Hey all! I just thought I’d share a personal GMing issue with you.

A couple years ago, I started running a game at a friend’s house on alternate Sundays. Most of the group played in a second game on the Sundays I wasn’t there. Occasionally, the two groups would swap Sundays if there was a scheduling conflict. This was never a problem, as both games were held at the same house and the one player exclusive to my game had no problem switching as long as he had a few days notice.

I traveled about an hour to get to the game (two hours both ways) for a 4-5 hour session. In addition to the time investment, I was getting tired of paying astronomical gas prices. Things finally came to a head as summer approached and I spoke with the other GM (whose house we were playing at) about it.

As it turned out, he’d been talking to a married couple that were thinking of getting back into gaming. These friends lived half-way between us, cutting my commute in half.  In addition, these friends and the other GM have kids the same age, so they could play together while we gamed.

I, however, had a new problem. I already had 6 players (my comfortable maximum), and I didn’t want to expand it to 8 players. I planned on running an adventure path designed for 4, and upgrading it for 6 was tough enough, much less 8 (especially since I chose to run a published adventure path to save prep time). Part of my problem was immediately solved; the old game was still being played at the other GM’s house, and the exclusive player lived 5 minutes away. He preferred to switch groups rather than travel.

I shared my concern with another player. He leaped at the chance to get out, since he wanted to run his own game for some time but couldn’t get up the courage to leave either group.  Problem solved.

Two sessions in with the new group, an issue arose. The married couple was going on a family vacation that would overlap my next session. Since this would effectively put my game on hold for a month, I did what I always did; I asked if we wanted to swap Sundays. The entire group agreed, and that was that.

Fast forward several hours later, when the player that left my game to run another group had a problem with the swap. His group (which shared no players with ours) refused to swap Sundays, stating that they’d already had alternate plans for the forseeable future and could only play on the original schedule. Effectively, our decision made him have to choose between two games and he would be stuck gaming less frequently (he wants to be able to game weekly).

This put me in a weird circumstance. While we’re all friends, I now had a non-player that I had to clear schedules with, even if everyone in my group agreed to make the change. It also irked me that, without switching, I’d be stuck putting that game on hold for at least a month whenever there was a schedule problem. When the issue cropped up again (the married couple had a last minute cancellation), we played without them rather than skip and wait for another two weeks (I felt really bad about doing that).

The kicker? My former player regrets leaving my game and would ditch the one he’s running if I let him back in. I’ve been holding my ground, however, since that would push the group to 7 and no one thinks that’s a good idea (I’m already having small issues with 6).

For the future, the other players in my group have told me not to worry about the former player, especially since current players are being adversely affected to accommodate him. However, I can’t help but feel that this is partially my fault as well.

So put yourself in my shoes; what would you do in this situation?