Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Plan B - How to Party Without the Whole Party

You have prepared the maps, the npcs, the monsters, the dungeon, loaded the room with treasure and set the scene with lighting, effects, mood, music, and munchies – a perfect plan for a perfect gaming session. Then it happens. You waited all week to game and now you are getting a call from a member of the party that cannot make it. You think to yourself “maybe I can save this thing!” optimistically but then as you start to figure out exactly how the party is going to get on without a cleric in the Lost Dungeon of Undead Madness, you get a call from the player of the rogue –crap. Now you are down too many people to run your cool awesome game and you are feeling the pressure. Do you cancel? Well that depends. How badly do you want to game?

You could go ahead and cancel. That will give everyone enough time to find something else to do that night. Notice I did not say “better”. For me gaming IS the better thing to do. If you are playing a game because you have nothing better to do then you are playing it wrong. Sorry. That’s how I feel.

Anyway at this point you start looking at the dusty card and board games and think “I can have a board game night!” and then it hits you –zombies! Or Chez Geek or Arkham Horror (hey it’s basically an RPG with cool graphics and a board) so you smile and text your buddies.

“Hey guys, we’re down a few tonight. What about some card or boardgames?”

You get one of two answers.

“Sure sounds great”

Or, man I was hoping for a game.

Now here’s plan B.

You can do BOTH.

One of the great things about rpgs is their ability to be able to do things on the side. This is known as downtime actions in Pathfinder and is known as downtime or side quests among some other grognards.

Undoubtedly everyone in the party has something that they want to do with their characters. This is especially true if the game is an established one and the characters have played for a while (redundant I know but think about an established game with brand new characters, hmm, maybe they’d need MORE downtime, but I digress). The game isn’t all about hacking and slashing and rescuing princes. It is about adventure! So what can you do as a GM? Maybe run a quick adventure featuring the players and GIVE those that could make it to the game a good time by allowing them to complete side quests together as a smaller group - ones that they are going to be wanting to play.

Vindication/Admission : This is where the rogue becomes a member of a thieves guild, or the cleric has the ability to join the church, or the fighter a warrior order or the party has the chance of proving themselves individually to some other group or the town as a whole.

Quest for Item: Maybe one of your party members has heard the whereabouts of the longsword his father carried in battle before he was slain by the marauding orc from Toothymaw hills? This would be a great side quest for him to gain that item!

Craft: A great time to have players work on crafting items, writing spells, and training is also during downtime quests.

Other: Once a group of players decided to host a circus in one of my games. I ran this on the fly and off the cuff. We had a blast. Their circus ran for a week and after which time they were awarded some xp and some gold.

Ah but you say, what happens when the players are in the middle of a dungen?

That’s easy! Adventurers are by nature curious. Separate them!

GM: “You see a strange looking torch on the wall”

Player: “I look it over for traps and then touch it.”

GM: “You feel the entire floor shift beneath you and you realize that you (and whoever else is at the table) is now on the opposite side of the wall.”

Now the players have to figure out how to get back. Maybe magic or teleportation works, maybe it doesn’t – the choice is yours and should make sense for whatever dungeon eh players are exploring.

I said before you could do boardgames and cardgames as well as rpg in a night. This is true but only if you want to do it (and have the time).

We have played side quests for a few hours and then gleefully broken out Munchkin or Fluxx. The players especially enjoyed the one time at the circus because we broke out Munchkin Cthulhu after and they proceeded on gaming up on me. Cthulhu was doubled and my items mysteriously disappeared. I deserved it though because putting a pick pocket monkey into the game that worked for the major npc villain of the campaign kind of ticket them off when he stole their lockbox after the show…

Happy gaming!

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