Managing Attendance

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tombombodil
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Managing Attendance

Postby tombombodil » Mon May 17, 2021 10:35 pm

Ok here is a classic soapbox topic I haven't aired out in a while. What are some of your most/least successful ways to manage game attendance?

It always feels like such a tricky topic to broach. Gaming is supposed to be a fun hobby and adding the stress of social pressure and obligation has great potential to sour the whole experience. But on the other hand, gaming with a flake, even a well-meaning flake, can also sour the whole experience. I feel like there are a two main broad categories a person can be in which makes regular attendance difficult for them:

1. They’re not really interested in the game. Maybe they just want to hangout but don’t care about the game that much and so it’s just not a priority for them.

2. They care about the game but have limited social bandwidth due to any number of reasons that don’t really require enumeration; I’m sure you can think of at least a dozen. So regularly the game has to take a back seat to their other obligations, or maybe they just don’t have the energy every so often and so they have to sit out.

Sometimes I feel like I want to try and impress upon a new group or player that, my games are kind of all or nothing. If you don’t think you can -or want- to actually play every week, or every other week, or whatever the schedule is, you don’t have to be part of the game. No hard feelings whatsoever we can play boardgames instead. But if you do want to play, you have to put a golden box around those 2-4 hours a week/month because it’s only courteous to the 2-5 other people who also committed; unless something really important comes up you gotta be there.

But to me all that so often feels like I’m trying to get someone I’m taking on a first date to agree to a chore schedule. And I don’t think there’s many ways to introduce any real kind of meaningful accountability beyond an implied social contract without it coming off badly. This is especially true since I have a lot of friends with social anxieties of various types for whom the act of committing to a social engagement itself often causes more stress than actually participating in it does, because then it feels like I’m making my game less accessible or even inaccessible by requiring a level of explicit commitment that just isn’t possible for some people.
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clintmemo
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Re: Managing Attendance

Postby clintmemo » Tue May 18, 2021 6:54 am

My group is probably atypical since it has been going, with some changes along the way, for about 40 years.
We currently have six people, 4 of us have been there since the beginning, 1 was with us starting about 20 years ago and has recently returned after being gone for a couple of years and one is our "newest" player having joined the group about 5 or 6 years ago.

We play weekly online, on Wednesday, as we are too spread out to get together in one room.
Every week, on Monday, we sent out an email for everyone to respond to to see if anyone wants to either change nights or simply can't make it.
Generally, if only one player is going to be missing, we usually just play without them. This is left up to the GM. If more than one is missing or if the GM doesn't want to run without that person, then we sometimes run a one shot instead. Having a game every week even if it is just a one-shot, keeps the game going and keeps it on everyone's schedule.
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Leoff
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Re: Managing Attendance

Postby Leoff » Tue May 18, 2021 8:10 am

I've had bad luck with the all or nothing approach. Our lives just aren't like that. I like a weekly game with a regular number of players. Back before COVID, one of the reasons I liked a larger group than is normal is that if one player can't make it, the game can go on seamlessly, and if we have one player who is an occasional, or mostly just wants to be there but not contribute much, that was fine. For the longest campaign we had, there was one character who was not actually a member of the party but who showed up whenever the player wanted to come. We just built it into the story and the world. The player wasn't heavily committed either to the game or the character, but sometimes we were where she wanted to be (ie, not at home with two toddlers. Sometimes you just gotta get out of the house), and because we all knew that, it worked.
The key for me is expectations. If everybody at the beginning knows what the expectations are, you can make it work. I still like best to have five to seven good buddies meeting routinely every week.

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Ikoma
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Re: Managing Attendance

Postby Ikoma » Tue May 18, 2021 10:19 am

Man, I have thoughts on this! :D

But I have work that has to get done so I will be watching this thread and writing up something later this afternoon.
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Re: Managing Attendance

Postby BottledViolence » Tue May 18, 2021 3:23 pm

Don't make it on a night you know is going to have conflicts. Friday, Saturday, and maybe Sundays are bad. We never played on Mondays either because we had a lot of football fans or spouses of fans who would get tickets to game or have must watch games. Know your audience.

Don't push players who are on the fence. I've been talked into games that I didn't really want to play, then when they got going and my patience ran out I stopped going and it pretty much killed the group since other players who weren't really feeling it either took it as an excuse to drop. This also applies to changing games with an existing group. Better to play a game everyone likes than a game a few people love and a few people are only mildly interested in.

