Scheduling & Absent Players


I’m currently DMing the Ghosts of Saltmarsh game via Roll20. As with anything you schedule repeatedly with multiple people who all have vibrant lives; consistent scheduling is HARD. 

I came up with a ruleset for our game that you may find useful. This ensures we can continue playing as a group even as schedules compete for time….and includes an ultimate solution for when it just can’t be prioritized. Session zero covered this and that’s probably a good place to talk about it – when everyone is still excited. 

In this, I am not a professional DM and this is a casual game with my cousins. We are all adults with careers and kids and the prioritization list is extensive. We are trying our best to prioritize some fun. 

That’s the context of this ruleset – and there are 6 players in the game. So – here we go. 

How we deal with in-game absences in Roll20:

Missing more than half the party (three or more) - we will call the game done for the night. At two it’ll be my judgment call given what’s planned for the evening.

Lateness is fine to an extent – up to 90 minutes into the game. Jay or I will roleplay your character as best as possible until you hop in. We’ll pause and give you a 2-minute update when you arrive so you pick up where we paused.

Beyond 90 minutes, it’s an absence and the following rules are play:


 First consecutive absence:

  • This will count as having -1 point of exhaustion (D&D exhaustion rules here).

o In this case, you’re level 3 so: disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws (the lowest of two rolls)

  • In game - your character becomes suddenly and violently ill.
  • Jay or I will role-play your character, however, the roleplay will be as a sick, exhausted character.
  • As in real life, this may or may not affect the party’s situation. 

Second consecutive absence:

  • This will count as having 2 pts of exhaustion
  • Your character’s illness worsens and your hit point maximum is halved in addition to the disadvantage mentioned above.
  • Jay or I will role-play your character, however, the roleplay will be as a rough up, sick character which may affect the party’s situation. 

 Third consecutive absence:

  • 90 minutes into the game, your character dies. The character is, sadly, very dead, may not be healed, is not granted any death saving throws, and may not be reintroduced to any of the campaign.
  • The party will have to incorporate that event into their game however it lands (I’ll get creative). If in-town this likely has a minimal impact if out adventuring it might be troublesome…. Which is what makes this game so much fun. :D

All of that has to be consecutive – so 3 missed games would have to be back-to-back over the 2-3 months they were scheduled in. This means you have likely missed a quarter of the sessions. At that point it is completely fine that life has taken other priorities. This likely won't be the last time we all game together, but you will have to rejoin then. 

I think this gives plenty of leeway and flexibility to everyone’s schedules while allowing the gameplay to flow forward naturally.

What do you think? Too harsh? It prioritizes the group over the individual and depends on a majority to keep showing up. I'll keep you posted as to how it works.