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I have recently made a rather epic story for my players to play though. (In the sense of a long overarching story). I have been running for a few sessions but a particular player is constantly trying to do things without the group like travelling in the wilderness away from the group to check up on the people they rescued or attempting to get the villagers to build a palisade while others are busy following the plot.

I don't want to handwave what he is trying to do by saying "Okay. The guys you rescued are fine. They are making palisades now and you join the group." but he is slowing the game down and when he is doing his own thing he doesn't watch what the group is doing and then he gets confused as to why combat 'suddenly' started and explaining what is happening to him essentially ruins the tension.

I tried talking to the player and he apologized for doing it but then in the next challenge he immediately got an idea and left the group to try to apply it.

The best solution I can think of at the moment is doing mini sessions where he and whoever is ready to play at the moment will try to work on a project unrelated to the main plot though that would place a big burden on me and I fear that if I do that he might start asking for those every 2-3 days. For reference we play biweekly.

What can I do to make him stop just leaving the group or at the very least make sure he doesn't slow the group down?

As a note I know there is a question similar to mine but my problem is not that the other players cannot do things but the fact that he does one thing while the group is doing another resulting in my attention being divided and the game slowing down.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you tell us what you've already tried? Have you tried talking to the player and do they realize this is slowing down the game? \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Jan 14 at 9:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I added it to the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Maiko Chikyu Jan 14 at 10:00
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Give them a way to do nation building on their own time.

With other questions, the issue is that people want to do nation building things, like build palisades and protect refugees, while others want to do questy things, like fight monsters and gather treasure.

So, simply connect the two.

Make once per day message sending stones fairly common, so that they can talk with nations a great distance away on quests, and check up on them. This means they can check their people are ok fairly regularly.

In addition, slow down the pace of quests enough that they have some time in between quests to do things. After they defeat whatever epic lieutenant of the big bad, give them a week or two of freedom where they can build things, talk to people, and do non questy stuff. Let everyone do one big thing, perhaps using the resources at the questy place. If there's not enough time in a session to let them do this, give them a flashback each session so they can narrate what they did, so each session the player can get their fix on some nationbuilding.

Then, be firm about what's supposed to be happening, IC and OOC. The villagers presumably don't want whatever evil plot that is going on to happen. Have them explicitly tell the players this so that they know that they want the player to focus on stopping evil plots. Fast communication is great for this. It gives the player a realistic way to satisfy their anxiety.

If they call the refugees asking about a palisade.

Them. That's an excellent idea, we will start right on it.

Player. Hey, I'm gonna come back and help you build it.

Them. Please don't, we know how murderous Lord Murderalot is, please fight and stop them. Plus their castle has some magical wardstones they stole from us, that would make a really good palisade.

Player. But I want to come help!

GM. It's not nation building time. Wait till the end of the session.

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There are several ways to deal with that kind of players, both IC and OOC, and what you do also depends on how you want to deal with this problem and also how the rest of your group reacts to the actions of this player.

IC speaking, if his character decides to go his way, and no one in the rest of the group decides to accompany him, you can point out the dangers of traveling alone, the fact that it will take him some time to get where he's going or do what he wants to do, meaning that his character won't be there while the rest of the group happens upon whatever you planned, and he has no guarantee to be able to find the group afterwards.

For example, going to check on people rescued earlier by the group could take him days or weeks of travel, having the villagers build palisades could also take days or weeks depending, and so on.

Which means that, as the rest of the group keeps traveling, he'll be days or weeks behind them, and would have trouble catching up to them, even if they set up a rendezvous point for later on.

OOC speaking, you can translate that fact in several ways: either have the player in question sits through the session doing little, as you focus on the rest of the group following the adventure, and occasionally go to this player for whatever he's planning on doing when you need to give time to the rest of the group to think or plan stuff, or, on an extreme, you can tell him that, since his character is away, he doesn't need to come back for the next session and you'll tell when his character rejoins the group.

I would personally avoid the mini sessions for the same reasons you mentioned: it would be an added burden to your role as GM, and it might just encourage him to keep going on his way, since he is rewarded by special sessions of play centered around his personal idea.

I once had a player who absolutely wanted to spend time with an NPC to learn something very specific and rare. And he wanted to do it right away, despite the fact that we were literally in the middle of the campaign. After arguing for half an hour, I told him that, since he was hell bent on staying and spending six months learning the skill, I'd allow it but that would mean that his character would be staying behind while the rest of the group would continue the adventure, which meant that he didn't need to come back for the next session and I'll tell him when he could come back and play with the others. Also, since his character was staying behind, he wouldn't get any experience point since he wouldn't be doing the adventure.

The player then decided to stay with the group and come back to spend time with the NPC once the adventure was over and they had actual time IC to do stuff.

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I personally like to redirect players who separate away from the main group into a new task that opposes the main group, replace that player with a story NPC, and combine everything into one smooth flawless campaign.

Group #1 - the main group - has their task in hand. Group #2 wants to go learn a spell or a skill or make a weapon, or whatever their new task is; turn it into steps they need to complete to finish the task that conflicts with the main group.

Say the main group is searching for a relic. The separated player finds work as the guardian of said relic. His teacher needs that relic to help train the separated player before they can complete their task. Hence both groups are in strategy/combat against each other. You are either with us or against us.

Surprise: the games always go into a frenzy when this happens. While they are fighting each other, a new event affects both groups at the same instance. Now they need to not only worry about one thing but several.

Now your players are all together again.

For reference, I have been DMing games privately and locally since 1979 on a weekly or biweekly basis. Some e-mail games have been running now for 12+ years with friends.

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