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View Full Version : Playing a session without one of the players, how do you do it?



Myth27
2018-06-07, 09:59 AM
Getting five people to meet is not always easy, there is often a date that works for 4 but not for all, Playing with one player missing would increase the number of times we play, but Iím not sure how to do it. How do you handle it? Does it work well? What are your experiences?

comk59
2018-06-07, 10:10 AM
Depends on the situation the characters are in. Sometimes the character is just hanging out in the background, not saying much and mostly just cobtributing in combat. Sometimes, the injuries from the big fight last session were worse than they realised, and they needed more time to recover. If they start the session in their stronghold, then the character is just staying behind to take care of something vitally important, and will catch up with them later at a dramatically appropriate time.

BWR
2018-06-07, 10:29 AM
The missing player is a situation we are intimately familiar with, and we'd get half as much gaming done if we didn't just play without people. Usually, it isn't a big deal.
Some groups like to pretend the missing player's character isn't even present - they're off doing something else at that time or they just stand around doing **** all, even if it makes no sense in game. We've never done it that way unless there is a very good reason said PC should suddenly up and leave for a while. Mostly, the PC is just in the background and the other PCs take center stage. In combat the PC participates, since the other players generally know what to do, and in any roleplaying situations we are mostly familiar enough with each other's characters to make some basic decisions. GMs try to avoid killing absentees' PCs, but sometimes **** happens.

DeTess
2018-06-07, 10:48 AM
Provided the session isn't the end of a story arc or contains another event that requires everyone is present, we ussually figure out an excuse for why a character is temporarily indisposed(debilitating injury, sudden emergency elsewhere, failed wisdom-saves, etc.) This requires a bit of player buy-in if it happens mid-dungeon, but it's never been an issue.

kraitmarais
2018-06-07, 11:12 AM
Same as everyone above. In my experience it seems to be better for the game group and overall fun to just hand-wave it and accept the narrative inconsistency. It almost never affects things long-term, and avoids a lot of frustration and missed game time.

We make exceptions for important events.

VincentTakeda
2018-06-07, 12:35 PM
If the system includes summoning spells, then some otherplanar entity cast 'summon human' or 'summon dwarf', pulling the character out of its own dimension for a time, only to return later with no memory of its activities on the other plane.

In a star trek game the character is simply being investigated (or toyed with) by the Q.

Reversefigure4
2018-06-07, 05:10 PM
In more real-world settings than DnD, characters become incapacitated with mundane illnesses like colds and food poisoning. It's mutated it's way into DnD and become "the NPC virus" which strikes at will. An NPC virus makes a character far more quiet, more inclined to fade into the background, highly suggestible and just drifts along with what the party wants, and makes them immune to the sort of effects like area effect damage that we often forget to apply to NPCs.

RazorChain
2018-06-07, 05:17 PM
This is more or less why I have 6 players. I prefer a group of 4-5 players but usually there is one or even two that can't make it. This allows us to play even though someone is busy and can't make it to the session.

As has been mentioned I either just have the missing PC hang around and help in combat if I can't get rid of them in another manner. If they are on a ship, exploring, in a dungeon then they hang around in the background else they are preoccupied or wounded

Malimar
2018-06-07, 06:41 PM
I had to deal with this so much that I did an entire campaign where the central thing (https://luduscarcerum.blogspot.com/2012/07/on-flux-storms.html) was having to deal with it.

Specifically: at the beginning of the campaign, the players contracted a condition called flux, which made them randomly pop in and out of time. If the player isn't there one session, their character has fluxed out. Even works for players that have to go to the bathroom.

Caveat from hindsight: this is a very bad idea and under no circumstances should you try it.

Quertus
2018-06-07, 06:44 PM
I guess I'd say, it depends on the group, and the scene.

There are multiple reasonable things that the group could agree on.

They could agree to just ignore the character's existence for that session.

They could agree to have someone else rub the character.

They could agree to hand the character there but "muted".

They could agree to have the character be somewhere else.

But, if the scene is integral to the character, it'd be odd for them to miss it.

MarkVIIIMarc
2018-06-07, 07:53 PM
I have used:

Mushroom hunting.

Warning the orcs of an impending human attack.

Guarding the keep.

Going on a mission with a powerful NPC who has a teleport spell.

Altair_the_Vexed
2018-06-08, 05:39 AM
We all have a lot of commitments, so we have a rule that if only one player is missing, the game goes ahead. Two players missing means we play something else that time, or cancel.

When a player is missing, their character is run by the rest of the players as a "puppet" - they take turns to control the character if a combat comes up, roll for skills and so on. We leave it up to the players to remember that the puppet character can help out.
Most importantly, the GM has a right to veto actions the players propose for the puppet.

This system works well for us, but then we are a group of friends who game together, rather a group of gamers who only socialise through gaming. The trust involved may be too much for some groups.

