A little while back, I asked GMs if they’d ever kicked out a player, with an eye to writing a how-to post on that topic (since I’ve never kicked out a player myself). Your comments were thought-provoking, insightful and full of ideas — thank you!
This is that follow-up post: If you’re faced with the prospect of kicking a player out of your gaming group, here’s how to go about it.
Two Important Reminders
- Kicking out a player is never going to be easy or comfortable. The goal is to make this awkward task easier for everyone involved.
- Much like a bad relationship, if your gut tells you that giving a player the boot is the right thing to do, it probably is.
When Should You Think About Kicking Out a Player?
- If a player is making the game less fun for the rest of the group (and remember, the group includes you), you need to resolve that situation. Resolution won’t always mean that someone gets told to leave the group (I’ll cover that later), but it might.
And 99% of the time, it will be you, the GM, who needs to handle it — because even though you’re (probably) all friends, you are the authority figure for your group when it comes to gaming-related issues.
It’s also worth mentioning that there are also obvious situations where someone needs to go — if a player steals something from your house, or hits another player, for example. In these cases, skip this whole process and send them packing, no questions asked.
How to Kick Out a Player
This isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of process, but these guidelines — drawn from the experiences and wisdom of fellow GMs — provide a good roadmap to handling things well.
When you think you might need to kick someone out of your group, follow these 3 steps in order:
- Talk to the player about the problem.
- Talk to the rest of your gaming group about the situation.
- If there’s still a problem, address it politely and directly with the player in question, and then let them know that you won’t be inviting them back to your game.
Step 1: Talk to the player
There are lots of reasons that you shouldn’t just boot someone out of your game:
- You’re most likely friends with this player.
- They might not know they’re causing problems for the rest of the group.
- There might be special circumstances (a mental disability, for example).
- You might be able to resolve things without needing to kick the player out at all.
Talking to the player in question might not be comfortable or easy, but it’s essential if you want to have a chance to stay friends, or even just part on good terms. The goal is to see if you can find a way to resolve the problem — whatever it is — without having to kick out this player.
There might well need to be a “trial period” between Step 1 and Step 2 — a chance for the player to correct the problem, or for you to examine the situation from a slightly different perspective. Don’t drag it out, though — it’ll probably be pretty easy to tell if things are going to work out.
Step 2: Talk to your gaming group
Kicking someone out of your group isn’t a decision to be made lightly — make sure you discuss it with the rest of your group first! They might see things differently, or be able to provide some guidance on whether or not this person needs to be told to leave.
It’s better to talk to the player in question first, rather than your group, because you may be able to head things off at the pass before getting everyone else involved. (Which is why this is Step 2 and not Step 1.)
Step 3: Directly and politely kick out the player
It might sound easier to sidestep this potential conflict in a passive-aggressive way — like changing gaming locations and not telling the problem player. If you get that urge, resist it. It’s a bad idea, and it will lead to problems down the road.
This is where the “respect yourself in the morning” aspect of this post’s title comes in: Not only will you respect yourself more if you handle this directly, but so will that player and the rest of your group — and you’re showing respect to the booted player, as well.
The three things to keep in mind when you have this conversation — which, remember, won’t be fun — are: Be polite, be direct, and be firm. For example:
Roger, I need to let you know that I won’t be inviting you back to this game. It’s nothing personal, but the problem that we talked about before is still a problem, and I think you’ll be better off with a different group. Thank you for playing, and no hard feelings.
The key there is “I won’t be inviting you back to the game” — not “I’m kicking you out,” or, “We all hate you, Roger.” And there’s no mention of another chance — if you’ve gotten this far, a second chance isn’t the way to go.
You should also keep things short, and have this conversation face-to-face (unless you’re playing an online game). By this point you’ve already tried to resolve things directly with this player, and you’ve discussed the situation with your group — you can be confident that you’re making the right decision.
And that’s it: 3 steps, one awkward conversation, and you’re done.
Things might seem weird at first, but chances are your whole group will be happier because you took the time to handle this uncomfortable duty well. And more than likely, the player that you just kicked out will find another group that’s a better fit all around.
This is a collaborative post: I wrote it based on tips, ideas and stories from the TT community.
There have been collaborative efforts here before — the Blogging for GMs project (including its guest post from Mike Barker), posts suggested by readers (Blogging Your Game Sessions, 5 Steps to Encourage a Player to Roleplay and 5 Tips for Making Your Online Game a Success) and interviews — but this is the first post of its kind here on TT.
To everyone who helped make this post not only possible, but valuable to other GMs, thank you! I had a lot of fun with this approach — let me know what you think of it!