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Sadly, most of the games I play in have monthly sessions at best. Also, players travel from a somewhat greater distance to play. A consequence is that during the month many players misplace their character sheets, or they accidentally leave them at home.

Depending on the game it might be relatively easy to reconstruct the sheet. I'm also trying to force the players to scan in, or otherwise digitize, their sheets, and to store them in an Internet-accessible location such as Google Docs.

Even so, there's always that time when a player shows up ready to roll, but has no sheet. Without the sheet, the experience for everyone will be diminished. It's like putting a big old asterisk on the entire session. I know what precautions to take to avoid it, but how to make it as painless as possible when it does happen?

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In general: "keep them yourself" may fall under the category of "precautions to take to avoid it." Apreche probably knows that trick -- but what do you do if for some reason you didn't do that? –  Bryant Aug 27 '10 at 13:22
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Thump them on the nose and say, "Bad Player Character! Bad! No!". Then re-print the digital copy they e-mailed you. –  Präriewolf Aug 27 '10 at 15:54
    
Would it be improper to suggest that the player be incinerated slowly, while the others watch in horror? Seriously, though, having the GM store the sheets is the way to go, in my experience. –  Erik Schmidt May 2 '12 at 22:01
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19 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I allow them to reconstruct it during play. To a degree, this depends on the game, but even in the more complex games it's the end results that matter more than the formulas. For example, if I know that my energy blaster in Champions has a big energy blast with a bunch of different options, I can probably get away with saying I do 12d6 with a single-target blast and maybe 8d6 with an area effect blast. I don't need to reverse-engineer the points I spent on each version of the power.

Likewise, if I'm playing 4e, does it matter that much if my daily does 4d8 or 3d8 for one session? Probably not.

I also don't need to figure any of this out until it comes into play. Did my Unknown Armies character have 55% or 65% in Running From the Fuzz? Until there are cops on my tail, I don't need to even think about it. I don't want to burn an hour of everyone's time asking about the details they remember before we sit down to play.

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My groups have the DM hold on to the character sheets, plus any notes the players have made (loot, etc.)

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After years of being plagued from the same problem, we started to keep all the characters in a single folder, which is either kept by the DM or where we usually play.

My backup option is: "wing it". it's not really a problem if your skills are a bit off for a single session :)

On top of that, I always keep a "character cheat sheet" for all characters with class, level, ac, hp, saving throws (and spot and listen scores for d20). That's enough to play D&D :) It's easy to copy and archive, and it's helpful for the DM in a lot of situations.

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This. If you're not in college and living in the Res Halls (so no one's sheet can be far away), it's easier to keep them (or a copy of them) all together. –  foxxtrot Aug 26 '10 at 23:00
    
With two DM's if that DM doesn't show up ... –  C. Ross Aug 27 '10 at 1:25
    
you can always copy and distribute the PCs cheat sheet I mention above. Two DMs should always have redundant character sheets :) –  Tsojcanth Aug 27 '10 at 11:34
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All character sheets for my games are posted online. No chance of losing them.

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I have a DnD insider subscription and require all players to enter their character in to the character builder. This way I can print off a spare copy if it is ever needed. However, this does not take in to account their inventory, however, it's usually good enough for us to get by, or have someone else take control of an absent player's character.

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If the DM has a photocopy of the sheet, and the player forgets theirs; then they can borrow the DM's copy.

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We print out a new one. If we weren't using electronic methods of generating sheets then I'd be very tempted to keep photocopies for some of my players!

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The player's sheet makes a great memory aid, a place for notes, and a way to track progressive things like XP and damage, but the character sheet "of record" is the one that the game-master has. It's the responsibility of the player to make sure that any changes he or she wants to make are reflected on your copy.

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Unless the character is specifically made to move between campaigns, the character and its sheet are tied to a specific campaign and the GM can justifiably insist on keeping the character sheet. This is especially true when forgetting a character sheet can seriously impact a session.

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I (as the DM) usually hold onto the character sheets. It's a lot easier when the guy who's got to be there has all those easy-to-lose papers.

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For my group, we keep one copy on gDocs and the other with whomever is DMing the game. That typically removes the lost sheet controversy.

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We use Dropbox for the same purpose. –  TALlama Aug 27 '10 at 15:47
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I keep all of the Char sheets on Obsidian Portal. Then we simply print up our char sheets before the session. That way there is no way to forget it. When the players leave, any notes written on the sheet I update on the digital copy. Nice and easy. Hope it helps!

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I'm currently running D&D 4e at the moment, so if someone shows up with a character sheet fail I can just stick them in front of the D&DI Character Creator software to re-create and print their sheet while we get on with the game. The only awkward bit is keeping track of their inventory, but we can normally piece that back together from the notes I keep on what loot's been handed out.

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I used to always keep all PC sheets now I tend to make the players keep their masters on my Wiki. It is not as pretty but they can always be updates and printed as needed.

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I favor simpler systems because (among other reasons) my group has a few players who invariably lose their character sheets. If the system's simple enough (FATE, WR&M, that sort of thing), I can easily keep my own records of their character's stats. If the system is more complex, I prefer to keep the sheets myself. D&D3.5, though... we all know it well enough that recreating a character sheet during play is nothing. We've all done it at least once.

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We as a group, keep the master copies of the characters sheets, on a wiki, so they can be references / updated as needed, the players are then resonible for bringing, having access to these for the sessions. Having them online works for out group as most of the players are playing over skype anyway.

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"how to make it as painless as possible when it does happen?"

I would simply give the player a new character sheet and the book, then send him into a room without a TV and out of eyesight of the rest of the group. That way his character, who has suddenly fallen very ill to his stomach, can get back into the game as soon as possible. The other players should continue to game, because after not gaming for a month, they should not be punished by having to wait. Nor should they be distracted by a player making a character at the gaming table during the game.

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Almost everyone has a printer with a copying capacity.....I simply make a photocopy of each players sheet at the end of the session, and if they forget their sheet they can reconstruct a new one from my photocopy.

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We generaly live the sheets with the GM.if a player insist on keeping it(and why not:he can have his reason) and still forget it... well in this case he just don't play.after the first couples of time nobody will forget his sheets anymore!

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