Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 48: Permanent Player Loss/ Death

Main Topic

Sometimes, you lose a player, and not just a character from a game.  Someone at your table is not coming back because they moved away, can’t spend the time on gaming anymore, had a falling out with people in the group, or even die.  How do you handle that in game and at the gaming table?


It isn’t easy when a player leaves a game or gaming group.  This hobby is built around the friendships and personal interactions that happen at the gaming table while we tell stories with the assistance of the rules and books.  If someone is leaving because they are moving or have to reallocate their time, you may have enough time to have a story arc to finish their character’s story. If you have the time to let the story reflect the player’s departure, all the better for the group and the characters.  The characters story continues with the chapter closing for that one player, but more importantly, it lets the group itself recognize and have closure with the player’s departure. Talk to the leaving player about what they want to accomplish or how they want their character to go out – maybe it’s a blaze of glory, or maybe its a character building realization. Work with them to tell that story.


Sometimes, a player leaves because a conflict develops between players (or the GM) which requires a greater understanding by the GM in handling this.  It could be cathartic to take out the frustrations or animosity that exists around the table on the now departed player’s character but that isn’t always the best plan.  Fostering the additional animosity at the table could bleed back into the world away from gaming and if there is enough of a falling out to fracture the group, you need to be the judge of your table to make that call.  An off panel death or betrayal may be sufficient and when it happens away from the P.C.s view, there are always ways to change it later.


Finally, the hardest player loss to handle at a table is when that player dies.  The sad truth of the world is that we all will likely game with people who will die before us at some point. As the GM, you have a delicate balance to walk where the group deserves to be able to mourn and express their loss but also to keep the group together.  A slow decline in health may provide you the time to plan something out about the character that reflects the loss and let’s the group find a cathartic release or purgation by using the in-game loss as a proxy for the in-person loss. Sudden deaths, though, don’t leave you with that option.  Functionally, there are two ways you can handle it – a sudden and off screen event or a session where you as the GM work the character out of the group. A sudden off screen event can help simulate for he characters what their players are feeling and can enhance the ability for the players to sue the characters as an emotional proxy.  Opening at the scene of a fight or accident where that player’s character died can be all the cue a session needs to act as a chance to address what the players lost, even if in the voice of their characters. If you take control of the character for a session or two, do it in service of providing the character closure similar to what we discussed above.  Instead of grieving and focusing the loss into the characters, this method may help smooth over the gaming group and help the group carry on with an easier transition to a table without your missing player.


Stat Blocks



The dark passage yawns from the roots of the great yew tree. As you crawl down into the darkness the smell of old damp things and rot fill your nostrils. You crawl down the passage for what feels like hours and after a sharp turn the light from the small fire is blinding. There is just an earthen floor and diaphanous drapes hanging from the roots of the great tree above. From behind the drapes you hear the sound of something scraping on the floor. As the hanging moves you see someone start to move from the shadows.

The hand flashes forward and small pieces of something wooden bounce off of you. The person scrambles forward to grab the ones that hit you. And the light hits the middle age woman as she finishes scooping up the wood chips. She doesn’t say anything to she has them all and then motions to the earthen floor near the fire. Still silent she starts to lay the wood out which is when you see the runes carved into the chips. And she starts to tell you of the things to come and things that have past before.

The feeling as you crawl back up to the surface is like being born. Or what you think it must be like the worlds possibilities sing to you from the voice of Oun.



The Playground


There are many stories about the playground.  Older kids whisper it’s legends and lore to the younger ones.  Usually dire warnings and the like. The stories about the playground are usually so horrible and gruesome that most kids avoid playgrounds that fit the vague description given to them by their peers.  But not all kids. I mean, who would think that a playground is something to be feared, something to be avoided?


The playground usually appears in vacant lots.  You know the kind of lots you stumble upon when exploring or having an adventure?  The metal swings, metal slide and metal jungle gym are surprisingly sturdy given their age.  There’s even one of those old merry go round spinners and a metal hidey cave. You remember those right?  Kind of like a habitrail for kids? And they all work just fine. Heck they’re a lot more fun than those plastic safety jungle gyms that don’t let you slide fast and you just get all static-y.  These throwbacks to bygone days are so much FUN to play on.


Running up and down the jungle gym, swinging on the monkey bars, and going down the fireman’s pole and slide as many times as possible.  The kids don’t notice the faint whiff of wood smoke. They mentally attribute them sweating to running around or wearing the stupid looking sweater that mom thinks makes them look so grown up (ugh!).  They start getting tired, but there’s still so much fun to be had. So they start swinging on the swings and playing in the cave. There’s so much laughter echoing in the cave that they don’t hear the faint click of the latch.  And they don’t realize that there’s no way out until it’s too late.


A few hours later, the playground disappears.  Leaving behind a pile of ash and the faint smell of wood smoke.  Many monsters of yore had to grow and adapt to modern times. Seems that Baba Yaga made the transition to modern day just fine.



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Omen   noun \ ˈō-mən \


Definition of omen
: an occurrence or phenomenon (see phenomenon 1) believed to portend a future event : augury


Origin and Etymology of omen
Latin omin-, omen


First Known Use: 1582


Popularity: Top 40% of words

Closing remarks

Zendead- Stardew Valley


Joules- Wapsi Square


Guard-a-Manger- Alabama 3 (A3), especially the debut album Exile on Coldharbour Lane. Mixes rock, electronic, blues, country, gospel, and spoken word styles.


Music is courtesy of The Enigma TNG you can find his music on YouTube or on Bandcamp


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Joules- Email, Twitter, Facebook

Nulloperations-Email, Twitter, Facebook

Guard-a-manger- Email, Twitter


And Thanks to Merriam-Webster for our Lexicon segment

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