Friday, August 31, 2012

Be A Better Player 12 - Don't split the party

Stay with the party. Four words that so many players fail to understand.

I'm not even going to do an example write up from a game session for this. It would take to long, pages probably, to show just how bad splitting up the party can be. It's much easier to get to the bullet points of the entire subject instead of making you read through all that badly done script writing that I do. Mind you this is something that is bad for both the GM as well as the players. But also bear in mind that sometimes it does work and I will cover that at the end.

Let's start off with why it's bad for you since that is what most players are concerned with... themselves. It will cut your game time down considerably. Let's say you play in a six hour session with four other players and you all split up and go do your own thing. Now instead of being involved in the same stuff at the same time the GM has to bounce from person to person. So you will be going from six hours of game time to about an hour and twelve minutes. All that other time you will likely be setting at the table waiting as the other players get their turn at being the center of attention... one at a time.

Another thing to watch out for is the preplanned GM encounters. Going off about by your lonesome in the wrong place could lead your character right into a group of monsters designed to be a challenge for a group. Being by yourself there isn't any challenge and you pretty much end up being lunch. This can be especially true if you have a GM who runs pregenerated adventures 'by the book' without doing any adjustments. I mean there are few things as fun for a GM as when a single player sends their character down the tunnel into the waiting arms of ten or so Gnolls.

Don't forget that in many games it takes the specializations of the entire group working together to get through a task. I mean it would really suck to get stuck behind a locked door and you're not the thief. Or run out of spells and that handy dandy walking wall of meat with sharp objects (you know the fighter) isn't anywhere around. Maybe even being that wall of meat and bleeding from several of your meaty locations and the cleric is wandering around three rooms away looking at old paintings. So keeping your skills and abilities pooled into one location is a pretty good idea.

Also let me point out the general hassle and headache all of this is for the person running the game. Keeping track of the locations of five different characters at the same time, not to mention remember what each one is doing and what NPC's are involved, etc. This has a chance of grinding that divided game time down even further if they resort to keeping notes. I'll be honest one time I had a player that always strayed from the party. Finally one game I was tired of it and he managed to get his character completely uninvolved from the entire session. So I told him his involvement in that nights game was at an end and he could leave or sit and watch everybody else play because he was done. He got mad and took off, but the next session he stuck with the group.

Now, as I said earlier, I will cover reasons when it is usually acceptable to break up the group.

When the GM makes it abundantly clear that you need to. Basically things like giving you two goals that must get done at almost the same time. Or suggesting that your scout type character could go ahead and see what the bad guys are up to. This means the GM is prepared for the extra headache and stress.

Setting up a trap. Personally if the players are splitting up WITH A PLAN than I see that as not splitting up. But just advanced working together tactics. You know that rare thing called 'teamwork'.

Also a lot of Gamemasters also allow it when the players are shopping. A round robin on the table giving each player ten minutes or so to take care of any purchases and whatnot.

Of course this list is not complete nor will every game be the same. Some folks just prefer things a bit different than others. Some actually prefer the players to be split up quite a bit but from my experience, and that of several folks I know, this is not the normal case. So again take my advice to the table but just be ready in case the person running it has different ideas.


  1. I've enjoyed these (as a GM) and hope to share with some of my problem players. Possible topics:

    * "Be (at least a little bit) predictable."
    * "Be (at least a little) heroic." (Corollary: "Don't ask to be evil.")
    * "Listen to the GM during the game. (And then reference the rules after it.)"
    * "There's a reason things sometimes don't work like the book says. Notice it and move on. It's probably plot-relevant."

  2. Thanks for the feedback and I'll add your suggestions to the list. I'm getting ready to start writing a few more up here real soon.

  3. If your specialization is stealth, and you try to bring Sir Clangs-A-Lot and Sneezy the Allergic Wizard, then you don't have a specialty.