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D&D 3E
What to do when players are missing en masse... 
8th-Nov-2004 11:58 am
My first game went rather well, but last session wasn't the best because we had four people out of six cancel. I had battles tailored out for a much larger group and they were in a an old temple protected by a host of holy golems with relics/artifacts inside that were meant to be kept out of the hands of commoners that made it cheesy if I removed some of the golems protecting the holy artifacts, because having ancient items protected by just one golem seems rather ridiculous. I went to the extent of introducing a higher level cleric that wanted help exploring the temple (when in the original plot before I had players cancel, was meant not to actually go in to the temple with them but play a minor, informative role) so the group size would increase by at least one, but nevertheless, it wasn't the same.

What do you do when you have several players cancel and you have plans set out that would seem otherwise cheesy without those people there? Cancel game? Completely make them go somewhere else until the next game and improv? Just curious how you guys think this scenario should have been handled (in the end, I made the two players end the game in front of a door that would lead into the "great battle" with three stained glass golems and two half golems actually protecting the room beyond with the artifact, because I wanted this final room, at least, to be properly guarded.
8th-Nov-2004 08:05 pm (UTC)
I call the game. I have a 51% minimum rule. I don't even like running when one person cancels.
8th-Nov-2004 08:08 pm (UTC)
cancel the game and play zombies!!!. great ufcking game.
8th-Nov-2004 08:08 pm (UTC)
In the group I was in, what would usually happen was that if most of the group was gone; we'd simply cancel game, but if only one or two people were missing, then one of the other players would play their character for them. Yes, this means that some people were playing two (or sometimes even three) characters at once. This was never too much of a problem in combat-heavy games, but in social- and puzzle-heavy games, the characters played by substitutes would generally keep quiet (perhaps to their detriment) and not get XP for things that they would have done by their own volition had their normal players been there to have them do.
8th-Nov-2004 08:31 pm (UTC)
Usually, I cancel the RPG session but do something social with those persons who are available.

Sometimes, if it's the same core group who always show, we come up with a different set of characters and game designed for those characters, which we can play when the slackers can't make it.
8th-Nov-2004 08:51 pm (UTC)
Well, three players is my lower limit for game sessions - below that, I cancel the session. And if its possible, I adjust the strength of the opponents in advance - fortunately, my players usually tell me a few days before the session if they can't show up.

Apart from that, I fudge like hell. The PCs (and thus, the players) should believe that what they are fighting will be very, very dangerous. Hopefully, their low number will make them cautious and even paranoid - which is a good thing. If some of them comes up with a clever-sounding tactic, I will let it work - even if in theory it shouldn't (that's probably good advice in general - cleverness on the part of the players should be rewarded).

And you might give them a few other breaks. Not by sending NPCs along with them (personally, I have enough of a hard time keeping tracks of the monsters - keeping track of allied NPCs would be entirely too much for me), but perhaps by giving them a few additional bits of information about what to expect, and maybe a few minor items that might help them against their particular foe. Give them access to some extra resources and time to plan ahead, and they might surprise you with some rather good strategies - especially when they realize that the life of their PCs depends on it...
8th-Nov-2004 08:57 pm (UTC)
I agree, cancelling is usually the right way to go.

If circumstances are right, you could maybe reward the people who did show by making up a random encounter or minor plot for just them, and make sure they get some small treasure and XP. Maybe finding an excuse to send them off together (like to go to the "other" pub for some "special" brandy and encounter someone from the random(city) table.

I certainly don't like running a cool scenario that I worked on all week for just a fraction of the players. I don't like rewarding people who don't show and I don't like penalizing those who do. I might consider just flat out giving them some extra XP and then breaking out the board games or poker chips, but having a random idea for a pick-up scene in your back pocket is not a bad idea either.
8th-Nov-2004 09:27 pm (UTC)
Usually I'll only run if three (or more) players show up. For smaller games, I'll run with just two (but there were only three to start with!).

If the character is crucial to the plot, then I'll auto-pilot them.
8th-Nov-2004 10:01 pm (UTC)
cancel and do something else equally fun and geeky with them.
8th-Nov-2004 10:47 pm (UTC)
We tend to cancel if a certain number (2 out of 7) can't play. If we know in advance that someone won't be able to show (which is usually the case), then maybe someone else will play a one-spot game. Everyone makes up characters real fast and runs through a dungeon. We also kinda have a secondary campaign that people can play in, but that doesn't happen that often (most of us can usually play).

But yeah, best bet is usually just to cancel, unless you can deal with missing the players and characters.
8th-Nov-2004 11:10 pm (UTC)
With that big a swing inthe number of players who can show, cancel the game. I design the week's adventure for the people who say they are showing up, so that helps since I only plan once I know people are coming, and I've never had that many people have an emergency come up. If it did though, it would be a definite cancel.
9th-Nov-2004 01:23 pm (UTC)
I cancel the game... I have a five player group (used to be seven). At least four people have to show up. Three is pushing it. I tailor the game around the PC's. If I have six orcs and six PC's but then two PC's cancel, I adjust the encounter. You can also grab them with side encounters to last the session. Something two or three people can handle.

For your case, you could've had an evil NPC party get there before the Players and take the artifacts... the Players get to the temple and find one golem still alive (or at half hit points) they manage to fight it off, now it's time to do some info gathering and tracking to find the evil NPC's.
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