Saying NO: Weeding Out Mouth-Breathers and Nose-Pickers

This post is inspired by Level 30 Yinzer who is, apparently, a two-timing gaming whore.

In the post, she says the following:

The real problem, though, is that I’m not desperate enough. How hard would it be to hang around the friendly local gaming stores, chat up some people to play with, get some games going, sit back and enjoy myself? The answer: too hard. I’m wholly unwilling to wade through the mouth-breathers and the booger-eaters to find the gems. In some ways, too, I feel like I’m too old to be hanging around these shops. The kids I meet when I do go are just that; kids. Widdle gaming babies with a lot of enthusiasm, which is fantastic, but I’m looking for people who are more experienced, more mellow, more, well, like me.

Now, I’m in a very different position here in Afghanistan– I’m working to be the warzone equivalent of an FLGS for our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors (yes, even the Coasties) in that I aim to be open accomodating for everyone. I’m NOT–let me repeat that NOT!!!– selling anything like an FLGS, but I want to foster the kind of atmosphere that lets everyone feel welcome and like they can come and relax away from the deployed environment.

However, when I’m at home, it’s a whole different story. Through more than half a decade in the military and several combat deployments, my tolerance for people who waste my time or with whom I don’t get along is remarkably low. However, I am also in the position of being new to the area I grew up in and when I get done with being a civilian contractor, I’ll be putting together a new gaming group. And I can tell you right now I’m going to be pretty doggone ruthless about it.

See, the thing is this– I take my gaming seriously. I’m a grown adult, with a co-habitating, burlesque-dancing, pinup-picture-taking gamer geek girlfriend and her awesome, RPGkids-playing son, as well as my own son living with his mother in Texas. I will be a full time college student when I get done here, likely with at least a part time job, too. That’s kinda busy. Thus, my game time will be both highly rationed and really, REALLY important to me. So I refuse to waste my time with those who don’t fit at my table, whether I’m GMing or PCing.

We all know the stereotypes of gamers have some basis in reality.

  • 30+ living in mom’s basement
  • poor hygiene
  • complete lack of interpersonal skills
  • even more lack of interaction skills with the opposite sex
  • life completely centered around gaming and nothing else
  • bounce from one bout of wrathful nerdrage to another incessantly

We all know these people exist. It’s pointless to deny it– any trip to a major convention will show you the above bullet points can be used as a checklist for a Sad People Scavenger Hunt should you so desire. But these are not, thankfully, the majority of the gaming population. There have been a lot of great blog posts about how to find gamers in your area– RPGtips even wrote a book about it– and that is not the topic of this post. 


The topic of this post IS about how to get rid of the ones who don’t work out. It’s about what do do if you have read the blog posts and done the research and had a game or two with the person and they turn out to be someone who just doesn’t work out for your table. This is going to come across as more than a little brutal and callous to some of you, and to those who react in such a way I suggest you stop, take a deep breath, and read slowly. In all likelihood you’re someone who needs to be reading it in the first place.

