Party splits

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
paltrysum
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Party splits

Postby paltrysum » Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:00 pm

Question for the refereeing community: How do you handle party splits? E.g., when events necessitate the party splitting up or one or more individuals going their separate ways temporarily? Do you...
  • Conduct concurrent stories, popping back and forth? This could be interesting in Traveller, given that people can be one or more parsecs apart if the story diverges across more than one system.
  • Have people reroll for each side of the story (hence, each player ends up with two characters), and run two concurrent stories?
  • Set up two separate adventures with your split group (e.g., two people go to Regina and meet to play on Saturday; the other three go to Rhylanor and meet to play next Friday)?
In a game like AD&D, in which the characters are more than likely land bound and unable to travel exceptionally far from one another, the split party can be a relatively easy event to manage. But in Traveller, well...there's travelling! People can diverge pretty far. Just wondering how others have handled this situation in their own campaigns.
"Spacers lead a sedentary life. They live at home, and their home is always with them—their starship, and so is their country—the depths of space."
Reynard
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Re: Party splits

Postby Reynard » Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:04 pm

If one or more party members are actually interstellar traveling, there is going to be HUGE time gaps which could get messy and normally a referee headache.
baithammer
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Re: Party splits

Postby baithammer » Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:42 pm

D&D has teleports, time travel and interplanar activity so can strain things at the same rate as traveller.

My suggestion would be to limit party splits to less than 3-4 sessions as things can get rather messy and to try to keep time differences minimized by allowing filler time for players who are in a less hectic portion of the adventure.
AnotherDilbert
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Re: Party splits

Postby AnotherDilbert » Mon Jan 29, 2018 11:03 pm

If you are out of comms, you are kicked out of the room. (How else is party members going to plot against each other?)

If the situation persists, separate sessions.

Since this is a PITA we keep it to a minimum.
PsiTraveller
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Re: Party splits

Postby PsiTraveller » Tue Jan 30, 2018 3:35 am

This issue came up in the Pirates of Drinax campaign. The party managed to steal the treasure ship. They agreed on a meeting spot and Jumped. Then the logistical chain of arranging for clandestine fuel ships and resupply had them spending a couple of months apart. Drop messages giving timelines and destination options were set up in each system so there was a slow exchange of information.

I would do Jump cuts from group to group to move the story along.
paltrysum
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Re: Party splits

Postby paltrysum » Tue Jan 30, 2018 5:23 am

PsiTraveller wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 3:35 am
This issue came up in the Pirates of Drinax campaign. The party managed to steal the treasure ship. They agreed on a meeting spot and Jumped. Then the logistical chain of arranging for clandestine fuel ships and resupply had them spending a couple of months apart. Drop messages giving timelines and destination options were set up in each system so there was a slow exchange of information.

I would do Jump cuts from group to group to move the story along.
So you'd focus on one group for 10-20 minutes, flip over to the other, and then back until they eventually reunited?
AnotherDilbert wrote:
Mon Jan 29, 2018 11:03 pm
If you are out of comms, you are kicked out of the room. (How else is party members going to plot against each other?)
That's hilarious and also true! What's a traveller party without some dissension in the ranks? It's a story after all. Fiction's boring without some internecine conflict.
"Spacers lead a sedentary life. They live at home, and their home is always with them—their starship, and so is their country—the depths of space."
ShawnDriscoll
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Re: Party splits

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Tue Jan 30, 2018 6:24 am

If in another star system? Make a new character, and rejoin with the group.
Epicenter
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Re: Party splits

Postby Epicenter » Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:23 am

I have more or less a gentleman's agreement with my players that they should, if at all possible, avoid splitting the party. This is not so much to save me work; it's because it's dull some portion of the players to just sit out part of a session or entire sessions.

If it becomes unavoidable for whatever reason, I usually will have players temporarily play NPCs for the group they're not with.
steve98052
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Re: Party splits

Postby steve98052 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:05 pm

Epicenter wrote:
Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:23 am
. . .
If it becomes unavoidable for whatever reason, I usually will have players temporarily play NPCs for the group they're not with.
This is kind of the idea behind the troupe system of Ars Magica, where characters can be out of action for months doing magical research.

