5E Sidelining Players- the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Poll

View Poll Results: Is sidelining players a viable option in your 5e game?

Voters
178. This poll is closed
  • Yes. Bad things can happen to players, and the game goes on.

    95 53.37%
  • Yes. But only because the DM has alternatives to keep the player involved.

    42 23.60%
  • No. The game is supposed to be fun, and not playing is not fun.

    29 16.29%
  • I am not a number! I am a free man!

    12 6.74%
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  1. #1
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    Sidelining Players- the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Poll

    So, another thread (save or suck) has branched off into a more general conversation about sidelining players, and the appropriateness of doing so, along with various tangents and .... judgments. ALWAYS BE JUDGING!

    And so I was thinking to myself, "Self, why keep threadjacking this thread? Why not start a new one? With a poll, because, you know, that's what you do when you want a completely unscientific determination of what enworld is thinking?"

    So that's what I'm doing. Throwing it out to hoi polloi. What does everyone think about sidelining players?

    Okay, so you're probably thinking- hey, what does "sidelining players," mean, anyway? GREAT QUESTION! Defining terms is important. For purposes of this thread, and this poll, sidelining a player means that that the player's character is no longer available to play for a significant period of time.

    This can be for many reasons-
    Failed a save or suck.
    Or a save or die, if you're old school.
    Or just died.
    Or wandered off, because freedom is just some people talking, and your prison is walking this world alone.
    Or picked a bad card in a Deck of Many Things.
    Or ... whatever. It's a big game with lots of rules, some of those rules being disadvantageous.

    So the general fault lines in the debate, as I have observed them, fall into two categories-

    1. (a) The "consequences r lyfe!" crowd v. (b) the "playerz just wanna have fun" crowd. In essence, (a) believes that the game is more fun with the possibility of failure, and (b) believes the game is more fun when you are, um, playing it.

    2. (a) The "suck it up buttercup" crowd v. (b) the "here we are now, entertain us," crowd. Again, the fault line between these two approaches is that (a) thinks that it would be good, but not necessary, for the DM to have options for the player being sidelined, while (b) believes that the DM is required to have options available if there is any player sidelined.

    I think I covered the major points. On to the poll!

    The main options are-

    a. Consequences. Suck it up.
    b. Consequences, but only if the DM has prepared options.
    c. D&D is supposed to be fun, and not playing isn't fun.
    d. Obligatory "don't want to answer" option.

    So, what do you think? As always, please use the comments to explain your choice, question the premise of the poll, and declare your undying love for the oeuvre of Michael Bay.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
    As always, please use the comments to explain your choice, question the premise of the poll, and declare your undying love for the oeuvre of Michael Bay.
    And?!? I cannot do that. Nope.

    So you've just sidelined me right out of this thread.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Satyrn View Post
    And?!? I cannot do that. Nope.

    So you've just sidelined me right out of this thread.
    Suck it up, buttercup.

    Michael Bay is the greatest director of our, or any, time, and 1000 years from now scholars will be analyzing his movies and saying, "William Shakespeare who?"

    The only tragedy of his illustrious career was that, other than The Rock, there is a singular dearth of Nic Cage.
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  4. #4
    As the OP pointed out, sometimes bad things happen to player characters. Sidelining a player temporarily because of some effect on their character that will eventually wear off is fine, though that should be explained to the player. Sidelining the player for an extended period of time because their character died is not ok. The DM should come up with a way to introduce the player's new character sometime soonish.
    Laugh Garthanos laughed with this post

  5. #5
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    I vary between a and b, but in my current 5e game, a is the way to go. But I also really think there are differences in the options.

    Save or Suck spells in 5e are way easier than in say PF or Basic. In 5e your party can attack the person who cast it, and usually it has a save every round. I keep those as is for every 5e game I play. Sometimes people get mad, but then they are paralyzed so I can't hear them and don't need to acknowledge their existence.

    If my game were a plot driven game and there was a story reason for a character to be unable to act with the rest of the party, I would find a role for the player of that character. If they chose simply to wander off I would continue adjucating actions for them giving them a portion of my attention.

    If it's a more brutal game, if a character dies, I will ask the party if they are going to find a way to raise them from the dead, if not I will tell that player to start working on a new character. This applies to any luck of the draw situation where their character is out of action without intervention.

    I would not have a character simply sitting idly at the table with nothing to do, and I include making a saving throw against a magic effect something to do. I suppose if they were dead, the party was going to raise them, but the trip to do so is uncertain enough to pose a risk to the rest of the party's lives and they have no NPC companions, I would not have them make a new character, but not have an NPC for them. In that situation I would take them behind the screen with me and let them play the monsters.
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  6. #6
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    Work to make your game as entertaining to watch as it is to play. Or something approaching it.

    Encourage your players to give a damn about each other's play experience such that, if someone is sidelined, they make a reasonable effort to remedy that situation.

    Have a plan in place in case a sidelining happens so that the player has the choice to re-engage in some fashion. Just like you should be doing for character death anyway (the ultimate sideline).

    Then sleep well knowing you're ready to have save-or-suck spells in your game.

  7. #7
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    Tough one. If the understood social contract is that death is allowed, and dice fall where they may, then yea, you need to suck it up.

    But, I do feel that time is the main factor here. If your character dies at 9 o'clock, and the game ends at 11, then I think you can suck it up and introduce a new character next session. But if the character dies at 5, and the game ends at 11, then I think "suck it up" isn't as applicable. 2 hrs is alright, more than that and you're stretching what feels OK.

    So, I think if you're going to run a campaign where replacing a new character isn't easy (we're stuck in the Underdark, or something along those lines), than you need to be more lenient about allowing characters to come back from the dead, or simply not be as vicious. I would say sidelining any player for 3+ hrs, or more than one session is not OK.
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  8. #8
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    This poll is one of the places where the difference between PCs and players is really important. I'm fine killing off PCs, or perma-stunning them with Intellect Devourers, etc. I'm much less fine with sidelining players for extended periods of time--it's thoughtless to do it unnecessarily, and it is almost always unnecessary. (The DM can always offload work onto players--e.g. there is no reason why the DM absolutely has to be the one who plays the monsters.)

    I therefore am forced to vote "No" on your poll, even though my answer to the question I suspect you meant to ask would be "Yes."

    P.S. Note: another way that players can be sidelined is if they simply split the party. If Shren and Vito are resting while Builin explores, then Builin's player is the only one running a PC right now. It's good to find ways to involve Shren and Vito's players to some extent, especially if Builin's explorations take more than a few minutes of real time.
    Last edited by Hemlock; Monday, 26th June, 2017 at 08:15 PM.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
    Suck it up, buttercup.

    Michael Bay is the greatest director of our, or any, time, and 1000 years from now scholars will be analyzing his movies and saying, "William Shakespeare who?"

    The only tragedy of his illustrious career was that, other than The Rock, there is a singular dearth of Nic Cage.
    Agreed, there can never be too much Nic Cage, only too little!!
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  10. #10
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    As a DM, sidelining a character is something I try to avoid, but sometimes the needs of the story and the specific situation override even my mantra of "D&D is supposed to be fun".

    Bad things happening to your character help you appreciate the good things more, and sometimes that includes being taken out of the game for awhile.

    I just try not to make a habit of it, because overusing things that sideline the characters just makes the game less fun. The game should be focused on the actions of the PC's, not the things the DM does to the PC's.

    Edit: I'm assuming by "sidelined" we mean for more than a round or two. That's just something that can happen.
    Last edited by Caliban; Monday, 26th June, 2017 at 09:04 PM.

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