And it’s a guest post from Editorial0…
Keeping it Together
As every GM knows, the worst, most terrifyingly awful event which can ever occur is for the party to split up. This is so terrible and nightmarishly bad that brave men have been known to set themselves on fire and leap off mountains and things just to make it stop.
Pretty much the only alternative is to shave your head and retire to a monastery, where at least you may be able to find inner peace and/or train white guys to steal primetime slots from Bruce Lee.
But, let’s say you aren’t a broken shell of man and somehow summon the will to game on. No – we both understand how ludicrous this statement is, but hear me out. Though no one has yet demonstrated this kind of will, the ever-evolving Nietzschean Superman may one day emerge, a bitter husk of a man who might somehow find the strength to carry on in spite of a splitting party. It won’t be easy, but the iron soul of a scarred and bitter giant, towering over other men by dint of sheer force of personality, might just do it. And on that day, these ideas may somehow aid him in his quest to bring order to humanity and discipline to the party.
Without Further Ado – Here’s the Top Ten Countdown in no particular order for… Keeping it in the Party
Who says your players a choice, huh? They don’t want to stick together? Make them! They’re your pawns, to be crushed underfoot as you see fit! I am guiding you to glorious times! Those who stand with me I shall honor but any who stand against me I shall crush underfoot! I am the alpha and the o-hmigosh. *Ahem*
May have gone a little overboard there. But that’s the point: fear! terror! sow obedience through the crushing of their spirits!
Let’s face it, the average adventurer pisses off six gods before breakfast, and by lunch usually manages to offend enough townsfolk to fill an entire cathedral. If anyone can get away with laying annoying curse on the party, they will. Most of the time these aren’t all that dangerous, but for the adventurer in question they can be quite unpleasant.
A well chosen curse or two can keep the party together handily. The key is to make sure the curse really annoys the player, and can be mitigated by staying near the party. Perhaps a party member’s talent means the character doesn’t have to sleep – or the character falls asleep when separated too far for everyone else. Sure, it won’t last forever, but in the meantime you get a little peace and can think of something else.
When the party’s being hunted by their numerous enemies, they won’t want to split up too often. And what adventurer *doesn’t* have a grotesque number of foes, who’ve all sworn eternal hatred and undying vengeance? When they’re on the prowl, the party likely won’t scatter for fear of being attacked. They don’t actually have to do anything too hostile – just make sure that the players knows they’re present. Of course, eventually the enemies have to hatch *something*. But make sure it’s incredibly roundabout and obnoxiously cruel so the players never see it coming.
Paradoxically, party members often stick together if they fear each other. If they can’t trust one another, they’ll work very hard to make sure the others are never alone and able to hatch evil schemes. Of course, sowing this level of suspicion without inducing complete paranoia takes great skill and cunning; you have to manipulate the players into seeing each other’s characters as the enemy, while making sure they all believe it to be their own idea.
Or just start passing various secret notes around. Just ask players to occasionally leer at each other and smile evilly. Works wonders.
If you want a reputation as a nice, popular GM, you can always try giving your players a dirty, stinkin’ reward for sticking together. You can give the players food, longer sessions, or some external reward to the game. Y’know, if you want to be a spineless pushover.
A more organic solution is to give the party some powers or bonuses that they can only use while they stick together. Players will often stick like glue for fairly small bonuses.
This has an additional advantage in that it lets the party pick up any new characters – obviously, new party members are the ones with the same special abilities.
Nothing says you have to pay attention to splitters. If some players go off to do something unimportant, then tell they succeed (or roll some dice or whatever) and then get back to the sensible things.
If a player finds his or her character in the throes of immediate danger, they’ll either go berserk and try to kill everything (hopefully limited to the game world) or run to get some help (also hopefully in the game world) – and probably stick close to the party for a while (could go either way if you’re fine with codependency).
As we all know, killing players is illegal.
Shockingly, however, a legal loophole has existed for decades allowing you to kill their characters with no repercussions whatsoever. Although authorities don’t spread this around, there is indeed no law against killing characters any way you please. It can be cold blooded murder – even conspiracy if you like. And there are no rules on how you do it either – slow torture, fire, dismemberment, or even repeated episodes of Barney.
Helpfully, this can also be an abject lesson in why you won’t screw with the GM. Once you horribly kill a player character, the others truly begin to understand that you rule! That terror and obeisance should follow all the days of your life, that you hold absolute power of life and death over them – that your eyes are fire and your heart ashes! Now you are become Death!
And if they don’t stick together, make them Become Death, too. And make sure to laugh evilly while doing it.
While on general principle we object to lowering yourself to the level of mere players, from time to time it may possibly coulda perhaps might occasionally sometimes now and then be wise to just… ask.
I mean, if it causes a problem when parties split, then it’s reasonable to suggest you can’t do as good a job. So, just ask. Point out it’s an issue, and if they want to divide things it will cause players to wait around.
Granted, this is the weak man’s way out, but it often works. You wuss.