During long campaigns, some players might not turn up for sessions, some might retire, new players will join. There are good reasons for changes in your ongoing cast—work and family commitments, sports, meetings and significant events in peoples’ lives. And some players just move on because your game might not be what they’re looking for.
So, what can you as a DM, do to prevent players from dropping out of your game or to cover short-term absences?
- Accept that some things are outside your control. Don’t stress unnecessarily about it.
- Get feedback from your players. Ask them what they like and don’t like about the games you run. Take the feedback on board and use it constructively.
- Have you picked up the signals being given off by your players? Boredom, non-game-related cell phone usage, missing sessions for no reason? Ask the player if they’re okay. Ask them what you can do to re-engage them with the game. What type of game do they prefer? Work with your players to make the campaign one you all want to play.
- If a player has real life reasons why they can’t attend, work with them by making it part of the story. Maybe the PC goes off to a monastery to study and only joins the party once ever four adventures. I have a standing rule that if a PC drops out for a short period they can drop back in anytime—when they turn up the party comes up with a story reason for why the PC was absent from the earlier part of the adventure.
- Use Milestones for PC advancement rather than Experience Points. That way all PCs stay the same level, whether they are there or absent from sessions. The other players will understand because there will be times when they’re absent as well.
- Treat everyone equally and even-handedly and don’t play favourites.
And hopefully you’ll have less player movement. Or at least you’ll be more prepared for when it happens.
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