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Currently I am in a group activity (pen&paper online) we started 2 years ago and which is held weekly. I consider everyone of this group as my friend.

But I have had arguments with the leader of this group (game master). These issues seem illogical to me and the arguments tended to be with prejudice. I realized I did not have any fun at all and it was more like a weekly duty. I started speaking with the other group members and about half of them were not happy too. One enlightened me and told me our leader is a emotional person which I didn't realize. That gave me more insight and helped dealing with conflicts. I tried to talk about the points that bothered me, tried to figure out the right moment. But I realized how careful I have to be with every word I say because it could upset our group leader. And since nothing has really improved for about 3 months it is time for me to say goodbye.

Question: I want to leave the group permanently. But I don't want to burn any bridges. How can I do that?

When I leave it is clear that it is because of our group leader. He will ask me why I want to leave. But any of my arguments would possible insult him so what do I say?

To make it even more complicated since I will not stop this group activity but just change the group. And since I will use the same platform the group leader will see I just changed the group. So I cannot say I am not interested in this activity either.

I would like to stay friends with the group leader since I appreciate him as a person. But that seems very hard for now.

Edit 08.08.2017

I talked to him today

He was shocked that I wanted to leave. He understood there is no point for me to stay when I am not having fun.

But he wondered why I didn't speak to him before leaving. He didn't notice that I tried to speak with him on some points. But there was no ground for discussion, he was the gm and just said how it will be.

He told me that if there are not too much players in the group I am welcome to come back when I am ok with his playstyle. Some feelings were hurt like many of you already knew. But it does not look to bad.

Thanks for all the feedback.

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    Have you taken a look at rpg.stackexchange.com? You'll get good advice here, but that site will have advice particular to the unique group dynamics of pen&paper RPGs. In fact, I'd bet this question's been asked there before. – Carl Kevinson Aug 7 '17 at 16:08
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    @CarlKevinson I can say unequivocally that we get questions of this sort about daily there. – KRyan Aug 7 '17 at 16:46
  • <comment removed> @0xFF If you have an answer, please post it below. Comments do not have the features needed to properly vet what we say here, so just answering in comments starts to defeat the purpose of having this as a Stack Exchange site in the first place. Thanks. – Robert Cartaino Aug 8 '17 at 14:51
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    @CarlKevinson RPG stackexchange involves a lot of interpersonal skills too. – user2103 Nov 8 '17 at 20:40
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It might be impossible for you to leave the group without hurting his feelings, at least temporarily. If you leave, you are choosing a different group over his, and that would hurt anyone's feelings. However, hurting someone's feelings doesn't mean that you have to 'burn a bridge'. People get their feelings hurt all the time, and they can get over it. Something that would help this process is if you simply send him a personal message along the lines of:

I want to let you know that I am going to try a new group for a while. I just need a change of scenery, but I don't want you to take it the wrong way and I really hope we can still be friends! I hope we can do ~insert other activity you both like~ again sometime soon.

If he asks questions about why you are leaving, focus on something positive/different about the group you are transferring to rather than focusing on negative things about the group you are leaving.

In other words, my advice is to be honest! You can keep harsh criticisms to yourself in order to avoid offending him, which isn't 'dishonest', it is just tactful. It sounds like you genuinely value his friendship, so focus on what you value about the friendship, and just be honest about the fact that you want to try a different group for your game. Friends need to be honest with each other, and if he can't handle that, then you may need to reevaluate the depth of the friendship and whether it is really worth the effort to preserve it.

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For reference, I’m one of the higher-reputation users at the RPG Stack Exchange, so I hopefully have some relevant domain experience to offer.

One of the things we often tell people in your position there is that “no gaming is better than bad gaming.” Knowing when and how to walk away is important. Different people want different things from a game; any group game is thus a compromise between the things each want from it. Compromise, by definition, leaves both sides less than fully happy—and is only possible when everyone shares at least enough in common that the resulting game is still enjoyable if not perfect. When that isn’t possible (either because the overlap doesn’t exist, or because of social situations that prevent negotiating that compromise), it’s time to walk away.

Which is how I would frame it: that you are leaving the group because the game isn’t working for you. I have several very-close gamer friends that I still choose not to game with, because what we each want from the game is just too different. There is nothing wrong with their preferences, or with mine, but they just don’t fit together in the same game.

So something like this is what I would say:

Hey all. I’m afraid that for whatever reason, this game isn’t quite working for me. I don’t feel invested in my character or the plot, and it’s starting to feel like a chore to play. I don’t think it’s fair that the game should change for my sake, and I don’t think it’s really fair to all of you to have someone being dragged along either. So I think it’s best if I just retire my character, and find other ways to hang out with you all.

Emphasize that you are not trying to disrupt the game. Offer to play out your character leaving in a way that allows the game to continue running smoothly, without leaving a big plot hole shaped like your character. Don’t bring up any other game—you are leaving because this game isn’t working for you, not because of some other game. Worse, bringing up another game may imply to some of the group that you are trying to “steal” players from this game for a new one.

Also emphasize that this is not a problem you have with them, personally. That you still consider them friends, still want to hang out with them, just not in this particular venue. Hopefully you can thus avoid anyone taking it personally.

As for playing in another game, that’s really irrelevant to this game. You didn’t say that these games are in general not working for you; you just said this particular one isn’t. Finding another game and playing in that shouldn’t really surprise people, given that. Which brings me to one other important point: while bringing up this other game you’re joining may be interpreted as an attempt to nab more players for that one, you also shouldn’t lie about it. If they ask if you’re still interested in gaming, say yes; if they ask about any other games you’re looking at or interested in looking for, you could mention the one you have found. By not bringing it up yourself, you avoid potentially looking like you were advertising it.

For reference, I had a similar experience myself recently—but the second game I found was actually with mostly the same people. It was mostly a coincidence of timing, but the first game just was not working for me, for a variety of reasons—the reasons didn’t really matter. But the second game was avoiding some of those problems, and the contrast was rather striking. I said something quite like what I wrote in the quote box above to the group, and we played out a little scene where my character decided to part ways with the group. And then a couple days later, I played with pretty much the same group of people in the second game. No hard feelings—these things happen. Sometimes things just don’t really “click” and that’s fine.

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Be straightforward and diplomatic, but recognize that sometimes you can't avoid hurting someone's feelings.

It is good manners to try to avoid hurting people's feelings when you can reasonably do so. However, sometimes people will be hurt when you need to express a boundary.

In this case, the right thing to do is to be as kind as you can, while still making a point that may hurt the other person.

(You shouldn't be a hostage by refusing to express boundaries that will hurt someone's feelings!)

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