why do all my players cancel on me?

why do my players cancel at the last minute? why don’t they care about my world? I’m seeing these woes from a lot of newer ttrpg gms lately. In my 15 years of experience, it comes down to expectations, on both ends. But let’s focus on the end you can control.

I know well the pain of negotiating your way through multiple adult life schedules, prodding players to finish their characters beforehand, prepping for hours, and then watching it all fall apart the day-of. I had high expectations, which soured into disappointment. Two questions helped me a lot: “Are my players aware of my expectations?” and “Did my players consent to my expectations?”. The first one is obvious to some, less to me who has a bad habit of setting expectations in my head without verbalizing them. Part of being in a healthy game group is logistics communication; info on discord servers and group texts fall through the gaps so easily. Embrace the mantra of project managers; never assume people remember shit, there’s no such thing as too many reminders.

The consent question is more difficult. The hardest thing for me to internalize as a GM is “no one cares about my world as much as I do”. It feels harsh at first, but it’s rather self-evident. It’s a phenomenal feeling when players become interested in your work. But you probably built your world around what YOU like, and engages YOU in a fictional setting and story. It takes time and energy for other people to buy in. Your world is important, but to your players, it’s not as important as the shit going on in their lives. People who want a great ttrpg game? Tons out there. People who can consistently commit their time and energy in perpetuity, constantly making one social interaction top priority? Far fewer. And the ones who have plenty of free time for games aren’t always better. Though it’s hard to put to words, you probably know what an imbalance of investment feels like within a group. If it’s left unresolved, it only gets worse. People leave you on read, don’t bother making backstories, start thinking up alternate games they wanna play.

Solutions? People are flaking out on weekly games- can we make it bi-weekly? People not making backstories- are they essential to your game? Or just a chore for players that makes the activity of gaming less fun? Is your game premise engaging for them or nah? Some of that might suck to hear, but in my case, I’d rather have my players be honest about their feelings. I love my worlds and my stories, and that’s enough; if my players aren’t on board, let’s find a better game for the group.

Author: Nagi