On No-Shows in RPGs
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Posted by leswhittaker

I am man enough to say my opinion may not be the most enlightened and I can see the validity of y'all's points of view.  Thanks for pointing out how no shows can screw over GMs - I was ignorant to all the variables involved.  

What I should have taken the time to articulate better is that I reckon the relative levels of responsibility and culpability between players and GMs is just fine as is and I don't think there needs to be a system to penalize or admonish no show players.  It would have been cool if I had had a good way to contact the GM of the session that I wound up missing to let them know I wasn't going to make it, then I would have.  

I apologize to those affected . . . Long story short - a friend that I hadn't seen in person in 20 years showed up at the Con for a limited amount of time and asked if I wanted to have dinner and hang out.  The window of opportunity for us to meet up was during that session.  So on one hand, I feel bad about missing the session and on the other, I am very happy that I got to hang out with an old friend.

I'd be interested in seeing the statistics on how many game sessions were cancelled due to player no shows (were there particular nights or blocks of time?) and what exactly would constitute a the break point on no shows for the average GM. 

Posted by rodoubleb

cross-threaded my reply.  ignore.

Posted by princesslucky

It could help to schedule more games on the half-hour. That would allow you, with planning, to either leave a half hour between some games (cutting down on no-shows) and give attendees enough travel time to try for other events with generics.

Posted by tdb

I would love to see some more statistics on no-shows as well, particularly what times have a lot of them.  I think it's sort of general con lore that 8 AM and 9 AM time slots have quite a few, but I would hypothesize that 6 & 7 PM are bad too, due to dinners taking longer than planned.

 

Posted by garhkal tdb

tdb wrote:
I would love to see some more statistics on no-shows as well, particularly what times have a lot of them.  I think it's sort of general con lore that 8 AM and 9 AM time slots have quite a few, but I would hypothesize that 6 & 7 PM are bad too, due to dinners taking longer than planned.
 

IMO sunday 8am seems to be the worst offender.

Posted by father bloodlust garhkal

garhkal wrote:
tdb wrote:
I would love to see some more statistics on no-shows as well, particularly what times have a lot of them.  I think it's sort of general con lore that 8 AM and 9 AM time slots have quite a few, but I would hypothesize that 6 & 7 PM are bad too, due to dinners taking longer than planned.

IMO sunday 8am seems to be the worst offender.

Makes sense. Earliest slot on the last day of the con - I think by Sunday, most people have a mindset of "The con's already over, really." Personally, I understand the feeling, but I think acting on it is a waste of a valuable few hours of convention/gaming time.

Posted by bobvilla father bloodlust

father bloodlust wrote:
garhkal wrote:
tdb wrote:
I would love to see some more statistics on no-shows as well, particularly what times have a lot of them.  I think it's sort of general con lore that 8 AM and 9 AM time slots have quite a few, but I would hypothesize that 6 & 7 PM are bad too, due to dinners taking longer than planned.

IMO sunday 8am seems to be the worst offender.

Makes sense. Earliest slot on the last day of the con - I think by Sunday, most people have a mindset of "The con's already over, really." Personally, I understand the feeling, but I think acting on it is a waste of a valuable few hours of convention/gaming time.
This is why I always buy a couple of generics, I used to schedule a game on Sunday but half the time I was the only person who showed. So now I pick a few interesting games and show up with generics, if I can't get in (never happened so far) then I would move on to another game an hour later.

Posted by father bloodlust bobvilla

bobvilla wrote:
father bloodlust wrote:
garhkal wrote:
tdb wrote:
I would love to see some more statistics on no-shows as well, particularly what times have a lot of them.  I think it's sort of general con lore that 8 AM and 9 AM time slots have quite a few, but I would hypothesize that 6 & 7 PM are bad too, due to dinners taking longer than planned.

IMO sunday 8am seems to be the worst offender.

Makes sense. Earliest slot on the last day of the con - I think by Sunday, most people have a mindset of "The con's already over, really." Personally, I understand the feeling, but I think acting on it is a waste of a valuable few hours of convention/gaming time.
I used to schedule a game on Sunday but half the time I was the only person who showed.

Really? Wow, I didn't know the feeling was THAT widespread.

Posted by a dark rider on a pale ... unicorn? garhkal

garhkal wrote:
tdb wrote:
I would love to see some more statistics on no-shows as well, particularly what times have a lot of them.  I think it's sort of general con lore that 8 AM and 9 AM time slots have quite a few, but I would hypothesize that 6 & 7 PM are bad too, due to dinners taking longer than planned.

