We give you permission to split the party. Yeah, we said it.
Maybe the sitter canceled, or a work trip came up, but all of a sudden you have to bail on the next Dungeons & Dragons night with your friends. But rather than ask a buddy to play your character, what if your character had an actual in-story reason to be absent? Thanks to Dungeon Masters Guild content creator Ashley May, you and your DM can work together to craft an excellent off-table adventure—and split the party with no regrets.
I Had to Go Because, a supplement now available for just $2.95, offers over 190 excuses based on the character’s background to explain a sudden absence. Maybe an old friend has asked for help, or they’ve been invited to a fancy ball that’s quite exclusive, or they’ve lost an important personal keepsake somewhere on the path and must hunt for it. Ashley has all these reasons ready, and many more.
She was inspired by her own D&D group and their schedules to create the supplement, Ashley tells Geek & Sundry. “Having to put six other players on hold because one can’t make it is a big problem,” she says, “and winds up making the absent player feel guilty, or as though they should step away from the campaign in a more permanent way. Just because we can’t ‘play all weekend long, as long as we get our homework done’ anymore, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to get the most out of our gaming time with as little stress as possible.”
Speaking of little stress, Ashley even considered the absent character themselves. Players who miss games frequently can often feel left behind or out of the loop, she says, so the supplement also contains suggestions for continuing that character’s solo “off-screen” adventure and being rewarded for it in both levels and loot.
“It was vital to me to include ways to keep people on a level playing field, or even use the returning party member to deliver new and helpful information or magic items, to make their return a boon rather than an obstacle to contend with,” she says.
Ashley crafted eight different options for each character background. That makes 192 total excuses for missing game night, each sparking the creation of new non-player characters, new stories, and new adventures with just a sentence or two. “While some of my fellow DMs Guild writers threw in a few ideas here and there, most of the ideas were drawn from some of my own favorite role-playing experiences and media tropes,” she says.
Out of so many potential adventures in I Had to Go Because, one in particular does stand out to her.
“The charlatan has a particular excuse that’s near and dear to my heart,” Ashley reveals. “They’ve received a wedding invitation from a fellow charlatan they used to run with, but they know better than to assume their old friend is truly trading in the life of a con artist to settle down. They simply have to go to the wedding, either to warn their betrothed about who they really are or simply watch as things go awry in the most spectacular fashion.
“I love its potential for introducing NPCs in the charlatan’s background, and that it can either be a single-session absence (‘the wedding was lovely’) or an extended one (‘the canceled wedding sparked a blood feud and it may be a while before I can sneak out of town’). There’s just so much freedom to grow the excuse in whatever direction the DM wants to take it.”
More D&D Fun!
- Roll the dice for an adventure hook from Geek & Sundry.
- Follow up your Waterdeep Dragon Heist escapades with an adventure from Kobold Press.
- Here’s how to generate a random encounter with the Deck of Many.
Featured Image and Group Illustration: Wizards of the Coast
I Had to Go Because Images: Ashley May / Dungeon Masters Guild