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Unreasonable Accommodation?

Posted By Walt Ciechanowski On October 28, 2008 @ 10:01 pm In GMing Advice | 15 Comments

Hey all! I just thought I’d share a personal GMing issue with you.

A couple years ago, I started running a game at a friend’s house on alternate Sundays. Most of the group played in a second game on the Sundays I wasn’t there. Occasionally, the two groups would swap Sundays if there was a scheduling conflict. This was never a problem, as both games were held at the same house and the one player exclusive to my game had no problem switching as long as he had a few days notice.

I traveled about an hour to get to the game (two hours both ways) for a 4-5 hour session. In addition to the time investment, I was getting tired of paying astronomical gas prices. Things finally came to a head as summer approached and I spoke with the other GM (whose house we were playing at) about it.

As it turned out, he’d been talking to a married couple that were thinking of getting back into gaming. These friends lived half-way between us, cutting my commute in half.  In addition, these friends and the other GM have kids the same age, so they could play together while we gamed.

I, however, had a new problem. I already had 6 players (my comfortable maximum), and I didn’t want to expand it to 8 players. I planned on running an adventure path designed for 4, and upgrading it for 6 was tough enough, much less 8 (especially since I chose to run a published adventure path to save prep time). Part of my problem was immediately solved; the old game was still being played at the other GM’s house, and the exclusive player lived 5 minutes away. He preferred to switch groups rather than travel.

I shared my concern with another player. He leaped at the chance to get out, since he wanted to run his own game for some time but couldn’t get up the courage to leave either group.  Problem solved.

Two sessions in with the new group, an issue arose. The married couple was going on a family vacation that would overlap my next session. Since this would effectively put my game on hold for a month, I did what I always did; I asked if we wanted to swap Sundays. The entire group agreed, and that was that.

Fast forward several hours later, when the player that left my game to run another group had a problem with the swap. His group (which shared no players with ours) refused to swap Sundays, stating that they’d already had alternate plans for the forseeable future and could only play on the original schedule. Effectively, our decision made him have to choose between two games and he would be stuck gaming less frequently (he wants to be able to game weekly).

This put me in a weird circumstance. While we’re all friends, I now had a non-player that I had to clear schedules with, even if everyone in my group agreed to make the change. It also irked me that, without switching, I’d be stuck putting that game on hold for at least a month whenever there was a schedule problem. When the issue cropped up again (the married couple had a last minute cancellation), we played without them rather than skip and wait for another two weeks (I felt really bad about doing that).

The kicker? My former player regrets leaving my game and would ditch the one he’s running if I let him back in. I’ve been holding my ground, however, since that would push the group to 7 and no one thinks that’s a good idea (I’m already having small issues with 6).

For the future, the other players in my group have told me not to worry about the former player, especially since current players are being adversely affected to accommodate him. However, I can’t help but feel that this is partially my fault as well.

So put yourself in my shoes; what would you do in this situation?

Walt Ciechanowski

About  Walt Ciechanowski

Walt’s been a game master ever since he accidentally picked up the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set in 1982. He became a freelance RPG writer in 2005 and is currently the Victoriana Line Developer for Cubicle 7. Walt lives in Springfield, PA with his wife Helena and their three children, Leianna, Stephen, and Zoe.




15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "Unreasonable Accommodation?"

#1 Comment By robustyoungsoul On October 29, 2008 @ 6:19 am

Holy cow. I think I need a diagram to figure out all the factors in play here.

#2 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On October 29, 2008 @ 6:37 am

LOL.

Was it that badly written? I was trying to avoid names. Maybe I should have used fake names instead?

#3 Comment By DeadGod On October 29, 2008 @ 7:50 am

I am running a 4ed game with five people (the perfect party size!) We play every-other weekend. I have one simple attendance rule: 1 person missing, we play; 2 or more, we punt. If we end up punting a lot, I will try and get everyone to do a couple consecutive weeks to make up for the “lost time.”

On weeks that we have to punt, I often run–or invite others to run–one-shot games. It is usually during these circumstances that we get to try out indy game systems and such. It also manages to scratch that gaming itch.

If all else fails, I have a copy of Arkham Horror and its expansions. Its a board game that feels like an RPG.

Maybe setting up an alternate plan with your players will prevent the situation from feeling so grave?

#4 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On October 29, 2008 @ 8:42 am

It sounds like you’re in quite a pickle and I don’t envy you one bit.

Let me see if I understand: Your group is running two games by two DMs. The players for both games are more or less the same, so you’re used to just being able to flip-flop weeks to avoid schedule conflicts.

However, a player left YOUR game, but stayed in the other game. He now runs his OWN game and group on the same week as yours.

So now you have three games, two groups, and while two of the games are “hot swapable” because they contain the same people, the third game’s DM would then effectively have to be in two places at.

If I’m following correctly, your gaming circle’s got critical mass and it’s just too damn unweildy to make the kind of nimble changes you’re used to.

You could either cut loose the “linchpin” player from both games in your group, thus freeing up your players to flop weeks like normal, OR let him disolve his group and come back into yours. If your game is then too unweildy maybe you could take the linchpin guy on as a “co-dm” obviously he wants some screen time but isn’t really ready or he wouldn’t be so willing to bail on his new group.

#5 Comment By Rafe On October 29, 2008 @ 8:59 am

Yeah, or just Friend X and Friend Y. I’m not sure who’s who, either. :)

=-=-=Fast forward several hours later, when the player that left my game to run another group had a problem with the swap. His group (which shared no players with ours) refused to swap Sundays, stating that they’d already had alternate plans for the forseeable future and could only play on the original schedule. Effectively, our decision made him have to choose between two games and he would be stuck gaming less frequently (he wants to be able to game weekly).=-=-=

I don’t understand that part. He left your game and his group shares no players with your group. Why is he a factor?

