I have been reading (and responding) on reddit a great deal about problems within gaming groups and it really got me thinking about how people handle putting together a group. It seems like there are lots of interpersonal issues that crop up (as with any social activity) and many of them seem like completely avoidable situations. I am not trying to solve everyone’s problems here, more just musing. I have had my own troubles with my group and the groups I have been in. All the problems were solvable though, and most of the time, easily solvable. Some required tough decisions, such as kicking a couple people out in the past, or myself actually sitting out of the group because I couldn’t handle a couple people in the group at the time. These just required a few moments of sitting down and thinking though and not being afraid of making unpleasant decisions. I obviously didn’t want to sit out of a game, but I wasn’t running it and my problems would affect everyone else’s fun. It seems like sometimes a little bit of “Man the F up” is in order.
It seems that most problems could be solved before any game starts by setting expectations. When I invite someone to my group I let them know flat our what we play, how we play it and what is expected of everyone. I cover play style in general, what kinds of games we run, what is expected for attendance, and what themes we are ok and not ok with. This may sound a touch harsh, but I don’t think it would be unreasonable to for a team captain to say “Hey, you need to show up for practice unless something big comes up”. I’m not asking for a giant life commitment, but if you agree to this you need to show up regularly (pending extenuating circumstances) and mesh with our group to some degree. Don’t join our group if you are going to complain every time a sci-fi games comes up, I like sci-fi and I GM a lot of it. Now if we have the tenth sci-fi game in a row, then let your voice be heard, and stating preferences are fine as well. I just can’t stand someone absolutely refusing to play a game and thinking the group should bend to their will. A little give and take is needed all around.
I also find the anti-social nerd stereotype to be hilarious in regards to RPGs. The game in itself is a social activity and managing a group is something that requires a great deal of interpersonal communication skills to manage effectively. Maybe I just can see this because I have some training and background in management and communication. I tend to see many of those skills used in managing gaming groups. These are the same skills that are taught in management or leadership classes and even marriage counselling. Maybe I am off base with the stereotype, maybe it exists and that is why groups fall apart so much. Passive aggressive behaviour and difficulty with confrontation are some things I have seen kill groups in the past. Does it come about because people are grasping so hard to hold onto this group because it is what they know? Many times it feel more like a bad or abusive relationship and I can see how people would get caught up in the psychological trap.
That may be the reason I always see “I don’t want to leave my group” or “There is no other place for me to play” when they are having problems. Not having another group may or may not be true, I have seen both cases. However, I feel most of the time these statements are usually hyperbole or just fear of change. I have seen the fear that these people won’t be my friends any more! Well, if they are your friends I am sure you hang out other places, and let them know that. I don’t game with all my friends, and they don’t make me play softball or some other sport I hate. Communicate expectation so that people who are serious about gaming don’t get into a game that is a “hang out with my friends and drink Mountain Dew” adventure. If you are in a group that is just not working out, know when to leave. I don’t like telling people to leave their group, but if there is a big problem it may take a sit down and talking it out like it is marriage counselling. If you don’t want to do that then man up and leave. I have had to do this in the past and it sucks, but sometimes it needs to be done.
This felt like a rambled quite a bit. I know I went back and forth a few times because my mind kind of wanders like that. It may be a touch harsh in some places, but while I believe we absolutely need to be inclusive as a gaming community and understanding there comes a point where a line needs to be drawn. It may sound like another job, but I don’t want to ruin other people’s experiences with misunderstood expectations. I hope I didn’t come off as too big of a hater. I am a big advocate for getting people into gaming and am always trying to run games for completely new gamers and returning gamers. In any case, thoughts are appreciated. Thanks for reading.