Well, today I have been up since … well, yesterday. I know many can write under these conditions, but I find myself with the cognitive ability of an overly ripe summer squash. That being said, why not turn my condition into a discourse on what to do when you are suffering from a block in creativity, both as a player and as a Dungeon Master. I am sure everyone can sympathize with this turn of misfortune. So, I will approach this from two different points, namely the player who has to deal with it in the now, and the dungeon master/storyteller who has to deal with it in the future tense. Let’s jump in, shall we?
The player can occasionally not be able to get into their character, or is not able to get into the story in general. The result often manifests in silence, aloofness, and distraction. Sometimes it is caused by the player’s personal life, sometimes due to trouble at the table, and yet sometimes there is no particular reason at all. The cause can be important, but as we all deal with things in our own ways, don’t be surprised if your methods are not here, though I will address the ones which work for me.
The body can wreak havoc on the mind. If one is not in tip-top shape, the mind will often find itself wanting in regards to reason, creative thought, and such. For this reason, you should make sure to take of yourself. Don’t neglect sleep, food, hydration, and the like. If you are sick or feeling under the weather, you may want to consider coming to the game a smidge late or skipping a session just to feed the needs of your body. Most groups will understand as long as you don’t make a habit of it. You may find this solves your block rather swiftly.
Player fatigue can be the source of much boredom, and to fight this lack of creativity we will discuss a few causes of such. Players are like anyone and crave variety, if they know and acknowledge it or not. As a player, you may want to try something different than your usual to spice things up. I used to play elven mages all the time, but I have found after trying new things that each time it rekindles the fire to play within me. A new race, a new alignment, a new class, all are ways of getting your head in the game and getting creative. Sometimes you may not be able to get yourself into the lore because it is all above your head (or some other euphemism). You might want to try talking to the storyteller and learning the history of the world you are in. Either in game or out, you will find that learning more can get those creative juices flowing. Guide the conversations by asking questions, and you will find this will draw you and the entire table further in.
Gaming fatigue, on the other hand, is the nightmare of all tables, where the player has nothing left and has become effectively blocked in every sense of the word. The obvious cure is to step away for a while and return at a time when you are feeling the need again. For this, I give three bits of advice. The first is simple: Don’t get rid of your supplies. You never know if you will feel the itch at a later time, and those older editions are sometimes hard to come by. The second is a simple one: Don’t burn your bridges on your way out. You never want to lash out and make yourself unwelcome, or worse, ruin friendships. I have seen that one go down enough times to recognize its start well enough. This one will kill the creative flow for everyone, and that block spreads like the plague. Lastly, try to seek your inspiration elsewhere. Play video games, listen to music, watch a cool movie or series. You will find yourself thinking of creative characters before too long. I can almost guarantee it.
Ahh, here is the crutch to which the witch would lean. That curse that plagues all in the heavy yoke of time. A Dungeon Master’s creativity can only go so far before running into a block in their creative cadence. To this end, I have found ways to combat this great beast, and ways that nourish it to its core. Everything that was said for the player’s benefit above applies to the one running the game.
Personally, I find inspiration can be found within the creativity of others. I find music to be the greatest inspiration for me. I like to listen and visualize the scenes that can be or will be. If you need action, listen to something that gets your blood pumping. If you need peace, listen to something that inspires such in you. The beautiful thing is, there is no end to inspirational music.
Reading the great works of the past can inspire many, and you may find yourself eager to delve your players into the same lands that drew you in page after page. I know I cannot read Frankenstein without wanting to bust out a game of Promethean or find a way to work into my games the questions of, “what is a soul?” and “what exactly does it mean to be human?” It is a scientifically proven fact that reading jogs the parts of the brain responsible for writing, so no matter what you read, you will be helping yourself break the block.
Now to switch gears, I suggest switching gears. You can find being the player can be a great aid to your time as a Dungeon Master. This provides a break to de-stress, time to see other ways of doing things, and can just bring much needed joy into your soul. My gaming group has myself and the other DM switching off every week to keep the block at bay and the creative in sway. This has been invaluable, especially since we play completely different systems. It also leads me to my next point in fighting the beast of block.
Trying a new system is something that many balk at doing, but you can find it to be rather effective, to say the least. Try out Mutants & Masterminds, Heavy Gear, World of Darkness, or the many other alternative games. Either as a player or as the one running the game, you will find this new creativity can be exciting beyond measure. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the ache to play certain games has driven me through times when creativity had left me, when the block possessed my sight at every turn. This bit of advice is many fold in its benefits to creativity, in that it exposes the table and others to new sights, it drives the economy and society of gamers, and finally it reinvigorates all who participate. Can you name a better cause within gaming than those?
Well, I will end this with a call for an open discourse. How have you suffered under a block of creativity? How have you conquered it? How has your table been affected by the black cloud of such a block? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. I especially invite my fellow Nerdarchy writer’s and Nerdarchists to reply.
I am going to get some rest, as my brain is officially pudding. Let’s see where next week takes us, as I am still awaiting a response from a third party on something that will allow me to continue my articles the way I wish it. I certainly hope they can answer, as I hate improvising articles. It is a block on my creativity, and freedom is my inspiration.
Play on PS4 or PS3? Did you know that Nerdarchy has a community that plays together often? Go ahead and search in the community section for Nerdarchy and for the player Nubz_The_Zombie!