Scouting ahead and splitting the party

Kroax

Explorer
One thing I've never really gotten the hang of as a DM is whenever the rogue in the party sneaks ahead of the group. The particular problem that keeps cropping up is the way the rest of the players are left standing and are more or less just waiting for the rogue to return before they can go on.

I've recently had this happen in two separate groups (3.5E) and I don't really know how to approach it when next it comes up. I don't want to disallow a viable tactic just because the other characters aren't able to keep up, but I also don't want to halt the game for the majority of the group for a (possibly) extended period of time.

What are your experiences with these sort of situations? How are they usually dealt with in your groups? I'm looking for all the help I can get on this topic.
 

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Empirate

First Post
The playstyle of my group heavily revolves around a mix of individual and collective 'scenes'. One PC having the spotlight (with the other players possibly taking over NPCs if there's conflict), followed by the group or parts thereof getting together again. My players expect to have to wait and watch sometimes - but they also expect to have the spotlight to themselves again at some point.

This has the obvious drawbacks which the OP seems to abhor, but it also feels a lot more realistic, since even a group of closely connected people (close friends or family) won't always do everything together. Much of the time, it's simply much more effective to let only one or two of the group handle something. At other times, the group dynamic or other roleplaying issues make equal participation of everybody unlikely. For my group, this works just fine, making scouting ahead of single PCs a nonissue.
 

One way to do it, is leave encounter levels what they should be for the group. If the rouge wants to wonder off and scout, thats fine, but make sure he understands, that doesn't reduce his chances of encountering a bear or a boar on the way back, and that he shouldn't needlessly go ahead.

Another way is to have the party encounter something meant for all of them when they sit still. They will live, but burn more resources than needed. Dont put something up that will kill a player, just drain them of more than they would have if they didnt wonder too far off.

I know my players enjoyed it, as they got to prove their heroics a bit, but decided to stick in larger groups.
 

Empirate

First Post
So your idea is to punish the players for implementing a valid tactic that is intended to make things easier for them? And is, going by common sense, likely to do so? :hmm:
 

Nezkrul

First Post
I usually, instead of running an entirely solo scene for the scout, just compare his take-10 hide and move silently, with the take-10 spot and listen of any of the npcs the character could end up dealing with, if he beats them by 1 to 4, he learns a little bit of information but not much, 5 to 9 he learns more precise details of the area, and 10 or more he learns pretty exact figures, numbers, and details of the area... all in 1d3 hours of stealthing, depending on the size of the area scouted, number of guards, available cover, etc... really a dm's call there, but it speeds up the game without splitting the party.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
I usually try to keep the excursions brief. On the trail it's the Ranger scouting ahead, usually about a quad-move ahead of the party. He'll mark the trail with some agreed upon signs and everyone is moving at once, and may or may not have separate encounters.

In a dungeon setting it's usually the Rogue scouting, and he'll be a double-move ahead. We make liberal use of the Message spell, since I'd have to fight to keep the players from advising each other anyway.

He checks for traps and alarms, and returns to report as soon as he spots anything that calls for group support. But again, both he and the party are advancing at similar rates.

And yes, the PC on "point" knows that the job is the most dangerous one in the group. I don't "punish" them or the party for the tactic, but whoever is scouting knows that they might be one missed Spot, Search, Hide or Listen roll away from big trouble. Their support is a round or two behind, but in those situations they know that two rounds can be the rest of their lives.
 

RUMBLETiGER

Adventurer
Just how far ahead might the scout go? Are we talking 2 miles ahead, or it would take 4 rounds if the scout and the rest of the party ran towards each other?
 

Kroax

Explorer
Just how far ahead might the scout go? Are we talking 2 miles ahead, or it would take 4 rounds if the scout and the rest of the party ran towards each other?
It differs depending on groups and encounters. Sometimes they may be a round or two away from the party, other times it may take a few minutes to get back.

To give an example, one time the rogue went scouting out a building in a hostile town and went looking for a way for the rest party to get inside. The other PCs were on the other side of the town during this.

Another time a rogue gulped down an invisibility potion and climbed up a giant tree to a treehouse fortification. The other PCs were hiding in the bushes below, but the rogue was only just out of sight.


I think I'll try a combination of summarising ("Ok, your hide is 24 so you can see this ahead before heading back") and a spotlight treatment where I'll make sure the other PCs gets to shine as well.
 

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