If I’m understanding the gist of things, you have a group who unanimously agreed to alternate the day to get in a game and not go a month without playing. One person (included in considerations for reasons I don’t understand) is being left out. Group > individual.

He wants to game every week, but the main group wants to get one game in that month. . . so let me play a wee fiddle for the gamer who can’t game every single week thinking he has some priority over the group of people who would like to get one game happening over a span of 4 weeks.

I must be missing something, though.

#6 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On October 29, 2008 @ 9:00 am

Deadgod – It’s the inability to have a feasible “swap the days” plan that’s the problem.

Matthew – You’ve pretty much pegged the situation. I may pursue the co-GM route, although I’m not sure if the ex-player would enjoy that.

#7 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On October 29, 2008 @ 9:13 am

Rafe- Let me break it down for you.

There are two games that rotate Sundays.

I run a game at Jack and Jill’s house. My players are Jack, Jill, Bob, Murray, Victor, and Tina.

Bob runs a game at his house. His players are Murray, Victor, Tina, Rich, and Lou.

Lou used to be in my group. He now runs his own game on the weeks I run, while playing in Bob’s game on the other Sundays.

If I swap Sundays with Bob, then Lou is forced to choose between running his game or being a player in Bob’s, since the players in his group won’t swap weeks.

So, let’s say I’m supposed to run on odd Sundays while Bob runs on even Sundays. On Sunday 1, Jack and Jill say that they can’t play on Sunday 3. Normally, we’d swap and run on either Sunday 2 or 4. But since Lou doesn’t want us to move, I’d have to wait until Sunday 5 to run again. If another conflict arose for 5, then I’d now have to wait until Sunday 7.

Does that make more sense?

#8 Comment By fkewl On October 29, 2008 @ 9:34 am

3 easy ways
– shoot them all, get new players that obey your every word
– build a house in the very center of everyone and game there
– build a time machine and everyone can time travel and play

I’d go for #1 ..

;)

There is no easy way to accommodate everyone since there is a thing call LIFE that get in the way.

My own session was on hiatus for 1½ months since 1 session was scheduled off and session 2 was cancelled because the DM was under the weather.

#9 Comment By Scott Martin On October 29, 2008 @ 10:53 am

I hate juggling schedules with just six adults– I doubt we could make those loosely linked groups all line up. For the comment 7 example, I’d ask Murray if he’d like to step down to “guest star” status. That would help with your group size (you mentioned 6 is a stretch anyway) and would delink your groups so your schedule doesn’t affect anyone else’s. (Unless I’m missing something.) Murray stars in Bob’s game and makes yours when he can.

#10 Comment By LesInk On October 29, 2008 @ 11:47 am

The way I see it, you only two choices when a swap is being considered:

1. Play without Lou.
2. Don’t do the swap and skip that week (possibly doing something else for that week).

Since Lou is only one person, I would tend to go with #1. Missing games are an unfortunate reality. Leave the decision in Lou’s hands on if he now wants to cancel his game or not show in the other one.

#11 Comment By Swordgleam On October 29, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

It seems like one guy is the reason why everyone is not getting to game. I’d say, swap weeks, and put the onus on that guy to figure out a way to make things work for himself.

My group is very lucky right now. We have two games that run every week, and are thinking of moving the more-often-cancelled one to every other weekend, and using the free days to run one-shots.

#12 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On October 29, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

Even if “Lou” doesn’t really bite on the co-DM situation, you could always toss it out there for everyone in the group. Someone else may bite. What i WOULDN”T do however, is invite Lou back assuming that SOMEONE will step up. Otherwise you could easily get shafted.

Of course, depending on how much of the work you’d like to offload, there may be other less drastic solutions to reducing your workload/prep that might help.

#13 Comment By Starvosk On October 30, 2008 @ 10:56 am

Don’t let one or two people dictate whether you cancel your game or not, especially since you have like…5-6. Just run without them regardless. If they have life/scheduling conflicts, that’s fine, they miss it.

Don’t play swap and headaches. If there’s quorum (Over half in attendance) Run. That’s it.

You have to roll with the punches and not treat the game like…well, military service. If one or two people can’t make it, it’s not the end of the world. If it is, maybe you need to learn how to make more flexible plot structures…

#14 Comment By Elora On October 30, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

I don’t really see why having one (or even two) players missing for a session or two is a big issue. I have five players in my current group, and I’ll run a session as long as three of them are willing to show up. Of course, I’m running a 20-level AP and I’d like to finish sometime this decade, so to me it’s a bigger deal to push a session back entirely.

Also, running a 7-person game really isn’t too bad. My last campaign I ran 7 or even 8 players at a time, and once I worked out a few kinks (such as keeping a timer on hand to limit decision-making time for combat rounds) it worked out fine. It cost me maybe 10 minutes of extra prep time per session.

#15 Comment By Kiashu On December 2, 2008 @ 10:49 am

My GMing mantra:

I master the game, the game does not master me;
step on up or step on out;
momentum over perfection;
complications more’n obstacles;
the game must go on!

The game must go on! Begin sessions on the day and time scheduled, regardless of who shows or doesn’t show, who is late or whatever.

If each session you take 5 people and try to accomodate all 5, you find that only 3 show up – and the 2 missing include the guy who asked you to change to that new time in the first place. Whereas if you just say, “okay, this is when we’ll play” and stick to it, 4 out of 5 show, and you never see the 5th one again. Which is a pity, but at least the other 4 will be reliable.


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