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RPG Superstar 2015

Any tips for a GM on keeping a party together?


Advice


Hey guys, I am running a homebrew urban campaign and I am having a hell of a time keeping the party in any one spot with out them wanting to divide up and go in 2-4 different directions.

Details:

Part of it is an issue of the characters not really liking each other (they just hit level 2 so it's pretty early). a big part is the campaign itself, I gave them all little side goals, hoping they would use their 'friends' to try to accomplish their goals. Instead they largely just want to run off on their own. The idea being there are a number of factions and those factions are using the players in their own ways.

Its lead to a few silly things like a player ditching the others to run off on their own to meet with a shady assassin in their own on the assassin's turf. Or one player running off to meet with a plot critical NPC that everyone was supposed to meet, then not telling the other players/characters what she learned because she doesn't trust them. (They are supposed to be working on a mystery and no one is talking to each other).

One player completely disregarding the original plot hook because his character was disinterested.

I find I keep having to have NPCs show up and offer to pay them to go places together. I gave them an NPC cleric who was working on the case just so he could pay them to follow the original campaign hook.

So far I have had a hell of a time getting the four PCs in any one place at one time because of it. Finally I decided to not pull any punches and tossed a CR 2 encounter they were all supposed to go up against, against two of them who were the least equipped to deal with it (though there were several outs there incase it went bad). They actually pulled off a surprising victory though, but I am hoping it drove home the danger they are in.

There have also been several out of character conflicts regarding one character getting more spot light than another. All of which is bleeding into the game AND making it more difficult because I can't run four games at once, if they split up someone is going to end up sitting on their hands while the others do stuff.

The group make up is... I think part of the problem. of the four characters one has only the slightest interest in the plot, another has her own agenda and does not care about the plot. Another is interested but his player isn't the kind to actually lead or take initiative when it comes to learning stuff. The other is interested and good at that but has been conflicting with two other players over various things and I think this is negatively effecting the group.

So, that was rambly any advice on salvaging this group?

TL/DR

Players all want to do different things in a very non-linear campaign. And keep splitting up and not working together and its giving me a headache and I can't throw any of the bad guys at them with out fear of killing them.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Pretty much you have two choices. Both involve sitting down and discussing this with the players.

“Guys, I am a little disturbed about party cohesion here. D&D is a cooperative game, and I’d prefer the party mostly adventure as a group. This also makes less work for me, which means I get to have more fun. Part of this was my fault in not setting out some clear campaign and background goals. So, we have two choices- either you guys decide that your PC’s are much more into working together, or we restart the campaign, with me setting out those clear campaign and background goals. “

Or, you can just go immediately for choice 2, restart with a background and goals. One interesting and fun way of doing this is to have each Player come up with a connection with the other PC’s and why they are adventuring together.

Lantern Lodge

I say proceed with the plan if they encounter it split up then let the die if there ot smart enough to fight it together or run. If they die they die. Keep in mind an old D&D saying "let the dice fall as they may." Dont actively try to kill them but if they do life threatening things then let them and see how it goes.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I agree completely with DrDeth.

"of the four characters one has only the slightest interest in the plot"Then the characters they made are not the right ones for your campaign. I would tell the players they have a choice, they must each either make their character interested in the plot (by changing something about their character), or make a new character.

"I can't throw any of the bad guys at them with out fear of killing them."
Don't forget that bad guys don't necessarily have to have to kill the PCs just because they beat the PCs. I suggest that you don't avoid or tone down the encounters. Instead, if the characters split up and get defeated, take them captive until the others ransom or rescue their companions.


I'm inclined to say the best course of action is for you and your players to have a long chat out of game about what isn't occurring in game.


First talk to the players OOC. Point out that the game isn't quite so much fun if everyone walks in a different direction, because then each player spends 75% of the time waiting for other PCs that he's not in the same place with.

