View Full Version : Replacing PCs in a Believable Manner

2017-11-03, 10:58 PM
I have two new players joining an ongoing campaign at 2nd level. The other characters are currently in a dungeon days from town (Falcon's Hollow from Crown of the Kobold King). In order to keep the party balanced, two other characters will have to leave. My question involves how to get the new characters to pop into the dungeon and have the two old characters leave in a way that is (at least borderline) believable plot wise. I've already overused the trope of the new characters being prisoners by dungeon denizens. Any ideas, even just generic reasons you've used that worked well, would be very appreciated...this game is happening in 2 days :/

Darth Ultron
2017-11-04, 09:10 AM
Fellow adventurers. They came to the dungeon on their own, just like the others. Even better they can be from a group that got mostly killed and they are the survivors.

Bad guys. They were working with the bad guys, but have decided to leave and do something else. (Or they stole the Great Gem, the bad guys are chasing them and they want some friends)

2017-11-04, 09:40 AM
For the two characters leaving, there are a variety of possibilities. If they are followers of a god or other supernatural force than that force could call them away for some important reason. Maybe something in their background is a suitable hook.

Otherwise, a trap in the dungeon could seperate them from the party, allowing them to be safely disposed of.

2017-11-04, 10:05 AM
what happened to the old characters' players?

sometimes it's better to just ask the players' to accept that there's no logical reason for it to occur, but due to the needs of playing a game, we gotta go with some oddities. i.e. sometimes it's better to just openly admit it's nonsense and accept that than to make a flimsy reason and pretend that's it.

2017-11-04, 12:05 PM
what happened to the old characters' players?

I started with two players. They were running extra characters until I could get a full group of players going. Now I've found two more players, and they'll be rolling up new characters tomorrow.

Lord Vukodlak
2017-11-04, 03:49 PM
Everyone falls through a trap door and goes sliding down a long tunnel. It splits part way down with the departing characters going one way and the remaining ones the other. This also leads them to the new PC's.

For a bit of a twist they could land in a locked room secured by a wall of force that can only be deactivated by a lever on the otherside. Then the new PC's show up to rescue them from the dungeon!

2017-11-04, 04:00 PM
Could the new PCs encounter the party and give them some information that, possibly put together with what they already discovered, means that the two need-to-depart PCs realize that they have to go warn someone far away of what's to come?

If the extra old PCs took off riding full speed to some far-way location to warn some NPCs about something, it would get them out of the way for now but in such a way that they could still be part of the campaign at some arbitrary later time if needed. (If they don't have horses, maybe the new guys have not-part-of-their-starting-wealth extra horses they can give away for this very important purpose of getting the old PCs away quickly.)

The new PCs being the remains of another adventuring party (in this case, the one that found out the piece of information in question) would tie that all together pretty well.

If you have some larger plot all of this is part of, try to wrap this "we have to go warn so-and-so about the thing" excuse into it. Probably so-and-so will not be able to deal with the entire problem related to this warning offscreen, and presumably the PCs end up stepping in and dealing with the larger issue in a few more levels when they get to that part of the campaign.

Lvl 2 Expert
2017-11-04, 04:54 PM
Potion of true polymorph up to and including memories of a full different life, in their loot.

For the other character, helmet of involuntarily switching places with a random person by means of teleportation. Dropped by a lurker on the ceiling.


An Enemy Spy
2017-11-04, 08:03 PM
The new guys were there the whole time, but they just never did anything worth mentioning until now.

2017-11-04, 08:23 PM
The new guys were there the whole time, but they just never did anything worth mentioning until now.

This is how I run missing party members. We're all willing to suspend our quibbles with the realism to make things easier and not have to come up with explanations that never quite work.

2017-11-05, 02:05 PM
In my last two campaigns characters of players missing from the current session simply fall unconscious (and during the time spent unconscious they receive prophetic visions related to the main plot).
Players that join the party for just a few sessions have a similar birthmark/tattoo/secret society handshake as all of my party-members, that way the party automatically knows they are on one side.

As for methods of joining the party - I'd just have them run into the new guys fighting off a random encounter (possibly saving them from it) while exploring the same dungeon.

2017-11-05, 03:19 PM
For a simple solution, especially since you're removing 2 PCs and adding 2 in their place, retcon is an option. All that stuff that character A did? Yeah, that was actually character C. Likewise for B and D. Might cause a bit of disconnect, given that the characters won't have the exact same skillset and abilities, but you can assume that anything C couldn't do that A did, it was actually a group effort/done by another character who could.

If you'd rather not go that route, you can have the 2 new PCs lost in the dungeon somewhere, maybe with a companion who has contracted an illness or suffered an injury they can't heal. The two PCs you wish to remove take the injured character back to the surface, while the two new PCs join with the rest of the party to take revenge on whatever injured their companion. It'll almost always require some suspension of disbelief from your players, but hopefully they'll be agreeable enough to work with you so you can get back to the campaign.

Tongue in cheek, but I had a halfling character join the party mid-session by literally pushing out a block from the dungeon wall and rolling out into the middle of the group. That was a one-off we were doing with the most ridiculous characters possible, though, so probably wouldn't fit with a serious campaign. :smalltongue:

2017-11-06, 02:23 AM
The game in question was today. I used a combination of some of the ideas here, and I felt like it went ok. Some of the best ideas here involved planning and thought that I (unfortunately) didn't have time for. Some of the ideas for just having them drop in/appear from nowhere made me chuckle. Trust me, after (over)thinking about this alllll week, I fantasized about many ridiculous and convenient ways to have them plopped into this dungeon and be done with it.
If they were veteran (jaded) players, I'd have no qualms about doing this. But these are first timers who are forming their impression of D&D. I don't want them to get the idea that I don't take the plot seriously. To some extent, I guess you can't always really pull that off in D&D. There are just too many times that the verisimilitude has to take a back seat to keeping the game moving smoothly for everyone.

These forums have been an awesome resource for me since I found them. I am always blown away by the effort some of you folks put into helping out a fellow DM. Thank you!

2017-11-06, 04:19 AM
Good to know it went well.

I'm one of those Jaded GM's with a one group of jaded players. I would just have asked them how their characters wound up in the dungeon and what happened to the others. Saves me the time to think about it so I can spend my limited time on other things :)

Lvl 2 Expert
2017-11-06, 06:30 AM
The game in question was today. I used a combination of some of the ideas here, and I felt like it went ok.

Okay, that's too vague. Details man. What happened when Harry met your mother?

(Yes, that's an attempt at a double reference, not a your mom joke.)