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I have recently started my first D&D game using 5th edition (I'm the DM). For our first few sessions everything worked fine. The players all had fun and their characters were all developing. During my last session, one of the character's had a falling out with another (characters not players) so the character left the other two.

During that session I ran the two groups simultaneously (more or less). While the solo character left to explore a nearby forest, the others almost got killed by the villain (one of them did but he was revived).

I would say that this is probably a form of My Guy Syndrome due to the character leaving the party because that is what his character would have done. However, it is getting annoying because, while the larger group is progressing through the story, the solo character isn't really doing anything.

I can easily get the group back into the same place. My problem:

How can I get the party back together when two of the characters dislike each other?

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Don't make it your problem.

Make it their problem. (The players).

If you don't want to run a split party, since it increases DM work load, then before the next game session begins you need to tell the players that you are not interested in running two games instead of one.

Core reason: DM's are allowed to have fun too.

Then, as you suggested yourself, set it up so that they come across each other.

Then let them role play the outcome. It may be resolved that they will never work together: not your issue, theirs. If that is how it works out, do as @Dan B suggests and have the loner become an NPC, roll up another PC.

If they work out a compromise, good. They have solved the problem, you haven't had to.

Here's the tricky part: they accuse you of railroading. Your response: I am not interested in running parallel games. We go back to DM's get to have fun too.

Since there are only three of them, it is to their advantage to hang together in a team based adventure game like D&D 5e. You should probably point that out as well.

If, on the other hand, you don't mind running parallel adventures, then there isn't a problem. Just do that, and do your best to share DM time as 2/3 to 1/3 (The player who splits off gets 1/3 of your time not half. Thanks to @Greenstone Walker for that recommended split in DM effort). The reason I provided the answer is that it appears that you do not wish to run parallel adventures.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, i'm currently having all my players head to the same place and I have informed the solo player what will happen if he remains split from the party. \$\endgroup\$ – Cronnoc Jul 26 '16 at 8:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cronnoc: you make it sound like an ultimatum to avoid a punishment. That's one way to look at it, but people might be happier if you frame it as "this is a problem that we as players + DM need to solve". If the role-playing that led up to this was good, and this wasn't a conflict that should have been obvious (and avoided in the first place) when creating characters to be part of the same party, you should resist blaming the player personally. You're probably annoyed with him for making you do extra work, but try to give him the benefit of the doubt if this is the first problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Jul 26 '16 at 9:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't intend it like that. I don't want to run parallel adventures but i'm not annoyed at him for leaving the group. It makes sense given what his character's personality is so the roleplaying was fine. \$\endgroup\$ – Cronnoc Jul 26 '16 at 12:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Best wishes on a fun campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 26 '16 at 18:06
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When a character leaves the party, the right thing is usually to make that character an NPC. Offer the player the opportunity to bring in a new character to join the party (with the same experience and gold). This lets you preserve the character's decision to leave the party, but also lets you keep the group together.

In my games I have a rule which is designed to defuse party tension before it reaches the point where characters leave the group. The rule is: if there's ever a disagreement between characters, we resolve it by vote. We don't resolve it by stubbornest-player-wins, or by people threatening to leave. We vote. If there's a tie, DM breaks the tie.

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I disagree with the others saying you should try to bring the characters back together. Then again, I also do not believe in "My Guy Syndrome" as being a bad thing.

That said, I think the fairest solution to this is that you - as the DM - are telling a story with the players. This character has chosen to leave the group, and is therefore no longer part of that story. They will still have adventures and maybe even do great deeds - but that is another story that should be told another time.

Instead of bringing them together therefore, remove that character from the game. The player, then, should feel free to bring in a new character that will probably fit the party better. Remember: Some players drop a party ON PURPOSE because they want to play a new character!

HOWEVER!!! Discuss this with the relevant player first! He may have some epic comeback in mind where he rejoins the party in the nick of time! If this is the case, he has given you the opportunity to create a really cool story moment! You should see if this or a similar thing is the case, and perhaps discuss the timeframe of the absence. As a rule I would not ever make it longer than 2 sessions as that is when characters usually cease to be relevant. If in this case the player feels like they have nothing to do, have them play an NPC in the mean time.

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The bulk of RPGs are not only about group storytelling. They are about creating a story about a group. However, players sometimes need reminding. Try that first, and say that you are not keen on running a story about 2 separate parties. Your reasons might be that it will divide the time you can dedicate to each party, and also increase the amount of prep required, which you didn't sign up for/can't practically deliver.

Secondly, make clear that the 'splitter' will not get proportionate attention, but only half as much. So in a three hour session, your attention shared between three players should mean 1 hour of attention to each, including the splitter. But only give them half an hour (use a stopwatch if you have to). Make this a house rule.

Make clear that splitting will only gain full attention if the split is done in a really cool way, a way that the majority of those around the table agree is likely to enrich the story as a whole, and that has the potential for the character to come back changed as a result. If the split is such that the character has no reasonable way back to join the party, that character must become an NPC.

Next, look at the meta-game reason for the split. One common reason is that a player subconsciously wants more DM attention. Have you been fair with the amount of material you have provided for the growth of each character? If not, then plan some material for the wayward character: have them save a dependent, or gain one to deepen their background. Create a scene where their distinctive personality characteristics are put in the spotlight.

