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

This would be a great time to do a deep dive into how Steven Erikson, Ian Esslemont or the "James S.A. Corey" duo adapted their home games into novels (and in the case of The Expanse, right into TV, video game, tabletop RPG and a board game), and how their players feel about it.

But I'm lazy, and the last good article Erikson wrote about it has vanished from the Net. There's a blog post about Erikson's article though...
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I completely understand a player wanting to maintain control of their character while they remain participants in the game. Having no control over decisions the PC makes is going to seriously damage the experience for some people. Completely understandable.

Where I'm left utterly befuddled is the notion that, if someone leaves the game permanently, that their vision of how the game should proceed and the characters behave is somehow more important than the players who are still involved.
The only thing the departing player gets to dictate is their vision of their own left-behind character(s), along with provide general instructions as to what their now-retired characters will do for the foreseeable future. And yes, the general expectation is that ex-player's characters will retire to non-adventuring pursuits.

I should, I guess, bring up one glaring exception to all this; and that's if-when a player leaves while the party is in mid-adventure. There, the now-QPC remains in the party until the next reasonable opportunity for it to retire, which is usually the next time the party's in town. In other words, we just treat it as if the player's missing those sessions.
Where does someone get the idea that they have the right to dictate to others what they are allowed to imagine, in the privacy of their own homes?
Yikes - now that's a jump.

If I've played Lanefan as a surly s-of-a-b for his whole career, and then I retire him and leave the game, the rest of the table doesn't get to turn him into a happy-go-lucky fluffy-bunny type the next time they meet him. Also, if my final instructions for the character are that he is to retire, I think I've every reason to expect those instructions to be honoured.

In short: as far as possible treat those characters as if their player is still at the table.
If the group decides to continue using the character of a player who has left, that causes that former player zero harm (they don't even need to know it's happening).
Well, that'd be pretty deceitful of the remaining table IMO.
On the other hand, if the group is invested in the character enough that they wish to continue using that character, their experience is lessened if they are unable to use the character. Suggesting that the party with nothing to lose or suffer and, I note again, who is no longer a participant in any way, is the one with the right to determine what happens, is ludicrous.
Sorry, but that's bollocks.

If my character Lanefan has become the party's indispensable number-one Fighter and I decide to retire him because I'm concerned he's starting to overshadow others in the party, that retirement should be just as valid if I'm no longer at the table as it would be if I was still there.

Now if I-as-Lanefan's-player have given permission to another player or the DM to take him over, that's different; as after I do so he's no longer mine to either own or control until-unless that permission is given back to me.

The other factor here is that in the sort of long-running campaigns I'm used to there's no such thing as forever. I've had players (and been one myself) leave a game for months or even years and then come back to it, picking up the same characters as before (maybe with some updating to explain what those characters have been doing for the intervening in-game time) and carrying on from there.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'll sometimes also go the other way if a PC has become an NPC, if the players (generally the same group) want their characters to come out of retirement, then the NPCs become PCs again. I've also had actual NPCs become a PC, though in this case it was me as DM wanting a character for a game run by a friend in the same area.
I've twice had active ongoing players ask to take over adventuring NPCs as their characters, and agreed to it both times. In both cases it was, I think, because the player at the time found the NPC to be more interesting than whatever they were already playing.
If there is no expectation that a player is coming back,
That's just it: I've learned to almost never say never. :)
 


SableWyvern

Adventurer
Also, if my final instructions for the character are that he is to retire, I think I've every reason to expect those instructions to be honoured.
Why should your wishes be honoured, if you are no longer participating in the game?

In short: as far as possible treat those characters as if their player is still at the table.
Why? If you're not at the table, and never coming back, why should the group be expected to pretend you're still there?

Well, that'd be pretty deceitful of the remaining table IMO.
It's only deceitful if we've promised not to play your character after you leave the game.

