feedburner
Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

feedburner count

Are New Player Try-Outs Unfair?

Labels: , ,

My Microlite74 Wilderlands campaign has unexpectedly lost a player. One of the original players who started this campaign has to be in Oklahoma City by December 10th. His wife got a fantastic job offer they can't turn down, even if it gave them three weeks to move. While we'll all miss him (and the occasional homemade pies from his wife), our campaign style (see Long Campaigns Don't Have To Be Boring!) means that losing a player -- even a long-term player -- will not disrupt the campaign.

I had four players on the wait list, but the player at the top of the list decided he did not want to play when he found out that I meant what I told him when I met him and put his name on the wait list -- getting to the top of the list means the new player get a 2 (sometimes 3) session try-out so I can be sure the new person if a good fit for the campaign and the other players can be sure the new player's personality doesn't rub them raw.

I've handled new players this way for many years with few complaints from potential players. (However, I have had several players get annoyed when they were not accepted.) The player at the top of this list this time has thrown a fit, claiming that such try-outs are unfair to players who have been on the wait list for many months. He feels that a player who has waited patiently for a spot deserves to be able to play, even if he is somewhat disruptive to the group. Some of his comments to our email list:

"The group should be able to adapt to any new player, especially one who has showed he really wants to play by sitting on the wait list for over a year."

"Try-outs are inherently unfair and something I associate with competitive sports not with D&D."

"I will not give up my spot. I've earned the right to play."

You've probably guessed that I told him that he hasn't "earned" anything and no one has an automatic right to move into my house for a few hours every Sunday. I've removed him from the wait list and from the group mailing list. The second person on the wait list is now up for a try-out and she doesn't seem to have any problems with it.

Personally, I think the first person was a jerk -- especially since he was told that we did "try-outs" when we first met and did not register any complaints then. BTW, when asked about this he said that he did not object because he knew if he did I would reject him out of hand. However, I'm interested in what this blog's readers think. Are trial periods for new players somehow unfair? Even if they are unfair, are they more unfair than a player who turns out not to fit well with a group being allowed to stay even though he's ruining the fun for others in group? How do (or would) you handle adding new players who are strangers to an ongoing group?

19 comments:
gravatar
faoladh said...
November 14, 2012 at 8:24 PM  

Not unfair at all, in my opinion. In another part of my life, there are a variety of ways that we can organize groups. Some groups try to operate by open invitation, others by private invitation, and some accept all comers but place new members in a trial period. Of the three methods, the last two are most common among groups that last, while the first tends to result in groups that self-destruct, sometimes spectacularly, fairly quickly.

Basically, a group is a type of ecosystem. It requires care to ensure that it doesn't become imbalanced, and the best way, perhaps the only way, to do that effectively is to vet new members of the group. That can either occur beforehand (the private invitation model) or during the early days of membership by creating a socially limited role for a time during the evaluation by the group (the trial period model). There are too many possible problems that can be created by an unknown recruit, due to their psychological makeup, clashing with established group members.

Personally, I think that the person you describe failed his trial period before even playing in a session. His approach was not compatible with that of your group, and he was a disruptive influence from the beginning. You don't enter a new group with an immediate eye to changing factors that the existing group finds to be good or helpful.

gravatar
Talysman said...
November 14, 2012 at 8:24 PM  

I think there should be non-tryout gaming, somewhere, mostly in public venues. In your own home, or one of your friends? Maybe tryouts are a good idea, more for non-gaming reasons than anything else.

If you hadn't said "there will be try-outs" and then he turned out to have very different ideas about gaming or had a personality conflict with another player, and you'd asked him to leave, I wonder what he would have done.

gravatar
Joseph Bloch said...
November 14, 2012 at 8:54 PM  

Yeah, I'd say that reaction in and of itself constitutes failing the tryout. I'd tell him to piss off.

It's somehow "unfair" to want to make sure that a new person fits in with the rest of the group? Somehow waiting on a list guarantees acceptance? Utter nonsense.

Don't you feel even a momentary twinge of guilt. The guy is a self-entitled doofus, and you probably spared yourself a lot of grief by tossing him out before he had a chance to disrupt the game.

gravatar
Joseph Bloch said...
November 14, 2012 at 8:55 PM  

Now, this sort of tryout would be awesome...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fk7R_6xqkKw

gravatar
Randall said...
November 14, 2012 at 9:14 PM  

For the record, I don't feel guilty and I agree that this person failed their tryout before it even started. I was just wondering if I was so out of touch with "modern gaming" that I was not aware that a "try-out" period had become "badwrongfun" or something.

@Joesph: That's my favorite scene in The Dark Knight. Unfortunately, our try-outs aren't that awesome. :)

gravatar
ravencrowking said...
November 14, 2012 at 9:35 PM  

Waiting on a list is not an effort, and you owe nothing to anyone for being willing to consider them. You need someone who will mesh with your group, not someone who wants the group to change for him. In the immortal words of Dan Savage, DTMFA.

gravatar
mikkelibob said...
November 14, 2012 at 9:42 PM  

Our problem tends to be folks who drop out for normal life reasons, and then want to come back after we've replaced them. There is only so much room at the table, particularly for some GMs and games (we tend to rotate games ever 2-3 months of weekly play). I kinda wish all our B-teamers would get together and form a second group.

gravatar
Adam Thornton said...
November 14, 2012 at 9:54 PM  

Your table, your rules. Simple as that.

gravatar
-C said...
November 15, 2012 at 6:10 AM  

Good science no!

