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A couple of weeks ago a session I was GMing left of on a bit of a cliffhanger with all of the party members scattered across different planes.

  • The wizard, Teoru is in the overworld.
  • the Druid Siobhan in "Druid Space", a space where items go when druids transform. She was ejected there by the ancient apocalyptic dragon Ñolan Emeranxu when it took her body as its mortal vessel.
  • and the Cleric Xoru in "The Backup", a extra dimensional space created by the mercenary Wizard Tʰem as a safe haven from dimensional collapse. He ended up there after Tʰem stuffed him into a bag of holding which Siobhan then moved into Druid Space when she transformed. This caused an extra-dimensional collapse. Four anthropomorphic moles (assistents of Tʰem's who maintain an extra-dimensional lost and found) helped Xoru escape into The Backup, where they await the return of Tʰem.

The next session Teoru's player wasn't able to show up, and considering the state of things we just played without them focusing on the stories of the other characters in extra-dimensional space. And then the player couldn't join again, so we continued. Eventually over 2 and ½ sessions Siobhan met Xoru; the undertook a long journey and arrived in the overworld on a desolate island in the sea (quite far from where the started). The met new NPCs and progressed the plot.

Now, for our next session, it seems like it is time for Teoru to return to the party. Now I don't want to play out 2 and ½ sessions with them alone. For one it is a not super fun to play 1:1, but really the issue for me is that Dungeon World is play to find out and in this scenario Teoru has to show up at a certain place at a certain time, traversing a great distance in a short amount of time. I can't justify this, and my prediction is that it would be a big slog at the best and a disaster at the worst.

So my plan is to just open the next session with Teoru arriving and play from there. My question is:

What degree of ownership / responsibility should I give the player vs what degree should I take myself?

I'd like to prompt the player to some extent, but I also don't want to tell them what their character does, or wants.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you add some more information about how they got split up across the planes? There may or may not be enough content there to come up with a way for the wizard to travel like that as a one off. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 10, 2021 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoelHarmon I've edited it in. It is exceedingly complex and I think it makes the question a bit cluttered. That being said I'm not particularly concerned about how the wizard travels. I'm sure I can come up perfectly reasonable in-fiction ways for the wizard to arrive at the destination in the allotted time. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 10, 2021 at 16:32

2 Answers 2

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Write a love letter!

This is, almost literally, what they were made for:

Here's a batch of custom setup moves. They're from a game I ran where we missed several weeks in a row. Our collective memory was running dim and we'd lost collective momentum, so when we finally came back together to play I passed these out. They refer to people and events we'd already established in play:

[...]

Dear Lafferty, please roll+sharp. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7–9, choose 1:

  • You've found someone else to work with, now that Corwin's gone missing.
  • You've organized a charged battery for the helicopter, you have it in a box.
  • As yet, you know more about Scanner than he knows about you.

On a miss, choose 1 anyway, but not the one about Scanner.

Love and kisses, your MC

[...]

They worked perfectly. They reminded us what had gone on, and kicked us into the new session with [things] already happening.

-- "Love Letters", Apocalypse World 2e, p.275

So, the three key elements of a love letter:

  • refer to already-established people and events
  • remind you of what went on
  • make things happen to start a new session

Handmade With Love

In Dungeon World they're called "adventure moves", but honestly "love letters" is a lot more evocative. The trick here is that in order to present an example of one that'll work for you I need to dig through your corpus of established people, established events, what went on -- which is way, way too much to ask you to provide.

So, what makes a good love letter? What makes things happen to start a new session? Well, as the example shows, a good way to start it is to give people three pressing problems to solve but only let them solve two - you need to find someone to work with, you need a battery for the heli, you need to keep off Scanner's radar.

For a wizard, maybe those three problems look like this:

Dear Teoru, as soon as you all exploded across the planes you knew this was a problem that could only be solved by staring at a whole bunch of magic. Scrying! Scrying, that's the word. So you've divined the flows arcane that will get you caught up with your buddies, but at what cost? Well, roll +int. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1:

  • You've managed to get in touch with someone who's got a lead on corraling the whole Apocalypse Dragon situation. Tell us who and what their interest is.
  • When Green the Stalwart helped clear out the ruins surrounding the portal you'd need, you impressed them enough that they offered to go halvsies on the treasure instead of claiming it all. (You suspected it wasn't actually halvsies, but y'know, baby steps.) You have scrolls for three new spells, one of which is at the highest level you can cast.
  • You didn't need to indebt yourself any further to Ar'adar, Fell Prince of Flames.

On a miss, choose one anyway, just not the one about Ar'adar.

Love and kisses, your GM

But your own prep and campaign notes to date are really going to be doing the lifting there. Happy authoring!

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Although I havent experienced this exact issue, I have had many situations in PBTA games where a player gives me lemons to work with.

The two keys are play to find out and be a fan of the characters. You don't need to know why Teoru is there at that time. Your job isn't to have those answers. They just are. If the players want to know, let them Spout Lore (or something similar) and describe those events.

This is in keeping with the basic principles. You are playing to find out what happened to Teoru, instead of prescribing what happened. When you run with the story as it unfolds you are being a fan of the character.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's what questions like "Teoru, when you were on that mission of yours [were absent], you had seen that biker over there. How did you interact with them?" are for, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Oct 8, 2021 at 7:32

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