This coming weekend, my group will be playing one of our two regular campaigns without me (I’ll be escaping Utah’s single-digit temperatures for sunny, sunny Florida).

The older I get, the more often the question of what to do in this situation has come up. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, simple choices.

In my group’s case, both campaigns feature levelling by GM fiat, so that’s not a concern, and our Stargate game is mission-based, making it very easy for one character to be somewhere else for a session; D&D isn’t mission-based, so I don’t know what’ll happen there (but I trust my GM to do what’s best for the group).

Here are some of the most basic and popular ways to handle an absent player. Their PC…

  1. Fades into the background entirely.
  2. Gets explained out of one adventure.
  3. Fades out, but pops back in for combat.
  4. Is played by another player.
  5. Is played by the GM as a pseudo-NPC.

I’ve used the fourth option (played by someone else) successfully as a GM, and been on both ends of the second option (explained PC absence), which I quite like. There are so many ways to tackle this, though, that I’m sure plenty of sound approaches didn’t make my quick list.

With level-based RPGs, there’s also a school of thought that absent PCs shouldn’t get as much XP (or any XP) as present PCs. Over the years, I’ve learned that the other direction — no penalty for absence — meshes better with real life scheduling issues and responsibilities, and it’s my preferred approach.

So how about it — what do you do?