This is a topic that came up on the Facebook wall of a friend that fits the general style of these Monday morning posts. What to do when a campaign you’ve signed up for just doesn’t “do it” to you? How to get out of a game that you don’t want to play in anymore?
I am one of those people who always aims to please and never wants to be a bother to anyone. This means that I am exactly the type of player who finds the idea of leaving a game harrowing. And I had to quit a game I was playing in. This was about half a year ago.
The campaign concept was brilliant, the GM is one of the most innovative bastards (that’s a good thing) I know, and the co-players were excellent. But sadly, the game would have required way more commitment than I could ever reasonably give it. While in my youth I could reasonably memorize the philosophies of three different fictional religious orders to get into the mindset of my character, doing something on that scale for every game session was too much for me (or at least that what it felt like, to the stressed-out me).
We had been playing for a good while before that realization hit me. It took me three more sessions before I managed to actually say something, and even that was because a non-gamer friend pointed out that I was supposed to be gaming for fun and if I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I wanted, I should stop.
First I considered calling. But I knew I could be easily convinced that I was wrong, so I decided on a written message instead. I did my best to write it out as clear as possible that I had to quit, and that it wasn’t anything personal (since it wasn’t), that the game just wasn’t for me. And all that poetry. Still, took the better part of the evening to get the simple message written. It was horrible to do. And then I sent it. And it was over. All I could do is wait.
I got a very kind and understanding reply back from the GM, and the world didn’t end. We’re still as good friends as we were before the “break-up” and as far as I know, the campaign still continues to this day (can’t be sure, since one of the things about the campaign was that we don’t talk about the campaign to people outside the campaign). It really was as simple as saying “I can’t play in this game anymore,” but believing that was pretty much impossible.
From the other side of the GM screen, it seems more complicated than it is as well. The thing that has killed more games I’ve run than any other is “scheduling issues”. And everyone who runs games knows that it is a code word for a) actual scheduling issues or b) dwindling interest in the game. You are never really sure. Players do not tell me if they want out, so they just make the arranging of a game date impossible. Which just doesn’t kill the game for the player but the whole group. It is a terrible way for a game to go.
While I haven’t spoken with the players about exit strategies in New Horizons, it’s next on my list of things to do. My plan is to tell them as clear as I can that I don’t mind people quitting. It’s not a bad thing to take a couple of months of break from the game. It doesn’t hurt me if people have to cancel the last minute. The only thing I ask is that the players are open about what’s going on and won’t just disappear. The game is designed to handle things like that, but only if I know about them.
This is a thing that has happened with me growing older. I value my time. I value my friends’ time. I would never want them to be suffering in a game I ran if it was inconvenient for them. I know that life happens. People have to move to strange countries because of their work. They get babies. They find other time-consuming hobbies. They die. Or they get tired because it’s cold outside. And we have to be willing to accept that.
The bottom line is that it is just a game. We play it for our entertainment. If it costs us more than we get from it, we shouldn’t do it. As players we should feel free to say this to our GMs. As GMs we should be prepared for it and accept it if it happens. There is nothing personal about it. That’s the part that’s hardest to keep in mind.
So, as a player tell the GM if you want out and you will probably not ruin the game for anyone. And as a GM explain beforehand how to get out of a game and you might save your campaign. Simple as that.