"But my character concept..." isn't a valid excuse here. You can make a "lone wolf" character ONLY ON THE CONDITION that you figure out why he's sticking with the other PCs most of the time. If you can't do that, make a different character. There's no sacred rule that every concept is equally valid; the best concepts are those that allow the group to play together.

Tell the players that their PCs motivations should be complementary; they don't have to be identical, but they need to be compatible. Some of them may adventure for treasure, others to prove their bravery or earn glory, and others to find mystical secrets or Promote Truth And Justice.
All those things can fit together quite well, once the characters admit that they'll all have better chances by adventuring together.

This OOC conversation should be very unsubtle; just tell them that to have fun together as players, they need to find a way to stick together.

They don't even necessarily all have to be interested in the plot directly, if they have "sticky" with each other as a group; if some PCs come along on the adventure because they wanna stay with another PC (love interest, friendship, family), that's fine. Maybe later on the tagalong PC will find something motivating on the adventure too.


Blueluck wrote:

I agree completely with DrDeth.

"of the four characters one has only the slightest interest in the plot"Then the characters they made are not the right ones for your campaign. I would tell the players they have a choice, they must each either make their character interested in the plot (by changing something about their character), or make a new character.

"I can't throw any of the bad guys at them with out fear of killing them."
Don't forget that bad guys don't necessarily have to have to kill the PCs just because they beat the PCs. I suggest that you don't avoid or tone down the encounters. Instead, if the characters split up and get defeated, take them captive until the others ransom or rescue their companions.

While the idea of ransom and or rescue sounds like a good idea I'm thinking their response is all too likely to be essentially "not my problem". They already aren't working together in game or out of game from the sound of it.


Maybe throwing the bad guys and them almost getting killed will force them to stay together. At a recent game of ours we were in a split hallway killing gnolls that had bottlenecked. 2 of our party members were bored and went exploring another area, they saw more and instead of waiting, attacked. There were 10 gnolls in the room they attacked without looking first, and 2 of our party died died during that encounter. One of the dead was one of the original bored people. the rest of the party was captured save for my rogue, a fighter and a mage. We got some hirelings, and had a rescue mission, of which we lost an additional party member due to a random sacrifice.
Maybe try creating missions where they all have to share knowledge to achieve success. Like having to figure out a puzzle when each party member has a piece of the puzzle and they have to work together to see the picture.


How much of the campaign have you planned out? If the characters aren't interested in the plot, perhaps the players aren't either. Maybe you should talk to your players and see what they want to do, and re-design the sessions so that all of the players and characters are motivated to follow the plot. Or if the players are interested but the characters aren't, have them retire that character and make a new one that fits more cohesively with the party.

Lantern Lodge

Also if ur players are just not interested find some that are the net is a wonderful thing for that.


Start with a conversation OOC. Explain the problem, and ask them to adjust their in-game actions. If they absolutely cannot achieve party-cohesion, then you need to either change the campaign, or simply tell them that they are making things much harder on their characters, and you are not going to pull any punches if they end up facing party size challenges on their own.


Thank you all for the responses. Some of the ideas I've also been thinking about. I will talk with them next game session too and sit them down.

It's possible they just don't like the campaign, though I was pretty frank and up front with them originally about what they would be doing.

Theres a few plot points coming up next session that should drive home exactly how much danger they are going to be in if they don't stick together so perhaps that will help too.

One problem might be the very open ended campaign style might not be right for a few players. I know one guy is fairly new and may not feel confident enough to suggest things to do, I might talk to him privately and see if thats the case. A few times its very much been"Okay heres where you are, you guys meet back up at your base of operations, heres what you see there, *lists new people hanging out at the tavern* what are you going to do" *crickets*.

Maybe I should give them some more obvious hooks for them to latch onto.

Grand Lodge

Another option, perhaps not ideal for you, is to ditch the original plot and just wing it making it a very organic, fluid campaign where no one know what is going to happen. The fun part for you is you have almost no prep to do. Hard part is improving everything.

