Need an in-game excuse for a player absence


Advice


Hi All,

I'm looking for some GM advice.

One of our players is going to be out of town for several sessions. I need a good "in game" way to explain his absence and sudden reappearance when he returns. He's willing to play along with anything that his character would reasonably do. Any thoughts?

I was thinking maybe some sort of cursed item found in a monster treasure hoard (it just so happens the group just defeated a pair of desert drakes, and have not yet explored the hoard). It could trap his character in some quasi-portable form, so the rest of the part could bring him along and revive him when he gets back.

Any ideas?

Thanks,
Chernobyl

Sovereign Court

Can you provide more information? Are the PCs dead smack in the middle of a dungeon delve? Are they miles upon miles away from the nearest village, town, or city? Are they on the road and traveling non-stop even if there is a near by town?

Silver Crusade

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Got sick from the last adventure. Real sick. Then you could give the other players a quest to find something with which to cure him.


Kidnapped by succubi/incubi after drinking.


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Heard a family member, someone they love or a dear friend is in dire straights, deathly sick or otherwise in need of assistance immediately? Thus forcing them to leave the party in order to take care of the personal matter.

Along what you suggested, a trapped / cursed magical item (perhaps a medallion) immediately casts a form of the Maze spell, only lasting much longer. Other players can take it with them and he can either finally reappear with them later (maybe popping up in a bag that the medallion is being held in.) Or they could just happen to finally figure out (perhaps with a clue) how to safely bring him back from the medallion.

Kidnapped by some strange creatures that want to make him one of them, or inflict agonizing torture or for some reason or another worship him as a sort of demigod (but plan on releasing him from his "fleshy prison" ala Pirates of the Caribbean).

They eat an apple or other fruit that puts them into a sustained but extremely long slumber ala snow white.

He was summoned by a powerful sorcerer on another plane for help, like the planar binding only he's the summoned creature. (I may have to use this as the beginning of a custom campaign...)

At his next step, he falls through a portal into a beautiful, luscious grove filled with pleasant delicious food and drink, members of the preferred gender and other amenities. They may not be sure how they got there, but they can't leave until the next full moon in that place. Might as well make the most of it right?


Doing financial stuff in town. Dealing with a family emergency. Crafting magic items.


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He got sick or badly wounded in the last game and needs some time to recover.

If the party rescued some NPCs, he escorted them to a safe place.

He needs to do some research (for a spell, or for intelligence) to gain advantage on the BBEG.

He was kidnapped by some female fey who wanted some company for a few days.

He was kindnapped in a mysterious way (nor him or the the party knows what exactly happened) byt the BBEG and will be freed at the end of your game.


I think trapping him in some portable form would be for the best given that in my experience it can be hard to predict how much in game time will will pass in the sessions so sending him a way for some task could be difficult to fit in. Maybe a curse that makes him intangible, floating and tethered to the party?


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This helps.


Polymorphed into a frog. It's a high high level curse that can only be removed under certain circumstances, which you will manipulate to occur during the session the player returns. This will require careful planning and forethought on your part, and maybe a pinch of railroading a time or two. Plus, the party will have to take care of the frog so that should be fun.


Bad eggs.


Pan wrote:
Can you provide more information? Are the PCs dead smack in the middle of a dungeon delve? Are they miles upon miles away from the nearest village, town, or city? Are they on the road and traveling non-stop even if there is a near by town?

Sorry, yes, of course.

They're in the middle of a desert, several day's ride from the nearest town. They've pursued a pair of drakes to their lair, a cave atop a rocky crag, and have the beasts at fewer than 20 hp apiece. They'll likely slay them and have their treasure hoard next session.

They are on their way to find a crypt in the middle of the desert. They have to get in and stop some bad magic before awful things happen to their loved ones. So they don't have time to go off and find a nearby town (the drakes were a random encounter along the way).

The player in question is a sorcerer.

Thanks,
Chernobyl


Kidnapped by succubi/incubi or fey while on watch. Have them leave a note behind demanding something from inside the crypt in exchange for the party member's safe return.


Why not just hand the character to another player to handle in combat and assume he is quiet the rest of the time.

Maybe they are taking the non combat time to read up on magic or practice skills and this gives an excuse to their next levels skill point expenditures or what have you.

Whenever we have one player unable to show to a game we handle it that way. They are played in combat by someone at the table and then are just quiet and observing for the game. We keep game notes every session so the player is fully informed before the next game and knows what happened.


Ch3rnobyl wrote:

. . .

They're in the middle of a desert, several day's ride from the nearest town. They've pursued a pair of drakes to their lair, a cave atop a rocky crag, and have the beasts at fewer than 20 hp apiece. They'll likely slay them and have their treasure hoard next session.

