Thursday, March 29, 2012

How Do You Handle Missing Players in Your Game Sessions?

Vacations. Family Emergencies. Work. Internet Issues (for VTTs and G+). There are many possible reasons for a player to miss a game.

What happens with the game when one of your regulars can't make the session?

Do you play something else? Back in my college days, if we were short a regular we would often pull out Chaos Marauders, Ameba Wars, Nuclear War, Risk or Talisman. Occasionally if someone had something prepared for a different RPG system we might do a one shot.

I know some groups (as we did on occasions) bring the absent player's PC along as an NPC. The problem with this method is no likes to return to their PC being dead, which does happen.

Depending on where the last session ended, you can leave the absent player's PC back in town, but it was rare for any of our sessions to wrap up that completely. Usually we were halfway into a dungeon when we wrapped up for the night, with the intention of picking up from there the next session.

So, how do you handle missing players in your campaign's game sessions?


  1. On-line game: one of the other players takes control. Easier that way; unless there is a place for them to wait, in which case we sometimes do that.

    Table-top: generally the PC waits with the mules or whatever. We've never had another player or the DM run them.

  2. I generally like to have those characters conveniently disappear for the session, or wait back in town, or fall under a sleeping curse, or disappear due to some sorcerous event, etc. This really gives me an opportunity to make some interesting little plot points to develop, actually! Sometimes I've used them as an NPC with the guarantee that they won't die. They just don't earn experience for the session. If there's a TPK, then that playerless character miraculously crawls out of the wreckage...

  3. I don't have a hard-and-fast rule. If it is possible, we just hand-wave their involvement (and they get no XP). Other times, another player takes over (designated by the missing player, and the character gains XP). Or, other times, they get left behind for a session and catch up when they can.

    Right now, this has led to a short hiatus in the RCFG playtest group, as one player is involved in theatre and another has a class schedule conflict. So, we've often just skipped a week or two to accommodate them during their busy months.

  4. All sessions must end back at town. Thatcway if somebodyccan't make it they are easily dropped for and a hechman can be added.

  5. Total handwaving with no explanation given. The players that show up determine the PCs that are present.

    I would like to try "all sessions must end at the town" but my players did not like the idea when I presented it.

  6. One game I ran had a Bag of PC Holding, and absent PCs were thrown into the bag.

    Then the players had to make sure they didn't lose the bag...

  7. Like Brendan, I laid down "all sessions end with the PCs leaving the dungeon" (*). And added that game days were on equivalent dates (e.g. 30th of March for players and characters). The new school veterans complained about this until they quit. Everybody else thinks that it's a reasonable restriction.

    *: The only exception to this was when the party was trapped in an extra-planar space. I decided that time dilation was acceptable in this case.

  8. If possible, that player stays behind. If not, I pass his sheet to another player. No experience points, and not guarantee that he won't die; however, if the absence is for a good reason, I am gracious towards ensuring the character remains alive.

  9. It depends. Sometimes I have to hand-wave it even if I really hate doing so. In my Stonehell group I managed to establish a rule that people have to leave the dungeon at the end of the session though. If they dont make it they have to roll on the flee-from-the-dungeon table (which is pretty bad for their belongings and potentially deadly) or be engulfed in darkness which would triggers a roll on an even worse table. It worked out really well so far. :)

  10. We've been doing a "watching the donkey" thing. And when they get back there's a 1 in 6 chance of the mule watchers having to fend off a wandering monster. And I have the other players play the monsters. I can be fun, it can also be pretty deadly.

  11. I handwave it, but I roll on a random chart to determine what the characters have been up to when they aren't present at a session. It provides an incentive to stay in the game, and some amusing possibilities for those who skip games.


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