Monday, October 28, 2013

30 Days of GameMastery--Day 25!

You know it by now:  Lindevi.  "30 Days of GameMastering".  Challenge.  Go!

Problem players and drama llamas:  what's your horror story and how did you resolve it?

So, let's go back to the halcyon days of 2008.  The PlatinumChick and I were still living in our apartment in Fairborn, planning our wedding and eyeing up houses here in the Miami Valley.  Our Friday night game group was still rolling along and 4e was less than a year old.

Enter Richard.  Richard was the co-worker of one of our Friday night mainstays and had been looking for a regular group for quite some time with no luck.  As such, we welcomed him in...which was probably our first mistake.  You see, Richard came with three major problems which, like a bad rash, kept reoccurring.

The first was the least serious, though as a GM, it frustrated me personally.  Richard constantly wanted to revise his character, making significant changes and revisions, well over and above any 'retraining' coupled into the system.  Richard made a nuisance of himself, barraging myself and other gamers at the table, looking for input...which he would consistently ignore, both at the table and in character advancement.  One of the most absurd instances occurred during our "Pirates of the Underdark" game.  Despite the table's protests, he dropped a high-damage area-of-effect power into the middle of the party, hoping to catch a number of their foes in the blast.  Not only did Richard miss every one of the enemies, he damaged all of the party members in the melee, critting two of them!  After several sessions of this chaos, we started referring to Richard's character as "the best player on the GM's team!"

Really, Richard?
You couldn't play at the game store over the weekend
and arrive at our RPG night on time?
The second reason frustrated everyone at the table.  You see, Richard was a big HeroClix enthusiast who enjoyed playing at one of the various game stores in the Dayton area.  However, Richard's night of choice?  You got it:  Friday night.  Typically, our game nights begin around 6pm.  We grab dinner together--either at a local restaurant or take-out joint--and begin playing around 7:30, lasting until 11:30 or midnight.  Unfortunately, Richard's HeroClix games ended at 9pm, which was followed by a minimum half-hour drive to our apartment.  As such, Richard often wouldn't arrive until 10pm!  After a number of requests and emails, nothing had changed on this front.

The third reason, truth be told, was quite personal.  You see, Richard was married.  The PlatinumChick and I were engaged, about to be married in 2009.  However, that didn't stop him from sending her numerous inappropriate texts and making homophobic commentary at the table, fully knowing that I'm bisexual.  This one, I took personally.  I'm as lewd as it comes, but there's a big difference between making jokes between friends actually making moves on a to-be-married woman, especially while you're married.

Three strikes?  You betcha.  Not long after we moved, I finally pulled the trigger on Richard:  during one of the numerous sessions he had missed, I raised my concerns to the group and suggested that we release him.  The next day, I sent him a brief email highlighting our concerns and letting him know he would no longer be welcome at the table.  He took it...well, about as well as one could expect, but it hasn't been an issue since.

I've seen Richard at a few gaming events in the Miami Valley since then and, believe it or not, he's been rather civil.  He actually sat in on one of my Cold Steel Wardens demos and was an eager, invested player.  Maybe there's room for some redemption, I suppose, but I don't really aim to find out.

In the end, not everyone is a 'fit' in every game group.  If it happens, you've got to remain cool enough to speak the truth and do what's best for everyone involved.


  1. The first sounds like a risky gamble that ultimately didn't pay off, although certainly ignoring the concerns from the rest of the team is problematic. If it happened once, I'd forgive it (after all, if the dice went the other way, it'd be awesome. He was just too confident in Lady Luck and we all make stupid gambles like that). If it happened consistently and the other players didn't like it, I'd be concerned about his ability to work as part of a team and start to wonder if maybe they're better off playing a solo computer game.

    The second is bad. I don't like late or absent players (make the commitment to come or let me know if you can't) and that may have been a breaking point for me if it happened too often.

    The third is definitely a deal breaker. If a player makes the game environment uncomfortable for anybody at the table, they need to fix their behavior or leave.

    Fortunately, I've never had to kick a player out, but I think you did the right thing for the right reasons.

  2. It wasn't a fun situation for any of us involved, needless to say. Luckily, we haven't had too many player problems since then.