Spotlight.


  • Admin

    @tnp said in MU* Gripes and Peeves:

    But maybe the question being asked isn't 'why them?' but 'why always them?' Which could certainly be a false impression that it's always them but at least has some vague reasoning behind it.

    That's an interesting question that was raised in the Arx thread which I didn't want to hijack, so let's have a new one here.

    Spotlight - hogging it, wanting it, avoiding it - is a constant source of issues for our community. But how reasonable is it to expect someone (which usually means staff) to distribute it somewhat equally? I like structuring these questions somehow so I'll try to do the same thing, but please feel to use whatever format you want for your thoughts.

    • How feasible is equal spotlight distribution, either for a small or for a large game? Can - and should - everyone have their moment in the sun? The obvious answer is 'yes, of course' but is it that simple? For example should a ghoul have a near equal chance for prominence in a Vampire game, or a sidekick in a superhero MU*?

    • How would that be actually achieved without explicitly making OOC rules about it ("No Bob, you were in the last plot, you can't be in this one")?* How about players with pocket STs in their circles who have access to more PrPs and stories than average? What about characters in key positions - is it natural that the Princess has more opportunities to shine thematically than maid #3 other than in that one plot where the latter got her five minutes of fame? Again, I'm not asserting this, I'm asking.

    • What makes spotlight so important? I feel it's a question we can use having answered because it's a primary driver for all kinds of other behaviors on MU*; for instance chasing ranks in the first place might be a subset of desiring prominence. Is it something whose less appealing side-effects we can build systems to prevent or mitigate or a "people will be people" thing we can't fix?

    Discuss.



    1. I don't think it's feasible. There are people like me who absolutely won't speak out or do something to call attention to themselves. Sometimes that gets its own kind of attention. In a game the size of Arx? People who can write and navigate the things that need to be done have a better chance, and that's just putting in the work.

    2. I've seen this done with success and seen it done where it fucks things up. It really all depends on the GM's.

    3. People want to know that they're recognized and noticed. I think. I've seen people do some stupidly creative things to achieve this, and those are the people who are in the spotlight. Creativity should be rewarded. People who aren't creative should try to team up with those who are. I find myself drawn to people who are inclusive who want to share that spotlight. I hope - in the future - to be the kind of person who can do that for someone else.

    Nice thread idea. I'm interested to see someone else weigh in.



  • I don't think equal spotlight distribution is feasible on large games, for a variety of reasons. I mean, no one should be excluded from having their turn in the spotlight if it comes along, but you're never going to be able to ensure every one of 300 players has a chance to shine... and if you do, you're going to run into "you got a chance to shine once, a year and a half ago, so you can't go on plots anymore", which is a surefire way to burn out otherwise active players (who are the ones who stir up RP when you aren't GM'ing).

    It's hard even in individual scenes, honestly; when I GM scenes, I try to ensure there's something for everyone to do -- everyone gets an opportunity to influence the outcome, gets a chance to let their skills shine. And that can be difficult when you have a group of seven people and three hours to run an adventure for them, but still possible; it's not really possible when you're running a giant mass battle scene for 40 people and don't want it to take multiple days.

    I think what you can aim for is "everyone has opportunities to influence the game world, even if it's part of a larger action". And if someone comes up with an interesting idea that fits the game world and has a chance of letting some new folks have the spotlight, be prepared to run with it.

    I think the best you can do when you are dealing with 300-some players is seed storylines in 3 or 4 different places, and try to nudge people together to act on it. But if someone doesn't act on it (or misinterprets a clue/vision and heads off in some other wild direction, which has happened), the people who do act on it are likely to be the ones who play a role in resolving that plotline. Or the people who pick up the clues and run with them. But everyone should have the opportunity to do such.

    That said, there is a tool on Arx which returns a list of characters who've never had staff GM attention, which gets used to try to seed new storylines to people who might otherwise be struggling to find a path to involvement. I think that's a very useful tool to have, since it helps you find the people who might otherwise be just doing slice-of-life RP and wondering how to get involved.

    This is, mind you, just my $0.02 (plus state sales tax where applicable).


