Saturday, February 25, 2017

Breaking of the Fellowship: When Fun becomes Stressful

So, I disbanded my local tabletop group today.

After writing that, I immediately though "What gives me the authority to do so?" But I can answer that pretty easily. In two years of regular, weekly games, and almost five years of periods where there was a regular game I was always the GM. Not only that, I was the logistic coordinator, the diplomat, and even the financier.

I ran every game. When I asked others to take up the mantle because I was burnt out (a few months ago), I was given the rebuff.

I coordinated where and when the game was run based on everyone's schedule, though another gamer was kind enough to always provide a location. I re-scheduled when things came up or life intervened. But "life" seemed to intervene too often - sometimes legitimately and sometimes under suspect circumstances and what felt like weak excuses.

I purchased books, dice, and materials for my players. Regularly. Hundreds of dollars over the past two years. My hope was this would motivate them to read the game books and learn the game - or perhaps even decide to run a game themselves. Nope. All it served as was a reference book they pulled out at the table during game time only. Purchases included copies of DCC, Star Wars (Fantasy Flight) core books, Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game, Labyrinth Lord, often along with dice and even dice bags. I also purchased or made custom tokens for many games.

Yet, it only got more stressful. Certain games with mildly political elements (Shadowrun Anarchy) couldn't be run because there would inevitably be real world political arguments between players. People grew uncomfortable around one another talking about anything other than the game specifically. Then everyone involved would put me in the middle because they didn't want to confront the situation like adults. People even left the group over things like this, or over gamer ego rearing its head regularly at the table.

 In spite of playing campaigns over the long term I heard again and again "What do I roll again?" or "What's the rule for that?" - often while they held the very book containing that information in their hand that I had purchased for them.

Absences often came up at the last minute with little notice. I get that, to an extent, but sometimes it felt ridiculous. How long before you're allowed to call bullshit?

And yet, I kept trying.

I think I finally disbanded things because I felt like the others at the table didn't recognize the amount of effort it takes to organize, plan, learn, and run these things. Or worse, if they did, they didn't care. Maybe I take my hobby too seriously - but I feel like  I wasn't asking too much. It reached the people where the frustrations outweighed the enjoyment. But in my area, there are very few gamers so I kept sticking with it. Also, when shit did finally come together, it came together very, very well. All of the players, when everything else was set aside, are FANTASTIC roleplayers and genuinely enjoy gaming.

But, I guess sometimes that just isn't enough.

(Sorry if this sounds egocentric or bitchy, but I needed to vent.)


  1. My condolences. Hopefully your next gaming crew will put in more effort, appreciate the effort you put into the game and recognize the social graces when you are in a gaming group.

  2. James I am sorry your gaming group went that way. I run pbp, and you are welcome at my virtual table any time.

  3. The Saturday Knight VTT always has a seat for you :)

  4. Your decision is understandable.

    My more mirthful response to this was: "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

    Happy gaming in the future, James. (I believe there will be a robust gaming future for you, because your gaming books have been absolutely stellar.)

  5. Oh, do I feel your pain.

    "What do I roll again?" and "What's the rule for that?" is right up there with the blank look I get from players when they want to cast a spell and I ask questions like, "what's the range?" or "what's the casting time?". Never mind asking someone to call out an AC instead of "I rolled a 12!"

    Some groups are more social than serious, so it's important for both the players and the DM to understand each other about the purpose of gathering to roll dice. I haven't yet been able to find a 'serious' local group in a long, long time.

  6. No gaming is better than bad gaming.

  7. You do all the work, you get to call an end to it. Simple.

    Sorry you had this experience; there are other, better, gamers out there.

  8. I have given up on face to face gaming and have been pretty pleased with my virtual groups. Everyone is on time, if they cancel it's well in advance. Everyone is cool with interruptions when someone has to attend to a child or spouse. No snacks, no house cleaning, no one drinks my beers

  9. You did the right thing, and I feel for you.

    The problem was (and you likely realize this), it's unfortunately human psychology to only put in effort when they HAVE to. When given a free ride (by you being extremely generous and free with your time and effort, as well as your money) they know they're being given everything and don't feel the need to put forth effort, so they don't.

    To avoid this in the future require the players to be more self sufficient. Require them to either take greater responsibility, or leave. I promise that setting healthy personal boundaries as a DM (and as a friend) will give you a much more balanced and personally rewarding relationship with people.

    That said, if you haven't been burned out of DnD completely at this point, I definitely recommend Roll20 or something- a good online group to just relax into.

    Enjoy your freedom - again, you did the right thing, 100%, and you don't deserve players taking advantage of your generosity and refusing to put in effort like that.

  10. Our little past-time is supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable. I'm sorry to hear that it became otherwise.

  11. I never would have made it that long in what sounds like a rotten situation. I'll buy books for folks occasionally as gifts, but never as a "You need to read this crap, seriously" incentive.

    But hey, maybe now with you decisively out of the GM role, someone will step up and take over.

  12. I've been there and you definitely made the right call, despite the discomfort of the process. It took me a good while to find the dedicated players I game with regularly and it was worth the effort of the search. It's important to spend your precious hobby time with those who value it on the same level as you do. Kudos!

  13. Sorry to hear this James. You did the right thing. Take a break, and then be a player for a bit. There are a few offers above. I think it would help De stress you.

  14. My condolences. I recommend taking that energy and creating something nice with the free time you'd have spent on that group first. Get your legs back under you. I hope you took back the things you gave the ingrates so you can give them back to some new, better players.

  15. I want to stress that everyone at the table is a good person. I think the frustration on my part comes not from the fact that they're jerks or ingrates - they're not. I think it's unintentional apathy or lack of awareness.

  16. I've been there. It's crushing to leave your old group behind, but in reality, if they are not playing, they are not really in your group anymore. I recently conducted a gaming group purge. I advertised on many levels the type of group I was looking for, and within several weeks, players appeared. There are many gamers out there. Describe your passion and they will find you. This is a great hobby with a wonderful group of people practicing it. Don't become discouraged. Keep up the exemplary work you are doing! Sincerely, Dave


Please confirm that you are neither a robot, nor an undead creature, nor a spammer. Thanks!