Which players show up for a session can be changeable. When time flows between sessions with characters at home or otherwise not adventuring, the characters of absent players can simply be left out of the current session. When time freezes between sessions, verisimilitude demands some explanation for characters with players who are now absent as well as new characters controlled by previously-absent players. In service of having the most fun, swapping in and out characters must be allowed, but likewise some system for producing an explanation keeps the flow interesting. It produces interesting consequences for play compared to just hand-waving “Longstream wandered off, but Azrak just arrived from the homestead”.
The following explanations have precedence in the campaign.
- Elven magic around Tosasth produces unexpected teleportation. Flashes of green light have sometimes brought companions in or sent them away similar to how the undead have seemed to appear at random. However, the sources of this teleportation effect are believed to be destroyed.
- The combination of Tienarth’s crystal ball and the magic mirror hanging in the homestead allows for visual communication, including the use of a kind of sign language known by mages. This can explain characters at the homestead knowing to rush off to meet the remote party.
- Officials, knowing of the current mission the party is on, might sends a squad off to join the party.
The New Characters Deep in a Megadungeon generator can explain why a new character may be found mid-adventure.
Either the game master or another player could control a character whose player didn’t show up. If possible, the character will stay out of the action, such as staying at camp.
Sly Flourish has ideas about Handling Missing Players.
Some other ideas:
- The PC becomes ill, requiring the party to take care of them. The PC might fall unconscious, be capable only of slow movement or perhaps becomes dull (effectively treated like a hireling).
- The PC leaves to cope with some urgent matter.