Keeping the Group Together

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Keeping the Group Together

Postby Argos » Thu Aug 07, 2003 9:24 am

Not really an MnM question, but a call for advice. How do you keep a group of diverse characters together? I've found in my games that about 50% of the time, the group splits to pursue separate avenues. This means that for every game session, everyone gets a chance to sit out and do nothing.

I know that it is probably more likely in a modern setting, but sometimes I feel that it is a failure on my part if the group isn't together at least 90% of the time. Has anyone else out there experienced this? Any advice?
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Postby DrObvious » Thu Aug 07, 2003 9:29 am

I would say talk to the group OOC. Bring up your concern, and see if it is a problem for them. Hopefully you can have an adult conversation with your group.
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Postby palehorse » Thu Aug 07, 2003 9:33 am

Wow, I've never had that problem... they're usually so afraid to split up its a pain getting them to when I need it.

Next time they do, just grin evilly and rub your hands together and mutter something about 'divide and conquer'...
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Postby Nightlynx » Thu Aug 07, 2003 9:34 am

DrObvious wrote:I would say talk to the group OOC. Bring up your concern, and see if it is a problem for them. Hopefully you can have an adult conversation with your group.


Yes I agree - Communication is the key to any enjoyable game! I find that if you allow players to put their input in it helps all involved to discover what kinda of game it is that everyone wants to be part of!

peace and good gaming

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Postby AaronUnicorn » Thu Aug 07, 2003 10:23 am

Well, if superhero team comics have taught us nothing else, it's that divided teams tend to get taken apart. So, let the players realize this.

Send them up against a super-villain team who works together, and who picks off the smaller teams. Then, once the heroes are captured (in a death-trap), and can work together, let them curb-stomp the villains.

Of course, this is only an issue if you as the GM have a problem with the team splitting up. Or if the players feel bored when the other half of the team is doing stuff.

My group tends to split off while doing investigative things, and no one seems to have that much of a problem waiting for their turn. The key for me is to do bits and pieces, rather than finishing with one group and then moving to the other, I'll do about 10 minutes with group A, then "pause" them while I deal with group B.

Of course, the best advice is always to talk to your players.
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Postby Neo » Thu Aug 07, 2003 12:08 pm

I have to say i'm probably with AaronUnicorn on this, it isn't really a problem if they split up and i'm sure they must think thier are reasons for doing so as part of whatever campaign your running at the time for them to do so.

I don't try to put limits on players and they appreciate that, but they realise that being able to do more also has its price..So as long as the players realise if they get ambushed they may be outclassed, or if they get into trouble they'll have no backup, or if they each find clues they may not mean anything until they are combined or compared and also don't mind the wait while another player has a turn then splitting up is great.

I wouldn;t worry about it too much, if anything take it as a compliment that your players feel you are competent enough as a GM for them to explore thier own paths.

You can always bring them back together as a group with a few gentle urgings and clues that all lead to the same place, or a threat that requires them all if needs be.
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Postby palehorse » Thu Aug 07, 2003 5:51 pm

Oh, and you can have some great squirming-in-their-seat moments when they're split up too...

"You hear a gunshot! Someone screams! A woman runs by howling at the top of her lungs, 'It's here! God save us, its here!'...

Meanwhile on the other side of town, you guys were hacking into Crime King's computer, yes?"

They HATE it when I do that, but in a good way.
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Postby Strict31 » Thu Aug 07, 2003 8:24 pm

DrObvious, as Steve said, is correct again. IMHO.

But that's not the end of it. The players have to be fully up for a team oriented game. Their characters should be designed with a team-thing in mind, in some manner, no matter how remote. They have to work just as hard as the GM to make sure the adventure gells. They can't just kick back and roll dice. having fun is sometimes hard work.

