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The party reached a city and they decided to take some downtime. The party's rogue decided he would try to commit a crime and earn 200gp (following Xanathar's rules). He failed all 3 rolls and got jailed. The party doesn't have enough money to get him out of jail. The party's diplomat convinced the guards to let the party solve the city's witch problems in exchange for freeing the rogue.

My issue is that at the moment the rogue's character is essentially incapacitated, and solving the city's problems will take a whole session.

What can I do (as the DM in a home Non-Adventurer's League game) so that the rogue can play the next session?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a specific resolution you'd like to see? Otherwise, this is primarily opinion-based. There are an enormous amount of ways to handle this with the only way to pick on being personal preference right now. If you can add some limitations (don't want to lose in-game time, don't want rogue to miss XP, etc.) we may be able to narrow down an answer that isn't opinion-based. But right now, it does seem very opinion focused. You may want to jump into chat to help figure out stack friendly question. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 19:09

3 Answers 3

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The published hardcover adventures have a technique to deal with exactly this:
In Out of the Abyss, a player who dies or is recaptured is encouraged to take over one of the prisoner NPCs that have been accompanying the party until the original character is freed or raised.

In your case, I would suggest that the rogue's player be given control of a city guardsman who accompanies the party. Then he gets to play, and there's in-lore justification for it - the city needs an observer to be sure the problem actually gets solved.

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As an option besides playing another character, allow the party to negotiate the rogue's release prior to taking care of the witches. Even if successful, the judge is sure to impose some extra conditions on the venture - sending a city guardsman or two along to surveil the party, keeping something valuable to the party as collateral, etc. This way the rogue's player can fully participate (which is ideal) with his actual character (also ideal) and there can be actual consequences for his actions beyond "sitting the bench."

As it is, if the rogue sits in jail, his player is effectively punished for playing the game. It would be better to punish the characters for their in-character actions. Something such as spending time and energy on a quest with no net pay is suitable justice in-game without reducing the enjoyment for the real people at your table.

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The simplest solution is to allow the player to play a different character for a session or two until the rogue is released from jail.

Personally, I encourage players to always have at least one backup character, so that they can switch off if their primary character dies, is recovering from injuries, or is otherwise unavailable for adventuring during a given session.

If you prefer for each player to only have a single "real" character of their own, you could instead come up with an NPC who is somehow known to and friendly towards the party (another character's old friend, cousin, etc.) and have the player run that NPC for the evening.

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