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Hot Button: Failed Relationships

While reading Patrick’s article and related comments  [1]yesterday something struck me as a good Hot Button topic: As a Game Master, what do you do when two of your players break up and both wish to remain in the game?

If you’ve gamed for any respectable length of time, then you’ve probably had at least one romantic couple in your group. Sometimes they join as a couple. Sometimes one of them is already part of the group and recruits the other. Sometimes two members of the same group strike up a relationship. Whatever the case, there’s always a chance that the relationship will fail.

As a Game Master, it’s easy to make the non-decision to keep both chairs open and let the former lovers decide whether to stay or go. It’s also easy to let someone go if an excuse is readily available (“Um, Sammie’s been with us for three years; you just joined three sessions ago. Sammie stays, sorry”). 

Sometimes, however, things aren’t as clear-cut. Both ex-lovers have been part of the group for a significant period of time and they’re both considered friends. However, they now have baggage to lug to the game with them. What if one of them starts seeing someone else at the table? (Believe it or not, this actually happened in one of my gaming circles).

So today’s Hot Button is this: A romantic couple at your table has broken up and both wish to stay. You consider them both friends. Under what circumstances would you allow them to stay?  If you don’t feel comfortable keeping both, would you rather drop them both or keep one?

17 Comments (Open | Close)

17 Comments To "Hot Button: Failed Relationships"

#1 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On October 22, 2009 @ 8:47 am

That decision SEEMS easy to me. The chairs are open, they’re welcome to attend as they see fit, and they’re expected to behave during the game.
I don’t expect dirty looks, I don’t expect screaming matches and dirty laundry, and if they “temporarily reconcile their differences” in my bathroom, I expect them to be as discrete about it as they used to be.

That said, that’s an ideal world solution, and if I have to call a smoke break or even throw one or both of them out for “bad behavior” it’s just something that has to be done. You, as GM (and as host if you are) have a responsibility to take reasonable efforts towards the enjoyment of all attendees, and that doesn’t include firey breakup matches.

#2 Comment By Cole On October 22, 2009 @ 8:55 am

The failed relationship happened twice with my old group. Both times with the same girl, over a guy she had brought in. Both time it was a painful experience for the entire group.

Her boyfriend issues were only a symptom of a much larger set of problems. Those problems kept constantly spilling into the group and led to us not having her over to game anymore.

#3 Comment By Swordgleam On October 22, 2009 @ 9:19 am

This hasn’t happened to me yet and hopefully won’t happen, but I think I’d handle it the same as any other players who had personal issues. If they can get along at the table, great. If they can’t, they need to figure out a way to be civil to each other. Whoever has the most trouble maintaining their civility is out. If neither of them can handle it, they’re both out.

#4 Comment By Brent On October 22, 2009 @ 10:39 am

I agree with Matthew Neagley. If they want to play, neither is psychotic, and spots are available, I think it’s part of my job to fit them into the game.

If they’re toxic to the group during play, then that’s just as much a reason to remove them as any other kind of toxic player.

#5 Comment By Scott Martin On October 22, 2009 @ 11:43 am

I haven’t experienced this (thankfully). I’d let them stay if they assured us that they could treat each other well and keep the drama from infecting the group. (No “choose sides” games.)

It’d be a short leash, which I’m not comfortable with or used to using, but letting them spin into a frenzy would be destructive to everyone.

#6 Comment By Lucivious On October 23, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

I’ve had this happen, but not in my own games. In a game I was playing in the GM and one of the players broke up. It pretty much caused the entire group to fall apart.

#7 Comment By Athzar On October 23, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

I’d let them both in the game as long as they didn’t harm the group; it’d be silly to kick them out just because of OOG (out-of-game) issues if it doesn’t make things awkward. Now if it was problematic for everyone else then that’s something else entirely.

#8 Comment By Katherine On October 23, 2009 @ 6:09 pm

I’ve seen this happen in a few groups and games I’ve been in.
I’m echoing above sentiment, the group comes first.
If there’s too much drama they should both go. People have to be grown up enough to handle their business outside.
The flip side of this is the relationship that blooms inside of the group and it effects game play with jealousy, changing a character to be closer to your sworn enemy because you’re with them now and other crazy developments that don’t make a lick of sense in game.

#9 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On October 23, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

I’d allow the couple to stay as long as they could keep their reality out of my fantasy. I’d tell them this, of course.

And if they failed to do so, I’d give one warning, and then that’s it; they’re both gone. Either could come back after a reasonable period and a promise to behave.

However, if one of them left of their own accord, I wouldn’t boot the other one. And I’d be sure tell the rest of the group about this loophole.

#10 Comment By HVL On October 24, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

Had this happen in our group. Making them both still play once the dust settled was the best descion we ever made. They’re now still really good freinds and don’t hold grudges or anything and both bring their new significant others to games and play alongside.

#11 Comment By Lunatyk On October 26, 2009 @ 3:51 am

Fortunately, I never had this problem but if I did, the answer seems simple.

The group is composed of friends, if there is a falling out between people they have to decide either to put their differences away or the one (might be both) who is causing the problems has to leave… if not, then I’m gone…

#12 Comment By emiliaemilia On November 5, 2009 @ 11:55 am

man, i don’t know how to contact with you. reply on my email ( [2] ) or i’ll have to do somethig more. if you don’t remember – you stole my pic!

#13 Comment By Lunatyk On November 7, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

Who are you referring to?

do kogo przemawiasz Emilio?

#14 Comment By Silveressa On September 2, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

Like others have said, as long as the ex-lovers involved can keep their out of games issues out of the game and still play together nicely they can stay. If there’s a problem whichever one seems to be the instigator would be asked to leave if they can’t control themselves. (or both if it seems they both have issues)

It’d be hard to do it any other way without jeopardizing friendships.

#15 Comment By Silveressa On September 2, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

Gah! Just saw this thread was form back in 2k9, apologies for the necroing!

#16 Comment By Martin Ralya On September 2, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

[3] – We leave them open on purpose, in case folks come by after the thread has died — even long after! — with something to share. Welcome to the Stew!

#17 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On October 26, 2011 @ 10:36 am

[4] – I replied to your comment here: