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Being a Better TTRPG Player part 2: Actively Share the Spotlight

December 14, 2023

(Read part 1 here)

A good gaming experience is one where every player gets to do something interesting. (And not every player will define “interesting” the same way.)

As a player, you can have as much control over the spotlight as the gamemaster does, for good or ill. It’s important to use it wisely, and not just expect the GM to manage it.

Check in with quiet or new players occasionally

If you’re an experienced player, newer players may hang back and let you make decisions. It’s always good to stop and ask them what they think on occasion (not looking for a particular answer), and help them translate between mechanics and storytelling implications.

A good GM will do this if a player’s being quiet, but players can do it, too. And it’s different coming from another player.

Help manage debates before they get heated

Sometimes, your best move is to put aside your opinion and make sure other players aren’t talking past each other.

This might not be “what your character would do,” but drawing a clear line between consensus between players and conflict between characters (rather than letting them bleed back and forth) makes for a better play experience where characters’ unique perspectives can shine.

Just like the GM, you can step outside of the game world to do this (e.g., “hey, why don’t we set up this particular scene to resolve this?”). And again, that can be different coming from another player.

Power gamers don’t hurt the GM, they hurt other players

This feels counterintuitive, but once you get a handle on it, it will change how you manage disputes with players who min/max or cheat. You can make deals that address the actual interpersonal issues rather than handing down more abstract rulings.

As an (admittedly non-challenge-focused) GM, I don’t care if players breeze through an encounter on occasion. I do care if they don’t get opportunities to do something cool–and that’s usually tied to what their character’s specializations. That’s hard to do when you’re constantly being overshadowed by a character that’s fairly good at everything.

It’s fine to excel at what your character specializes in. You might run into some differences in play style between people who want storytelling and challenge (and maybe that requires some discussion). But be aware when you’re not letting other players do their thing.

Be careful when you alone have the spotlight

These moments feel good, and every player should get one once in a while. But if you feel the scene going nowhere (or you’ve played out its usefulness), step back and bring the focus back to the party rather than dragging things out.

But how do you do that? Well, that will bring us to part 3.