People who are lucky enough to have regular gaming campaigns are often faced with a unique challenge during a Convention trip: Missing scheduled games. While it would be ideal to get an entire gaming group to attend a convention this can result in traveling somewhere to game with the same people you game with normally (still fun). Aside from reducing possible new interactions this scenario is pretty unlikely as that fiscal realities and professional obligations rarely allow for such group pilgrimages. However, with planning and consideration it is possible to engage a great convention experience while still supporting regular games at home while you are away.
Planning an Absence From a Campaign
When planning a prepared absence there are a lot of factors involved in making sure your “downtime” still supports the campaign while you are gone. It also might spare you any potential surprises down the road (see below). Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Length of Absence – The first consideration of the planned absence is whether the absences will compromise a significant portion of the campaign. If you plan on missing more than a few games, you might want to “bow out” with the intention to return at a later date, you may return to find the other game has ceased altogether. But this is rarely the case in a convention skip or other short-term absence.
- GM View – Does your GM have a viewpoint on absences? Will your character be expected to be physically present? Or required to be absent if you are? How do you feel about that? Will your character be played? Will they get experience points? Nothing is quite as shocking to hear an unexpected occurrence where your character dies, gains an affliction or falls behind in experience points.
- Party Role – Addressing your character’s role in the game may also be necessary to cover. Healers and other core metabalance issues may need to be considered by the GM during your absence. Temporary conversion to a party NPC, replacement with a guest player or NPC, or magic items may be needed to cover for you. Alternatively, a party that has to suffer your absence may learn to appreciate you, assuming they don’t resent you (or your character) for taking the absence.
- Crafting – A simple use of absent time, particularly if your character is expected to missing, is to have them Craft. Either with the Craft skills they have or to use any Item creation feats to make an item (or items) you character has been looking at. We recommend partnering with the GM here. The possible “jobbing” of a PC is something a lot of GMs have firm opinions on. If the GM is okay with it, go ahead and set up shop to sell the wares.
- Tie Up Plot Points – Having a character investigate a plot point of personal concern can be a compelling use of a planned period of absence. Investigate something that has been bothering you about the campaign or otherwise serves to further your characters backstory. Some GMs will be grateful to introduce new plot points through your character during brief sojourn, and you will have the added bonus a being right at the center of a new story arc’s beginning as opposed to having to catch on all the things you missed.
- Retraining – Maybe there has been a long standing regret for your character’s development that you want to fix. Utilizing the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Campaign guide, you can allocate the time to relearn feats, spells or relevel a class. Coming back from the absence with new skills can help make sense of the transition.
Taking the time to straighten out and prepare your absence during an event like PaizoCon or other short-term absence can help support your GM, the campaign and your fellow party members. Clear communication and planning can smooth out the bumps and probably even enrich the game for all involved if done correctly.