I've run into this problem in a game Bard was running for Aberrant. Part of the problem is that he designed the characters we agreed to play. So, rather than having us keep an eye open to team dynamics during the character process, we were given a bit of latitude, but were essentially presented the characters as they were. The problem I encountered is that my character is the most human; the most down-to-earth person in the bunch. She has a family. She has a loyalty to that family. Strong family ties. And she's a cop. So when things get strange with the other characters and their...actions, Jenny starts thinking of heading back home to watch TV with her baby sister and take care of her ailing Pop. Or to blow off some steam and get laid. Everybody else is all, "I wish to disect the prisoner to learn more about his endocrine system"; or "let's bust in and kill all the security guards"; or, "Stand back while I create this volcano"...

My problem is, at her heart, at the very basis of the character Bard designed, Jenny has nothing in common morally or philosophically with these cats. So, I had to rack my brain to find reasons to stick with "this dodgy lot." Basically, as a cop, she wants to keep as close an eye as possible on these freak-biscuits, so they don't destroy the world by accident or by design. She's fairly certain she could come up with a way to contain or kill each one of them if it came to it...and she's been trying to humanize a couple of them.

I even went so far as to have an OOC chat with the other players to collectively determine a group focus. So, it's as much up to the players as it is the the GM.

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Postby Strand0 » Fri Aug 08, 2003 12:09 am

My games are still free of a team. So, the heroes find out about things in different ways then end up at the "scene of the crime" at about the same time. It is a bit of extra work, but not hard to do. :)

I have not decided if I should go on with this group of PCs or to start over again with a solid team from the start. I'm like to do a Fantastic Four style of game. :-?
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Postby Sketchpad » Fri Aug 08, 2003 3:28 am

When setting up my current MnM group, I created a document that broke down several comic book teams into their roles and archetypes. I explained to my players that they had to look at this when designing their characters and that they must meet one of the archetypes and one of the roles. I also started using suplot rules that grant a hero an additional pp whenever it takes the stage :) I found that both of these ideas work well in my group ... perhaps a similar idea would work for yours?
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Postby Fazhoul » Fri Aug 08, 2003 4:09 am

palehorse wrote:Oh, and you can have some great squirming-in-their-seat moments when they're split up too...

"You hear a gunshot! Someone screams! A woman runs by howling at the top of her lungs, 'It's here! God save us, its here!'...

Meanwhile on the other side of town, you guys were hacking into Crime King's computer, yes?"

They HATE it when I do that, but in a good way.


What he said. This is exactly the kind of thing the caption of "Meanwhile" was invented for. If you can manage to do it on cliffhangers it helps add tension to the game.
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Splitting's not bad

Postby mxyzplk » Fri Aug 08, 2003 4:56 am

In my M&M game, the PCs are part of a "team" but they still split up a great deal - and frankly, that's extremely genre appropriate. In how many X-Men or Avengers comics does the whole grotty group of them go everywhere and do the same thing at the same time?

Now, there's a couple different aspects to this a GM needs to handle. There's two parts to a game - "encounters" and "between encounters."

Time between encounters (figuring out what to do next, general RP, etc) can be split up as much as the PCs want, as long as you keep rotating the spotlight between the groups and bring the next encounter within a reasonable amount of time. Give each individual or sub-group no more than 5 minutes of attention at a time. Ideally the other people will be at least moderately interested in what the other PCs are doing - if not, you've got a problem in that your game is boring. That requires separate techniques to fix.

Now, if your PCs are completely unrelated, how do you get them to the next encounter at the same time (or close enough to it)? Well, how do the PCs find out about trouble? Any weird psychic powers that tell them something bad's going on? Do they listen to police scanners? Ideally the PCs will have some hook to, if not work *with* eachother, at least follow each other around for some reason. If you have a group of 4 "crazed loners" then yeah, you need to have an OOC discussion with them.

Time during encounters is easy too because there's action going on - you cut back and forth between fights, either in initiative order or give each group a couple rounds at a time. Take the "enemy base" section of X-Men 2 as an example. Everyone split up, action proceeded, everyone got their turn.

Now the main sticking point is when one group is in an encounter and the other isn't. Wolverine and Colossus go to a bar and oh look, there's Juggernaut! The rest are at home watching TV... Several techniques here.

