It happens.  You work hard and everybody puts forth a sincere effort, but sometimes a relationship is not meant to last.  When you are just looking at each from across the table and find yourself with nothing to say perhaps it is best to move on at that point.  Perhaps it is best to just be friends.  Remember the good times together fondly, and move forward apart from each other.

Sure that might sound like the topic for the next episode of Oprah, but it applies to a bad gaming group too.  Human relationships can be tricky things and when they go sour they become even trickier.  That is what happened to one of my gaming groups this past summer, and that is why I dissolved the group.

Something just doesn’t feel right.

You read correctly: I as the GM dissolved my own gaming group.  The group is no more.  I took it out back, gave it a pat on its fuzzy little head, then put a bullet in its skull faster than you can say “The Yearling”.  It was the right thing to do.

There were warning signs that the group was falling apart.  We took notice of these issues as a group and did our best to address them, but in the end I realized that we would be losing the group no matter what.  Better to sacrifice the game than to lose the friendships with the gamers.

The red lights start blinking.

What are the tells that a gaming group is falling apart?  Some would say that it is when the group no longer games, but at that point it is too late.  The real warning sign is when your group is still gaming but no one is enjoying it.

Sighs come from around the table.  No one seems to be on the same page.  You try to encourage people to talk about it, but in the end no one wants to hurt anyone else’s feelings.  An argument is better than silence, but we geeks tend to have our socially awkward moments.  Some of us have learned that all conflicts should be avoided.

What a load of crap.

Arguments are healthy when conducted with respect for the person that you are arguing with.  When it is just pointing the finger and blaming the other guy you have a bi-partisan congress in the middle of the campaign season.  Funny how nothing gets done during an election year.

Unfortunately my former group just was not willing to confront each other or me with their complaints.  No one wanted to hurt another person’s feelings.  No one wanted to be the bad guy.  That is understandable, but if you do not express your true feelings about something that annoys you one day you are going to explode.

I did not want to see that happen, and I saw no way to mend the group.  I grabbed my black hat and put on a Snidely Whiplash moustache.  Damn straight – I was going to play the bad guy.

It is better to crash land than to crash.

All it took was an email.  One short, sweet, and to the point email.  Here it is:

Subject: Dissolving the Gaming Group

Sorry to do this, but the group is not accomplishing its goal. We're all good fella's and that, but I just don't see the group working out.

This is not anyone's fault. We just aren't getting together to do what it is that the group was formed to do: play RPGs. Scheduling problems and other interests have derailed the group, and I feel it is best just to move on and try a different approach.

Obviously we are all still friends, and I'll keep you guys in mind for future games that come up. I hope that you keep me in mind for your games as well.

I'll keep this email address around for a couple of weeks if anyone has anything to say.

Yes, I was vague about what was tearing the group apart.  Specifics would not have helped the situation, and most likely would have inadvertently offended someone.  Fixing the group was not the goal, but retaining the friendships was absolutely critical.

Any crash that you can walk away from…

There were a couple of players who felt that dissolving the group was wrong, but the overwhelming majority all but said “Thank you.”  We all wanted to game, but we all wanted to play different games.  This just happened naturally as we learned about new games and new play styles.  No one did anything wrong per say, but each of us was progressing down a different path.

And that is why the group had to be dissolved.  By letting the group go each of us was now free to pursue the type of game that each of us wanted to play.

One of the former group members I pulled into my 4e group at the local game shop.  He is happier there, because he likes tactics and strategic play with clear and precise rules.  Another member is working with me to form a new group that will focus on cinematic games and play styles.  Another is happily running his own weekly game that is open to all comers at the game shop which emphasizes military style combats.  One of the former players is now prepping to run his own supers game as a first time GM.

We still say hi to each other, we still hang out with each other, and occasionally we still game with each other as individuals but not as a group.

And we are all still good friends.  ‘Nuff said.

Have you ever needed to dissolve a gaming group?  What caused you to do it?  Did it end well, or did it go poorly?  Share your experiences with the rest of us in the comments section below.