It happens to the best groups, it happens to the worst groups- eventually every Gaming crew has a loss of a player or two, or three or, even all of them.
It can be a tough thing even assembling enough players at a table on a regular basis, but once a solid and reliable group has formed, any loss to consistent players can feel like a threat to the continuation and the future of the campaign. Despite these losses there is an interesting opportunity that this event can provide to a gaming group, provided there are enough players to make a table still viable.
In my weekend home-game we’ve had our share of player adds and player…deletes? But through it all there’s been a core group that has been around from the beginning. This continuity has provided stability and also reassurance I think to the players and to myself as the Game Master. It has given both myself and the group license to try all sorts of ventures in the gaming world that a less predictable group might not have done for fear of keeping the player base content.
One of the things that it has allowed us to do is run a separate party within the larger Fourth Edition Campaign that we are engaged in that is comprised of these ‘lost heroes’. Calling themselves the Helm’s Heroes (after a particular deity’s lost keep in the fantasy world of Faerun), the group is a conglomerate of players who over the years we have been playing together, came and went with the passage of time.
Some of these Heroes were veteran members of the group who due to job or family had to leave the group, others were one or two session dilettante’s- as one of our resident comedian’s humorously dubbed a particular stop-over PC, ‘two-session Sam’.
What we created with this second group of Player Characters was an entire party, with a much less serious, much more comical tone that incorporated the remembered aspects of these wayward former members and interlopers. To me, this provided the group a few things that I really wanted to incorporate into the group.
Chiefly, it expanded on the concept of continuity; player’s got the sense that their characters had a place even if they had to leave the campaign, not just any place, but a sort of hallowed remembrance status, where other players would take up their characters’ mantle long after they left the group. This may not be an appealing idea to some players, they may prefer to control the destiny of their characters from start to finish, but so far we haven’t run into any players who’ve objected to the idea (because they aren’t around!)
Secondly this party of Heroes also gives a bit of reinforcement to the original party and to the members who show up week in and week out. Its a bit of a positive affirmation as to the importance of the group and to the dedication of its members. Helm’s Heroes may be off doing their own thing that may be every bit as adventurous and awe-inspiring, but the real campaigners keep chugging along, building up their repertoire and experience.
All in all its a different approach to dealing with player loss; instead of delegating one-time or a few week members to the mists of forgotten memory, Helm’s Heroes provides a good concrete way of coping with the real-world challenges in getting a good mix of players together on a consistence basis.
So if you’ve had a player loss due to a move, a job change, or just wander off, rather than never speaking about them or their character again, why not let one of your current players inhabit them for a session or two? If you’ve suffered enough change of seats over the life of your campaign group, why not compose an entire party of these Lost Heroes, and have some fun by giving the players a chance to put a new take on a familiar personage, and above all let them,
- Player loss can come from without as well as within, check out this humorous approach to how the Gaming world suffers from player stealing and edition indigestion: Edition Wars.