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D&D General That one player who cancels at the last day

Bird Of Play

Explorer
I am the DM of a group of three excellent players. They're very good and that's almost a problem: I enjoy playing with them so much I dread the time when for some reason or another we won't be able to play anymore.

We play once a week, using Roll20. At the end of the session, we immediately schedule the next one. This has been going on regularly for all summer.

Except for one time, when a player, let's call him A, had to cancel at the last day for "work reasons". He's a computer programmer, but I dunno, maybe computer programmers gotta work at night too sometime. Or wake up too early. I didn't ask, because I didn't want to make him feel guilty for not being able to join.

Ok, so, today it happened again: he cannot make it all week for "work reasons". This time I'm already beginning to get paranoid about it.

So I've decided to skip the week and postpone to next week, so he doesn't feel excluded. He however suggested we may also find another player so if someone cannot make it the others can still play: well, this line made me suspicious. What was he implying?

This is a bummer because the other two players always make it on time. And, because mr. A is the only player who's more quiet than the others during the session, but I do always find ways to engage him, and most importantly he is very good when not keeping quiet, so I always assumed he was simply more shy than the others. Now for the first time I begin to wonder if he just isn't into DnD as much as the other two.

I do tend to overreact at times, so am I reading too much into the whole situation?

How should I approach this? Do I start searching for a 4th player as he himself suggested, or would that make him feel like I am replacing him?
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
How should I approach this? Do I start searching for a 4th player as he himself suggested, or would that make him feel like I am replacing him?

Talk to the player. It's that simple.

Life happens. It could be that he is a programmer, and he knows that he has "crunch" coming up and he doesn't want to disappoint the group. Or maybe he has something going on in his personal life that he doesn't want to discuss, and he is using "work" as the convenient reason.

Regardless, just talk to him. Say basically what you said here, to us. Tell the player that you love gaming with him, and that you definitely don't want to replace him. Ask if there's any accommodations the group can make to help him. See what he has to say.

99% of problems can be resolved by talking to other people. The other 1% are caused by Bards.

Good luck!
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Computer programmer - yeah, they sometimes do get unexpected (and unreasonable) demands on their time. Particularly around releases, major bugs that have been discovered at customer sites, and other deadlines. One of my players who misses most often is a programmer.

As far as recruiting a 4th, that's entirely up to you and the rest of your players. I'd definitely check in with your other 2 players before starting a search or taking their recommendations of other players to invite.
 

Dausuul

Legend
This is a bummer because the other two players always make it on time. And, because mr. A is the only player who's more quiet than the others during the session, but I do always find ways to engage him, and most importantly he is very good when not keeping quiet, so I always assumed he was simply more shy than the others. Now for the first time I begin to wonder if he just isn't into DnD as much as the other two.

I do tend to overreact at times, so am I reading too much into the whole situation?

How should I approach this? Do I start searching for a 4th player as he himself suggested, or would that make him feel like I am replacing him?
Yes, I think you are reading too much into this. Life happens and D&D can't always take priority over other things--particularly not when "other things" involves what you do to put food on the table. And many computer programmers do face "crunch times" when they must work crazy hours to hit a deadline*.

In our group, we have a standing rule for absences: If one person can't make it, we game on. If two people can't make it, we reschedule or do something else that evening. Expecting everyone to be present for every session is simply not realistic when our group includes a doctor with 3 kids, another guy with 4 kids, a small business owner, and everyone working full-time with many other interests.

Since you only have three players to begin with, I can see where it would be difficult to game when someone is absent. So I agree with Player A's suggestion to add a fourth player--that way you have enough redundancy to handle an absence. Obviously, discuss with the other two players first.

*Yes, yes, "crunch time" burns people out, it's not sustainable, I know. But lots of workplaces still do it and it is rarely within the power of the individual programmer to make it go away.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Checking in with the player to make sure they are still engaged with the game is easy and will give you the answer you need, presuming the player is honest.

Ultimately though, if you want to avoid cancelling regular sessions, I recommend boosting your player roster to 2 more than your normal quorum. In my campaign, for example, we have 6 regular players. I have a quorum rule of 4, meaning a game happens only if 4 or 5 can play. There's a limit of 5 players per session, first come, first served on sign-up. This has two effects: First, it's very rare that we can't get at least 4 players to play weekly. Second, because there are fewer seats than players, there tends to be a scramble for sign-ups so I'm never left to wonder if I'm playing Friday night. Typically this setup means we only skip a session around the winter holidays. The rest of the year - game on!
 

payn

Hero
So I've decided to skip the week and postpone to next week, so he doesn't feel excluded. He however suggested we may also find another player so if someone cannot make it the others can still play: well, this line made me suspicious. What was he implying?
That either his job is going to remain busy for the foreseeable future, or he's just not that in to you.
 

I agree with the general consensus - talk to him.

One solution we've occasionally used though - if he knows that this is sometimes going to happen but can't predict when, but is still keen on playing, you can coordinate with him to write the player's absences into the plot. I've done this in the past in a superhero game - making each session a single 'episode' and if players couldn't make it, then clearly their superhero was off doing his solo movie this week.

In a D&D campaign - well, use your imagination. Maybe the PC is the subject of a curse that turns him into an inert puppet at unpredictable intervals. Maybe he's a tiefling who offended his fiendish ancestor, and as a result, the ancestor wrote his true name into all sorts of tomes and now the PC continually gets summoned into battle by minor wizards (this way you can handwave that he gets equal XP to everyone else and doesn't fall behind in level too). It's not going to be ideal for the other PCs going into combat one PC down from the party, but it's better than continually cancelling sessions at the last minute.
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
As a fellow programmer, I can guarantee that crunch times and emergencies happen. If an applications crashes (it happens) that is critical to the business there have been times when I had to pull an all-nighter. Other times it's just poor planning or things going wrong and people are putting in double time hours.

