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I started a new campaign for my D&D 5e group and we had made some excellent progress and the characters had made it to 4th level. While entering the "Stone Tooth" through the front door one of the players had their character advance across the rope bridge over the deep chasm. The character was hit by a thrown spear and then the player rolled a natural 1 on their saving throw to keep their grip on the bridge. The character was then irretrievably dead since it fell 200 ft into the underground river.

The party decided that going through the front door had been a bad idea and retreated back to the nearby town so the player could roll up a new character. The player rolled up a rather different character and we played on and the party made it further into the adventure using another entrance.

Later the player of the dead character realized that they weren't having as much fun with their new character and asked if there was anyway they could get their old character back. I came up with an in game way for this to happen that added some interesting role playing difficulties and set the new character against the returning old character.

However, I am not sure how to have these two characters being played by a single player be adversaries. I have thought of taking over the new PC and have the player only play the old character but I'm sure if this is such a good idea. I also don't want this player playing more than one character, I prefer that the players focus on a single character.

I have 5 players and they are powerful enough that they can handle the level appropriate encounters, adding a 6th character is going to over power the party and I worry that some players might be jealous of this player having two characters. I want everyone to have fun!

What should I do?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jan 31 at 15:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a reason you don't think making the new character an npc would work? \$\endgroup\$ – 1600hp Jan 31 at 16:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @1600hp I worry about stealing player agency over their character. \$\endgroup\$ – SonOfMun Jan 31 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess I'm hoping someone has a brilliant idea about how to get myself out of the situation I've created trying to keep my player happy. \$\endgroup\$ – SonOfMun Jan 31 at 16:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand, why are you even pursuing the idea of letting this player control two characters? From what's written it doesn't seem necessary to address the situation, and it doesn't seem like the player is requesting it. If your in-game solution requires this, could you describe it more fully? I'm not seeing why PC1 can't make a dramatic return as PC2 dies, since that's more or less what happened when PC1 died and PC2 was rolled. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Jan 31 at 17:08
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Tell the player to pick a character.

Unless the whole table has had a discussion that "wow, we really need more resources in the party, and $PLAYER is the only one competent to play two PCs so we really want them to play two" there's no good reason to give one player twice as much PC as any of the others.

Reasons not to do it abound: it's more spotlight time, or it's less time devoted to developing those characters (if you're keeping the spotlight shared among players equally); it's more potential hooks for the world to interact with that player; it's one player asking you more questions about rulings or homebrew items, because they're taking twice as many actions; and on, and on, and on.

1:1 player:character relationships are (arguably) one of the foundational elements of TTRPGs--I suggest Jon Peterson's Playing at the World for an exhaustive treatment of what the move from 1:many player:unit relationships in wargaming to 1:1 player:character looked like through the sixties and seventies.

In any case, the players all came to a game expecting to play one character, and that shouldn't change unless all want it to.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Any advice/experience on how best to extricate themselves from the situation specifically? rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/164005/… \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jan 31 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ As I read the question, the player just wants their old PC back, and doesn't really care what happens to the new PC. The "idea" to get the old character back was the DM's (assuming OP is DM here) and that the main problem is how to justify this extra PC that's now just hanging around. In other words, I don't think "Tell the player to pick a character" matters, because they will clearly pick their old character, and as I read it that's not the crux of the problem. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jan 31 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with most of this except the 1:1 player:character ratio being foundational. Some edditions of Ars Magica explicitly recommended a troupe style of play and I have seen V:TM games where players have more than one character to allow more daytime action. That said, in every case I have seen it work every player had the option of having the same number of characters as every other which avoided some of the issues you mention. Unbalanced numbers cause additional issues as you identified. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Jan 31 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimothyAWiseman I agree with you that I don't think 1:1 is necessary for an RPG, I was just trying to indicate why it's sort of an assumed default, esp. in the D&D family tree. Any thoughts on how I could reword that to be clearer? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 31 at 17:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would say something like "The vast majority of tables use a 1:1 player:character ratio. While there are some tables that allow players to have more than one character, and some systems that encourage it, they are the exception and they usually give each player the same number of characters." \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Jan 31 at 18:49
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Ask the Player to Keep One PC

Talk with your player out-of-game and explain to him the problem. Let him know that having two PCs can be unfair to the rest of the players since he will get double the spotlight.

Let the Player Decide How the PC Will Be Discarded

Offer them options. Maybe the soon-to-be discarded PC decided that he doesn't like the group, the town, or even the country and moves far away. Maybe your player would like for the soon-to-be discarded PC to die in a spectacular way. Maybe the soon-to-be discarded PC was not at all who you thought they were, but rather a spy. The possibilities are endless but it's always a good idea to have your player's permission before messing with their PCs.

Do not decide by yourself what to do with the discarded PC unless you have explicit permission from your player. Even if he discards the newly created PC, players tend to be oversensitive with their creations. If you collectively decide that the discarded PC will become an NPC, be sure to let your player know that, once in your hands, this PC-turned-NPC will effectively be someone else and, most likely, won't react in the way your player intended.

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You play the new PC as an NPC until it's convenient to ditch them

The situation, as I understand it, is that your player wanted their old PC back, and now they have their old PC back, and therefore being asked to choose as the other answers point out will simply result in the player picking their old PC.

The problem, then, is that either way you have this new PC that technically no-one wants.

To have them suddenly vanish, die or choose to abandon the adventure might harm the verisimilitude, since if they are that willing to leave now, why did they resolve to embark on this quest in the first place? Similarly, a sudden and contrived death just to get rid of them will also harm the immersion.

In other words, you're stuck with this extra PC. But at the same time, you don't want one player unfairly having two PCs, especially if they probably only really care about their old PC (you can bet that they will risk their new PC first in any slightly risky situation, because they may not care if they die, at least not compared to the old PC they wanted back).

So, the best solution I can see is to have this new PC become an NPC under your control. This way, none of your players have two PCs, but at the same time the narrative isn't damaged by this new PC's sudden disappearance. You can then have them leave the party and the story at a point that feel like it makes sense, rather than being contrived.

You should probably speak to your player (who created this new PC) about how they would want this new PC to leave. You don't need to rush their departure, but it's worth checking with them that what you plan on doing with this now-NPC fits with the player's expectations. Maybe play on that conflict between the old PC and the new PC, perhaps with the party "siding with" the old PC (if the other players are on board with that)? For more on this, see the last paragraph of Aventinus's answer.

It may well be that the player doesn't care what happens to the new PC at all now that they've got their old PC back, in which case you have the freedom to do whatever you want with this new PC such that it's still believable to you and your players.

But the main thing is, if you control the new PC, no-one unfairly has an extra PC, and you can choose at what point the new PC leaves the party and the plot such that it makes sense in-character and doesn't harm the narrative.

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Allow a tag team system for each session

My current DM is running us through a series of mini campaigns (Tales from the Yawning Portal) and he has allowed all 3 players to roll up 2 characters each. Each session one person can play 2 characters and the others choose which character they wish to play.

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