A while back I was playing in a game where almost all of us were in our mid-20s to late-30s. The sole exception was a gamer in his 50s, whom many of us hadn’t met before this particular campaign. No one had any problem with someone one or two decades older than us joining the campaign.

A few sessions in our host (not the GM) wanted to let his son join the game. His son was about 12 at the time and it was fairly obvious that the host was going to let him play regardless of the group’s opinion (hey, his house, his rules, right?).

When the GM informed me of this he was obviously agitated. After I talked him out of moving the game to another location I asked him what the big deal was. Most of us, after all, had gotten our start around the same age. His response was that he didn’t want to water down his “adult game,” and told the host so. It didn’t matter that we weren’t doing anything particularly “adult.”

I’m happy to report that the boy joined without any real problems other than the usual “newbie” growing pains. He’s now joined the ranks of regular GMs in my gaming circles.

Still, my GM buddy had a point. He was comfortable gaming with a certain age group and wanted it to stay that way. I’ve seen similar comments on various RPG boards. I’ve also seen at least one GM post that he views gaming as a “poker night with the guys” and doesn’t want women in the group.  On the player side, I know a gamer that refuses to play in any campaign where the host has children. I also know people that refuse to game with an ex-lover or with anyone connected to him or her.

In addition to one’s comfort level, there are also social concerns when joining a gaming group. I certainly don’t want to be the forty-something guy explaining to the nice officer why I regularly invite a teen girl or two to roleplay in my basement with a group of guys my age (props to the EN World forum comment that inspired that one-wish I could credit it properly). I’ve been the teenaged boy trying to explain to my parents why I should be allowed to hang out with a bunch of twenty-something guys until 3 in the morning.

So today’s Hot Button is this: Do you draw a line when it comes to prospective players? What players aren’t welcome at your table? Have you played in a group where that line made you a bit uncomfortable? Have you ever left a group over its exclusivity or because they lacked a line?

Walt Ciechanowski

About  Walt Ciechanowski

Walt’s been a game master ever since he accidentally picked up the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set in 1982. He became a freelance RPG writer in 2005 and is currently the Victoriana Line Developer for Cubicle 7. Walt lives in Springfield, PA with his wife Helena and their three children, Leianna, Stephen, and Zoe.



24 Responses to Hot Button: No, You Can’t Game with Us

  1. I’ve played with a lot of different group styles.

    I’ve played with a very “adult” group that didn’t exactly share all my life values but still treated me with respect and acceptance and tought me how to play this game that I came to love.

    I’ve played with a family group made up husbands and wives, all but two of us who had children, and all of whom were devoted Christians.

    Next week, I’m starting a game with a bunch of girls, almost all of whom have never played D&D before (this might have been kind of a dare on my part).

    So, on one hand, I can tell you that I have very few stipulations with who I play with. I expect the people I play with to be mature and a team player. But that’s about it. I’ve played with guys and I’ve played with other girls. I’ve played with young people and people whose kids have already gone to college. Starting next week, my aunt and my mother will be one of the new players.

    And yet, on the other hand, I can tell you that I have intentionally NOT invited any guys to our game next week. It’s not that I won’t play with guys. It’s just that, in this particular case, we’re doing a “Ladies Game Night”. We have a specific expectation about the kind of atmosphere we’ll have, and it’s girls-only. So… eh… I guess it depends. Is your “hot button” something that you won’t EVER accept? Or is it something that just doesn’t fit into your idea for the current gaming group?

  2. I think a lot of that is dependent on the circumstances. My gaming group has been pretty regular for the past 11 years – though about 5 years ago everyone started having kids.

    We quickly learned who could be allowed to bring babies or toddlers to the gaming table, and who let them scream and run amok. We just had a quiet discussion without naming names and decided that kids need to be at least one floor-of-the-house away from the table, or we game at a different location than the kids. I think there was some strain there – but overall it worked quite well. In another 6-8 years, it’ll be a second generation of gamers at the table because we handled it rationally and not used an absolute “NO KIDS EVER” mentality.

  3. As somebody who is involved — albeit remotely — in organised youth activities in the UK … I cannot imagine inviting somebody under the age of 18 into my home to play. That situation with the officer is only too possible, and should they show up early or need to wait late for a ride home to arrive, you’re putting yourself directly into the sort of situation that ought to be avoided.

