How to break up a party of 4 during a simple conflict

I understand that you don’t want to have a conflict with more than 3 participants on a side. How do you break them up when you have a simple conflict when there aren’t many options for differing goals, though?

I’m planning on having a snake attack the group with a goal of killing a nearby merchant. The obvious goal for the party is to kill the snake. I can’t think of another good goal for a second group. Saving the merchant is simply negating the snake’s goal, so that’s a non-starter.

Is there something that I am missing? Should I run with two different groups with the same goal (how to deal with consequences on that)? Should I just bite the bullet and put all 4 party members in one group?

I’d “bite the bullet” and put all for patrolmice on one team, but you could alter the snake’s goal so that fighting the snake and protecting the merchant were distinct for the players’ side. What about adding a second snake?

A second snake wouldn’t make sense.

Do you have an example of a goal that would work like that? I’m at a loss.

i would also put all 4 mice into one team. It isn’t too bad. I’ve never worried about 4 mice on a team, but maybe above 6 is too full. That means everyone gets maybe a single action during the conflict at all; some might not get to act. But, 4 isn’t so bad.

Yeah, snakes aren’t know for being mated pairs.

As for the snake’s goal, I guess it depends on the context. Can the merchant’s wares be threatened in such a way that protecting them and dealing with the snake are distinct? Can the mice come upon the merchant already injured, but still threatened by the snake, so that tending to him and fighting the snake both are crucial?

If you can’t make it work, just go will all the mice on one team. It’s less than ideal, but it’s been fine for me many times in games with four players.

Now that I’m thinking about it, we may be approaching this wrong. It shouldn’t be the snake who has two goals, it should be the players (so they can have a group for each one). The snake could attack the merchant and threaten his stuff, but the 2nd group’s goal shouldn’t be just negating one of the snake’s.

I can’t think of a second goal for the party. Kill the snake is the obvious one. Save the merchant is just negating the other goal, so unless the party has some other plan for the snake it looks like it’s a party of 4.

I think you’ve got it; I may not have been explaining myself well before. If the patrol should divide into two teams, you need to create a situation where each team can have a distinct goal (e.g. a snake is attacking the merchant, however the merchant needs to be treated for a life-threatening injury he’s sustained already). It won’t always be appropriate, but it’s a good way to keep everyone involved in conflicts for patrols of four or more guardmice.

I’m a player, and I don’t like 4 PCs on a team. Is it possible that the BIGs provide oppourtunities for new/additional goals?

Hi Michael,

In my experience, it’s the game master’s responsibility to bait the players into dividing up into more than one team. This works well for patrols of four mice, because they can tackle conflicts as one or two teams, and is crucial for larger groups. Beliefs, Instincts, and relationship characters provide good motivation for chasing after tertiary goals in a situation. Here’s an example of how I set up a multi-team conflict for a group of five players: Summer 1153.

I think that it’s pretty easy to create secondary important objectives which then force players into multiple teams. Like almost every situation in MG, I like to ask myself as a GM: what else is happening that I can add as flavor to the situation.

For example, a “simple” fight with a snake could be complicated with friends, enemies, important objects, the urgency of time, BIGs, story hooks, weather, internal competition, additional non player characters, situational issues, and so on…

Create natural situations where the players will struggle with multiple things that they WANT to do, so they have to split into teams. “I’ll fight back the snake while you go save Timmy before he drowns!” You don’t need to hand hold the players in that situation. It’s obvious.

Careful GM planning is the key

So I have run my scenario for two different groups, and the 4-man groups worked out just fine. One of the two groups ended up doing this twice: once against the snake, and once in an argument with an NPC.

After that, I’m not seeing what the big deal is.

No big deal per se except that when you have extra mice on a team the helper dice can add up in a significant way.