Probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned trying to continue gaming while pursuing my career and becoming a homeowner is that you’ve got to come to each session with a lot of flexibility. Whether it trying to schedule the session itself, or the inevitable curve ball your players throw your way, you’ve got to be ready to change course – especially midstream – and continue on.
I’ve already talked about how breaking your sessions up into individual scenes that can be more freely moved around in your timeline can allow you to better handle situations when players are set along a course of action you hadn’t anticipated, but also that these scenes wherever possible be focused on specific characters, so that only a minimum number of characters for a particular scene are needed, can also be turned to your advantage when scheduling a session that certain members of your group aren’t available for. It’s probably the only way you can ensure that the game continues to progress, and not getting mired in constant rescheduling.
With smaller groups this usually isn’t a problem. If you top out the players at three to four, then you can reasonably assume a regular schedule – a certain must if you want to be able to maintain momentum and not have players struggling to remember what happened in the last session because a long break occurred between them. Instead by removing their scenes, and shifting any of the ones that have to happen to another character, you can neatly rework your story and continue on – which I’m sure the other players will appreciate as it does mean more attention for them.
In my opinion I’ve felt this has also been a boon to my plots, forcing me to tackle the story from a fresh angle when a player’s suddenly not available for a given date, or there just doesn’t seem to be a good day to get everyone together for. By needing to pull a character from the outline I’ve found the plot improved by some innovation, while the story is kept fresh and interesting.