I talked, haha.
It’s been a year and a half! We still meet and yeah sometimes I’m awkward or not on my a-game (today!) but there is **nothing** wrong with that.
We all have our own struggles and we are all at different places. It’s okay to experience and feel that and still love the game.
I'm a relatively new DM, having my first major campaign currently. Something I did after the first few sessions that helped me prep enough in time was asking my players what their characters wanted to do next session. It was enough that I could kind of plan in advance what they would do, and it lacks spontaneity but after a few sessions I kind of have a better feel for my characters.
You'll never be prepared enough and that's OK.
Especially if you're playing with a group of friends, your party will appreciate any amount of effort you put in so they get to have fun with the experience. At the very worst, an encounter on the fly isn't that hard-- nor is googling an ancient insight you didn't think someone would roll a natural 20 + 2 on.
I usually get one of the players to summarize, what happened in the last session - it gets everyone op to speed, and sets the mood.
On a plus side, it also often gets the players talking, about their thoughts on what's going on in the world - that's a great source of inspiration. ;)
Oh for sure! The more I plan, the more I stress. And the less I plan, the more I stress.
Are they going to have fun?
Is this encounter not hard enough, or will it tpk? Is this puzzle too easy Or is it too hard?
Is my sister going to start making anime uwu noises in her room and I hear it at the big reveal and make me lose my train of thought?
Have I re read the rules for the rules lawyer? I cant cave to the rules if it ruins something cool though, right?
I have Just-ALL the intrusive thoughts pre game.
And then we all get together in call, we shit talk and break the tension for a few minutes till everyone shows, and then we play.
I’m still stressed. But a fun kind of stress? And addicting stress? Like I wanna re-commit to this brand of stress every two weeks, and spend a significant amount of time planning for that stress every day.
Yes, though that's usually overridden by frustration at all my players being late again.
I’ve been DMing for 20+ years, I still get nervous before games… and during…… and after.
Not anymore… But that’s because I’m playing with a comfortable group.
I used to get really freaked out when I started playing/running online games with strangers through Google+ or Roll20. But since G+ perished, I’ve basically stopped… sadly.
I can say that I definitely do before every session, heck even for the free days prior to it. Just know it's pretty normal nothing to be embarrassed about.
Something that really helped me was to talk to my players and ask what they liked and what they would change. We made a couple of tweaks, and now I know the game is closer to what they want, so I'm not as nervous anymore. Still, a little nervous can be good. Keeps you on your toes. It gets easier, but it should never be easy.
YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS ugh it's the worst.
Welcome to the life of a DM. For me, DMing is really stressful until the session is over. After that, it's like a weight has been lift off my chest.
Not anymore. I used to get anxious about having to improvise things I hadn't planned for. However, I've learned that I'm pretty good at improvisation and my group has seemed to really enjoy everything I've had to improv. So, I prepare as much as I can, but I can roll with the punches if needed. So I go into sessions just ready to have some fun and create some fun for the players. :)
I always always get anxious before I DM. Equal parts introversion and imposter syndrome. Typically it's not until the players start to really get into their characters that that melts away and I'm in the sweet spot where my creativity takes off.
I only get anxious if I didnt have enough time to prep. I play open world with my group so I've gotten used to curve balls so I think that's helped a lot.
lot of comments already empathizing, and rightly pointing out that any performance is nerve-wracking, so i’ll say this:
physiologically, excitement and nervousness are the same (or at least so similar to almost be indistinguishable). they affect the same brain pathways, affect your body the same, etc. whenever i’m feeling nervous or anxious, i make a conscious effort to remind myself that i’m really excited. just framing it wrong. i’m not nervous that the session will bomb, i’m excited because i love the material i’ve planned and to see how my players react. i’m not nervous that this new accent or voice I’ve given to an NPC is gonna sound like shit, i’m excited that i get to expand my vocal repertoire.
change the channel, man. reframe your thinking. you’re excited, not nervous. remind yourself that, at the end of the day, you’re getting together with people to play a game to have fun. it doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to go perfectly to plan, and the stakes couldn’t be lower.
