Active from 2005 to 2007 and dedicated entirely to system-neutral GMing advice, Treasure Tables was one of the earliest RPG blogs. It was also the precursor to Gnome Stew, so we decided the best way to keep all of its content -- over 750 articles and more than 7,500 comments -- accessible to as many GMs as possible was to move it here, which we did in 2012. Comments are turned off, just they as were when Treasure Tables closed in 2007. The GMing material and discussion archived below was originally featured on TreasureTables.org. Enjoy! --Martin Ralya

From November 1st through yesterday, December 9th, I put Treasure Tables in rerun mode so that I could take part in National Novel Writing Month, and to give myself time to consider whether or not I wanted to continue running this site.

It wasn’t any easy decision (in fact, making it really sucked) but I’ve decided that I don’t want to continue running Treasure Tables.

Update Dec. 12: Thank you to everyone who has commented so far — it’s pretty amazing to see all of this support. I’m still mulling things over, but I wanted to let you know that it looks almost certain that the forums will being staying in business. As for the blog, I don’t want to rush into anything — I’ll keep you posted!

The clincher was when I realized that in the past 39 days of reruns, while I’ve missed interacting with the TT community, reading your comments on blog posts and spending time on the forums, I never once missed writing my daily post.

To put it another way, I missed having a blog with a great community of readers and participants, but I didn’t miss writing or running that blog. That seems like a pretty clear sign that it’s time for a long break, if not a permanent one.

So why did I title this post “Treasure Tables is Unlikely to Continue”? Because I’m open to the idea that there’s a balance to be struck that I haven’t thought of or considered — one that will let me recover the fun I had writing posts here — and make me want to continue.

I’m not asking to be talked out of my decision, or showered with recognition or pity and inspired to keep going, but this is and always has been a community; if you’ll miss TT and think you might have a solution for me, I’m happy to hear it. I make no promises.

Over the past month, TT members have emailed with a number of good ideas, and I’ve thought of a few on my own. Here’s the list so far, in no particular order:

  • Cut back my posting schedule from seven days a week to five (weekends off) or even three (M-W-F, perhaps).
  • Make TT a group blog, and invite guest bloggers to become regular contributors.
  • Charge a subscription fee to offset the time I put into the site.
  • Sell TT to someone else, and let them run it.
  • Merge TT with another RPG site, sharing the workload.
  • Close everything but the forums and wiki, and ask volunteers to run those parts of the site.
  • Create a network of GMing blogs with TT at the hub, posting infrequently but highlighting great content on the network.

I see the merit in all of those ideas — and thank you to everyone who wrote to me with suggestions. The simple fact that there are several people willing to join in as regular contributors, or otherwise give freely of their time to keep TT alive, is incredibly gratifying. Ultimately, though, nothing I’ve thought of or heard so far overcomes three basic problems: burnout, progress so far and my impending lack of mental real estate for running TT.

Burnout’s pretty straightforward. Posting daily for over two years did me in; it’s not nearly as fun as it used to be, even though I think my posts have gotten better overall. (And again, that lack of fun has nothing to do with you — it has to do solely with writing a new post every day feeling more like an obligation and less like a fun.)

Progress so far is a matter of perspective, but when I switched to Java-based stats (apparently much more accurate than the logfile-based stats I was using before) in September, I found that instead of 2,000+ daily visitors, TT receives more like 800-1,000 visitors. For two years of daily blog posts, that’s not nearly enough. I’m not great at marketing (nor do I particularly enjoy it), so the prospective of going back to serious readership-building doesn’t sound terribly attractive.

The third one — mental real estate — requires some explanation. During NaNoWriMo, I spent about 30 hours on my novel — roughly an hour a night. Finding an hour a night wasn’t a problem, but fitting anything but my novel into my head would have been; there’s no way I could have written TT posts at the same time.

Flip that around, and I know I couldn’t maintain anything close to a daily posting schedule, or to the 6-8 hours a week it takes to write and run TT, while revising my novel in the coming months. Writing that first draft was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. If I have to choose between novel-writing and blogging, it’s going to be novel-writing.

There are other factors too, which I’ll be happy to get into if anyone is interested, but this is already a long post. At the end of the day, this is the most important stuff.

