It has been a long damn time since we talked about splitting the party, and Thief has come a long way since that awkward bathtub in Comic #7. Clearly she hasn’t learned her lesson though. So for all you unhappy sneaks out there, here’s a quick refresher course on the perils of going it alone.

First and foremost, there’s the danger that the song warns us about. In a world full of encounters designed to challenge 4-5 adventurers of Xth level, splitting the party can be dangerous to your fictional alter ego. No one wants to catch a case of the dead for lack of a flanking partner. However, the real threat isn’t to imaginary life and limb, but to enjoyment around the gaming table.

When you’ve got one or two PCs cut off from the rest of the group, a GM is forced to alternate their attention between sets of players. That means that, for as long as the party is split, at least some players will not be able to participate. I will repeat that, because it bears repeating: Splitting the party prevents players from participating in the game. If three dudes want to head off on a dungeon crawl while the fourth dude (presumably wearing a pointy hat) wants to research spells in Ye Olde Library, you’ve got a choice to make. All things being equal, you’re probably going to try and entertain the most players possible. Sorry wizard bro. It’s all aboard and off the dungeon! We’ll send you a postcard.

We all know about lone wolf PCs. Depending on how he played it, the wizard in our example may very well be at fault for splitting off to do his own thing at the expense of the majority. However I also believe our hypothetical GM screwed up by participating in a false dilemma. You don’t have to ignore the minority group. You just have to 1) resolve their part of the story quickly and 2) make it entertaining. You go through a fast-paced scene with the research librarian. You ask for a few arcana rolls. You describe an amusing magical accident for the benefit of the other players. You keep a quick pace, and so keep your game humming along.

Here’s my take: When you’re dealing with a split party, a character moment between two PCs, or solo weirdness like dream sequences or stakeouts, the other players are no longer players. They’ve become an audience. And like any entertainer, it’s your job to entertain your audience. None of this 20 minutes of real time to resolve a simple interaction nonsense. Make it snappy! Bust out your best kooky NPC voice. Don’t allow your solo-player to belabor the moment. Because even though players are willing to take on the audience role for a little while, it’s no fair asking them to endure it for hours at a time.

What about the rest of you guys? When the party splits, do you find it entertaining or excruciating? Any tips for making solo moments more engaging for the rest of the group? Let’s hear it in the comments!


ARE YOU THE KIND OF DRAGON THAT HOARDS ART? Then you’ll want to check out the “Epic Hero” reward level on our Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Like the proper fire-breathing tyrant you are, you’ll get to demand a monthly offerings suited to your tastes! Submit a request, and you’ll have a personalized original art card to add to your hoard. Trust us. This is the sort of one-of-a-kind treasure suitable to a wyrm of your magnificence.