Monday, January 31, 2011

This Past Week-end's Gaming shot to Hell

I swear, trying to keep an ongoing campaign going with continuity and momentum these days seems to be an impossibility. Over half my players had to cancel for various reasons this past Sunday for our 4E game. We try to play the game every two weeks and the past two week-ends, including this last Sunday's game had to be cancelled due to poor attendence. Needless to say I was disappointed. Two players showed up hoping another would show, but he never did, so we just spent that time chatting about gaming for about an hour and then they left.

You can't run a 4E game with just 2 players. 3 is do-able but not easy. I was rushing around the last minute trying to whip up a small side adventure, but when the 3rd player never showed, I just decided not to bother. I think in this case, playing a game like OD&D or AD&D where you can hire hirelings and meat-shie...err henchmen to round out a small party can keep a game going regardless who shows up. The 4E approach is that all the PC's are powerful enough that they don't need hirelings, but if there's less than 4 PC's you'll have trouble. And 4E is involved enough that trying to play more than one PC per player is not viable. I think this is where the older editions have an advantage of it's less complex rules design that playing more than one PC or playing hirelings/henchmen is easier to do.

All this has got me thinking about the difficulties in trying to run a continuous campaign in modern times. It may be fine if you're a teen-ager with little responsibilities, but much harder for those of us in our 30's to 40's.

I think what I need to do is not bother with a continuous plot-line that requires all the players to be involved. As evidenced by a few players who have miseed several games, they quickly forget what is going on. I think what I need to do is focus on adventures that take one game session to start and finish. Make the adventures episodic in nature with no links to any other adventure, that way if a player misses a game, they don't miss out on any information that is plot-related. Adventures will be site-based relatively close to their home-base so by the time the adventure ends, they are all back in town. This will help with continuity issues trying to explain why so-and-so's PC isn't around if they end the session in the wilderness or near the dungeon and we have to come up with a reason why their character is no longer there.


  1. I feel for you. It's so hard to maintain a group, much less one that you get along with. I think you are onto something with the idea that it'd be easier to run an older style of game where four players is a must.

  2. I've had good luck so far recruiting new players through a D&D Meetup site. Actually one of my players has to drop out of the game, but I might be able to fill his spot quickly. In the older editions, if you ran Modules, it usually told you how many players you needed and the level ranges needed. I remember a few games I played in, it was usually me and maybe 2 others. Funny, I don't recall ever bothering with recruiting hirelings or henchmen in AD&D

  3. Three things I'd suggest, YMMV:

    *Play on a weeknight. Weekends are way too booked for adult players.

    *When you have only 2 players, let them each run 2 characters, some hirelings, etc. Not sure if that would work in 4e.

    *Recruit more players with a flier in the FLGS/bookstore/etc. The bigger the pool of players, the better your chances of running a game.

  4. Weeknights are out. My work hours vary too much and I'm much too tired after a full day of work.

    Many of the players are too new to 4E that to have them run more than their own character gets to be a bit much to handle.

    My roster of players originally started at 4, then it dropped to 3. I recruited 3 new players to 6 and now we are down to 5. We were never able to all the players together at the table and we usually averaged around 4.

  5. @Greg - I hear you on all of that post. Episodic within a campaign framework seems to be the beat bet for me.

    If you have access to RPGA Living Forgotten Realms modules, I'd suggest taking a look at some. They are designed to go through a whole episode in a 4 to 5 hour sitting. Modules sometime have overlapping stories with one another, but they are not vital to play. And, I must say, some of those LFR modules completely awesome to run and play.

    Or, if you don't want to play them, they provide a good template to build other adventures on.

    - Ark