I am sure all of you have had this happen to you at one point or another as a DM or as a part of a group you play in. Most groups play once a week, some play more depending on how much time everyone has to get together. Some groups get together even less, maybe twice in a month or once a month might be the amount of time they can spare for gaming. Hey whatever it is, its sure to be the night you are most looking forward to doing. Who goes to gaming night saying, "Oh damn, its time to game.. I hate this.."
So anyhow, you are looking forward to that game and you get there only to see that empty seat of a player who normally shows. Sure it can tick you off, especially if that person didn't shoot an email, text or even call someone in the group.
Life happens. We all know this and we can't control this. BUT we can control what happens in these types of situations with gaming. There a couple of things you can do in your group to keep the fun flowing and not even notice old empty chair over there.
Establish some rules - Something the group will agree upon when you first start playing the games. If you do this upfront, there will be no questions about what to do. Now these rules could be things like:
- The Auto Pilot Character- The character fades into the background and follows the group on auto pilot. This allows the player's character to remain with the group and no one has to really account for him. He will be there, but not really be there.
- The Runaway Character- Suddenly the character decides he wants to run off and do a side quest. The party experiences this character getting all wild eyed, talking about needing to get away and then runs off, slipping away from the party.
- The Sudden Quest Character- The character decides that his deity has given him a spiritual quest to go on to find himself. The character parts ways with the party saying he will be back soon (aka next game).
- The DM Controlled Character- The DM decides to be nice, and runs the character as if it was an NPC for the night. Yay, extra work for the DM!
- The Body Snatcher Character- Another player runs for this character. We always called it the body snatcher character because the character was there, and basically was acting the same, but something was just off about the character's personality. Cute little hat tip to the movie. *Grins*
- The Sudden Death Character- The character has a heart attack or dies or somehow gets killed before anyone can do anything. Kinda mean and cruel huh? I've seen this happen when I was younger. I had a DM who liked to just kill characters. Hey we were kids.
Of these rules I've listed here are some of the things I've seen over the years and I am sure I am missing somethings. What I've done (and seen quite a bit) is option #1, #2 and #4, with #5 coming in as a last resort.
Is #6 fair? Hell no, but I remember this happening to one guy in our group when I was a player as a kid. Man was he made when he came to the next game.
What do you do?