Here's some background to the situation, which I believe may relate to the problem. It should help some people answer the question.

I play a small game of DnD with some friends named Lorry, Kevin, and Charlie (all pseudonyms, Charlie is the DM). We have only been playing together for a few sessions, so all of our characters are only just beginning to poke around in the fifth level.

The problem can trace its roots back to two sessions ago. We were all battling some orcs in a ravine, when Lorry got knocked unconscious and, as a result, killed.

This wasn't exactly a surprise. Lorry's character was a wizard, and constitution was hardly his strongest stat. So, doing the best me and Kevin could on our own, we tried our best to clean up the rest of the orcs even with our comrade dead. Once we were done with that, we spent practically the rest of our session creating Lorry a new character, then making up a quick roleplaying gimmick to add him to our party before the next quest.

The thing is, when our next session date rolled around, Lorry got tied up with other things and couldn't make it. However, because I had invited a new person to our table (whose false name shall be Jim), Lorry told us to just play despite his own absence, and that he would just catch up next session.

We did, and consequently got a lot done. Me, Jim, and Kevin finished a quest, and even managed to level up.

Now here's an important part: While Charlie is hardly a rule stickler (especially with roleplaying), he likes his campaigns to make as much sense as possible. As a result, he made an executive decision in that session and placed Lorry's new character in NPC mode.

Under normal circumstances, Lorry's character would be a level-1 wimp, so him being under NPC mode wouldn't make any difference to the party. However, these were not normal circumstances. We were using an alternate, homebrew version of gaining XP that would have doomed Lorry's character to a life of endless frustration and constantly trying to get on the rest of the party's level (no pun intended).

Charlie, being a good DM, did not want that to happen, so he allowed Lorry's new character to automatically start out with the same amount of XP that the old character previously had. (That's part of the reason that creating Lorry's new character took so long in the previous session.) Charlie did the same thing for Jim when he decided to join.

Why is all of this significant? Well, it meant that Lorry's character wasn't a pet that we had to protect, but rather a pivotal fighting force on our team. He absorbed and dealt a lot of damage over the course of our session, even healing Jim's character at one point when he almost got killed.

All of us, even Charlie, really liked Lorry's new character. So we didn't understand why Lorry wanted to change it.

The Problem:

I see Kevin and Lorry outside of our DnD sessions on a regular basis, and they are pretty good friends, so I was recently surprised to find them arguing with each other. (Well, 'arguing' is probably the wrong word; there was no anger behind their words. It was more like they were in a fierce debate.) When I approached them, I learned that they were talking about Lorry's new character.

Lorry told me that he had never intended his current PC to be a permanent one. He claimed that it had been meant to be a "placeholder character," one that he would only have played in until he had formed his "actual character," which he actually intended to use. Making his 'real' PC would have apparently taken longer to create than simply making his 'placeholder' one, so Lorry said he instead had opted to create the placeholder until he could find time to create his real PC later.

The thing is, in the ample amount of time that had passed since our last session with Lorry, he'd had enough time to create his real PC. As a result, he said that he personally had no reason to keep his other one around, but because the group liked it and it made more sense for the story, he would just have his placeholder PC stay in the group, but on NPC mode.

Kevin did not like this at all. He said that Lorry can't expect to be able to just make free party members (especially NPC ones), as he claimed it would disbalance our campaign. Kevin told Lorry that he would just have to wait until his original placeholder PC died, then afterwards he could use his real one in its place.

It is important now to bring up a certain fact about Lorry. He is (for lack of a better term) not a person of integrity, or at least not in games. I've known him to use console commands in certain multiplayer games (which shall remain nameless) to 'break the game' in his favor. He will even defend and justify those actions later, calling them "exploits" rather than cheats, and sometimes even go behind both Kevin and my backs to use them.

Lorry is not a bad guy, it's just that he is a real letter-of-the-law person rather than a spirit-of-the-law person, and in this situation, it is really beginning to show. No sooner had Kevin proposed the 'wait-until-you-die' rule than Lorry said that he would have his character commit suicide as soon as he regained control of it. When Kevin banned that and other intentional deaths, Lorry said that his character would just "coincidentally fall off a cliff", as if he had no control over whether that happened. Then, when Kevin also banned that, Lorry finally said he would just go in as his new, 'real' PC and then attack and kill his old one.

Kevin knew he wouldn't be able to talk Lorry out of that plan, so he turned defensive and told Lorry that if his PC tried to randomly kill our companion member, we would definitely have to kill him (considering that kind of thing doesn't go over well in adventuring groups). Lorry then said that he would gather help (from Jim, presumably), so Kevin said that he would enlist me and back the old character... and the conversation didn't go anywhere productive from there.