I mean, look. We are entitled to get our needs met. You are talking about a life interaction and commitment. You are upfront and clear about the process.

Rejection is difficult to take. Behavior like the rejected player's behavior means what exactly?

What's he say? 1) The group should conform to me. 2) Being judged on my interpersonal chemistry (which is really his merits and natural ability) is not equitable. 3)That because he has requested something, that means is entitled to what he has requested.

Well, that's absurd. Life isn't fair. People are under no obligation to conform to you or your requests, and it is ridiculous to think that because you want a thing, that means you should have a thing.

These are fairly straightforward observations necessary to successfully cope with life. What might the behavior of a person be who does not conform to these understandings? Childish? Insecure? It is not for me to say.

My personal opinion is that you were wise to do what you did.

gravatar
Paul Thornton said...
November 15, 2012 at 6:30 AM  

Your table, your rules, sums it up perfectly. I game with a large society a lot of the time, and although I can exercise some control - a certain individual with whom I have butted heads in the past will never be in a game I run - everything else is about getting people into the game they want to play. Sometimes this can cause problems, but if handled maturely, there should be no problem. When the game's at my place, I only invite people to play who I know everyone will get on with., and you should be free to do the same thing, with any criteria you see fit to judge that with.

gravatar
Edgar Johnson said...
November 15, 2012 at 7:22 AM  

I've never had so large a group that I had to shut out new players, or waitlist them, or whatever else.

That said, I have had players invited by others in my group who ended up destroying my group, pretty much. It was an odd situation, one in which three of the players were sleeping with each other. No need to go into that dynamic, other than to say that what one did, they all followed. So, when the new guy decided he wanted to GM his own campaign, he absconded with two of my other players.

The point is: One person can fuck up a close, long-running campaign. There's not reason we, as GMs, shouldn't be protective of our campaigns and groups, even as we attempt to locate new talent to bring into the fold. It's difficult enough to find the right blend of personalities, compatible schedules, love of the same sorts of campaign elements, etc., without having to accept any old entitled douchenozzle who thinks he deserves a spot at the table.

I think you're wise to do it the way you do. So long as you're clear about that expectation, then it serves a valuable purpose, perhaps the most valuable purpose: Keeping the game fun for the people who are playing. And apparently in this case it worked as designed. One asshat detected and dispatched.

gravatar
Capheind said...
November 15, 2012 at 9:32 AM  

Does he not know that he doesn't need your group to game?

gravatar
Talysman said...
November 15, 2012 at 12:38 PM  

I guess I should add I'm not completely on board with the *waitlist* aspect. Trials? OK. Waiting before you are even allowed to try? I guess I need to know what the conditions that lead to him getting placed on a list were. If you advertise for players and then tell the people who respond that there's a waiting list, that doesn't seem right.

gravatar
Dak Ultimak said...
November 15, 2012 at 12:59 PM  

Yeah, silly. Joining a gaming group is a commitment, and warrants a test run. Waiting list? I wish I had the demand to have one.

gravatar
Rach's reflections said...
November 15, 2012 at 1:29 PM  

I've never had to do anything like this myself, though if I had enough people interested in one of my games I'd definitely see the value. Is this wilderlands game face-to-face, or via chat, or what?

gravatar
Philo Pharynx said...
November 15, 2012 at 1:41 PM  

Friendship is not transitive. I have people that I love to game with and I enjoy spending time with, but they do not get along with each other for various reasons. Different groups have different chemistry and sometimes a new person will disrupt things more than they improve it.

I'd explain it that if the chemistry doesn't work, they'd pass on him anyway. You're just being upfront about it.

His reaction is not a good sign. In gaming there's lots of times when things don't go your way and dealing with it is part of the experience.

gravatar
Randall said...
November 15, 2012 at 1:55 PM  

@Talysman: I can fit (barely) 9 players and one GM in my Living/Dining Room. I've had the maximum number of players (nine) playing for a long time now. The wait list is for people who want to play but can't due to lack of physical space for more players. When a player opening happens, the person who has been on the wait list the longest gets the first chance at the spot. This isn't an ideal situation but since I only have time to run one game a week and only have physical space for nine players, there really isn't any other fair way to handle additional people who want to play.

@Rach's reflections: The game is face-to-face, I type far too slowly to run a game via Internet chat.

gravatar
mikemonaco said...
November 15, 2012 at 2:03 PM  

One more voice in the chorus of "Of course you can tell people you want them to try out with the group." Who would WANT to play with a group that doesn't like them or that they don't like? Sheesh. I'm guessing this guy has been kicked out of other groups already.

Having said that, I learned from one of my players that somehow it's gotten out among 9younger) local gamers that people have to try out to play in my game, and they think it is odd. So maybe there are groups with an open door policy. I played that way for four years in college and let me tell you I like playing with people I like more than playing with everyone & anyone that shows up!

gravatar
Kyle said...
December 10, 2012 at 3:38 AM  

It's not unfair to have player tryouts, but it is a bit pretentious.

Seriously, all we're doing is rolling dice, eating cheetos and pretending to be being elven princesses. If it were some thespy WoD sort of group it might make sense, but you're playing old school stuff. Relax, mate.

Post a Comment

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.