How-To DM: Absent Players

We’ve all been there: you either have a regular session every week, or every two weeks, or even monthly. It’s scheduled out. But come the day of or the day before, and they cancel on you. Or, they just tell you they’re going to be gone that day and they can’t make that session.

What do you do with the character? They are there, even if the player is not. Here are some suggestions.

“Magic Portal”

When the player is not available to play, the character magically disappears. It’s like an elephant in the room: they are gone but nobody talks about it. This is probably the easiest way to deal with the problem, albeit the least realistic.

The “PC turned NPC”

This one comes really easy, however it should be agreed upon by the player of said character before doing it.

The premise of this is basically that the character is still there but now under the control of the dungeon master. Things get even more sticky if something horrible happens to said character.

Sometimes, the player trusts in another player you know, the absent player will hand their character over to one of the other players to run in addition to theirs. Beware of this however, as described above if something terrible happens to that character.

The “I’m Not There So They Aren’t There”

Maybe the character has some sort of family obligation going on. Maybe they’d rather sit at the tavern and drink. Or maybe, just maybe, just don’t want to go on this little part of the quest. Whatever it is, your absence is explained away in the fact that they just are not there.

When done in the middle of an adventure, or maybe a dungeon crawl, it’s usually explained away by having them watch the camp or that they needed a break.

The Bag of Lodging

Long ago, in a basement far far away, there was a dungeon master who would one day be known as The Daily Dungeon Master. He was running a game with his friends from high school while in his early twenties, when high school wasn’t that long ago. The Daily Dungeon Master loved running Adventures found in the Dungeon magazines that he had a subscription for.

Then one day, he found it. The absolutely perfect magic item. It was unbelievable.

The item, known as the Bag of Lodging, was a cross between a Leomund’s Tiny Hut spell and a bag of holding. One would only have to use the command word, and the small bag with open to a ladder going down into what was essentially a permanent extra dimensional space that had unseen servants, unlimited water, air, and food. To get out, one would either have to speak command word on the outside, or from the inside.

Therefore: when the player was not there the character went in the bag. When they were there, they came out of the bag. It. Was. Awesome.

In Conclusion

However you do it, having players come in and out, or characters come in and out can always be problematic. That said, it happens. As long as we have a plan or a method for how they come and go things can always work out.

What do you think, Dear Readers? Do you have a method for your characters to pop in and out when needed? Did I miss something? Tell me in the comment section below.

Until next time, Dear Readers…

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Published by The Daily DM

I'm just a DM telling the stories of my tables.

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