My usual Friday night group is six players.
Last night, three couldn’t make it last-minute.
No big deal, I thought. I’ll run a short oneshot for the other three.
Except for one thing: One of the players hadn’t leveled up her character from last session yet.
Long story short, we spent the evening hanging out, talking and discussing options for her (she’s a self-admitted indecisive person) and she ended up branching her fighter out into a level of forge cleric.
I felt a little weird because we didn’t actually play the game.
But the three assured me they had fun hanging out and didn’t mind in the least.
And then I realized: Planning out characters is playing the game.
I also had to remind myself of the Cardinal Rule of DMing: If your players had fun, you had fun.
Sometimes D&D night doesn’t have to actually be D&D night. Kinda freeing, right?
Now get out there and tell a story!