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I have a rather large group playing Year of the Griffon, about 13 players in total, but with mixed attendance. Some just show up every 3rd or 4th session, others have left pretty much, so average we have 4 to 8 there. But I can live with and handle that - it's easier than handling 26 pupils after all. They routinely split up the party to pursue various parts of the three interwoven plots.

And here lies the problem: there is one player that does sometimes not state where he goes (or even goes somewhere entirely different) and when something interesting happens, he declares "Oh, by the way, I am right there and join the discussion/scene/spotlight." When the other players know he was pursuing something different, they usually call him out and he backpaddles.

This "I teleport to the action" is bothering me a little, and while I, as a GM, use some sort of this at times (e.g. officers/agents meeting is called by the commander), or use city-wide alarm to get people to meet up, this part of "I am where I smell action, even if I declared to be somewhere else earlier" seems to break the immersion for some of my players.

How to deal with a player "teleporting" to the action?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What are the other groups doing whilst it isn't "their turn", how long do turns take? \$\endgroup\$ – WendyG May 24 '18 at 12:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WendyG I don't think that this would be relevant because there is no "turn" order for the players if they split up - the party partly lives of how the PCs discuss their investigations and smith plans while I provide the informations as requested. It is also usually no longer than 3-5 minutes when he 'beams' over to where he seems to percieve action instead of providing a reason why he abandonned what he did last to go to the current spotlight. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish May 24 '18 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ The system tag isn't really required here, all systems suffer this problem. Or are you looking for a mechanical way to handle it? \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras May 24 '18 at 13:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WendyG I generally switch Spotlights much faster than 15 minutes, often less than 10 before I adress the next issiue as they come up (and sometimes interlocking two places - providing a little info here and there as the players mainly drive their agenda. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish May 24 '18 at 14:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras System matters, because not every system does suffer this. (E.g.: in Apocalypse World this is an actual ability one can have.) And knowing that it’s a trad system allows traditional-system solutions to be clearly relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 24 '18 at 19:01
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You have a much larger party size than any I've ever GM'd, but I have had a similar problem.

Occasionally the party would split into two groups. The party was eight players. Sometimes they did need to do two things at once or they'd be relaxing and be in two groups (I remember once five went to a spa and three to a bar -- the spa was attacked while the girls were in their skivvies and unarmed so they had to use their wits).

I initially had the same problem that you did, with a couple players trying to join in action that they weren't at.

I solved the problem by printing out business cards for each character, and to join a group the player had to put the character's card in one group or another.

If they wanted to swap, perhaps one of the people who went to the spa got bored with that and they went to the bar, they moved their card. This could not happen once the action started. Though if the characters heard about the action (hey, that spa on the news is where our friends are) they could start moving in that direction, but it usually took time to do this (teleport not being a thing in my worlds, normally). And of course the group from the bar would be outside the spa when they got their and have to fgure out a way to get in.

  • Never trust a smiling GM
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One approach would be to use little character minis, and have an actual map showing where everyone is. So, if you're going with the group to City Hall, then you move your mini to City Hall. That makes it harder to be vague about your location.

If you don't like using minis for this, you could also use folded index cards.

But the approach I prefer is to encourage the group not to split the party.

A: "I'm going to City Hall to talk to the mayor!"
B: "I'm going to Easthill to check out the copper mine!"
C: "I'm going shopping to get some new armor!
DM: "Well, City Hall and the merchant quarter are right next to each other, and they're both on the way to Easthill Mine. How about you all go shopping, and then you all talk to the mayor, and then you all check out the mine? That way nobody has to miss out on any action."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would preferer something like a whiteboard that hangs on the wall. Keeping track with something that lies on the table often has the problem, when the space is needed for something else. \$\endgroup\$ – lokimidgard May 26 '18 at 5:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Minis on a map also have the advantage of providing a clear way to track progress towards the other group if someone decides to switch, if the groups try to re-join in the middle of an action sequence, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Jan 30 at 9:49
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Keeping track of things is a task that can be split between GM and players, and all your other players are helping you keep track of where their characters are. For the player who isn’t, you can step up and take more responsibility for keeping track of where his character is.

When others are discussing where to go and what to do, make a habit of asking this player what their character is doing. He will have to explicitly decide where to go, or decide to tag along with a specific group. If he declines to commit, that’s fine: just reply “okay, so you’re staying here” and move on to the next thing you need to handle. No more teleporting without using magic to do it!

This might take you a few sessions to get the habit down pat. That’s okay, it’ll still improve group organisation while you’re getting the habit.

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The Angry GM recently wrote a piece about how to handle split parties, if you're interested in reading something fairly in depth about the issue: http://theangrygm.com/ask-angry-splits-and-feedback/

It sounds like you either have a situation where you are making various different groups wait for some time, or you have a player who actually wants to be everywhere and doesn't like feeling left out.

If the former, do what you can to make him feel like what he is working on is getting somewhere.

If the latter, you probably need to talk to him privately and gently probe out why he is playing the game this way (again, the feedback section of the above article might help).

Large groups will always spawn problems, and split parties can negate some of this, but as GM you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that everyone feels included. Obviously you are only human, but with a repeat problem player, learn to tie down where he is, and keep him feeling involved with whatever he chooses to interact with.

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