Bringing together the perfect Dungeons and Dragons party is a Dungeon Master’s dream come true. When all players are at the table together, exploration and adventure tend to go more smoothly and campaigns can progress or reach a conclusion.
Unfortunately, real life often gets in the way of the ideal game everyone is looking for. With holidays, appointments, and other unexpected events making it difficult at times to have all players present and accounted for, canceling sessions (or the entire campaign) may seem like the only move – but it doesn’t have to be. . . There are a few things DMs can do to keep the game going without creating friction for players who won’t be able to participate.
Whether the party is on the brink of a major war or moving into a situation that everyone is looking forward to, including an absent player presents some unique opportunities to explore when they return to the table. For example, if the Mage isn’t at the table, perhaps their Boss has snatched them up to perform some important related task. Alternatively, the Wizard may have fallen into an inexplicable state of unconsciousness when they encountered an important NPC who could supply the entire group’s needs.
When this player returns to the game, take some time to explore what their characters were up to while they were kidnapped. This can be a great way to speed them up and keep them connected to the game and the world. Ideally, this should relate to what other players are doing as they go, possibly by providing additional information or intrigue hooks to follow.
Keep Non-D&D Players in Temporary Stasis
Similarly, temporarily immobilizing the player character in question is an easy way to continue, especially if players are about to face a battle. Maybe the out-of-the-way Bard stepped into a trap that froze them for the moment, or a stasis zone was activated, keeping the Fighter motionless. This means that it is up to the remaining players to save their helpless friends. Examples like this are the perfect opportunity to suspend the important plot while still giving existing players something meaningful to work on. Just make sure that the mechanism used does not put the missing player character in real danger.
Add Micro-RPGs to DnD Campaigns to Engage Players to Invest
There are plenty of micro RPGs designed to be played in a single session. They may not be directly related. Dungeons and Dragons, but the rules of many are simple enough that they can be easily adapted to suit almost any world setting or situation. Most do not require complex character creation, complex rules, or a lot of prep work; players can easily dive in and start playing. DMs can even use a micro-RPG session to explain a related event that doesn’t include the main player characters but still expands the game’s world to get everyone invested in the story they’ve created together.
Run the Lost D&D Character to DM or Another Player
The option for someone else, the DM or another player to play for the missing character is an easy fix, but it’s important to talk to the player beforehand and get their permission. Some players have a certain style and may not want someone else to guide their character along a path they wouldn’t have followed otherwise. Playing a character that is not in the game has risks, including possible death of that character. Nobody wants to take that risk with a friend’s player character without specifically asking permission.
D&D Session About Missing Character
Whether they just went for a single session or need to take a long leave, focusing an adventure around a missing character is a great way to engage both current and existing players. A great example of such scenarios is, critical role Campaign 2, Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey and Ashley Johnson would not be around for long.
DM Matthew Mercer staged a dangerous kidnapping scenario that takes the rest of Mighty Nein on a massive rescue mission that takes place in multiple episodes. This not only kept the missing characters associated with the ongoing game, but also allowed other players to invest more in the game and the survival of their lost allies.
Whatever the reason or length of time a player is absent from the table, there are many ways to keep the game going. Keeping everyone connected, including the absent member, is one of the DM’s most important duties. Thinking outside the box and trying new things not only keeps the game moving, it also improves the way everyone plays.