1) Keep it short. If it's a fight with punks, especially one that a broken-off group is provoking for kicks, fiat it. "You beat the tar out of them and tey tell you where to find the Red Skull." Don't let them hog the spotlight. If it's with someone really big, let them get away. (Note that players will start to understand that they're not going to get climactic fights without the others around and may tend to behave better.)
2) Give the other group a fight too. Ideally you have roving thugs, supervillains, etc. that can come upon the other PCs. (Note that players will start to understand this happens too, and will try to rein in the "go look for trouble" PCs.)
3) Let the other PCs play the bad guys. This works very well and will provide the split group more of a challenge than they are generally prepared for - even a group of gun-toting bank robbers becomes a significant threat if there's a player's mind behind them.

In closing, group splitting isn't a problem and is very appropriate to the comics genre, if you handle it well by makign sure all the players get something to do - either by fair shifting of the spotlight in a reasonable amount of time or my giving those players another role to play.
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Re: Splitting's not bad

Postby Zenon » Fri Aug 08, 2003 5:48 am

mxyzplk wrote:3) Let the other PCs play the bad guys. This works very well and will provide the split group more of a challenge than they are generally prepared for - even a group of gun-toting bank robbers becomes a significant threat if there's a player's mind behind them.


I'll give a big "you have to try this" to any thinking about it. I just did this in my last game session and it worked out well (at least I thought so, and my players looked like they were getting into it too). Somehow those minions at the GO-Mart were more dangerous with the other player's brains running them, and the bank robbers did wildly unexpected things!

For large groups of minions, I gave each player not involved in the action 2 or 3 minions to run.
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Postby Novac » Fri Aug 08, 2003 6:13 am

Once in a Vampire the Masquerade campaign our GM set up a session where we played Sabbat members (you know, before the books came out and they were monsters). Each were handed a character sheet and were told their mission. We went about doing what we were supposed to do and once that session was over nothing else was said. About three sessions later half the party was faced with half the villains. Those of us who were not there were handed the sheets and we had to defend ourselves. Great fun playing the other side, the one and only time in a RPG where I was 'in down time' and I had something to do. :)
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Re: Splitting's not bad

Postby Strand0 » Fri Aug 08, 2003 8:00 am

mxyzplk wrote:In my M&M game, the PCs are part of a "team" but they still split up a great deal - and frankly, that's extremely genre appropriate. In how many X-Men or Avengers comics does the whole grotty group of them go everywhere and do the same thing at the same time?
That is true. This is not D&D. The Superheroes shupoldn't feel that the wholed is "too dangerous" to walk around on their own.

:-? GM and players will have to work it out.
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Postby mgg » Fri Aug 08, 2003 10:55 am

It is one thing if a groups splits up from time to time to take care of personal business or during an investigation, it is another thing entirely if a group of characters take off in different directions right from the get go and never become a group at all.
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Postby Strict31 » Fri Aug 08, 2003 3:00 pm

Once ran an entire Shadowrun campaign where the team was only together IC for a matter of about a single day. The Bodyguard dude decided to track down his kidnapped client, and that took him all the way to Quebec. He spent the majority of that adventure with a girl he met, on the run from a cyberninja. The rest of the team remained in Seattle, doing a bodylift on some corporate type before they fled to the Tir to deal with an elf samurai's family subplot. Turns out she was a high muckety-muck (and I had just bought the Tir sourcebook and wanted to explore). They all had fun, even though I was constantly worried about how they'd feel being separated like that. Eventually, they all met back up again for the final showdown, as plotlines eventually merged together again.

Why did I keep them separate for so long? I could have guided them back together, I reckon, but once I determined they didn't mind the separation, I decided to run with it. In large part, I wanted their Shadowrun experience to be a globe-trotting affair. Additionally, I felt that all my ideas for reuniting them were either "premature" or heavy-handed. It was a lot more work for me, though. I can't complain much because, like I said, they enjoyed it, and it was a good learning experience for me...

