I am never doing player-specific side-quests / plots again.


Gamer Life General Discussion


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So I have been running my group through Carrion Crown. We finished the first module over a month ago and have not been able to continue on because 1 person has been missing from our group. Why do we need her? Because I made a side-quest for the party to go on that revolves around her character.

In the first module, The Barbarian got cursed and has not been able to remove it yet. Rather than just give the party a random Remove Curse scroll, I decided to come up with a little side-quest for them to go on. I wanted a little something for them to do between modules to push them to level 4 anyway, so I figured this would work out well, until The Barbarian stopped showing up to our games. It's not that she doesn't want to play, but Real Life has been getting in the way for the past several weeks and either she's out of town, has too much schoolwork (she is taking college summer classes) or is just too tired.

This week she is finally available so I told everyone I wanted to run this side-quest so we could get it out of the way. I didn't want to scrap it to continue the main plot, since I had spent a lot of time working on it and thought the story behind it was pretty cool.

One of the other guys was introducing a new character, The Summoner, to the group. I talked to him (rather extensively) about how to introduce his character to the group. We could make up a generic excuse for him to be around, which would have been easy, but he wanted to come up with a backstory tied to the story of the side-quest we were doing, which, as it turned out, was pretty dang cool once he and I worked on it for a while. We figured out how he was tied to the curse that The Barbarian needs to break, how he would hear about and meet up with the group, etc.

Then he bailed on me, at 2:15am the morning of the game. I had changed the plot of the side-quest pretty significantly to include his character (and I think, it was better than what I had originally come up with) and now he's not coming. I am not going to postpone this game anymore, so I have decided to shove an NPC in The Summoner's place to fit the gap in the story, but it still really sucks because now we will have to introduce his character a different way and I'm sure it won't be as interesting as what we had come up with (particularly because I am not going to tie it extensively into the plot of anything anymore, so the game does not hinge on him.)

This was more of a rant, than anything. If anyone has any advice or similar stories, feel free to share. I think I am just not going to do player-based storylines anymore, since my group can't get it together enough to show up when their characters are supposed to be featured.


What I figured out, the hard way, was to give other players their own reasons to go on the side-quest even if it is not as important as who the quest was designed for. That way the quest can move on.

With that aside I had a player quit in the middle of a session*, which messed a combat I had made with him as the main person. Now the party could have dealt with the combat had they known he was not going to participate, but he quit in an area that would have killed immersion if there was a retcon. I would still do a player sidequest, but I will have it in such as way that if they don't make it they show can go on.

*short version-->It was more player drama than a game issue.


Man that sucks.

It's the nature of the game though... making things more specific to the player characters will make the game more engrossing, involved, and fun, but then it relies on those players being there for it.

Generic gaming doesn't have this problem, but then it's "generic".

Kind of a catch 22.

The only thing I've found that works is if the player is okay with someone else playing their character (or being run by the DM as an NPC) while they are away.
That doesn't really work for character introduction though. Sounds like you had the perfect storm of Real Life drama breaking your game.

I've had games end because of a terminal case of "couldn't make the game", followed by too long a hiatus. But this was pretty bad.


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Personnally, I got fed up with players deciding that their real life was more important than everybody else's. So my new game group runs on one simple rule: we figure out a date for the game in advance. You either show up, or you have a real reason to miss it.

"I'm sick/I have a work obligation/my boy/girlfriend is giving birth" are acceptable reasons to miss a game. This is a hobby, not a life sentence.

"I'm tired"? You knew the game was on today, you shouldn't have gone to bed at 3AM yesterday.

"I'd rather do activity X with my other friends"? Tough luck. We set up a date two weeks ago, your other friends should have respected your previous engagements, the same way that we'll pick another date if you have a previous engagement with them.

"My boy/girlfriend has a cold"? Boo-hoo. We are all adults. We can survive a cold without supervision.

It sounds harsh, and I expected backlash when stating that rule, but the response has been universally and enthusiastically positive, ranging from "it's a great idea" to "I wouldn't have joined the game if it wasn't for that rule."

Really, the game is much more enjoyable without manchilds.

EDIT: that sounds harsher than it's intended to be. I didn't mean anything about your gaming group in particular. It's just that that "bailed at 2:15 AM" sounds suspiciously like someone partying like crazy the night before the game. :)


Lack of regular attendance is a pain (at best) or a game-killer (at worst).

