I'm GMing an upcoming game where one PC will be dueling an old rival in a Trial By Combat. It's a HUGE deal for this one character and has been building for the past 15 levels.
My question is: What should I have the other players do? This fight could very well take the entire evening by itself, and I don't want them to be bored.
- Rescuing him is not an option. He intends to fight this battle and win it fair and square.
- Helping him is not an option. It's 1-on-1 and the PC does not intend to cheat.
- It doesn't make roleplaying sense for them to skip this event and go elsewhere because it's so big and important.
So...suggestions? It doesn't have to be combat, I just want the RL players to have something to do other than watch.
Just run this one game with the understanding that the focus will be on the particular PC. Focusing on one character for short periods of time is fine as long as you eventually do the same for all the characters. The other players should also have their time in the spotlight but not just now.
Keep the duel short so it does not totally dominate the game. Have a few subplots to give the other players something to do. You mentioned the player does not intend to cheat, but what about his opponent. If his opponent is planning something dirty maybe the other players could discover it and counter it.
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give the party something else to do while the pc in question does his thing, bad guy has a small army of mooks that need to be delt with, party deals with them while pc with grudge deals with bad guy throw in a miniboss for the other members to fight in addition to the mooks so they still get their lime light
Let them rake in money by betting about the outcome of the duel.
I added the The Ruby Phoenix Tournament to a Jade Regent campaign. Three PCs and one NPC joined the tournament as contenders. Two PCs and an NPC investigated a conspiracy to cheat. The last two NPCs ran the fan club for their team from a saki and noodle shop. Though only three PCs were in the spotlight, the other PCs and their cohorts had their own action on the sidelines. And the fan-club NPCs did make a lot of money betting for their team.
Look for side plots that can involve the other players. What other people with a vested interest in the outcome of the duel? Will some try to aid their favorite? Will some make bets? Will some want revenge afterwards?
And if the players like each other, they won't mind mostly watching the roleplaying of their friend.
Speak to the other players and explain that since this is such a momentous occasion for that player's character you would like their help in ensuring the player in question has the most fun time possible. Basically make them secret DM assistants for the duration of the event and see what ideas they come up with.
It might be pretty fun if there was a bounty or something set by the other side. So one PC will have to track down a sniper, another will have to eliminate a witch from interceding, and then maybe someone else has to figure out how to divert a stampede of aurochs. Go crazy!
If you explain to your PCs this is a one-time thing, they might be fine if most of the effort is spent on the dueler, while more basic challenges are there.
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As those above are suggesting, there might be an influence outside of the ring that the other players might be able to deal with. Off the top of my head, here's a couple ideas:
- Outside group/entity attempts to sabotage the event. PCs work against them.
- A local barkeep needs assistance in the event since his ale is so popular, so he hires a couple of the players to serve his ale during the fight. The more drunk the spectators, the better the pay. Bonus goes to the player who sings (irl).
- Players could converse with spectators before and after the fight to gather information about rumors and what not
- Maybe the guy your player is dueling has in his possession, or is wearing something interesting that the other players might see as a plot twist, which would then allow them to discuss this newfound conundrum during the fight
- If this is a festival of sorts, and if the others have professions or crafting skills, they could sell their wears before and after the fight
- IRL, make some props for your players to use during the game. Ex: take some cardboard squares (make them big) and label rounds 1 through however many you have. Every time a round passes, have one player walk around the table with the corresponding sign
- If the game is being played in a large room, set it up thusly. Two tables, one long, one short, placed parallel to each other with a few feet worth of a gap between them (width wise). At the long table, situate snacks and food and drink (I suggest beer), and let your players chillax during the game. Add in any of the above mentioned ideas from everyone, whilst you and the duelist player sit across from each other at the small table.
Anywho, best of luck, and I hope my sleep deprivation did not hinder the post, haha.
Solo session? So long as the events don't take very long in game it isn't hard to catch the other players up. I've had players before that wanted to do things that would bore the other players to death and would be time consuming. Giving them a few extra hours before or after a session gives good results for everyone involved.
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Have the duel be a distraction, and the other PCs do a caper or heist or rescue mission while all the big wigs are distracted by the duel.
Is the duel a public event, or just a private affair amongst gentlefolk?
Maybe the BBEG's chief cohort kidnaps the rest of the party to prevent them from interceding. They have to try to escape. In the meantime, the duelist is dueling.
You can have both parties roll initiative at the same time, and just have 2 battlemats being run at the same time. I did something similar once when the party split into 3 groups. I just handled it as one big group in 3 rooms, instead of dealing with group A while B and C cool their heels, then focus on group B while A and C twiddle their thumbs, and then run group C while A and B catch 40 winks.
All of the ideas I have are variants on some already posted. But seriously, if you expect the solo fight to take the entire session, then you should re-evaluate the solo fight. I can’t imagine how two characters taking turns attacking each other could take hours, so there must be components I am not aware of. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have the combat - I’m saying remove/modify whatever it is that will make it take so long.