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I'm the DM for a Homebrew campaign that I've been running for about 2 years. Our group is me plus four players and we've been lucky enough to meet fairly consistently on a weekly basis, so I'm loathe to be asking this question at all.

The situation

We meet at an apartment shared by two of my players (let's call them Jack and Jill), who were dating when we started the game. They broke up about a month ago but we were still playing up until now. However, today Jack messaged me saying he's no longer on speaking terms with Jill and never will be again. He is looking to move out as soon as their lease ends.

Obviously this creates a difficult and awkward atmosphere for all involved, and playing with both of them will be impossible. But I really don't want to have to scrap my game entirely. I also don't want to seem like I'm "taking sides" (even though I don't even know what happened). Our party has generally all been good friends outside the game up to now, as well. We frequently hang out together for board game and movie nights outside of the campaign.

I do not want to scrap my game, but I also don't want to cut ties with my friends Jack and Jill. What can I do to salvage my game at this point? Should I jump ship and get two new players entirely, or pick just one player to "keep"?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you talked to either of them about this? If not that should do and then update your answer with what they said. \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Dec 17 '19 at 1:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, how the other players feel about the situation would probably be relevant to offering a solution. Especially if they're involved. If J&J are breaking up because one of them was messing around with one of your other players there's going to be a whole bunch more drama and it'd certainly affect any possible outcomes you could hope for. \$\endgroup\$ – aslum Dec 17 '19 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ In addition to the "You need Jill's input"... What about Dick and Jane? (players 3 & 4)? Are they going to pick sides? one with Jack and one with Jill? Will they only play with Jack? will they only play with Jane? Are they going to break up too? Are they going to get with Jack and Jill and make everyone whole again? You've literally included 2 out of the 5 people involved... \$\endgroup\$ – WernerCD Dec 17 '19 at 20:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jgn and WernerCD, This all happened just yesterday so I haven't had a chance to talk this over yet, except briefly with the other two players, who mostly just agree "this sucks." I certainly plan to talk to Jack and Jill individually, and will update with more info as it becomes available, probably in the next couple days. \$\endgroup\$ – R. Barrett Dec 17 '19 at 21:38

10 Answers 10

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Let's look at the options

  1. Jack & Jill keep playing. Jack says this is impossible.
  2. You keep playing with Jack but not Jill.
  3. You keep playing with Jill but not Jack.
  4. You keep playing with neither Jack nor Jill. Presumably, this would involve finding a new venue.
  5. You stop playing with everyone in this group and find/build a new group.
  6. You stop playing altogether and join the French Foreign Legion. Or become a world-famous scent designer. Or something.

Now, look at the list and say to yourself "Screw every other bastard; which one would make me happiest?" Then do that.

People come, people go. That's just how it is.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 20 '19 at 4:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps worth mentioning that playing D&D with Jill doesn't necessarily mean you can't socialize with Jack, just not at the same time. You could potentially even play D&D with each of them separately. They hopefully don't expect you to pick a side between them and never speak to the other. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Dec 20 '19 at 8:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I accepted this answer because it's short and to the point, but Peter is right that this was also an option (which we strongly considered taking). The whole thing seems to have mostly blown over now and Jack is tentatively willing to play with the group again. \$\endgroup\$ – R. Barrett Jan 2 at 19:07
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You cannot make plans without talking to the people involved.

Speak with both Jill and Jack, seperately, and ask them if they want to keep playing. If they had a falling out, they'll probably ask about the other person or say something like "only if X isn't there", but keep your options open.

Now you go from there. If both want to quit, you anyway have to find new players. If one of them wants to quit and the other wants to keep playing, you don't have a problem. If both of them want to keep playing, only then do you have a problem that requires you to take a side.

What about the other two players?

Are they equally fine with both Jack and Jill? If not, or if you don't know or aren't sure, make it a group decision.

You are the GM only inside the game. I know that often much of the team management work is also left to the GM, but why should it?