  • Pitcrew

    I think everyone should be offered a chance in the spotlight, at some point. And I would certainly like to see GMs across games think a little about spotlight distribution, and develop - as possible - more of a distribution of things that target people and groups that may have missed out on the spotlight for a while. I don't think you can mandate it, because some people really don't want the spotlight, or don't want it from a GM plot, while others will always want it and will become convinced that they are being ill done by whenever it goes to anyone else.

    And, of course, you can do everything you can to give a person the spotlight only to have them accidentally hand it off to someone else, or get a terrible run of luck and fall flat on their face (which, while it can be FUN, often doesn't fill that spotlight need).

    But, y'know, I think it might be an interesting idea for smallish games to keep track of players and how many plots they've 'starred' in, and just make an effort to reach out to players OOC if they haven't starred in many, or any, and just see if there's something they'd LIKE to do.

    I mean, for me, the best question any GM can ever ask me is, "What would you like to see happen for your character?"



  • @pyrephox said in Spotlight.:

    But, y'know, I think it might be an interesting idea for smallish games to keep track of players and how many plots they've 'starred' in, and just make an effort to reach out to players OOC if they haven't starred in many, or any, and just see if there's something they'd LIKE to do.

    This kind of gets at a question I have: what does "starred in" a plot mean? Obviously if you were a prominent PC in a major storyline who slew a big bad, that was a starring role. But there's a lot of angst about the GM paying attention to someone for literally one pose in a scene. Or even something as inconsequential as playing a game at a PC-run event (I have literally heard complaints about this, including games for which there were no prizes). I think staff should be mindful of this stuff and tracking involvement/focus in some kind of quantifiable way is a good idea, but I've heard complaints about "attention hogging" that really do seem to amount to "stop doing all things."


  • Pitcrew

    @three-eyed-crow Honestly? Some people are just unreasonable. Luckily, they're fairly easy to identify - such as when they express distress at other people playing a game, and their opinions can (and should) be soundly ignored, and not used to calibrate any expectations.

    As for starring - hmm. I would say that if you are a key player at a climax of a plot, such as using, creating, destroying a McGuffin, or leading a major magical or physical assault against a big bad, or you are the lead negotiator in a diplomatic crisis, things like that 'lead role'. If people can legitimately look around and say, "Hey, this would not have happened if not for X", then you were probably a lead.

    And note that my suggestion doesn't involve 'taking away' the lead from anyone - some people are always going to be more proactive than others, and it can hurt to have a great idea for your character to do something and get told, "Hey, we'd actually like to give this to other people, so don't do that thing/don't try to get involved."

    But do notice the people who don't ever seem to be the lead, and approach them, quietly, to see if there's anything they'd LIKE to do with their character that they aren't getting the chance to do. Some people, again, are perfectly happy never having the spotlight on them. Some people just don't want to talk to staff, for whatever reason. But people like to talk about their characters, and what they'd like to do with their characters, and I think reaching out about that would translate into a feeling of more joy, and might even lead to some really interesting plot ideas/directions that wouldn't happen otherwise.

    Spotlight doesn't have to be a zero-sum game, even when it utilizes a limited resource (GM time).


  • Admin

    @sparks said in Spotlight.:

    and if you do, you're going to run into "you got a chance to shine once, a year and a half ago, so you can't go on plots anymore", which is a surefire way to burn out otherwise active players (who are the ones who stir up RP when you aren't GM'ing).

    That's a pretty good point and a legitimate question on its own right.

    Do all players deserve the same access to the spotlight? That is, if you are putting in a lot of your time building up a successful House which your character leads, run plots for its players, recruit others to it, making yourself available as someone in a leadership position and integrating yourself thematically into current politics, then should I as a casual player who's there an hour here and there get to have equal access to metaplot?

    Even more so, does it make sense for me to? Decisions are often made among high-powered or important figureheads, so do I bring my sailor guy to the inner council meetings? Should metaplot be geared so that there are no closed door meetings in the first place?

    These aren't theoretical questions. There has been plenty of real drama over exactly this kind of situation.


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel Logically no, not everyone "deserves" the spotlight equally, because not everyone puts in the same effort and enthusiasm into a game.

