But We Are Missing The Cleric!

Greek Helmet by Templer1307A problem I see in most groups is the missing player. There is almost always a player or two who can’t make the session, in our group we covered this by having another player cover their character for the session and in olden D and Ye D days this worked fine but in 4e this was a hassle. Each class, even the lowly fighter has its own flavor now and special rules that impact its play. Some of my players were really struggling to get their heads around another PC and it was not really fun for them. The second problem is ages old, the player who wasn’t there’s PC was somehow always the one in the most danger. This wasn’t intentional, out come the monsters and then there they are down on the ground taking death saves. I can try to cheat this as DM, but I have enough to juggle as it is. By the end of the last game we turned no show’s PCs into semi-NPCs, they got one at will they could use and in the case of a leader they could still use the class basic heals. This solved the first problem but left us with the second.

For the next campaign I am working on each PC will come in two flavors, full PC and Companion character. Each player will have two PCs, a prime and a back up. The backup will become the prime PC if the other character dies, but until then they will likely be run only as companion characters. If we know someone is missing we will fill in from the pool of each attending player’s backup PCs run as a companion character. This way every player is still playing ‘his’ characters, even if one is cut down to NPC stats. This can cause problems if they are in the middle of the lost caves of Aaaargh or some other situation where a swap is impossible, but I would rather have the immersion issues than someone’s pc dying the week they are gone.

Below is my monk as a companion character:

Level 5 Kenku Monk Companion
Medium Natural Humanoid
XP 0
Initiative +4 ♦ Senses Perception +10 Insight +5

HP 43; Bloodied 21

AC 20; Fortitude 18, Reflex 19, Will 18

Saves +0

Resists None

Speed 6

Action Points None

Basic Attack (Standard, At-Will) ♦ Melee
+9 vs AC, 1d8+3

Five Storms (Standard, At-Will) ♦ Full Discipline, Psychic, Implement
+8 vs Reflex, 1d8+4, another 5 damage to the target or any other target within 2. Movement: Can shift 2 as a move this turn.

Drunken Monkey (Standard, Encounter) ♦ Melee
+8 vs Will, 1d8+4 and the target can be slid one to do a basic attack on an ally at +3. another 5 damage to the target or any other target within 2. Movement: +2 to movement and no rough terrain penalty.
Alignment Unaligned ♦ Languages Common, Shou

Skills Perception +10, Bluff +9, Acrobatics +12, Stealth +13

Str 14 (+4) Dex 19 (+6) Wis 16 (+5)
Con 11 (+2) Int 10 (+2) Cha 10 (+2)
Equipment +1 anti aura spear, +1 final sleep ki focus, healing potion

Much easier to play than four pages of character sheets, he has a basic attack, an at will and an encounter. I will likely give them magic items if the effect is worth worrying about, but not bother listing items like his +2 Amulet of Protection, which only effects his stats.  Campaign is still months away I think, but I hope players will prefer this to the way running other’s full PC’s.

Other Resources:

Monster and PC sheet CSS forms can be found at Omnichron’s D&D Tools

Greg Bilsland on Ally Cards, another alternative to give the PCs some coverage.

  1. Nicholas says:

    This is probably as good of a solution as you will find. But ultimately this is an out-of-game problem and as such, there is never going to be a perfect in-game solution to be had.

    The only problem I can forsee is that when you have a full group of all your players at the game, you have a rather crowded party when they each have a backup companion along for the ride.

    The Greg Bilsland Ally Card link I thought was also very interesting. My concern there is that while the presence of Allies makes for some interesting Tactical options, I could imagine a Warlord style Leader class feeling a bit put out that there were Hirelings available that could provide some awesome buffs and were kind of like breathing magic items.

    I suppose that could be another option… Magic items a la Figurines of Wonderous Power that wind up being unavailable except when you have a need to leave a PC out of action due to non-attendance :-p

    In my own personal experience, I usually simply removed the PC from play via a contrivance and had them re-introduced when the player returned. this was of course easiest when the PCs were in town or not in a dungeon, but the old “Goblins drag your friend through a wall that seals shut” trick was always available as well.

    Of course in my last 3.5 game I did not have a regular Cleric/Healer PC present so I wound up introducing a pacifist priest NPC so he could provide some healing but contributed nothing to offense.

  2. Brett says:

    The companions won’t play when everyone is there, they will be back at the inn or guarding the camp. I will try to set it up so that this is possible storywise, but I won’t cry if it feels forced now and then. In Ye Olde D&D we often had two or three PCs for each player in the low levels, but that was because they died like flies back then. By the time the group hit sixth level or so you would be down to one or at most two. Parties were bigger, but the game was simpler as well.

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