Jon Gedge dot com

Digging a Dugs Grave

Occasionally things don't work out.

Even in a Role Playing Game it's time to cut ties with players.

And this is the case of how one player went about to “Dig a Dugs Grave.”

For those of you who are casual Star Wars fans or non fans of Star Wars, Dugs are a species of diminutive dexterous aliens who were introduced in the Star Wars Movie “Phantom Menace” with the antagonist character Sebulba who was the pod racing champion that a young Anakin beat to win his freedom.

And as I began to GM a Star Wars Role Playing Game, one of the new players was eager to create and run an ace pilot character and chose to make a Dug named Kugekari.

Things started off well enough and the player running Kugekari was a good and consistent participant who showed up for our weekly games.

Everything looked good but a couple of months into our campaign, the player simply didn't show up!

I asked the other players if they knew what had happened to Kugekari's player and was informed that he was also a baseball referee and had been called up to ref a game that evening.

So he was a no-show no-call for that game.

As that time of the year was baseball season, this player's participation became infrequent and every time he was invited to ref a game last minute, he continued his no-call no-show policy.

One week he did show up and I learned that while he was called in as a back up referee, he did actually have adequate time to notify me of his opportunities to ref baseball.

I then asked if his absences were something that I should prepare to deal with on a regular basis? He indicated that the season was over and that he didn't foresee any other disruptions to his attendance.

With that good news, I let him know that I had prepared a mission that would delve into his character's background and would be a great opportunity to explore his character for the benefit of the whole table.

We had a good session and I then planned to send the team to the Dug home world of Malastare!

And the next week that player again failed to call and did not show up! We proceeded for a couple of weeks, having the team run through the planned mission on Malastare, but with that player's absence, Kugekari was a non participant. Which had been an issue for several months already so Kugekari remained an inactive Non-Player Character (NPC).

But I can be patient. If Kugekari's player was really looking toward an end of a baseball season and would become an active participant, I was okay. For the most part, that player was a positive addition to the group.

However, when the player returned, we were still in the Major League Baseball season and during the nest game session, that player did not participate in the game, but instead spent the session setting up a simulcast of a baseball game on multiple cell phones.

While the accomplishment of procuring, simulcasting, and syncing up a streamed broadcast on multiple devices sounds like a nifty accomplishment worthy of celebration that activity was highly disruptive to the game. During that session, Kugekari didn't do anything as the player was completely distracted and not participating at any level.

At the conclusion of the session, I informed the player that I was dismissing him from the campaign and that he would no longer be invited to participate.

Sure this announcement caused a bit of a stir.

Kugekari's player protested, indicating that his baseball season was over!

One of his friends also tried to intercede on his behalf, but I remained calm, firm, and resolute. I also didn't broach further discussion.

Perhaps I should have formulated and explained the reasoning for my decision better so that the group understood my perspective. So as a GM I think I failed in that respect in this instance.

To this date, I believe this was the right course of action. That group of players continued to to participate actively and enjoyed the game for anther six missions (and several more gaming sessions).

The dismissed player had been subtly and consistently behaving rudely to the other participants of the game group.

Being physically absent on occasion is to be expected. Obviously life can throw us some curve balls and at times, players aren't always available especially during emergencies. As a long time Role Player, I've dealt with these issues often enough.

However, most other players that I've dealt with have communicated these disruptions as early as possible. Most polite players only fail to communicate when they are incapable (like when they're unconscious in the back of an ambulance as it races them to the closest hospital)!

As the Game Master, we put in preparation work for the players so that they experience little down time and can maximize the short time that you are playing together in our shared imagined worlds of adventure. Having a player (and their character) absent without notice forces you to make last minute adjustments.

But if a player tunes you out and then shows up at random, that can be just as disruptive.

Mind you, some gaming groups and campaigns are built on the premise that the events are sufficiently disjointed that it doesn't matter who is at the table at any given game day.

However, longer and story rich Role Playing Games require some consistency on the part of the players.

Let me point out a metaphor. Imagine a full feature movie where five characters are introduced and each is given compelling exposition so that the audience has a stake in the ongoing story. But half way through the movie, characters disappear for stretches of the movie, without explanation or logical reason, some of whom return for short stretches, also without explanation or logical reason.

As a movie goer you would find this to be highly dissatisfying. You would be justified to give that movie a low rating.

And while the audience of a Role Playing Game is (usually) just the participants, those continuity errors are still frustrating for the other participants.

I can imagine several people out their justifying this player's lack of participation with the argument “But it's just a game!”


Now imagine a player of the National Football League, deciding to just not showing up for the playoff games.

What do you think would happen to him?

He'll get fired!

And professional football is “just a game” too.

However, when a player's behavior at the table becomes disruptive to the other participants, sometimes it's most appropriate to dismiss that player so that the rest of the group can continue to have fun without the expense to the rest of the team.