“Something’s come up.”
We’ve all been there, on both sides of the deal, where higher priority events have blasted over our gaming schedule. Even if gaming is high on the list already, there’s always something higher. We schedule games weeks or sometimes even months in advance just to have a shot at playing. But when we do finally make it to the table: it becomes that much more special.
Schedule uncertainty is something that few games actually have. The only games that consistently use it as a core feature are mobile games, where players must wait X minutes or hours before being able to consume additional content (unless you pay, or course). That uncertainty, of when a player can and will be playing allows there to be “competition” in the game.
Tabletop RPGs naturally have this form of uncertainty, because it’s never known when players will actually be able to get together and play. A lot of games combine this with other uncertainties to actually encourage players to come; even in more indie titles like “Tales from the Loop”, players get XP as long as they played in a session at all.
It may be unfortunate, but schedule uncertainty in our hobby can be recognized and handled in various ways. Luckily, most of us want to be present thanks to the fun of the rest of the uncertainties packaged into each gaming session.