Ah, the mope…this is the player that just pulls the life out of the game. He might be the guy that sits in the corner, quietly waiting for the moment when they get to roll some dice, or they might be the guy that is actively involved in the game, but their attitude sucks — “My dice are fucking me!!!” “Man, this sucks! Why can’t we do X?”

I’ve had a couple of these over the years. One of the worst was the guy who min-maxed his character to alway be combat-inventors…they had zero social skills and would either not put in anything to the game or would make useless asides until it was their turn to roll some dice in combat. Every character was some version of this archetype.

Another was the guy with anxiety disorder who would get involved, but his personal discomfort was so palpable it made the other players uncomfortable. Few people enjoy being around someone obviously unhappy about being there. Similarly, another player was having some serious personal issues that provided him a palpable dark cloud of suck that followed him around. You could feel him moping, perfectly quiet, in another room.

The “my dice are fucking me!” guy was so scattered he couldn’t remember the basic mechanics of a game he’d been playing for two years. Worse, the above-mentioned moment was accompanied by him dropping to his knees in exasperation. It’s still one of the most memorable gaming moments for me in 30 years of playing. He was uncomfortable with the group, mostly due to some interpersonal dynamics going on.

The last example was a goth kid that spent the whole session in a light-hearted B-movie RPG playing the — you guessed it, gothy vampire kid with his killer ferret! Every action wasn’t just an attempt to hog attention, but to piss off the rest of the players. (We’ll probably see in him the next installment, as well…)

All these players have one thing in common — they are mopes. They tend to lurk in the room, obviously uninterested, uncomfortable, or otherwise miserable. There’s no real attempt to hide it, and their attitude can be infectious. Even when it is not, the fact people around them are having fun while they are not does not raise them up; they are more miserable than ever. So what do you do about the mope?

1) Find out what is bothering them, if it is something associated with the game, group, or another factor that the group and GM can address.

2) If it’s conflict with another member, perhaps it can be sorted out with a simple airing of differences on the side. The worst ones here, and guaranteed to eventually lead to the player dropping out, is if the conflict is between spouses or lovers. When a romantic relationship collapses between members, usually you lose both players. If there’s another player in the mix as well..? Oof!

3) If it has to do with the game, the setting, their character — these are easiest. Find out what will engage the player and try that. But there’s always the possibility that the player doesn’t want to play Mouse Guard. They joined to play Pathfinder, but everyone else after trying the former thought it would be fun to do that. Compromise. Rotate the games. Maybe split the group and have a second night (if feasible) and play one or the other.

4) Maybe it’s something that can’t really be addressed. The anxiety attack player had real issues that he was on meds for. He couldn’t eat around other people, so he never joined in the food. He wasn’t being rude — that he was there at all showed an interested. The personality just wasn’t especially convivial. Worse, he girlfriend was there…and was a spotlight hog, specifically, the wannabe actress type. They didn’t last too long. In this case, do what you can to accommodate the player. If there are special food needs, address them. If there’s a seating issue, try to cover that, as well. But you can only bend so far before you are inconveniencing the others in the group.

Ultimately, the goal should be to make people feel comfortable, and you should try to make that happen — but ultimately, this is a “needs of the many” situation, and if you cannot keep the mope from draining the life from the group, it might be necessary to ask them to leave. It’s never fun, and in a hobby that has a rarified population few want to lose a player of any kind, but sometimes it is necessary.

Can you think of ways that these respective examples (or others you could provide) might be addressed? Please share them in the comments.

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