Sometimes you have to end a session at a very suspenseful moment.

For example the group used the whole last session to prepare for a heist or a fight and just as the action is about start you look at the clock and have to delay the endeavor.

A week later you meet up again and after a small recap you continue on. The heist or the battle begins and... one character dies. And for the sake of it let us assume that there is no way of reviving him.

Now the player sits at the table, about 30 minutes in the session with at least 4.5 hours + food break left. How should one handle this situation?

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is not a duplicate because 1) rejoining is not necessarily the answer and 2) there are special considerations due to it being early in the session. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2017 at 2:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Rejoining is not necessarily the answer to either question, so they're identical in that regard; those special considerations aren't really very special, as time considerations apply equally to the original question, so they're identical in that regard. They're both general questions about how to handle inconveniently timed PC death during the session — this one is just a new way of asking the same thing, which is what duplicate marking is for. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2017 at 2:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Rejoining isn't the answer to the other question, it's the premise. The question you linked is 'how can I help a player to rejoin ASAP'? And my answer (that I can't post now :( ) is largely based on special considerations in this question that aren't present in the other one so I sure think they are special :P \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2017 at 3:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer “Rejoining ASAP is a bad idea when… therefore…” is an acceptable answer to the other question, like any answer that corrects assumptions in a question. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2017 at 3:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie No, it's really not. If I asked "How can I best foo my bar?" and I got "Sometimes, like in X situation that isn't yours, you don't want to foo your bar. Then you should fizz your bar instead" as an answer I would 1) be annoyed and 2) flag it as NAA. I appreciate that we disagree on this, though. We'll see how voting works out. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2017 at 3:21

2 Answers 2


Cram a new character into the game ASAP.

If the death occurs later in the session, I might rule that the character has to wait until the next session before they have to return (in fact, that's happened to me in the past). But it's really going to suck for that player if they show up to play, die immediately, and have to just sit through a 4 hour session.

Therefore, you should shoehorn the new character in as soon as you can. In past games, I've seen people get reintroduced almost immediately after the encounter ends, and I think that's a good balance: the missing character still impacts the encounter itself, but the player doesn't miss out on too much gameplay. Of course, if the player has to make a new character, then you should give him/her time to do that first.

Getting players to play is more important than game consistency

Obviously, both game consistency and actual gameplay are very important. However, the point of the game is to play, and forcing your players to sit on the sidelines of an entire session is a sure-fire way to make them unhappy (...from personal experience). If you can't get buy-in from your players, you can't do anything else.

In the future, have backup characters

One of my groups handles a deadly campaign by having at least one backup character. We usually make them out of mere interest and curiosity, but it's encouraged by the DM. They are obviously useful for this situation, because it allows us to jump back into the game almost immediately. Having a pre-written backup character also makes it a lot easier to integrate them into the game world, because you and your players will have had time to properly think about them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What about players who actually care a lot about game consistency? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dronz
    Jun 1, 2017 at 2:42

Let them start playing a new character ASAP

This means: as soon as the character is created it should be inserted into the game using a deus ex machina:

a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object.

How do you deal with it narratively and/or resolve any cognitive dissonance?

Who cares? The player is there to play! Make it happen!

  • \$\begingroup\$ So you would sit down with him an create a new character on the fly? What about the other players then? Depending on the system that could take up about an hour. Especially if the characters are higher in level. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thyzer
    Jun 1, 2017 at 1:05
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ And what about continuity and consequences? I tend to like to play games which don't over-exaggerate PC abilities, and have parties and context where there are already NPCs around, so that players without characters have people they can play. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dronz
    Jun 1, 2017 at 2:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Thyzer No, I would say "Go over there and make a level X PC. Come back when you're ready" and get on with the game. That way, everyone is productively employed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jun 1, 2017 at 4:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dronz I play games to play. I read novels for continuity and consequences. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jun 1, 2017 at 4:45

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