#33: Missing Players
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2018 issue.
I’ve touched on the problem of missing players previously and I thought I’d mention how we’ve dealt with the issue. (Note Lindsay Jackson’s excellent ‘Apologies for Absence’, Compendium 2 from Mongoose Publishing.)
We’ve had it happen three times in nine sessions. One player missing in the penultimate session and two in the last session. I hope this isn’t a trend or sign of things to come!
On the first occasion we used the traditional ‘the character is sick’ for Fred – our teetotal, 7ft, gunbunny – which in fact is the first of Lindsay’s options. This was quite handy as we’d had a new player start and he’d taken on the role of the NPC medic. Having a sick crewmate gave him something immediate to do. In fact he could have a lot of fun with it and as the player wasn’t there and therefore the character really wasn’t participating in any events, the medic could declare the character was really sick and, in fact, it was touch and go whether they’d recover. That naturally gave our doctor the chance to really shine as kept his patient going.
What also worked out well was that the character had missed a dinner of the local ‘Townswomens’ Guild’1 and so it seemed natural to start the next session with a couple of ladies turning up at breakfast with some heart-warming broth. That one of the ladies was the Pretty Young Thing the Captain had been chatting up at the dinner just made the whole thing even better.
On the second occasion we decided, by mutual agreement, that we’d play the sick characters as NPCs, allowing them to fade into the background. It was tempting just to say that Fred’s bug had spread, but where’s the fun in that?!
Our Captain, has been beautifully portrayed as an unlucky in love die-hard romantic who is constantly looking for The One. We’d had a lot of fun with him chatting up the Pretty Young Thing at the dinner only to be taken aback when mother descended from a nearby table afterwards to snatch his comm number offering. It was easy enough to have him cower in his cabin when the pair turned up with the soup. On the day trip to the mine, the PCs took lunch in a cafeteria and the Captain naturally sat apart from the crew with three female miners.
Lily on the other hand, an archaeologist working passage, had been part of the drive to visit the mine and nearby archaeological remains. With her player missing, rather than make the dig site the focus of the adventure, I simply made that segment a bit of a bust which fit in neatly with the planet Carsten being a backwater of little interest. I also took notes from the player beforehand to get some reactions – particularly in regard to another NPC who’d been trying to get her to go on a date.
Two features of interest are worth noting. Firstly, when playing PCs as NPCs the fact that strong “characters” (in every sense) had been created helped. The other players were consulted at certain points as to how they felt their crewmates would behave. Between the two, we think we did them proud.
Secondly, it was fun and engaging for me and the players to fold their absences (or ‘quietness’) back into the ongoing story so it felt quite natural, gave things to play off and has even given players false memories of being there! Fred for example, over coffee in the staff room, still talks about missing the dinner because he was so ill!