I wouldn’t feel right saying goodbye to a community of GMs who have given me so much over the past two years without giving that same community — you — a chance to weigh in. If you’ve got an idea for sustaining TT, even one that’s been mentioned above, I’d love to hear it.

This will be the only post here this week, to give everyone who is interested in weighing in, or in commenting on TT’s almost certain closure, a chance to do just that.

Two last things (really, I promise!). First, I hate it when sites close down and simply disappear. TT’s RSS feed crossed the 1,000-subscriber mark for the first time during rerun month — there’s a ton of useful material here, even with no new stuff, and it won’t be disappearing from the web anytime soon. I might publish it down the road, in which case it could go away, but for the next few months at least you have nothing to worry about on that front.

Second and much more importantly, thank you for supporting Treasure Tables. This site is what it is because of you, the community of GMs that make it awesome.

Thank you for listening.

About  Martin Ralya (TT)

"Martin Ralya (TT)" is two people: Martin Ralya, the administrator of and a contributor to Gnome Stew, and a time traveler from the years 2005-2007, when he published the Treasure Tables GMing blog (TT). Treasure Tables got started in the early days of RPG blogging, and when Martin burned out trying to run it solo he shut it down, recruited a team of authors, and started Gnome Stew in its place. We moved all TT posts and comments to Gnome Stew in 2012.



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88 Responses to Treasure Tables is Unlikely to Continue (Updated Dec. 12)

  1. Really sorry to see that TT may be gone.

    In my opinion, its the best, most well organized GMing resource on the web. Thanks for all that you’ve done.

  2. whatever you do, however you play, gaming is for fun. if its not fun, don’t do it. save yourself, save your dice.

  3. hey man,

    look i just have to say i think this is the best GMing resource out there and id be sad to see it shutdown, but obviously what ever you want to do you should do. if i could choose any structure it would be to have the forum and wiki stay up and if possible have a once a week post on the blog… anyway thanks for all the great content

  4. I love the re-runs feature! Just keep the re-runs and the site going and you will be the best! Your GM advice is really good and people appreciate quality, not quantity, so this site will probably continue being popular for a long time. If you keep writing, the posts will just get worse and worse and you’ll lose readership. Quit while you’re ahead :)

  5. I too would like to say thank you. I still consider myself a new GM although I’ve played for years and the information found on your site has helped me understand the concept and mechanics behind being at least a good GM.

    I really hope that the site stays open in some fashion although I do understand the concept of burnout.

    I wish you well on your book [be sure to give us more info so we can get it later once you have published…] and whatever else you do…

    Take care

  6. Hey, I completely understand, but I just want to say this:

    You really inspired a brand new GM. I’ve only been playing for about a year (GMing the whole time) and found TT just a couple months after starting. I’ll be sad to see it go, but I’ve learned so much from you and the community here and it’s driven me to more and more fun. Thank you so much.

  7. Martin,
    I think daily posts for two years is an amazing record, and its no wonder you’re burnt out. On the other hand, I think Treasure Tables is a fantastic resource and I would hate to see it go away. If you could be satisfied with guest posts, or an occasional original post yourself, I’d encourage you to keep the site active.

    Meanwhile, congratulations on your great progress with your novel; I know that means a lot to you. If we can help in any way with your plans for Treasure Tables (whether it stays or goes), just let us know.

  8. So it’s been like what, half a year since I commented every day?

    Look, all that needed to be said to you, Martin, I said in my email. But to anyone else perusing these comments? Well, all I’ll say is that you’re in the right place for the best DM resource ever. (I don’t know WHAT blog Jim Bob’s reading.) If Martin decides to take the site offline, well… you best start readin’ the archives now, greenhorn. Y’allve gotta lotta readin’ to do, ’cause you should be readin’ the whole thing.

  9. I’d miss it – but you have to do what’s right for you!

  10. Hey Martin,

    When I first read the post informing us that TT ‘might’ not continue my heart sank, as a natural born pessimist I knew this would happen! I found TT because I was looking for a sight that would teach, inspire, communicate and entertain. Other sites do some of this but at TT there was consistency and a comprehensive look at GMing.