How do you handle an absence? If you cancel the session, you might only be playing every other solar eclipse that falls on a Wednesday (aka rarely).

If you treat the missing players as pseudo-zombies, the show can go on. This is what I do, and it works out pretty well. I can count on the characters (not necessarily the players) being there and my players can count on a game. The players who can't make it miss out. Something to think about.

If your players are unreliable, I think it is fair to not do player-specific story lines.


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I feel for you, but I've got to say that in 23 years of gaming I have yet to run into the issue you describe. Why can't the party move on without the barbarian and come back around to the curse side-quest when she's able to play again? It's just about being flexible as to when player specific events occur ...


You or your players know what is going on at 3AM? Dear God, how is this possible?


Lost Soul wrote:
It's just that that "bailed at 2:15 AM" sounds suspiciously like someone partying like crazy the night before the game. :)

I said "bailed" because I was upset, but it probably wasn't the best choice of words. The excuse he gave me is that his (young) daughter is sick, which I find is a pretty valid excuse. So it's hard for me to be angry at him specifically, but it's also incredibly annoying that we spent so much time working on his character's history for it to now get scrapped.

Quote:
I feel for you, but I've got to say that in 23 years of gaming I have yet to run into the issue you describe. Why can't the party move on without the barbarian and come back around to the curse side-quest when she's able to play again? It's just about being flexible as to when player specific events occur ...

I thought about this but it probably would have been just as tough (in a different way) as just postponing. Once I start the next module in the AP, they are going to be in a completely different part of the country (and the story behind the curse revolves around a specific town, so they would have to go back there to do the side-quest.) Also, the first thing they would try to do once they move on is find a Remove Curse and I can't keep making up excuses as to why they can't find a scroll or Cleric who can cast it. Lastly, I haven't read through all of the next module, but I believe it has a time limit on it once they get started, so it's not like they could take a couple of weeks to go on a side-quest.

I could have made the side-quest just a generic side-quest for them to do whenever, removing the curse aspect of it entirely, but then it would have been generic and not tied to any of the PCs. But maybe that's what I will do from now on if a similar issue comes up again.

Quote:
You or your players know what is going on at 3AM? Dear God, how is this possible?

2:15am, but yeah -- as I said, the player in question is not coming because his daughter is sick (and I presume he was awake with her at the time he sent the email) and I was up doing some last-minute GM prep. I always work better at night and we're not playing until 2pm this afternoon so I can stay up and sleep in to do this.

Sovereign Court

I have 5 players and if one will miss we still play rule. My players hate missing because they know the game goes on and they miss out on the fun. I like side quests but I never ever tailor it to just one character if its going to take a session or more to resolve. Bummer you have had the attendance issues hope it gets better for ya.


I usually have 6 players. We play as long as 4 people can come. I assign people who show up to run the missing player's characters in combat, and then I RP their characters while they aren't there. I fully RP them, doing their voice if I can and making decisions I think they would make. If that gets them killed, then they die.

Grand Lodge

I tried an AP and gave up when I struggled to get the whole group together on a regular enough basis.

I've now switched to Pathfinder Society Play. This allows easy dipping in and out. The group is now a lot larger - but that's fine as seldom everyone can make it. In case I really run out of table space then I asked the person who bailed last on me to sit out a session.

Maybe one day I try an AP again. But only when I have enough dedicated player - which is a difference to enough interested players.

Liberty's Edge

I think that you (and some of your players) were so bent on telling a story that you missed the "playing a role" part

Scarab Sages

I have a couple of PFS society scenarios for that case - and my players each have characters not connected to tha AP we play. If someone has to skip a session, we can play a short adventure, no one misses out on the campaign and I don't have to look for silly reasons for missing characters (my players would dislike playing more then their character for the evening).

For regular problems with game nights for a player(such as the irregular work shedule of one of my players), we run a second game with the rest of the group. Sure sometimes it is harder to get into the AP again if there was more than two weeks between adventures, but that pales compared to the potential problems with players / characters steppinmg in and out of an AP on a regular basis.

Grand Lodge

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Lost Soul wrote:
"I'm sick/I have a work obligation/my boy/girlfriend is giving birth" are acceptable reasons to miss a game. This is a hobby, not a life sentence.

