One of the biggest challenges every game master faces in getting a recurring role-playing game going is scheduling. Adults have busy lives, and it can be tough to get people on the same page for when to play. Often time games collapse entirely due to scheduling conflicts and never get off the ground, but one of the core ingredients to successful campaign play is consistent scheduling and sustained play time. Below are some tips that have helped me run campaigns to the finish line.
- Pick a date, time, and frequency ahead of asking for players. I’ve run and played a lot of games where we spent countless hours trying to negotiate schedules and establish a good time to play. This is burdensome to everyone, but especially the GM. When you first want to get started, establish your frequency and schedule and basically write that down in stone, before you attempt to recruit players. For my games, I run an every-other-Friday game, an every-other-Saturday game that alternates weeks against the Friday one, and a every-other-Thursday game that happens the same week as the Saturday game. This makes sure I don’t have to run two game nights back to back and keeps my per-week load reasonable. I set these schedules up front and sought players that would commit to that schedule. This also means that you don’t try to reschedule- you just cancel when the circumstances are necessary. Juggling six schedules every time is just too much for anybody to bear, and life is too short for that.
- Include enough players that things don’t grind to a halt if one or two players miss a session. I play five player groups for Dungeons and Dragons, although the game is built around a party size of four. I will run a session with as few as three players assuming one of the absent members isn’t the center of a story arc at the time. If you cancel every time just one or two players can’t make it, you’re kind of punishing your regulars!
- Set an attendance example. You’re going to have a lot of responsibilities as the game master, but I think your biggest one is setting the example of commitment. If you’re the one calling off the game all the time, your players won’t become attached to it and they’ll take your lead on how seriously to take it. I try to only cancel if I’m simply too sick to play.
By doing the above, you make it easier for your adult players to organize their own lives to make space for the game. If you’re always changing your game night to try to avoid schedule conflicts, this creates more conflicts. By being consistent, you let people know that they should try to avoid scheduling things against the game and they can reliably schedule their life around it. By going forward even if you have a few absences, you let them know that they’re not really indispensable.
Admittedly, these suggestions aren’t as helpful if you have only a small number of people to play with, but they may still be somewhat helpful.
Also, you can do all of the above and still have schedule conflicts and cancellations. It can’t be avoided completely, as adult life is unpredictable. You can mitigate the chances of a schedule collages, and by following these tips, you may create a situation more conducive to consistent gaming.
Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Let me know in the comments!