“I can’t do Friday, but I’m good for Sunday.” “Sunday’s no good for me; how’s Saturday?” “Can’t. I’ve got a thing…”
And that’s how you TPK before a session.
Dear DovahQueen: I have a group of people who would like to play Starfinder online, but scheduling is a pain in the butt. I want to avoid having a group calendar because that just means everyone has to put in their stuff all the time. What do you suggest using for getting everyone’s availability and scheduling games? Thanks!–Starlost Calender
Dear Lost In Spacetime: Isn’t this the worst thing about trying to get a group together? I think the last time it was easy for all of us to come together at the same was when we were all teenagers and had nothing better to do on the weekends. Conflicts in time availability have probably killed more parties than every big bad guy combined. Looking to online games is a good way to try and get a group together for a variety of reasons. For one, your pool of potential players is so dramatically increased that if you look hard enough, you can be guaranteed to at least find a handful of people that can play at the same time. For another, I feel like it’s a bit easier to commit to a group thing when you don’t actually have to change out of your pajamas. Unfortunately, having real-lives that get in the way of our fantasy-lives is just a reality. More fortunately though, I do have a few things that have worked well for me in the past.
Much like in game, it can be pretty beneficial to have a ‘party face’–someone who takes it upon them self to coordinate everything. If you have everyone’s phone number, consider texting each individual personally. You *could* use a group message, but I find that it’s a bit easier to get people talking when its one-on-one. Send something like this: “Hey, do you think you’ll be able to play this week? Which days are good for you?” If everybody can get you a handful of times and dates, you should have an easier time matching the group’s availability without all the chaos of just “waiting for the everyone to decide.” Then it’s as simple as making the final decision and informing everyone. This is what I’d use a group text for. Everyone knows the time and place and everyone knows that everyone knows. You tend to get less flakiness when folks feel a little bit put on the spot. If this group of people isn’t comfortable trading phone numbers, this should still work via email, Facebook, Discord, or whatever else everyone is okay using.
I know you’re not a big fan of the group calendar, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. Can you find that time that mostly works for everyone and set it to repeat same time and date each week (or biweekly)? In every successful campaign I’ve ever been in, this is the only way we were able to keep it going. Sure, this isn’t always an option, but when possible, it is always the best case scenario.
Another option that’s worked very well for us is to have separate “space” set aside just for the game. We tend to use Facebook to make a private group page for the game’s participants. It’s where we post stuff about our characters, discuss things we liked, the GM can leave information they want the party to know, and where we can talk about scheduling. It works so well for us that the moment someone even thinks about starting a game, they immediately make a group page and send invites. I’ve also been part of a few games that did this using Discord so you’ve got a few options.
I feel like I must mention is that you might have to come to terms with moving on without someone, and that that’s ok. If three players can do Saturday and the fourth player can NOT do Saturday, you may have to start a Saturday game regardless. It really sucks to have to drop the axe on someone, but them not playing versus nobody playing is an unfortunately easy call. Be polite and straightforward with them. They should be understanding, but make sure you stress how there will always be an open seat at the table should they find a stray Friday evening open.
Ok, I lied; one more thing. You may find yourself in a situation where every week its someone different who’s schedule just doesn’t line up. That’s fine. As long as the GM has adequate time to prepare, it isn’t terribly hard to write a character away on a personal side mission or something. Keywords: adequate time. Knowing of an absence a week in advance makes it easy to plan in such a way that makes sense for the narrative. Finding out half an hour before the session makes it easy to say they fell asleep in the back of the wagon…
…and we all know that’s kinda dumb.
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