I'm new to the game and new to this site, so hopefully I'm ok in asking for help with a situation that is plaguing our otherwise happy group.

My roommate and I have been hosting D&D 5E in our basement for several months. I'm new to the game and really loving it. Recently, our first DM moved away and we had another player take their place. The issue is that he brings along his girlfriend who is a disinterested player and doesn't understand the game. He has made the entire story line center around her in an effort to win her attention. The other players and I just sat through a 5 hour session where we were practically extras in a bad soap opera/love triangle that had two "fade to black" moments between her and an NPC. The plot is going nowhere and we kind felt like we were watching some sort of bedroom role play. No sex-negative judgement here, but we all kind of wished they had saved that bit for when they got home.

The game before this one wasn't much better--the DM had to cut the game short because he had drank to much earlier and wasn't able to continue. To compound the issues, his girlfriend will fall asleep in the recliner near the end of the game unless something dramatic is going on with her character. To help with this, the DM suggested stopping the game earlier, which would be ok, if they weren't late to the game most of the time. The straw that is breaking the camel's back is that the DM cancelled at 10pm the night before gameday because the girlfriend didn't want to play--so apparently they aren't willing to come independently of one another. Am I alone in thinking that's a bit inconsiderate to our players, especially if you're the DM? We understand that stuff happens, but it was sort of lame to cancel last minute.

I know the answer would be to find another DM, which we have a seasoned player more than willing to fill that roll. But we host this out of our home, want to remain gracious hosts, and we generally like the couple outside of all of these gaming issues. (Except for one moment where the gf started talking about another player behind their back, so there's that gem.) On the other hand, they aren't being very considerate of the schedules of 5 other players in an established weekly group, and the game isn't very good as of now.

His plots move slower than DragonBallZ seasons, and the group wants another player, who is a seasoned AL GM, to step in for some faster/more reliable and on point gameplay. The player GM'd a one-off last weekend that was fantastic, and we want him to keep going.

Everyone in my group is super polite and are trying to be supportive. So on one hand they are trying to be patient, but they are voicing their concerns to my roommate and I, especially after this last-minute cancellation thing. I think they are looking to us to handle it since we are the hosts.

So I guess my question is: How should I go about fixing this? Has anyone been in a position where they've had to "fire" your DM? What did you do or do you have any advice or viewpoints that I may be overlooking?

TL/DR: How do you politely tell a DM that their services are no longer required?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 20:18

6 Answers 6


Tell him the truth, because that's what friends do

Sometimes, talking around or avoiding an issue increases trouble, rather than decreasing it. This looks to be a case of that happening.

You said this in a comment.

The main thing is, the DM is a good guy, but his girlfriend is adding some complications to the group because he is understandably trying to make her enjoy the game. His plots move slower than DragonBallZ seasons, and the group wants another player, who is a seasoned AL GM, to step in for some faster/more reliable and on point gameplay. The player GM'd a one-off last weekend that was fantastic, and we want him to keep going.

  1. The point of getting your group together is to have fun
  2. What was fun was the one-off you just did. What wasn't fun was that other thing.
  3. Point out (as a group) that it is obvious to the rest of you that she's not all that into D&D. You all don't want to force her to have that kind of fun, and maybe he needs to know that you (as a group) don't feel a desire to try and persuade her to have fun in that form: a D&D game. You can't force fun like that.
  4. Now for the payoff, in your own words, you need to tell DM something like this:

    • We are all in this to have fun, and your DMing has not been fun for the understandable reason that your priority is her: we get that, she's important to you. We'll be playing the next session with the new DM, and we hope you'll join in as a player if your relationship allows. If not, also understood as relationships are important.

    Including a thank you for stepping up to do some DMing is certainly in order.

  5. In that event, if she accompanies him anyway, but he's a player, it no longer becomes an issue since the DM in question isn't constrained by "trying to serve two masters."
  6. Having seen a few similar dramas play out where game and relationship clash, the longer you let it fester the worse it is for your group.