    I think it's impossible to be equal in any sort of large game, unless you have an equally large staff of st, maybe? I do think it's a very good idea to make good-faith efforts to include in your game ways for anyone who wants to/is motivated to be involved or influence the story if there is one.



  • @arkandel said in Spotlight.:

    @sparks said in Spotlight.:

    and if you do, you're going to run into "you got a chance to shine once, a year and a half ago, so you can't go on plots anymore", which is a surefire way to burn out otherwise active players (who are the ones who stir up RP when you aren't GM'ing).

    That's a pretty good point and a legitimate question on its own right.

    Do all players deserve the same access to the spotlight? That is, if you are putting in a lot of your time building up a successful House which your character leads, run plots for its players, recruit others to it, making yourself available as someone in a leadership position and integrating yourself thematically into current politics, then should I as a casual player who's there an hour here and there get to have equal access to metaplot?

    Everyone should have equal access to the same tools -- things like actions and investigations, on Arx, or things like gm requests on WoD games, etc. -- that allow them to dig into the metaplot. The same baseline opportunities.

    But what they do with those tools will determine their involvement. If someone never puts in an investigation or action on Arx, or never interacts with staff or GM's on a WoD game, they're probably not going to get a metaplot spotlight moment.

    Now, like I said, you can find people who seem to be struggling and throw them a story hook or two to get them involved in plotlines. And you should! But that doesn't guarantee involvement. I mean, they still have to run with that hook.

    In your average urban fantasy novel, the character who "answers the call" and heads off to investigate when things get weird ("holy shit, magic is real?") is probably going to end up with a heroic moment more readily than the one who ignores the opportunity and sits at home watching Netflix ("eh, I haven't finished Jessica Jones yet; I'll do that first"). Both characters had equal access to the opportunity (saw magic is real), but one chose to engage and the other didn't.


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel said in Spotlight.:

    @sparks said in Spotlight.:

    and if you do, you're going to run into "you got a chance to shine once, a year and a half ago, so you can't go on plots anymore", which is a surefire way to burn out otherwise active players (who are the ones who stir up RP when you aren't GM'ing).

    That's a pretty good point and a legitimate question on its own right.

    Do all players deserve the same access to the spotlight? That is, if you are putting in a lot of your time building up a successful House which your character leads, run plots for its players, recruit others to it, making yourself available as someone in a leadership position and integrating yourself thematically into current politics, then should I as a casual player who's there an hour here and there get to have equal access to metaplot?

    Even more so, does it make sense for me to? Decisions are often made among high-powered or important figureheads, so do I bring my sailor guy to the inner council meetings? Should metaplot be geared so that there are no closed door meetings in the first place?

    I think the best metaplot is going to be the stuff not strictly limited by class/position. That is: you may need a high-powered figurehead to access certain parts of the political end of things, sure, but there should be more variety to how to influence metaplot than just that one angle.

    I think there should be generally equitable ways for people to pursue metaplot. It's cool to hear from @Sparks that they actually have a GM tool to find people who haven't gotten GM attention so they can toss them seeds/hooks. But especially if there are tools that everyone can use to interact, the people who use them the most are logically going to get the most out of them. I agree that GMs should try to make a good faith effort to reach out to PCs who don't seem to have much, but that is still just trying to give people an extra nudge to use the tools at hand.



  • To answer bullet points first:

    • Can/should (re: Ghoul/Vamp)? I generally like to frame this as a matter of equal opportunity looking from Cgen forward. Anyone can make a character that could star in big stories. Some people may choose not to (L&L Firan/Arx version: some people just wanna be crafters, etc), and the conventions on what a 'main' char is would probably vary a lot by genre. Now, feasible? I'd actually hope so, but it goes to #2.

    • It can't be achieved without making OOC rules about it. You probably want to make OOC rules about it.

    • I had a larger (and very @Thenomain sounding) breakdown about this based on player type, but coming up with it I realized that it's mostly incidental. Aside from players who are really thinking about a narrative arc in a formal way (ie, players with writing/acting backgrounds) most people aren't thinking about it explicitly. But the goals they like (defeating big bads, achieving plot milestones, drawing in a social circle, revealing elements of the setting) all happen either exclusively or much more intensely 'inside' the GM spotlight.