I don't know about you, but I would never accept "My boyfriend is giving birth" as a valid excuse.


EntrerisShadow wrote:
Lost Soul wrote:
"I'm sick/I have a work obligation/my boy/girlfriend is giving birth" are acceptable reasons to miss a game. This is a hobby, not a life sentence.
I don't know about you, but I would never accept "My boyfriend is giving birth" as a valid excuse.

I would, but only if I could watch; mostly out of morbid curiousity.

Silver Crusade

Ringtail wrote:
EntrerisShadow wrote:
Lost Soul wrote:
"I'm sick/I have a work obligation/my boy/girlfriend is giving birth" are acceptable reasons to miss a game. This is a hobby, not a life sentence.
I don't know about you, but I would never accept "My boyfriend is giving birth" as a valid excuse.
I would, but only if I could watch; mostly out of morbid curiousity.

Snap photos and sell 'em to a tabloid. Pay for the kids college education. Or more Paizo products.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

There's a great blog somewhere that talks about RPGs as sports. It's what I use to get my players to show up every week (barring exceptional circumstance).
The idea is this:

"If you join my game then you have made a commitment to play once a week, every week. Except for pre planned hiatuses. If you join a soccer team, a baseball team or hockey team you would be expected to come to every practice and game or be cut. The same is true for our tabletop game.

If you're sick, call.
If there's an emergency, that's cool, just try to let me or somebody know.
If you have an assignment due, either organize your time better or let me know in advance.

You know what day we play every week, you know what time we start. Your time is not more important than mine or the other players, do us the courtesy of showing up, and being ready to play every week and on time. I promise to make the time you're here fun and evocative."


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I definitely sympathize with re-writing the plot to include a new PC. The only condolences I can offer is to say be glad it happened in a live game and not a Play-by-Post.

I had a good friend who was looking forward to joining my PbP this past holiday season. I had to rewrite half the plot to be able to accommodate her PC (a curse prince who would become the love-interest of the princess NPC who hired the party as her retainers). The new PC had a very cool backstory and it tied in perfectly to the over-arching story, but it was a LOT of work to adjust the story mid-course, esp as slowly as a PbP moves.

Well, after maybe 1 week of timely posting, she basically fell off the face of the earth because she over-estimate the time she could commit to the obligation. It ended up wasting weeks of planning/preparation, and 4+ months of what could have been actual story progress. Naturally it also meant I got saddled with not only her PC as an NPC, but all the NPCs aboard their galleon as well (as if political campaigns don't already have enough NPCs to manage).

Anyway, it's now the start of July. Eight months have passed since she first thought it would be cool to join the game. I'm only just now on the verge of being able to finally write that PC out of the story along with their supporting NPCs.

EDIT: On a completely unrelated point, the water for your pasta will come to a boil more quickly if you remember to turn its burner on before sitting down to type out a rant. >.>


Maggiethecat wrote:
...

This is why I play Pathfinder Organized Society, because of inconsistent player turnout. I'd rather play with less people more often, than more people less often. And I can't play an AP without customizing, so I feel like I wasted my time when main PCs don't show up.

Rather than deal with the time wasting aspect (of which I have none), it's just easier to make everything episodic and to tie everything together the best I can.

Btw, leaving at 2:15am isn't bailing, some people have jobs and/or can't stay up late. I try to wrap stuff up at 12am. When I was younger and we played until 4am, we SHOULD have wrapped stuff up at 12am, because we were just wasting time and everything was moving slowly anyway, better to play fresh imo.


Jason S wrote:


Btw, leaving at 2:15am isn't bailing, some people have jobs and/or can't stay up late.

Just to clarify, we weren't playing at 2:15am. I got the email from one of my players at 2:15am that he wasn't coming to the game later that day (which was scheduled for 2pm the same day, so about 12 hours notice.)

Anyway, we played and the side-quest actually went really well. I slipped an NPC in the place of the PC who was supposed to be introduced, which sucks for the PC because it would have been a great way to intro him. But everyone who was there had a blast and said it fit in great with the overall story/theme of the AP we're running. I feel good about it, despite having to wait 4 weeks to run what I'd made.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
cranewings wrote:
I usually have 6 players. We play as long as 4 people can come. I assign people who show up to run the missing player's characters in combat, and then I RP their characters while they aren't there.