WHen I do that, I don't bother with stat blocks for major bad guy NPCs. I wing it with what "feels" about right and keeps the bad guy on stage long enough to be fun.


Krome wrote:

Another option, perhaps not ideal for you, is to ditch the original plot and just wing it making it a very organic, fluid campaign where no one know what is going to happen. The fun part for you is you have almost no prep to do. Hard part is improving everything.

WHen I do that, I don't bother with stat blocks for major bad guy NPCs. I wing it with what "feels" about right and keeps the bad guy on stage long enough to be fun.

I don't mind doing this, but the open and organic parts of the campaign are whats causing the most trouble because no one wants to do anything or interact with anyone. They seem to respond best when someone approaches them "I have a mission for you, you will get 200 gold for going here and dealing with X"

To the point where when someone got a new lead, and decided to investigate something plot important another character didn't follow but instead went to wait by the sewers he was paid to investigate something in. Even though the person with the key to get in AND the NPC who paid him agreed it was better to follow up on the other lead and do the sewers after and even went to the other lead himself.

Star Voter 2013

I stopped GMing a two year campaign due to party cohesion. One person who started after a year or so in seemed to actively try to disrupt the party. He was major munchin on his first character and when told about how he was removing boss battles from the game and I would start building scenarios with lots of fodder to use up his resources and give others something to do, he simply didn't fight until the group got to the bosses so he could single handedly take them out. The way I saw it, my options were to make the BBEGs so threatening that if he died it was a sure fire TPK or kill him; talking hadn't worked.

He came back as a character much more on par with everyone else but also he was the only one with a teleport spell so this led to lots of issues. He was constantly finding reasons to leave the party scattered all over the continent. I spoke with him several times on the issue outside of game and I basically got lip service in return. Out of game he would agree with me but in game I would get "my characters motivation" diarrhea from him. I finally disbanded the game after about 3 consecutive sessions no one having fun.

If I had it to do over again, I would have booted the player and kept things moving much earlier.

In your position now, I would boot your completely disinterested player and see if that tightens up the party any.


You really should talk to them, but you could make something all of the characters want to attend, or need to, like the crowning of a new king etc. monsters or something attack and they aquire a rare disease... You just basically need a common enemy for them it seems.

Star Voter 2013

Ish it may be worth a shot but I doubt it. I repeatedly built things into the game to hook my "unmotivated" player and he kept finding new reasons to lose his motivation. I literally built a new town on the continent for him to govern, because he said this is something his character would be interested in, but about six sessions down the road he started actively killing some of his inhabitants and then left everything behind with aspirations to go be a pirate in a non-water based campaign rather than reassemble the party he scattered across the continent and continue a clearly laid out path of breaking the massive compulsion on his town.

If the player is more interested in being a rebel to get eyes on them by bucking the system, not much else really matters.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

One alternate idea for insuring party cohesion is Sovreign Glue, followed by an epic quest to recover some Universal Solvent.


Well, I'm not really sure. That one player doesn't just sound unmotivated, but also disruptive...good luck!

Dark Archive

TheRonin wrote:

I don't mind doing this, but the open and organic parts of the campaign are whats causing the most trouble because no one wants to do anything or interact with anyone. They seem to respond best when someone approaches them "I have a mission for you, you will get 200 gold for going here and dealing with X"

To the point where when someone got a new lead, and decided to investigate something plot important another character didn't follow but instead went to wait by the sewers he was paid to investigate something in. Even though the person with the key to get in AND the NPC who paid him agreed it was better to follow up on the other lead and do the sewers after and even went to the other lead himself.

Sounds to me like they aren't adventurers/explorers/mercenaries. Sounds to me like they are NPCs. Sure, it's not uncommon for many fantasy games to follow the formula of "guy hires group for job" it really has to be "guy hires group" or it doesn't work. If this is the only way to hook the players in, have the guy who is hiring them insist on getting them all together before he gives them the job, or otherwise getting the point across he's hiring all the PCs and not just the guy who did the talking to him. Otherwise, the character are just NPCs who are running odd jobs actual adventurers don't have time for.

