Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Missed Sessions

Probably a short post today. In fact, as I am writing this, I'm wondering if I shouldn't maybe tag it as a discussion. The thing is though that sometimes sessions are missed. Sometimes sessions are missed and big things happen during those sessions. Sometimes sessions are missed and the entirety of the large thing that happens is contained to that session. So what do you do then?

The reason this comes up is because in one of the games I am in this situation happened to one of the players. He was unable to make 2 sessions in a row, and during those sessions the PCs ended up going on a magical woojie adventure to the past and ended up being associated with some pretty cool and significant things to the world's history. Now the player didn't say anything about it, but you could tell that there were times - especially when everyone was joking about the cool thing they'd got - where he felt a bit left out. So, as a GM what do you do?

Actions Have Consequences
The first way, and way I'd be most likely to recommend depending on the game, would be that actions have consequences and in this case the player chose the action of missing the game. Effectively, unless the game has some established way of keeping people with the group while they're gone, the player - and his character - weren't there and thus didn't participate. This means that they don't get the cool thing that happened, but could end up with some other cool thing in the future.

The thing with this is that it seems harsh. There are a lot of good reasons a player could miss a game. They could be sick, work could need them in, a prior commitment or engagement could come up. Lots of reasons, and this way can almost seem like punishing the player because their life got involved with the game. At the same time though, this is ultimately the 'most' fair way as well. For one thing, since the character wasn't there they had no impact on the outcome of what happened. It is entirely possible that if the character was there that things would have gone entirely differently. It is also entirely possible that if the missing PC had been there that they may have died. Ultimately, their absence granted protection - immunity from what happened in the game - this method just applies that immunity to the boons as well.

Give It To Them
The other way is to just give the thing to the player. This can work if everyone else in the group got it, if it is going to be a big plot feature, or if it is cool but relatively small enough to not be too huge a deal. The problem with this comes up when other people miss a session and something cool comes up.

See, a lot of how big or awesome something is depends on the perspective of the person seeing it. So maybe one day player 1 misses getting a nifty trinket from the Sun, but later player 2 misses getting a blessing from a god. Now maybe you think the second is a bigger deal than the first, or maybe there was some cost to get the second that the PCs had to pay. However, if player 1 missed the first game but still got the trinket player 2 may feel cheated when he doesn't get the blessing.

Ultimately, this can lead to the GM having to keep track of everything she gives out when players are missing, rate it, and have some form of internal consistency fort his. Alternatively, the GM can just blanket rule that awards that go to some fraction of the group go to everyone even if you weren't at the game. If neither of these are done, you likely can end up with players feeling like favorites are being played around them.

Your Take?
How about you? What's your take?


  1. If I have a player who I know is going to miss one session due to real life, and that session is likely to include something major, I tend to filibuster. As a GM you should always be able to think on your feet, and most player groups I have spend even more time exploring and interacting with the world than they do hunting down plot. This means each session they give me half a dozen sub-plots I can create for them.

    If I know someone is down and out for more than one session, it can be unfair on the rest of the group to hold off on cool things though. Regardless of missing players, I always start each game with the players giving me and each a re-cap of what happened. It is then assumed - unless it makes no sense - that everyone has shared the information, and that all the characters are on the same page. No perfect, but it keeps the game going, and everyone included.

  2. Good points made & can certainly see different approaches.

    I tend to look at it as what-percentage-of-the-group-is-missing and the-show-must-go-on.

    I was originally interested in a small group of perhaps three players but this was one of the considerations that changed my mind.

    Obviously, as you remarked A.L., life can intervene at no real fault of the player. But I don't see how it "can almost seem like punishing the player". Keeping the plot ball rolling in a player's absence is not personal and, at least in my experience, everyone clearly knows that.

    I'm very much into the theme of incentives and always having the possibility of something very cool happening sends the message, "Get those pre-scheduled sessions on your calendar!"

  3. I more inclined to take the actions have consequences approach, but I am far more lenient on people who can't attend when it is sickness or work related. If someone waits until the last minute to bring up a prior engagement, I'm going to offer the same level of understand as they have shown in giving me late notice.