It’s not often that something happens during a D&D game that I haven’t experienced before, but just a few weeks ago that’s exactly what happened. The circumstances of the adventure terrified my PC so much that he quit. I knew that removing this character from the adventure was the right decisions. Walking away was the only choice he’d make given his detailed and well established background.
In our home game we use a character tree. Every player has a repertoire of PCs that they can choose from at the beginning of each adventure. The adventures run about six weeks and when they’re done everyone levels up. This time around I choose to play my Rogue Daggermaster. He’d been a major NPC in my campaign for years and this was going to be my first chance to play him as a PC. Even though my character wasn’t technically party of the party, he’d been an important part of their lives for 17 levels. This was a character that we all knew as well as any of the PCs.
A major part of the new adventure had the PCs investigating a series of strange occurrences. Without knowing very many details at first we began our investigation. Upon learning what was really going on, I realized that my character couldn’t complete the adventure. Based on his back-story and knowing how I’d played the character through all of those levels as an NPC, the strange happenings would absolutely terrify him.
As a player I was torn. I had a few options before me, none of which I found very appealing.
- I could ignore the character’s background and emotional development and continue on.
- I could continue playing him, and really role-play his intense fear.
- I could simply have him refuse to continue on with the party when they went on to investigate the next location.
I talked with the DM and he explained that at the midpoint of the adventure there would be a suitable in-game opportunity for me to change my character with another in my character tree. Until then I kept playing the Rogue but I really emphasized his growing and almost crippling fears.
When we reached the midpoint of the adventure, my character explained to the party that he couldn’t accompany them any further and that he was leaving. The next week I rotated in a different character.
Never before had a felt so emotionally invested in a character that having him leave the adventure seemed like a better course of action than fighting on. But I knew this character. I understood how he behaved and knew that his fears were justified.
I was fortunate that the DM had a built-in break that allowed for such a smooth exit. Had this not been the case I’m not sure how I’d have played this character for the rest of the adventure.
Looking back on how I handled this situation, I’m positive that I did the right thing. Yet I feel kind of strange about it. Even though I really, really wanted to play this character as a PC for this adventure I still choose to remove him from the game. This was the first time that I knew and understood a character so well that quitting was even an option.
In the past I would have just said “Oh well, he’s scared, that’s too bad for him let’s just move on,” and continued running him like any other PC. But this time the role-playing superseded the mechanics. There was no statistic or penalty to represent his fear; I just role-played him that way.
In combat I played him like I would other characters, but he constantly reminded the party that they were there to perform a task and leave – to the point of seeming cowardly. And when the opportunity to leave presented itself he took it.
I’ve often written about the importance of developing a rich history for your characters. By establishing their motives and understanding their emotions, you’ll often have a better time playing the character and it will be easier to make decisions.
Based on the scenario do you think you’d have made the same decision I did given the situation? Do you think I took things too far and maybe took the game more seriously than I should have in this circumstance? Should I have just had the character get over his fear or even try to turn the mission into some form of emersion therapy?
Have you ever had a character with such strong convictions, motivations or emotions that they choose to quit the adventure rather than proceed? Do you think my DM was too lenient? Would you have given me the same courtesy and allowed me to switch characters mid-adventure if you were my DM?
- Make Your Character More Than Just Numbers
- Character Motivation
- Retreat Is Always An Option, At Least It Should Be