Every time. The hardest part is starting. Once I'm in, I can go go go. It's just getting over that first hurdle
I am an rn.
I can be more anxious prior to a session than during an arrest call.
I'm 4 years in on the DMing thing and absolutely. Major anxiety struggles in the hour, sometimes entire day of a game. I can't really offer any advice. Wine helps but I try not to drink before the session starts. Prepping more/prepping less doesn't seem to help. I'll prep like 4 sessions' worth of content and still feel underprepared. My prep could be a single sentence on a piece of paper and I know the session will still run just fine. But pre-session nerves, always always.
Luckily the nerves seem to clear out about 5 minutes in. But it sucks a bit to be anxious and nauseous before a session for absolutely no reason when you *know* you're ready and that your players enjoy your DMing style.
If anyone figures out a fix, lmk.
I get excited and mildly nervous, I sometimes fret a bit...but mostly I am just excited. I want to be sure I will do a good job, but I mostly find myself itching for everyone to arrive?
We've been playing for 26 years and i still get anxious when i'm introducing a new important NPC or place.
After such a long time i don't prep as much anymore and wing it most of the time. We're all plying to have fun so what can go wrong (famous last words ;)
I’ve never dm’d but I figure it’d be natural for most dm’s to feel nervous before a session, it’s not just a bad thing it can also be a sign of excitement, as a player I get giddy and have trouble sleeping the night before session day, I find myself pacing around the house before our session 😂, it’s only natural
I always get anxious to the point where I literally want to stop DMing at all, despite it being so much fun for me. Its so weird…
Whilst I see people's point about this nervousness being good: Showing you care, if it is causing you meaningful distress please consider discussing this with your players or with a professional! Anxiety is never a positive, and to me, this comes down to a fear of being 'enough' for your players. You can care about something and still not be affected by the coming of that thing, if you realise that you are enough, and that the work you have done is enough, and that not everything has to be perfect.
Just my two cent :)
Yeah, I do. Even after many years and many campaigns. But that's how I am. I also get nervous before giving a presentation at work or similar.
Once we get going it usually subsides though. :)
Yes but that's just because I have anxiety
Yes but only because I’m lazy and work on prep mostly in the hour before the session, sometimes hoping for the players to be late lmao
Everytime. But damn does it feel good to care about something so much I'm nervous about how it will go.
Yup. Every week.
All the time
Can have done all the prep and wonder "will this be fun or will it be too easy and boring" etc etc
Everyone always has a good time though
It used to be the case for my first few sessions, but as I got to understand the group and started planning to a point where I felt satisfied, that went away.
Remember, you are the conduit through which the players experience the world. If you only tell them about one thing, that's the thing they are going to go for.
Give the players two options: one that seems really fun and cool, and one mediocre one. The players feel like they have a choice, and they always going to go for the more exciting one (which you have prepped).
All the time my friend. Once you get into the mindset that DMing is not a performance, it's a conversation, then you'll start to be less nervous. At least, that's how I dealt with my anxiety.
Had our first in person session ever over the weekend, as we started during lockdown. Had massive stressy nerves for 2 weeks before it. I’ve been an amateur actor on stage at least once a year every year since I was 8 (except 2020, booooo). I agree with people here, it’s a good thing! Keeps you on your toes, shows you care, all that good stuff. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but try not to think of it as a “bad” feeling.
The solution here is to share all those emotions with your players. Let them know. Saying it will totally deflate the bubble.
I'm a forever GM with decades of experience, and preshow jitters really isn’t there anymore. And I'm all for that. Just pleasure and eagerness to play is left. So be patient, with experience, you won’t be that stressed out.
But as I said, share. It’s a game, not a show, and you should be having fun without stressing over it.
I used to! But after almost 30 weeks I’m getting over it.
