Welcome to Only On Tuesdays! One of the most difficult aspects of being a Dungeon Master has nothing to do with being a Dungeon Master. Another facet of the role that many people don’t consider is that you are the leader when it comes to anything concerning Dnd. Because of your role as the Dungeon Master, it is often delegated to you to organize sessions, host the game, and bring everyone together to have some fun. But getting a group together, and keeping them together can easily be one of the most difficult parts of starting up a new game. This post should hopefully give you ideas on how to better organize your group, and keep a steady game.
Keep it Consistent
In my experience, there is only one thing I can do as a Dungeon Master that will ensure that a group will fall apart and never play again. And that is having an inconsistent schedule. I can be the best DM in the world, and if my players are unable to meet on a consistent basis, then my game will fall apart. Having a set day of the week for Dnd can help to ensure your player’s attendance, as they know far in advance when they will be meeting up. This can allow them the chance to work it into their schedule, as they will know that once a week on Tuesday they will be unavailable for a few hours while they play your game.
When choosing a day to play, it is important that you choose a day that will work well for your players, but it is even more important that you choose a day that works well for you. My last campaign fell apart because one of my players wasn’t able to attend on my free day Thursday. So trying to accommodate her, I intended to schedule Dnd between Monday through Wednesday based on whatever day I was free. What ended up happening, however, was I would either work on all three of those days or my players would have scheduled something on the only day I was free, making it impossible to have a session. This is why it is important to have the day work best for you the DM. Because without the DM, there can be no Dnd.
Sometimes, Things Don’t Work Out
Occasionally, you may have it where one player is just simply unable to attend on the days you are free. Trying to accommodate them may end up hurting your campaign more than helping, because of infrequent and inconsistent sessions. They could be the best player you have ever had, but if you are unable to show up to your own sessions then player and DM skill means nothing. If there is a way you can ensure consistent sessions, and work them in then, by all means, do it! If this means you only play once every two weeks, or once a month then that’s fine. As long as your players know well in advance what days they will be meeting, you should be fine.
However, it’s not always fine. Sometimes, things don’t work out and you won’t be able to keep this fantastic player. For the sake of keeping the campaign alive, I highly recommend that you find a new player for the campaign. For every DM there are 10 or more people who want to play the game, and finding new people who want to play is trivially easy in the age of the internet. Facebook can help you find a new player, while another great place to find people would be r/LFG on Reddit if you don’t mind strangers. It will suck seeing them go, but sometimes real life is unavoidable.
On the other hand, you may have consistent sessions, but inconsistent players. First thing I would do to help address this problem would be to try sending out a simple text along the lines of “Dnd on Saturday at noon! Who’s coming?” This simple message will help to remind your players about your session, and will also give you a headcount of who’s coming. If the problem isn’t forgetfulness, but instead flakiness try talking to your player(s) to see why they aren’t able to come. If you don’t talk to them, there’s no way for you to know how to address the problem. Finally, if they still aren’t coming even after you have talked to them, it may just be time to find a new player who will be able to attend all of your sessions.
How to Handle Missing Players
Sometimes even with consistent sessions and players, occasionally someone won’t come. Real life can sometimes get in the way of our fantasy adventures and knowing how to handle that is an important part of being a DM. One of the first things I would recommend is to never
plan a session around just one player. If your session is unable to function without that player’s attendance, then it is a flawed session. This goes hand in hand with my previous article Treat Your Players Equally
. I’ve personally had many sessions, not fire because everyone but the person I planned for arrived. This was unfair to my other players, and I wish I had done it differently.
In most cases, one or two players may not show up. You can handle this in a few different ways.
a.) There’s a reason in the game for why the character is not participating. (Most believable, but can be difficult to come up with a reason in certain circumstances such as in the middle of a dungeon.)
b.) Act as if they don’t exist during the session. (Most unbelievable, but most convenient.)
c.) Ask the player what their character is doing that session. (Keeps free will, but their decisions might not make sense all the time).
d.) Have another player control them during the session. (Keeps them part of the session, but may end up doing things out of character.)
Deciding what will work for you and your players, is something you should do as a group before anyone goes missing. You may have one specific thing you want to do, or perhaps a combination of all of the above. Do what works best for you and your campaign. You should also determine whether players will get experience or not based on attendance.
Finally, it might just be one of those days where not enough people show up to play Dnd. If this is the case it is important to have a plan b. Pull out a board game, play some Magic the Gathering, watch a movie. Do something that will be fun with the few people who took some time out of their schedule in order to try and attend your game. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you have fun with your friends while you do it.
Scheduling a time to meet each week with your friends can be surprisingly hard. Learning a method that works for you and your group is something that takes a lot of trial and error. Everything I have said here is things that I have discovered work for me and groups, and I have only realized this after multiple failures. If something that I mentioned above doesn’t work for you, feel free to throw it out. If I didn’t mention something that helps you and your group, let me know about it in the comments below. While scheduling may not be something that is thought of when people mention DMing, it is still an important skill to know and can be the difference between a successful or failed campaign.