    That said, there’s nothing wrong with it if the parent is a gamer, or gaming sessions can be set up in a manner which avoids such situations. But it needs to be recognised that an adult’s home is different from a school or community centre where child/adult interactions often take place.

    From a more personal perspective, the drinking of alcoholic beverages is the norm in my group, making it (not necessarily) the best of environments for underage players.

  4. @lady2beetle – My wife ran a girls game day for her friends last year, and it worked out great. Stick to your guns about no guys– she said it made a huge difference in everyone’s comfort level. Here’s a post about prepping for the game, and here’s the after play report.

  5. New players always change a group– sometimes for the better, often in unexpected ways. In the past I leaned towards inclusion, but it often had bad consequences; just having a player who wasn’t a part of the group from the beginning changed the character of the whole adventure.

    These days I’m a little more reluctant to admit people midstream– I’d rather play a one-shot with them, or let them join at the next short series.

  6. Kurt "Telas" Schneider

    Every prospective player is handled on a case-by-case basis; there are no real hard-and-fast rules. I haven’t campaigned with minors yet; my experiences with them in one-shots tells me that our play styles don’t quite match, although some are more mature than their years.

    Like Scott, I’m reluctant to invite just anyone to my table. I do have the luxury of living in a gamer-rich environment (Austin, TX).

    I’m going to sound like an elitist jerk here, but I actually prefer to game with people who have interests outside gaming. Go figure.

  7. I was put in a tough situation like this after our first session. See, when I broached the concept of a roleplaying game, it was to a very specific group of friends, who all knew each other well and had a great time together. About three days after we agreed to do the game, I was talking to another friend of mine, who is two years older than the rest of us. He immediately jumped on the idea and told me that he’d love to play. At the time, I was grateful, since he would be another person who knew something about gaming. However, when I told the rest of the group, their response was, “…Oh he’s playing now?” In fact, one of the group came to me and told me that she didn’t want him playing, since he invited himself in the first place. I told them that we should at least let him try. So the first session came up, and he called, saying that he was tired and had work to do, so he’d be missing the first session. It was fairly immediately agreed that he wouldn’t be invited back. So, it wasn’t really that I didn’t want him, but he was bad for the group, so I let him go.

  8. There aren’t any kinds of people I won’t game with, but there are kinds of behaviours I won’t game with. To that end, most new players are judged on a case-by-case basis, and I generally like to run a short-term campaign for them and my gaming group before they get invited to the “main” game, to make sure they mesh well and don’t exhibit any of the behaviours we dislike.

  9. Well in my games there is no age, race profession requirements to play. It’s not even requirement to have played any rpg game ever. Only thing that is required is that you show interest in game and try t have fun with every one. In recent events i started a game with bunch of kids(im 26) they are 15-17 and game is fun and completely different gaming group from my standard(my age) group.

    About game groups that consist of young girls i have 4 girls gaming group that play with me, ages from 18-25 so age is no problem.

    I agreee only thing that will lead to expolsion of individual if he is labled as JERK as a person(not character). So basycly there is only one rule with me NO JERKS ALLOWED.

  10. My group ranges in age from 11 to 44, and as long as the police are not actively chasing you down the street you are welcome to join. The group gets to decide if you come back though. We’ve had players that only lasted one session, and some that lasted several before they got the axe.

    The “no kids”, “guys night”, or similar groups are fine for one-shots, but the novelty wears off pretty fast.

  11. Heh. I’m the 50+ year-old in any game I join and since I emigrated from my old gaming home in the UK in 1984 and then took 12 years off while my kid grew up starting in the mid 90s I now find all gaming buddies are at least a generation younger than me usually. It can make for awkward moments when I GM and make an assumption that the players can remember such-and-such an event (I often run a Delta Green game set in the mid to late 1980s and forget that my players were young children during key events I remember happening).

    Kids at the game? My own experience was that at age 2 the needs of any child suddenly balloon into “me and me only please” and this is disruptive to a game. Even if the kids are under the care of a non-gaming parent they can be needy and jealous of the game and that is a recipe for annoyance all round. I’d relocate, but that’s just me.

