RPG Fridays: The Fade Away
I know I have to end it
But pretend to just suspend it
By contending that I'm busy all week
I let the foregone linger on
Text back with an emoticon
Withdraw from you by being oblique
Inside I know my tactics just delay it
But I'd do anything so I don't have to say it
I'll draw this out forever like it's Vietnam
Then one day I'll be gone like Bambi's mom . . . Awww
The Fade Away is a great, funny song by Garfunkel and Oates. So what does that have to do with gaming? In RPGs, the Fade Away is one of the deadliest game killers out there. It is better for a player lose their shit, jump up and down and scream (which I have seen happen), or just say, "Hey, this game is really cool but is not really my thing and I am going to bow out."
Look, these two options suck, but the the dreaded Fade Away is incredibly disrespectful to the GM and to the other players. It is also the one that gets under my skin and, frankly, ends friendships. A gaming group is a lot like dating at the end of day. You spend a lot of time with them, it becomes an emotional journey, and you love/hate them at the same time for silly little things they do (hey, sometimes even marriages come out of gaming groups). A very simple principle: don't game with people you wouldn't want to grab a drink with (one that I try to live by but not always successfully).
The Fade Away leads to stringing along the GM and players. The group plans for you, and the GM spends countless hours crafting side plots for your character that links into the greater plot. The players plot their schedules and in-character plans based on everyone's skill sets. But the Fader usually cancels hours before the game was suppose to happen for myriad reasons: due to "work", "sudden illness", etc. . . This behavior wrecks games, frequently leads to last-minute game cancellations, and keeps other gamers from possibly joining the group. Hey, everybody has stuff come up. It happens. But I'm talking about the chronic canceler. You know what I'm getting at here.
In life, it may be easier and friendlier to Fade Away (not in my opinion), but definitely not in gaming. If you are a Fader, just talk to your GM. They will understand (ahem, you got that GMs?) and thank you for your honesty, as it saves them countless hours of work, lets them find a new gamer, and is just plain, old respectful.
So what to do if you're a GM and sense that you have a Fader in your midst?
My Golden Rule: The Rule of 3
If a player cancels or calls out three times in a row, speak to them privately via email or in person. Ask how things are going, check in, float some language around like, "Maybe your schedule has changed and you need to bow out of the game for a while. That is fine--you will be missed and if your schedule changes in the future and you want to play, let me know."
This approach has worked well for me, saved a few friendships and even had players come back after their schedules changed. Saving friendships + saving games = win/win.