That's about as tactful a way as you can put it. By not speaking up and clearing the air, you risk falling into the unfortunate trap of "bad gaming is better than no gaming." (It isn't).

And the truth will set you free.

Good luck. For a similar but different problem that has to do with interpersonal dynamics, you might want to take a look at this Q&A.

@yo' suggested the following:

Speak to him without her presence to give him the opportunity to solve his relationships. With her presence, things could go wrong so easily on the spot.

Depending upon your assessment of how she gets along with the game group, this is solid advice and likely the best approach.

A related issue about "trying to have it both ways" when gaming and relationships collide.

Your DM is experiencing the problem of "having it both ways" by both being able to have fun by being a DM, and spending his free time with his significant other at the same time ... when she's not all into that form of free time (group fun, versus one-on-one interaction). Quite frankly, I discovered that I had to make a choice (wife in this case) when I discovered after a few tries that she just wasn't into it (it = D&D) though the kids loved it. What happened for me was that I first curtailed and then let go of D&D for ... about a decade. Why? Because relationships are important, and the marriage is the one that got priority.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wish I could give you some extra points for putting your marriage first. Although, the improvement to your marriage was probably ample reward. =) \$\endgroup\$
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 22:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ This, +1000. So well said. So much human drama would go away if people would just be willing to try and have difficult conversations in a polite and respectful way. Also, another +1000 for the marriage choice, I did the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – Paul
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 18:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi! I wanted to update you on the situation, since you and those below were so helpful in sharing advice. Since our group is organized over Facebook and we don't really talk to the DM outside of the game, we decided to write a Facebook message that outlined our concerns and welcoming the DM back if he wanted to be a player. This message was sent directly to him, and he never responded. However, his girlfriend answered for him. Apparently we're bad and we should feel bad...but we tried to do what we could to provide a sensitive and understanding voice of our concerns and wishes as a group. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DeepSeaSiren Oh dear, here I was assuming this was a face-to-face group. slaps forehead Sorry it turned out like that. :( \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is a face-to-face group, but we don't really hang out with one another outside of the game, save for two players. This is a face to face game that was organized partially online, and partially at a local game shop. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 20:40

I've been gaming since the 1980s, so have gone through every permutation of this problem - I've been in groups where we've fired players, fired GMs, I've been fired as a player and a GM... The core problem is that the group isn't having fun. Here's how you address that.

Try To Improve The Situation

You are skipping to the end state of firing the GM, but apparently (?) no one has bothered to talk to him about the issues while it's been going on. I suggest you and as many of your group as you can get to read up on the Geek Social Fallacies, as it appears to be affecting both your GM and you and the other players.

The other players want to dodge responsibility and "leave it to you as the host." That's not OK. Tell them "Hey — if we want him to make a change, I'm going to need to count on y'all to also give him feedback. It's your game too." The DM is not in charge of a game, the host is not in charge of a game, it's a collection of ~6 equals coming together to do something for fun. They may want you to be spokesman but they can't hang you out to dry, otherwise it's "one guy says this" and it's hard to drive behavioral change. If they won't back you out of general Marty McFly syndrome, you may have to play hardball and say "well... I'm afraid I am not super interested in this game and may have to drop out, so y'all will need to find a new place to play."

Then talk to him. Don't focus on his behavior, focus on y'all's fun. "We feel like we're not getting a lot of play time in; things move slowly, we're having short sessions, our characters aren't getting a lot of screen time." Don't attack him and especially don't attack the girlfriend — she's not the problem, his poor social boundaries and poor GMing is the problem. Have suggestions of what you'd like to see — the plot progressing more quickly, more action, whatever. Don't focus on "well your girlfriend..." Focus on your needs. Maybe he can change.

And you all have a burden to bear as well, I see a lot of passivity going on here — your PCs are more than capable of starting to talk to each other and pressing to go kick down a door somewhere without waiting passively for hours for the DM to point at you for your turn.