    Beyond that, I actually wanted to comment on one thing I saw in that thread though avoided it because I figured @Apos would just declare me the devil again and it would kinda derail the point. But it got brought up there, and while this is a more extreme version, it's still essentially the same question:

    @cobaltasaurus said in Arx thread 2: Electric Boogaloo:

    Do you want me to retire my character into the sunset because he did A Thing in the past season?

    I'd argue that games actually probably need to figure out mechanisms to say 'yes' to this question, at least sometimes. To be clear, I'm not criticizing Cobalt here as the game had no such rule (and moreover it sounds like she wasn't the focus anyway). But seeing the same player names associated with big events over and over again absolutely can have a negative impact on the newer players. It's the old dino question in a different form.

    Now, I'd also point out that obviously you shouldn't just tell them to literally retire into the sunset, because then the player response will be 'OK well, I guess I quit?', whether to take a new alt or permanently. But there could certainly be something to using, say, narrative currencies or the like to buy into big events, to push to the forefront of those events, whereby you'd have to wait at least a while before you could be the big damn hero again.

    In some thread long ago I said something about plot DKP - this is basically that discussion come around again.



  • @arkandel said in Spotlight.:

    Do all players deserve the same access to the spotlight?

    No. As a game-runner, I don't owe anybody anything other than a comfortable and safe environment to tell their stories. Spotlight has to be earned.

    • Activity - just showing up and playing nets you more opportunities to have a moment where you do something cool.
    • Initiative - following up on plot threads and doing something beyond BarRP nets you more opportunities to get involved.
    • Being helpful - I'm much more inclined to run a special focused plot for somebody who's contributed to the game in other ways than somebody who just sits in the OOC room all day.
    • If you do want the spotlight, make a sensible character choice - A Viper Pilot is going to get more chances at the spotlight on a BSG game than the cook. On a western, a gunslinger or doctor will probably have more opportunities to get involved in stuff than a farmer. That's just common sense.

    Now spotlight can sometimes be used in obnoxious ways, which is why I think people are sensitive to it. It's poor sportsmanship to run a plot featuring your own PC and not let anybody do anything else meaningful. That's like inviting people over to play basketball and hogging the ball the whole time.

    Similarly, excluding otherwise proactive and decent people from having plot opportunities just because they're not your buddies is equally poor sportsmanship. It would be like inviting people over to play basketball and only letting your friends have a turn on the court.

    So don't be a jerk, but recognize that nobody's entitled to anything.


  • Pitcrew

    @roz said in Spotlight.:

    @arkandel said in Spotlight.:

    @sparks said in Spotlight.:

    and if you do, you're going to run into "you got a chance to shine once, a year and a half ago, so you can't go on plots anymore", which is a surefire way to burn out otherwise active players (who are the ones who stir up RP when you aren't GM'ing).

    That's a pretty good point and a legitimate question on its own right.

    Do all players deserve the same access to the spotlight? That is, if you are putting in a lot of your time building up a successful House which your character leads, run plots for its players, recruit others to it, making yourself available as someone in a leadership position and integrating yourself thematically into current politics, then should I as a casual player who's there an hour here and there get to have equal access to metaplot?

    Even more so, does it make sense for me to? Decisions are often made among high-powered or important figureheads, so do I bring my sailor guy to the inner council meetings? Should metaplot be geared so that there are no closed door meetings in the first place?

    I think the best metaplot is going to be the stuff not strictly limited by class/position. That is: you may need a high-powered figurehead to access certain parts of the political end of things, sure, but there should be more variety to how to influence metaplot than just that one angle.

    I think there should be generally equitable ways for people to pursue metaplot. It's cool to hear from @Sparks that they actually have a GM tool to find people who haven't gotten GM attention so they can toss them seeds/hooks. But especially if there are tools that everyone can use to interact, the people who use them the most are logically going to get the most out of them. I agree that GMs should try to make a good faith effort to reach out to PCs who don't seem to have much, but that is still just trying to give people an extra nudge to use the tools at hand.

