Friday, June 17, 2011

Never Split the Party: Crisis in the Pokemon RPG

It is a well-known saying in the world of RPGs: ‘Never split the party.’  You will be outnumbered, you will never find each other again, and gameplay slows down because the DM can only focus on one group at a time.  Scooby-doo never learned this lesson, and Daphne can attest to the dangers of wandering off alone that result from this.

I’ve written a bit about the Pokemon RPG I’ve been running for quite some time now.  We’re in somewhere around the 20th session, I believe, and it’s been going really well.  The only thing that doesn’t work well is the party.  When they are focused on a single goal, they are an unstoppable force.  Defeating Koga at a disgustingly low level was testament to that.  Unfortunately, this does not happen often, and it has now led to an irrevocable divide in the party.
It's even a book!
To be fair, it’s partly my fault.  I gave the assassins in the group the assignment of taking out Misty, the leader of the Water Gym and therefore of one of the other party members.  The assassins dutifully did just that, but not quite subtly enough.  It was very well done, but they were discovered, refused to go quietly, and we left the session with the pair of them sailing off in a commandeered ship, with the Water Gym party member following them with Sabrina, who was angry.  The other two players were both away and so their characters are in totally different cities.  Not to difficult to reunite each with one of the groups, but good grief.  I do not see it happening that the party will ever be completely unified again.  So, people of the internet, come to my aid.  I see three options.

         1)      Split the Party: Keep going as is.  I will have to switch back and forth between the two groups regularly, and one will side with the Ground Gym, and the other will side with the Water Gym.  It’s questionable as to who are the good guys, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the people who just killed Misty...  I’ve played games like this before and it’s worked fairly well.  The original Final Fantasy game I played in this game setting had party members all over the place every session and it was fantastic, so it’s possible.  But it will seriously cut into the playtime for the players.

         2)      Pick a Side: Either the ‘good’ characters get replaced by more devious ones and a new party is formed, or the ‘morally questionable’ characters are replaced.  Both scenarios work out within the game easily, and could lead to some very interesting new characters joining the party, as I would give them the option of choosing from amongst some NPCs they have met previously, such as Jessie (yes, that Jessie).  The other characters which have been replaced would not be simply killed off, but they would become significant NPCs under my control, and the party will probably meet them again, probably as recurring villains/nuisances.  So they would hear about their original characters exploits every so often, which could be fun, and they get to create a whole new character now that they fully understand the world in which it is set.  A new, unified party is created on one side of the fence, though that fence may just be broken all over again.

         3)      Radical Perspective Change: Most difficult option.  Total shift.  Everyone leaves their character behind and the whole tone of the game shifts.  Everyone becomes Pokemon, for instance, and has to work things from there, either as a liberation movement or a faction of war or even a diplomatic envoy.... unlikely.  Everyone moves up a grade and gains control of a Gym Leader or a Lieutenant.  The game suddenly becomes a massive war, with many units under your command and meeting the opponent on the field of battle.  It’s not my favourite option, and I don’t think they will like it either, but it’s a possibility, and it could be really cool.

So what do you think?  I’m most tempted to leave things as they are, but if the players want to make sure they get more playtime, then option 2 seems the best to me, and could be hilarious with the new characters they create and re-encountering the old ones.


  1. Excuse my stupidity here, but where do you play this? I would love to! And yes... never split the party!

  2. Ha, I'm glad you like the sound of it. Unfortunately I play it here in Wales, so it may be a bit of a hike for you :P Looks like the group is going for the 2 party solution in the end, unless I can pull something special out of my hat, which is unlikely.