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I am a DM running Waterdeep: Dragon Heist (soon to progress to Undermountain). There are three players, I play a generic paladin, and we play via Zoom. One player, however, is inconsistently showing up, and I am worried that he is going to miss too much of the story to progress. The characters are level 4, and we started using Zoom at about level 2.

Since then, said player showed up to about half the sessions, and even then he only stayed for part of it. That bothers me the most, as he is new to D&D and I believe he does not grasp that the game is supposed to take about 4 hours at a time, because he only stays about 1-2. He has missed out on much of the story and we often have to fill him in.

The other two players are fine playing without him, but I can tell that they too would rather have him play for the full length. Whenever I mention it he just shrugs it off and wants to keep playing. I am hoping there may be a solution to this inconsistent behavior.

[Note] This may be a duplicate but I am not sure

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    \$\begingroup\$ What is your question? Or perhaps more usefully: what are you looking for as an answer? How to convince them to always be there? How to not make them miss story? How to (nicely and diplomatically) cut them out of your group? \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jul 1 '20 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh and of course: Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jul 1 '20 at 15:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Besides what @Someone_Evil evil already commented, further clarification would be nice: Do you know why he leaves in the middle or misses sessions? Is he busy with something else? Have you talked to him about it? Are you scheduling the sessions in a time that is convenient to him, or are you just saying "The next session is July 03, show up if you can"? \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 1 '20 at 15:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am not sure this is 100% relevant, but how old is this player? \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Jul 1 '20 at 16:48
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Reasons for showing up inconsistently

There are multiple reasons why this might happen:

  • it is not entirely clear to the player that four hours is "normal" and that he should preferably always participate.

  • something is bothering the player. This might be in the gameplay, in the fact that it is digital, in the fact that it is four hours at a time, or in the choice of session days.

Possible solutions

  • It seems that you informed the player about usual session structure. If you are unsure about this make it unambiguously clear. You should avoid anything that sounds like an accusation, but explain that it is not usually done like he does.

  • Carefully check if something is bothering the player. It is entirely possible that they dislike something about the way your group plays but does not dare to tell.

  • Since you say that the inconsistent attendance started since you started playing online, it is entirely possible that this is the problem. Me too, I had a player who attended less after I started playing online due to Corona. He told me later that he liked the game in general, but not playing online. If this is the issue, you could restart playing in person, if possible. If not, it is possible that the person may not want to participate any more. In that case you should tell them that you will invite them to rejoin a game when you play in person again.

  • If there is another issue, such as with the game content, or the days that you play, you should similarly find out how each player wants to play and try to find a compromise.

  • If the problem is with playing multiple hours at a time and your player does not want to adapt, you can still accept that they do not attend regularly. If you do not want to do that, you can try to compromise by playing less than four hours, although 1-2 is probably not very productive. If all this is not possible you should tell the player, they cannot play in your game if they miss more than half the time. It is entirely possible however that you can avoid this by finding the issue and making a compromise.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a good response. The first step is definitely communicating and identifying what the problem is, only then can you steer towards a solution that works for everyone. Well laid out response :-) \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Mundane Jul 1 '20 at 16:50
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I would recommend a one-on-one conversation

For me, the key phrase in your question is this:

Whenever I mention it he just shrugs it off and wants to keep playing.

Clearly he is not aware of how his inconsistency is affecting both you and the other players, or he is but doesn't know how to deal with it and isn't confident talking about it in front of the whole group. It sounds as though you need to have a conversation with him about it.

  1. Firstly, unless you already have done so, talk with the other players minus him to confirm that they really do find his inconsistency a problem (although, reading your question, you may well know this for sure, but it might be worth having a quick conversation with them anyway so that they know you plan to do something about it). This way you aren't putting words in their mouths when you mention how they feel about his inconsistency to him.

  2. Then, have a one-on-one conversation with him; let him know that it is disrupting you and the other players, your concerns about missing the plot or whatever else, but try not to make it sound like an accusation (which can be hard, so maybe rehearse what you want to say and how you want to word it beforehand). Try to make it sound like you would all really like to continue playing, and that you want to understand why this hasn't been possible for him recently.

  3. Then listen; this is the most important step, because now you will be in a better position to learn his reasons for his inconsistent attendance. As others have said, is it because he doesn't like something or someone in the game? Is it because of the technology (i.e. playing online, using Zoom, etc) or the time schedule? Once you learn of his reasons, hopefully between the two of you, or between the whole group (as appropriate, according to what the problem is), you can find a solution to these problems.

The only thing you should try not to do is let him just shrug it off again, since then nothing changes. Hopefully having a one-to-one with him will show him that this isn't just a minor complaint but a real problem that is important enough that you're having a one-to-one with him about it.

At worst, if he outright refuses to expand on this and insists on shrugging it off, I'm not sure exactly what to suggest at that point; hopefully it won't come to that, but if it does, you have to decide (you and your other players, that is) whether you want to continue with him in the group or not. But I won't say more on that until it gets that dire, in which case that's probably worth another question anyway...

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