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I am running a campaign in Roll20, and I have some players that will very often miss sessions without any warning, or just show up really late into the campaign. Because of their absences, I have had to cancel the last three sessions. They're not new to how RPGs are supposed to work: one is really experienced, the other is has played with three other groups before, so both have some games under their belt.

I have asked them numerous times why they never let me know when they will be late or not there, and have never gotten a response. I really don't want to kick them, what should I do?

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I asked a similar question myself and got some good answers rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/13044/… –  Macona Nov 21 '13 at 14:20

4 Answers 4

up vote 26 down vote accepted

There are several things you can do. Most of them are not too great for your game, but unfortunately, people who don't help the group succeed are often more detrimental than I think they realize.

Aim for a cooperative solution

The first thing I'd do is send them a message explaining why their absence is a problem. If they're new, explain that an RPG requires some continuity, and people usually can't simply leave. If they're accustomed to tabletop RPGs, then you may want to emphasize the game itself. Be sure to phrase the question like you're asking them for their help. In general, if you phrase your questions and interrogations like you're asking for assistance or need others' help, they will be much more willing to help.

What I mean by this is: phrase your questions like you want to work with them to figure out what's going on, because ultimately, that's the better solution. Aim to work something out with them. Chances are good they'll come back and say "You know, I really just can't make it to those sessions. [Can we change the time around a bit?/Sorry, I'll have to drop out of the game.]"

If you can come to a cooperative consensus, you will prevent the dark cloud which has the potential to seep into the table and sour gameplay. The goal here is to make them aware of the problem, and open to coming up with a cooperative solution. If they're not both aware and willing, anything else you do won't go over well.

Oh, and one last thing: Try not to sound bitter about it. I know it's difficult, and I do it myself more often than I'd like to admit, but it actually doesn't accomplish much. You really do want to aim for a cooperative solution.

Actually resolving the issue

If your player still would like to play, 'tis time to think of a way to make it happen. Take a look at the list on As an unreliable player, how can I lessen the burden on my group?

Your ideas may differ, but here are the things I'd do:

  • Ask them to let you know when they're going to be gone, as far ahead of time as possible. As a GM, it's awful when you have a great, fantastic plan, and someone doesn't show up. You and I've both had this experience. To minimize this, it's helpful to know when a person is going to be absent.

  • Plan your campaign so that they're not critical to the storyline; make sure they know and understand why this is. You can't depend on somebody who's not necessarily going to be there. As such, you will have to plan around their absence. This will result in them being in the spotlight of the game less often. To prevent them being upset about this, make sure they understand why this is the case.

  • Ask them to provide reasons why their character might not be able to show up. In order to prevent random discontinuities, ask them to come up with reasonable excuses for their character's absence from play.

  • Suggest a proxy for when they can't show up. If they are already essential to the group, and will be late frequently, ask them if they would be okay with assigning a proxy, and then discuss with the group if anyone would be willing to act as a proxy on thier behalf.


There is just one other thing to point out: If, at any point, they become antagonistic towards you, don't entertain them. Obviously the first thing to do is take a look at what you're saying and see if it prompts that kind of behavior. If it doesn't, however, then you are by no means obligated to entertain somebody who will be actively harmful towards your game.

These things should help you alleviate the tensions during gameplay caused by absent players. Hopefully this helps you come to a solution for this problem!

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+1, good answer seeking assertiveness. –  Sardathrion Nov 21 '13 at 8:27
    
DMing is an exercise in social dynamics, good read! –  xiankai Nov 22 '13 at 3:54

These are not players in your group. They are casual inconveniences that are making you regularly not play. They're not even apologetic inconveniences – they don't have even the consideration to answer your messages, let alone the consideration to show up so the group can play.

Kick them from the group. You are dedicated to this game, as evidenced by your cancelling instead of running with players missing. They are not dedicated to your game. You can't mix these two things, so you really do have to kick them. You can only improve the game with their absence.

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+1, harsh but fair. –  Sardathrion Nov 21 '13 at 8:27
    
I'm not usually as quick to the kick solution as many others in this site, but this time I think this answer is the more accurate (even if the asker said explicitly he didn't want to kick them). There's no way this people can contribute anything good to the game if they don't change their attitude. –  Flamma yesterday

These players have repeatedly missed your scheduled games (I assume you have a regular meet time and/or you set the game's schedule on the Campaign Info page). They do not respond to your attempts at communication.

They've already quit your game in every sense except hitting the Leave Campaign button. Give them the boot, and find a replacement.

Just this past week I ran into an identical problem on Roll20. One of my players was consistently missing sessions; I gave him some slack, because he was in Australia while the rest of the players were in the US, so his schedule was widely different from ours. He had also notified me before his first absence, and I'm fine if a player tells me ahead of time. After missing four sessions in a row and not responding to my PMs for five weeks (one week skipped because I was in the middle of a move), I gave him the boot. The final straw was my hard limit for the campaign on 6 players, and one of the other players had a friend who was interested in joining.

I'd much rather have a player actively seeking to join the game in progress than a player who won't even reply to my messages. Even if you don't have someone clamoring to join, you're running the game on Roll20 -- use the Looking for Players feature and/or make a thread in the LFG forum.

Note: As a courtesy, I recommend sending the offending player(s) a PM informing them that you've removed them from your campaign. Be polite and tell them your reasons. They might not read it (as far as you know, they haven't read your other attempts at communication), but you've done what you could.

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Those players are ideal for secondary characters.

  • One way is for their characters to be secondary PCs, who have a standing reason for not being around the party.

Bart the Big is a mercenary caravan guard, but between jobs he stays with his traveling friends, with which faith always seems to gather him at funny moments. Christina is a young wizard apprentice and likes to roam the land, except for when her master calls her for training or assignemnts.

  • The other way is to play one-offs. Some players like this and others don't. Either they can build their characters by themselves, or the GM can give them more important NPCs. The NPCs can be fully built or just a skeleton with some motivations and a goal.
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