gm techniques – Reintroducing a character to a campaign after a leave of absence

Write a love letter!

This is, almost literally, what they were made for:

Here’s a batch of custom setup moves. They’re from a game I ran where we missed several weeks in a row. Our collective memory was running dim and we’d lost collective momentum, so when we finally came back together to play I passed these out. They refer to people and events we’d already established in play:

(…)

Dear Lafferty, please roll+sharp. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7–9, choose 1:

  • You’ve found someone else to work with, now that Corwin’s gone
    missing.
  • You’ve organized a charged battery for the helicopter, you have it in
    a box.
  • As yet, you know more about Scanner than he knows about you.

On a miss, choose 1 anyway, but not the one about Scanner.

Love and kisses, your MC

(…)

They worked perfectly. They reminded us what had gone on, and kicked us into the new session with (things) already happening.

— “Love Letters”, Apocalypse World 2e, p.275

So, the three key elements of a love letter:

  • refer to already-established people and events
  • remind you of what went on
  • make things happen to start a new session

Handmade With Love

In Dungeon World they’re called “adventure moves”, but honestly “love letters” is a lot more evocative. The trick here is that in order to present an example of one that’ll work for you I need to dig through your corpus of established people, established events, what went on — which is way, way too much to ask you to provide.

So, what makes a good love letter? What makes things happen to start a new session? Well, as the example shows, a good way to start it is to give people three pressing problems to solve but only let them solve two – you need to find someone to work with, you need a battery for the heli, you need to keep off Scanner’s radar.

For a wizard, maybe those three problems look like this:

Dear Teoru, as soon as you all exploded across the planes you knew this was a problem that could only be solved by staring at a whole bunch of magic. Scrying! Scrying, that’s the word. So you’ve divined the flows arcane that will get you caught up with your buddies, but at what cost? Well, roll +int. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1:

  • You’ve managed to get in touch with someone who’s got a lead on corraling the whole Apocalypse Dragon situation. Tell us who and what their interest is.
  • When Green the Stalwart helped clear out the ruins surrounding the portal you’d need, you impressed them enough that they offered to go halvsies on the treasure instead of claiming it all. (You suspected it wasn’t actually halvsies, but y’know, baby steps.) You have scrolls for three new spells, one of which is at the highest level you can cast.
  • You didn’t need to indebt yourself any further to Ar’adar, Fell Prince of Flames.

On a miss, choose one anyway, just not the one about Ar’adar.

Love and kisses, your GM

But your own prep and campaign notes to date are really going to be doing the lifting there. Happy authoring!