Dear Readers, it goes without saying that a party’s effectiveness relies on effective party leadership.
Trying to not give anything away, the following statement was said at last night’s game (the Ingrates):
“Dammit! _________’s been gone for not even one whole session and everything is already falling apart!” Or something to that effect.
The party leader is no longer…with the party. Again, not going to say who or why, as that will be some SERIOUS spoilers, but it’s left the group in serious disarray.
The group, upon reaching their destination (again, spoilers), stayed together for a bit, met some interesting NPCs, and then proceeded to SPLIT UP!
There’s a song for that actually called “Never Split the Party.” The group knows this song.
And the player who used to have the character who was the party leader is playing a brand new character, a never-before-seen character who is unique in a variety of ways, and is still establishing his character as even a member of the party. Sheesh, did I have multiple calls for insight checks. Brutal.
In any case, the party split between the Temple District, the Market Square, and the Library. Then, after some shopping, searching, and…pretty-fying…one of the groups came across a long-time foe, tried to track them down, and proceeded to get absolutely wrecked. Like…downed and two death failed death saves, type wrecked.
Thankfully, another character was nearby trying to keep up with this other wrecked character, and fed them a healing potion just in time.
It was brutal.
The party was absolutely pissed. Pissed at the aggressor, pissed at the character that got wrecked, and pissed at themselves for splitting up when they absolutely KNOW better, especially when this had bitten them in the backsides previously (this is in a previous edition of “A DM’s Perspective” when Avery got shanked).
To add insult to injury, in the next episode, the rest of “The 5” reappeared, killing several party members who were caught alone, or in small, more manageable groups, thus furthering and reinforcing the idea that the group is directionless.
So, what to do?
- Encourage the election/assignment of a party leader
This makes sure that there is someone to give direction to the party (since the party’s ship captain is unavailable as his player is currently engaging in other activities that take him away from the game table, and we are therefore making him the current Spelljammer, a.k.a., the pilot)
- Help steer the party yourself
As the DM, you have a lot of leeway when it comes to how you help engage the group. Don’t be afraid to use it. There are lots of ways to do this, but for me, one of the most effective ones is tossing an encounter at them. In the session following the one above, the party still seemed to be floundering with their leaderlessness, and to get them re-engaged in the tasks at hand, I tossed another encounter with several of “The 5.” THAT got them moving! Frankly, I didn’t care what direction they went in, I just wanted them to get moving.
- Do nothing
This is actually a very real option. Let them flounder until they get back on track themselves. I really considered doing this, but for the sake of the game and the podcast, I decided against it, using #2 above. There is a downside to this, as there is the very real possibility that some of the players may get bored and/or disinterested in the game.
Party cohesion is very important to the flow of the game and to the ability for a group of players/characters to work together. Without this, a party will flounder and get way off track, never advancing the storyline and possibly creating their own minor sidequests that have no bearing on the story whatsoever.
TLDR: Always have SOMEONE to lead the party
Until next time, Dear Readers…
P.S. – I know I owe you, my Premium Subscribers, a new Ingrates preview, but there was an issue last night and it didn’t get posted. It will be up next week. Thanks for your patience.
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