Dealing with Imposter Syndrome as a Dungeon Master

Kung Fu Panda

Imposter syndrome can be described as doubting one’s self. I have heard many artists and professionals dealing with this phenomenon, including many game masters who sit behind the screen and wonder if they are doing their best, or even if they are worth the game.

In this blog, I have a few ideas to address imposter syndrome and help game masters move through it and onto the reward

First idea: imposter syndrome comes and goes in waves. I hope you can relate to this. Sometime you feel on top of the world in success and for some reason, another time you will be crippled with doubt wondering why you even try. Imposter syndrome is not something to be cured inside of you, but rather a storm to be weathered outside of you. Rather than doubting yourself, consider that the conflict of doubt originates from outside of you. In the same way, I wouldn’t blame you for getting wet while walking in the rain. The rain of doubt falls on the most amazing game masters as well as … you. If you start thinking of doubt as an outside source, then you will not blame yourself when you weather through this storm of imposter syndrome. And like the weather, this too, shall pass.

Second idea: imposter syndrome is just that – a syndrome. We don’t know why or where it comes from so we call it a symptom of something else. May I propose that at the moment you experience doubt, that you are on the precipice of something great? Remember as game masters, we design monsters before the treasure. The reward always follows the battle. In every struggle, there is victory. Doubt stands there to cripple you, but in reality, it’s only standing in front of the spark of reward. When you start to realize that reward always follows battle, you will find yourself actually getting excited the moment that doubt arrives in your mind. Roll initiative.

Third idea: don’t forget to look for the reward. Imposter syndrome, self doubt, anxiety, shame, and other monsters do not naturally grow within you and their goal is to cripple you as an artist, as a creator, as a game master. You will weather the storm, you will slay the dragon, but you may fail to look for the treasure after this storm of doubt.

Example: I love the movie Kung Fu Panda. If you haven’t seen it, it is a great lesson in dealing with imposter syndrome. Though he comes from lowly state, Po practices, serves and cares for his team. But suffers from one problem – self doubt. Along the quest to the treasure, Po had practiced with diligence, served with humility and cared with love for his team. By the end of the movie (spoilers!), Po, discovers that his own self is the treasure which he sought. He learned his generous presence already satisfied the team. After his doubt was weathered, he then took ahold of his skills and defeated the enemy with ease.

As a gamemaster, you are the reward. For the game, for the story, and for your players. After you have done all of your work, service and shown care for your players, the only thing that can really defeat you is doubt. And believe me, it will try.

So, to you game master, I see how you have practiced the rules, you have poured over pages of story and graciously set aside the time and energy to bring fun to those around your table. And notice this: they keep coming back for more fun. You are doing it right. The only weapon that can take you down now is doubt. Weather the storm, slay the dragon and be the reward.

May your story continue!

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