It's not a reflection on you, it's a reflection on the work culture in a career that, for better or worse, tends to have a "do whatever it takes" culture.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So I've decided to skip the week and postpone to next week, so he doesn't feel excluded. He however suggested we may also find another player so if someone cannot make it the others can still play: well, this line made me suspicious. What was he implying?
...

How should I approach this? Do I start searching for a 4th player as he himself suggested, or would that make him feel like I am replacing him?

People on the internet will not know what he meant. We cannot read his mind.

To first approximation, take people at their word - he suggested you find another player. If he isn't actually okay with that, that's his own darned fault. If he wasn't telling the truth, or was playing passive-aggressive games, he gets what that behavior earns you.

However, as others have said - when in doubt, ASK. Talk to each other like mature adults.

Note that as the world opens up, there's currently a shortage of workers - that means that a lot of people are changing jobs, and this is very true in the software world. The teams your player works with may have lost members, but still have to meet deadlines, and may just be too busy.

The flip side of this is that "for work reasons" is a solid go-to when the person doesn't want to tell you why. And, in a practical sense... that's okay. Giving a reason is nice, but not required.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
For every IT guy, there is a dumbass manager who does not tell them there is a problem until 5pm and then insists it is urgent and must be fix NOW NOW NOW.
Or someone in management/sales made a firm commitment that was never realistic and the DATE CANNOT BUDGE because they sent out an email on the subject even though sending out a follow-up email would be the only impact. Never mind that you had a dozen "little requests" that were added last minute that are anything but little. :mad:

Anyway, overtime happens in IT for a variety of reasons. Chat with them at some point and make sure it is really just work but earning a paycheck to pay for rent generally supersedes game night.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
The flip side of this is that "for work reasons" is a solid go-to when the person doesn't want to tell you why. And, in a practical sense... that's okay. Giving a reason is nice, but not required.
I think, since it affects multiple people, it is fair to ask them for as much advance notice as they can give. Quick turnaround fixes may have little to none, but releases and deadline crunch times will be more predictable.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I've had the same table rules for decades to handle all of these issues:

1.) We talk as a group about attendance expectations before we begin the campaign. We all get on the same page. That page varies between campaigns, but we all understand the expectations.

2.) If someone does not live up to the expectations, I talk to them (if I am the DM) and ask them to problem solve with me. If the answer is that due to a change they can't live up to the expectations, we bring it back to the group and set new expectations. Sometimes that means a player leaves because their availability no longer fits the group, but other times we adapt to the new circumstances. The key here is transparency. Changing expectations can often be frustrating for one or more players. As such, this is usually a voting situation where we ask whether to adopt a new plan and a majority have to favor the new plan.

3.) If a player can't make it to a session, their PC will be run by another player or the DM. If there is a way to organically 'write them out' for a bit, we'll usually take it. Otherwise, we'll ask that the PC be run a bit conservatively to keep them safer, but that is not always possible. I've seen a few PC deaths when the player was away. That is a risk.

In the end, life sometimes runs us over. We adapt and keep the game going as best we can.
 


I also work in IT, and oftentimes when there's a tight deadline or major issue, the demands on programmers can be absolutely horrendous. That being said, people that don't want to game anymore will oftentimes give excuses that are socially acceptable, rather than just say something like "this group isn't a fit for me." But two missed sessions, that's not enough to draw a firm conclusion from.

I'd say it wouldn't be a bad idea to having a fourth player, regardless of whether this player is "soft-quitting" or if they're just legitimately busy. That makes it more likely that you'll have a decent size group on any given day - the difference between three players and two players, I find, is when that special alchemy of gaming stops happening. I'd also recommend just running the session as scheduled, rather than waiting for when everyone can make it. Not playing D&D often just leads to more cancelled sessions, as it becomes harder to maintain momentum and stick to a schedule.
 

payn

Hero
I also work in IT, and oftentimes when there's a tight deadline or major issue, the demands on programmers can be absolutely horrendous. That being said, people that don't want to game anymore will oftentimes give excuses that are socially acceptable, rather than just say something like "this group isn't a fit for me." But two missed sessions, that's not enough to draw a firm conclusion from.

I'd say it wouldn't be a bad idea to having a fourth player, regardless of whether this player is "soft-quitting" or if they're just legitimately busy. That makes it more likely that you'll have a decent size group on any given day - the difference between three players and two players, I find, is when that special alchemy of gaming stops happening. I'd also recommend just running the session as scheduled, rather than waiting for when everyone can make it. Not playing D&D often just leads to more cancelled sessions, as it becomes harder to maintain momentum and stick to a schedule.
Right if the player is soft-quitting and you cant go two player now, you'll be going no sessions when that soft quit goes hard. Get another player now regardless of what is going on. Assuming, of course, you cant swing the game with 2 players.
 

Even if you recruit a fourth player, problem remain the same, what to do when a player is missing? That may happen more often than you think. Can you imagine play with a missing player?
 


I do tend to overreact at times, so am I reading too much into the whole situation?

How should I approach this? Do I start searching for a 4th player as he himself suggested, or would that make him feel like I am replacing him?

One more thing to think about: I don't think this is a very big deal... yet. It sounds like this is a relatively established group and it's only the second time the guy has had issues. In my current group, we've all missed at least one session in the last few months.

By all means, talk to him about it. Deal with it before it becomes a problem. But also, don't make it a bigger problem than it is. If his attendance (as a percentage) is still good, there's nothing wrong with letting it slide for a little bit.
 

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