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So I started DMing before this pandemic and I loved it, however the swap to online has been extremely rough and every session I am extremely stressed out to the point where I lose sleep and am picking up some of my old bad habits.

I want to put the campaign on hiatus, but all the players have put effort into their characters and are my friends and I don't want to disappoint them.

How do I step down from being DM and put the game on hold until we're back in-person.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil May 26 at 18:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Out of curiosity, are you open to being a player in an online game? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 26 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there anything specific that makes DMing online "extremely rough" for you despite you loving in-person DMing? There might be some way to address those factors. But of course that doesn't invalidate the question. \$\endgroup\$ – NotThatGuy May 27 at 9:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BobKerman If you think that is a good solution to the problem (which it may very well be), please expand it into a full answer and remember to show the experience you have with running lighter, filler games. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil May 27 at 11:59
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The only way to tell them is to tell them.

I went through exactly the same thing. (As described in my profile.) And getting it off my chest felt wonderful. Here's the email I sent them, if you want to mine it for any bits you can use:

I'm also getting overwhelmed with [remote work], homeschooling 3 kids, and coronavirus... in the back of my mind this week I've been wondering if I need a break from running, so if there's something you've got in mind you've wanted to try/do--some one-shots, online boardgames, a bridge tournament--bring that to the table tonight and we can gather ideas.

For a lot of people stay-at-home/quarantine has been a great time to get in more gaming, and I've certainly reconnected with old friends in new ways. But gaming online with the people who I used to sit around a table with every week was not working for me, and I know them well enough to know that when this-all's passed, we can resume without hard feelings.

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    \$\begingroup\$ have an upvote for speaking directly from the position +1. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 26 at 18:47
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Just talk to them

Your friends shouldn't be disappointed in you and you shouldn't feel unable to talk to them. I completely get your concern, but if they are truly your friends, they will understand.

My in-person group was similar in that the DM was very reluctant to try to DM online and just put the game on hold. I took up the mantle of Covid Online DM and have been running things. The first campaign was more of a 'getting used to online" to see if the DM would be more open to it once they understood it.

They opted not to because of discomfort with the whole system. Yes, I was disappointed not to continue our primary campaign, but I've been running games for the group online since.

Talk with your friends, maybe one of them is more comfortable with digital tools and can run a different game until you can get back in-person.

But your personal well being is above everyone else's. You need to just talk with them and let them know what's going on, how you're feeling, and what you'd like to do. You can bring up that someone else can run something online, but it's really not for you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Covid Online sounds like a bad MMO game \$\endgroup\$ – Himitsu_no_Yami May 26 at 18:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Himitsu_no_Yami Politician casts Social Distancing! It's not very effective. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster May 30 at 14:10
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Instead of quitting cold turkey, give an advance notice of when you'll be putting the game on hiatus. This allows you to settle on a reasonable "pause" point, hopefully wrap up some plot lines, and allow the players to look for satisfying resolutions for their characters. This will likely go down with less friction and more understanding than an immediate rage-quit.

For other ideas, consider the episode of my channels's D&D talk show on Endings.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good point. For some people, it may be easier to just immediately put the game on hold - but especially if OP's feeling anxiety/concern about disappointing players by doing so, giving themselves and players a chance to wrap some things up and come to a natural stopping point in the story will probably ease that feeling and help everyone feel better about the decision. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 27 at 4:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ This kind of feels like it's aimed at a permanent end to the campaign, but the same general "take a few sessions to wind down" could also be used to end on a cliffhanger instead of to wrap everything up, which could keep everyone interested and anticipating the game's resumption, much like some TV series end each season by setting up a cliffhanger which viewers need to wait until the next season to learn the resolution of. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman May 27 at 11:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is the one I wish I'd read before having this conversation with my RL group. I'm pretty sure that the "being able to see the end of the tunnel" effect of this approach would have made continuing a few sessions doable, as opposed to just bailing mid-narrative like I did. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 May 29 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60: Totally get that. Likewise, I needed a friend to suggest this, because I wouldn't have come up with it on my own, and it seemed very reasonable. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel R. Collins May 29 at 16:50
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Take turns

Say that you will finish up the current module or story line. Request that somebody else take over as DM for the next story line or module. You could mail the materials to the new DM. Then after that person finishes a story line, transfer to the next person. It would develop other people with DM skills and you could still enjoy playing with less prep.

When others become the "teacher" they learn more from the "students". You will have more people in your party increasing skills. Just think of how you would play since you have the DM's perspective. You would be more alert to traps and tricks, more prepared by asking questions and doing intel before the mission, and more efficient in the dungeon - skipping the monsters that just slow you down or cause damage without treasure or finding the goal. The new DM's will gain that perspective too.

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