Ways To Reduce & Avoid Stress As A Game Master/Roleplay Admin

Trying to run a roleplay is always a challenge, no two ways about it! Between dealing with difficult players, trying to accommodate everybody as best you can, and the strain of running the whole thing overall, it can be pretty difficult. So to help you avoid as much stress as possible, here are some tips you can follow.

Know what bad players look like. Sometimes we end up with players that our guts tell us are bad news, but we can't actually put our fingers on just why. Either way, their behavior stresses us out, and we suffer. Do you maybe have a player that's gaslighting you or other players? Does a player use moral manipulation to wrench compliance out of you or others? Is one of your players a parasitic roleplayer? Or do you have any of these assorted people? When you know what bad players look like, you know which ones you need to do something about - and that can reduce your stress levels a lot.

Don't be a wimp about confrontation. Yes, confrontation can be a scary prospect, but let's be real: sometimes it's necessary, and putting it off will just end up with something worse happening. If you're afraid of a confrontation turning into an actual fight, remember this: it takes two to tango. You can prevent a confrontation from turning into an actual fight simply by refusing to fight. How do you do this? You stay calm and keep your head on. You explain things without being judgmental or accusing. The other person might lose it and try to fight with you, but it doesn't become an actual fight until you start fighting, too. If you keep your calm, then the odds of things ending really and truly badly are actually very low. If you're worried about sounding like a jerk when you try to confront someone, see How To (Nicely) Speak Up, Assert Yourself, & Ask For Things In Your RPs (And Why You Need To) and Dealing With Unhappy & Complaining Roleplayers.

Don't be a wimp about saying no. Same as the above applies. If someone tries or wants to try to do something that just doesn't work for you or your game (see also "Should I Add Or Allow This In My Game?"), just say no to the player. Say it politely, of course, but say it! If the player takes affront, the links in the paragraph above have advice for dealing with that.

Communicate with your players. Maintaining open lines of communication is incredibly important. Be willing to discuss any and all game-related matters with your players in a calm and non-judgmental way. Make sure they're clear on any plans you have, and make sure they understand how the game is supposed to work and what's expected of them.

Accept that even good players are going to mess up, get confused, etc. Don't expect perfection from your players - if you do, you're setting yourself up for some serious misery. Accept that they aren't always going to be perfect, and that this is okay. It's all right if you have to give your players gentle reminders or nudges now and then, and a typo or misread post is not the end of the world.

Try to keep the amount of direct control that you try to exert over your game proportionate to the amount of time you have to directly focus on the game. If you don't have a lot of time, then don't even try to control or direct everything yourself. Your job as GM/RPA isn't to micromanage each and every little thing, but to create and uphold a functional system where everyone can have fun. Setting things up so that your players can manage themselves relatively autonomously most of the time can help you accomplish this - and ways you can do this will be covered below.

Write clear and concise guidelines, and make sure players can easily find them. By doing this, you'll reduce the time you have to spend explaining things to your players.

Take note of where players often have a hard time or where they're often messing up. Then, write something about it and add it to your rules/guidelines. For example, if you notice that people keep getting confused about the types of characters they're supposed to be playing, write something to clarify it. If people constantly ask you whether or not they're allowed to do something, then just add something to your documentation about it.

Help your players help themselves in other ways. You can link them to pages with relevant tips and advice that they can use, or you can write a few pointers out yourself. And you don't have to just do this for things that directly affect the game, either - you can help your players out by pointing them to resources on emotional management, de-escalation, etc.

Allow your players to help newbies. Players are often very willing to lend a hand if allowed. If you need to, write out a set of guidelines and directions that describe what kind of help is appropriate and what exactly it is they ought to be helping people do.

Let your players contribute creatively. Not only does this take a lot of the burden off yourself, but many players love being able to contribute ideas to a setting. Let them know that they're welcome to come up with and suggest NPCs, locations, plot ideas, etc. Work with them and have brainstorming sessions together. And if they come up with ideas on their own, ask them if you can use them for your setting.

Let go of any grand epic/cinematic visions you have in your mind. One common cause of GM/RPA stress is going in and starting with a glorious creative vision and expecting players to stick with it. Unfortunately, many things that work for Hollywood don't work for a roleplay, and people who do this will often find their grand dreams crumbling before their eyes. Instead of trying to create some kind of grand cinematic vision, aim to create an environment where characters can adventure and their players can have fun, and then just let go and go with the flow.

Try not to take things personally. It's easy to feel personally affronted by players who don't want to behave themselves and respect your rules, but odds are that it's not actually about you at all. Some players are just self-entitled jerkwaffles who get their dander up at anyone who asks them to mind their manners and play nice. Sometimes players are just having an awful time and are taking out displaced aggression on you - which, though entirely inappropriate behavior, has nothing to do with you and isn't your fault. And some people are just projecting their own nasty selves onto you.

Look after your overall own emotional and mental well-being. Handling your emotions in a healthy way and maintaining a healthy attitude is an extremely important part of avoiding stress. Ways To Deal With Negative Emotions, 7 Ways To Make Yourself A Happier Person, and even How To Cultivate A Strong Internal Identity can help you out here. Some of the things mentioned on these pages might take a little time before you really start getting results, but the results are worth it, so don't just dismiss them.

Don't beat yourself up over failure. Sometimes things go awry and it's not really our faults - sometimes we just picked a bad time to try to do something, or sometimes we ended up with the wrong kinds of people together. Sometimes we just had no way to know that something wouldn't work. What's important is that rather condemning ourselves, we look at the situation and ask what we could have possibly done differently. If there's nothing we could have done differently, then we don't need to worry about it. If there was something, then we try it the next time and see if it works better.

Don't forget other hobbies, too. If you spend all your time focused on your game, you're going to get burned out on it eventually. Don't forget to do other unrelated things you enjoy - perhaps reading, drawing, crafting, singing, cooking, or going outside. If the game starts feeling like a strain on you, take a break for awhile.

You might also like:

Tips For New & Beginning Game Masters/Roleplay Admins
Basic Tips To Create And Run A Good RP Plot
Starting & Running Roleplays & Bringing In New Players
"Should I Add Or Allow This In My Game?"
Reasons Your Roleplay Might Not Be Working
When A Game Master Or Roleplay Admin Might Be Power-Tripping - And What To Do About It

Back to Roleplaying Tips & Guides
Go to a random page!