Some time ago I GMed Dungeon World for a group of friends -- the first time any of us tried DW, though we'd played Apocalypse World before. The campaign only lasted 5-6 sessions because of multiple reasons, but I have a nagging question based on one specific, recurring issue: How does a group make Bonds relevant during sessions where certain players are absent?
(The remainder of this text is gameplay context that inspired the question.)
In our first session I was GMing for 5 PCs. But in about half the sessions, a player was absent -- one time it was the Thief, and later there were two sessions in a row without the Cleric (and likely even longer if the campaign didn't stop at that point, for unrelated reasons). I had the attending players decide as a group what the absent player's PC was doing in the background, to explain them rejoining the party when the player came back.
The players used up their PCs' Bond slots right away (only the Druid had one left after character creation). When I informed them they could fill in Bonds later during play, the Wizard's player said something like "Why wouldn't we use them; they're XP!" Granted, they did use the Aid move often, usually to turn misses into partial hits. But when a player is absent, others lose the benefit of Bonds with their PC, both in the mechanics and to build the fiction -- especially with the Cleric's prolonged absence.
Ironically, the only Bond we resolved during the campaign was the Wizard's bond with the Cleric. The Wizard's player made his case about why the Bond was no longer relevant in the fiction and said that the Cleric's player would likely agree. I had no strong objections but decided to put it to a group vote to ensure everyone agreed it was fair. We did, and the Wizard got his XP and a new Bond. For double irony, the new bond was also with the Cleric -- though it also mentioned a NPC faction that had plot relevance at the time.