When no one bothers to improve things as they go, then you get to breaking points like this. Maybe it's too late, but everyone needs to step up a bit in the future. Try to get DMs to ask for feedback and to get the group to honestly discuss their thoughts about the game so that this becomes a low-pain continuous process.

Present An Alternative

Instead of looking it as firing the DM, position it as there's a new game everyone's excited about. "Remember that one shot Fred ran? Well, he has an idea for a campaign and we talked and would like to switch to it. Can you wrap up your game next time?" It even gives him a chance to put in a campaign finale.

Of course, you can just say "Hey man — we voted and we want to play something different and next session Joe is running his game. Like it or lump it." But assuming you want to keep him and maybe her as players, you can give more of a grace period. A very long burn replacement looks like this:

  1. "Hey, next I want to run this!" says next DM to the group. People publicly say "sounds interesting!"
  2. Next DM preps their game, and then when dude doesn't show up or comes way late — they run that game instead.
  3. After once or twice of that, then pull the "we want to do that other game more" trigger, nicely.
  4. The new DM runs their game. He can declare table rules to prevent whatever residual disruption is going on — "we start on time and we'll be running till 12, if people need to leave early we're not stopping," for example.

You can make it as short or long a transition as you want, but the key is to make the change a positive experience and not a "we hate you and your girlfriend and don't want to see you any more." (Assuming that's not the case). Now, it may happen anyway — his GF may decide she doesn't want to come and he may stay home. Or it may not, if he's boring y'all he may be boring her too despite his focusing more time on her PC, and a new good DM might help turn her around into a more engaged player.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The amount of neurosis that GSF page could have saved me from in my teens is hard to think about. Very good read. \$\endgroup\$
    – Conduit
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 22:29

I've never been a fan of not just telling a DM what's up when there's an issue. There's no possible way he can improve if you don't talk to him. But--but, if it's that painful for anyone to speak up like directly to him, it's actually pretty easy to replace a DM.

My group does DM rotations. Other people in the group should be ready to have a campaign up and running when he inevitably skips. The group can vote if you want to run something for weeks at a time.

Obviously he's getting something out of running, but he has no idea that anyone else is uncomfortable. You're throwing shade on the GF for talking behind another player's back when, shock of shocks, ya'll are doing the very same thing.

You can be nice and polite but still bring up the issues at hand.

I tend to be very social, unlike most of the folks who play D&D. What this means is that I'm the person that people go to in order to solve problems such as this because people just don't talk to each other.

You'd like:

  • Longer sessions that start on time and don't end early.
  • Sessions that don't focus on a romance between him and his SO.
  • Quicker turn around on plot points.

You have two options to get this.

1) Get him to do it. 2) Get a new DM.

I'm going to recommend a combo platter, just to ease the social situation. I've found that a 2-3 session rule per storyline can get a DM to be more organized. He gets 3 sessions, and then you move on to the next DM, who also gets three sessions, or two as the case may be. Not quite a one shot, but close. You can use the same characters for an all new plotline as you go.

Back up DMs help with this--because if he bails, your alt can always run his story.

Some DMs will wonder why they aren't being asked to run as much, in which case you can answer.

There can be a literal vote on what people are interested in playing, which may not happen to be what he's interested in running. I know that some folks are uncomfortable with actually saying this kind of stuff out loud, so a blind vote with slips of paper might help.

All that being said--a DM can't know what you want unless you, as a group actually ASK for IT. It's not really fair to condemn him entirely if he has no information from y'all. In my experience, saying it once, subtly does not work--but saying it outright, as a group does.

I've put forth the group's opinions in the past, but beforehand, I've said, "hey, I'll do this for the rest of you, but you have to back me up socially. I promise I won't be mean." And I'm not, I just let the DM know that we've been talking a bit about what we want out of the game, and wanted to see if it was something the DM would be good with. I've also slipped in, during that convo "If you want a break to revamp, we've got Joe who is interested in running in the meantime."

