Reflections on People I've Kicked Out of Games

I was just joking back and forth on social media tonight with someone that I asked to leave a game of mine one time. It wasn’t a vitreous argument, it was more of a “you only show up once every three sessions, and it’s really hard to deal with slotting your character back into my games.” We were both adults, and it worked out well, and we’ve talked online for years since that incident.

I had another player that disappeared, and his roomate was part of my game. The roomate said he had no idea where the other player had gone, and we didn’t see him for three sessions. I gave his seat away to another player, and he was very upset when he showed back up after a month of being gone. It was kind of awkward.

Another player just refused to go along with a session I was running and told me I was “doing it wrong,” after dragging his feet and not taking hooks for the previous three sessions. I told him that our play styles didn’t mesh and he may want to consider other games. While he left that game, he continually signs up for my games at conventions when I run them (and he’s at least a little bit more cooperative).

Finally, I had one player that started missing sessions right when their character became the center of the plotline because of their character’s family. After missing three sessions with the rest of the group having no reason to be where they were unless the missing character was present, I asked them if they were still part of the group, and they withdrew. They later told me that they were having issues with not wanting to leave the house, but not wanting to deal with it until they hit game night and just stayed home without saying anything. I still talk to them infrequently today, and am on good terms with them.

I reflect on this because it is often very stressful to confront someone that may not be a good fit for a game, but looking back on it, only one of those situations was bad, and one of them is a little awkward once a year, but still an improvement over the original campaign behavior. It’s hard to get psyched up for “the talk,” but sometimes its the best thing you can do.

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It is a hard thing to deal with. My last time was just this summer. I was one session away from the “Hey I don’t think this is going to work” talk when they backed out on their own. They showed up to most sessions but never seemed to even try to work with the others at the table in or out of character. Never disruptive per-say but not joining in on the PC group plans or interacting with the others at the table much. I do run for a large group and I think that made them a little uncomfortable. Fortunately there were no hard feelings on anyone 's part and I still have positive contact with them.

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I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s not a fun conversation, but it’s one that can frequently be important. The effects of NOT having that conversation can be worse. That person feeling obligated to be somewhere they don’t want to be. Stress. Other’s having less fun. The GM feeling like they’re failing and floundering.

Important conversations are almost always hard. But they’re even more valuable.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve gamed or had to correct stuff in a gaming group but I liken this in some ways to dealing with students.
Sometimes they are the constantly no-showers, sometimes they are the show up late crew, sometimes they are the disruptive in class ones. I’ve found that following up with them and opening up the conversation has been very helpful, even if it it doesn’t always change the behavior right away. Sometimes they tell me what’s been going on and I help them find resources or make a plan to deal with stuff. Sometimes they just admit to being unmotivated and we talk about staying or dropping. Sometimes they just need the message that someone cares and is paying attention and that’s enough to hook them back in and realize how they are affecting others.

While the conversation isn’t easy, if handled with compassion and reflective listening, it rarely goes poorly.

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For the past 6 years I have been running online games, in 40 years GMing I thought that I had dealt with every sort of flake there was. I was so wrong. Online, where your name and face are obscured and the people you offend are not people you actually know, if you had behavior issues before, the brakes come off very easy. It can take almost a year to get a stable group who can work together online. It can take an instant to mess up that balance and the GM has to stamp that s@#t out right away. I will give almost anyone a chance to play in my games, to the extent that they sometimes have 9 or 10 players, I used to have what I called a “revolving door” policy. Online it has become a “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out” policy. I warn them on the first instance, by email, ditto the second, but the third time I will just block them and let them know why. Only once did a player push me to the point that I stopped the game and threw him out.

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the constantly no-showers

@Hermeticgamer I completely agree with you, but I chuckled spelling no showers, as gamers not showering is ALSO a problem. My childish sense of humor aside, I completely agree with you. I feel you hit it directly on the head.

@alevans I can see that being an issue. I’ve cheated, while I run on Fantasy Grounds, they are all people I already know in real life, so there is not that issue of anonymity.

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