Like many of the organizational aspects of gaming, as the GM you’ll usually be the one taking the lead when it comes to scheduling your group’s sessions.
There are five basic approaches to this task — let’s take a look at each them.
This is pretty much how I gamed in high school — whenever we had free time, we played. The specific campaign varied quite a bit, often on short notice, but somehow it almost always worked out just fine.
The more scheduled your life is, the less likely this approach is to work for you. I’ve found that that roughly correlates to age and family commitments — I’m married, 30 and have a full-time job: there’s just no way this would work for me anymore.
“It’s Friday — are we gaming tomorrow?” This is about the bare minimum you can do in terms of scheduling, and there’s not really much to recommend this approach — especially from a GMing standpoint. Friday night isn’t when I want to find out that I’m running a game on Saturday, unless I’ve already got something in the hopper.
One Session Out
Always looking one gaming session into the future is a pretty good approach, and one that’s served me well over the years. If you rotate games or GMs, it gives the next person in the hotseat a bit of advance notice, and everyone can plan around the date you pick.
That’s really the key to scheduling for me: Plan around your gaming sessions, rather than planning your sessions around other commitments. Real life intervenes all too often, but it’s a good goal to keep in mind.
Having a regular game night seems to be the most common approach to scheduling sessions, and it’s my personal favorite. For my current group, game night is Saturday — and even if something falls through at the last minute, we nearly always get together and hang out. I like that level of stability.
The only real downside to regular game nights is that when you miss a couple in a row, it feels more off than if your initial schedule was more flexible — which is where the next approach comes in.
Several Sessions in Advance
The most organized approach to scheduling is to grab a calendar, sit down with your group, and plan your next several sessions all at once. Based solely on anecdotal evidence, I’d say that this one is most common with established, long-running groups — the folks who’ve been gaming together for many years, and have a well-worn groove when it comes to making time to play.
I’ve never scheduled more than a session or two out, and even then I’ve had trouble with this approach — it’s tricky to keep up with when things come up at the last minute.
Which approach does your group use? Did I miss any big ones?