As DM, I would like an NPC to only show up occasionally for a short time (less than a day), then be required to leave without the PCs being able to follow. Is there a mechanic that would allow this?

The party cleric's backstory has her hubby disappearing during an adventure. I want him to show up every so often but not be able to stay. My thought is that their bond was strong enough to allow him to interact with her, but only for short periods. I want him to be able to explain why he must leave, which is why I want to know if there is something in the rules that would cause/allow that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ When you say "can't stay", it sounds like you mean "vanishes into thin air" and not "has other obligations", is that correct? \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jul 30 '20 at 5:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not clear to me from reading this whether the "hubby" is dead and "their bond was strong enough to allow him to interact with her" is referring to his ghost, or whether his "disappearance" did not involve his death and he's an alive NPC. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 30 '20 at 7:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Can't stay" meaning something beyond his control requires him to leave - I'm leaning toward vanishing into thin air. If he's banished to another plane of existence (which doesn't seem to be what Banishment does, since he's from the Prime Material plane) can he return for a time? Does Geas allow this? I would prefer he be alive so as to drive a quest in the future to get him released from whatever holds him. \$\endgroup\$ – Rock Stone Jul 31 '20 at 2:37

You don't have to explain it, let alone provide mechanics

You don't need a special mechanic to govern when they come or go. Sometimes people can't stick around. That's life. Maybe he has a good reason (he's wanted, he's hunting someone, he's cursed, he feels guilty about disappearing, he has his own quests), or maybe he doesn't. Maybe he doesn't want to share his reasons with the party, or maybe he can't.

If the players would rather follow the hubby, that's a different problem

There doesn't need to be a rule that prevents the players from following him. The party has their own quest and goals which they are pursuing. If you think that the party will follow the hubby around instead of doing their own thing, then maybe you should review your campaign to make sure it is maintaining the players' interest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ For the "players would rather follow him" case, also keep in mind that his reasons may be utterly mundane and uninteresting. e.g., "I can only leave the shop closed for a couple of days at a time, so I need to get back to town before all my customers abandon me." \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Jul 30 '20 at 9:36

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