I agree with the suggestions to talk with your players. Find out what they want to do. Ask them why their character adventure together (they seem not to, but ask them why they do and maybe they'll get the hint). Ask them what their common goals are. Ask them individually how the other characters in the group help them to achieve their personal goals.


TheRonin wrote:

I don't mind doing this, but the open and organic parts of the campaign are whats causing the most trouble because no one wants to do anything or interact with anyone. They seem to respond best when someone approaches them "I have a mission for you, you will get 200 gold for going here and dealing with X"

To the point where when someone got a new lead, and decided to investigate something plot important another character didn't follow but instead went to wait by the sewers he was paid to investigate something in. Even though the person with the key to get in AND the NPC who paid him agreed it was better to follow up on the other lead and do the sewers after and even went to the other lead himself.

Well, seems like the easiest and most palatable solution is to just scrap the organic portions.

Re-tool the mystery into a bunch of small missions, and have a primary quest giver telling them where to go and what to search for in a given area.

Ex:

Mayor Todd: I need you to go to Mrs. Willingham's estate in Woddlebury and investigate her house. Nobody has heard from her in several days and some people in the village nearby said they saw flashes of light and brief bursts of sound coming from her general direction. I will pay you 500 gold in addition to any expenses you may incur for the journey.

And send them on their merry way. If they want a more rigidly directed game, give it to them. When they get there they find signs that Mrs. Willingam was murdered in accordance with the cult they were trying to track and they left signs of their departure that can be followed.

There's nothing wrong with it, they stay together, go where you want them to, and they get rewarded for completing their goals.


Thank you all for the responses.

I am taking them all under advisement. Next game session I am going to set them down and basically tell them straight up, that while this is an open ended campaign, and they can side with whomever they want... they need to do it as a group. I am going to have one of their NPC allies who has hired them demand they all follow up in a tip he received. And once that happens they are going to get hit hard.

Several tough encounters planned. Not unwinnable, but tough. This city they are in (A homebrew kingdom in the southern river kindgoms) is about to have all hell break loose, and they can either hang together, or hang separately (to borrow a phrase).


Don't start at the beginning of the adventure, start somewhere with them already together.

I had a group start with two of the players hanging from the remains of a rope bridge and a troll throwing rocks at the rest of the players.

They pretty much stayed together for the rest of the adventure after, having to fight together to stay alive.


Rather than dictate how the game will be played, try this approach:

Don't suggest that there is a right or wrong way to play your campaign. Instead, emphasize that Pathfinder is a team game; if everyone is moving in their own directions away from each other, then it's going against the spirit of a team game. The characters may possibly have their own agendas, but it shouldn't detract from the *heart* of the game: a game based on teamwork. Players should have their characters make choices that will more often result in the party being together rather than apart. It's perfectly OK to occasionally have some side adventures with a partial team composition. But the Pathfinder game itself assumes that everyone is together when a true challenge is placed before the party.

So don't tell them that they're playing the game incorrectly. That's just going to make them frustrated that they can't let their characters do what they want to do. Ultimately though, the player chooses the character's actions. . . not the other way around.

And if they still try to push their characters away from the party, let them do so. . . but let them also face real consequences in-game.


I'm currently running a game, teaching students who have had little to no experience with D&D in the past. In their third session they split the party, with 3 of them going into the sewers and two others assigned to check out some other things. The 3 in the sewers found out why you don't want to split the party when they ran into a couple of fights. The first fight was against two goblins that they took out quickly. The second fight was against 3 skeletons. Unfortunately the party cleric was one of the two left behind, and they did not have knowledge religion to know about the skeletons damage resistance. The 3 did finally prevail, but at the cost of two of them going down and needing to use their precious healing potions.

I think after this they might be a bit more reluctant to split the party, or at least make sure they look into the split party makeup a bit more throughly.

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