Ask the Game Master: Why won’t my players show up to game night?

Got a gaming question? Ask the Game Master to make a ruling, provide advice or referee your gaming troubles. Send your questions to critforbrains@gmail.com. This week, we’re talking absent players and those board games you never seem to play.


In one of my D&D campaigns, we have a gaming party of me (the DM) and five players. We all have kids and jobs and marriages (or some combination thereof), so it’s understandable when someone can’t make it to game night.

That said, we usually end up only two or three players each time we play.

I make sure we have a good time, but the absent guys don’t know what’s going on in the campaign and one of our five has only been to two sessions in the last year. What should I do? I’m considering adding a few more players so we at least get a consistent four or five. Or should I only schedule things for when I know everyone can make it?

Hey man, I get it. Gaming is what I like to call an extracurricular activity. You have to work. You have to be a good spouse. You have to be a good parent. When all that stuff is done, it’s time to roll dice.

So I totally understand that people can’t make it all the time.

But if you’re playing an ongoing RPG campaign, people need to commit to being a part of it, especially if the DM is going to put time and energy into organizing a game night and everything that comes with it.

So yes, add some new players. But definitely talk to your group about it. Be honest and tell them you’d like more players to make it easier on you as DM. Ask them if they’re cool with that and also if they have any advice about who to include. Someone probably has a friend who’d love to join.

As for that one guy, ask him if he really wants to play and if it’s possible to be there more often. He may be dying to play but can’t always get away from real life responsibilities to roll dice. And if so, maybe be a benevolent DM and leave a chair open for him just in case.


I love board games. In my game room, I have a few nice IKEA shelves full of board games that I absolutely love.

Here’s the problem: I love these games, but I don’t get to play them all that much. I also can’t stop buying them.

My wife and even my gaming friends have told me I should probably stop buying new games, especially if I don’t get a chance to play them all. So what should I do? I don’t really want to stop. I don’t really want to get rid of old games either.

Gamers of every stripe pick up games that they never seem to get around to playing. And the ones they’re done with, you never seem to want to part with. I have RPGs I’m dying to play, but I only really have time for one campaign. I have Xbox 360 games I played two hours of, fell in love with but never came back to for some reason or another. But I still hold onto them while picking up new stuff.

So you’re not alone.

But the question you have to ask is, “Do I have a problem?”

Are you running out of space in your house? Are you spending too much money or money you don’t have to buy new games? Is your gaming and collecting intruding into your life? Are you buying the games to play them or just to say you have them?

It’s complicated and difficult to answer those questions, but if your spouse and your friends have made comments, it’s probably time to evaluate.

Speaking from experience, I had to put an end to buying new games all the time. With a marriage and kids, there’s just not that much time. I also have more tabletop games (and minis and buildings and terrain) than I have time to play. So I don’t need more right now. I’m not going to get to play them much until my kids are older. So in a few years (maybe once I’m no longer paying for day care!) I’ll get back into it.

It’s no big deal to stop buying new stuff. You obviously have plenty of things to play right now. Perhaps you can commit yourself to playing all the games you haven’t played yet before you buy anything new.

And it’s OK to get rid of games you no longer play or have never played, especially if you can be honest with yourself and admit you’re never going to open up those boxes. Gift some to a friend who loves games. Sell some on eBay for extra cash. If you’re not playing them, it’d be better to put them in the hands of someone who will.


Got a gaming question? Ask the Game Master by sending your questions to critforbrains@gmail.com.

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