My L5R game tomorrow is going to be down 2 players. This isn't a problem for the game itself, I'll happily run as long as I have half the group, but it does make a change in the plans. Now, one of the players being out is kind of fortuitous. Their character is unconscious in game, and I can just keep them that way for the session easily enough. The other one though does pose some problems. I had been planning on going into things where they could be very useful, and now I have to change gears. Luckily for me, I have enough going on in my game that this is easily enough done.
Dragging The Side Plots To The Foreground
My game has a meta plot to it, but it is primarily made up of character side plots. Every now and then the metaplot raises it ugly head and takes over, but the day to day stuff of the game is the PCs working on their own stuff and whatever is going on in their worlds.
However, even my character sideplots will involve multiple characters (my PCs are good like that) and that gives me an opportunity for sessions like tonight. Instead of side tracking the PCs, or making something up that may or may not work with the rest of the game, I can just focus on one of those plots.
I can't go into the details here as my PCs could read. However, this is easy enough to work into your own game. How?
Side Plots Plug In To the Meta
Some side plots are just for the character. A PC wanting to become a great smith is fairly personal. A PC looking into a random murder is fairly personal. However, sometimes those plots can be worked into the meta plot of your game. Wherever you can do that you should. Why? Two reasons.
1) It lets your players feel like their actions, characters, and storylines are fueling the plot
2) It gives you material to focus on when you're in a pinch.
The second reason is what I am using here. One of my PCs has a plot that is tied in with the over-arcing metaplot of the game. With two people out tonight, I can bring that plot front and center for the session. It forces a confrontation of the player with that plot - though not how they engage with it - and also keeps the session relevant for the other three players w ho will be at the table.
Obviously, some spice needs to be added with content for everyone. But that is easy enough with some mystery, some RP, and maybe a fight or two for the whole group. The rest though, is just having plot lines that intersect and work with the overall plot.