The unique thing about D&D is that it’s a collaborative effort between a group of people to tell a story. The worst thing about D&D is that in order to play it, you need those other people. Not that those other people are horrible, it’s that they have to participate. They need to carve out several hours in a day to play on a regular basis, which is next to impossible for busy, responsible adults with jobs, children, and family to worry about.
Scheduling a regular D&D session requires several things from the DM and the players. The biggest thing is communication. After all, it’s a game about communicating, right? The players should keep the DM informed about schedule changes and emergencies that come up so that they can reschedule or postpone the session. It’s a good rule to let your DM know within 48-72 hours of a session that you can’t make it. This way, the DM can inform the other players and make any adjustments.
Similarly, the DM should solidify a time and place for the session and confirm how many players are coming. Having one player not able to make it can be worked around, but if two or more aren’t going to make it, it’s up to the DM to let the players who plan on coming know and ask them if they still want to play despite being short so many players. This decision might also be made by the DM, depending on what they have prepared for the session. Personally, I need a minimum of 4 players to have a sufficient group. Three is pushing it, but anything lower than that would prompt me to postpone the session.
The other thing required from a D&D group is sacrifice. The desire to play must be equal to or greater than the desire to do anything else. Work and emergencies aside (unless you can change your work schedule to accommodate the session), D&D should be high on your priority list. DMs love players who share a similar level of passion for the game and will work with those players to schedule a session. Problems arise when a player consistently has conflicts in their schedule and cannot seem to (or want to) change their schedule. When a DM asks a player if they can play and the player doesn’t respond with a “yes,” they will presume they don’t want to play.
So what can be done to ensure regular sessions can occur? First, communicate. All players should give their DM work schedules and any known special events coming up within the next three months. This way, a DM can compare schedules and find the best time to play. Second, the players should take a deep look at their life schedule and determine where they could shuffle some things to make room for a regular gaming session. If your desire to play is high but work gets in the way, an effort to perhaps work a different shift or switch days with a co-worker might be the best idea.
DMs should make sure that the day and time accommodates the most players. For those players with conflicting schedules, asking them if they can make a change might be necessary. A DM can’t hold off a game session for 6 players if one can’t make it. When that player can make that change, they can be invited into the game. DMs should consider a West Marches style of campaign if this occurs.
D&D requires people to play, and certain things must occur in order to make sure the most players can play. Communication and sacrifice are necessary to create a regular, cohesive gaming group. If players can’t play now, but can play later, using a campaign style that allows for players to come in and out as they please might be a good idea.