  • It’s Okay To Be Selfish. Your game time is, if you’re like me, both precious to you and in short supply. Keeping someone at the table who destroys the fun–for whatever reason– is like burning your money. You know it’s a bad idea. You are the only person who is going to take care of you, so do something about it. It’s YOUR responsibility to safeguard your welfare in your life, and your gaming is no different. Nobody should have to fight your battles for you, so suck it up and do it yourself. This goes doubly so if you’re the GM of the group or if the game is hosted at your home. In either of those roles you accept additional responsibility for the welfare of the group, so it should likely be you to step up and tell the player that they’ve got to go. 
  • Understand It’s a Relationship. Gaming is an interpersonal experience; it involves emotions that range the entire spectrum from rage to joy to pride, etc etc. Understand when you tell this person that they have to go, you are severing a fairly intimate interpersonal relationship. Just like in a romantic breakup, some people are going to take it poorly. There will be hurt feelings and likely some fallout. Remember this– the other person’s feelings are not your responsibility. There’s no reason to be a complete asshat about it, but there is also no reason to pussyfoot around the subject and drag it out into something longer than it needs to be. Once the decision has been made, act on it and move on. If the other person freaks out then that is on them, not on you. The only person’s actions you can control are your own. 
  • Be Crystal Clear. When the decision is made to eject someone, be completely clear about what this means and don’t give them any room to mentally maneuver around it. “We don’t think you’re a good fit for the game and we’re not inviting you back.” will bring you FAR less trouble and heartache than telling them the group is falling apart or “It’s not working out” or anything else that isn’t completely specific. If it’s one specific thing that bothers the group, then tell the person: if their hygiene is the problem but they’re a great player, say so specifically and make it clear that until the issue is completely resolved they aren’t welcome back. If it’s a personality conflict issue, be just as clear. Sometimes people just don’t mesh, and its far better for those who are left to deal with the issue quickly and decisively than let the unwelcome player remain for months of misery for everyone at the table. 
  • Be Quick and Sever Contact: Several of these tips are just as valid for a romantic relationship that breaks up. Don’t let the “break-up” linger on; say what you have to say calmly and firmly without being an ass. If they have hygiene issues, tell them, but don’t say “you smell like desert goat ass” or something else derogatory. I’m assuming here that the issue in question has already been addressed with the person and no change was forthcoming, thus a decision to eject has been made. In such a case, simply state that the issue was brought up and no change was made, and because of that the group chooses not to game with them anymore. Then WALK AWAY.  Don’t let them argue, don’t let them try to whine or cajole or beg– at this point the decision has been made and it’s a done deal. Say what you have to say and get out. Just. Walk. Away.  Letting the confrontation linger does nothing but encourage it to become a big overblown scene in a hurry. 
  • Do It In Person. This goes back to the First and Second points I made. It’s okay to be selfish in this situation– in fact, you have to be because nobody is going to do it for you (unless your group elects someone, in which case they should follow the rules too). Don’t send them an email. Just don’t. It’s disrespectful and their feelings are already going to be hurt as it is, and that’s just twisting an already painful knife. Don’t send a Facebook message for the same reason, and for the sake of all that is holy don’t text it. And whatever you do, under no circumstances do it in a public medium– don’t post to their Facebool Wall, or put it up on an online Forum you’re all part of, or any such thing. Set up a meeting, be there on time, say what you have to say and leave. Done deal. 

“Dumping” a fellow gamer is about the least fun thing that exists in our hobby– except maybe playing World of Synnibarr. It is in no way enjoyable, and interpersonal conflict is just about the last thing that most of us introverted gamers want to engage in. The fact is, though, that you’ll never find the good gamers in your area if you’re not willing to boot the ones who don’t work with your group. The seats at your table will end up filled with whatever flotsam and jetsam that happens along and you will lose out on hours, days and months of fantastic gaming that you might have had if you had stood up for yourself.

That’s what getting rid of a bad gamer at your table is– standing up for yourself. It’s saying that you have the courage and self-respect to put yourself first in your life and ensure that what little free time you have is as enjoyable as possible. Modern society tells us that looking out for yourself first is selfish and rude, but I’ll tell you one cold, hard truth– nobody else is going to. 

So suck it up and put the fun of you and your friends first and tell the person they’ve gotta go. It DOES suck, but only for a little while. When you find the gem of a gamer who fits in at the table and clicks with everybody, the suck factor of having to tell someone else to go away will be reduced drastically.

It’s like the old saying– “You know why a divorce costs so much? BECAUSE IT IS WORTH EVERY PENNY.” 


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This entry was posted in Afghanistan Gaming, Characters, GM Advice, Group Dynamics. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Saying NO: Weeding Out Mouth-Breathers and Nose-Pickers

  1. Swordgleam says:

    Completely agree.

    My former gaming group did not get this at all. They would chastise me for being “mean” to their annoying friends. Then they would thank me for having the only stress-free and douchebag-free gaming group they were a part of. Somehow, they never drew the connection between these two things.

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