Today’s guest article — on what can be a very awkward topic — is by John Lewis of RPG Alchemy. John’s loved RPGs since the early ’80s and has game mastered dozens of systems over the past few decades. He is one of the founders and authors of RPG Alchemy and is looking forward to RageCON in Reno, Nevada, this year, where he’ll be giving a seminar on player management for GMs (he’s pretty sure this topic will come up). Thanks, John! –Martin
The social structure of a gaming group is not unlike other team activities; it requires communication, cooperation, and cohesion. Participants need to work together in order to achieve their goals while understanding that “winning” the game means everyone at the table had a great time. Sometimes the roleplaying team dynamic breaks down. It may be a problem with the group as a whole or the game itself but on occasion it’s due to the actions of a single person.
We’ve all experienced the player that through their actions at the table, their poor attendance, or their general lack of consideration for others, has managed to completely disrupt the team dynamic. If, after some critical analysis, a little social coaching, and some frank discussions, you’re faced with the unenviable task of letting someone go, here are a few tips to make it as painless as possible.
Sit down with the player and just tell them like it is. Try to avoid being accusatory or casting blame. You don’t want to set up a situation of excuses and defensive explanations. Just lay out the facts, point out where the group has tried to communicate the problem with the player’s behavior, and tell them they’re no longer part of the game. I’ve had to do this to someone that I’m both friends with and a coworker and discovered that this isn’t really a discussion (numerous discussions had already occurred).
Don’t Be Emotional
By the time you get to the point of removing someone from the group any anger or frustration with the person should be gone. This isn’t an argument; analysis has been done, corrective action attempted, and a decision has been made. Odds are pretty good that the player won’t be excited by this development but you’re not helping the situation by being frustrated or angry.
Don’t Be Patronizing
Don’t make the mistake of trying to convince the person that you’re doing them a favor or that this situation is somehow good for them. The bottom line is that asking the player to leave isn’t being done for the good of the player, it’s being done for the good of the group. This is a classic case of the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. The commitment needs to be to the greater whole and the focus on teamwork and cooperation.
Obviously no one is ever going to be excited about, or thank you for, being asked to leave. The entire situation is uncomfortable and feelings are likely to be hurt. Focus on the rest of the group and why you’re doing this but once done don’t revel in it. Allow the former player the ability to gracefully exit and don’t influence their future gaming options with others. Move on and allow the rest of the group to recover and get back to the hobby they love.
There isn’t an easy way to ask someone to leave the gaming group. Before you or the group gets to the point of removing someone be sure you’ve looked at the situation carefully and are sure of where the problem lies. Once the group has committed to the decision remember that you’re attempting to restore the team dynamic and ensure that the hobby is as fun for as many people as possible.