How To Deal With Dropout Players

The plot is getting juicy. The battle is about to erupt. Gold is flowing like wine. The dice are hot, the Mt. Dew is cold, and my barbarian’s greatsword is tumescent. And one of the players just…leaves. They’re on the couch firing up the PlayStation. They’re off checking twitter, or fingering a plate of hot pockets, or they’ve gone to grab a quick nap, with no sign of returning to the game and no explanation why. They’ve just, fucked off to another part of the house, and you’re left with a big hole in your roster.

Why is this happening? What’s wrong with that asshole? How should the party deal with a dropout?

Google Images / Game of Thrones

Google Images / Game of Thrones


Why It Happens

The very nature of most RPG groups is to provide a non-judgmental atmosphere for the players. This allows creative freedom, self expression, and enjoyment without the negative stigmas attached to RPGs, which only went away because nerd culture is now produced by the biggest corporations in Hollywood.

In this new, progressive atmosphere which allows such free expression, some of the not-so-fun-but-normally-hidden-in-public personality traits shine through. Like being an uncommunicative dick who can’t be bothered to tell the group they’re bored and want a break.

At best this is a passive aggressive gesture to stall the game, maybe get a few players to ask what they’d rather be doing, or if they’d like to play something else altogether. At worst this will grind the plot to a screeching halt, ruin the precious hours other players have set aside from their busy week, and drain the fun from an activity they really didn’t need to be involved in anyway.

Google Images / Wikihow

Google Images / Wikihow

“Want to try out Pathfinder this weekend?”

“No thanks, but I would be interested in making sure you can’t.” 

When It Happens

Sometimes the player is acting mopey before they bail. Maybe their social quota has been met for the week, and 5 more minutes of human interaction will give them neural syphilis. Sometimes they’re apathetic toward the game, or dismissive of the group as a whole. Or maybe they just rolled one too many natural 1’s and they’re tired of sucking. The reasoning doesn’t matter, and it’s a common mistake for players to focus on the why.

Don’t bother asking why they’re suddenly disinterested. Don’t chase them down when they collapse on the couch like a toddler having a fit. Ignore them. Ignore them like the game-ruining shitheads they are. And if they drag their significant other away from the game too on threat of a sexless future, ignore them both. They’re dead to you, and if you show any interest in their departure aside from the polite ‘where you going?’– then you’re teaching them they can control the group every time their ass leaves the chair.

If you already asked why they’re bored and a reasonable answer wasn’t provided, show them the door.

Future Dropouts

If you’ve already gamed with a dropout before, and you know they’ll attend future RPG sessions, there is only one way to deal. Let them know the game cannot be stopped.

The game is a freight train, and the dropout must know that leaving it to play Call of Duty or check Facebook or watch Netflix is tantamount to leaping from the boxcar. Except ‘leaping’ implies some agency on their passive-aggressive part, so more like lazily rolling from the car into the ditch. Once they’re out, the train is gone, and their ass just got left between stations.

The majority of the group has control of the game– Not the bored loner who wants to pull the emergency break. If you don’t feel like playing, don’t play. Feel free to join next time, but nothing short of a house fire will stop a game if I’m running it. And if you’re the cause of the fire you better start with the liquor bar, otherwise I’ll pass around shots and claim the roaring inferno is a new immersive feature of the game, and the fire department busting in with axes is nothing more than a performance peace to accompany the siege of Jerk’s Deep.

Originally posted to


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