Continuing the discussion from Episode 97: You Can't Have Enough Thugs:
Towards the end of the last thrilling episode of Improvised Radio Theatre With Dice, the Sages of High Wycombe treated us to a discussion of issues arising from the condition in RPGs in which some PCs are present and others absent from a scene that deserves for whatever reason to be played out at some length. I should like to add to their advice a brief recommendation that when you are playing such a scene you ought to play to the audience. This is not an alternative to brevity and balance, and it is not an admonition to the GM alone. In fact, the advice is not entirely restricted to situations in which the party is split. Strive to amuse.
Back in the old days on rec.games.frp.advocacy, before the Threefold took over as the only thing worth talking about, somebody came up with the very useful observation that players of RPGs (including GMs) take from time to different stances towards the events of the game, and that among these stances are Author, Actor, Audience, Character, Director, and Tactician. Brushing resolutely past a thicket of promising elaborations and digressions, I shall move on to the point that Audience stance, in which one takes no active part in shaping or narrating the course of events, but rather appreciates and enjoys what the others are doing for the moment, is a significant part of RPGs¹ (and of many other games). It behoves us all, especially when we are playing in Author, Actor, or Director stance (but, I maintain though aware that it is controversial, also in Character and Tactician stances), to have a thought for our friends who are (however fleetingly) in Audience mode. Be brief, at least brief enough. Strive to be amusing.
The essence of amusingness is different in different stances. It is not necessarily helpful to announce your moves and combat options in Convention Mexican. But bear in mind that it is your part as Tactician to demonstrate tactics that have substance that the audience can appreciate. Strive to amuse with your skill and flair.
I am inclined to think that the people who discuss RPGs and try to work out how to improve the craft tend disproportionately to be GMs, and that discussion and advice about how to be better at RPGs is biased excessively towards advice about how to be a better gamemaster. But you can’t do it all from the GM’s chair; there is craft also in being a good character-player, a player who is fun to play alongside, a player who is fun to GM for. I put it forward as a key realisation that character-players are not just consumers of entertainment produced by the GM, but also entertainers themselves. Strive to amuse whenever your character is in the spotlight, encourage your co-players to strive. It is fun to be amusing; it is sufficient to the moment to let yourself be amused.
TL;DR: splitting the party is less of a problem when scenes featuring the half-party are fun to watch and listen to. This can be made so with a little effort from the GM and players.
¹ That is perhaps less of a revelation now that Critical Role and other actual plays are a popular genre of streaming video than it seemed in the early Nineties.