    Agreed, here.

    I think my ideal distribution is the idea that position/class/sphere does not grant you equal access to every part of the metaplot, but that all positions/classes/spheres give you access to /an equally important/ part of the metaplot.

    The problem isn't necessarily that a tailor can't sit in at the King's privy counsel and be taken equally seriously, but when the big noble can sit on the privy council /and/ bring in his soldiers to solve the gang trouble on the tailor's street /and/ make better clothes than the tailor /and/ gets the magic sword and stuff as well.

    If you're going to have big nobles and tailors as PCs, then I think you need to design the game so that each have exclusive things that are important and meaningful. Whether that's magic clothes that the tailor alone can make or that the tailor has a meaningful impact on the crime and who runs their particular collection of streets - that's entirely up in the air. But it has to be something, I think, that the tailor can do that the noble can't, just as the noble can do things that the tailor can't.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday said in Spotlight.:

    No. As a game-runner, I don't owe anybody anything other than a comfortable and safe environment to tell their stories. Spotlight has to be earned.

    +1

    Trying to write a way in to every plot for every random character drives storytellers to burnout. The best that can be asked of staff is that all players have equal access to the same opportunities.

    E.g., my story is about a pirate battle, and you are playing a pretty princess, so this is not the story for your PC; you're welcome to roll a temp character for this particular plot, suggest another plot that would involve your character, or wait for an appropriate plot to come along.


  • Admin

    @pyrephox said in Spotlight.:

    The problem isn't necessarily that a tailor can't sit in at the King's privy counsel and be taken equally seriously, but when the big noble can sit on the privy council /and/ bring in his soldiers to solve the gang trouble on the tailor's street /and/ make better clothes than the tailor /and/ gets the magic sword and stuff as well.

    Again good point - I'm glad for this thread now.

    It's pretty common in games to see exactly what you described, isn't it? The High Lady who's also hangin' out with the peeps at the pier, the billionaire philanthropist who sits at a bar to have a beer with the riffraff, the nobleman who's a great swordsman... these tropes are far from exceptions, they are very often the rule.

    Sometimes it's a product of the system that allows this to happen. Maybe that means someone in CGen is giving the thumbs up without giving it too much thought, or it could be the mechanics simply let you buy some things (street contacts, fighting skills) and still afford the high-end life anyway, encouraging people to dip their toes in more than enough pool. In fact when that happens the norm is for folks seeking the spotlight to have their toes in every pool.

    So maybe that's a good rule for games to have. Don't let PCs have it all, force them to make interesting choices - and then, also, enforce the consequences for them when they break social norms. As much of a no-brainer this sounds, it doesn't happen that often.



  • @pyrephox said in Spotlight.:

    If you're going to have big nobles and tailors as PCs, then I think you need to design the game so that each have exclusive things that are important and meaningful.

    Not necessarily. Every game has supporting characters. I may play a mortal bartender in a Vampire game and get some fun RP out of it, but I certainly wouldn't expect "equal access" to the metaplot. It's the same with a deckhand or cook on a Battlestar game, or a sidekick in a superhero game. A tailor in a L&L game seems to fit that bill as well.

    The trick, of course, is to make the expectations clear. If someone is playing a supporting role and thinking that they're playing a starring role, that's a problem. But some people like to play supporting roles, and there's nothing wrong with having them.



  • This might be a subject I spend a good deal of time thinking about. I think every game runner should, since people wanting recognition is imo a very fundamental aspect of the draw of these games to many people, and one of the largest sources of conflict.

    Let me list some of the challenges that aren't mentioned too explicitly I think already, that everyone should bear in mind.

    1. People have extremely different desires about spotlight and recognition, some can be polar opposites, and staff can have very poor outcomes if they try to treat rewards evenly here. Some people -hate- public recognition, as it makes them actively uncomfortable. Other people have it as their single most important goal in games, and relentlessly pursue it. The ones that share that goal will often hate one another's guts.

