I have found, like many of you, that my games have fallen apart due to scheduling conflicts. This is the case when I DM for multiple groups and when I'm a player in other groups. People are busy, they have lives and loved ones to spend time with, and don't forget that some of those players just may not be as obsessed with D&D as much as we are. It is a "nice to have" in their books.
It's been hard for me to come to this realization. My passion for D&D exploded out of the gate years ago and has been non-stop ever since. I wrangled a group together for my first homebrew campaign, and while we had fun when we did play, I was disappointed at the lack of priority that was given both to scheduling as well as the development of their characters. I couldn't understand why I had to reach out every single time to get a date on the books, even though our sessions would end with everyone smiling and cheering at such a fun time. Follow up after follow up, resentment was building as I just wanted us to have fun dammit!
That initial group fell through, but I didn't give up. Later on I pulled together another group, this one lasting much longer. One of the players, the only one from the original group, was as passionate as I was and started a campaign that I was able to join as a player. Not surprisingly, for both our campaigns he and I were always the first to reach out about scheduling, or always the first to respond with availability and try to make it work. But it was still like pulling teeth, and after awhile the sessions became further and further apart and we grew discouraged again.
We've talked about the experiences in great length. He and I, and one other player, are absolutely obsessed with D&D and therefore gave it our utmost priority. But the others, well the others just thought it was nice to have a game night now and then and appreciated the general fantasy theme similar to their interest in Skyrim, Game of Thrones, etc. They never listened to any real play D&D podcasts or watched any D&D shows, and they didn't think about D&D or their characters or the campaign until the day of the session. And at the end of the day, that's okay. We want it so badly to be different, but it's not, and that's okay.
I've seen on this and other D&D subreddits that I'm not alone in this experience. People are either too busy or not obsessed enough to commit to a campaign. It takes a special mindset to have this long term experience with a group of people. And maybe that's the problem – that we're trying to have a long term experience instead of short bursts of D&D fun. Maybe instead of running campaigns, try to run only one-shots.
One Shots – The Player
In recent months I've been running Candlekeep one shots with the recent D&D group that fell apart. The shift in engagement and interest is staggering. There is this weight of pressure that has just dissipated. Not only do people have the option to miss out on sessions (and an "out" if they wanted to leave entirely but didn't want to let their friends down), but they no longer have the pressure of developing a rich character with background goals. They have the ability to try different classes and races, and different roleplaying personalities if they desire. It is a completely different experience while still having all of the D&D that I know and love.
One Shots – The DM
Another thing that made such an impact was the shift from homebrew (whether campaign or one shot), to premade one shots. I as a DM love to homebrew and world build. It is a passionate that many DMs have. However, I never understood how taxing it was on me until I began to run these premade one shots out of Candlekeep, as well as some DM's Guild one shots. I was so passionate about the creation process that I didn't realize the burnout it was creating. I was trying to make sure I included engaging content, especially because I thought it was the key to keeping the players wanting to play, which in turn was adding to the pressure of preparing and the resentment of scheduling conflicts.
Now that I am running one shots out of the "book", I have found it incredibly more manageable. No more trying to tie in characters' backstories into the main plot in meaningful ways that may still go unnoticed. No more am I focused on balancing homebrew, or worrying about character deaths and how that might impact the player (although obviously I still am mindful). No more do I have a busy few weeks with no time to prep and worry about whether I'll be able to pull something together in time for the session.
On top of that, I can still add my creative flair into anything that I'm running. See a creature or encounter that wouldn't be fun for the type of people at the table? Swap it for something else. An NPC is either bland or doesn't have anything in common with the party? Swap their race, class, background, etc. so that there is a possible connection. I can still be creative by renovating the house instead of trying to build it from the foundation up.
You ever run a one shot with 2 players? It is actually amazing. I've been running the Candlekeep one shots with a party of 3 to 4 players, but my friend/DM from the other campaign has begun running one shots from the Tales of the Yawning Portal for just me and another obsessed player.
First, there are little scheduling conflicts. Not that hard to schedule when you have only three people to work with.
Second, we are so much more engaged with combat because our turns come around so quickly. Not to mention we have a Giant Goat named Goaty who joins us to help balance the encounters, and myself and the other player run him together.
Third, we fly through the adventure because we don't need much discussion on what to do next – there are two of us playing and we can come to conclusions fairly quickly.
And finally, which is a bonus, we selected for our small group the most passionate players we know, which are a pair of well-versed, tactically-minded, and roleplay-focused players along with a DM that is firm, fair, fun, and cares about our happiness (and is also obsessed).
Running through these one shots with a small group just feels so free. We have dedicated players, quick movement through the plot, and the stakes are a tad higher. It's been a blast.
If you're having scheduling problems for your campaign, try running one-shots and allowing players to be floaters. Pick some premade one shots from Wizards of the Coast or DM's Guild (or wherever) and see how they go. And if you can, run a small party with the most interested friends. You may see a world of difference.
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More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "If your campaigns have fallen apart due to scheduling conflicts, may I suggest running a continuous series of different one-shots?" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
- I accidentally went too Tucker’s Kobolds with goblins
- A new, full city for D&D 5e ready for DMs: NPCs, maps, quests and places
- Making Underdark Encounters
- Hooks, conflicts, mysteries, and general ideas for a magical academy setting?
- Trying to plan a oneshot campaign, is this too much/not enough stuff?
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