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Hi all

The PCs in my game are investigating a Dark Side-using underworld organisation in the lower levels of Coruscant.  Inevitably, this means that many of the sessions take the form of mysteries.  Which is great, and was the whole point of the campaign.  But...

...inevitably, when some information needs to be acquired, they split the party.  And not just in half.  Last session I had six players (I know, too many), and each of them went to do their own thing!  I can't really fault them, because it's actually by far and away the most obvious and efficient thing to do within the framework I've provided (yes, that's on me).

The issue is that while I'm focusing on one player, the others are starting to get bored; I then try to respond by flipping between the players more quickly, but that's interrupting the flow and they're finding it hard to stay engaged.

I just wondered whether anyone else has had this issue...and whether you had any creative solutions?

Thanks in advance.

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The way I see it, the only way to prevent a total narrative mess is to prevent the party from splitting up too much in the first place. Perhaps there are some people the PCs have bad blood with? If one of them is out on his own, they might just get jumped! Maybe don't make that happen, but play up the possibility of it happening by having the party stalked at times or an ally of theirs beat up.

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1 minute ago, GroggyGolem said:

Cut between players after every action just like in a structured encounter. Just don't track initiative.

I've had terrible luck with this method.  I tend to run into problems that 1 group travels for 30 minutes to get to a location, while another group breaks into the building next door.  The group breaking in has a lifetime of structured time before the other group even gets to their destination.  I tend to run each person/group for a scene, then switch.  The exception to this is if they are close enough to come to each other's rescue, then you may jump back and forth a bit more.  You may also switch when one group calls the others on a comlink.  Then run everyone till they get the call.

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When I've had to split up the party, I found it helped to enlist the players who aren't doing anything as NPCs. In a mystery, they obviously won't be NPCs with useful information, but they can clearly add to a scene and it keeps them more invested. For example:

-the NPC has a protocol droid who is fond of cursing everyone and everything in a mix of Rodian, Huttese, and ancient Corellian.

-the area of Coruscant the PC wants to go to is off limits without a local guide; this orphan is that guide, and she's trying to make the PC pay her for everything.

-the cantina the PC visits has a DJ who cannot resist calling out patrons, playing inappropriate songs, and basically making itself a nuisance.

-the NPC has a droid who wants desperately to be purchased by anyone else.

Basically, I try to come up with some NPCs that will add to the personality of the scene, but who add no plot and no crunch. If the Player does a good job role playing, their part of the story is granted a boost, or some other favorable byproduct of them remaining engaged and helping the story along. Bonus - if your group likes this and it works, they will sometimes come up with better suggestions than you thought of, and it will make your setting a more interesting and vibrant place.

 

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Talk with all the players, explain that there will be some down time here.  Maybe take the one player  your interacting with into a separate room so the rest of the party can just hang out, BS, play games on their phone, or whatever, without disturbing your role play session.  Then when done you call the next player in.  It's a good chance to feed some info to one player that maybe the others aren't aware of.  Try to keep the sessions relatively brief, but give them a chance to shine.

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You know, there's a reason D&D players say "Never split the party." 

Personally, I would give your players some reasons to fear splitting the party. It will make it less likely that they'll metagame their decisions, and will make it less likely they'll split up and put pressure on you. I know that this is a really difficult facet of GM-ing, and it is one that I struggle with too. 

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I have no issues with splitting the party up in terms of dividing attention between players - maybe I am justlucky wiht my players staying engaged even if they only do a couple of dice rolls for a whole session.

The problem I have as a GM is making sure the party split works fine in terms of the information sharing.  having comlinks helps a lot, but sometimes I want to have diffrerent players not knowing what's happening with the others, but just can't pull it off when everyone is at the same table. the only way around this is obviously to avoid such situations, but I do feel that I am missing so much opportunities this way...

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While I have not had to deal with the situation you describe exactly, if i did here is how i would handle it.  Narrative.  I have done this before in campaigns that have a "downtime" period of months to years where each person wants to go do their own thing, but I don't see why it couldn't work for a shorter time.  Basically you ask each person intend to do, and then shortly describe what they do generally without needing specific dialogue with NPC/s or multiple dice rolls. Basically each person is getting a "scene" not and encounter.  This can be tricky and here are the things i would try keep in mind for myself.

-Only speak generally about how their character accomplishes their goal. It's important that you don't take away their agency by saying your character does "this" and then the player stating their character would never do "that".

  • Bad: You head to the bar to gather the information about the bounty you are after, after asking some questions you blast 3 people to get the info you want.
  • Better: You head to the bar to gather the information about the bounty you are after, *roll dice*. Failure. You gets some dead end leads, and have to shell out 50 credits but you get the info after a few hours.

-Only require a dice roll or two if the plot demands the potential for failure, otherwise if the task is assumed to be complete-able either require no roles and assume its completion or otherwise the roll outcome simply determines how long it will take (eg if the roll fails they still accomplish the task it just takes longer/costs more, etc)

 

I think handling this narratively would accomplish two things. 1. keeps the Party separation short, and 2. Players may realize that if the continue to split up they don't actually get to have in depth interactions/encounters which will get boring.

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My players know that if they split up, then I'm going to have to split time between them.  I do my best to make things interesting for all parties and not spend too long with one group, and it's never been a problem. 

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9 hours ago, GroggyGolem said:

Cut between players after every action just like in a structured encounter. Just don't track initiative.

This is what I do.  Mind you, my group is only 3 people, but to me it's the same principles as combat, and nobody complains about that.  If the players are clever, they can even make their narrative results effect each other (within reason).

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17 hours ago, GroggyGolem said:

Cut between players after every action just like in a structured encounter. Just don't track initiative.

I was thinking that actually reducing the time on each player might actually help - this seems like it would essentially make everything part of the same scene, rather than 6 separate scenes all going on at the same time.  Might not work every time, but I can see this being a good possibility.  thanks.

 

7 hours ago, whafrog said:

If the players are clever, they can even make their narrative results effect each other (within reason).

 

I like that.  I'll have to point that out to them.

 

17 hours ago, JRRP said:

When I've had to split up the party, I found it helped to enlist the players who aren't doing anything as NPCs.  

 

This is an interesting idea, and something I had not considered at all!  I don't know whether all my players would be up for this, but some of them might be....

 

16 hours ago, Vestij Jai Galaar said:

Personally, I would give your players some reasons to fear splitting the party. It will make it less likely that they'll metagame their decisions

1

So, I'm a bit nervous about this one, because I don't view it as "metagaming" - these are believable decisions that the PCs might well make (in many ways, artificially staying together against all logic would be "metagaming" more than splitting up is).  However, I can see the benefit in providing a sense of risk in splitting up...maybe a random encounter system could function in that way.  After all, the lower levels are a dangerous place...

 

Thanks all for the replies.

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We spilt the party regularly and it works out fine. My sessions for most is a catch up time as well as a gaming session, so those not immediately involved in the action can go off and socialise away from the table. Most of our spilts are two way in nature, though further temporary spilts may occur depending on the tasks we set out to do.

That being said, we still have broad groups, like often we might spilt off into teams that will do separate tasks and meet up. Like the last few sessions we were in 3 broad groups. The Shippers (who had returned to the ship and had fallen foul to customs and interparty douchery) the keepers (who watched over the digintaries until the dust had cleared from a recent imperial engagement, in the previous session they were the group that had intercepted a dramatic attempt to assassinate said people) and the captured (which consisted of one member of the party that was unfortunately left to imperial custody. The docking party had meant to be tracking her down, but had got stranded at the dock for reasons.). The play rotated between those three groups at regular intervals until the situation had been resolved.

Edited by LordBritish

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