If all of that doesn't give the answer, do what is best for the game. From your wording it seems that you're not close friends with either of them outside the game, so decide based on the effect on the game. Do you have another venue? Does one of them contribute more to the game or the pleasure of playing? Make a decision, then stick to it and defend it. The person excluded might be offended, you'll have to deal with that, but it will be easier to know that that was coming either way, you only picked which one you want to offend.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In order to get their "realistic" stance OP might also need to just give them a little time to cool down. Jack might say now he cannot handle Jill, but that might change in a whiff when he gets over her (and it may not if there was some deep hurting involved etc.), but right after a break-up is often a hot zone, which could also be too hot to come around the corner asking about your little gaming problems, when they got bigger heartache at their hands (then again, it could be a welcome distraction, but OP might want to tread carefully). \$\endgroup\$ – Frank Hopkins Dec 18 '19 at 5:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @FrankHopkins On the other hand, he might not ever be able to handle Jill. How long should you wait before deciding to give up on waiting? \$\endgroup\$ – Omegastick Dec 19 '19 at 5:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Omegastick that depends a bit on a) how close you are and how well you can gauge Jack and Jill's status b) how regular this is c) how much the others dread being put on a hiatus or in limbo. There is no perfect timespan that fits everyone. If you know Jack and Jill and you know they have hot tempers that can cool down quickly, give them their "regular" cooldown time. If they are already planning to move into separate apartments, maybe wait until they did (and perhaps go with an intermediate solution). etc pp. covering all bases makes this comment explode, but you might get the gist. \$\endgroup\$ – Frank Hopkins Dec 19 '19 at 19:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "You are the GM only inside the game." That's a very important message. Presumably everyone involved is an adult (even if they're not acting like it right now), and you shouldn't make plans for them. You should plan with them. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Bouchard Dec 20 '19 at 0:51
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Short answer: No game is better than a bad game

On the people side, taking no positions at all is not a good idea.

Longer answer:

From what I read, you are in a bad situation, but there are ways to solve the problem:

  1. Pick two others players to replace Jack and Jill. It looks like it's a good option but you penalize Jill for the situation, which might end up with bad things for your relationship with this person.
  2. Let Jill play but not Jack. After all, he is the one that said that he doesn't want to play with Jill. It's not better, because you might look like you are taking Jill's side.
  3. Let Jack play but not Jill. To me that's even worse because you are taking sides, and it's unfair. Jack was the one who said that he didn't want to play with Jill, so why penalize Jill?
  4. Wait a few: say that since you are friends with both, you want to await what will happened before making a decision. Pause the game. People change, and Jack and Jill might team-up again, or even get back together. If you desperately need to play, go back to option 1, or make a new game without Jack and Jill but keep the possibility open of going back to the original game (that your group has had for two years).

If you absolutely want to not take sides, the 4th option is the best. What I would do if I was in this position (and I was) is to gather information about what happened (from both sides), and take the side that looks better in my own view.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Jack was the one who said that he didn't want to play with Jill, so why penalize Jill?" - There's insufficient detail to answer this. Jack could be being petty, or Jill could have done something to instigate the situation. We don't know (or want to know). This answer seems to presume that Jill deserves more consideration than Jack, apparently because it was Jack who said he could no longer play with Jill. Without understanding Jack's motivation for that position, however, that presumption is risky at best. \$\endgroup\$ – aroth Dec 19 '19 at 0:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aroth Further, Jill may actually feel the same way. Just because she hasn't explicitly told the OP doesn't mean she wants to keep playing with Jack. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan_L Dec 19 '19 at 4:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I admit that I played a little bit the devil advocate on this question, because I did not have any information. From was the OP give us, it seam that it's what happened (even if it might not). And I wanted to present this option as not good from the "I don't want to take side" PoV. \$\endgroup\$ – Rorp Dec 19 '19 at 7:23
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Some of the other answers are on the right track, but I'd go a step further:

It's just not up to you.

These people share an apartment and a D&D game, among (presumably) other things. The apartment doesn't pick which one of them keeps it, and neither do you.

