The DM’s Conundrum

Hello everyone, today I am going to discuss a problem that I frequently run into, something I like to think of as “The Dm’s Conundrum.”

The Dm’s Conundrum

Basically,  the conundrum is that I am constantly getting ideas, inspiration, or excitement over a adventure/campaign idea, booklet, setting, or even gaming system, always before I am anywhere close to finishing my current campaign.Usually this entails me spending several hours reading and thinking about a theoretical situation or group, in which this adventure or story would be amazing, often when I should be planning the very real D&D sessions that are right around the corner. I get really jazzed about a certain idea, and them am less invested in the current story I am running, as I am more excited for the new shiny idea I have just had! Does this happen to anyone else?

This most recent round of Dming waffling came about while I was reading The Curse of Strahd adventure, which I had checked out from my local library. This adventure seems awesome, it is spooky, dark, Gothic, has an awesome blend of social and combat encounters, AND it has an amazing unforgettable villain. It’s the whole package!


I of course  wanted to go to my friendly local game store and buy it right away; however, I guiltily looked at my Temple of Elemental Evil adventure, which my party has just entered, but not started, and realized it will be at least a year before I need more material. Resigned that I wouldn’t get to play out the amazing Gothic horror that is Castle Ravenloft I returned the adventure to the library, and went back to reading the Temple of Elemental Evil. Don’t get me wrong, I am PUMPED for the Temple; however, in the moment I was disappointed that I most likely would not get a chance for a very long time to run the Curse of Strahd.

temple of elemental evil

This brings me to my DM Conundrum. Most DMs read a lot of D&D material for inspiration and ideas. The more someone DMs the more they read if this material, and the more they think about theoretical ideas. This inevitably leads to theoretical campaigns, getting off track, and spiraling down the rabbit hole that is scanning thru your adventure collection. This would also lead to the conclusion that the more a person DMs, the more unfulfilled ideas you will have, and the more you will debate running additional games to get your favorite ideas at the game table. This inevitably leads to over commitment and failed campaigns, if over indulged, at least it has for me.

While I won’t stop looking at new material, I am going to make it a goal to read all of the Temple of Elemental Evil before looking at new adventures, that way I get excited for the adventure I am actually on. This particular adventure is quite complicated, so I think I could very much so use some time to not just read, but also map out the social connections within the adventure, as well as adapting the dungeon.

Perhaps this is just a problem I have, who knows :), but I would be interested to see if anyone else has experienced this, and if they have found solutions.


7 thoughts on “The DM’s Conundrum

  1. Even as someone who has never DMed (but interested in trying it in the future at some point), exploring all the material out there can be enjoyably addicting. The problem you’re describing as a DM makes perfect sense.

    Since you’re learning all about “Temple of Elemental Evil”, I curious: do you know if there’s any sort of connection (canonical or otherwise) between it and “Princes of the Apocalypse”? Because one of the newest 5e campaigns is simply titled “Elemental Evil” with “Princes of the Apocalpyse” being its module, and it also involves a big underground temple. I’d be really interested to know if it’s a sequel of some sort, or just an homage, or completely unrelated with the title being a coincidence.


  2. It happens to me too. Whenever I start preparing for a session, I get sidetracked very easily. I guess, imagination can’t be controlled 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Absolutely not just you. 🙂 I see it all the time in our campaigns. The ones that seem to really stick are the ones where the world and scenarios are generated by the GM (who has a lot of time and/or is willing embellish/improv a lot, and good at it).

    I really enjoy preparing for a game, but I feel like it is an art and without priorities can be relatively endless. I feel defeated turning to written modules, but having run a few can easily say that shouldn’t be the case because the PCs RARELY do what is expected in the module and often times there is a time-skip that goes unexplained…but has to be filled in by you, the GM.

    Wandering is easy to do and it is difficult to tread the line of railroading (even if delicately covert) to the new shiny, or finding a way to be just as excited about the one you’re already running. I’ve definitely mixed quite a few elements of my own into written adventures, off on a kick from some new shiny, but I take what I find exciting about it and try to find a way to make it make sense in my current go. Not always easy to do, admittedly, and I don’t know that I am any good at it haha, but sounds good in theory.


  4. I love taking my own elements and working them into premade adventures, helps tool the adventure specific to your style and group. I haven’t done a purely self written campaign for some time, it’s something I would like to get back to, but I also have so many prewritten adventures I really love and want to use.


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