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Let's say a four-person party separated into two, with two PCs each. They each proceed to do different part of a quest to speed up progression. The quest is to find two kinds of flowers in different places.

How to handle the progression of the quest for each party? I originally designed the quest for each area to be completed in sequence (either A then B, or B then A), so they are a bit complex, one with a lot of traps and ambushes, and the other one is combat-based, with 30-60 minutes to complete each area.

Should I let group A play first until it completes the area; or should I let group A play to 50% completion, then switch to group B until 50% too, then switch back to A? I'm concerned that my players will be bored and lose interest doing nothing (they are new to D&D).

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    \$\begingroup\$ What exactly do you mean by "speed up progression"? \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Dec 23 '17 at 16:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Icyfire let's say the quest was supposedly to take 2 days, but by splitting up, they can finish the quest in 1 day. \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Dec 23 '17 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Vylix are you talking about geographical regions, or regions of a dungeon or dungeon-like adventure area? It matters to the type of answer I have in mind. \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Dec 24 '17 at 3:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak different geographical regions. One is at north of the village, one is at south of the village. \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Dec 24 '17 at 3:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Region" isn't used to mean such small areas as "north of the village" and "south of the village"; using it implies large geographical areas requiring long overland journeys. (For example, the Gulf region of the United States covers several states; the Alberta Badlands is a much smaller region, but still covers several days or weeks of foot travel.) Therefore, I have edited the question to use words that give readers the sense of a much smaller area, since that will affect answers. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 24 '17 at 5:43
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I personally recommend against splitting the party, especially of they are a newer group. It runs the risk of boring one half who are waiting their turn or by switching too often it'll frustrate them.

When I did a party split I mentally marked checkpoints that felt most natural to switch from one group to the next, about 5 to 10 minutes per group to give them some time but also makin sure the other group don't get too cold and lose interest.

It's a bit of a catch 22 but the best way is to go with your gut, talk to your players, and do what you feel is right. And if afterwards it doesn't feel like it went well: Talk to your party and get their feedback and note it down. Every dm has a different experience and it's through the less-than-optimal sessions we grow the most.

Best of luck to you and your party!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Great first answer. You may want to look at the tour to get an intro to how things work here. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 23 '17 at 11:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ no matter when/how you break up the timeline, let the party know that it's more work for you and more waiting for them ahead of time \$\endgroup\$ – FrancisJohn Dec 24 '17 at 4:30
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Try hard Not To

Try hard not to do this, is my first instinct. In a straight-up D&D type game, this situation gives me the hives, because what was a difficult juggling act has suddenly become two linked and synchronized juggling acts, one in each hand. My job gets exponentially harder to do with split parties, much less split parties over extended time periods.

All of a sudden, you have to keep each branch of the adventure roughly the same in table-time (i.e., two hours for each group, for a four hour session), roughly the same in game-time (so they can rendezvous later), balance them in terms of spotlight time, make sure your combats are scaled right so the players don't get killed horribly, make sure the smaller groups have the right skills for traps and social encounters... it's a mess, and it's very hard to do.

I feel no shame in steering my players away from that if I can.

That said....

Play To The Point Of Tension

With each group, play approximately to the point where a TV show would cut to commercial, which is to say, when it becomes clear that a combat is looming, or when they have to make some major decision, or they have just learned something critically important or interesting or threatening.

First, that's just good narrative design-- always leave 'em wanting more.

Second, though, it gives the players something to do when you switch back to the other group. Specifically, they can plan their approach to the combat, or hash over the decision to be made, or discuss what they just learned. It cuts the boredom factor down a little bit.

What this means, though, is that your branches have to be structured this way ahead of time. If your combat-heavy branch is really just one big two hour slug-fest, that's going to make this approach more difficult.

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