Between working, traveling, editing, reading up for future projects, and more working, I found myself seriously stressing about where my campaign was going (the party took a left at Albuquerque last game, ending things on an awkward note after 3 sessions of People of the Pit with a good 20% of the place untouched). There simply wasn't time for me to do the normal prep work this week, and I certainly haven't had the brain capacity to stew on it and come up with some awesome resolution. But I had an epiphany yesterday: Interludes!
When Bob's 1E sandbox campaign [please note, I'm specifically not tagging him yet] recently came to a point where he needed some time to pass in the game, he put together some "interludes," episodes in which the players were given pre-generated characters that pertained to a different part of the world. Maybe they're designed to tell some backstory, and the scene takes place in the past to give us a better understanding. In one, we played thieves who ended up thwarting an assassin's attempt on the Mayor's life. We don't know exactly when that particular scene takes place on the grand timeline, but he'll reveal the resulting mayhem to our regular characters when we resume the main story. We've also had a one-shot where we played characters that would've been NPCs or villains to be taken out in regular play. It offered a lot of insight to us as players, in regards to the underlying motives.
I've decided on the "meanwhile, in this other location" approach. They'll all be playing 2nd-level ...well, formerly NPCs, who have to deal with the aftermath of one of the party's recent raids. They'll witness a previously-dismissed enemy limping back home, and will have to shoulder the subsequent wrath of a boss for allowing the PC party to desecrate his territory. I'm willing to bet they'll also stumble into an area that's off-limits to lackeys like them, and discover how a particular plot-driving item has been manufactured.
The interludes have been really enjoyable to play, and break up the monotony a bit, so after a mere hour of work - and most of that was statting up these particular lackeys - I feel pretty good about it now.
XP is going to be awarded after the fact (in both our games) to the regular PCs for participating in these cut-scenes.