Same here; 6 players and we'll run our "main game" if 4 are available. If I only have 3 that are available, I give them a choice between a PFS scenario or the "main game."

I've been gaming for 27 years and I've been gaming with some of these guys for over 15 years. We've had to cancel at the last minute because of deaths in the family, sick kids, bad weather, etc. The best advice i can give you is that your game needs to be robust enough that a single missing character doesn't derail you.

-Skeld


I have four players in my game. We usually still play if only one is missing (and thank God it doesn't happen often, since we play like only once a month). Another player takes the missing player's sheets, and as a group they decide what he does. It's like the group's NPC. Then we fill in the missing player about what happened in that session. We've rarely had to cancell a game because of absent players. It may of happened only once or twice in ten years.

But it's true about what others have said above... To think of roleplaying like you would join a sports team. That this hobby is like no mere gathering to play cards or Tiddly Winks... It's a group thing with a lot of work and planning involved. It's fun (and makes it worth the effort) when everyone is present.

As for making player-oriented adventured (be it side-quests or whole story arcs), it's always risky. If that particular character dies, then you're pretty much screwed. lol

Ultradan

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

I have had successful PC side quests by doing the following:

- Make them flexible. They should feature a broad goal that can be accomplished in a few different ways. For example:
--- Ciaran wants to fix his father's magic artifact, a powerful planar device before it was broken. I make sure I include in the plotline several areas where the party may discover planar magics or planar materials that he can use to help either mend the item or learn more about it. The locations are also designed to have helpful items/events/encounters to push the main plot and/or another sideplot forward. For example, the party is exploring the Lich's tower looking for clues related to the main storyline, when they discover a Well of Many Worlds which appears attuned to Ciaran's artifact. This helps Ciaran push his story forward but the other PCs also have stuff to do as well.
--- I make at least 3 locations which have events pertinent to Ciaran's quest. All of them are helpful, none of them are essential. If the party skips one because they decide they don't have time to go there due to events in the main plot, they will probably still visit the other two and his quest won't be stymied--and likewise, nor will their own main quest.

- Paired with this, a single PC must never be relied upon to let the main plot sail forward. If Bob gets sick, but only Bob's character knows how to unlock the MacGuffin, then either you can't move forward or Bob's character has to be botted which makes Bob feel left out. PC sidequests should always be sidequests and not be a lynchpin for the whole story. Using the above example, the party does not go to the lich's tower to find the Well of Many Worlds for Ciaran, they go to the lich's tower for another reason, but find the Well which adds to the storyline--but the story can also move on if they ignore the Well or decide to play with it later.

That said, if you have something dependent upon a PC, that IS what botting someone's character is for. Most (though not all) groups I play in will agree that when someone cannot show up, their character is played by another player or the GM. We do try to avoid any major character development for that PC while the player is gone, but it prevents their absence from keeping the game from happening.

Scarab Sages

The first key is to not care if the material is ever used. There are too many variables: player is absent, does not pursue the quest, is distracted by other in-game events, or dies beforehand. Just like any other planned event, you have to plan for it not happening. And plan to not care if your plans do not work.

The second key is that PC-specific material is a motivation for the player AND the character. Cater the approach to the player, and the content to the character.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

It's for the reasons outlined above that I only one on one. If your player cancels, you just do something else!


I can understand about building a precise campaign and it being based on characters that show up every now and then...I didn't get to finish one of my full on quest for everyone because one person bailed, but a GM has to remain flexible. Go with the flow (even if it's a trickle). I have many players come and go on a regular basis. This is because my favorite hobby shop (the Hobbit) and I have an understanding...I play there with the understanding that anyone wishing to play Pathfinder will visit my table. If they stay or not is a different story, so I go with the cheap way out...different dimensions...slightly different, but mostly the same. People come and go, but the adventure continues on just the same.


Have NPC friends, kinsmen, family show up out of nowhere and give an important reason for him to go with them now rather than adventuring (somebody in their family is mortally sick, for example) ... the ranking Kinsmen know they are interrupting important business of the character they need to pull away though, so they offer a reward or incentive for the rest of the party to go ahead and complete the objective. Story advances, everyone gets paid, problem solved.


Just keep in mind every GM worth his or her salt has wanted to pull their hair out on more than one occasion -- what you must do is take a deep breath, think fast on your feet, keep it fun for the players who showed, and keep the game moving.

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