D&D General Who “owns” a PC after the player stops using them?

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Disentangling someone from any plot is a trivial exercise. What would you do if the character suddenly died? You're playing Vampire, so it's pretty safe to assume that's on the table. The Word of Darkness is a dangerous place, after all, and literally every vampire has entire organizations out there just looking for a chance to kill them merely for existing, on top of whoever has personal beef, which is almost never "no one has personal beef." If you're not prepared for dealing with any given plot suddenly no longer having any given character to interact with it, you're going to have problems.

The specific fallout might be a complicated mess, but the act of going "This person is no longer here and isn't involved with this anymore" is as simple as going "This person is longer here and isn't involved anymore." Then you just go from there.

If they die or leave it's going to have massive implications, The attendant fallout would be a significant part of the game that would echo for quite some time. Also, the connected NPCs that they have a role in crafting (and thus have just as much a claim to) would continue to have significant impacts. Those are as much a part of the character as the individual person/demi human/whatever. They are not going to just disappear in the ether with everything connected to them.

It's not about plots. It's about centrality and connection to the setting. Honestly if a player was that adamant about their character no longer being a part of the setting, I would seriously consider just ending the game. There are so many more games to pick up.

Like I said this is all part of a prior agreement and understanding. The characters and the setting are treated as shared resources the whole way through with the expectation that you will collaborate and adapt to the needs of the game the whole way through. I will always attempt to honor the spirit of any given character, but often this stuff might be decided on the fly or as part of game prep that happens a day or two before the session. I am not going to run every decision by the other players, just like I'm not going to do the same for character-connected NPCs.

Our games are first and foremost player character centered. What a player character death looks like would be similar to Cloud dying in Disc 2 of Final Fantasy 7. The downstream impact would likely be felt for the rest of the game.
 
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SableWyvern

Adventurer
I feel like this discussion isn't bearing a lot of fruit. Both sides are kind of pushing to extremes which I think does the topic a disservice.

We're looking at one side in the most charitable light, while also assuming the worst from the other, and I think this is happening from both directions.

On the "GM owns the character" side it feels like people are assuming players will be slapping their GMs and yelling "Keep my PC's name, out yo mouth!" and will be totally unreasonable in their requests.

Whereas the "Player owns the character side" is kind of leaning towards "Why do you insist you have to have the right to take an old PC and turn them into a clown to parade around in front of the party?" and thinks the DMs are out to lampoon their old players' characters

Ultimately however, I think either of these, while probable things that could happen at some tables, I think they'd be far from the typical outcome.

We're much more likely to see examples like

DM: 'Hey Bob. Remember how when we wrapped up our last campaign you mentioned Gregor, your paladin was going to stay behind in the starting village to try and fix up the temple and maybe start an orphanage? I was thinking of placing this campaign ten years later, and the town has grown and Gregor's kind of become the unofficial mayor. He's going to be like a patron to the party. Perhaps you guys will all play as trainees of the temple. Sounds cool right? "

And then Bob would either say:

Bob: 'Oh wow. That does sound fun. Could my character maybe be Gregor's adoptive son, and then all of my real knowledge of him can play out in game because I'll pretty much know him as well as his son would?'

Or

Bob: `Oh I don't know DM. Gregor was kind of a really special character for me, and I'm really pleased with how his story ended. I'd much prefer to kind of put a bookend on it and leave it there, rather than digging him back up.'

I don't think any of these scenarios are unreasonable, and I think most people would be okay with them. I think a lot of players would like seeing their characters live on past their origin. But at the same time I think most DMs would respect their player's wishes if they did really feel so strongly about it.

So ultimately.. Tl;Dr: The stories we tell are collaborative, and ownership is shared between the player and the DM. As long as that desire to collaborate continues its probably not nearly as dramatic a situation as everyone is making it out to be.
I'm not sure there is a "Player Owns" side and a "GM Owns" side.

My reading is that there is a "Player Owns" side and an "Everyone Owns" side.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
We do this also, and everyone's made aware of it up front. Missing a session or two, however, is a different situation than a player leaving long-term e.g. for a year overseas, or jumping to a different game.