    I have some experience of burn out and would have to echo those people who have said that if you close it down you’d miss it! Maybe not until 6 months later but I think you would. It goes without saying that all (-1) of the people who’ve posted would miss it too.

    It’s obvious that you’re determined and enthusiatic about the site and the hobby and even the ‘subpar’ posts have exceeded the quality of the majority on the web. You’ve set your own benchmarks and become a victim of your own success in a way.

    Try not to be too harsh with yourself or give in to the temptation of making a FINAL decision to free yourself by drawing a line and saying its over.

    Obviously money and time is a factor I can’t comment on. It’s obvious that as most of us you don’t have enough of either but if there is anyway this site could continue without taking a toll on you I think in the long term you’ll be happier.

    And of course so will all of us!

  11. Martin,

    Everything else has been said. I only have 2 words for you.

    Thank you.

    Mark

  12. First off, thanks for all the time you’ve spent on this blog. I think it represents a monumental effort and a real love for GMing.

    Second, I think that a break *at least* is well deserved.

    Third, I’d be sad but understanding to see TT go. When I read your post about the NaNoMo and how you’d be considering a permanent break, I kinda felt this was coming. I used to do free character portraits for people’s D&D characters online through message boards, and after building up a backlog and straining to maintain enthusiasm for a year and a half when I really wanted to be doing my own art, I finally called it quits. I’d echo the above sentiments regarding which of the options to go with should TT live on, namely a reduced schedule (daily is crazy) and guest writers. I also suggest that if this is something that you attend like a job, you should get paid for it like a job too. You’ve poured a lot more love and creativity into this site than some painters do into their work that sells for thousands of dollars a piece. While I know that upping your readership and thinking about getting more paid advertising on this site sounds like a daunting task, having that extra money come in might sweeten the deal.

    In any case, be well, thanks for all the hard work, best of luck in your writing endeavors, and most importantly, happy GMing!

  13. I’ve been publishing Nuketown for 11 years now, first in webzine form, then in blog form, then as a podcast, then as a hybrid. I’ve taken a few breaks from the site, usually in the form of a summer hiatus or three.

    My advice to you is twofold: first, do what works for you. I know some people like to say they’re blogging for their readers, but ultimately, that’s a recipe for permanent burnout — you need to be working for yourself, at a schedule that meets your needs, in a format that keeps you interested

    If that’s a complete hiatus, then so be it, but in my experience switching things up and changing your own expectations can work wonders.

    Which leads to my second bit of advice: don’t close any doors you’ll have trouble re-opening. You might find, two years down the line, that you’d really wished you’d backburnered it instead.

  14. Aw, nuts! I’ve been enjoying your stuff for maybe two months now. I still haven’t read all of the old posts.

    Thank you, it was a fun ride.

    Lee

  15. Burnout sucks. Occasional enthusiastic posts would be better than forcing yourself to write something every day.

    (I am a lurker, I read many of the posts, used several of them.)

  16. I really think that continuing the site with less of a workload on yourself really is the way to go. Have you seen http://www.roleplayingtips.com ? It’s a place with a great weekly newsletter about GMing advice.

    Maybe you could talk with the people who run that, and see where that goes.

  17. in everything change is unavoidiable. follow your heart and I wish you the best.

  18. Martin,

    You’ve created a great thing.

    Yet, I understand the burn out.

    I want to let you know that your posts have helped me with the game I’ve been designing for the last year. The community here is mature, productive and interesting. -I hope that TT can live in one form or another.

    Thanks for all the hard work.

    -Mark

  19. TT has been a daily habit of mine for a long time. I will miss the great advice, delivered with just enough wit and humor, a great deal.

    I hope that TT finds a way to continue. I would think that a rotating list of writers, with Martin at the helm, each posting once a week would work well.

    Thanks again Martin for all of the time and energy put into starting and maintaining a great web communnity

    Cadia

  20. I hope you will keep up the site as an archive and for occasional posts when you feel inspiration. Working to a deadline can be very stressful and is also an excellent way of clearing the mind of ideas :). Unless you are being paid in some fashion it’s seldom worth the pain. I think your notion of getting help to keep the wiki and such up was an excellent one as well.

