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General How do you explain PC absences when a player has to miss a session?

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
One interesting approach is to implement something one of my groups calls "fate of the party." Absent PCs continue to play, and may even act recklessly if the group deems it to be in-character. However, to avoid players coming back to discover that their character died, the PC cannot die unless the party wipes. The gain just enough plot armor to survive even if KO'd.

It's obviously open to abuse, but with the right group it can be a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too solution.
Sounds good, though I'll see your point about possible abuse and raise it to say that sooner or later it's inevitable that someone will try to abuse it. :)

We generally have it that if you're not there your character is just as (but no more than usual) susceptible to death or other Bad Things as it'd be if you were there; dice can be a beast sometimes, and this is accepted by all involved. That said, you're also just as susceptible to Good Things happening should they arise.

That, and in these days of instant communication via text message it's rare that if some truly earth-shattering decision needs to be made we can't at least try to get a few shreds of input from the missing player.
 

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If they are absent on rare occasions I don't bother with an explanation and award them XP. If they are absent frequently then I will not award them XP for sessions they miss. If they are absent habitually, they aren't invited back and I run a cut scene for the other players showing their horrific and gruesome demise.
 

Bupp

Explorer
This also gives you an option to run a solo adventure with the player that had to miss a session, even if its a quick one off via email, chat, or text.

Give them a reason to miss the session narratively, but help keep XP totals close.
 

mikebarnes

Villager
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For us, it depends upon the campaign and the adventure. We run a single homebrewed adventure each session, so it's usually not difficult to come up with a reason why any specific PC isn't around for this particular session, because there's usually a span of "off camera" time between our adventures and sessions, so something could have easily come up for that PC since the last adventure. (In fact, one recent campaign specifically was geared around us doing secret missions for the king, so whichever players showed up that week sent their PCs on that secret mission and the no-shows had their PCs doing lesser, more boring "off-screen" missions.) Every once in a while, though, we'll have a series of adventures all strung together with no time-span between them (like a four-session delve into wildspace or a five-session series of linked adventures in Gamma World), where it's easier for someone else to run a missing player's PC for that session.

Johnathan
 

ccs

40th lv DM
In my Sunday game its incredibly rare for a player to miss a session. In this group we just bust out a boardgames for the evening..

My Thursday game is much more prone to someone being absent- shift changes/overtime for some, kids for one, two sometimes have school(college) reasons.
In our last session the clerics player was absent.
Conveniently the party is in Waterdeep enjoying some downtime. (Though im TRYING to get them involved in Dragon Heist). So he's just off doing his own thing for a bit while the other three take care of some of their own goals. Worked out that it was just one less person I had to shift the spotlight to.

But how it gets handled in the Thursday game varies by the situation the pcs are in.

I think I'm going to do something much more concrete though in a future campaign.
I'm going to steal an idea from the DC Comics character Adam Strange (who steals the idea from Warlord of Mars).
Very early on the PCs will find them selves summoned into an adventure far far away. Adam Strange? He's hit by a sci-fi energy beam & transported to an alien planet ala Warlord of Mars.
Well D&D has all kinds of magic, Summon spells. Horns of Valhalla, various cards, etc. so....
When someone's missing? They'll get summoned off to Far Far Away. When they return? Their character is sent back to the party.
 


Olrox17

Hero
If a player is missing a session, its character will be played by one of the other players in combat.

If it is necessary for the character to speak, the DM will handle it. The Dm already handles hundred of Npcs after all, one more character doesn’t make much of a difference.
 

Coroc

Hero
I've seen a lot of ways to handle this mess. The in-universe justification (a sudden stomach bug). The handwave (he's just over there, not participating). The cancelled session.

How does your group handle it? Do you employ a mix of strategies, or do you tend to favor some particular option?

Comic for illustrative purposes.
He fell asleep in the restroom?

