Player (and Character) Abandonment Mid-Scenario


Pathfinder Society

2/5 5/5 *

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

The Challenge Point system is getting better. However, I have not seen any guidance--official or unofficial--regarding how to handle sudden, unexpected changes in the party composition. The best answer might be to leave it to GM discretion, but I'm going to ask the question anyway.

There are a few situations that I have experienced as a GM and as a player where the party that set the Challenge Points for the scenario is no longer the same party some part of the way through the scenario. Each of them have slightly different nuance to them, so I'll list them out individually. There are probably other versions I haven't encountered.

1. A character dies mid-scenario without means of resurrection.

Example: A party of 4 equal level characters (CP 12 begins). One dies. The remaining characters generate CP 9 and one character's worth of actions down. Do they continue to experience CP 12 adjusted encounters or do they now encounter CP 9 adjustment (usually no adjustment)?

2. A player disappears (leaves the table and doesn't return, whatever the reason).

The same change in party composition occurs as if one of the characters had died. E.g., CP 12 party becomes a CP 9 party.

Do you continue on as 3-player team with the original CP or the new CP?
Do you whip out a Pregen to replace the missing player?
If the Pregen changes the CP (up or down) do you adjust the encounters?
What if it was a 5-player team that is now 4-players?

3. A player intentionally has his character abandon the in-game activity.

Example: Paladins refusing to fight the enemy or even participate as healing or defense.
Example: Players who get pissed off that they can't roll higher than a 4 on the d20 and just have their character Stride x 3 off the battle map.

In this case, what do you do? The GM, the table try to encourage the player to engage, boost their spirits, but the player is obstinate that their character is abandoning the encounter. It's even worse then that person brought 6 CP to the calculation, but they're still there at the table, still expecting their chronicle at the end, and the party is fighting an encounter scaled for 6 more CP than is actually participating.

These are all real situations--only the numbers have been changed for easier math--that I have encountered more than once each on both sides of the GM screen.

Liberty's Edge 3/5 5/5 *** Venture-Captain, Nebraska—Omaha

Blake's Tiger wrote:
1. A character dies mid-scenario without means of resurrection.

I see this as part of the adventure and would not adjust the CP in any way.

Blake's Tiger wrote:
2. A player disappears (leaves the table and doesn't return, whatever the reason).

I have not checked the guide but I believe and adjustment to CP is allowed.

Blake's Tiger wrote:
3. A player intentionally has his character abandon the in-game activity.

If I was unable to resolve the situation of the player who leaves, I would recalculate the CP. If the table is on-line, I would take over the character and only provide the most basic of activities like healing.

2/5 5/5 ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Massachusetts—Boston

I agree with Gary on 1 and 2. (With the caveat on 2, of if it drops below 4 character, add in an appropriate pregen, and use the new CP values going forward.)

In case 3, I'd document what's going on, since it sounds like that might become a community standards issue. But exactly how to handle it I think would fall to GM discretion.... If they'd been contributing for a while in the fight before rage quitting, versus rage-quitting before the fight began. If it was 'we're about to TPK, I'm running away, I'll try to grab your bodies after" that's different than stomping off because their dice don't like them, etc.

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden

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The Guide does say a bit on this topic link

Quote:
1. A character dies mid-scenario without means of resurrection.

The section on dealing with death contains some intentionally fuzzy language telling the GM to use a soft touch when dealing with PC death particularly for new players, but ultimately, that death can happen and so can TPKs. It tells you to "consider" the situation without telling you exactly what to do about it.

The PFS1 Guide advised the GM to be as flexible as possible with getting players back in to the game. So unless the scenario gave a really solid reason (strict time constraints, locked in a demiplane) why it wouldn't be possible, the presumption is that the usual avenues of getting Raised are available mid-scenario. In your typical dungeon where enemies are patiently waiting for the PCs to come to their rooms, they can wait a few days longer for the PC to make a round trip through the morgue.

I would focus on making sure there really isn't some way of raising the PC that wasn't explored, before even considering CP recalculation.

Quote:
2. A player disappears (leaves the table and doesn't return, whatever the reason).

This is more clearly covered by the next section, about out of character problems: "To mitigate the impact on the table, GMs can exercise their discretion by adjusting the scenario’s level range or Challenge Point Adjustment to accommodate the table’s new Challenge Point Total, bring in the pregenerated character that most closely resembles the lost PC, or postpone the game until all players are able to complete the scenario." Adjusting the CP to match the remaining players is clearly an option.