What specifically you do from here will depend on J & J's personalities and maturity level, but the key takeaway is that this is not in any way a decision for you to make. The two of them need to decide how/if they want to continue in the game.

Option 1: Ask them who will be continuing in the game.

Depends on how you normally communicate with these folks, but the key is to ask them both together (so email, or group text, something that's a three-way conversation - although you won't be participating in the discussion!). They'll figure out what they want to do between each other.

Option 2: Select an alternate venue, schedule the session, and see who shows up.

I'd probably give a heads up to the other two players, and prepare a one-shot to run in case it's just the three of you at the session. I'd also suggest setting the venue at a neutral third party site in case J & J both show up and things get ugly - you'll want to have the ability to perform a strategic withdrawal if necessary.

In other words: You don't get to negotiate the terms of their breakup. They do.

Source: Have experienced breakups in friend groups

P.S. If they mutually decide that they both want to continue (or neither of them is willing to give up the game), and it doesn't work out at the table, well, then you've got a whole other problem to solve...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 18 '19 at 10:31
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Have you asked both players who likes to stay? Ultimately, I don't see this as your responsibility - them breaking up has caused the situation, so they should agree who (if any) of the two will continue playing. If they really both insist that the other person needs to drop out, then you can make a decision to exclude them both.

Experience with this kind of situation

In my limited personal experience with these situations, the most likely outcome is that both withdraw at least temporarily, if for no other reason than to not make the situation awkward for everybody else. Given some time, one - or maybe even both - may return to the game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 18 '19 at 10:31
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I think you'll have a very awkward experience if you try to bring up Dungeons and Dragons with them right now. They're both hurting, and I think that they both have more 'real world' stuff on their mind than the game. I think you'll need to give them both a little while (probably a few months) to come to terms with what's happened and what they're going to do moving forward. It's human nature that their perceptions of one another are going to change for a little while as time passes. I think we've all been there-- your ex fluctuates between being a perfect angel who could do no wrong and was the best thing that ever happened to you/evil incarnate who literally woke up every day seeking to suck all of the joy out of your life and also probably kicks puppies in their free time even though you never saw it.

For the foreseeable future, the game's just gonna be too darned volatile to have them in it, and neither one of them is likely to be pleased if you suggest that they figure out their personal life for the sake of a game. My advice is to give them a little while (minimum of a month) to let the dust settle and decide how they feel about one another a little bit better. Then you can bring up the idea of the game and have a better idea of where everyone is long-term.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So... Just go on having the game at their home then? In other words, there is no way to avoid the conversation. It seems you've ignored some of the details of the whole situation, too. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Dec 17 '19 at 15:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think my suggestion is being misinterpreted. I'm suggesting putting the game on ice for at least a month and not even trying to keep playing while this resolves. I think that both of the people who broke up are going to go through their own emotional process where they'll feel very different about one another every few days for a little while, because that's the process of breaking up. It will be easier to tell what can and can't be salvaged after things have settled a little bit more. \$\endgroup\$ – NegativeFriction Dec 17 '19 at 15:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's still just "hide in a corner and hope it blows over", and is incredibly unfair to the two other people involved in the group. \$\endgroup\$ – JohnP Dec 17 '19 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnP it's not what I'm suggesting. This is waiting for it to settle. If OP takes action based on the current situation, and the situation then changes, that is undesirable. If OP chooses just one of them to continue the game since they are angry right now, then they reconcile and get back together next week, that causes issues. If OP tries to move forward with both when they reconciled one week, then they hate one another at the session, it causes issues. Giving it time lets them make a better, more informed decision after all parties have found more emotional stability. \$\endgroup\$ – NegativeFriction Dec 17 '19 at 16:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that this is a good suggestion--while I guess you are technically "talking to them about the game", all you are saying is "I think we should pause the game a bit and give ourselves all time to think about how to go forward." It's option number 4 on the answer with 14 upvotes, so I see no reason to downvote brigade this one. This answer is mature, realizes that bigger things are going on in J&J's life than a D&D game, and suggests everyone give them a chance to work through some of that before deciding on the comparatively trivial question of how this life change will impact the game. \$\endgroup\$ – msouth Dec 17 '19 at 19:51
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If they cannot stand to talk to each other, it's going to be almost impossible not to end up picking one of them. I suggest talking to the other 2 players from the perspective of "This is what is happening, how do we handle it as a group?"

