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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    So I've been playing in a (mostly) biweekly Discord game with friends in 3 different time zones for about 2 years now, and the scheduling is starting to fray - we haven't had the full party together in a session since July. This is understandably frustrating for the DM, who wants to keep the game going, but doesn't like to have unexpected absences, and when players have planned absences, would prefer to explain their PC's absence in-world to having them be temporarily silent, NPC'd, or played by another player.

    Anyone have advice for how we can keep the game going for the long haul?

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    Titan in the Playground
     
    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    Quote Originally Posted by not_a_fish View Post
    when players have planned absences, would prefer to explain their PC's absence in-world to having them be temporarily silent, NPC'd, or played by another player.
    My advice would be to ditch this attitude immediately. Absences happen all the time, because D&D is a hobby, not a job. You just have to deal with it when it happens.

    One of my old DMs had a saying, "invisible and bulletproof", that applied to the characters of any missing player. Just play without that character, it works great. Honestly, a character absence just is not something that needs to be explained in-game. Everyone at the table knows why that character isn't there, you don't need to do extra work to justify it.



    For some actual advice on scheduling, if simply having a regular day and time isn't working, I would try getting people's general availability the way part-time jobs do and just finding whatever time works from week to week (or however often you play). Maybe like a shared Google calendar or something like that?
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    Crake's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    Quote Originally Posted by KillianHawkeye View Post
    My advice would be to ditch this attitude immediately. Absences happen all the time, because D&D is a hobby, not a job. You just have to deal with it when it happens.
    I dont think theres any issue whatsoever with having planned ooc absences lining up with ic absences? You can easily come up with a plot relevant reason for them to not be present trying to shoehorn something like that for an unplanned absence is a bit more difficult though, since you cant work with the player to find something suitable they agree with.

    That being said, Iíve found that if you cant organize a game, its usually a priority issue with the players, people who want to play will make time to play. Dont get me wrong, people can prioritise things in their life how they want, but you need to find people who match your priorities when it comes to gaming. Iíve had groups where we consistently play every week, sometimes multiple times a week, and with the exception of emergency absences, we never have last minute cancellations, and any planned absences are made up for some other time in the week. Then there were other games where people would come late, not show up, make plans over the game night, and generally just not have the same commitment to the game as others.

    Its all about just finding people who match your energy and building on that with them, theres no secret trick that will make it work with any group of players
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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    Quote Originally Posted by Crake View Post
    I dont think theres any issue whatsoever with having planned ooc absences lining up with ic absences? You can easily come up with a plot relevant reason for them to not be present trying to shoehorn something like that for an unplanned absence is a bit more difficult though, since you cant work with the player to find something suitable they agree with.
    I mean, sure, you COULD do that. But it's a waste of time and effort in my opinion. And it only exacerbates the feelings you get when it's not convenient or possible to explain away a player's absence like that. And it quite often doesn't make sense when a character that was explained away suddenly shows up mid-dungeon the next session.

    If it's a long-term planned absence, that's different. Go ahead and write the character out temporarily. But for just missing a session or two, I say don't bother.

    Just accept that when a player's not there, their character isn't there, and when they're back, they're back, and save that energy for more important things.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    Why do you need a full party?

    Your game's been going on for two years already, (which is pretty good) and big changes may feel hard, but consider changing the structure of how you play into a format that does not require full attendance.

    Easiest to do in episodic or location-driven games, where one session covers one (extended) scene or exploration of one place of limited area. For example, if each session is a distinct dungeon crawl, it's possible to just say the characters of the missing players didn't make it this time around, just like their players.