We are planning for our DnD group to almost double by next session, with pretty much each of us bringing a new member. I have heard both of them separately say that they are planning on recruiting the new members to their cause, but I really don't want to start a civil war.

Which brings us back to my question (I bet you forgot what the question was.) How do I prevent Lorry from abandoning his PC in favor of a different one?

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    \$\begingroup\$ While Lorry didn't indicate it, could the problem be in someone else playing his character and making decisions for him? It would be a problem for me and highly likely lead to abandoning that character unless whole party and DM agrees that character did nothing and never mention him being in that session or doing anything in that session ever again. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2022 at 11:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I remember when we were teens, if you did not show up for play, it was your character that was going to scout ahead for traps :). We're much wiser now, of course. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2022 at 11:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Was creating a new character on the spot, without any preparation, his idea? Or maybe you coerced him to do it right there, right now? Even if unwittingly? And why does it sound like "his" character was created by the whole table and not by him only? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    May 30, 2022 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well easy solution: Lorry: What are those? Eats a kilo of red white mushrooms on the wayside and walks off a cliff afterward while shouting obscenities at the bypassing Baron whilst simultaneously fighting off a dragon single handedly. ... You think you can force him to play some"Thing" he sees temporary? Rethinking is in order. Keep the "NPC" on the side, send him away on tasks (that do nothing) and keep it as backup if temp players join in again ... \$\endgroup\$ May 31, 2022 at 6:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Uhm, there is absolutely no reason that an NPC needs to die to be replaced. If Charlie is a good DM, he can easily let the current PC achieve "their goal in life" (maybe find a special trinket that their master challenged them to find, healing ritual for their sick spouse back home etc.) and once aquired they leave the party \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Jun 1, 2022 at 8:20

7 Answers 7


Forcing a player to play a PC they don't want is a bad plan

Firstly, this is not something you can solve with rules. You need to talk about it off-table, in particular your DM and Lorry.

Or maybe you do not, because in this case, your DM is on the wrong track. Their PC is the one thing the player gets to control, and in which they have a say. It should be the player to decide on their PC. Sure, when a group picks their PCs they tend to coordinate who plays what, but that the other players like or prefer him to play a given PC does not mean he should be forced to.

It may be that he has contributed to this situation by not making it clear up front, when you all hashed out the character over the table, that he intended it to be only a stop-gap. If he had, you probably would not even be in this situation. And maybe, because you all contributed in building it, and because you played it for an action-packed session, you feel some kind of ownership in it. But that still is no reason to force it upon your fellow player.

Forcing him to play a character he does not want, and not allowing him to control that character as he wants to is a road to bad feelings and unhappy interactions. Where will you stop telling him what he can and cannot do? If he decides that his forced character is stealing from the party, or murdering a party member for gain, will you also tell him he cannot do it? What if he decides the character wanders of to do other things? No good outcome can come from this.

On the other hand, it should be no problem to allow him to introduce his own character and find a reason why the interim character leaves if your DM has no interest in running it as an NPC. Switching characters in the course of a campaign is generally no issue. In our campaign, one of the players tends to get bored with his characters after half a dozen levels, and rotates them out for a new one, and this has never caused any problems.

His new character will also be able to meaningfully contribute to the group with his own cool abilities and you will have no conflicts about telling Lorry what he can and cannot do.

Maybe, if several other members are joining, you can see if one of them would like to play the character, or make one that is similar. The DM can also keep him around on the sidelines in town, letting him level in offscreen adventures, and when someone dies next time, someone else who wants to can play him.

But even if none of this is an alternative solution, based on my experience I would strongly recommend you let Lorry play the character he wants to play.


You, As A Fellow Player, Don't

This is a part of the table dynamic that is most heavily influenced by the GM and their tolerance for character swaps and retcons. There may be game reasons for a GM to tell a player that this is not the time for a character swap-- if you're in the middle of an arc in the trackless deserts looking for some lost ruins, for instance.

That's just an example-- there are many valid reasons. But generally, they cause far more troubles for the GM to deal with than they do other players, and I as a GM would in most circumstances shut down players A, B, and C heckling or cajoling player D about changing a character out.

Charlie, As The GM, Ought To Step Lightly

The basic object of running a game should be to provide fun for all the players, the GM included. But in almost every case, the fun and satisfaction of playing is tied to playing a character of their own design. And frankly, it is possible to realize in good faith and after the fact that you've made choices that just aren't working for you.

And this is a hard-won lesson for a lot of GMs (myself absolutely included) but if the GM has tied the game so tightly to a specific group of 3-6 individual characters, that the game can't stand the loss of any of them, well, then, the game has a built-in structural defect.

There is rarely any benefit to saddling a player with a character they don't like playing.

