I just kicked a player out of my group after three sessions of this new group. A few weeks before I kicked another out of my different/second D&D group. That is very rare for me. I got to thinking though. How to avoid it, why I did it and how I prefer to do it if I absolutely must.
In both cases the players were rather new and simply not a good fit. I run a game which I explicitly advertise to any potential players as: high risk, rules-lite, homebrew OSR rules, lower-ish magic, low power level/stats, challenging, requiring clever thinking on the players parts, very cooperative, low on party-splits, no PVP or creepy or traumatizing stuff as well as collaborative story-telling and role-playing heavy. I make it very clear what I am (not) looking for in players and the sessions. I often have complete newbies join and in the vast majority of cases that works out grand.
To illustrate one of the cases/persons in question, let’s call him “Nick”, I kicked Nick out because:
We had one of the best sessions I have run in months, everyone but Nick was really, really into it and super complimentary afterwards. Nick initially was also very into it, however at one point towards the end of the session he became down/frustrated and started complaining about the game… This switch happened very suddenly and immediately after Nick made a few very bad rolls and several very bad tactical choices: getting himself split of from the party and almost killed. Despite the entire group and myself giving him many outs or suggesting he could also retreat or try any different, far less risky tactic.
It was a matter of Nick wanting to do the most, do it his way, not listening or compromising, wanting to use his class skills as much as possible (he even stated this at one point) and be in the spotlight as much as possible. This despite me having an explicit part in my document I let all new players read. In that I state clearly I want everyone to have an equal say, spotlight, voice and role during the game, or at least as close as is practically possible and suits the character.
From the get go there was a bit of a language barrier as everyone else spoke (a more) native English. No biggie by itself. But combine that with Nick just talking/deciding much more than anyone else and not taking any suggestions and raising his voice/talking over people at time and party splitting despite me being clear I am not really into that. Tbf in the situation it initially made sense, but he just kept being by himself when it no longer made sense at all and he was getting clobbered by enemies.
What really clinched it was him getting a bit too serious/emo and complaining about the rolls, my calls, making really weird and illogical, tactical choices even when I and the others warned him it might not be in his or the party’s interest and would be very risky / dangerous. For instance Nick tried to convince a higher level Rogue leader that he was a member of this person’s Rogue’s guild, twice, right before and even during! a fight with said Rogue leader. Just because he was wearing some clothes he took of a guild member the party had killed he thought he should be able to be convincing. All this while said Rogue’s guild leader was standing 1 meter away from him and another Rogue guarding this hide-out had already shouted the “intruders!” alarm seconds before…
He also did not want to really accept that he could not hide in shadows in a 1 by 2 meter underground, empty, straight hallway, the person he was trying to hide from was an extremely alert person that had torches behind them, standing a few meters from him looking straight into that hall way and at Nick,… I of course explained the situation, location and (im)possibilities a few times.
Fortunately and mercifully all these bad choices and bad mojo happened towards the end of the sesh only. At this time, when as predicted, things went very badly for his PC he was sort-off petulant and said the game and my rulings were not “fair” and finally he said the adventure / conclusion was kinda “dumb” and boring/not challenging… despite him being on 1 hit point and being extremely lucky that a few adversaries rolled very badly twice while Nick was one hit away from death. Contradictory. He also said the magical artifact they found was “stupid”, despite everyone else saying it was rad.
Then he accused two other players of not having his back in game or even being against him, which made no sense, they actually were giving him a ton of leeway, limelight and trying to help him at various junctions. Everyone was having a great time until these incidents, one player “Jim” at this point even got very annoyed with him and straight up told him it was the very opposite of “dumb” and that he super enjoyed the story and end, and the two other players ended up agreeing with Jim, these two players are generally a little less vocal in volunteering opinions.
We had a great session overall but Nick almost ended up ruining it/the end, there was a weird tension which fortunately mostly gave way and all but him were focusing on, and discussing how much fun we all had. If four people are having the best time and a fifth tries pretty hard to ruin that -unintentionally or not- or is having a terrible time and nobody really sees nor understands why he feels that way, odds are it is at the very least a very poor fit…
Anyhow, Iast night after the sesh I conferred with Jim, who had previously actually expressed some more minor misgivings about playing with the problem player the preceding session, and we both agreed we didn’t want him to play with us anymore. That clinched it for me, if 1 player and the GM really are done, there is not much point. I of course will inform my other two players but I didn’t want to involve them in this issue more than necessary.
Hence I send the problem player a message which was as nice and as encouraging as I could make it, I told him -and meant it- he obviously is into D&D, invested and that he should continue playing and find a group where his play-style meshes with the others. I gave him the best resources I know to find other groups. There is many groups in my city. I did explain that I am going for a very specific and perhaps unusual type of game and group and plenty of other GMs are more open to different vibes and styles.
What I learned from this is that I need to be even a little bit clearer about my expectations and especially clear that the first 3 sessions are sort off a try-out and that staying in the group from the first session is not guaranteed. That way it isn’t such a disappointment or perhaps surprise if it doesn’t work out. Also, there is no “wrong” way to play RPGs, but there is what you enjoy and what you do not… and that is sometimes not compatible in different people.
How about yourself, any experience in giving someone the boot? Why did you feel compelled to do it?