By Jason Campbell
I am a GM for life by choice but I occasionally play TTRPGs so I can experience how other GMs run their game. Recently I played in a 5e Dungeons & Dragons game at a RPG weekend. I created a character based on a character concept. The character has enough of a backstory so that I would understand his goals when I needed to make choices for him. He wasn’t an incredibly deep character but it was probably more than I needed since this game would only run for 10 hours total.
There were a total of 8 players for this game and the characters ran the gamut from crafted character stories to a basic list of spells and powers. Of course all of these are great ways to make characters and the variations just express the diversity of player types at our table.
Reflecting on the title of this article, I don’t mean that I don’t have a grasp of the rules or that I don’t make use of tactical advantages. What I mean is that if I was a player at a table I was GMing, I don’t think I’d appreciate the way I play the game.
Over the weekend the game was fun and I think all the players enjoyed themselves. However looking back on it, I think that I ended up “hogging the spotlight”, even if it was unintentional. As the game went on, because I had a good sense of my character’s personality I injected my character into conversation and actions as I thought he was likely to do. I think that some of the players whose characters were more standard PC builds with less of a constructed personality tended to wait to act until there was an obvious need for their skills or if there was a definite choice to make.
The bottom line here is something I recently heard B. Dave Walters say in an interview with GamerMomLuna. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, that he exerts as much influence on the story as a player as he does as a GM. It was then I realized I’d been taking too much “screen time” as a player. As a GM I pay a lot of attention to how much of the story focus each player gets, so that I can make sure they all feel involved in the story. But in the game I described I wasn’t really thinking of the amount of story focus the other players had, I was too involved in being my character. I could have helped the players share the spotlight by holding back a bit on interjecting my character when it wasn’t necessary. I could have even stepped into the storytelling more by having my character address the other characters, asking their opinions or asking for help.
I suppose since I spend 95% of my TTRPG time as a GM I might be being harsh on myself. Like anything else, being a good player probably takes practice. But it’s something to note that the flow of a TTRPG story is as much in the hands of the players as the GM.
What do you think? Leave your comments below!