Scheduling (and all the woes therein) has been a common theme here at RPG Diehard. Both Ben and I have lamented the challenges involved with simply gathering a group of players together, to say nothing of the actual art of playing the game.
For Autumn Frontiers, my new Points of Light/Savage Worlds campaign, I’m going to try my hardest to stick to a regular, reliable schedule. And the more I think about that, the more I think that that’s probably going to necessitate playing without all the players present, at least every now and then.
This is going to be a bit of a change for my group; over the years, we've been pretty easy-going and only too happy to continually postpone a session to make sure everyone's around the table. What that's resulted in, however, is a whole lot of polite emails and not very much gaming. Time for a change?
If handled properly, I think this sort of play can actually serve to enhance the immersive, survival-based fantasy game I’m hoping to run with this group. If we’re set to start at 7 p.m. and a player can’t make it until 8:30, that’s fine — the game will proceed, and I (the GM) will play their character. Or another player; it doesn't matter. The point is that the game is ongoing even when the player is absent — not in a punitive way, though, because that would be cruel. Then, when the player does show up, he’ll enter the game in media res — maybe in the middle of a mountaintop chase, or maybe in the middle of a tense lockpicking moment.
Part of me wants to put my foot down and say “Alright, we’re playing every Thursday; no compromises.” But that’s not fair to adult players who have lives and spouses and jobs; moreover, I’m just as likely to cancel a regular game at some point too. I’m curious how you might handle a group that’s chronically difficult to schedule. Do you regularly play with half a group?