If, instead, the player has had a fair share of DM attention, I suggest talking to them about this in light of the new house rules above.

Next, tie events so that the two diverging story paths are interlinked, so the separate groups meet again.

Next design a meeting scene where the issues they disagree about are right on show. This gives them a chance to play out the ongoing debate and develop the story of the split, and perhaps heal back together.

If the character has written themselves out of the main story, then they should become an NPC.

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If the character that split off is still following the main quest line, then there's every reason for them to keep running into each other repeatedly. Just keep setting the encounter difficulty as though all three of them were in the same place and throwing them together repeatedly until they either resolve their differences, get eaten by monsters, or kill each other off.

If the character that split off started pursuing something else, then he's out of the story. Have his player shelve that one and come back to it for the next campaign. Or turn it into an NPC. Or just let him wander around in an area that generates encounters that would be difficult for three characters until something manages to eat him. It doesn't really matter, he's no longer part of the story. Suggest the player create a new character that will actually follow the current story.

If neither of these options seems like it would work, then it's time to have a frank conversation with everyone about what they want to do. If people have different ideas of how the game should go, you're going to have problems regardless. Campaigns with split parties aren't all that bad if you're well organized. The trick is to use the time that one group is deciding on a course of action to interact with one or more of the other ones. Handled properly, it can actually be a decent way to keep the game moving since people are more motivated to make use of their timeslice when there's some competition for it.

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As this is about the characters, not the players, let it play out as it naturally would:

Have both groups continue to run into difficult encounters designed for three PCs as planned originally, and use the story to show the characters that they need each other to stay alive, even if they hate each other. This is along the lines of Sam and Gollum both traveling with Frodo despite their enmity. Either they will learn to tolerate each other, or they won't survive.

You could even create opportunities for the main group to find friendly NPCs who would help the team, while the character that split off finds himself desperately alone, barely alive to the point of death and in need of being rescued by the main party.

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My premise is, that the group is essential to the fun and usually everybody knows that. So it is expected of the GM to help the group overcome problems caused by correct role play of the characters and unite. Incorrect role play should not be allowed, much less when leading to splits.

My General idea

My concept isn't rocket science, but It may help to formalise it nonetheless.

  1. nobody should be punished for an action that is in character. It should be allowed and dealt with in game. Voicing preferences out game is immersion breaking
  2. Follow the process of allying and bonding in real life. We may bond for a short time, due to necessity. The DM has plenty of ways to force that. Having braved some dangers together greatly increases the likelihood of bonding.
  3. An even stronger motivation is an overwhelming foe.
  4. As a DM assess the compatibility of your crew beforehand. Some flavours of hero tend to be very problematic. Particularly those skilled in mind control or able to haunt people's dreams!

Concrete example

I mostly play TDE (where orcs are playable), but in this context it doesn't matter. My favourite GM usually allows splitting to happen and adapts to it, making it very appealing for the characters to unite. Here's an example:

As a white magician who needed money, I was keen to make myself useful to the local guild. There was indeed a quest centred around retrieving artefacts from a remote tower, where dangerous things were going on. I had good reason to think the task a difficult one and needed a party.

But when I spoke to the other players in an inn, the thief was (wrongly) worried I might recognise her as a convict, because I had spent time in a city where she was (later) wanted. Totally in line with her character, she incited the orcen fighter (whom she had charmed) into beating me.

So we split up and the DM played out the thief's side of the party first. Pretty soon, she went for some pickpocketing, or cheating at cards and was caught. The others were five fighters and our fighter never had a chance. When he woke up they had shaved him, stolen his treasured weapon and the girl was gone.

Unsurprisingly, these were the bandits from said tower and they had abducted the girl. So, the orc first needed to find that out, but then he had every reason to join me.

On the first night, the DM had two games to manage, but little happened on the girl's side - hidden from us. Perhaps that was his way of reminding her she should have voiced her concerns about my magician earlier. Of course, a lot of cooperation was needed to rescue the girl from the bandits, who had been under a dark cultist. After that:

  1. the orc and my magician had bonded in a funny way. Even more so as I helped regrow his fur.
  2. I was obliged to go after the whole organisation, because there were dark cultists involved.
  3. The girl was compelled to do it for revenge and because they had implanted a kind of hocrux into her.
  4. The orc was loyal to both and helped their alliance.

Note that, when splits occur, seasoned players can sometimes have very useful in character chats in a nearby room. Of course nothing "technically" relevant can happen without the DM, but a lot of chat and role play.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't appear to actually recommend any particular solution. You open by saying it's the GM's problem, and then talk about a time a split occurred -- but the GM doesn't want the split and is asking for how to get the group back together again, and there doesn't appear to be advice here on doing that. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 26 '16 at 7:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Really? Didn't I demonstrate how the party was united (except for the girl). And of course after the rescue everyone was united and bonded! \$\endgroup\$ – Ludi Jul 26 '16 at 7:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I'm reading it unclearly, but in your second to last paragraph you appear to tie it off by suggesting there are now two games running, one that's kinda boring, which sounds like an unsatisfactory result - and it sounds like there's not much guidance here in what a GM can do to actually get to that point, just a story where that was the end outcome. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 26 '16 at 7:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I tried to make it much clearer. \$\endgroup\$ – Ludi Jul 27 '16 at 18:03

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