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Don't split the party!

You hear that all the time. For #dnd fans. Aside from the challenge rating issues and class interaction issues, people hate splitting the party because it's BORING.

You or your GM might be bad at it. And that's OK. I was bad at it for... years. I think most of us are bad at it.

But there's a trick to getting good at it.
Everyone KNOWS you need to cut between scenes pretty often, so no group of players is left sitting around, playing on their phones, losing interest and whatnot. We also know to put both halves of the party in exciting situations if we can.
We KNOW to cut back and forth pretty often, but we don't REMEMBER to. In your regular #rpg GMing process, you don't usually watch for cut-away points. So it makes sense that when you're running a split party, you aren't thinking about that.
So I'm here to tell you 8 times to cut away. And then as a bonus -- this isn't in the infographic I shared earlier OR the blog post I shared earlier -- I'm going to tell you what to do with these cut-away points even when the party ISN'T split.
1. Cut to the other PCs when someone fails a check.
Gives you extra time to think of the consequences of the failed check. Gives them extra time to DREAD the consequences of the failed check. Win-Win!
2. Cut to the other PCs when a player needs a break for an OOC reason (getting a drink, bathroom, take a call). Obvious. Maybe doesn't need to be stated.
3. Cut to the other PCs when a PC needs time to think IN CHARACTER. Takes some of the pressure off, and makes efficient use of table time.

(Now if you WANT to put a PLAYER under pressure, you're running a high character immersion game. See:… )
4. Cut away to the other PCs when it might help to make the player pause to look up the rule. Good use of table time. You rarely have this luxury when you're running whole-group: Pausing to look up a rule is boring for everyone not looking up a rule. In a split party, it's NBD.
5. When there's a twist or cliffhanger moment, DON'T cut away immediately. Wait ONE MORE BEAT. That way you can see the players' reactions. Cut to the other PCs before resolving their reactions. Gives you time to think of the perfect way to handle them.
I threw a curve ball in there to keep your attention. It was a TWIST!
6. Dialog / interaction scenes / conversations are a BIG problem. Not only are you in regular GM mode, you're ALSO taking on the NPC's persona. Easy to lose track of time and gab on. So watch for conversation milestones.
That is: When something changes in the conversation (something resolved, new contention comes up, new person enters scene, etc.), cut back to the other PCs.
7. Flailing
Look, RPGs are different from novels. Even in the best RPGs, players will flail about without getting anywhere sometimes. It might be the dice's fault, or the player is being indecisive and unwilling to commit, or the player is not sure what to do and just probing...
So cast "Detect Flailing"
Here's how: When a player tries one fruitless thing, it's an oops. When a player tries a SECOND fruitless thing? Cut back to the other players.

When Plan B fails, cut away. This gives the player time to regroup, reassess. And...
...And it gives YOU time to think of ways to help the player push the action forward. It's HARD to think of how to push things forward in the heat of the moment, when a player is struggling. In a split-party scenario, you can cut away and buy yourself time to think about it.
8. Last one. Cut away when a clue is revealed. Typically in whole-group you drop a clue, then the players ask a million questions, and 999,995 of them are unnecessary if they just looked at their notes or thought about it for a minute.
That's fine most of the time, but it SUCKS when you're the player in the other scene who has to listen to the GM answer unnecessary questions.

So learn to cut away when you drop a clue. The clueful player will spend the next 5 min looking at notes, refining their questions.
Now the bonus you've all been waiting for (all six of you who read this far!)

Use these cues when you're running whole-group scenes, too!

"But use them for what, Jon? Use them for WHAT?"
Use them to remember to check in and summarize.

Remember how you can do that with combat? Every turn, summarize what's going on and reinforce the stakes.

Well you can do a similar thing out of combat, too.
You can use these moments to redirect the action:

"Ru, you just saw Elantria floored when she found out the vampire is her father. She's stunned. Someone needs to act. What do you do?"
Or you can use them to summarize and check-in:

"Merlin, the duke has agreed to send troops to protect the village, but only if the ghoul problem is cleared up. But now that the vizier has entered the conversation, that deal is about to fall apart. What do you think is going on?"
Or you can use them to reinforce the stakes:

"OK, Elantria, the innkeeper will die if you don't heal her, but the assassin you've been hunting for weeks will get away if you don't chase him immediately. Take a moment to agonize over that choice while I go refill my coffee."
So practice using these cues to summarize, redirect action, and reinforce stakes. Then when you cut between split party members, you just use the same exact cues and same exact skills. It'll become intuitive second nature.

End thread.
Post-script: Here's the blog post about this. And here's the infographic, ICYMI…
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