June 25, 2013
Putting You In The Spotlight
If you are looking to draw your players into the game, something that never fails to work is to base a part of your adventure on their character’s back-story. Often, players will give you all you need to create amazing adventures without even realizing it. Was there character betrayed in the past? Did they have to leave their home for some reason? Are they on the run from something? Don’t let their back-stories fade into nothing more than character fluff. Make them something more. Give them that special feeling of awesome that comes with knowing that you haven’t forgotten or ignored all of that work they have put into their characters. Players love it, even if it means dragging their character’s skeletons out of the closet for everyone to see. When I do this, I call it “spotlighting a character.”
Understand, though, that there are risks in doing this. Draw out too much at once, and the player will start to feel overwhelmed. Also, while using one character’s history and back story as the starting point of an adventure, you are clearing making that character very central to the story, which means your other players might feel a little left out. The best thing you can do there is to assure them that their own time will come, and that there is nothing stopping them from doing everything they would normally do. For all of them, it is just another adventure. For the one character that has the spotlight on them, it is meant to be something more.
I first used this in a Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition/3.5 game I ran many years ago. One of my players had told me that his character came from a city where he was forced into exile by the city’s leader for a crime he did not commit and he couldn’t return without bringing undo harm on his family. I introduced an NPC from his character’s past, asking him to return to help her save their home from this tyrant. I let him know that everyone thought him dead, not a traitor, and that life there had grown steadily worse for everyone, including his family. In short order the party of adventurers rallied to free the town from this despicable tyrant. When they succeeded, they were all heroes, but to the one character who called this village home, their success meant a great deal more.
Players create these sorts of adventure hooks all the time. I have made it a point, in fact, to ask players in some of my more regular games to write up their character back-stories and post them onto our gaming pages. This allows me, as a Gamemaster, to have access to written accounts of their characters at all times, which is a great help for planning these “spotlight” adventures. Let no detail slip under your nose, either. Even something as admissible as giving a name to a home town can mean a great deal to a player when you include that town in your game. It gives players a feeling of collaboration in the game when you do this, and that helps draw them into the game as a whole. They had a hand in creating it, after all. Why shouldn’t they feel connected to it?
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