I’ve been gaming since I was three years old.
My parents were firm believers in games as a family pastime. We played kids’ games like Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Ropes and Ladders, and Candyland as soon as I was old enough, then graduated to things like rummy, Monopoly, and Clue as my reading skills and attention span developed.
I discovered role-playing games in 1977 with the release of the first commercially-produced Dungeons & Dragons set—the one in a flat box with a wizard and an armored archer confronting a red dragon. It was a glorious discovery, and while my friends and I fumbled around getting the hang of how the rules worked, the principle was very clear and totally appealing: we would get to play the main characters in our own stories.
Since then I’ve gone on to play lots of RPGs, from early D&D and Traveller to Mutants & Masterminds, Call of Cthulhu, Fiasco, Vampire: The Requiem, and Dragon Age. I’ve even written for a few: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Mutants & Masterminds, Leverage, and others. The problem these days is time; most people I know never seem to have enough of it, and the weekly game goes bi-weekly; then monthly. Eventually, people lose the thread of the adventure and the game dies out. It’s tough, but as we leave college age behind, life gets in the way of our hobbies.
One suggestion to help with this is to take your game online. There are a number of services available to allow for an Internet conference call; when you just can’t get out of the house because the kid is sick or you can’t leave grandma alone, gaming through the wonders of the Internet may be a viable option to help get through those rough patches.
Another suggestion: Plan out single player or small group adventures to help ease the crunch from those times when the group is short one or two players. It works well to have this type of adventure explore the downtime between full-group adventures; maybe the cleric wants to start a church dedicated to her deity Ipshebob the Stinky someplace where they haven’t heard of Ipshebob. There are all kinds of possibilities for interactions with suspicious locals or hostile authorities, and if there’s a Paladin or religiously-oriented monk in the group, they may want to help the cleric with this project. A Thief/Rogue may want to have a few adventures of his own, including picking some pockets, or maybe trying his hand at being a cat burglar and looting the homes of the rich while they sleep. Small quests are always in order to keep things interesting, and allow for players to come and go as needed with the simple pretext of attending to other business in a nearby city. You get the idea.
Keeping an ongoing campaign ongoing is challenging, but obstacles that prevent player participation can be overcome with a little planning by the GM, and with some patience on everyone’s part. We all know our hobby is fun and worthwhile; it’s important to keep the spirit of gaming alive and to be creative in making our game sessions happen rather than finding reasons why we can’t.