I've been in a game for a while and I've been distracted for several sessions because the game simply hasn't been very interesting to me. The setting and story set by the GM aren't very gripping and the other players have some coherency issues that makes teamwork a little troublesome. I'm just sort of burnt out on the game. The group consists of friends I've had for about 12 years now. How do I back out of a long-term game with friends gracefully?
Two words: Dramatic Exit
Though others adequately attempt to help with the group dynamics, I'll answer the question as asked instead: "How do I quit a game gracefully?" and work my way around to the same place.
Work within the fantasy. Make appologies to the GM and offer to work with him/her to make it work within the story of the game. Make your last session something special (perhaps re-invigorating the game for them?) Here are some things I've done/heard of along those lines:
Heroic Departure — Major conflict with a boss/baddy/ungodly-huge-mob is resolved by an amazing sacrifice by the character. Results in some major boon to party, at the cost of one of their own. Body is not recoverable - but a Heroic funeral for the memory fallen.
Tragic Departure — Have the death of the departing character be tragic - or even better a shock. Chris Perkins tells of how a party was approached by their recurring nemesis who hurled the head of one of their party members (who was not at the session) into the center of the party! Talk about shock and awe! Another variant of this is to have the character's tragic departure be a mystery of it's own: "Why did Roderic intentionally jump into that pit? What was that name he said before going? Da-den? Who's that?"
Parting of the Ways — Arrange to have your character go off on some story-related (or not) side mission that may take months or years to accomplish. In effect transforming him/her to an NPC that effects only the story. During the early days of the founding of the US, major political figures traveled to make allies in Europe on journeys that took many months...
Oddly, you may find that attempting to negotiate dramatic clean-exit for your character from the gaming group may just be the kind of catalyst needed to get things going for the group again, even if you aren't with them. Unlike some others, I see no benefit in offering unsolicited (so-called constructive, really negative) feedback to the group/GM as you're leaving . Your position of "I'm burned out" is a great stance for a graceful exit - let all of the drama take place in-world.
Don't lie about it and don't cause drama. Just tell them you need to back out of the game for a while.
I quit all my games every several years. I get really burnt out on tabletop gaming and it stops being fun until I take a 6-12 month break. Whenever I've come back from such a break is when I've had the most fun and come up with my best characters. I've always made it clear though that I'm taking a break from gaming, and not from any single game. This helps avoid hurting a group's feelings.
Let me tell you what not to do:
- Tell just one person in the group and make that person tell the rest of the group for you
- Give zero notice
From personal experience, I can tell you that these behaviors turn "I'm leaving the game" into "I'm abandoning our friendship." Everybody feels betrayed by the leaving party, and hostility ensues.
Honesty, openness, and strict adherence to Wheaton's Law are your best bet for dropping out of a game that's not fun for you while retaining a set of friendships you obviously value, or you wouldn't have asked.
Why not suggest an alternate activity for a session, or a couple of sessions, whether its another RP with a different GM, a board game or just a movie night. If you want to continue hanging out with your friends, try something different for a change of pace.
It sounds like you aren't the only one who is having a hard time with this game. You may find you are all more interested in your game after a break.
Simply tell the group, "I'm not having fun in this game. Mr. GM, here's my character sheet, NPC him if you need to. Call me when the campaign or game changes."
If asked why, be polite but clear about why.
It doesn't sound like you're burned out on gaming, just on the particular campaign. If, indeed, it's gaming in general, drop the sentence about "call me."
Never lie nor dissemble about why you're leaving. More hurt comes from the "I'm taking a break from gaming" on week 1 followed by them finding out you joined another group on week 2.