    The one time I had to bring my 13 year-old daughter to a game run and played by young 30-somethings they made her welcome and even insisted she play, an unexpected and welcome slap in my expectations. Thank you Mike the GM, John the Druid, Mary the Monk and Jay the whatever the hell you were hiding under that cowl. I miss you all and hope you are all well and prospering.

    My daughter found the experience both rewarding and disappointing; she had envisioned a D&D game as involving Cos Play, candlelight and – Jass knows why – everyone sitting at a low, Japanese-style table, and as a result felt we were “doing it wrong”. She was rather like Sally from “Darths and Droids” now I come to think on it.

    I think that whatever the choice, everyone has to be understanding of each other’s stance. It does no good to point out that if there’s a “no kids” rule one member of a husband/wife team will have to drop out if the presence of the kid is driving the GM to distraction, just as a GM’s dislike of children cannot be a logical argument for leaving a two-month old in the care of a baby-sitter in and of itself.

    Perspectives sometimes outweigh facts here: proud parents newly come into the realization that the fallout from a child isn’t the end of the world are often blind to the distaste around them for the sounds and smells coming from their new baby and for their own fascination with same. Non-parents have an exaggerated sensitivity in these areas. These factors serve to escalate any disagreement rapidly.

    There are no hard and fast answers. You just have to figure it out on the fly and hope that everyone can see past the short-term inconvenience of dropping out of a game or having kids present to the worth of the long-term friendship of the gamers.

  12. For my players and I it all comes down to commitment and skill. We have players of all skill level but only a few who are commited to making meetings regularly and playing for more than a few hours. We do our best to seperate these groups out of respect for peoples varying level of interest and patience with players of greater or lesser skill.
    Recently I had to have a very awkward conversation with two long time friends who wanted to play with the advanced group because some mutual friends were in it. Luckily I wasn’t alone in saying no and explaining the reasons. They opted to join the starter group and graciously the mutual friends joined that as well to make it easier. As I imagined after about two sessions they lost interest and decided to quit, I was relieved and reassured in my choice to keep them seperate abd avoid frusterating my vets.

  13. Years ago I tried to dissuade a younger-than-the-rest gamer from joining my V&V game. I made his life hard when he didn’t take the hint and gimped his character in a fit of meanness I fortunately grew out of that day. The player took the character and played it brilliantly, and became the lynchpin of that group. I welcomed him in to every other game I ran and the event has informed my behaviour ever since.

    Then I ran a Savage Worlds game at a con at which a younger player signed up. I had to re-tool the intended-for-adults content on the fly and he needed lots of guidance as the game progressed that his father (also gaming) declined to provide. While he didn’t ruin the game, his presence definitely de-tuned the overall experience for everyone. Fortunately, they all still seemd to have a good time so I suppose everyone won, in reality.

  14. I really only ask for a few things from people who want to game with my group: Respect the spirit of the game, respect the group and gm, and commitment. The 1st and the last one are normally the biggest issues I’ve found, and the only reasons I’ve asked anyone not to come back. I do prefer to game with people around my age group though (mid 20′s).

  15. I have a hard and fast rule against gaming with those fictional nut-jobs who appeared in the old anti-D&D propoganda.

  16. After GMing for around 16 years and counting now I’ve found it a necessity to draw a couple lines for people I won’t game with.

    The first one is players that insist on playing a sadistic villain even in a heroic campaign. Not the anti hero types you see in movies and many games, such roguish chars are usually fun, but more the player whose idea of a fun session is starting a bar room brawl, murdering any patrons that put up a fight, and then raping the tavern wenches and bar keeps daughter, all while claiming to be a “hero” >.<

    After seeing such a person derail a campaign and nearly dissolve a gaming group I decided for the sake of sanity to keep such "gamers" away from my table.

    The only other type of players I keep from the table are those that have the attention span of an insect unless combat is happening, and can focus on the non combat parts of the game the game for a grand total of 10 minutes before trying to channel surf, start a ooc conversation about last weeks tv show, or a fist fight in game with whomever's near by (even if it's the kings royal guard in a fantasy game, or the witnesses to a monster sighting the group is questioning in a modern day horror campaign, both of which I've seen happen and the answer to both when asked why was "I was bored and thought a punch up would be more fun then sitting around.") and disrupt/ruin the session for everyone else.

