So confessional time. Last two game sessions have been something of a bust. Why? Because I made the rookie mistake of crafting a solid hook behind a notoriously absentee player without a good back up plan.
It seemed like a good idea at the time; the player has been begging for this since the game began, and I got multiple confirmations that yes, he would be present and had a good idea that he would be a focal character. Of course, those assurances amounted to pretty much nothing, leaving me with a cool scenario that the rest of the group doesn’t care a wit about. To top that off, I hear this same player will be absent for the next game session too (not from him, naturally, but from the other player who he will be traveling with).
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I don’t hold the fault with the player. He’s a good friend who I’ve known for a long time. More importantly, this is not unexpected behavior from him. Oh, we have plenty of contingencies to help prompt his attendance. (GM Tip: one of the best ways to assure player attendance is to include their husbands and wives on schedule announcements.) This is simply who he is.
No, I’m frustrated with myself. Because I know this about him. Like I said, rookie mistake.
So now I find myself having to jettison the whole thing in a dramatic way that will be satisfactory to the rest of the group. No problem there. I have a plan. Maybe I’ll salvage the whole thing and submit it to PCI for a Revelations round, or turn it into a hip pocket con event.
And before the chorus of “drop him from the game” begins, I don’t subscribe to that logic. This isn’t a handful of people who showed up to a Craig’s List ad or some flier in my FLGS. These are my friends. If you know your friend is a flake and you invite him or her to play in your game anyway, you gotta take them for what they are. You can’t get pissed off after the fact. You just need to remember who you are dealing with and not let your muse convince you otherwise. Remember, you are friends first.
Anyhow, a couple of very important GMing lessons to come out of this:
- Never introduce a plot you aren’t 100% ready to jettison immediately after your players taste it. Always have 2 or 3 subplots you can pivot to at a moment’s notice, even if they are nothing more than one line hooks/ideas. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
- Never built a major plot or scenario around your flakey player(s). Even if money changes hands, blood is shed, contracts are signed.
- You’re never too good to make a rookie mistake. Wash your hands and move along.
So what about you? What’s your most reason forehead slapping moment of your GMing career? (Players, feel free to dish on your GMs.)