By Paco Garcia Jaen
This is something that’s happened to me recently and it wasn’t a pleasant experience, so I thought I’d share some advice with you: When a player leaves a group temporarily and leaves a character behind, leave it alone.
Do not play with the character, do not take their things and do not mess with it.
Let me put this into context a bit.
Recently and for family reasons I rather not go into here, I had to leave my group for a few weeks. We had been playing the Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords Campaign. We are not the fastest players and we had been at it for nearly two years… To get to half the campaign.
Yeah… we take our time.
I was playing a halfling ranger. A cute little thing with as much dexterity as ability to be annoying; 21. Yes my friends, he can do the splits and then some.
Anyway, Higgsbottom found a horse after a few encounters just after starting the adventure. Not just any horse, but a war horse the size of a small house. And they became friends. The halfling learned to ride and got rank after rank after rank in riding so I could actually ride the horse. I got the feats I needed and when it levelled up I got Animal Affinity so, you know, I could relate to Shadowmist.
And I was having a *great* time with it.
Meanwhile there was some bewilderment among my friends because how could a halfling ride an animal that big? It didn’t make sense.
Because I was having fun and I didn’t really care what anyone had to say, I kept playing with the horse and it became a really important part of my character.
Until I left.
My GM arranged for a scene to take place so Hhiggsbottom could leave the group in a congruent manner and still be able to rejoin when I returned. I was going to stay behind in a keep we had cleansed many months ago creating a school of fighting. I thought that was amazing and I was super excited.
Then the problem happened. Something had happened to Shadowmist. I thought it had died in a fight, or maybe the party had taken the horse with them because some of the other members could do with having a horse. And I was cool with that. It would be a suitable use of an asset that was useful to the party.
However what happened is that someone decided to sell the horse. Not use it for anything else other than get a few coins.
Suddenly the animal I had been working on and with for nearly two years disappears. Not the replaceable ring of protection, or the amulets or magic weapons. The horse. Because a halfling is not meant to ride a horse. Dragons are cool and fireballs are perfectly reasonable, but halfling on a horse? Nah… too much.
So when the player leaves the character in stand-by for a few weeks, what do you do? Sell his most valuable possession.
Not cool. At all.
So, please, take my advice, if a player decides to leave their character behind, do not touch it. Do not do anything, and i mean *anything* that will change that character for then the player comes back. And if you feel you want to do something, and you need to do something with that character or any of their possessions, talk to the player first.
Developing a character is not just about the character itself. It’s about making that character evolve and change in a manner that makes it special to you as a player. It takes a lot of effort and work to do that and, even though it’s just a game, it’s also an investment of time and emotional charge that doesn’t deserve to be casually destroyed just because you think it’s going to be “funny” or add “drama”.
Let me assure you, when that character’s player get upset, they won’t be over-reacting. They will be rightfully angry just like you’d be angry if someone decided to delete your favourite apps in your tablet or delete some of your photos because “you look bad in them”.
Indeed not cool at all.