After a few frustrating battles, my gaming group nearly abandoned Spock mode. Our fights already take forever (we’re working on that) and this was making it worse. We were about to revert back to the ‘puff of logic’ method when one of my cohorts suggested what we now sometimes call ‘clone mode.’ With this method, other players still control the missing character, but instead of using the normal five page version, they control a stripped down companion character style version.
This does require some work by our DM: he uses the Dnd Insider Monster Builder to craft each character, and he has adjusted the powers and defenses over time. The goal is to make a character with roughly the flavor, who can fulfill roughly the same role, but can be picked up and played quickly and easily.
These clones aren’t 100% compatible with their PC counterparts, so there are mechanical challenges. In order to keep the characters simple, you have to limit their number of powers. This translates into fewer daily and encounter powers, which makes the clone less powerful, especially later in gaming work day. To counter this, our DM has increased the accuracy and damage output of some individual powers by a point or two. We’ve found this to be the most satisfactory solution by far.
D&D 4th edition is a complicated game, and managing a gaming group is a complicated activity. When negotiating player absences, a few simple principles can make the game much smoother. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and work to create an environment where experimentation is safe. Try Spock mode, see how it goes, and be open and honest about how it affected the fun of the game. Create clones and see if that works better; are they too powerful or not powerful enough? Are the characters still too complicated? If so, keep tinkering until you as a group find something you’re happy with.