Plus all the stuff Leoff said. :thumbup:

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Re: Managing Attendance

Postby Ikoma » Tue May 18, 2021 5:42 pm

So first off, I get the frustration. 100%. One person's choice can and does have an impact on the other players/GM enjoyment. One player choosing not to make it - particularly for reasons you don't find personally compelling - is a pain in the butt. Your personal, recreation time is being negatively impacted by another person who theoretically wants to game with you but is making choices that do not seem to suggest that really is their preference. So it does seem like the best option is to encourage everyone to 'put a golden box' around those hours. It just doesn't work out that way in my experience.

First off, that turns you into a bad guy sooner or later. Seriously, at some point that player will want to be [X] and you will be putting pressure on them to make the choice you want them to make instead of the one they want to make. That works for bosses because you get paid for forgoing the thing you like to be where someone wants you to be. Or it works for relationships because there are a lot of other benefits to being in the relationship (you hope). But in social, recreational circumstances that doesn't work. Not on a long term basis. They are getting a lesser recreational experience when they wanted another experience. That's not a good return on investment for your social group. You are creating a situation where your game is a drag for at least one player. And that player often serves as a drag for everyone else. (Not always, of course, but it's hard to really bring a positive vibe when you are somewhere you don't really want to be.) OR... it's an empty requirement. And those are not productive. Telling your players to put the game in a protected time and then letting a player out (of attending, of experiencing consequences, whatever) for anything not genuinely acceptable (illness, emergency, etc.) just tells your other players you aren't really serious.[1]

Which isn't to say that it's not sometimes a wise choice to let players know you take the game seriously. If this isn't their top entertainment priority, they should let you know so they don't join the game since they will eventually disappoint you. Or you gotta decide the game is such a priority for you that you are willing to do the work (suffer the disappointment at some regular frequency) to get the game. Those are really your only stable options. Drive people who aren't as committed as you away as you search for the perfect game. (And if you do manage to find a stable game under those conditions, more power to you. It's gonna be a great game since everyone shares your priorities with the same intensity.) Or accept the imperfect game you have. And at some point, the imperfect game you have might not be worth the effort. Not everything good lasts...

[X] Attending a concert, going to a play-off viewing party, going on a date, playing another game (with a different group, genre, game type, etc), etc.

[1] Seriously, there is nothing annoys me more than a person who tries to use empty threats as motivators. I was once part of a volunteer organization where one personal with a leadership role who emptily threaten physical violence if you missed a deadline. She was a small woman who would say stuff like, "Turn in X on time! Don't make me find you! I will hurt you!" When everyone knew she couldn't and wouldn't do that. It doesn't make her sound serious, or imposing. It just emphasized her relative impotence.
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tombombodil
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Re: Managing Attendance

Postby tombombodil » Tue May 18, 2021 11:57 pm

All good points. Part of my reticence to even bring it up is it feels like mentioning it at all kind of implies that I don't trust the players to actually show up regularly.

One of my favorite solutions is to build my games with relatively short arcs, maybe 3-5 sessions, that are episodic enough that someone could join or leave in between arcs. I do this a LOT for Call of Cthulhu since in that game characters don't tend to last super long term anyway.

This somewhat abandons the dream of a multi-year campaign with full continuity and the same characters growing and adventuring together, but that isn't the end all be all of TTRPGs.

Also I also often will say that if you are interested in the game but not sure if you have the time energy or investment to really commit to a regular schedule we can make them a recurring NPC or just not super integral to the group template.

Most of the time if I make it clear there's no pressure to play regularly (as long as there's also an understanding that if you don't commit to playing regularly you're not going to be as big a part of the game), people who aren't really that willing or able don't take it personally. They usually get it.

And I agree that expectations are one of the most critical components.
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Re: Managing Attendance

Postby clintmemo » Wed May 19, 2021 6:46 am

tombombodil wrote:This somewhat abandons the dream of a multi-year campaign with full continuity and the same characters growing and adventuring together, but that isn't the end all be all of TTRPGs.


For the last few years, we have been rotating between three long running games, all 5e, each run by a different person in the group. Each of us get about a 4 month window where we run one story arc. We sort of accidentally stumbled into this arrangement. We were alternating between two of us where each one would run a game until the GM ran out of creative gas. Then a third player wanted to run a horror-ish game for Halloween. We liked it so much, we asked to keep going. Fast forward a couple of years and now we have our current situation.
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Re: Managing Attendance

Postby John » Thu May 20, 2021 8:27 am

I'm a short arc guy too. My group currently rotates between 3 GMs who generally run an 8-12 session campaign and then hand off to the next GM. It's pretty common to run indirect sequels to previous arcs but we don't do it every time. Maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the time. Every once in a while one of the campaigns goes crazy and runs for a year or so but that seems to happen at semi-random.


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