So, point by point:

"Hey we've been talking about what we want out of the sessions and wanted to see how you felt about it as the DM. We've been ending early and starting late, and everyone wants more game time. I know it's hard to schedule around, and Joe says he's interested in running some if you can't do that and you need a break."

"The romance angle has been a little weird and uncomfortable for the rest of us to deal with--less of that could be good."

"And if we do a rotation, we [or name a player that you know has your back on this point] were thinking quick stories, not quite one shots, like 3 sessions a story for each DM, so there's a resolution before we rotate--unless you want to do every other week?"

"And then if you're several hours late, we can just run Joe's campaign or whatever one shot he has."

Now, I haven't always had discussions such as this in front of the whole group, sometimes I've taken folk aside--for the girlfriend thing, that might be a good idea.

Thus far when I have done these things, I have never had anyone throw a tantrum or get upset, or say they won't be my friend. I keep things casual rather than accusatory. And I put myself in the shoes of the DM as well--they have reasons for doing what they do, even if it's at the expense of your fun.

As others have pointed out, he may just drop out anyway. But it's gotten to this point because people won't talk to each other!

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    \$\begingroup\$ @RichardHayward You can talk to anyone about anything as long as you do with love. Nobody's wanting to hurt anyone else, there's just issues they want solved. I guess that folks start to get upset, then I reframe--get them to think from the other people's point of view, while keeping in mind how the person I'm talking to is feeling. I don't feel as though that's persuasion exactly. It's more...informing people of how it's going to be and getting them to understand why. Unless they've been a real dick, there's no reason to make them feel bad about it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 8:24

It sounds like your problem is solving itself. Your DM's girlfriend doesn't want to play any more, and your DM isn't willing to play if his girlfriend isn't there. In my experience, if someone has dropped out of one session because they're not interested in playing, it's very unlikely that they're coming back at all.

Here's what I recommend: ask your potential replacement DM to prepare a game and be ready to run. The next time your current DM cancels, you'll be ready with a replacement.

If you wanted, you could do something more involved, like choosing a different day of the week when your new DM would run, and then people who didn't want to play in the old DM's game could just silently drop out. Or, you could let people who don't want to play in the old DM's game just stop showing up on their own, and then when the game stops reaching quorum, start a new game with a new DM. I've done that sort of thing in the past and it's worked okay. That's a lot of schedule disruption, though, so it may not be worth it if your old DM is just going to stop running.


Maybe his GF is interested in playing DnD for the same reasons you are, not this pseudo love/sex/bedroom roleplay that you mentioned.

She may be not interested in attending because of the effect it's having on the group as a whole. Speaking up about it may improve the gameplay for everyone, or you may discover the DM wasn't having fun seeing one of his players not have fun, and was trying desperately to make it fun for them at the expense of other players.

If you communicate more you will have a chance to fix things. Or at worst, understand what everyone's feelings are on the subject.


How about, instead, you vacation your DM?

Run two games that are active at the same time, alternating weeks.

When the current DM sees what is working well with the other game, changes can be tried. Having two ongoing sessions means that the entire group isn't as prone to collapse just because one isn't working out quite as well (whether now, or in the future).

Just put the current game on pause for a couple of weeks. Why must you be so drastic as to use more permanent-sounding language like "firing" the DM? Go ahead and give this other interested DM a chance, but start by stating intentions on when the current game will resume.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you experienced this working out well in actual practice? Could you tell us about how it worked out? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 18:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have I used this specific strategy to deal with D&D 5E in a basement where a subsequent DM ran a game for people with 5 hour migrations and a love triangle? No. The question is so detailed, that certainly the person is looking for experience based on wisdom, not identical experience. Have I experienced an activity set aside to pursue another, and then in weeks later returned to the original activity and enjoyed certain aspects that were missed while engaged in the new activity, and enjoyed both activities in a flip-flop matter? Yes, worked out fine, and reduced longing for unproven ideas \$\endgroup\$
    – TOOGAM
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 20:55

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