    Mostly, though, I figure you should keep this up as more of a hobby. Post when you find something you really want to talk about. Put up guest blogs when they impress you and just put up links when you see something cool.

    I know there are people who will grouse and kvetch incessantly that, “he hasn’t posted all week(waah!),” sometimes I’m one of those lice. Sorry. Unless they’re willing to pay you(in which case, hey!), don’t worry about it.

    In any case, thanks for the good works, mate.

  21. Heh. This is the first post I’ve read here. Google Reader just recommended this site to me. (Based on the other RSS feeds I subscribe to.)

    “Cut back my posting schedule from seven days a week to five (weekends off) or even three (M-W-F, perhaps).”

    Well, there’s your problem right there. Why do you have a schedule at all? I have to agree with those who have said: Post when you have something to say, not just because it’s a new day.

    No need to throw the baby out with the bath-water. Just throw out the problem (the schedule), which seems like a pretty ill-conceived idea in the first place.

  22. To everyone who has commented so far: Thank you! Your support means a lot to me.

    The blog post above has been updated to mention that the forums will almost certainly be sticking around, and that I’m still considering my options for the blog.

    I’ve read and appreciated all of your comments, and I’m still very much interested in feedback — don’t let my commenting now stop you from adding your voice to this thread!

  23. Ok, I am not a long time community member, I only originally read this blog because my other half had it in his RSS feeds… but that said, I would hate to see it go. I have read these last few months with great interest, and while I am very rarely the GM in a game, in a way reading the gm’ing tips helped me to become a better player as well. Just knowing that the GM in a game is considering all fo these things, is going through the trouble to really make it fun, made me more willing to work at being a good, thoughtful player… and cutting the gm a little slack when things got… complicated.

    Please.. keep TT around, post when you have something to say, run okld posts wehn you don’t, or let guest GM post entries.. but don’t do away with the only GM’ing blog I’m willing to invest the time in reading.

  24. Martin, I really like TT. I think you offer a great service. Because of you a community has grown. You should take pride in that.

    That said; consider the following analysis which I hope is reasonably objective and not too discouraging.

    From my limited perspective: TT, with its current format and style, will only ever serve a small niche of GM’s. If making some kind of money is your primary goal from TT, then selling to VV_GM is probably the wisest choice because I don’t see the niche you serve large enough to support money making.

    Here is my hypothesis as to why that niche is so small.

    TT does a great job addressing and discussing philosophical and social problems encountered when GMing a traditional style game.

    Thus, TT does not serve GMs drawn to the more crunching, mechanical aspects of GMing particularly well.

    TT, because it focuses mostly on traditional games, does not serve GMs drawn to the indie, story-game techniques particularly well.

    Thus, you get a small niche of philosophical, smart, traditional GMs that are not all about the crunch. It’s a great atmosphere, but not a money making machine.

    Now for some wild speculation…

    …and maybe a bit of projection of my own feelings about gaming on to your situation, but I really felt the spark went out at TT when your Burning Empires game did not take with your group.

    The Burning Empires text is an excellent, clear-cut source of GM advice, much like the advice you gave here at TT. I can see it really harmonizing with your philosophical focus on GMing. When that didn’t take, I can only imagine it really just took the wind out of your sails.

    So maybe it is not burn out as much as it is disillusionment with gaming in general.

    Anyhow, thanks for all the work you did, I really appreciated it. (Don’t I still owe you a beer?)

  25. As a fellow RPG-site manager, I feel your pain. You write prose and get burned out. I write code and get the same way. You pour your heart (and time and money) into something, and get next to nothing back.

    I’ll toss in my $0.02 as to how to proceed:

    From all your ideas, I like the group blog one the best. There are probably a lot of people who would be honored to write for TT. Recruit 3-4 of them, and have each person responsible for 1 article a week. Use a private forum to coordinate who is writing what, and just see how it goes.

    You’ve expended a lot of effort building up the TT name. Even if you have to scale back, it’s better than just letting it all evaporate. Besides, closing the doors on TT would be a terrible blow to the online RPG community.

  26. You need to do what you need to do. I have truly enjoyed the blog, but I realize nothing lasts forever. I would like the wiki and the forums to stick around. Anything else I’ll consider icing on the gaming cake.