    Also, what is the reason for your game master to dislike characters switching hands? If perfect attendance of characters is (for some reason) required, each player nominating a back-up player for their character(s) is the simplest solution to issues with player attendance.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    Quote Originally Posted by KillianHawkeye View Post
    I mean, sure, you COULD do that. But it's a waste of time and effort in my opinion. And it only exacerbates the feelings you get when it's not convenient or possible to explain away a player's absence like that. And it quite often doesn't make sense when a character that was explained away suddenly shows up mid-dungeon the next session.
    Agreed. Even if I know you'll be on holiday for the next two sessions guaranteed, I don't know precisely where the game will be. We might be mid-combat, trapped on a demiplane, or any number of places where your sudden entrance doesn't make sense.

    We usually talk about How Absent Characters Are Run at Session Zero. Our default is 'in the bubble', when they're usable if you, say, need the Rogue to pick a lock, but they're otherwise pliant and quiet. In combat, they participate in an 'off-screen' way (they're engaged with an orc over there the rest of the party doesn't need to worry about, conveniently they finish it off the exact same round the combat ends.

    If you know upfront you were going to constantly have players absent through a campaign, you can make an in universe reason for it - the "npc virus", an illness that leaves PCs just strong enough to stay along behind the party but not participate; an epic level mad Wizard who sometimes teleports adventurers away only to teleport them back later without rhyme or reason... A handwaved excuse, which is all the reason you need to give.
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    Quote Originally Posted by not_a_fish View Post
    So I've been playing in a (mostly) biweekly Discord game with friends in 3 different time zones for about 2 years now, and the scheduling is starting to fray - we haven't had the full party together in a session since July. This is understandably frustrating for the DM, who wants to keep the game going, but doesn't like to have unexpected absences, and when players have planned absences, would prefer to explain their PC's absence in-world to having them be temporarily silent, NPC'd, or played by another player.

    Anyone have advice for how we can keep the game going for the long haul?
    The "easiest" would be to accept that you will almost never again have the full team.

    But assuming your GM really doesn't want that, I would advise using framadate/doodle/etc to set the sessions, and be clear that when a player puts a "yes" that means they would prioritise it and that they should use "maybe" if there is some chance that a higher priority task happen.

    When discussing that last point, your group might want to have the difficult discussion about the fact that 2 years is a long time and that it's possible that a few players no longer put this campaign as high in their priority list as they used to. And it's quite normal for them to do so, especially if their personal life changed a lot.

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    Titan in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    When one of my players needs to be absent, they spend their time in the Magic Bag of Holding Characters Whose Players are Absent. And apparently its a real party in there, because any time you try and interact with them, they slap you until you stop, unless youre after a plot device that theyre carrying. And if the player shows up, they get regurgitated out of the bag.

    This is something that benefits from being metagamed. Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is going to make having the game a real struggle.
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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    Quote Originally Posted by not_a_fish View Post
    So I've been playing in a (mostly) biweekly Discord game with friends in 3 different time zones for about 2 years now, and the scheduling is starting to fray - we haven't had the full party together in a session since July. This is understandably frustrating for the DM, who wants to keep the game going, but doesn't like to have unexpected absences, and when players have planned absences, would prefer to explain their PC's absence in-world to having them be temporarily silent, NPC'd, or played by another player.

    Anyone have advice for how we can keep the game going for the long haul?
    Related to everyone else's point. It doesn't hurt to have a player or two more than your ideal size. My discord group is 6. I'd ideally like 5. I normally have 4.

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    Troll in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    in my group we let the character be used by other players. i know some people really don't like it, but we are all long running friends, so it's ok among us. and if the character get killed accidentally, there are resurrection spells.

    as for schedule, it's normal for it to suffer during summer. my group didn't even try to play in august. maybe with the end of vacations your friends will be available again.
    that said, it's normal for many people to get more busy as they get older.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    .... and then less busy when the kids leave the house. :)
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    Grod_The_Giant's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keltest View Post
    When one of my players needs to be absent, they spend their time in the Magic Bag of Holding Characters Whose Players are Absent. And apparently its a real party in there, because any time you try and interact with them, they slap you until you stop, unless youre after a plot device that theyre carrying. And if the player shows up, they get regurgitated out of the bag.