Quote:

3. A player intentionally has his character abandon the in-game activity.

Example: Paladins refusing to fight the enemy or even participate as healing or defense.
Example: Players who get pissed off that they can't roll higher than a 4 on the d20 and just have their character Stride x 3 off the battle map.

In this case, what do you do? The GM, the table try to encourage the player to engage, boost their spirits, but the player is obstinate that their character is abandoning the encounter. It's even worse then that person brought 6 CP to the calculation, but they're still there at the table, still expecting their chronicle at the end, and the party is fighting an encounter scaled for 6 more CP than is actually participating.

This needs GM discretion because the reasons vary, and the player might have a point ("the rest of the party wants to do the thing that will give Infamy and I really disagree" or "we can't win this fight and I'm not going to die just because you're too stubborn to flee").

I would generally not recalculate CP during the encounter, that's just really messy. You also don't recalculate CP during an encounter in which everyone stays but someone's build just happens to be useless (enemy is immune, out of range, PC got petrified in round 1 etc.), or they're just playing poor tactics. However, if this forces the rest of the party to flee, I'd be even more lenient in them being able to get away and regroup than usual.

Then the question is what happens after. My take;
* If they drop out of the adventure altogether while the adventure still has a ways to go, then we have the rules for a player leaving the table mid game. They get a partial chronicle and the rest of the party gets a pregen or CP recalculation.
* If this was the end of the adventure, I'd have to evaluate just how and when they dropped out of the last encounter. Possibly they get only a partial chronicle if they really didn't stay long enough to contribute to the final battle. But several rounds being "useless" but keeping enemies engaged does count as contributing, it buys the other characters time. So this is a bit of a judgement call.
* If the PC rejoins the party after the encounter and the adventure goes on, don't change CP and just get back to business.

Since this also tends to get close to personal issues, taking a break to regain composure is also a good idea.

Afterwards it's probably a good idea to talk over the situation with a VO just to get another perspective on how it went (even if you're a VO yourself; get fresh perspective).

2/5 5/5 *

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Thank you, Ascalaphus. That direction helps a lot. I remember the second paragraph, but not the first for some reason. :)

And thank you to everyone else.

For the sake of conversation, the most recent #3 that I ran into was a scenario already running long where the player felt like they weren't rolling higher than a 4 through all the encounters until they got to the final battle then their initiative and ranged attacks were single digits, so they said, "So-and-so just leaves the caves." It stung even more because their character brought 6 CP to the scenario.

**

Blake's Tiger wrote:
the player felt like they weren't rolling higher than a 4 through all the encounters until they got to the final battle then their initiative and ranged attacks were single digits, so they said, "So-and-so just leaves the caves."

I don't know what I'd say out loud, but in my mind, I'd definitely be thinking, Grow the f&!* up.

A string of particularly bad rolls is inevitable in a long career. And because of survivorship bias (people who roll poorly in their first game disproportionately drop out of the player pool), players often have inflated expectations of what it's like to roll neutral. People get mad all the time when they roll single-digits three times in a row or two nat 1s in a row, when it's not unusual at all, and turn slightly unusual streak molehills (e.g., 10 single-digit rolls in a row) into "worst luck of anyone I've ever seen" mountains.

If the player is a minor or a new player, I'd be tempted to cut them some slack. But in general, I don't have a lot of sympathy, so I'd focus on making sure the one player's decisions don't affect the rest of the table and erring on the side of being punitive towards the player who opted out.

Like, I'd probably refuse them a Chronicle (or give them a Chronicle as if they abandoned) and send them to a VO to work it out.

Grand Lodge 4/5 *** Venture-Captain, California—Sacramento

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Ascalaphus wrote:

The Guide does say a bit on this topic link

Quote:
1. A character dies mid-scenario without means of resurrection.

The section on dealing with death contains some intentionally fuzzy language telling the GM to use a soft touch when dealing with PC death particularly for new players, but ultimately, that death can happen and so can TPKs. It tells you to "consider" the situation without telling you exactly what to do about it.

...

I would focus on making sure there really isn't some way of raising the PC that wasn't explored, before even considering CP recalculation.

The GM is instructed to take every reasonable (and in game legal) approach to get the character back into game.

But if the character cannot be raised, the AcP is not adjusted.

Quote:

2. A player disappears (leaves the table and doesn't return, whatever the reason).

3. A player intentionally has his character abandon the in-game activity.

For the table, these are essentially the same, the only difference is what reward the leaving player receives. Keep in mind the "pregen closest to the PC" means the most similar pregen, with HP, daily resources, etc, as close as possible to the PC who left the game.

So for example, if the PC who left were a wizard who had spent all his daily spells, you would bring in Ezren, with all his spells expended.

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