RE: Hot Button: Leaving a Player Behind

Please note that this post is in response to another post on Gnome Stew earlier this morning. Whilst this post does stand alone, it would be useful to read through that post as well to get a feeling for what exactly led to this.

This post was originally going to be a comment on Gnome Stew's post, but it got a little long, so I decided to make it a post and then link it there.

Walt Ciechanowski, of Gnome Stew fame, posted a Hot Button Topic on the blog asking what a GM should do when one of their players isn't exactly into the game they're running, but everyone else is. Specifically, he stated that this player enjoyed the story and the adventures, but really disliked the game system. Here, then, is my response, given as four options to Walt and the player in question.

1. Play the Hand You're Dealt

Walt talks about a GM's need to "play the hand [they're] dealt", in that they shouldn't run a campaign where in not all the players would fit, or that specifically goes against the wishes of a few players to exclude them. However, I feel this stand point goes both ways - if everyone is enjoying a game, and there is only one player, for whatever reason, who is less than happy, then the entire campaign shouldn't be halted for their benefit.

This player can either choose to simply enjoy spending time with their friends, and ignore the issues which are causing problems for them, or they can leave the campaign and return when another game begins. Expecting everyone else to bow to what you want from a game will result in no games ever being played - as everyone always has something that they'd like to change in a game, and no two people like the exact same things.

2. Change the System

For most games, the system is really unimportant. Sure, I love Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition, but if my players didn't like the system enough, I wouldn't feel hampered switching to another system with a similar feel - for instance, I have heard good things about FATE and WFRP being used together.

The same works for Walt's Trail of Cthulhu campaign - surely there is another system which could handle the same sorts of situations without breaking gameplay, which shouldn't take long to convert over to. All Flesh Must Be Eaten comes to mind pretty quickly, or GURPS could work wonders.

GMs should never let the system get in the way of fun, so if it does, get rid of the system and find a new one (or heavily house rule it).

3. Scrub the System

This solution doesn't work for everyone, because many gamers like the mechanics behind the game and would prefer to keep it, but for others who just prefer roleplaying, this is a gem. Simply have the GM handle all dice rolls and mechanics related issues, and have the player merely sit in as the voice and director of the character's actions. They tell the GM what to do, the GM rolls in secret, and then describes the outcome.

This doesn't really work in large groups, or in groups where more than one player is doing this (but if that many are unhappy with the rules, see option 2 above), but it can work if everyone around the table agrees to it. Hell, you could even have another player handle these rolls if the GM is too busy and everyone agrees.

4. Take a Break

Sometimes, I find, if a player is having an issue with the campaign, and it is so strong that it's making them not want to play, often the issue is that the player needs a break. Humans become complacent when we get used to things, and a long stretch of playing will make minor issues seem like mountains. Therefore, there is no harm in walking away from the table for a few weeks, or swapping out of a campaign to come back at a later time.

For some reason, in our gaming culture, there is an air of total inclusion - everyone needs to be placated all of the time. I feel that this is both impossible and immature, on everyone's points. Gamers should feel comfortable sitting out of some games with the knowledge of being included in others. If you're all friends around the table, then what is there to fear by missing a campaign, anyway?