Rock and Role! Stealing the Spotlight – the cons

Last week I talked about what happens when you have a player who begins to steal the spotlight in a game, either through role playing or good decisions. As I said then, it can be a positive experience for everyone involved and it can get other people to elevate their game and their role playing style.

However, there is another side to it, and it is one that happens all too often. Good game masters need to be on the lookout that these things are happening, and then address the issues before they get to be too big.

  • Other players get bored quickly when one character/player consistently steals the spotlight.
  • Other players feel that they aren’t contributing and good ideas that they have are going unheard.
  • The whole experience may make other, especially new, players feel that role playing is not for them.
  • It may give newer players the impression “they can’t do this” because of the funny accents or the quick thinking of the spotlight stealer

Most of those are pretty bad consequences. As a game writer, my goal is to make sure people stay as interested as they can. As someone who loves to game, my goal is to make sure people share in the hobby. As someone who runs games, my goal is to make sure everyone has fun. After all, if it’s a hobby and it’s not fun, why do it?

There are some simple ways to overcome those who steal the spotlight continuously, and not all of them require that much more work than running the game normally. Most just rely on the game master being sensitive to the needs of the players.

  • Specifically include the players who are doing less. This may mean adjusting the adventure to suit their character’s needs, but mostly it means just making sure they are heard. The spotlight stealer will find a way to include him or herself no matter what.
  • Make sure that you listen to the ideas of all the players. Make it obvious.
  • Specifically address to players (probably after the game) that they did a good job and you hope they had a lot of fun.

Sometimes, the spotlight stealer just has a jubilant personality and that’s just who they are; they aren’t trying to run rough-shod over the other players and their characters, they just have a huge personality. Gamers with a lot of experience with their own spotlight theft can usually be dialed back a little with a simple hand gesture or sometimes even a look. Sometimes the GM may need to pull the player aside and have a private conversation so as to not knock them down in front of the whole group. That can be handled in a variety of ways, ranging from a serious discussion about how they are making the other players feel to trying to get them to include the other characters with their role playing approach.