Handling Player Absence: To Role or Not to Role

We’ve all been there. You spend countless hours with the set-up, give frequent updates, send constant messages, but still someone somehow manages to miss the session. It’s only been scheduled on the same day every week for two months. Anyway, I digress. When this situation arises, you as the DM, GM, or Narrator, are faced with two big decisions. Firstly, do you proceed without the player? Secondly, when you inevitably decide that you are way too hyped to wait just because little miss Susy Soccermom wants to attend her son’s award ceremony, what are you going to do with her character? Of course, that is a perfectly valid reason to miss a session, but I wouldn’t try to tell you that in the moment.

The simple fact is, most of the players have already cleared their schedule to be there and, unless you already have an understanding, it wouldn’t be fair to them to cancel for one player. That’s my opinion at least. So what do we do with Susy Soccermom’s Gnome Bard? No, we can’t throw the character sheet in the trash just because she rolled a Gnome Bard. We have to decide to either A, autopilot her character, B, attempt to properly roleplay her character, C, come up with an in character reason for her character to be missing, or D, pawn the duty off on someone else (with permission and trust of course).

Autopiloting works fine for characters who tend to keep quiet and mainly just fight, but there is a tangible difference when you autopilot a heavily involved character.

For the more involved characters, you might want to try roleplaying them properly while you DM, but that is going to put a lot of extra weight on your shoulders; and you are already way over carrying capacity.

Finding an in character reason for the character to be absent is one of the quickest, easiest, and most effective ways to deal with player absence. There’s just one little problem… They always complain about the missed exp.

So this brings me to the option that is, in my opinion, the best way to handle player absences. Have somebody skilled at roleplaying whom the player trusts to handle two characters for a session. Players have much less to focus on than we do, so they can bring the extra character to life without getting immensely frustrated and sending a storm giant at a level 3 party. Plus, Susy Soccermom gets her experience while enjoying her son’s award ceremony.

Seriously though Susy, next time your character is going to catch Goblinpox.

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