Wednesday, September 1, 2010
How to Make a Pair beat a Full House
It happens all the time: you spent 2 hours setting up a game, meticulously matched schedules as if you were tracking a conspiracy theory, and what happens? You only have two or three players show up. What do you do in this situation? This week we focus on what to do with those three hours that aren’t as full as you’d want them to be.
1. Run some filler!
This option is done very frequently in Anime. The plot vets extremely interesting, then BAM two months of meaningless side story. With an incomplete party you have the opportunity to have a role-playing intensive session, where everyone learns a little more about their characters. Stuck in the desert and want to use some ice creatures? This is a great time to put some in front of the few that showed up. You could also do a flashback adventure, where players relive a moment in the past that was just fluff. This is especially fun for players because they get to act out a moment of story where they know the ending (it also makes DMing easier since the players railroad themselves).
2. Try a swap
As I mentioned in last week’s article, I mentioned that having fewer players makes a great time to have another person DM a game. If it’s their first time, it gives them a chance to try being on the other side of the screen without as many judging eyes. It also gives the game a fresh face, keeping players from thinking that the game is going to be a watered-down version of their normal game because there are fewer players. A DM swap can also introduce a one-shot or even a new campaign. This is done best when you frequently have fewer players than you would ideally. This way, when there are fewer players, there isn’t a nervous “Are we going to cancel” feeling, it’s just “Oh, we’ll do Campaign B now.”
Fewer players also should flag as a chance to play that Mouseguard game you’ve been hiding away for four months. Most players come to a game to play that game, but with fewer players, it shifts their thinking to where they’d be much more available to play a different game. It also gives you as a DM a chance to take a deep breath and step back from the current campaign, even if it’s only for one session.
Our lives are hectic mishmashes of deadlines and responsibilities. Having a three hour space in time to game is a huge luxury that we don’t normally afford ourselves. Having fewer players can make us feel angry and frustrated because this is the only time they have in their week to slow down and play. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Having three hours to spend relaxing with your friends, even in a non-gaming situation, is an incredible thing that we take for granted when we aren’t able to play. Honestly, odds are there is more than one player who are at that table that aren’t really feeling gaming that night, and would really just like a couple of hours to decompress. Having fewer players makes a great chance for you to reconnect with your players beyond what their new ideas for retraining are. Sometimes we forget that the people we stare at for three hours and try to kill are our friends, and we don’t have to be rolling dice to have a good time. Watch a crappy movie, a crappy reality show, or just sit back and enjoy each other’s company. You’d be amazed at how awesome your next game will be after sharing a relaxing evening with your friends.
The last thing you want to do after a busy week of preparing and scheduling to have fewer people than you’d like. Fortunately, there are plenty of things to do when you’re a little short. The most important thing to do is to have fun with the people you have. People may want to leave because there aren’t enough to run that game, but remind them they’d be spending that time here anyway, and there’s still fun to be had.