Maybe it's a clash of personalities. Maybe it's a change in characters. Maybe it's just that you know as long as Tim and Anna are your main roleplaying partners you're going to be doing the same three plotlines from here to eternity because Tim really likes those three plotlines. The point is, there comes a point when it's time to say farewell and move on to a new group.
So when is it time? That's a slightly more difficult question. Obviously, the people you gather around you for roleplaying are people you like to roleplay with; otherwise, you wouldn't have them around you in the first place. Telling them that you just don't want to any longer is a bit of a step. So let's talk about the when, and in a couple weeks we can talk about the how.
When your friends are holding you back...
I've said it before and I'll say it again: The key to being committed to a single game is being committed. If you're tired of hopping between games and want to put down roots in one, you accomplish that goal by deciding that you will put your roots down here come hell or high water.
This can create problems when you're all moving and thinking as a group, however.
The problem is that when you're playing a game along with other people, you may not all be playing for the same reason, you may not all be getting the same enjoyment from the game, and you may not be looking for the same things out of a game. When you're moving with an entire group from one game to another, it's quite possible that you find a game which has everything you want but not everything that they want.
Sometimes, that means it's time to let the group move on without you. Sometimes it doesn't matter to you; it may well be that MMOs are more "the things I do with this group of friends" rather than games you play on their own merits. But sometimes that group of people that you're following around from point to point is actively preventing you from settling down because there are one or two people always picking up and moving to a new game on a regular basis.
If you're happy doing that, great. If you'd like to be in a new game every three months, there's no problem. But if you really want to be playing the same game from year's start to year's end (and I do), sometimes that means waving goodbye to a person or two who would rather keep hopping. You have to be ready to say that what makes you happy and comfortable has to take priority.
When you no longer have a connecting thread...
Other times, the rationale is much simpler. If you're in a group because of Nicole and Nicole leaves, there's not as much reason for you to be there any more either.
In Star Wars: The Old Republic, I played a Jedi who had managed to become second-in-command of a small black ops mercenary unit. Some of her subordinates meant quite a bit to her; she enjoyed their company, tried to help them with personal problems, and considered them friends as well as people who answered to her. This same group notably did not get along with some of the other leadership within the guild, an issue that my character brought up but was overruled on.
Eventually, the time came when the choice had to be made. The people who meant the world to my Jedi left because it was clear that the head of the company wanted people in power that this group did not want to be around. So my Jedi tendered her resignation as well and walked away.
This isn't to say that I as a player or as a character disliked everyone who remained behind. On the contrary; she would have much preferred to remain in the group. But the core reason for her remaining had just walked out the door, and that meant that staying around just plain didn't make sense any more. She had lost a threat connecting her to the rest of the group, and she followed the people who mattered more to her. It was time to go.
Sometimes there are reasons to stick around despite that. You have to balance your character's needs and wishes with your own. If you like the group that's still there and want to find a way to make it work, by all means, do so. But if your character has no remaining thread and you mostly find yourself saying, "Well, I don't specifically dislike the people still here," it's probably time to go.
When there's nothing more to say...
A static character is a boring character. Even if the character isn't changing, the circumstances should be. Characters need to be constantly challenged, facing new conflicts and problems on a regular basis. Otherwise, you wind up dealing with the same problems, time and again, and finding the same solutions time and again. Nothing interesting happens, nothing changes -- it's just another edition of the same old grind.
When you start falling into that trap, it's probably time to move on.
Some people really like doing the same thing over and over, reusing the same basic characters, interactions, and plots time and again with minor changes here and there. But assuming you're not DC Comics (and these days, who would want to be?), you probably crave something a bit more novel. If the rest of your group would rather just keep doing the same thing, well... maybe it's time to bid a fond farewell.
As always, feedback is welcome down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I want to talk about being someone who you are not; the week after that, let's talk about how you find a new group instead of the why.
Every Friday, Eliot Lefebvre fills a column up with excellent advice on investing money, writing award-winning novels, and being elected to public office. Then he removes all of that, and you're left with Storyboard, which focuses on roleplaying in MMOs. It won't help you get elected, but it will help you pretend you did. If you need a refresher, check out the Storyboard Library.