December 30, 2019

Your Tabletop RPG Character’s Right to Spotlight

Today’s #newbieTuesday post is all about a player’s right to “spotlight.”

To set the table, spotlight is the concept of direct attention from the Game Master to a player’s character. And that attention can manifest itself in myriad ways such as investment in that character’s plot thread, getting powerful and/or personal items, having non-player characters invest in their relationship to the character etc.

Today’s post centers on how new players should know that being new does not disqualify them from getting that “spotlight.”

But first, let’s take a quick step back and give a more in-depth example of what spotlight is and how it’s used at the table. Last week, on #ifthiswereaTTRPG, I wrote about how Mulan overcame the Li Shang’s “Discipline and Strength” riddle to retrieve the arrow and rally her fellow soldiers with her success. It can be safely said that that deep-dive into solving the riddle, its trials, tribulations, and ultimate success, was a plot thread of Mulan and Mulan alone. Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po didn’t really participate in that mini journey of self-discovery so, if that thread was a TTRPG, then it would have been the player playing Mulan and the Game Master driving that progress.

That’s spotlight. And while somewhat selfish, spotlight is often incredibly necessary to the development, evolution, and progression of a tabletop role-playing game story.

New players need to realize that every player at the table has the right to some degree of spotlight. Now, even the players most heavily invested in participating in the story must concede that the distribution of spotlight is similar to beautiful passing in basketball or a riff in Jazz – it’s a critical and necessary part of the process between the GM and players.

So when you’re new and just getting a feel for how spotlight works, especially for the experienced players, don’t feel the need to recede into the background. At the table, everyone is important and everyone has a story to tell! Never forget that!