The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

The Parsed Character Sheet

One of the biggest problems my group had during the year we were playing 4E was what to do when a player wasn’t there. I have never been a fan of solutions to this problem that didn’t make sense in-game (i.e. I am against characters just disappearing or reappearing as the player does), and moreover, because of the nature of 4E missing certain roles from the group can be very cumbersome.

Hand Offs Are Awkward

For a short while we tried to work with the two solutions I had used in previous editions – handing the character off, and DM control of the character – but found the added complexity that characters have in 4E makes it much harder for someone unaccustomed to the character just take over.

In the end what started to happen was that we just wouldn’t play when we had less than the whole group, and that was a huge pain. In preparation for our game that will be starting in the new year I have been putting some thought into what to do about a player that will frequently be leaving 60 to 90 minutes before we would like to stop.

Simplifying the Missing Character

We have worked out a game plan for that character (who is a leader) for how he will be played; basically the plan is to use Commanders Strike as much as possible, and Inspiring Word when needed. Obviously this will make him far less useful than normal, but it will be far less disruptive than having the player who takes over spend every combat with his nose buried in the PHB as he tries to figure out what would work best.

But having decided to do this for one character, I have come to realize that we should be doing this for every character. What we really need is a parsed character sheet that has nothing on it but the stats we are going to use in the players absence. (including no calculations)

This sheet would have:

  • Name, class, race
  • Attributes, and bonuses
  • HP and surges
  • Defenses
  • Initiative
  • Perception and Insight
  • Basic Attack
  • One at will power, including complete text from rule book
  • One encounter power, including complete text from rule book
  • List of items that are always in play or vital to the group

And that would be it. We would still have the original character sheet to refer to if necessary, but the idea would be that we don’t want to be thinking about what is on there because it presence would be a huge distraction and time waster.

Hopefully this system of simplifying characters will allow another player to take over with minimum disruption. Sure the character will only just barely be fulfilling his role, but at this point I think its the best compromise.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.


December 22, 2010 - Posted by | 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , ,


  1. how do you handle the possible death of the hand-off character? this is something I struggled with in my home game and one of the reasons I went the companion character route.

    Comment by middleagedm | December 23, 2010 | Reply

    • Over the years I have had some ugly deaths happen in a player’s absence. So now I tend to rig games so the odds of a absent player’s character dying are minimal.

      Basically a single big baddie will attack just about every other character before investing any effort in attacking the missing player’s character, and in a chaotic melee the weakest enemy will pair off against the missing player’s character.

      If some action or lack of action by the controlling player is going to cause serious trouble for the character, I don’t hesitate to drop big hints or even outright tell the player to do somethng with the character.

      Finally, as much as I usually hate to fudge numbers, I will do it to protect the character of an absent player.

      Comment by The Red DM | December 23, 2010 | Reply

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