One way to ensure spotlight time for the players around your table is to write it into the adventure. This encounter favors a cleric, this one a rogue, this one a fighter, et cetera, et cetera.
All well and good if the adventure is exploration, say of a dungeon, and as GM, you’ve devised encounters for certain areas.
But what happens when the players take the adventure in a different direction and the GM has to resort to improvisation? How do you endeavor to provide spotlight time then?
Tracking by quarter hour
This little trick I picked up by running convention games, which must end at a specific time.
Basically, you look at the time remaining, and think about achieving certain goals in 15-minute chunks. These AREN’T hard and fast time frames (OK gals, we’re at 14:58:07 and counting, who’s up next?) But rather, you make a mental note to spotlight a particular player in the next 15 minutes. After carrying through with it, you do it again for the next player.
If you need a visual cue, I suggest keeping a Trivial Pursuit token nearby. They are divided into six wedges (which works if your table has six or fewer players). Fill the wedges in as you successfully give a player at the table their spotlight time.
Remember PC motivation
When looking for spotlight opportunities, don’t define them solely by character class. If it’s a home game or ongoing campaign, then you should have a sense of the motivations the players have assigned to their PCs.
Actually, feeding a PC’s motivation may likely be as rewarding a spotlight opportunity as matching their class abilities to an encounter challenge. Here’s a chance for their PC to grow, indulge in a little wish fulfilment or sink their teeth into a little roleplay with an NPC crafted for them.
What a great idea! Every 15 minutes seems daunting to me, but also a good challenge. I try to spotlight everyone in a 3+ hour home game at least once. But that’s like every 45 minutes.
If the players engage in a 20 minute activity (combat, social negotiation, whatever), do you insert a spotlight moment into it? For example, a D&D combat?
I love the trivial pursuit token idea, very visual.
I use index cards, so I can write notes about PC motivations and backstories -> http://bit.ly/1YbktjX
Like the index card idea! Let me suggest cards organized around how we did NPCs in Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying game. We listed them by name, role in game, a catchphrase, then added details about their appearance, how to RP them, their personality, motivation and background. It’s still the format I use today, and it’s all good information to have on a card. Far better than game stats, certainly.
15 min. By resetting every 15 min, you remind yourself to make an effort to spotlight someone even if you didn’t find an opportunity in the previous time frame. You can stretch it out. I make it 15 min. for when I’m doing the short 2-hour convention games.
Do I insert spotlight moment into combat? For combat monkeys I certainly do. This is their place to shine. Let them show off with their weapon or defensive move of choice. In fact, this is the easiest spotlight to check off your list. The talky-talky ones require set-up and lead-in and an engaging reason to converse.
I agree, this sounds like an excellent prompt. Just the physicality of the trivial pursuit wedges helps keep the idea on your mind, instead of it getting lost in the fog of 82 other things to juggle…
I just have to remember to return the TP wedge to their box, or I’ll have to answer to someone else in the house. (I say this on the chance It might be the same for you.)
Have you been reading the Chuubo rules by any chance? They hardwire the 15 minutes into the experience point system. It is recommended (nothing is carved in stone in Chuubo!) that once a player earns an XP they can not earn another one for the next fifteen minutes. it doesn’t guarantee a fair share of the spotlight, but it does highlight spotlight hogging (FYI I am talking about myself here, not just other players 🙂 ) When the HG (GM) says you can’t earn another xp as you had one only five minutes ago. Works well