Friday, March 28, 2014

Missing Session

Much as this post is late (sorry, yesterday was just..weird) tonight I'm going to be very late for game. It's not really avoidable. I got tapped at work to provide some late coverage for an event going on at the school, and considering that I'm trying to be as useful as possible in a department that has been going various sequences of major change over the last couple years, I didn't say no. Besides, they gave me plenty of notice and I like to help folks out.

However, my absense does put a strain on the game and the GM. For one, my character won't be around to participate in things. This is only mildly problematic as the current story arc focuses very little on my  character but considering I am kind of the group swiss army knife (medic, explosives, mechanics, electronics, and odd ball strategies) it could have some impact. More to the point though is it can just be weird not having a character around.

In previous sessions the GM has explained a missing person with an abduction attempt on them, but that doesn't seem as likely to work. That does leave more generic options - they're just not there, they're busy doing something else, they're there but staying quiet - but I am not sure how well those sit with the GM. I guess I'll find out.

Today though, I figured it'd be fun to ask how you handle missing PCs given a week's notice. Do you just ignore them? Concoct some story reason for it? Just move them off to the side?

What about when you know they'll be there, or showing up for whatever is going on, just late?

1 comment:

  1. Great topic, because I would suggest the hardest part of GM'ing is running the Human Resources Dept.

    I've thought a lot about this question & what I've come up with, is that the group always comes first. When a player is missing - which is going to happen - there is always a substantial cost. The only question is who primarily pays that cost.

    For the purposes of this discussion, assuming the player didn't just completely blow it off, let's treat all reasons for missing the session as equally valid. The GM is already in charge of the HR Dept., no one wants him/her as a parental figure, as well.

    If the GM tells the group that the PC, whose player is missing that session, never got up out of bed or some other such narrative - it's always somewhere between unlikely and absurd & it hurts the group's suspended disbelief. Thereby the group is primarily paying that cost.

    Moreover, the group's general strength has immediately been reduced by about 15-33%, depending how many total PCs there are - and that's if that PC's specific skills are NOT needed for that session. If they are needed, the strength reduction can be much worse than that. The group has paid the full cost.

    One could say that the missing player is "paying the cost" of not being there...but it was their decision not to make it (again, irrespective of reason). In contrast, the group had no control over it.

    I think it's a tough case to make that the group - that is all the folks who defended that evening from life and made the session - should be made to pay all the costs, rather than the player who lost the battle with life that night & missed. To be clear, this is absolutely NOT about "judging" the missing player - this is about who should pay the cost of them missing.

    So how do you best transfer the cost from the group to the missing player? The campaign I'm running plays every other Sunday - so completely predictable. I'm requiring firm RSVPs a week in advance. If a player let's me know they can't make it, I go to my list of Guest Players to fill that player's shoes as best they can & run that PC for that session.

    I realize that having someone else run that player's PC is not going to be every group's choice - but it's one pretty good way you transfer much (but not all - that's not possible) of the cost from the group to the missing player. You would still MUCH rather have the player running their own PC - but that choice isn't available to the group. And from personal experience, having a Guest Player run that PC, while much worse than having the regular player running them, is substantially better than that PC mysteriously "disappearing" for the session or having another player juggle multiple PCs. The latter results in either that "extra" PC just kind of disappearing anyway, or in that player treating his multiple PCs as "pieces" rather than PCs, precluding him from "playing" his own PC.

    What about if that Guest-Player-run-PC gets hurt or dies? Problem is, I can't justify putting a GM protective halo around a PC whose player didn't make the session, but say that a PC whose player DID make the session can be hurt/killed. Talk about a raw deal for the player who made the session! If a player can't make it, *for the sake of the group*, their PC's skills, talents & combat abilities are fully in-play, active & at-risk being fully run by a Guest Player.

    That's not going to be the choice of every group - but I think it's the way to go if you determine the group always comes first.