    This is something that benefits from being metagamed. Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is going to make having the game a real struggle.
    I once literally wrote this idea into the setting rules for a campaign I knew was going to have irregular attendence:
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    Perhaps as a result of ancient cataclysms, Herrond is not quite as well-connected to the rest of the Material Plane as it ought to be. The resulting "quantum uncertainty" has some odd, but occasionally convenient, effects.

    The membership of any given adventuring party can fluctuate over time. Over the course of a multi-session expedition, quantum uncertainty can lead to some characters apparently vanishing from the group, and others seemingly popping up out of nowhere and acting as if they'd been there all along. This is normal; try not to think about it to much.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    We had a discord group going for about four years before finally there was one time zone shift too many. Advice here:

    - Go to once a week. Three to fours every three days - including one which will be in a prime social slot by default - is a huge ask for anyone who isn't a student. And it also means that everyone feels less committed to attend any individual session.

    - If you're not already, end every session with the planned date for the next one and poll everyone for attendance. It's OK if they won't be there; it let's you know whether to run it, punt, or reschedule. It also let's you deliberately plan holidays and real life impacts and has people make a decision before game day.

    -As a corrolary to the above, know when you'll punt or pass, and when you'll run down a player or two.

    - Accept that some players will leave. Let them go in good grace (not that you could stop them) and re-recruit to fill holes.

    -Change it up. You're probably getting near 200 sessions. That's a lot of time to run one game, one system, with one character (or plot as the GM). Change your systems, GMs, etc when it all gets too stale.

    -By extension, consider playing systems where the characters start competent. "Zero to hero" systems can lock you in to sunk costs and spend a undesired amount of your most precious asset - everyone's free time and that new game momentum - just tooling up.

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    CarpeGuitarrem's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    I ran a Masks: the New Generation game over the span of two years, with some breaks in between. Worked amazingly. Here's some things that I think helped.

    The group came from an existing friend circle, so it was also a chance for people to get together and bond. It also meant that discussion continued after a session, keeping the energy going. (It wasn't technically Discord, it was a Facebook group chat plus Google Sheets plus a video call, but that's kinda splitting hairs.) It also meant that players were willing to help out when one of them had to call in under less than ideal situations.

    There were five players, and we adopted a "we can explain away absences as necessary" policy. I used the idea of "love letters" from Apocalypse World to bring players back into the plot after an absence. The high player count meant that we could still hold a session with anyone missing and have a group that felt full. I think there were even times when we ran with two players missing!

    Masks is built as a game that focuses on emotional arcs, so players had incentive to make time for the session: they really wanted to see what happened next with their characters! Every character had relationships and connections to other characters, and this drove a lot of interest. We even had players doing fanart, fanfic, and memes about the characters, of their own volition. The more general principle here is that emotional investment is what keeps games going. If players can easily connect to their characters and to the bonds those characters have, they'll want to prioritize the game more.

    Stars and Wishes were my killer tech. These help players go into a more reflective mode, and taking the time to explicitly do them every session makes them into a habit. The ritual of Stars and Wishes to end a session was something my players would actually look forward to, because it gave them a way to process the session, remember everything that had happened, and then talk about what cool stuff everyone else had done--which also made them more invested in one another's play. The Wishes also did two things: they gave me a temp check on how players were responding to my pushes in the narrative (and reminded me of stuff I was forgetting to lean into!), and they also gave players a space to get excited about the future.

    Above all, remember that there's no one solution for this. Be deliberate in the things you do to make the game more accessible, to help players support one another, and to make them feel appreciated. If you can do that, they'll do everything they can to make the game work.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    Thank you all for the advice!

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Daemon

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    Default Re: How to maintain a long-running Discord game?

    As a GM, I've often dealt with player absences by running slightly larger groups than I would normally (7 players instead of 5), and playing whenever there is a "quorum." This has led me to miss very few games.

    Alternatively, I've also tried downsizing the group to just a couple of players, so there are fewer schedules to coordinate. This works well too.

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