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In the last session, the party I'm DMing got into a great fight against the spirit of the valley (a big dire wolf). In the heat of the fight the cleric was bitten to the point that he dropped to 0 hp (not dead just unconscious), and the party accepted the help of a friendly goblin company (this came from the plot). They took the cleric with them and the party followed the goblin captain to another location. We ended the session there.

How can I make the adventure fun, tell both stories, and make the cleric's story relevant, without the rest of the party boring themselves in the time I play with the cleric? Or should I play alone with him before the session? Or even make it in a way I tell both stories at the same time?

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One guy split off is a bit different than two longer-running tasks in terms of answer. – user2754 Jul 21 '14 at 19:24
on a re-read, yep I agree – Wibbs Jul 21 '14 at 20:03
When you say "the party accepted the help of a friendly goblin company (this came from the plot). They took the cleric with them and the party followed the goblin captain to another location," do you mean to say that the goblin company went one way ("they took the cleric with them") and the goblin captain went somewhere else entirely with the rest of the party? – doppelgreener Aug 4 '14 at 3:54
up vote 22 down vote accepted

Support characters

We do this all the time. When one or more characters are separated from the group for a long time, the GM gives the other players characters to play with. The players must acknowledge they are playing secondary characters and most protagonism must be with the main character.

In your case, give each player except the cleric a goblin. Give each of them a different personality (you don't need much detail, just a little). Then, play with this cast.

Later, play with the regular party, but you will need a character for the cleric's player, like the goblin captain.

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+1 to complement party with secondary characters :D loving this idea :D – Bomberclaw Jul 21 '14 at 22:19

Burst Out Of The Enemy's Tribute Chest, Covered in Pork Chops

This is not the only way to handle this situation, but it's what I always do. Always.

You know that trope when the 'party is split' in a movie or TV series, where you follow one character as they uncover things or do things that affect the things the main party is doing? They see the secret, and hurry back to tell it to the group but arrive too late or have to fight the guards on a time limit to make it etc. The party is trapped, but Bucky managed to get to the control booth, and lowers the bridge to let the party escape the evil Plasma Bomb. You give them a short adventure, preferably segmented for easy 'and now to you Jim you're in the kobold mines with the invasion map, naked and being chased by goblin women - what do you do?' interspersing with the party's actions. You relentlessly railroad this segment, forcing him by happenstance and chance into the party's path at the most exciting/relevant moment.

Note that if this player is one who doesn't make decisions in the group or likes to umm and ahh over his turns for half an hour, him being in the 'driver seat' for his solo adventure will turn him mute and you will have to go for the Variation on this theme.

Variation - Sometimes you don't want to interrupt the action and you figure it will be a short (very short - 25% of a session at most) amount of time before the person re-appears - so you simply explain where they've been either after they pop up again, or in private very briefly. 'You escape from the X with the secret plans, you're dressed as a goblin prostitute, and you are wielding a very old dried sausage as an improvised weapon, you are now wandering in the tunnels and then you come across the party as they are about to be eaten by the Spider Queen'.

This is the same as the above, but you remove the 'separate adventure' portion and turn it into simple description. Removes agency, but is expedient.

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In our campaign, my character always seems to be running off on her own, either because she's not interested in what the other party members are doing or she has something else she needs to take care of.

The GM will spend the majority of his time working with the other party members and their actions, and then on occasion he will switch back to my character for an action or two so I can keep going. It's usually short enough so that the rest of the party doesn't get bored.

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In my opinion, there are a bunch of possibilities :

  1. The cleric will stay for a long IG time, but short talking time (injured, and will return with the group soon after resting).

  2. The cleric will stay a short IG time, but a long talking time (healed fast, but discovers a bunch of things and PNJs before going back with the group)

  3. The cleric will stay for a very long IG time, or won't come back (He wants to be a goblin)

  4. The cleric will stay for a short IG time and a short talking time (healed fast and return quicly to the group.

Therefore, you have to fin out which case it will be. I will give you some solutions for each case, but know that you might find one solution suitable for another case, just do as you like.

  1. Give the cleric a character to play with the group, since he won't be able to do much injured in the other location. And when he is healed, make him come back with a short RP session shared with the other players. (he would have lost the focus with his secondary char, so give him a bit of focus when he gets it back :) )

  2. It's probably better to do this separately 1 to 1, and then let the player story tell his adventure with the goblin to the rest of the group. This can lead to some very nice "slice of life" RP session around the fire with the other players.

  3. You probably should give him another character, and/or find a way to get the group to him fast. And if the characters reunite, give the players a small flashback of what happened from the cleric point of view.

  4. You can do the RP shortly, or even skip the scene if it's not important.

I deliberately didn't include the solution where the other players play goblins because it was suggested in @Flamma answer, but it is a very good option for any of the cases above.

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How can I make the adventure fun, tell both stories, and make the cleric's story relevant, without the rest of the party boring themselves in the time I play with the cleric?

I don't understand why you think the party is split or why is there a separate story.

Or should I play alone with him before the session? Or even make it in a way I tell both stories at the same time?

Is there a reason you'd want to have private-time with that player? Do you want to roleplay out some stuff you want to keep private from the main group?

1) The party is camped-out with the goblins while the player is cured.

2) 'x' amount of time passes by. In that time, the players can be playing thumb-wars, working on skills or chatting with goblins.

3) The cleric is healed, gets back up and continues on.

The party is never split, and you don't even give them a chance to split.

Personally, I'd make that character be taken over by the lycanthrope's curse to become an npc in the next leg of the campaign. At night, the cleric is mysteriously "kidnapped" and the players are hunted to exhaustion only to have the cleric appear to "rescue" them.

"Hey guys, I heard something on my watch, scouted ahead and got separated when the party was attacked." You could even have the player in on it.

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I think the main part of the goblin party went another place entirely to the goblin captain. I've left a comment on the question requesting clarification. If they all went the same place, this is a pretty valid point. Otherwise, perhaps some advice to make sure they all go to the same place next time could be in order? If we take your list as suggestions for what to do when keeping the party together, they're pretty good, after all. – doppelgreener Aug 4 '14 at 3:58
The friendly company of goblins (think moderately large military unit) took the injured cleric with them (presumably to be healed). The captain of the goblin company led the remaining PCs to a different location for some unspecified (in the question) reason. The setup of the question implies that the reason the captain took the PCs to the other location is of some pressing concern, so they can't 'just wait' while the cleric gets healed. The aspect of the question involving the private session is to give the cleric some play time without having the rest of the players twiddling their thumbs. – Theo Brinkman May 13 at 18:44

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