The Evil GM – The no show player, what to do?

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:
  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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!
  5. 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*
  6. 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?

3 thoughts on “The Evil GM – The no show player, what to do?

  1. We do something a little different (or did, it's been a while since we've run anything). Depending on the character missing, we give each player usually one or two tokens that they can use to have that missing player's character help out. I think the last time we had a missing alchemist and each player got 2 tokens they could use to have them alchemist throw a bomb or….I can't remember what the other option was. But for a cleric we might have a choice of two fairly common and versatile spells. The benefit is never as much as it would be if the player were actually there, but it's an attempt to help the players who are there not be overwhelmed by an adventure that was planned for a higher player count.

  2. I don't get the whole idea of punishing someone for being forced to miss out on fun. We had that notion maybe when we were 14 years old, but now, since we are adults and get the whole concept of "responsibility" and stuff like that, we know that the one who's not showing up has good reasons for that and is already punished by not being able to play. And if he didn't inform the rest, we are not angry, but worried – has something happened to him? So, IMHO, #6 is firmly planted in the "dick move" territory.

    If someone misses out, we use #2, #1 or the character is said to be "injured" and is out for the rest of the session, but healed right to the point of joining next time. #3 is out because we play SciFi, #4 and #5 are out because none of us wants to be responsible if something happened to the other one's character.

    To elaborate further: we have the "Rule Of One" in our group: if one is missing, we play. If more than one is missing, we find another date for the session. So, we play about once in a month, but we play quite a long time then (from about 18:00 to 4:00 in the morning, usually). If a player misses out two or more times, he gets the right to a "Spin Off": once two or more players earn this, they get an extra evening to play their "side quest" alone, usually with the help of a "guest star" (i.e. some friend or player who isn't normally part of the group, but gets to flesh out an NPC or plays his own guest character). In our opinion, this actually adds to the feeling of a "larger world".

  3. I like the list rather then kill off the player I'd start off with the Curse of the Tin Soldier. The player doesn't show up the rest discover a painted tin soldier in the characters equipment. If they attempt to do some magical research the character is astrally linked to the pawn but is Not in the material plane. When the player is back you get to tell the player about the vague nightmares they had while they were "@sleep". Each time they don't show the tin soldier is there. They have to haul his stuff and strange things happen with the soldier.

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