    Beyond that, as long as they know how to work as a team,and get along with the gaming group ooc (i.e non prejudiced/racist, etc..)they're welcome to join in the fun.

  17. I bring people in one at a time, to see if they mesh with the current people.

    Usually though, if I interact with them and they don’t seem to be ‘cool’ with my gaming style, they never get the invite. If one of my gaming group invites them, I’ll talk to them first to see if I get along with them.

    It’s my game, dammit. I get to pick who plays with me.

  18. Nice to see I’m the only one with a “Heck, No” rule.

    I don’t game with married couples. On occasion, I have asked non-married couples not to come back.

    If it’s not the constant in-jokes between two players, it’s the “you know what you did and I’m not speaking to you until you figure it out and commit seppuku out of remorse” events. One game took a turn for the worse when one person forgot to take out the garbage before the game. I’m not joking.

    Then there are the hen-pecked husbands or the rooster-dominated wives. One of the couple always has to decide what race, class, proficiencies, etc. *both* have to take, and often this extends into game-play as well. If the domineering mate isn’t running two characters, then he or she is running his or her character and his or her mate instead.

    Also, I was asked to try running a gay-only campaign for awhile. Within two weeks, we had three straight guys wanting to join, insisting they could handle it. With the blessing of the original players, we allowed them to join on probation.

    One guy started talking in a lisp constantly, and the other talked in a falsetto (and would try to sing songs from musicals from time to time). I made it clear that if they didn’t knock it off, either they would be leaving or I would be. They were asked to leave by the group.

    The third guy stopped coming two weeks later, which surprised none of us. He had acted very uncomfortable the entire time, and didn’t participate a whole lot.

  19. As a lesbian gamer I’m curious, what’s the difference between a “gay-only campaign” and a “regular game?”
    Does it mean all the main npc’s etc are also gay? Or does it just mean the game world cultures have an open acceptance of homosexuality? (or both?)

    (I’ve gamed with friends both straight and lez, and never really noticed any difference in the campaign itself, other then the sexual preferences of the player chars and which npc’s they sometimes attempt to pursue romantic interests with.)

  20. @Silveressa: All the players were gay men, the characters were gay men. The setting was a world in which homosexuality was definitely not accepted.

    Mainly, we all wanted a chance to game where we didn’t have to put up with a bunch of c-rap at the table. And yes, I rarely sit down at the table where there *isn’t* something like that going on.

  21. @ Xion, ugh, my condolences that you have to put up with junk like that at the table more often then not, I commend your perseverance to keep gaming in such a situation, I’d be giving the trouble makers the steel toed das boot out the door within the first minute or two.

  22. My one rule for who I will or will not game with is simple: I must meet them and be okay with them in a social setting before I ever sit down at a table with them. No ifs, ands, or buts. If they are okay in a non-gaming setting, then they’ll usually be okay in our gaming setting.

  23. @Roxysteve

    Your daughter has the right idea. Candlelight and a Kotatsu table is the way to go. Okay, I’ve never actually gamed in that setting but it sounds appealing.

    @All

    I like to think I’m fairly open about who I can game with but, like anyone, there simply are people who I’m not compatible with. And I think it runs true of all gamers.

    I don’t have a problem gaming with minors but they need to be at least 11 or 12 years old; typically the age when the fundamentals of gaming make sense. And if you can’t find a babysitter, you’re not bringing your children to the table. I’ve yet to encounter children in any setting who don’t demand to be the center of attention.

    I won’t play with people who refuse to adopt the spirit of the game (i.e. that guy who wants to be the evil psychopath on a heroic quest or the people who want to sex up an innocent game of D&D).

    I’ll play with significant others but I won’t play with them if they have no RPG experience. That’s obviously a “you dragged me here” ploy that I want no part of.

  24. Below a certain age, say mid-teens-ish, I wouldn’t bring a player in if they weren’t gaming with one of their parents or old siblings…just too much liability involved. However, other than that, I’ve had 8 year olds rolling the bones for the bad guys because the uncle was playing and was watching the kid. No issues.

    If anything, our group has a tendency to want to meet with new members outside of play time to get a feel for them. If we like them as people, it’ll work…if there’s issues personality-wise, best to not bring them in.

    As with everything to do with people, it depends on the person.

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