I wasn't during my first attempt. Then we had more sessions cancelled than not and now I get anxious when I get any indication someone might not show up. Doesn't help that half my players have their status permanently online or that one guy usually logs in like a minute before we start. (None of this is a problem).
Thing is I went from 3 players to 6, last session one person had to go halfway through (which I knew) and one came in pretty late. But there was never a risk of cancellation. But that doesn't mean I don't worry.
I get this everytime, and my solution isn't for everyone, but it works for me. I just drink lol. Not like getting plastered or whatever but one or two loosens me up just enough. I could never rp npc voices sober haha
Personally I only get anxious before some sessions, in particular when introducing things I'm not sure will be met well.
If the session just continues the plot of the previous one, I generally feel pretty relaxed.
It does happen to me from time to time but I have a weird reaction with anxiety. I'm just like "Wow why do I get anxious ? Weird" and then act perfectly normal while my heart beats at 100 mph.
I get anxious when preparing pre-made modules because I can't just make stuff up in those because I might fuck myself over in the long run and I might have to rewrite things. And I don't want to rewrite things for a pre-made module.
For my homebrew it's vastly different. That's my world, I know everything that's happening. I get excited, not anxious.
Oh my gosh. I get so anxious, and I spend the whole day overpreparing. If I'm working from a module, I always feel like I need to know the whole thing from front-to-back. Then when I run it, the players will do like one combat encounter and spend their whole time in the tavern.
Yeah I do. Especially if I didn't really plan for what to do. It was particularly bad when I was running Tomb of Annihilation and out of the abyss. Worse modules ever.
Dont have to be nervous if you preped and planned enough if you dont prep or plan.
No, but I've also been doing it for 20 years.
Yes! I’ve been my group’s regular GM since the 90s, and I get stage fright before every single session. Like you, I wonder if I’ve prepped enough, if what I’ve got planned will be any good, what they heck am I going to do if things go off the rails… For all the years I’ve been running games, this happens before every game, sometimes to the point where I have almost cancelled sessions.
What I do is to remember the fun I’ve had in previous sessions and to remind myself that I tend to imagine the worst when thinking of what can happen. I also remind myself that my players keep coming back week after week. And, after each game, I am flying so high after doing well, so I try to remember that feeling as well.
100%. Some weeks it's more than others, but it definitely happens
Oh definitely. Been running CoS for a bit now and the players have been good at avoiding Strahd (directly) and last session was the first time they met him in person. My hands were shaking, heart was in my throat the entire time as I did my best to describe him and convey the proper tone and make him terrifying and forbidding.
Players said they loved it so I guess it was good
as a player, i can say that some of the most fun and memorable experiences playing my friends' campaigns have included some flavor of improvisation
i totally understand the feeling of not feeling prepared enough for something. the way my dm plans for his sandbox game is that while he has a sense of everyones goals and the main plotline, he'll let us take the reins for the most part during the session, and in the time leading up to the next one, he'll look everything over and make sure everythings good.
even if hes messed something up related to the lore of things, we're totally fine revising our notes after the fact to match our universe. no shame in slipping up, the main idea is to have a good time telling a great story!!
Agree with others that being a DM is a performance art and nerves, butterflies in the stomach, are common.
Sometimes those nerves is because DMs can be hypercritical of our last performance we forget the good parts of the session.
I found solace in the musician article talking about Playing to an Empty Room.
[Playing to an Empty Room](https://www.pyragraph.com/2015/05/how-to-play-to-an-empty-room/)
Take-aways from the article
Off-nights, whether you or your players are not your best will happen.
Do not get upset if the players do not engage with the content right away.
Be the best DM you can. Do not pull punches. Sometimes we create great characters or situations and we doubt ourselves.
I had a session just yesterday and I had all the anxiety in the world come over me. Are my players having fun, am I giving them a compelling story, etc. We spent the next 7 hours laughing and having fun. It's going to be there. I've been DM-ing for years now, and I still get those thoughts. But every time I end up having the time of my life. It's okay to be like that it means you care.
