I have a player who occasionally does totally random things. Now, I don’t mind players doing unexpected things. When they investigate or veer off into odd and obscure territory, I do my best to seed information or resources useful to the scenario in those directions, to reward engagement. My plans tend to be the back-up, and the information and NPCs I thought through ahead of the game are more of a safety net in case the players don’t go in unique and creative directions.
My last game session, I had a player who left the scenario for no reason I could detect. To me, this is highly unusual. I’m still trying to figure out what was going on there.
In the previous session, his monk character crept up on a camp on the moor, noting the presence of a handful of mercenaries and some women in a caravan. That’s where he was when the last session ended.
He was alone, only having had conversation with two of the other player characters. He had not sought out the others, the other PCs had not introduced him, and even when the two were discussing the mystery of the house he made a point of not listening.
So, returning to his solo excursion on the moor. He snuck up to the camp and watched for a while, then when everyone went to bed he used winter apples that were on hand and made friends with a horse. Then he put a blanket on its back and the harness on it, and stole the horse.
I don’t see any way to connect this to an investigation of the situation at the house. He was a wandering monk, and didn’t particularly want money or the horse. He compounded general disconnection with the game, with random crime that is a hanging offense. I just don’t get it.
He rode to the house, where the NPC stable groom told him he’d have to hide his horse in an outbuilding, not in the Lord’s stable. So he rode on to town, found a road leading away from the whole village, and took it.
I put two of the mercenaries guarding that road, because it was one of the few ways out of town. Maybe I wasn’t seeing his overall plan and he had a way to pull all this back into the scenario. He fought past them and escaped fair and square (not too tough for one of his talents.) So I let him go.
He spent the rest of the evening alternating between sitting at the table and sitting on the couch, watching. He expressed no displeasure at what was going on in the game, and no regret at leaving the scenario. I’m not sure what he thought was going to happen; did he think he was going to have fabulous solo play parallel to the whole rest of the group in his exciting journey to points far away?
I think we all would have been better off if he had just sent me an email; “Hey, I don’t feel like playing, so my monk sneaks away.” Then he could have played video games and gotten some extra sleep.
It’s sometimes frustrating when players don’t give you anything to work with. On the bright side, I think everybody else had fun. At least he didn’t try to wreck it for those who actually wanted to play the scenario.