    Jai

  27. Martin,

    I’ve been a regular reader of TT since shortly after it started. Your posts and the reader comments have inspired me to be a better GM and a better player.

    I’m glad to see your update about the forums. You’ve helped to build a valuable community here and I hope that continues. Regarding the blog, I agree with the calls for guest writers, or only posting when you really feel like it. A new post everyday is great for us, but you need to do what is best for you.

    Thank you for two great years of gaming discussion!

  28. Well, im not a regular commenter, actually a very rare one, but im a regular reader..
    I really think this is a huge loss, unfortunately i found about this blog a bit too late, have enjoyed it for last couple months or bit more..

    This is my favorite one, i fell like you know what u doin, and i wish i didnt have the language barrier so i could share the excellent articles with my country RPG community.

    But i understand must be an exhaustive job, i myself never had the guts to bloggin like you, and i wont think about only myself about it and try to be a bit supportive.

    I just will hope you will change your mind eventually and come back to us

    While you dont, have fun gaming XD

  29. Joyful news! TT isn’t ending – it’s just changing. A transitional phase! Sort of like the circle of life in The Lion King!

    Seriously – Good News!

  30. Glad to hear that TT is not going to follow one of your own “Bad Ways to End a Campaign” post.

    Uhh…not much else to add other than that smart-a** remark. Martin (and all the guest bloggers & contributors on the forums), if I didn’t say it before, I’ll say it now: Thanks for coming up with this blog where, “a small niche of philosophical, smart, traditional GMs that are not all about the crunch” can get together and pick each other’s brains. It’s made me a better GM.

  31. I read this when it first came out but I wanted to wait untill I had gotten past my emotional respone. (Noooooooooooooo!)

    Well I am sad, I have been greatly enjoying treasure tables and it had a tremendous influence on my current campaign.

    However I also run a blog, and I made a decision a long time ago to post only what I wanted and post only when I want too. I cannot fault you in anyway way.

    But can I recomennd highly:
    -allow guest posters
    -and you should only post when you have something you want to write about, rather than trying to keep a schedule.

    an eratic schedule may seem odd but that is what feeds are for, as this part of my google homepage.

    Thank you for all your wonderful work Martin.
    I hope it continues even in the smallest portion.

  32. Longcoat said: “Glad to hear that TT is not going to follow one of your own “Bad Ways to End a Campaign” post.” I don’t know, I think it would have been kind of funny for this post to be named “How to End a Popular Gaming Blog”, it would fit the theme of the site.

    Speaking of Ending with a fast forward: VV_GM I’m curious as to what the new changes will be, and I’ll be looking forward to the official news post about it. **nudge nudge**

  33. Umm, uhhh, yeah . . .

    That was a smart ass remark. I have no idea what Martin is plannning for the blog. I’m just some guy who doesn’t want to see TT go away.

    Now due to my amazing psionic abilities I can tell you what has happened in alternate universe #12885:

    TT has been taken over by the oil companies and international banking industry. Instead of posting about GMing topics it is merely a marketing campaign to fool the people into buying a new RPG called “Suckers”. Those who play “Suckers” find themselves craving cheesey Hillary Duff chick flicks and Jean Claude Van Damme action flicks nightly. Eventually these poor souls give up all rights to their earthly posessions and begin to knit sweaters for sea horses.

    Alternate Martin starts the “TT Underground” in an ironic twist of fate, and alternate me is in charge of the underground railroad. It is an actual railroad, but we refuse to call it a subway, and I collect tickets for everyone going to happyland. At happyland we distribute copies of D&D 4th edition which takes five minutes to prep for guaranteed. How does this thwart the plans of the evil oil companies and international bankers? It doesn’t, but feats are now based on a really cool trading card system so no one minds.

    Yet as to what will happen to TT here in our reality I have no idea. And yes, I am ashamed . . .

  34. Martin

    As a blog writer myself, I have no idea how you’ve managed to post daily for so long. My hat off to you for that.

    I’d love to see TT continue in some form. While I don’t visit that often, the value I get out when I do is massive.

    I really, really hope you continue, in some for or another.

    Have a great christmas break, and think it over in the new year.

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