• Justin Handlin

100 Ways to Excuse A Characters Absence

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100 Ways to Excuse a Characters Absence

"I'm so sorry, I can't make it this week." Let's be honest. We've all been there! Most of us are adults and we live busy lives. Unfortunately, this means that on occasion we are forced to make decisions between adulting, and gaming. When this happens, our Dungeons and Dragons table is left without a player. Now, a Dungeon Master is left with a choice. Hand wave the missing character or come up with a clever excuse as to why the character isn't present. Handwaving can really break the immersion but is the easiest solution. Coming up with an excuse to explain their sudden absence can help maintain the immersion. But this can be difficult. Fortunately, Alex Clippinger has us covered with his '100 Ways to Excuse a Character Absence' supplement. This best-selling Dmsguild product is a must-have for any

Dungeon Masters toolbox!

Here are a few of our favorites:

A Cleric while in a city...

Some punk kids trashed the local shrine, as they do sometimes. The cleric is a little short on their temple service quota and they've missed a few too many holy days while out adventuring. They're going to stay back and help with the cleanup.

A Barbarian in the wild...

A tribe of goblins/kobolds/similar declares the 'fearsome one' their new ruler. The barbarian decides to stay back for a little while and see where this goes.

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Character Concept:

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Sealed Dragon

One of my players really love dragons and was curious if there was a way to play one. I had been beating my head against a wall trying to come up with something before listening to your show. So I merely reflavoured a race to match this! The "Sealed Dragon" is the Dragonborn race traits with the appearance of any choice of humanoid. The Sealed Dragon was found by a band of adventurers when it was just a wyrmling after killing its mother. Unable to bring themselves to kill the infant dragon, they brought it along with them until finding a powerful mage to seal away its true identity in the physical body of a humanoid. Unfortunately, some attributes still remain (IE Claw like nails, reptilian eyes, a smattering of scales on a specific part of the body, etc.). The Sealed Dragon can be raised as a normal humanoid or possibly even told of their true nature at a certain age. The truth is revealed when in a threatening situation and an eruption of flames/ice/poison/lightning erupts from their mouth in defense. This particular player is a huge fan of Naruto and was absolutely ecstatic after reading the race and making a comparison to the fox spirit inside of Naruto while being completely unaware of the reskinning of the Dragonborn.

Monster Variant:


Origin: Grick Alpha

Gains Immunity to fire.

Change tentacles - Flaming tendrils, half the damage is done as fire.

Heated Body. A creature that touches the slagwurm or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 feet of it takes 10 (2d10) fire damage.

Legendary Action:

1 Legendary Action

Flame Wave: (Recharge 5-6). Each creature within 30 feet of the worm, must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw, taking (4d8) flame damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.


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Natural Order

A hermit druid in the woods fears there is corruption spreading from deep within the woods. In return, the druid will offer the players a particularly rare magic item or an object they desperately require for story purposes. Unbeknownst to the players, that is not the actual trial. The true trial is encountered when while in the woods, the party becomes alert to the sound of hoofbeats. What initially appears to be fifty or so cavalry units is actually two rows of centaurs approaching from one side. From the other side approaches about fifty or so wemics. Both races have been incapable of acquiring enough sustenance to feed their tribe. After a moment the chieftain of each tribe rides forth the party, begging their assistance in defeating the other in combat so at least one group may survive as opposed to both dying out. If the party does agree to help one side, it is quite obvious they would be able to overpower the opposite side of the fight. In desperation, the two of them begin to offering increasingly more valuable objects. Starting out with golden statuettes of deities/heroes, then priceless gems, bags of gold, items of verying rarity up to artifacts if the DM so wishes. In reality, this is the true test. The Druid is testing not only the players' ability to resist pointless bloodshed in the name of greed, but also understanding the natural order of things. All the party has to do is refuse whatever is offered to them and walk away. If the party goes the extra mile of brokering a peace, all the better. Regardless of their choice, after they fight, leave, or bring peace, the druid appears before the party congratulating or reprimanding them depending on their decision. If the party fails, the druid sends them on their way, unwilling to hear out the party any further. If they walk away, they are congratulated for not being overcome with greed and allowing the natural order of life to run its course. If they manage to bring peace to the tribes, the druid can go so far as to offering a little more, albeit information, an object, etc.

Magic Item:


Armor (shield), very rare (requires attunement by a creature of good alignment)

Found hidden away in an ancient menagerie, its ivory shape appears to have some sort of black gem-like hole in the center lined with razor-sharp teeth upon it.

While holding this shield, you have a +2 bonus to AC in addition to the shields normal bonus.

Devour Corpse: You may spend a short rest to allow the shield to devour an evil creature large or smaller, unless it is a construct. A creature who has been devoured can be restored to life only by a wish spell.

When it devours a creature, the Cardinal shield grants you access to a unique action of that creature. This new feature can used 3 times a day as an action.

Sentience. Cardinal is a sentient neutral good shield with an intelligence of 14, a Wisdom of 10 and a Charisma of 16. The Cardinal can hear out to 30 feet away. While attuned to it, Cardinal understands every language you know.

Personality. Cardinal communicates by transmitting emotion to the creature attuned to it. While it cannot speak, it sends emotional touches to the user’s mind. Encouraging them to conquer evil and allow it to devour monsters of darkness. It doesn’t care what monsters it devours as long as it doesn’t have a pure heart(good alignment). Cardinals shape changes once it's devoured a monster. It takes on a new form based on primary features of that which it devoured. Cardinal turns into a shape similar to the beasts head.

When the new abilities are used, a spectral form of the creature emerges to execute the action. Monster stats are always used for the effect. DM chooses the action feature gained from the stat block.

Example of features to be acquired.

Bite: A common feature of most beasts. And Weapon attacks of humanoids.

Spit Poison:

Ethereal Stride:

Rust Metal


Magic Resistance.

Dungeon Master Tip:

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Invisible Modifiers and Shifting DC’s

Do not be afraid to use invisible modifiers to player rolls on occasion. There are moments the dice just do not do what the players want them to do. Failure and chance are two very real aspects of the game, but every now and then if a success would make for an incredibly interesting situation, do not be afraid to fudge their dice roll on your side of the table by adding a small modifier. This can also help balance a situation in the game. Perhaps a check is made that they would certainly be able to pass based off their character, but due to game mechanics it is unlikely, I will offer a small invisible bonus.

Alternatively, you can adjust the DC’s on the fly to be more favorable to certain players.

Player Tip: Don’t be a Dick

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For the player tip, do not take things personally. Quite a few of my players have at least had some experience with roleplay. Whether it be text-based, through MMOs (WoW/FFXIV), or some other method. One of my players had zero experience roleplaying. Something I think a lot of people go through when they first try their hand at it have issues with separating in character from out of character. This caused a lot of tension at the table when his character would do reckless and foolish things that endangered the party. When the party in turn kept trying to explain this to him in character, he felt like they were ganging up on him and turned on him as friends. Regardless of the players and I explaining to him outside of the game we have no problems with him as a person and still consider him friend, it all woefully ended with him leaving the table on less than great terms. No amount of diplomacy helped. Thankfully, since his departure, he has come around and remains a friend and realized he is unable to separate the two aspects of the game.

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