The #1 reason why campaigns fall apart is that they fail to get scheduled. People have busy lives (especially if kids or pets are involved), and so hobbies like RPGs take a backseat to just about everything else. To keep your gaming sessions alive and well, here are some things to consider when scheduling games.
Respect Other People's Time
RPGs involve a time commitment unlike most other games. To run a session of OSR+ requires a minimum of three hours of uninterrupted play. RPGs also require emotional and creative energy that's often in short supply for busy adults. If players are checked out, preoccupied, or otherwise disengaged when playing, you won't get that energy in the game and everyone’s experience will suffer.
You don't want to run a game for people who feel like they're obligated to be there, whether to please you or because they don't want to disappoint other players. It's important that players come to the table with enthusiastic consent.
As a GM , you want to ensure:
- You're not singling people out about their availability. It's none of your business why players have the availability they have. If their Friday nights are reserved for watching Netflix by themselves, that's as much a valid reason not to game with you as having to work or take care of the baby.
- You're making the most out of the session. Do your prep and iron out technical details before the session starts. If the game starts at 8, shut down the chitchat and get the game rolling at 8. Per scheduling etiquette (see below), people should show up prepared and on time.
- You end on time. The only thing worse than a player showing up because they feel obligated to is a player who feels trapped in the game. If the game ends at 9, don't ask the table if they're OK with staying on for another 30 minutes, unless it's obvious everyone is enthusiastically in favor of the idea.
Since time is scarce for everyone involved, make your players aware of what's considered bad form when it comes to scheduling for the game. Stress the following rules of etiquette when establishing a table:
- Show Up
- Don't Be Late
- Prep Beforehand
- Commit to the Game
Getting people to show up on time is half the battle. When it's not an emergency, make sure players give you plenty of advance notice if they can't make it to the game. Sometimes as a GM, you can compensate for this by running the missing player's PC as an NPC, but that won't work if there are too few players (less than four) or the missing player's PC has something important to do in the fiction.
As of this writing, OSR+ endures constant playtesting across many different worlds of OSR+, with 39+ players in multiple tables. We tend to run 5 to 6 sessions a month, with each individual table meeting once a month for their game.
The average table, however, meets once a week. You can also run sessions once or twice a month. The frequency with which you run games will depend on how quickly you can prep for sessions and how often your players want to meet.
You want to establish a routine for figuring out when you're going to meet. Here are a couple of methods to consider.
The easiest way to establish a routine is to have a regular standing session at the same time, e.g., we meet on every Thursday night at 8; we meet on the first Monday of the month at 6; we meet on Saturdays at noon every other week.
Having a standing session obviates the need for scheduling, and for players with consistent schedules, it works. The problem with standing sessions is that not everyone can be so consistent, and not everyone wants to devote the same night of their week to the game into the foreseeable future.
Group polling works when you’re managing many different tables and many different players whose schedules won’t regularly overlap. You can use tools like Doodle or Xoyondo to poll for player availability, and then pick a day that works for each table in the month based on the poll responses.
If you use this method, tell players they should indicate any evening in the month that could feasibly work for them (yes or no responses only: if they're on the fence about an evening, they should mark it a no) and release the poll about 10 days before the start of the month. On the first of the month, you can build the schedules and release them to everyone through your group’s preferred line of communication, such as email or Discord.
This method is obviously a lot of work, but results in the most flexible scheduling. Players control when they're available, rather than only telling you when they're not available (as would happen if you were running standing sessions). With everyone's availability laid out ahead of time, it's much easier to schedule around vacations, parties, kids' school events, and nights spent vegetating on Netflix.