They are on their way to find a crypt in the middle of the desert. They have to get in and stop some bad magic before awful things happen to their loved ones. So they don't have time to go off and find a nearby town (the drakes were a random encounter along the way).

The player in question is a sorcerer. . . .

I actually like a lot of the above, but just to throw another one out there... somewhat of a variant of the idea Ciaran Barnes proposed now that I think of it.

One of the drakes drops a scroll that wound up crumpled in between some scales. The character 'fails' his UMD roll and the magical mishap is flesh to stone, his flesh. The party dumps him in a bag of holding or portable hole until they can find the reverse. And there just so happens to be a stone to flesh/break enchantment scroll where/whenever thematically appropriate.

Shadow Lodge

An unfortunate run-in with an overly-friendly Succubus left him with some problems that he went of to find a cleric to solve.

Silver Crusade

A friend who GMs just says they went to use the restroom and got locked in. For days. Works for his group, but their style is more Chaotic Silly than others'.


In junior high and high school we used to use the Body Bag of Holding. You were placed in it if you couldn't make a certain session and pulled out when the player returned. No, nothing else would fit in the Body Bag of Holding. No, it didn't react with any other magic at all.

Something else I've used is the following:
A marut appears before the character and states the following, "The time of atonement for your ancestor's transgression is completed. You must come with me to Mechanus to stand before the Tertian Arbitees to sign the that the account is settled." And either time flows all wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey or the red tape is so thick that the character isn't returned until the player comes back.

The problem with curses, diseases, sicknesses, stone to flesh and all the rest is that the party may come up with a cure for the character before the player has returned.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Gilfalas wrote:

Why not just hand the character to another player to handle in combat and assume he is quiet the rest of the time.

Maybe they are taking the non combat time to read up on magic or practice skills and this gives an excuse to their next levels skill point expenditures or what have you.

Whenever we have one player unable to show to a game we handle it that way. They are played in combat by someone at the table and then are just quiet and observing for the game. We keep game notes every session so the player is fully informed before the next game and knows what happened.

This really is the best answer. In all my years of GMing, I've never had a character miss a session, even though players miss regularly.

-Skeld


Have the character drop into quicksand and disappear under the dunes. When the player returns, or when they have completed the dungeon (whichever comes first) have the players discover a hidden oubliette in the crypt with the character trapped inside.

This gets the character out of the way in a believable fashion and lets you re-insert them at any appropriate time.


-The patriarch of the sorceror's family line shows up and says, "Great Grand Nephew, the clan needs you!" and teleports away with him.

-A "No Saving Throw, Mercy Was Here" encounter (big scary dragon or wizard-lord or something) just takes him hostage, but in a fairly affable way. Perhaps he just wants a fourth player for bridge (Dragon bridge takes several weeks) and the sorceror volunteers since the alternative is the party be punished (eaten) for trespassing.

-A more ribald version of the above, a desert clan of warrior women demand snu-snu from "the pretty one." Sorcerors gots da Charisma, right?

-I could swear it's explicitly mentioned somewhere that the DM can get creative with curses, so all the suggestions above involving "turned to stone" or otherwise cursed/ability drained/infected are just the STARTING point for what you can do to make him stay back with the horses/camels/whatever. Standard Curse damage (maybe juiced up a bit) but can't be removed and has weird preconditions. Anything from "can't touch the earth" (stays on horseback or his bedroll) to "must remain under the open sky" to "suddenly hyper-claustrophobic and will go insane (as per spell) if he goes underground." I, uh, I painted myself into a corner with this one though, I don't know the best CURE for the curse beyond "oh look a magic de-cursifier, how convenient."

-There is a magic door, that door is the best, maybe only way into the dungeon/magic castle/pocket dimension where the next leg of the adventure is. Only a sorceror can open it by wrestling with the magical entity that controls the door using his sorcerous will. He can't hold the door open and get through it, so he must stay behind. If he comes back before the party is done inside the dungeon, he "found a way to turn the entity's will back upon itself and jam the door open permanently."


Does the sorcerer have any personal story goals he/she wishes to achieve? If it's a task that can reasonably be done alone, and can be started in the middle of a desert, you may want to consider doing an aside thing with the player over email or something describing the situation.

Example: Sorcerer seeks to advance his/her understanding off magic. Somehow, an opportunity presents itself for the sorc to achieve this goal (magical creature offers to show them, finds an artifact etc). Regardless of methods, the sorc is required to do a number of ambiguous trials for a time, and is required to be alone and out of contact with help for the duration. Talk with the events with the player, get some email or aside stuff going on and give the player an interesting little plot hook with it that suits the character. When the player is able to return, his character comes back with the party.

it's a little hard to offer specifics because I don't know the character or much of the context, but, it might be cool to see if you can play into the character's backstory a bit and take advantage of the absence instead of letting it be an obstacle to work around.

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