To a point, maybe, but once they've been involved in the setting for a while, not having the character continue to operate in that context would be glaringly odd; people don't usually just stay as random joes, so once you've become a significant part of the setting, you're part of the setting and you just have to deal with that.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
DM: 'Hey Bob. Remember how when we wrapped up our last campaign you mentioned Gregor, your paladin was going to stay behind in the starting village to try and fix up the temple and maybe start an orphanage? I was thinking of placing this campaign ten years later, and the town has grown and Gregor's kind of become the unofficial mayor. He's going to be like a patron to the party. Perhaps you guys will all play as trainees of the temple. Sounds cool right? "

And then Bob would either say:

Bob: 'Oh wow. That does sound fun. Could my character maybe be Gregor's adoptive son, and then all of my real knowledge of him can play out in game because I'll pretty much know him as well as his son would?'

Or

Bob: `Oh I don't know DM. Gregor was kind of a really special character for me, and I'm really pleased with how his story ended. I'd much prefer to kind of put a bookend on it and leave it there, rather than digging him back up.'

I don't think any of these scenarios are unreasonable, and I think most people would be okay with them.
And as a "player owns the character" hard-liner I'm quite OK with this.

Why?

Because the DM respected Bob's ownership of the character, asked his permission to use it, and is willing to honour the answer given. That's all I'm asking for here.

What I'm not OK with - and what sparked this whole line of discussion in the first place - is DMs who think they can arbitrarily declare a PC has become an NPC simply because it has retired from adventuring or left the party (even when its player is still in the game!) or because it or its player has done something in-game the DM doesn't personally approve of.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
To a point, maybe, but once they've been involved in the setting for a while, not having the character continue to operate in that context would be glaringly odd; people don't usually just stay as random joes, so once you've become a significant part of the setting, you're part of the setting and you just have to deal with that.
If I have Lanefan retire at name level to build a stronghold (which is, in fact, exactly what he's currently doing in-game), he's still part of the setting and still my character. Friends he's made down the years can always drop by to visit and tell war stories, but his adventuring days are pretty much done and he'll make that very clear (in his own not-for-Grandma style) to anyone who tries to talk him back into the field.

That he's retired doesn't and shouldn't make him an NPC...particularly while I'm still playing in the damn game! :)

And were I ever to leave that game I'd probably hand over most of my characters* to the DM with instructions that - with one or two exceptions - their roles in things become passive rather than active e.g. they'll be stay-at-homes at the party's base, or at their stronghold, or temple, or whatever; but can always be called upon for info or spell-swapping etc.. The one or two exceptions would get more detailed instructions, as they have specific goals the pursuit of which willl go on long after their adventuring days are done.

* - this campaign has been going for decades and I've built up quite a stable of crazies. :)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I want to remind people, one owns ones own intellectual property, whether it is registered or not, whether it has a copyright notice or not.
Imaginary characters in a game don't meet any definition of intellectual property that I can find.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Well, this did indeed become an issue with Critical Role and any early player they had to kick out of the show because of his poor behavior. They couldn't use his character going forward (or perhaps they just let him keep it, I don't know all the details). Maybe a better example would be Scott Kurtz retaining all ownership of Binwin Bronzebottom when he left Acquisitions Incorporated. I realize that these games and characters involved shows and products. But with the number of people live streaming their games, I can see issues like these arising. But as it pertains to ones unbroadcast and unpublished home game, I don't see what the cause of action would be. Maybe if the DM held on to the only copy of PC on a paper character sheet, which was created and by the player, if the player actually wanted to bring the DM to court to get it back.
A show that makes money is a very much different beast than a home game. This is apples and quasars.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Think of it more like Bob brought a chair of his over to use during the game, and has left it at your house. You haven't seen Bob in years and yet (assuming you're a reasonable person) you're still not likely to donate his chair to Goodwill before at least attempting to get it back to him and-or ask what he'd like done with it.
If I haven't seen Bob in years, he didn't want the chair and I'm not going to store it. It's gone. Unless I like it of course, then since after a reasonable amount of time he abandoned it, it's mine! Muahahahahaha!
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
DM: 'Hey Bob. Remember how when we wrapped up our last campaign you mentioned Gregor, your paladin was going to stay behind in the starting village to try and fix up the temple and maybe start an orphanage? I was thinking of placing this campaign ten years later, and the town has grown and Gregor's kind of become the unofficial mayor. He's going to be like a patron to the party. Perhaps you guys will all play as trainees of the temple. Sounds cool right? "
This part is wrong. The problem is more likely to crash into the GM in the middle of play when Alice or Chuck says that they should check with the local clergy and the GM has that old paladin who runs the orphanage. Bob doesn't get to pick the GM's brain about what the local clergy rep knows or start directing the local clergy because he's no longer playing that paladin.

And yes I've seen players do that (or worse) because they feel that they maintain ownership over the NPC in my game world who happens to be a retired former PC
 

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