This Is Not A Rousing Defense Of Your Fellow Player

Now, you've done a reasonably good job of casting your fellow player in a bad light. I, as a GM, would not appreciate being told that a newly rolled character was 'just a placeholder', especially after the fact. In most games (all of the ones I run) it takes effort to splice a new character in, and I wouldn't like having to do it twice.

And if I'm reading between the lines, here, I really wouldn't like being saddled with one or more additional NPCs to haul around and handle because a player can't make up their mind which one they want to play. That takes a lot of effort and, even if I hand that NPC off to a player to manage, consumes that player's effort and (as you said) unbalances the game.

But that's on the GM to manage, not the other players.

If this happened at my table, the players inserting themselves into this drama would be curtly invited to sit down, stay out of it, and let me deal with it.


We are planning for our DnD group to almost double by next session, with pretty much each of us bringing a new member.

What a fortunate coincidence. Clear it with Lorry and Charlie first, then shop the orphan character out to the new players.

While some players thoroughly enjoy character creation, others would prefer a ready one. With a bit of luck, someone will take them with no need for pushing. Do allow for some retconning changes if they want to. They'll lack the attachment to the shared history of the last session, but not more than Lorry.


I will technically not answer your question stated at the end, but will try my best to give you a bit of a course of action. But for the start I want to make a few points on the situation.

  1. Discussion about bringing in a new character to replace the "placeholder" one without your DM (Charlie) is futile. This should be discussed either in the whole playing group OR only between the DM and Lorry. By what authority does Kevin decide under what circumstances Lorry can bring in his new character?

  2. Everyone in the group should play the character that he wants to (within the rules and within the group's alignment of course). How would you feel when the rest of the group decide to force you to play a barbarian instead of the cool rogue that you spent time and effort to generate? You are all playing a GAME together and you should all have a good time, including Lorry.

  3. The problem here is that the group played a session with the placeholder character and grew fond of him, maybe even attached. Lorry however wasn't there, he has no emotional connection to the placeholder character. Also you should keep in mind, that you grew fond of the (N)PC as he was played by the DM (or whoever controlled him) and not with the PC when Lorry plays him.

Now for a recommended course of action:

  1. Talk to Lorry and tell him that you really like the placeholder character and tell him of his epic deeds, and that you think it would be cool to stick with him.
  2. If he doesn't want to stick with him, have Lorry and the DM work out a way to replace the placeholder character. There are multiple ways to do that.

Retcon Retroactively replace the placeholder character and shortly discuss how key-scenes would have played out with the other character. Instead of the wizard that was healing a wounded character with a spell, the new character could be a warrior that dashed in right before the lethal wound was dealt and have saved the character that way. Instead of a charm spell from the wizard, the barbarian could have intimidated the guard to let the group through. But don't spend too much time on the retconning and only clarify what happened in the most important scenes. Then get on adventuring with the new character.

Railroaded PC The DM sets up a fight where the placeholder character can die a worthy death. Rolls from and against the placeholder character can be fudged in any way to lead to the desired outcome (placeholder dies heroically).

NPC tagalong If the group is okay with that, have the placeholder character stick around as NPC under the control of the DM or whoever played him in the previous session. Of course that can lead to imbalances in the group which is why I never saw that done over a longer period of time.

Innkeeper NPC Have the placeholder character set up a homebase for the group and stay there as guardian, supplier, informant and even quest giver. Later, when for example Kevin's Character dies, the placeholder might return as Kevins new PC.

Replace other character Maybe someone else from the group likes the placeholder more than his own character. Then maybe he should let his character be retconned, killed or retired and take up the placeholder character.

Regardless of the way the group handles this replacement, the group should make clear, that you want continuity in your game and that he can't replace his character every other session, just because he found a new way to generate an even more powerful character. A good way to handle that is to only give a full xp catch-up for new players or after unfortunate death. For character replacements by player intended death or retirement our group gives only 50% catch-up xp and then the character gets double xp every session until he completely caught up with the rest of the group.


If you like it so much, why don't you marry it?

or so went the playground taunt in my youth.

As the other answers have already explained, your problem is not that Lorry does not want to play a particular character. Your problem is that Kevin wants to force Lorry to play the character. And, although you cast yourself as neutral, your question title translates to 'how can we force a fellow player to play a character they don't want to?', revealing that you want Lorry to play the character as well.

That you want the other character to be played is natural. You and Kevin invested a large part of your game time in creating it, and because Lorry wasn't clear with you that he didn't intend the character to be permanent, that is now revealed to have been a waste of your valuable game time. Had you all known that Lorry didn't intend to keep it, Charlie could have just pulled out a pregen and let you get on with what you were there for, playing.

Having spent a large part of one session creating the new character, you and Kevin then spent the entirety of the next session playing it, and you had fun. You enjoyed playing it, and you liked the way it interacted with the other characters.

