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The group that I game with has been falling one by one. Life happens I understand this happens. However there is now only 1 character(Myself) and the DM and while we have fun it would be more fun with more people, so we are opening the game online via Roll20.

I am aware of the fact that online games tend to have a high turn around as people join and leave because they dislike the game or it doesn't fit in their schedule or tastes ect.

What is the best way to incorporate players into an established game with characters who have detailed background when said players might drop out permanently or not at any moment?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Suggestion #1: The Cliche

Ensure that your campaign includes frequent stops (that is, between dungeons - so to speak) at a common gathering place for adventurers. This makes it easy to accommodate players moving in and out of the game. This is aided by ensuring players understand that they are expected to stick with the game through the end of any adventure they start. This doesn't ensure cooperation, of course, but setting reasonable expectations and making them clear can go a long way.

Suggestion #2: The Annoyance

When a player leaves the game, turn them into either a temporary or permanent NPC. This could actually be a good way to acquire a recurring cast of characters with whom the PCs have a preexisting relationship. Aside from the headache for the GM of managing such a cast, the annoying part comes in when finding unique and believable ways for each new character to join the game. Often, it may be best to simply allow the new player to observe play and look for an opening where they feel their character could have appropriate justification for presenting themselves.

Suggestion #3: The Non-Answer

You may be unnecessarily assuming the worst. If you make it clear that you're looking for players on a semi-permanent basis there's no reason to assume your online attrition will be any worse than your real-life one. Maybe set up a series of mini-adventures to give prospective players a chance to see if they like the speed and tone of the game before settling in for the long haul but you may be making a mountain out of a speed bump.

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Some more suggestions on top of Wesley's.

Suggestion #4: Play a campaign where it doesn't matter

If you run a very genre-aware, tongue-in-cheek dungeon crawl, such as Order of the Stick started out as, then you can just have people suddenly appear out of mysterious portals and get sucked into them. It doesn't break the immersion because there is no true immersion to be broken. This is a great way to handle it if you want to run through a megadungeon like the World's Largest Dungeon or the newly released Emerald Spire - so much material you'll take years to run out.

Suggestion #5: Play a city-based game

It's very easy for people to disappear and get recruited in a city. This is similar to #1, except the whole adventure is set within the gathering place. So long as you don't end a session trapped inside a burning building with 50 guards waiting outside to arrest you, it's easy for people to just... disappear. Or to suddenly find news about their lost sibling they need to go investigate. And so on. Then new people could be recruited by either prearrangement with the GM (showing up with shared goals), or by the remainder of the party explicitly going to recruit someone (who just happens to be the new player). There's always more going on in a city, so if a central character suddenly stops showing up, you just need to bring in a new plot line to distract the players and wrap the old up "off camera".

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Considering one of the games I'm running at the moment, I really should have considered #5. Good call! – Wesley Obenshain Jun 19 '14 at 21:41

The West Marches style of campaign was built for exactly this sort of group. Put together an oversized group of players, a hub of civilization (be it small town tavern, big city adventurers guild, military outpost, frontier monastery, whatever theme works for you) where PCs can recuperate and plan, and fill the surrounding geography with opportunities for Fame and Fortune (or whatever, it's your campaign.)

Since you're using Roll20, you can even take this one step farther, and use roll20's built in forums to do your session scheduling... In character! Make your PC's handle the negotiation of what to explore next over drinks in a forum thread, and then hammer out the nitty gritty details like scheduling at the end. This also makes it easier for players to move offstage without needing a session to do it - or even better, stay in touch with and active in the events of the campaign between sessions.

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