Q&A

How Do I Balance Time in the Spotlight?

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Good afternoon!

I have a roleplaying question. But first, some context: I’m a DM and my party of adventurers is about to visit Candlekeep (like a giant library in Faerûn). One of my players put a lot of work into his backstory, describing how he and his wife met and how mushy-gushy in love they are, but she chose to stay and work in the library while he chose the adventuring life. Now my question is this: How can I make my player feel like he’s getting plenty of spotlight time, while also involving everyone else?

Thanks so much for your time!

-Adam


Hey Adam, thanks for writing in!

I’m familiar with Candlekeep from ye olden days of Baldur’s Gate. I still remember spending hours and hours searching for a book they’d accept as a price of passage before I realized it was a scripted event in the plot.

Anyway, onto your question. I’m seeing a few possible factors at play here. First, in order for your player to feel like he’s getting extra spotlight time, his wife needs to be central to whatever plot you’ve got planned in Candlekeep. Otherwise, there’ll just be a scene or two of a loving reunion.

How you do this is super flexible. Maybe someone’s been stealing books, and it’s the wife’s job to track them down. Or maybe the wife’s been replaced by a doppelganger (that happens in Candlekeep sometimes), and only the PC knows her well enough to notice the difference. Whatever option you go with, it should give the PC a special incentive to solve the problem because of his wife’s involvement.

As you’ve predicted, once you shine the spotlight on one player, there’s the rest of the party to think about. How much consideration you give to this will depend on how long you’re planning to spend in Candlekeep. If it’s just one session, then there’s not much to worry about. As long as the rest of the party still contributes, be that through combat or skill checks, it’s fine for them to take a back seat for one session.

If you’re planning a longer arc in Candlekeep, this’ll need a little more thought. It’ll get old if three or four sessions go by and all the attention is still being showered on just one PC. A straightforward way to involve other PCs is to give them connections to the wife as well. Maybe the party wizard is her former student, or the rogue is her old partner in crime. That way, they also have an investment in solving the problem.

That probably won’t work for everyone, though, unless your party has a very specific backstory. To keep them entertained, you’ll want to employ the same strategies you would in any other arc. Give each character problems only they can solve, or loot they’re particularly interested, or villains with a personal grudge against them. Again, it’s okay for your married PC to take the lead, but the other characters should still feel important.

Once this arc is done, it wouldn’t hurt to craft similar stories for the other PCs. That way everyone gets their turn as the center of attention.

Hope that helps!

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Comments

  1. Jenn H

    Another possibility (one my GMs use often) if one party member is in a town for a specific reason, let the rest of the party wander off to explore and do shopping etc. That way they will inevitably trip over all the exciting plot threads left lying around the place.

    The wizard might hear rumours of a secret part of the library hidden underground. The rogue might spot an opportunity. The bard might fall in love with someone they really shouldn’t. Then the party members could keep bumping into each other while busily chasing the plots they’ve found and shenanigans will ensue.

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