Guizonde
2018-06-08, 06:07 AM
dm: "and bob the barbarian suddenly.... *dramatic pause* climbs the 4th wall and goes on a smoke break. he asks the rest of the party if they want pizza or kebabs. the party ignores bob showing off." basically, we throw an unresolved cliff-hanger on the character, shutting him in stasis until the player comes back. then again, at my table, the 4th wall is just another player, and in some cases 4th wall abuse is encouraged (such as take downs, rebounding corpses, or surfaces to lean on during discussions). bob will come back into play with no explanation, having eaten both pizza and kebabs, sharing with the team (ie, he got xp as well as the rest of the party). i know a lot of people don't roll with that, but hey, my table, my friendly rules.

due to a very bad gm i had loooooong ago (one of the reasons i wound up on these boards, matter of fact), as far as we're concerned, bob the barbarian can not and will not come to any harm. even elder gods are more at risk than bob. hopefully, none of you ever had a character killed away from session, and hopefully none of you ever will experience it or do it.

my rt dm just hand-waved the fact that the missing player's character missed the deadline to get on the transport in time and is stuck onboard the mothership, usually tending to the wounded or doing the accounting. we fought at a man down, and the missing person lost out on the xp.

Pelle
2018-06-08, 06:25 AM
This system works well for us, but then we are a group of friends who game together, rather a group of gamers who only socialise through gaming. The trust involved may be too much for some groups.

I also play with my friends, and we trust each other no problem to run our characters as puppets. I still greatly prefer to have the character absent if possible. Having the extra character around greatly slows down play. I prefer players only running their own character, being more ready and into it, which improves the experience to me. Espescially when the party is already unconveniently large, losing one character temporarily improves the gameplay.

So if it makes sense, say if operating from a base in an urban area, the character of the absent player is out doing something else. If it doesn't make sense to have a character missing, say if trekking through a big haunted forest, I prefer to run the character as a plot device. Like, the ranger scouts a route for them, or the cleric has only prepared healing spells and can contribute with insightful observations if the players need a clue etc.

Often, still the character has to be played by someone else, but that often feels lame to me. Kind of like when DMs play out long fights between npcs, instead of just narrating an outcome. When playing, I don't really care about the characters as a simulation, but rather how they are portrayed by my friends. So when my friend is missing, having his character around is just dead weigth to me...

Malimar
2018-06-08, 10:47 AM
due to a very bad gm i had loooooong ago (one of the reasons i wound up on these boards, matter of fact), as far as we're concerned, bob the barbarian can not and will not come to any harm. even elder gods are more at risk than bob. hopefully, none of you ever had a character killed away from session, and hopefully none of you ever will experience it or do it.
This is an extremely important principle. Under no circumstances should a character die or come to any long-term harm while their player is absent. (Which is one reason my tables usually have characters absent when their players are absent.)

Jay R
2018-06-08, 06:26 PM
I give my players a choice:

1. If the player doesn't want to risk their character, they can declare that nothing bad happens to their character while they aren't present. In that case, the PC has a minor sickness that allows them to walk, but not to fight or cast magic. They always successfully hide when an encounter turns dangerous. They take no risks. and earn no xps.

2. The player can designate another player to run their PC, and the PC gets a full share in all risks, up to and including possible death, and a full share in experience points.

My rules don't cover division of treasure - gold and magic items. That's up to the party.

It rarely comes up, but if that character is essential to the next planned session, then wandering monsters, side quests, or other diversions prevent them from getting to that situation until the player can attend. I haven't told the players this, for this same reason I haven't told them any aspects of how I create the world.

Only one player has ever declared his PC safe. He was happy with those results, and everybody else has been happy accepting the risks in order to have their PC take part.

LordCdrMilitant
2018-06-08, 10:18 PM
I run a weekly game. As long as 50% of the party is available, we will meet.

For the missing players, we just sort of go without them. In DH, they're on the ship. In Deathwatch, they weren't deployed for this mission [or will arrive as reserves, or are securing the extraction point, for multi session missions]. In D&D, a missing player just sort of appears and then disappears and after the fact they're treated like they were there all along.

Quertus
2018-06-09, 01:02 AM
hopefully, none of you ever had a character killed away from session, and hopefully none of you ever will experience it or do it.


Under no circumstances should a character die or come to any long-term harm while their player is absent.

Really, guys, it's totally fine. It's just a matter of what you value. Although character death being a thing certainly is a first step here. If it isn't, would you still object to characters of absent players being there?


Having the extra character around greatly slows down play. I prefer players only running their own character, being more ready and into it, which improves the experience to me. Espescially when the party is already unconveniently large, losing one character temporarily improves the gameplay.

So, double-digit players, with up to 3 characters each - that level of unconventionally large? I guess I just don't notice timing issues at that point...

Pelle
2018-06-09, 05:18 AM
So, double-digit players, with up to 3 characters each - that level of unconventionally large? I guess I just don't notice timing issues at that point...

Nah, not that bad. I find a party of 7 players is already too unwieldy, some people start zoning out, not actively contributing due to group dynamics. People might still enjoy themselves being there, but I find it less fun; it's harder to get everyones attention, people take less initiative because it is harder to reach consensus, combats become slogs etc. 4 players works much better to me, which is about what I have on average due to scheduling.

Guizonde
2018-06-09, 06:35 AM
Really, guys, it's totally fine. It's just a matter of what you value. Although character death being a thing certainly is a first step here. If it isn't, would you still object to characters of absent players being there?


i don't much enjoy my character dying, but if my char dies, it better be while i'm playing it. it's a part of pen and paper life, it sucks, you reroll. that psycho-dm that killed my character away from the game and gloated about it? not cool under any circumstances, especially because he had a grudge against it (halfling paladin with a mohawk, before you ask. "not a serious character, and halflings never become paladins"... despite fluff saying so, and my crunch making it a dex-built mounted tarpit).