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In a campaign I was testing, the party got split. They are now in separate parts of the world, without any long range communication.

Now, we have only one day a week to play D&D, so separate meets are out of the question and the only things the party members can do in the time they aren't playing their characters is play NPCs. This keeps them engaged enough that they aren't bored, but this also makes turns and dialogue a lot longer.

Sometimes, one group gets over an hour of combat or dialogue but the other group gets only a few minutes. The problem is worsened because one group in a combat-heavy situation while the other is in a role-playing-heavy situation and combat takes more time than role-playing.

What do I do to divide the time between the two sub-parties more evenly, but still give both groups of players enough game play as their characters?

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I had a few of my characters split up in a large dungeon without a good means of communication either and faced the same problem. After a session of bad time management, I set a timer. I set it for 10 minutes each and stopped after the current person finished their combat turn or allowed the current subject of a conversation when time was up before moving on.

A few people expressed their displeasure at first but later agreed that it added a sense of urgency to each turn. It urged them to quickly finish what they were doing so they could reunite the groups. I'm sure it also allowed the "down" party to have more time to think about what they wanted to do next. This sped things up a bit more as well. I imagine this may not work for every group but it worked for me.

Best of luck!

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I think, there are at least four different ways to deal with split up groups:

  1. Switch at a determined (real) time using a timer (as mentioned in the post by @MattyMcGrizzle); you could vary here with different time spans, but 10 minutes sounds reasonable to me. I like the idea but it never occurred to me before, so I will try this. A possible problem may be the difference in real time and in-game time, so a fight may need 20 minutes out of game but may represent just 30 seconds in game. My players would certainly complain about this occasionally.

  2. Switch at a determined (in game) time (as far as one can tell). This may, though, result in strongly varying time slots for all groups - but it allows you to easily let them split and part later on. This is especially important in scenarios where group A says, they will wait for group B. They will not have the same screen time in this case ;)

  3. Switch as fast as possible after break points, e.g. when the discussion in a roleplaying scene gets to a turning point (or ends) respective when a fight turn changes (or ends) etc. Maybe hectic and maybe disruptive, but also may create a dramatic atmosphere.

  4. Switch at the best possible point in your story, e.g. when a chapter/discussion ends or a fight ends. May return in long episodes in both sides but may also result in interesting stories with unique dramatic arcs.

I think, there is no optimal way, because there may be a situation where the first way is to be preferred due to the circumstances and in another situation it is the second or the third. Factors may include storytelling, party dynamics or dramaturgical elements. Also you may come to the situation where it is best to give short cuts to group A and longer ones to group B. Being aware of those measures may already help you to find the one that is useful for your actual scenario.

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