First, a definition. A lone wolf isn’t a player who simply splits the party for good reason. A lone wolf is one that sends their character off on their own, often while the other characters are sleeping, and thus prevents the rest of the party from having anything to do while the lone wolf follows their own needs. I further define it as when the lone wolf’s scene will take a fair while. A character giving his wife a call during a session isn’t lone wolfing it. A character running off while the rest of the party sleeps so that they can attempt to locate and kill a villain on their own most certainly is.
Most players will do a ‘lone wolf’ on occasion – perhaps even just once. A few will do it whenever they have the chance.
My core advice is – don’t buy into it and keep the negotiations out of character. Don’t attempt to punish the player through their character. It doesn’t work, makes them angry, and takes longer to resolve the scene. I’ve seen Storytellers try this angle several times and I’ve never seen it work.
So what can you do?
If it’s a simple scene, run it like a movie scene and ensure that there’s as little faffing about as possible. Don’t waste air time with boring drives, social niceties or long descriptions. Get to the action – even if the action is romantic or conversational.
If it’s complex and might take awhile, see if you can do it during an individual session or perhaps meet up earlier during the next session. If you can’t commit the time, do it at the start of a session so that the other players can socialise for awhile longer before coming into game. Don’t take more than an hour, though, if other players are waiting.
If it’s complex but needs to be done now, get a consensus. Are the players happy with them running off on their own?
· Yes. Great. Run it but keep one eye on the other players to see that they’re still enjoying themselves. Perhaps convince the player who needs to run off that they should do it at a time where you can cut between the two groups to keep them all engaged. Let the uninvolved players leave the table and do something else, if they like, but still keep one eye on the clock and keep to an allocated amount of time (perhaps a half hour).
· No. Politely point out to the player that the scene would be complicated and take too long to run while the other players do nothing. If possible, offer a dice roll and some quick summaries. If not, ask them if they can think up ways to involve the rest of the party.
When dealing with a lone wolf, don’t make the assumption that they’re just spotlight hogging dicks who want to bore others senseless with their antics just to get a sense of power and control. It might be based in ignorance about the time the scene would require or perhaps they just have a need to follow their character’s motivations to the very end. Some people might smarten up after being told that the scene will take a long time. They might have thought it’d only be require a few minutes.
If the player insists that it’s what their character would do, point out that few games enforce strict realism and that everyone must make concessions to ensure that everyone is having fun.
However, give them a way to stay true to their character while keeping everyone else involved. Offer them a few IC excuses for not delving into the scene but pitch them on an out of character level as otherwise the player might chafe at being restricted by a series of unrealistic coincidences.
As an example, the lone wolf’s wife was molested by a villain but the other characters aren’t the killing type. The Storyteller points out that it would take too long to devote a scene to it without the rest of them. She offers these options:
· The lone wolf insists on heading out for a confrontation but the villain is nowhere to be seen
· The lone wolf’s attempts to leave are overheard by the team who follow him and get involved
· Someone else in the group could decide that perhaps the villain must be killed after all and helps the lone wolf convince the others. The lone wolf could be granted the right to the actual ‘kill’ but the rest of the team would be involved.
· A sudden new threat rears its head and prevents the lone wolf from leaving the team for now.
The player could select one of the above or come up with a reason of their own. This little bit of control about the character’s word might even help deal with frustrated players who are acting out or even the actual jerk players who like to throw their weight around.
If reasoning with them doesn’t work, reinforce to the player that this is a social and communal activity and that they don’t have the right to monopolise the attention. It’s like going to a party and insisting that everyone else listen to you talk for an hour. It’s not going to happen. You’re not going to let one player monopolise it. Be polite, tactful, and firm.
You’ll need to deal with lone wolf issues on an out of character level because that’s where the issue lies. If you try to punish the lone wolf with bad dice rolls, wandering monsters, and escalating action, you’ll just reward those seeking attention, drag it out longer, and offend any other sort of player as players generally don’t take being punished through their characters well. It also sets a bad precedent and may cause other players to wonder if a certain event only occurred because they somehow displeased you. Besides, it doesn’t fulfil your original goal which is to keep everybody engaged and having fun.