November 3, 2020

Your Character’s Right to Their Journey

Tabletop RPG stories contain countless journeys. From the main plot, to epic side quests, to the journeys for each individual player character, the tapestry of story is made of up these finer threads.

Today’s post for TTRPG newbies focuses on those player characters’ right to that journey. And how, just for investing in that experience, their characters have a right to the spotlight that comes with it.

What is Spotlight?

Spotlight is direct attention the Game/Dungeon Master gives to a player’s character, as opposed to other characters or the group of players as a whole. That attention can perhaps be having non-player characters develop their relationship(s) to the player character. Or maybe getting powerful and/or personal items. There are myriad examples. At a more general level, spotlight is the investment the story facilitator makes in the player character’s journey.

To be crystal clear: being a new player absolutely does not disqualify you from getting that “spotlight.” By committing to the story, your character receives this crucial right to spotlight. And while you obviously won’t have a monopoly over what’s transpiring in the story, you’ll know in the back of your mind that you will have a freedom to develop your character.

Naturally, every player at the table has the right to some degree of spotlight. And its distribution among the players – and group as a whole – is similar to a jazz band, riffing off one another. Or perhaps the fluid, beautiful team passing in basketball. The more chemistry the table develops with one another, the better it will self-regulate spotlight.

Mulan’s Journey as an Example

Let’s take a quick step back and give a more in-depth spotlight example. Previously, I wrote about how Mulan overcame Li Shang’s “Discipline and Strength” riddle to retrieve the arrow and rally her fellow soldiers with her success. That that deep-dive into solving the riddle, its trials, tribulations, and ultimate success, was a crucial plot thread for the character Mulan.

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 solely 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 as a whole.

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