It’s time again for the Kobold Press advice column, Pack Tactics! For the next few months, we’ll be taking questions from players and GMs. A crack team of Kobold Press regulars has gathered to answer them, bringing their own perspectives to answer questions on how to play and run a better game.
Our roundtable experts this month are Ben Eastman, Brian Suskind, Thomas M. Reid, Sebastian Rombach, and Mike Welham. You might recognize some of these names from Kobold Press products such as the updated Tome of Beasts 1 and the recent Campaign Builder: Cities and Towns. Together, they represent more than 100 years of gaming experience and know-how!
Whatever questions you have about running a game, handling tricky metagame traps, and ruling edge cases, they’ve got an answer. Sometimes several!
Anonymous GM asks . . .
We invited someone new to join our gaming group. After one session, half the people in the group were like, “Nah, this guy doesn’t fit. Don’t want him back.”
How do you uninvite someone to a gaming group?
Brian Suskind. Sorry to hear that. It is never easy. I’ve had to do it and what worked for me was to talk to the person in private—either face to face or on the phone. Then you can say something like, “the group has to agree unanimously on new members. It’s a blind vote and unfortunately you didn’t make it.” (Whether you call for a formal vote or just collect the group’s feedback, it’s all the same. Or you can just say, “It’s not going to work out. You aren’t a good fit with the group”. There’s no easy way to let someone down, so be direct. Important to note: Do it before the next game. You don’t want to have someone come out to play only to get this news.
Sebastian Rombach. I’ve also had to go through this. It’s a tough situation for everyone involved, so it’s important to be kind while also, as Brian says, be direct and timely. The less of their time you waste, the more considerate you’re being. You don’t want them investing time and money in the next game only to have to pull the rug out from under them. It’s doubly important to be kind even if their actions leading up to this weren’t. Referring to a lack of group chemistry is better than pointing fingers and citing transgressions.
Thomas M. Reid. For future situations like that, I think it’s helpful to have a prospective new member meet with the group either outside of the game (go for coffee or get together for pizza or something) or have them come and observe for a session (or maybe play an NPC). Be frank with everyone at the beginning: “This is to see if this is going to be a good fit. No knocks against anyone on a personal level, but there is such a wide variety of play styles, it only makes sense to make sure. If we don’t mesh, no harm and no hard feelings.”
Mike Welham. I agree that disinviting a player should not lay blame with anyone in particular. I’m sure some people might have difficulty accepting “lack of chemistry” as a reason, but it’s better than listing alleged faults.
Sebastian Rombach. Yeah, to that point of bringing in new players to an already established group, having them play a character that they didn’t make is smart. I’ll usually hand a new player the monster book I’m using or a print-out from a prior session and have them play a character from that, whether for a single encounter or an entire session. That gets all the work of character generation out of the way and focuses on finding the good fit between the current and new players.
Ben Eastman. [Failing all that], your last resort could be to “break up” the group and then covertly reform them later on with the desired player composition. It’s not the best advice here, but sometimes it’s all you have short of brutal honesty.
Thomas M. Reid. That’s easier when you are meeting at someone’s house than, say, a work lunchtime game or something similar. I prefer being forthright to avoid the risk of the ostracized person finding out. But this is good when nothing else feels likely to not wound.
Sebastian Rombach. A compliment sandwich model helps smooth the rejection, especially if you take responsibility for any misunderstanding. Start off the conversation with something positive about them related to the situation, explain the rejection in the middle, and conclude with something else positive. Hopefully this is someone you already share common ground with, enjoy their company, and want to spend time with. After all, you invited them.
Here’s a template, if you’re interested in keeping the acquaintance/friendship active:
“[Name], thank you so much for coming to our game the other night. I know how busy your work keeps you so I appreciate you finding the time to spend with us. However, the group came to a decision afterward and the table collectively decided to keep the game closed from new players. I’m afraid that I invited you in error and that’s on me. I’m sorry for any misleading or inconvenience this caused. I hope we can find time to hang out again soon though. I’ve been meaning to try some other TTRPGs and I would love to find time in the future to explore that with you.”
How would you handle this situation? Let us know in the comments!