The latest installment in my series on treating RPGs as sports is about cutting players. It’s inspired by the recent Randy Moss fiasco where he got cut from the Vikings after being with the club for only three games.
It’s somewhat the flip side of tryouts. When do you decide someone shouldn’t be part of the team any more, who gets to say, and how does the cut get made?
Most groups run across this problem at some point. Someone acts like a tool, or a freak, or just is making the game un-fun for everyone, or attendance is bad, and you want to unload them.
So what’s the line? Well, to a degree it depends on how “serious” your game is – check out my post on categorizing your game as pick-up, league, or pro.
If your game is a pick-up game, then really you are almost never going to tell someone to leave short of them specifically doing something big that makes them unwelcome – messing up the host’s house, sexually harassing a female player, threatening someone, or other kinda “big bad” event.
On the other hand, in a “pro” game, you might let people go for poor attendance or just not making the team as good as it could be.
In a “league” game, it’s a lot more hazy. It helps to have a process in place ahead of time. (When Brad Childress cut Randy Moss, he kept emphasizing that “we have a process we use in these cases, and that’s what I did.”) Just as in a sports franchise you have various stakeholders. There’s all the players, and then there’s the GM (who you might think of as the coach) and there’s the host, who you could almost think of as the “owner”.
Why is the host so important? In the end, it’s the host’s right to tell someone to “get out of their house” or whatnot (even if you game in a shared space, the game store owner or librarian or whatnot is the host and can chuck someone out). The group can decide to move as a result, but there’s no such thing as “taking a vote” to see if someone can stay in my house. But that’s more of a special case for the “one person specifically wants them gone because they did something” as opposed to the more usual “the group is getting kinda sick of them.”
Similarly, the strength of the coach (GM) varies from group to group. In some, it’s “GM call” both on tryouts and ejections. In many, it’s seen as a group decision. But a lot of this depends on specific expectations being set. Personally, I consider it a group decision to tell someone to leave the group, but my decision as a GM if I don’t want someone in my game. (Kinda like it’s the host’s if they don’t want someone in their house.) However, some groups may set the expectation that it’s not even the GM’s call on their game, so it’s worth making sure everyone’s on the same page there.
In the more general case of someone being disinvited from a group, please keep fairness and respect in mind. It can become a very politicized thing that leaves everyone feeling bad. “Jenny and Brad called the GM and said Bill had do go or else they’re not coming, but he’s friends with Ted, and it’s Ted’s house…” If you get group infighting, everyone loses.
The best thing to do if people are seriously starting to grumble about someone is have a full group meeting without that person and hash it out with everyone there. You don’t have to use Robert’s Rules of Order, but again it helps to set the process – is it “majority rules” or “anyone can vote him out” or “anyone can vote him in…” Have a frank discussion about why people want the person out of the game, discuss whether the group in general feels like it’s merited, take a vote, and then act on it. Don’t let it spin around for weeks – everyone will just have a bad time for that duration.
Maybe you all agree the person just needs a talking to. This is even more sensitive – it’s hard to do this without the person getting put on the spot and feeling defensive.
Three real world examples after the jump.