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Postby mgg » Fri Aug 08, 2003 3:44 pm

That sounds just like how it runs in cyberpunk novels.

I have played in a fantasy/politics game that worked something like that, except the characters never came together in the first place, and the campaign ended before the game came to an end. I don't really know how the GM managed it, but it was a lot of fun.

It has much less appeal to me in a superhero game, though. I like the idea of a superhero team. Of course it is easier to create city threatening or world threatening events to bring superheroes together, at least temporarily.
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Postby Strict31 » Fri Aug 08, 2003 4:00 pm

mgg wrote:That sounds just like how it runs in cyberpunk novels.

I have played in a fantasy/politics game that worked something like that, except the characters never came together in the first place, and the campaign ended before the game came to an end. I don't really know how the GM managed it, but it was a lot of fun.

It has much less appeal to me in a superhero game, though. I like the idea of a superhero team. Of course it is easier to create city threatening or world threatening events to bring superheroes together, at least temporarily.


It has much less appeal, sure. But also, Shadowrun has a team-mechanic built in to the very concept of the game. Or maybe...maybe things just seemed simpler back then. Of course, I blame White Wolf... :wink:

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Postby Strand0 » Fri Aug 08, 2003 9:12 pm

mgg wrote:It is one thing if a groups splits up from time to time to take care of personal business or during an investigation, it is another thing entirely if a group of characters take off in different directions right from the get go and never become a group at all.
Well, I think that's :x :cry: :evil: . The world shouldn't be this safe.
Then it is important to beat them (the PCs) up. If they can run off as lone wolves and still compleat the adventure. hen the advanture is too easy. It needs to be kicked up a few (3 to 7) knotches.

>:)
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Postby Strict31 » Fri Aug 08, 2003 9:15 pm

Strand0 wrote:
>:)


I knew it. Strand is evil... :wink:

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Postby horned god » Fri Aug 08, 2003 11:57 pm

I already knew that. I realized back when I played classic marvel that playing a hero game is like playing high level AD&D in that each character will inherently suck up hordes of time of the GM. Thus

A) Never play with more than four or five players if you can help it. Six would be the ultimate max and three or four is best. This way you can let them run off and 'be batman' all they want why the others do what they want.

B) Hero characters seem to suck up time and just know that. This is not AD&D hack and slash dungeon crawling, nor is it CoC horror or sci-fi each of which has its own inherent genre aspects of who and why people split up. Super-Heros though are like very experienced or high level characters in that UNLIKE a low to mid powered - level character they don't need to stay together to stay alive or solve the problems. In fact they are in many ways self sufficient. I have many AD&D characters who were similair. They weren't high level but were things like fighter/cleric/thief thus they basically were their own party and could do many things for themselves without the need to rely on others to do it for them yet never were supergreat at any single task or power. When I did have a regular group I knew I could count on then I tended to play specialist but then if the healer didn't show up we didn't have anyone who could heal. After playing like that for a bit, my Diviner (mage) learned herbalist skills and minor healing and eventually basically functioned as the healer of the group as much as she could (ie I made minor potions of healing, stuff like that).

My first super-hero is similiar she NEEDS a group as for example she has zero protection and only +2 damage save, that's it but is awesome at what she does but solo would be highly challenged vs any sort of physical villain, who'd probably clean her clock quickly. Yet, if I knew I were playing solo I'd design a hero like that and would split off a lot from the 'group' as I knew I could handle myself. It's not like Batman who meets Sinestro becomes scared and runs and says 'help'. No he can handle sinestro all by himself, sure the group helps but is not needed.

That fundamental need for a group and not need for some characters is at the heart of hero games I think, often unavoidable and if so then embrace it and don't force players to play the dungeon crawl oriented party 'ie you play this and I'll play that and we stick together'. Ofcourse that never actually works as gamers are inherently self-oriented by nature mostly and its hard to get them to work together. When they do its satisfying and that is a great group indeed but a uncommon to rare one I think.
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