One of the trickier things to deal with when running a long term campaign is player absences. It’s bound to happen from time to time when a campaign stretches out over a couple of years, and when it does it leaves you stuck figuring out what to do with that player’s character during the session they missed.
Many GMs would say that this is the perfect time to put that character in mortal danger. This approach does have the advantages of:
- Being fun
- Making an example of this player to others who would dare miss your glorious session
- Being really fun!
- Deterring this person of questionable priorities from ever missing another session
- Did I mention that it’s fun yet?
What it lacks however is the pure bliss that only slow torture can bring. Sure, I can kill your character if you don’t show up, but frankly I can kill your character if you do show up, and if I do it while you’re there I get to see your anguish as the dreams you had for your pitiful creation are smashed to bits before your very eyes. I can watch as the tears stream down your face and hear as you cry out in pain, “Why goddess, WHY?!”
… excuse me… I was having a moment there…
Really, the only thing that can top killing your character while you watch is killing your character while you watch after having spent several sessions stringing you along and giving you hope that I’ll be a merciful goddess after all, as all the while I am making life absolutely miserable for your poor witless character.
For example, when a certain Mage who shall remain nameless couldn’t make it to NY from Boston for a session or two I could have easily had him be hit by a meteor or devoured by a spirit. I can’t deny that I would have enjoyed that. Who wouldn’t? I decided instead to savor the moment by having this former scientist turned Awakened Mage run some experiments in the Sanctum’s basement… after asking if this was something his character might be doing of course. You see, I knew perfectly well that said unnamed player would think it a marvelous explanation for his spending time away from the group. By asking a question to which I already knew the answer, I made it entirely the player’s fault that what happened next happened at all.
So, what happened next you ask?
Well, only that his character, by messing with spells he really didn’t understand yet, created an extended Paradox that not only nearly blew the entire Sanctum (and all of Manhattan if you believe the Acanthus Mage) straight to Hell, but created a Prime Manifestation duplicate of the Mage in question. I then had that player play his own evil duplicate for a while, and attempt to widen the affected area to make for a larger boom at the end of it all. Then his actual self called Aenaiyah while she was talking to him in the house, and hilarity ensued! Now his Cabal-Mates don’t trust him at all, and live in dread fear of the possibility that he might ever miss a session in the future.
And now that I think about it, I believe he won’t be making it to the next session, will he…?
And then there’s all that stuff the senile Moros Mage can’t remember he did when his player missed three sessions in a row! Like when he… oh… wait… they don’t know about that yet… never mind!
Slow Torture: it really is the only form of punishment a GM ever needs!