Nah, if everything else fails, he walks along behind the group, but if you rule it like that, he cannot show up after a TPK to get his comrades resurrected . If it is an open environment (e.g. Town), he is on vacation or what have you, if it is some remote hostile place, like the underdark or another plane with dangerous environment, then only the "run along"- option is viable.
 

Coroc

Hero
....
Waaaaay back when (AD&D 1st), characters got "zombie rot". No initiative but also unkillable. Would just follow the party. We eventually got to the point we'd put them in bags of holding when they relapsed into the condition.
....
Hahaha

:p
 

EscherEnigma

Explorer
My current group of five includes two couples, so most of the time one person not being able to make it means two people not being able to make it...

So most often we just cancel the session.

Previously we've done the "handwave" and just ignore it. And the next week the PC jumps back in like they were fully participating the entire time.
 


"A friend came in from out of town."

"My suit didn't come back from the cleaners."

"My car broke down on the way to the church!"

"IT WASN'T MY FAULT!"
 

Split into downtime (there's a great Matthew Colville video on this. I suggest you walk it).
Magic! (possibly because of a wizard)
Pulled a Gandalf (fell down a pit, somehow survived, returns later to help the party).
Time-travel nonsense.
Sent to another plane of existence (walks through a shadow/fey crossing, inside a bag of holding that was put in another extradimensional space) and fought/bargained their way back.
A wizard cast Simulacrum on the character, and the whole time they were just a fake!
 

Azzy

Newtype
My group usually just runs the character as an NPC by the DM or another player. The NPCed PC will generally have little direct input beyond contributing to combat and such, and is generally immune to any bad consequences from the decisions and choices of whoever is controlling the character during that session (we won't kill the character, give away their stuff, etc.). It generally referred to as "blue clouding" the character.
 

Sadly my group does the whole "in the background" type deal.

Two sessions ago we got warped to another Realm, I had lost my Character Sheet that week and couldn't find it. Found it the week after and I would've had my character just chilling in the major village we had to go to and be like "Oh fancy seeing you guys here."

Instead my guy was "there" with the party all along. I get why groups would use that as the easiest answer, but it's just hard to suspend my disbelief. and I have a REALLY big compacity for Suspension of Disbelief.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sadly my group does the whole "in the background" type deal.

Two sessions ago we got warped to another Realm, I had lost my Character Sheet that week and couldn't find it. Found it the week after and I would've had my character just chilling in the major village we had to go to and be like "Oh fancy seeing you guys here."

Instead my guy was "there" with the party all along. I get why groups would use that as the easiest answer, but it's just hard to suspend my disbelief. and I have a REALLY big compacity for Suspension of Disbelief.
Sorry, I don't get this.

How does it break your belief if your character just does what it 99%-likely would have done anyway and sticks with the party?

Second question: without a character sheet couldn't you have played anyway, going by memory for your character's numbers if-when needed but still being able to determine its actions?

Third question: why wasn't your character sheet left with the DM between sessions such that this issue could never arise? :)
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
They are recruited by the galactic franchise of the Running Man tournament. Teleported to a dimensional arena against their will and then mind wiped afterwards. Trace memories remain through explaining why they still gain XP.

Seriously though... they fade to grey. Not everyone actor in a series has screen time every episode. It doesn’t mean their story isn’t progressing.
 

Second question: without a character sheet couldn't you have played anyway, going by memory for your character's numbers if-when needed but still being able to determine its actions?

Third question: why wasn't your character sheet left with the DM between sessions such that this issue could never arise?
For Point 2: I actually could only remember two of the ability scores.

Point 3:I had taken said sheet with me after my first time DMing with the groups/DM's permission because I wanted to base one of the main NPCs around my PCs stats and use that as a bases for trying to get practice on creating stats for NPCs.

Our regular DM took a week break to work on the next phase of our current Campaign and let me DM for the said week after I said I wanted to learn how to DM. So it was the start of a separate Campaign when we did that. The idea is that when he needs some prep work for the current Campaign, I Sub-DM with my Campaign.
 

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