I find that the best way to get myself calmed down and in the zone is start with the same intro every time I always recount what the players did last session. I know they know what happened but it helps me and I always start it the same way "Last time on the misadventures of the black dragons" etc. that way I always have the beginning down pact. You got this be nervous but also have the time of your life afterwards.
Yep! It’s a natural feeling because it’s your world, you’re thinking of everything and then you always want your players to have fun. Almost two years in I’m the exact same but it always turns out well.
For the preparation stuff you asked, it all depends on your group. My group is very chaotic and goes anywhere at a drop of the hat so I have my big world notes that I refer to and have ready but I don’t plan the session ahead of schedule. You know how your players act, adapt yourself best to that and go from there. Trust your gut.
Yes, it's like pre-show jitters. Does it mostly go away once you start? DMing is a performance. Definitely normal to feel a little nervous, so just try to relax, have a drink or something and then once you're in the game it usually all goes away.
There is one thing i can count on whenever I sit down at our holy table with my group: the manage to find ways i never even dreamed of...
So the key is to stay flexible...
Nearly every time, but particularly when there is a big reveal. I have shows / movies / books that solve the 'puzzle' they have been building by introducing new information, right at the last second, which is 100% required to solve the issue. I do my best to avoid this in my session, and I always worry if I have done it well enough.
I had this experience last night... Usually I have an idea on how a session is going to go, but this time it was so open ended that I had no idea.
My best advice is to acknowledge the anxiety and tell yourself that you can't prep for everything. Then prep some general points for the session.
Absolutely yes! It’s OK. 🥰
Of course, cause I don't know if will be able to live up to their expectations
only the first 5 to 10 min, after that i am normally ok.
There are always parts where you introduce new npc's, that i get nervous.
For sure, but the more I DM and feedback I get (currently 25 sessions into my first campaign) the more I realize my players favorite sessions tend to be the ones that have less strict planning
Been playing since '79 and hanging with the current group since 3rd edition came out and I still get stage fright every time I run.
There's no reason to worry so much. Your players may and likely will throw you a curveball you're not prepared for. It's perfectly fine to just make shit up in response. Your off the cuff response to those moments can be the best part of the campaign.
On an adventure im running right now i have so much lore and work on the worldbuilding that my player rally cant do something that can put in a way that make me go "oh fuck and now?" , so i dont have and anxious moment after the session
I don't get that nervous, but I used to be much more nervous than I am now. The thing that turned it around for me was a game I ran for a new player. It was essentially a session zero and I had nothing prepared at all. He told me about his character and I made up a little story for him where he was exploring a cave. I made up monsters with no stats at all. I just decided "this is a rock monster", "it has high (for lvl 1) AC", "it spits rocks", "when killed it drops gems." I pulled everything out of my ass. I made sure he got to try all the little things his character could do. When it was over he had a great time and I had a great time.
After that game I became much more comfortable winging it. I still prep a lot but if anything comes up I was not ready for I wing it.
Like this last game I forgot my GM note book. I didn't have any names, location descriptions, maps or my event out line. All I had were my monster stat blocks in my binder. I winged it. NPC names got kinda weird. "Bob Suspicious" may have been the low point (or high), but the players still had a good time.
You are fine that is completely normal. Be worried if you are NOT nervous. Just like taking exams, you are worried when you know what could be asked. One does not worry when they don't even know what to be worried about.
I used to. DM enough and it goes away. The only times that I get nervous now are when two specific individuals are responsible for this week's food and drink.
I always decide I'm quitting cuz I'm the worst right before a session, but once I get started it goes away.
I've been playing for 29 years, mostly DMing, and my pre-game anxiety is horrible. I actually vomit and such sometimes.
If your players keep showing up, you are doing fine. Don't worry yourself to death over a game.
Very nervous 😬
I get that way for musical performances as well.
Doesn’t matter how much I rehearse.