IMO sunday 8am seems to be the worst offender.

My one GM No-Show was a Sunday morning game.

Posted by tdb

Yeah, attendance at Sunday games is really bad.  I've had a two or three GM no-shows over the years, and it seems like there's at least one player no-show every game. 

Some hard data would still be interesting to see, particularly if it spanned multiple years.  I suspect there's some fairly clear trends.  It could be useful for groups to have when planning their events, as well as for attendees to help them find open games to join using generics.

Posted by lord thrifty the cromulent

The wildcard nature of these games is what really soured Gencon for me.  I'm not getting on a high horse here.  That would be hypocritical since I blew off several events.  I just hate that the central idea of Gencon is supposed to be gaming, but any event you sign up for is only happening in the theoretical sense.  It's why I'm probably going to skip Gencon next year. Or maybe just stop by for the shows on Saturday and Friday after work.  I likely wouldn't even consider going if I didn't live 6 miles from the convention center.

Posted by armadilloal father bloodlust

father bloodlust wrote:
garhkal wrote:
tdb wrote:
I would love to see some more statistics on no-shows as well, particularly what times have a lot of them.  I think it's sort of general con lore that 8 AM and 9 AM time slots have quite a few, but I would hypothesize that 6 & 7 PM are bad too, due to dinners taking longer than planned.

IMO sunday 8am seems to be the worst offender.

Makes sense. Earliest slot on the last day of the con - I think by Sunday, most people have a mindset of "The con's already over, really." Personally, I understand the feeling, but I think acting on it is a waste of a valuable few hours of convention/gaming time.

I confess that I skipped a 10am Sunday event this year (at least it was a tournament and not an RPG), but I can tell you that my mindset was "It's Sunday and I've still missed, like, half the dealer hall!", not "The con's already over".

I suppose that's not a possibility for the people skipping 8am events, though.

Posted by ladyimm

I admit, I never plan events on Sunday - that's my last hurrah through the Dealer's Hall so I can get in a couple more demos. :)  

Posted by father bloodlust ladyimm

ladyimm wrote:
I admit, I never plan events on Sunday - that's my last hurrah through the Dealer's Hall so I can get in a couple more demos. :)  

Eh, I got a 10 a.m. game in on GenCon 50's Sunday and still managed a trip through the dealer's hall (part of the reason being to pick up the core book for the game I'd just played). But yeah, if you're looking for demos I can see why you'd need more time.

Posted by derekguder

A couple notes:


  • This is really more suitable for the Event or GM forums, not the general one. I don't keep track of the general forum, so I didn't see this earlier.
  • I'll reply to some specific points below, but player no-shows is indeed a problem and it's not an easy one to fix, for many of the reasons brought up here. There are some things that could be done to mitigate things a bit, but the ones that would actually be effective would required pretty significant development work and thus would need to be further down the road, whatever their priority.
  • On average, no-show rates for registered players is around 20%-30%, depending on event type and price. Sunday is not as much of a spike as you might expect, from anecdotal evidence, honestly. We can take a look at this in more detail in the fall after I can go through attendance data from this year, so if someone wants to start a thread in the GM forum in October/November we can look at things more closely.

Ultimately, discouraging player no-shows boil down to three things, really:

  1. Make an event that players won't want to miss (and make sure they know it)
  2. Charge more
  3. Structure events to mitigate no-shows

The first one can be a challenge (at least in the sense of making sure players know), but part of that is a really good description and supporting links like to videos or community pages, etc. It can also mean giving something to players for participating.

Charging more is just more direct. I'll need to look at the data to see how significant of an impact it is, but if you charge more you should have fewer people signing up on a whim or bailing without significant cause. This works particularly well for high-demand events.

Finally, whenever possible, structure the events to deal with player no-shows. That doesn't mean just being able to run an RPG at 3 players just as well as you could at 6, but more to schedule multiple tables of an event together at the same time. If you submit an event for 18 players (3 tables of 6) and you lose a third of the players, you can still divide up into 2 tables of 6 or 3 tables of 4 with minimal impact to the player experience. Unfortunately, this isn't really feasible for independent GMs, but it's something gaming groups and companies should keep in mind. This is a bit of a balancing act: don't make your event so large it's hard to place but don't make it so small that it's particularly weak to no-shows.