Lorry's character [was] a pivotal fighting force on our team. He absorbed and dealt a lot of damage over the course of our session, even healing Jim's character at one point when he almost got killed.

[If the new character is a healer, and Lorry's next character, like his old wizard, is not, it is possible that you and Kevin feel safer with the character you want to keep, rather than with whatever Lorry will be bringing in next. Your aside that Lorry is a cheater may be an expression of your feeling that he is not as much of a team player as you would like him to be, and forcing him to play a healer might represent your desire to 'fix' him.]

Because you and Kevin invested in the creation of the new character and then found it fun to play, it is natural that you want to keep that character in the group. However, forcing Lorry to play it is not advisable and will not end well. Instead, you need to talk to Charlie about how to keep the new character in the group. Maybe, if Jim becomes a regular or semi-regular part of your group, it can become his character, if he likes the idea. Maybe it becomes a back-up character for the next time your or Kevin's characters dies; then you get to play it the way you want. Maybe it becomes a standard fill-in character when one of you can't make it; if Lorry misses a session again, you and Kevin get to cooperate in playing the character you both like rather than his new one; if you or Kevin misses a session, the other one gets to play the character rather than having the character of the missing player in the session.

Your problem is that you and Kevin want this character to remain in the game; the solution is to work with your DM to find some way to do that other than forcing Lorry to play it.


Literally ask him to as a group

I'm going to slightly disagree with some of the other answers that suggest you, as a player, don't have a place to do this.

While it does depend on your social contract at your specific table, in many groups players coordinate on who plays what to ensure that all of the major areas are covered by someone without too much overlap. This can be a good thing as it helps minimize fighting over the spotlight and gives everyone a clear niche.

At tables like that, then it makes sense that someone should consult with the rest of the table before changing character types. At tables like that, it is perfectly legitimate for the other players, as a group, to ask a player to at least cover a specific niche and avoid overlapping too much on other niches.

This was arguably more significant in certain earlier editions then it is now, but the basic idea remains.

Pushing too hard can have large downsides though

But while I think the request can legitimately be made for him to play a specific type of character to cover a specific niche and stay out out of other specific niches, asking someone to play a specific character (other than to temporarily fill in) is probably a bad idea. People can and should get invested in long term characters and having a character that doesn't feel like is is theirs can be unfun. It doesn't tend to work well.

And while I am far more supportive of asking someone to fill or avoid a specific niche than some of the other answers seem to be, even that depends on the culture of your specific table. In particular, if everyone else got their first choice with minimal coordination at the beginning, then even asking could easily create bad feelings.

I will also point out that while yes, it does take a little work to swap characters in a way that maintains fictional consistency, it normally won't take too much work as long as you can get to a civilization center (doing it in the middle of a dungeon is even possible, but that takes more work to maintain verisimilitude). After all, real teams swap members all the time. Sports teams do it on a regular schedule, work teams do it all the time, and militaries even make a point of doing it deliberately.


New PCs in my campaign always start one full level lower than the lowest-leveled PC already in the party, AND start with the normal, rolled magic items as indicated in the XGE rules on higher level character creation. This is to avoid this bad "player behavior" of 'character bouncing': they keep changing their character according to the context, situation, or what they feel is more fun for the next chapter of the adventure.

If the player does not mind losing one of their levels and all of their magic items, let him. However, if it is that important for him, then it is that important for me.

Case closed. Easy and has worked for over 3 decades at all of my tables.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So the player wants to have more fun and your solution is to make him have less fun? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sam Azon
    Jun 1, 2022 at 1:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm coming at this as a DM, and I suspect a lot of these downvotes are from non-DMs, but I really don't see the problem here, if the policy is stated up front. I've heard of tables starting newbies at lvl 1 (they can eventually mostly catch up due to economies of scale in XP required for leveling), and this is way nicer than that. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 1, 2022 at 14:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @T.E.D. "if the policy is stated up front" is the important statement here, though. For the purposes of this question (and presumably other people searching for an answer to it), this describes a situation where it HASN'T been stated upfront. This is why it's likely being interpreted as a punishment for the player not doing what you want as opposed to a pre-agreed on way of disinsentivising people forever changing up their characters on the fly. \$\endgroup\$
    – user49601
    Jun 1, 2022 at 15:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @T.E.D. I feel that downvotes are coming from blanket-calling all people who wants diversity and change "bad players". \$\endgroup\$ Jun 2, 2022 at 9:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KilrathiSly I absolutely agree. Unfortunately, it appears that it didn't happen in this case, and the question asker is now trying to mitigate the damage that this lack of communication and setting of boundaries has caused. I just feel that "Well you shouldn't have gotten into this situation in the first place" (which it feels like this is) may not be particularly good advice on it's own as it doesn't aid in solving the situation presented to us. \$\endgroup\$
    – user49601
    Jun 7, 2022 at 8:13

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