Split party, need some tips

9 posts / 0 new
Last post
So I have 4 players and they're characters just had  traumatic experince, the tribe they were a part of was scatterted and the leaders of it captured. They sat around a camp fire discussing options, knowing they could not rescue thier tribe on they're own. Over 10 options came up, I actually intended each of these options to span mutliple sessions and be indepth, however the party did something I did not expect.

They split up.

2 of them intend to visit a vampire clan while the other 2 will meet with a tribe of barbarians and meet up later. I've never quite dealt with something like this, any advoce for running a game in which the party is in diffirent areas?
Kill one of the splits. Players should learn to never split the group. Joking of course.  Have one of the splits get into dire straights and make it apparent for the one not in danger that their mission can be accomplished at a later date. The split that is in the most danger, allow them creative ways to send a message across great distances outlining their distress to their other half of the party. Prayer from one player through deity to another player. Empathic or telepathic message across the great distance between two specific characters, perhaps ones with close ties to each other. If one is an arcane caster, let them make an auto successful emergency Animal Messenger ritual to the split.

Or you can wing it the best you can. One suggestion (especially if you play regularly and consistently) is swap sessions back and forth. Focusing on one story per session, letting the player's whose characters aren't involved play some important NPCs in the story for that session. And the next session reverse to the other half and play out the session with their stories.

I've tried to play split parties with multiple quests going on at the same time, it's not easy to do. Switching back forth in the same session to one group to the other often leaves players feeling left out and bored when it's not their group you are focusing on. So it's important to be sure that all your players are playing at all times even if they aren't playing their characters. Just my experience, I hope it helps. Happy DMing.
Run each pair individually and do private sessions until the party links back up.  Seems like the easiest way to handle it, or at least what I would do.  If possible weave the two seperate plotlines together, like have the group visiting the barbarians be able to convince them to assist with the slaying of the vampires.
Tolkein was a jerk. Seriously, what DM sends 9 Wraith Lords at a Lvl 2 party of Halflings. The only 'correct' way to play D&D is by whatever method is making the group you have at that session, have the most fun.
Run each pair individually and do private sessions until the party links back up.  Seems like the easiest way to handle it, or at least what I would do.  If possible weave the two seperate plotlines together, like have the group visiting the barbarians be able to convince them to assist with the slaying of the vampires.

This seems like the better option.

The other thing is to throw it out to the players, explain that you can run dual sessions with both parties for a short period(NOTE THE USE OF SHORT!!)but it will mean switching between the two group during the session.

The other option is to do the session for one group, then do a session for the other group. This will of course mean that one group will be missing out on the session each time. 

Ask you players which option that they would prefer, but I'd also re-iterate that a split party game is a temporary option and that you don't want to run a split game for the long term.
Have the two missions combine at one point, the vampire clan and barbarians  are connected in someway. The players find out that the barbarians are servants of the vampires or something. Thats if you want to change the storyline.

Note my team has half explorers half railroad conductors. So our GM decides to have us roll Init to decide which section goes first. These sections usually last 10 mins. 
Ant Farm
Have the two missions combine at one point, the vampire clan and barbarians  are connected in someway. The players find out that the barbarians are servants of the vampires or something. Thats if you want to change the storyline.

I recommend this.

I also recommend avoiding full-on combat for either group until they're back together. I have had my group split on a couple of occassions and it works fine, as long as I'm not trying to run a full combat. If there is conflict, it's all narrated, or handled via skill challenge.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I also recommend that you combine the two parties/quests again and in short order.

Combat is definitely not out of the question though if you know how to balance combat for 2-3 players. Having run a 2-person game for the last 8 months or so, I've gotten a good handle on that. It can be done and interestingly. If you're not up for combat, then skill challenges will do just fine.

The trick really is keeping one group engaged while the other is sitting around with their sunrods in their hands. If you're good at storytelling, this is not a problem - simply flip back and forth just like in a movie. When you get a decision point with one group, flip to the other and let the first group discuss their next step. We're talking 10-15 minutes TOPS spent on each group before flipping back.

Another thing I've done in the past is to create NPC cards and give them to the players who are not currently in the spotlight and let them play a minor NPC in the scene where the active players are playing. Name, race, occupation, couple of quirks, and 2-3 bits of information they need to pass along through roleplaying and you've got yourself an ensemble cast.     

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I've done quite a few split party situations, both with combat and no combat situations.  What i found that worked was having initiative, and grouping the  people who are together, be next to each other in initiative.  I switch between the two or three parties (it's harder when there are 7 players total and they're in 3 groups) using initiative, basically giving each party a round to do actions, maybe two if they're talking or whatever. 

For instance, the party had to gather ingrediants for a complicated potion.  One group went into the moutnains to get a rare flower, one party broke into an alchemy shop, and another searched in an old section of town.  All three used skills to navigate and make actions.  All three groups got into combat.  The goal is to keep things moving along.  The encoutners were a bit scaled back in terms of HP, and i did give the enemies damage rolls bit bit of an extra kick.

I think it really depends on your group too.  if they are having fun being in pairs or whatever, and just paling around, it may be easier.  Generally my players don't get too bored when not in combat.  The few that do, i make sure to give them some extra time when it's thier turn.

Anything that railroads them back together too aggressively is a bad idea.  There is no reason that you can't run both sub-groups in parallel, switching between each group multiple times during a session, or running a whole session per group.  I've done this many, many times over the years (although more often by design rather than player initiated) and seldom had issues with it.

As DeathByDonut mentioned, you need to give the players who don't have their PCs present something to do, and allowing them to run an NPC is usually the best option.  I tend to avoid having them play an important NPC as it allows them to play the character how they want to.  In a long-running campaign, players often enjoy having the opportunity to play a different class for a session or two.