To address a couple specific points brought up.

unglitteringold wrote:
I think our plan next year is to over sell tickets.
Right now there is no incentive for a player to show up. They pay for the ticket and then they can just use it to get into some other unfilled event. I ended up running two sessions designed for 5 players and both times only 2 people showed up to each despite both events being sold out.
Plus, if I understand correctly, my group will only get back money for the tickets that were turned in? So we prepped for 25 person workshops and 13-15 people showed up... So I'm down the cost of the extra 20+ workshop bits? I hope I'm misunderstanding what I'm reading.
Meanwhile those people who bought the tickets can just take them elsewhere and give them over for some other event - or return them - or toss them out. >.<
So next year we're just going to over ticket everything. 20 person workshop? We'll sell 30 tickets and hope 20 show. 5 person game? We'll sell 8 tickets and hope 5 show. 9 person LARP? Let's go for 12 and see what happens.
But what to do if all show up? Now I'm preparing an extra third of material just in case....
I love running at Gen Con, but the con doesn't provide great support/incentives for GMs or groups, and then players don't show up, and I just feel like I've wasted my time. I'm not sure we'll be running any games at all next year. I'm sick of prepping and working for something people don't even show up to. At least with workshops even if half the people show up I don't feel like I wasted my time. 

I'll tell you right now: do not do this. The point of tickets is to reserve a seat and all events must be prepared to run at full capacity as they submitted their events.

Broadly, do not run your event differently from how it was listed in your event submission. Everyone with a ticket gets a seat. Don't overfill unless it won't unduly affect individual player experiences. Don't run an event at a smaller scale unless you simply don't get enough players for it.

I hope that is abundantly clear, but if you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact us directly: [email protected]

watchdog wrote:
Second, even if the GMs decide to stick it out, Gen Con might not let them. You won't keep getting space for your events when you're only getting 50-60% of the players to show up. Gen Con will think you're just running them to get the badge or partial hotel reimbursement, and give the space to someone else.

I just wanted to chime in to clarify this point that event attendance is one factor we use to determine event space from year to year. it is certainly the primary factor, to be sure, but we would not significantly cut event space unless we noticed a pattern. If player are consistently not showing up to events, for example, that would suggest that there is actually a problem with those events - it's unlikely many different players would coincidentally not show up without some other factors. That's a conversation we would have with that group or company.

We're aware of the impact player no-shows can have on events, particularly smaller ones, so we're not just going to drop the hammer on folks without actually looking at the context.

-
Derek Guder
Event Manager
Gen Con LLC

Posted by garhkal

Thanks for the heads up Derick.  Look forward to seeing actual statistics on which day/times get the most no-shows..

Posted by rilandon

An easy way for Gen Con to reduce player no shows is to stop allowing event tickets to be used as generics. If someone buys an event ticket they are taking away the chance for someone else to use that slot. And there is the risk that the GM does not get credit for the seat / hours.. 
 So if you reserve a seat at a game, you are on the hook for that.. allow it to be returned , yes, but not used somewhere else..
 

Posted by derekguder rilandon

rilandon wrote:
An easy way for Gen Con to reduce player no shows is to stop allowing event tickets to be used as generics. If someone buys an event ticket they are taking away the chance for someone else to use that slot. And there is the risk that the GM does not get credit for the seat / hours.. 
 So if you reserve a seat at a game, you are on the hook for that.. allow it to be returned , yes, but not used somewhere else..
 

We've discussed that in the past and it will not be changing in the near term.

Not only is it questionable whether it actually will reduce player no-shows, it is clear that it would result in huge headaches for many gaming groups and companies that run multiple sessions of the same event and often have players drift from one slot to another.

Being stricter with tickets will result in fewer people sitting down and playing games and is counter productive.

-
Derek Guder
Event Manager
Gen Con LLC

Posted by watchdog

I wonder how many Event tickets are being used that way, though. 

This is anecdotal evidence, so take it with a grain of salt. But in 19 years of running events at Gen Con, our group has had one player use an event ticket this way. It's still a pretty well kept secret as policies go. I'd wager at least half the GMs and most attendees don't even know it's an option.

Posted by braewe

I'm not sure how common it is for Catalyst but it's certainly communicated...that and checking the year for tickets and generics are presented at the demo agent meeting every year.

We also get a lot of players who dont care what ticket they get at event reg, they just get 'something' and then either trade the tickets to another group, or when a whole group is together, they just request the game they want--for the Living Missions events.

So say SRM 7-03 is the scheduled event, and a group of seven meets in advance and they all actually want CMP 7-14 then usually the gm just runs that instead. I'm not sure how that effects anything, really. The players all get a game they want. Players will often come early to trade or find the event they want with like-minded players.

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