If my character Lanefan has become the party's indispensable number-one Fighter and I decide to retire him because I'm concerned he's starting to overshadow others in the party, that retirement should be just as valid if I'm no longer at the table as it would be if I was still there.
Why are you so adamant that your wishes and desires should be binding to a group you are no longer a part of, for events you no longer participate in? Why should the group behave as if you are there, when the reality of the situation is, quite clearly, that you are not?

The other factor here is that in the sort of long-running campaigns I'm used to there's no such thing as forever. I've had players (and been one myself) leave a game for months or even years and then come back to it, picking up the same characters as before (maybe with some updating to explain what those characters have been doing for the intervening in-game time) and carrying on from there.
I can understand the need to set and agree on expectations in a situation where it's feasible that the player may return to use that character again. However, you seem pretty clearly to be suggesting you have a right to dictate if and how that character is played, even in situations where it's known that you will not be returning for the life of the campaign. If that's not the case, all good. As I've stated, my objections mostly revolve around players who have left permanently.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
IMO it’s up to the player, unless the player leaves the game suddenly and the group has to figure out a way to have the PC leave gracefully. But once that’s done the character still belongs to the player.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
We’ve had two players return to our D&D group after about 25-to-30-year absences each.
Did they pick up and play their old PCs though? I honestly think that most of my players get a kick out of running into their old characters, their new PCs might even have a "I know a guy..." moment and direct the party to their old character.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
Well I’m being slightly silly as this is a game that is usually played among friends. At the same time say my character is Bob (sorry world builder) and he’s a fighter and suddenly after the campaign ended and the dm turned my character into something they weren’t without getting my permission and the argument is well hes mine now . The only defense is the dm is just an a—.

Haha

The player owns the pc but in reality you both own nothing. There is nothing stopping the player taking your campaign down the street

The player can’t stop you but it would be offensive to use without their permission

It’s an imaginary thing that is not published
Soo.... What is the typical reaction when you bring all of this up im session zero? You did make sure to have the group do a session zero so you could get these rather strong feelings that you seem to have out right? It seems like a player bringing up all of this would immediately present as a major red flag even if I was another player at some other GM's table.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Did they pick up and play their old PCs though? I honestly think that most of my players get a kick out of running into their old characters, their new PCs might even have a "I know a guy..." moment and direct the party to their old character.
Nope. We were playing a different campaign after two edition changes for us. AD&D to 4E to 5E. They had come up with new ideas in the 25-35 years they were gone. Though one absolutely will not shut up about all the kewl powers and awesome builds he had when playing 3X.
 

Rystefn

Explorer
So this spun off partly from one of my comments, so I guess I should probably weigh in here. First, I very strongly believe that your character is your character. If you invented it, you retain ownership and control unless and until you choose to give it up. I will here note that there are explicitly times within the D&D rules (and many other ttRPG systems) when you will lose control of your character, either temporarily or permanently, and when you choose to participate in the game, you are agreeing to hand over control under those circumstances unless it's been otherwise specified that your group won't be using those rules. The most immediate examples of this are if your character becomes a vampire spawn or something of that nature.

That said, the specific example this conversation spun off from was of a character choosing not to participate in the activity the game is explicitly about and thereby becoming an NPC. And this is a different beast entirely. Every player at the table has a responsibility to make a character that is going to participate in the game. This is a pretty non-controversial statement, in general. If you make a character that is antagonistic, antisocial, and decides to wander off away from the rest of the group to solo adventures, the DM is entirely within their rights to go "Congratulations, you're an NPC now. Now either make a character that will be a part of the group, or find another table" rather than running a separate solo adventure for you while the rest of the group sits around doing nothing. This applies equally to "I'm going to sail away to a new continent without the rest of the group," "I'm going to retire from adventuring to start a quaint little B&B," or any other form of choosing not to participate.

Claiming ownership of that NPC and using them in ways contrary to the creator's vision or even in ways entirely in keeping with that vision but without permission is a dick move. But they aren't a player character anymore, since no one is playing that character, ego: NPC. If the former player is cool with it, then yes, it can be awesome to have them turn up here and there in game afterwards. Or to become a major recurring character. But that's a load-bearing "if" right there.
 

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