How to Handle Missing Players in a Fate Campaign

Even the most regular of tabletop gaming groups has absences from time-to-time and there are many ways to handle it.

Personally as a GM, I generally just wave my hand and say, “Oh well, they missed out on this awesome adventure” and the players continue on as if that character hadn’t just mysteriously disappeared. And more often that not this is the easiest and preferred method to deal with it.

But what if that missing player character (PC) was central to the challenges for that night’s adventure? If the rogue has to stay at home with a sick kid, is it fair the rest of the party suffers poison arrows and pit traps while they explore the dungeon?

To help keep the game balanced, if a missing character is needed for the adventure in my Fate game I solve this by writing a Missing PC Aspect.

This aspect is then added to Game aspects that all of the PCs have access to. This means that the players can use this aspect to help accomplish things that they rely on the missing PC for. Let’s see an example of this in action:

In the modern day wizarding campaign, Becca is a computer science major in addition to being a capable but angry pyrokinetic however the player has to stay home and tend to a sick kid on game night.

Since the adventure the GM wrote calls for some serious hacking, the GM writes up Becca as a Missing PC Aspect.

“Becca is Distracted by Boyfriend Problems” is written on an index card and put on the table.

Using this technique, the players can still depend on the character for help with challenges. For example:

James the alchemist attempts to bypass the mansion’s security system with a Computers roll but he comes up short on the roll getting a +1 against a +2 difficulty. His player chips in a Fate point and says “Becca pushes me out of the way roughly, saying ‘Let me do this!'”. Thus James succeeds on his Computers roll with a +3 to overcome the security system.

As a GM, my advice is to write up a Missing PC Aspect in a way that gives a reason that the PC isn’t as involved while also giving yourself a change to compel it. For example:

Brick, the football team’s quarterback, is trying to sneak past the Guardgoyle and into the mansion’s garage to steal a getaway car. The GM holds up a Fate point saying, “Becca just got a text from her boyfriend saying ‘We need to talk…’ and she flies into a rage, lighting the bushes around the two of you on fire. Do you accept the compel?”

So if you have a missing player in your Fate game and they might be of use, try writing them up as a Missing PC Aspect.

If you liked this, you may also like Recap Aspects.