The key thing is that, whatever is decided, is decided by the three of you, rather than just by you alone. Otherwise you run the risk of choosing Jill, when the other two would rather keep Jack (or the other way around), which could wreck the group.

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First of all, I second everything else said here.

What I would like to contribute is the notion that you do not need to decide on a course of action right now. Call off the game this weekend and for the next few weekends - put things on hiatus for a little while and let everyone cool off. Explain the situation with the other two players in the mean time, and perhaps run a side quest / beta campaign with them if they are interested.

Once a week or two has passed, THEN maybe start thinking about resolving this situation, taking into account everything else said here.

I wish you luck and hope your group resolves this conflict!

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Tell Jack and Jill the game is still on, and it's up to them to decide who is playing. It shouldn't be up to you, but you feel they have a responsibility to the remaining three of you to help maintain some continuity in a years-long campaign. It's their game too, and if they show up they're welcome to play; but leave the interpersonal ugliness at the door. Whatever they decide, they need to decide, and let you know what's going to happen.

That said, maybe best to find a new venue, so the venue itself doesn't become part of the issue.

(I had an experience like this where two friends of mine met, after I'd known them separately for years. They hit it off and started dating, then had an ugly breakup. Some months later they -- on their own -- recognized this put me in an awkward situation, and made peace specifically so I didn't have to pick and choose between my friends. What can I say... I have good friends.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Asking to two person who just broke up, and then ended up at not speaking terms, to decide which continues playing is... unrealistic, and unfair expectation. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Dec 19 '19 at 6:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WakiNadiVellir Its a reasonable point. And they may well simply say they won't be back. My point is that it's not the OP's responsibility to try and figure out their drama. The game exists. Their chair is waiting for them if they want to come sit down; but whether they show up is up to them. But they should show the basic courtesy of letting the rest know if they're coming or not. \$\endgroup\$ – Stephen R Dec 19 '19 at 15:28
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You didn't say which game you're playing or which version, so I'm not sure if my experience is applicable.

This may well sort itself out. But if it doesn't, eventually someone will make an ultimatum to the effect of "them or me". The person making the ultimatum is the one who goes.

This is interpreted as a voluntary quit by Jack (to use your names).

Why must it be that way? Because the only other possible interpretation would be Jack ordering us to expel Jill, extorting us into choosing sides, and throwing a gigantic tantrum until we do that. Obviously, if that were happening, that would be completely unacceptable drama, unfair to Jill, a bad precedent, and really not the kind of energy we want in the group.

Of course, it would also be discourteous to Jack to infer such foul and indecorous conduct. So we gracefully accept the first interpretation.

Thanks for playing, Jack, best of luck.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "However, today Jack messaged me saying he's no longer on speaking terms with Jill and never will be again. He is looking to move out as soon as their lease ends." From this, there is no way to infer what happened between Jack&Jill, and I don't see this as ultimatum by Jack. It could as well be ultimatum by Jill. Or maybe Jill did something which also the rest of the group find despicable and want to side with Jack (or the other way around). \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Dec 19 '19 at 6:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WakiNadiVellir There is no reason to infer what happened between Jack and Jill: that is the very definition of "none of your business". The only ultimatum that matters is the one made to you. \$\endgroup\$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 19 '19 at 17:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ What "ultimatum"? \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Dec 19 '19 at 17:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WakiNadiVellir Unless this sorts itself out some other way, one player will eventually say "Not if the other is here". That would be it! Edited. \$\endgroup\$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 19 '19 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ That carries the risk of kicking out the one who was wronged by the one who doesn't say anything. Sort of kicking the one who is already down. If I were one of the other players, and we were friends, I don't think I'd be comfortable with that. YMMV. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Dec 19 '19 at 19:56

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