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I have a party of 4 players.

Last session, one player was unable to attend. While I was sort of uncomfortable running a game without another player (I've done this in the past) all of the other players heavily insisted on playing, including the absent player.
The players were in prison. I set the absent player in solitary confinement for having contraband he had requested in the previous session. My other players in prison were chosen to participate in a skill challenge that actually killed both of them.

At this point, 2 players are dead, 1 player is is not in prison, 1 player in solitary confinement.

At this point I considered wrapping up the session. My two other players already had new characters made and were excited to play them. Eventually, we began anew. My three players at the table stayed away from the prison; only one had any kind of reason to stay near the prison and try to bust the last one out.

I've put myself in a corner and need a bit of help. It's been the first game I've run (if that's not too obvious) and am having a difficult time figuring out how to bust out the last player.
My 3 other party members are quite a ways away from the prison at this point.

The party: Bard, college of swords; Fighter; Ranger; Arcane Trickster Rogue in Prison. The prison suppresses magic. The three out of prison are about to enter a dwarven city with quests there.

Essentially each party members backstories are as follows:

  • Bard (Half-Elf) — Wishes revenge upon her uncle who murdered her aunt. Her aunt is who taught her how to play her first instrument and showed her the path of an entertainer. She joined a circus that has been prominent in the world and experienced more betrayal through the ringmaster who still runs the circus.

  • Fighter (Human) — A sailor who was a privateer on a ship on contract from a large trade company. An accident occurred and his ship sunk a civilian boat and killed all 9 civilians on board. The trade company heard of this and ripped all funding to his ship and eventually attacked. The fighter was the only survivor.

  • Ranger (Human) — A homebrew wraith infused ranger almost identical to Talon from Shadow of Mordor. On his travels alone he was resting near an unmarked gravesite and his soul was bonded with this spirit. His personal journey is finding out who this wraith is and why he's chosen him to bond with. I've had more time working with this character and have been doing dream sequences to reveal more of the wraith's past to the ranger.

  • Rogue (Halfling) — He was exiled out of his hometown while a "cleansing" was taking place. The town was in the process of effectively removing all traces of magic and evidence of races that were not human or half-elf. He desperately tried to save as many books and manuscripts as he could, saving the knowledge of his master's work. I have a quest on deck for this character of his teacher being alive and having a gift for him somewhere.

Should I have someone bail out the last one but offer a quest as ways of repaying the debt?
Should I just have him be acquitted?
Should I have downtime for all players so the sentence is served (2 years)?
I'm looking for the best way of bringing the party back together again.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Wibbs, Oblivious Sage, lithas, Ruse, Jason_c_o Dec 1 '18 at 7:13

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Run a solo session for the Rogue

From what you have described it seems you ran a skill challenge for the PCs to attempt a prison break. Two PCs failed and died while another escaped. I suggest you allow the rogue a chance to make their own prison break.

Rogues should actually be the best at this kind of thing. Likely having expertise in stealth, slight of hand and/or thieves tools means they will be more likely to succeed than any other class once magic is off the table.

Have multiple outcomes

I would suggest setting this session up with multiple ways for the rogue to potentially escape. This gives the player choices on how they want to play and could create an awesome character growth moment. Some suggestions:

  1. The stealthy way. "The guard left his cutlery from lunch too close to the cell, you could probably use that to jimmy the lock." Something that plays to the traditional strengths of a rogue. Either use a skill challenge or some kind of 'find a way to get the key' type puzzle. You could even give a clear countdown until the next guard rounds when their absence will be discovered.
  2. The deception/persuasive way. Have a guard that seems gullible, or is mistreated by the other guards. Someone with the power to help the rogue escape if they can win them to their side. This is particularly good if the rogue has high charisma. Whether or not the rogue double-crosses their benefactor is entirely up to the player.
  3. The soul selling way. Deals in the dark are done in desperation. Back to the wall, no way out, what will the rogue give up to escape? Make them an offer they can't refuse. An old crime boss who can get them out in exchange for some unnamed service. A deranged cleric who will cause a distraction but only if you agree to deliver a sacred artifact to his dark temple. The possibilities are endless.
  4. The bail out way. You already hinted that you had thought of this option. I would have a noble show up and offer to pay off the rogues debts/bail, for a price. Bonus points if this is someone from the rogues backstory; someone they robbed in the past, a noble from the town they fled, or even someone on behalf of his lost master.

Any or all of these are good options. I would advise you have at least 2 options open to the player, allowing them to choose which risks to take.

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Your simplest solution is your bail out + quest

You are already on the right track.

All you need to do is think up a quest that takes the Rogue in the direction of the dwarven city; a critical piece of contraband, a message that is magically encrypted "for the ears of Snorkal Ironlung"1 in the city; or an escort mission with a mysterious NPC that calls on the Rogue's abilities to move about discretely. Alternatively, the Rogue's teacher (from the PCs back story) can be studying in the dwarven city (something awesome and arcane) that requires this one thing, or this one piece of information that needs to be delivered. The people running the jail don't need to know that the recipient happens to be the Rogue's teacher ...

You want to get the party back together, and you want to have it make narrative sense with the further exploits of your three who aren't in jail. The mission to the dwarven city is the simplest way to do that while keeping your aims of narrative cohesion in place.

If need be, have a further debt or mark put on the rogue if you feel that would further weaving the back story into the current story that your characters are playing out.

The details are only bounded by your imagination; the mechanics of 'travel to dwarven city to rejoin party because you have to in order to get out of jail' gets you there. Simplicity is less difficult to put into play than complication. Also, getting the party back together is a priority: enable that reunion.

1 or other suitable dwarven name

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You should invite your last player to create a new character.

Two of your players were happy to create new characters when the previous one died. But "my previous character died" isn't the only reason to create a new character. You can create a new character if the previous one stops being interesting -- because they're not able to adventure with the current group, because they're not willing to adventure with the current group, or even just because you're tired of playing that character class and you'd like to be a different character class.

If the imprisoned character later gets freed and has the chance to rejoin the group, the player will get the choice of which character to continue with.


Note that "bail out + quest" also works, but it might give the group the sense that justice in your world isn't "real" because characters can get out of prison in order to continue adventuring. The same applies for acquittal.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like your answer, however, I read into the question an assumption that the DM was already working on folding all of the back stories into the world, and may be reluctant to go through that again with a re roll. (It might not be that hard, though). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 25 '18 at 0:12
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Don't make the fiction ruin the fun

You have players who have turned up to play the game so, play the game and bend the fiction to fit that imperative.

Start with: "the party is back together" because that's what's needed to enable play. If you feel a pressing need to explain why then come up with as much of a work of creative fiction as you like (and your players can stand). If you don't feel such a need then don't.

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