When The DM Closes A Secret Door, He Opens A Pit Trap


Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve known for awhile that a few of my friends in our gaming group would be leaving at some point in the near(ish) future. That time has come. I haven’t quite worked out what’s going to happen between now and then, but there’s a fair chance I’m going to have to wrap up our campaign in two days time. I’ve planned for this. I’ve tried to steel myself for this.

And yet, all I can think of is the last words of the tenth Doctor: “I don’t want to go!”.

Forget about the words. I know I’m not the one leaving. Shut up.

Up Yours, Entropy

It’s funny how your view on things changes as you get older. I was so eager for friends as a kid, especially when I first started school. It was not easy for me to learn that not everyone is your friend, and some people just want to use you and hurt you when you open up to them. I was happy to find a few good friends along the way, and together we shared many awesome adventures. I value those experiences greatly, but as I crawl onward toward 40  the criteria I use to describe a good friend have changed. When you’re 8, you’ve probably only known your best friend for a couple years tops because too much longer than that and, well, you may not have been able to communicate verbally very well. It’s strange and wonderful to me that I’ve known some of my friends for 15 to 20 years, and in that time I’ve learned that (despite the occasional differences that make us want to punch each other in the face), it’s about more than just adventures. You keep the best people around you as long as you can. They’re more of a fixture of your life at that point. You’ve ridden the wake of whatever life’s thrown at you together so long that you’re not even sure what happened when anymore. It’s stable and comforting to me, which is one of the primary reasons it sucks so bad when somebody moves away.

I haven’t known my friends that will be leaving 15 years, only about half that. But that’s still a lot and I was working on it, damn it. In this case, they’re leaving to start new and better jobs, and I’m honestly happy they’re going to go and have better and more fulfilling careers and lives and all that. I really am. They’re awesome and they deserve it and I don’t mean any of this to sound bitter or angry at them. It’s just sad and frustrating. Ever since college, it seems like life wants me to swap out the people I hang out with every 5 years or so, and I’m tired of it. When our group formed almost two years ago, I’d just come through a hell of a rough year and I needed what it gave me — in the fun of gaming, in camaraderie, and in the creative and morale boosts associated with both. It saddens me to see change rearing its ugly head anywhere near it.

Soon, we’ll have 4 left, including me. 4 works well for board game night, but it leaves us in the strange and morbid position of trying to figure out if we need another for D&D. As many told me would happen, it feels like 5 players + DM is the sweet spot for my game. I’ve played in a group with 3 + DM, and it’s still fun. It’s not like I’m not going to play with the 3 remaining people whose company I still very much enjoy. And, of course, there’s still the option for Google Hangouts games and such. I live in a different world now, where I can still tabletop game with those whom fate (from my perspective) cruelly dragged away across the continent.

Endings and Beginnings

My next few nights will be devoted to making sure our campaign, the longest I’ve ever run and the first time I’ve ever really enjoyed running a game, gets a proper sendoff. No emotions or pressure here, no sir.

Given how the rest of the campaign has been, I’m inclined to believe the “big story” is kind of secondary to this experience, and that my attention needs to be on giving each PC a fulfilling end to this chapter of their story. That might prove interesting, given that I spent the entire last session trying to figure out what precisely it is these characters want (so I could bribe them). Frankly, I was worried about how to end this thing when I thought I had some time, and I don’t know how this is going to end well. That’s the thing about this group, though. They’ll end it however they see fit, and it’ll be spectacular. I just have to let them.

Of course, I couldn’t just leave well enough alone and have this be the only giant change in my life this month. I also started a new job. I haven’t met everyone yet and I’ve had almost no time to get to know anyone. There’s always that part of me that hopes I’ll find a secret gamer in their midst, but there’s also that part of me that dreads inviting a new person over to my house so they can die in my dungeon. Who knows what any of this is going to bring? Maybe, in 7 years, I’ll be sad one of the strangers I met this week is leaving.

Regardless, they’ll never quite replace those who filled the seats at our gaming table. My friends, you’ll be sorely missed ’round these realms. Please conquer everything that stands before you, and come back and visit anytime.

 Photo Credit


  1. Dang. Gave me a tear in the eye there.

  2. FYI while the full story correctly attributes the quote to the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) the blurb on the front page of Critical Hits still incorrectly lists it as being from the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) who is the incumbent Doctor.

  3. Philo Pharynx says:

    I know how it sucks to break up a good group. But there are some options. If they are in a reasonbly close time zone, you can get a good microphone and skype and mapping software. We’ve done this recent with a guy who moved to Kansas for a job.

    http://www.amazon.com/MXL-AC404-USB-Conference-Microphone/dp/B001TGTDFM – this mike will cover a good sized room clearly.

  4. @Philo: thanks for the mic tips. I have a Blue Snowball mic that would likely work for this purpose.


  5. Thank you for sharing that with its. Many of us can relate because we have experienced similar situations.

  6. As someone who is about to lose a long time player, I understand and empathize with your situation. In the meantime, what about a game that scales down better, like Legend of the Five Rings or Mouse Guard? L5R is high fantasy with an Eastern (primarily Japanese) flavor and has a brilliant push your luck central mechanic, and Mouse Guard is about little mouse warriors in a world that is excruciatingly harsh world with a great narrative focused ruleset.

  7. I’ve just recently gotten the final word from two of my now ex-game members that they won’t be returning. It’s been about a year, a hectic year to be sure, since we last got around a table. The thing about it that’s most frustrating is that the reasons we kept putting it off was the two who have ditched never wanted to communicate that they simply didn’t wish to return to the table. So the four of us left continued to extend the invitations and when snubbed we figured, “Well maybe next week then.”

    The four of us left want to continue playing, but the campaign I had us running was very much balanced around the 5 player party, so I have concerns of the likely-hood of the game succeeding. But we, the remaining players, are already searching the pool of our mutual friends for replacements. Here’s to hope.

  8. Longknife21 says:

    @Philo and Vanir,

    I’ve had to deal with the same thing; however, instead of one missing player, I have 3/5 players who are remote! I purchased a basic edition of Cisco Webex instead of Skype Premium, and this seems to work even better than Skype, with people sitting in what amounts to an online video conference room laughing and cracking jokes *almost* as good as before.

    Vanir, EXCELLENTLY said on the entire article. BOOOO on change!

  9. Philo Pharynx says:

    It’s easier when most people are remote. Lots of people in one room and one or two remote is more complicated.

  10. As someone who’s move a whole lot, I feel for you. Good luck seeing the campaign off to it’s proper end, and let us know what happens…


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