Everyone has a “morning after” once in awhile. You know what I mean. Things were said and done that were regrettable the previous night, feelings were hurt, new experiences happened, and confusion runs rampant through the mind. Perhaps it was your first time, perhaps you weren’t prepared for some things that were asked of you, or perhaps you just didn’t know how to handle unexpected circumstances. Maybe there were too many mistakes, maybe the climax happened either too quickly or not at all, and maybe furniture got broken. I promise, it’s happened to all of us.
It’s happened to all GMs.
How do you come back from a bad night at the gaming table? What if all the “tips” and “advice” you’ve always been given about, “Keep Rules Discussions for After the Game,” “Make Sure your In-Character Arguments are Firmly In-Character,” etcetera just simply don’t work one night? How do you continue on from that point?
The last time things got personal at the gaming table for me was probably about three years ago. It was a relatively new group, though I knew all the players beforehand. Somehow during the course of the session, a discrepancy came up in a ruling. I thought a particular check should be handled one way, and I went ahead and handled the check in that way. As a result, a character died. A few rounds later, the player – whom I will refer to as Bob for the rest of this story – confronted me about the ruling there at the game table, believing he had found an error I had made in the ruling, and he wanted to retcon all the actions of the previous three rounds. I put the game on pause for a couple minutes and listened to Bob’s thoughts, but decided that first, he was misinterpreting the rule, and second, the retcon would disturb the flow of the game just too much to go through with it.
He made several snide comments over the course of the rest of the night, and when his character was resurrected, he came up with a very-obviously metagame excuse to leave the party and continue his adventuring elsewhere. The game broke down at this point and everyone left the table upset. Bob went outside to smoke, and then we noticed his car pulling down the road, with him leaving without saying goodbye, and the other players and I stayed around to discuss the events. We quite frankly were not sure if he would even come back.
The next morning, I literally woke up with a pit in my stomach. I had slept on everything and come to the decision that maybe I should have just let Bob have his way to avoid this kind of situation. I decided I would call him and apologize (even though I knew I was just apologizing so as to smooth the ickiness between us), but when I discussed this with another player, he told me I should just leave things be and let Bob come back and we could all discuss it before the next session.
Well, he didn’t show up at the next session, and didn’t answer emails for the next few weeks. We continued on, and then one of the other players told me about three weeks later that Bob had joined up in some sort of public group at a local gaming store, and had decided not to play with us anymore.
I’ve always wondered if I should have called him that morning after and apologized, even though I and the rest of the players fully believe that Bob overreacted, and things could have been settled in a more rational way. Tell me some of your “Morning After” stories, let me know that everyone gets that weird feeling when the gaming doesn’t go very well.