For communication between separated party members, I looked at xboat routes and World Trade Numbers to work out message lag. Obviously each jump adds about a week, but in-system lag slows things down too. That lag for an xboat route is always less than a week, in many cases less than two days, and at best just a few hours

For a busy trade route without xboat service, the in-system lag might still be as little as a day or two, and almost always better than a week. For a route with little traffic, subsidized merchants might hold the lag to a week or less, but in a backwater it might be as slow as four weeks. For a backwater route with no scheduled traffic, or a route that crosses political boundaries, it could be a matter of months -- or a complete blackout in time of war.

Of course, it's always possible that you get lucky. Maybe your message ends up on a tramp freighter that just happens to be headed to exactly the backwater world where your isolated party member is, so the only lag is from the freighter's refueling stops. But if you're unlucky, you might have to go there yourself.
Epicenter
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Re: Party splits

Postby Epicenter » Thu Feb 08, 2018 3:45 am

steve98052 wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:05 pm
This is kind of the idea behind the troupe system of Ars Magica, where characters can be out of action for months doing magical research.
I'm familiar with the Ars Magica system.

I suppose I come from a philosophy about RPGs that is somewhat at loggerheads with a lot of these games. I define a player party as a group of people who are united in purpose, plan together, and move as a group to get whatever task(s) done. The members of the "player party" consists of the players sitting at the table with the ref during the game. It is implied that as a ref, I will provide entertainment and facilitate interaction for the players.

For me, when the party "splits up" especially for anything longer than "Rob and Joe are going split off to try and outflank" the players are essentially splitting the game into two (or more) separate games; the players don't need to be divided by any great distance. To use a D&D analogy, here's a classic situation, this and similar themes are all things you're familiar with: There's a party a noble's castle, the players are invited. All the players who have reasonable Charisma scores decide to accept the invitation and go as guests. All the players who made Charisma their dump stat decide they're going to sneak into the castle as trespassers and skulk around to see what they can find "behind the scenes." At this point, the two groups are basically playing two separate games and there's no guarantee that the games will merge back into one before the end of the scene (this gets even worse if the trespassing players get into combat or something).

I don't run a D&D game and a Traveller game at the same table and ref both of them at the same time with half of the players sitting at the table for D&D and the other for Traveller - I think all but the contrarian "well, actually..." readers would agree that'd be pretty weird of me. But as far as workload for the ref goes, players who split up and are doing totally different things are expecting the GM to do the same thing.

Once the players are split up and doing totally different things on different worlds, I think at that point, even if they're working for the same purpose, it's a separate game. I'm not going split my time between the two parties. I'll run one at a time.

Obviously, refs and players used to playing in "higher level" or "operational level" games (like the classic "merchant prince" campaign in Traveller once company has a number of ships and needs an administrative office or like Pirates of Drinax once the party has a few starships) are going to disagree with me and see nothing wrong with splitting up the party effectively permanently (I once had a merchant prince campaign where about 1/3 of the players wanted to split off and create their own 'anti-highjacking' force in their shipping company, another group wanted to go to Capital to schmoozing nobles, while the last wanted to book-keep and concentrate on selling cargoes and set up routes and all the players expected me to come up with entertaining situations for them).
Condottiere
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Re: Party splits

Postby Condottiere » Thu Feb 08, 2018 7:17 pm

If you have mature players, configure the game more like a television series. with even minor characters getting screen time, controlled by players whose primary characters are off somewhere else.
Klooth Quethos
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Re: Party splits

Postby Klooth Quethos » Thu Feb 08, 2018 7:40 pm

steve98052 wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:05 pm
Once the players are split up and doing totally different things on different worlds, I think at that point, even if they're working for the same purpose, it's a separate game.
Excellent point. I try to keep a party somewhat together, even while acknowledging that separating is a necessity at times. Nothing prolonged, however. If it's going to take longer than an hour or two "at table," I will try to reign them back into the primary adventure. It can be a task, however.
When in doubt, use the ortillery.

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