RPGaDay 2021 #28: Solo

Today’s RPGaDay 2021 prompt is “Solo”. What an interesting and fruitful prompt! While it might be interesting to explore games run for only one person, or even the relationship between choose-your-own-adventure stories and RPGs, I think I’ll focus on the word “Solo” as it’s used in music: a piece for one.

The big challenge in hosting an RPG for me is always making sure each individual player gets a bit of a spotlight to feature in the game. When composing an adventure plot, I always manage to find hooks for this player or that, and often for a small group, but it’s hard to address each character’s background at the same time.

I’ve recently been watching a lot of Dropout.TV, and particularly the RPG campaigns hosted by Brennan Lee Mulligan. He is wonderfully creative, and with a cast of improvisational comics and professional RPG players, the stories are quite entertaining to watch. One of the shows on Dropout .TV is Adventuring Academy, a roleplaying podcast that he hosts in which he discusses running roleplaying games. As luck would have it, one of the earlier episodes discusses his method of addressing character hooks, and it’s a really simple approach that I’m looking to try.

Basically, his argument was that addressing everybody at the same time is really difficult. The best you could do is ensure that each character has a hook for the campaign as a whole, or some manner of motivating reason that they should even care. For an individual session, he puts the focus on a specific character, and sees whether one or two characters can be tied into that. That way, each character essentially gets a solo, as it were, a story in which they are either the centre of attention or the character that has the best tools to deal with the problem at hand. By rotating these moments, each player can really shine at the table every so often. Without giving any spoilers here, there’s a great example during the Unsleeping City campaign: during one episode, the story conflict centred fully around one person’s character; however, the hook into that story was from another character; finally, the ensuing combat encounter included a threat that was best handled by a third player. It was such a nice example of how each player got their individual spotlights and yet these all tied together to make it feel like a real group effort.

This in particular is a skill I’d like to start practicing more in my gaming, because it seems like a great way to include everybody at the table.

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