As I wonder if my credibility has faded due to the rant in the last post, I find myself thinking of two occasions when I have, literally, thrown people out of my campaign. I do not mean telling them on the phone not to come again, or informing them in some other benign way. I refer to ejecting them in the middle of play.
It is impossible to keep personalities out of these things, and I certainly have one myself. I'm not easy to get along with. It amazes me that I don't have a dozen stories like these ... but there are only two.
In the first case, the fellow had once been my best friend. I met Cal the first night I played D&D, immediately liking him because he laughed at everything. Well, everything remotely funny. We got on great, made worlds together, switched playing as DM and player, and hung out for years.
After high school, though, I began to find him distressingly juvenile. He seemed to resist growing up. I was all of 19, feeling like an adult, feeling like I wanted to take things more seriously ... and Cal's laugh began to rankle. We still played D&D and hung out, but as time went on, I found myself getting more condescending towards him. Cal noticed, naturally. It was only a matter of time before a blow out happened.
During a combat, Cal hit a string of bad luck with his d20 and couldn't hit anything. He naturally became more and more frustrated, leading to cursing loudly every time he rolled the die. Finally he threw the die at the table, it bounced off and shot across the room. I remember we were in my parent's basement at the time ... I was still living at home.
Peevishly, I told him that he needed to take responsibility for his actions. He replied, "What, for the dice? They're random. How can I take responsibility for something I have no control over!"
"Well," I said, "The dice can't take responsibility, they're inanimate objects. So I guess that means YOU have to."
Some time after that, but not long after, with tempers high, he threw a die at me. Whereupon I shouted at him to get out of my house. He refused. It's a response that has always baffled me. I roared a few more times, he refused a few more times, whereupon I jumped him, and wrestled him foot by foot up the stairs and out the back door. He fought every step of the way. I threw him out, went back for his stuff, threw that out at him, and slammed the door. Scratch one friendship.
I've often wondered about that. I was obviously looking for a way to end the friendship, and took it. I don't think I'd do it the same way now. No, what I wonder about is Cal fighting all the way. Was it only spite, or did he want the friendship to last, and that's what he was fighting for. Even when a couple of years later we met at university, and talked, and buried the hatchet - which didn't start the friendship again, that was gone, though I could say hi on the street to him if I saw him - I couldn't get an explanation out of him about that. He did not remember fighting me as I threw him out. He didn't remember any of the particulars, except that we fought.
I think many of us have stories like this; we don't write about them, because we don't come off looking good. But I don't look so great right now anyway, so I have nothing to lose.
The other tale is stranger, and less violent. I would have been about 23. I was living in a townhouse with my wife, playing D&D every Friday like clockwork, running the same world I'm running now - less sophisticated, but following the same principles.
The number of players had been expanding steadily for months. Many of you might know how it goes - players have a friend or a girlfriend, or you meet people you haven't seen for awhile who are looking for a campaign ... and another person starts showing up. At the point whene this story takes place, I was running 14 people in my campaign, pretty much every night. I remember that included my wife Michelle, three fellows named Mike, the one Mike's brother Craig and another Mike's brother Todd. Mike with Todd had his girlfriend Carol. There were the brothers Darcy and Tom, and there was an ex-girlfriend of mine Nicole and her boyfriend Barry and Barry's friend P.J. And finally there was Donny and his girlfriend, who I think was named either Karen or Kathy.
These were the regulars. Sessions got pretty rowdy, with people drifting into the kitchen or the back yard when I was running these four people who went down that hallway and then after these five people who broke into this vault. The logistics were a nightmare, as any DM might guess ... but I handled it, evident in that the people kept coming.
(I'm slipping into it with my present off-line campaign just now ... five people became four people, who are now six people with two more wanting to join)
But, as it happened, people were not quite as accepting as they might have been. In all that crowd, the continous hang up was Donny and Karen or Kathy. He had trouble with a lot of the comments, and I have to just say that she was just plain stupid - with regards to D&D, anyway. She was there because he was there, and everyone at the table knew it.
Out of the campaign, people pressed me to stop letting him play. I understood their frustration, but I felt bad for the guy. He did really want to play, and he did try ... he just couldn't quite get it. I think if he hadn't had his girlfriend in tow, she just sitting and taking up space and clearly anything but conversational, people might have begun to warm up to him. But they all resented the silent, stony anchor he carried. I got to resent her, myself.
I was clearly cracking under the strain of running 14 people; things that night had been complicated. One of those combats that involved a round-the-table die-rolling session every round. I had most of them trained not to hem and haw when it was their turn, which let things go fairly well ... but sometimes it got so aggravating I could just scream. Sometimes I did.
That night, I felt the pressure. I don't remember what exactly was happening the moment I realized I was going to have to ask Donny and his girlfriend to go. I didn't shout, I didn't insult them - I was too exhausted. I told them patiently, and probably peevishly from their perspective, that they weren't welcome anymore and that they'd better go. The room was very quiet. No one backed me up ... but they knew I could handle it. They knew I didn't need help.
Donny shouted. Donny insulted everyone and went out in a fury. He was entitled.
I never saw him again. I had never really been his friend, I only saw him for D&D. We didn't go for drinks or hang out in any way. I can't remember now how I even met him ... he didn't go to university, he had a blue collar job. He wasn't extraordinarily bright. So our association is a mystery to me now. Michelle used to say I had a talent for bringing home "lost puppies" ... people with nowhere else to go. That must have been the case.
After the fact, everyone congratulated me for turfing the both of them. But honestly, I never felt good about it.
So if you're in a situation where you have tossed players, or you're thinking about tossing players, I would recommend doing it out of the campaign. If you feel like you have to do it right then, stop running. Explain to everyone it isn't your night, and offer to play poker. And then, a few days later, end your association.
You will feel better about it. I am haunted by my two experiences.