    2. Trying to define effort on the part of players and reward it accordingly is extremely difficult, and there will always be unfair outcomes if you do it on the basis. This doesn't mean you shouldn't try, but that you need to be aware of the limitations. For example, who contributes more to a game out of the following? One person that spends 40 hours a week running social events that entertain dozens of other players at a time, or one person that greets a few new players a month and helps them get settled and involved into the game, or someone that spends 10 hours designing a new fun system that is heavily used by everyone on the game, or someone that cheers up three disappointed players and defuses drama, or someone that keeps mostly to themselves but never creates problems and always looking to pitch into offscreen actions and helping to coordinate them, or an exceptional writer that's zero drama that everyone widely likes and makes every scene they enter more fun but has no expectations or desire for a spotlight? These aren't easy things to convert numerically into ratings for who should be 'up'.

    3. Similarly, the format we have obscures effort by its very design. Even if staff constructed an orwellian hellscape that saw everything and recorded everything without exception, unless that game is tiny, absolutely no one would ever have time to parse through that. A huge amount of effort that people do will always be unrecorded, and things people invest their heart and soul into can be overlooked by accident incredibly easily. What's worse, players are acutely aware of their own effort, while also not seeing the effort of anyone else, which leads to a natural tendency for a huge amount of people to think their efforts are much higher relative to everyone else than than really are, and everyone else's are much lower. It is incredibly easy in a MU format for someone to think they are deserving and other people aren't and feel entirely justified in that. I would bet money that a ton of people here can think of cases where players locked in some dumb fight with one another all thought people on the other side were staff favorites, and they were the persecuted ones. The format encourages it.

    That's just the baselines that people have to bear in mind and work around. People want really different things when it comes to recognition, that effort is extremely difficult to measure, and that even knowing when someone invests effort is very difficult.

    I think for that reason, it usually is a good idea to have the methods for gaining recognition clearly accessible with identifiable tools to do so, and mostly grant recognition based on the use of those tools and participation in a much narrower scope that can be much more easily controlled.



  • I feel like a lot of this comes down to the old issue of getting enough GMs/STs to support your players. You can try to mitigate some of this with encouraging player GMs and automating some stuff, but STs are always going to be the attraction to a story game, and demanding they do 100 things in 1 day is neither fair nor reasonable.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday said in Spotlight.:

    @pyrephox said in Spotlight.:

    If you're going to have big nobles and tailors as PCs, then I think you need to design the game so that each have exclusive things that are important and meaningful.

    Not necessarily. Every game has supporting characters. I may play a mortal bartender in a Vampire game and get some fun RP out of it, but I certainly wouldn't expect "equal access" to the metaplot. It's the same with a deckhand or cook on a Battlestar game, or a sidekick in a superhero game. A tailor in a L&L game seems to fit that bill as well.

    The trick, of course, is to make the expectations clear. If someone is playing a supporting role and thinking that they're playing a starring role, that's a problem. But some people like to play supporting roles, and there's nothing wrong with having them.

    Yeah, I think it's fair to say "this game is focused on this particular group." I wouldn't expect a cook on a Battlestar game to have equal access to metaplot, really. Although it also depends on what kind of Battlestar game it is. Maybe the cook is involved in secret shenanigans on the ship, I don't know. The TV show had plenty of variety in the types of stories they told, and the focus wasn't just on the military conflict. It could be done.

    Similarly, I guess if your L&L game is specifically, purposefully, and publicly focused on the L&L politics aspect? Yeah, it can be more silly to expect to be involved in the politics as rando tailor. If a game just has nobles as part of the setting but the focus of the game is broader than that, I think it's reasonable to expect that there be different avenues of access to metaplot that don't require a top political player.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday And, as I said, there are plenty of people out there like that. But staff shouldn't necessarily assume that every mortal bartender WANTS to be that person. Sometimes you want to play a mortal bartender because you read an urban fantasy series where a guy runs a bar for vampires and ends up becoming embroiled in vampire politics and gains a magical artifact that gives him enough oomph to turn his bar into Vampire Switzerland for political negotiations, and he'd love to at least have the opportunity to do Something Cool Like That, but because everyone treats him like he's useless food because he's not a vampire, he never gets the chance.

    So, the only thing I say is - ask. Someone can always turn it down, if they're happy as they are, but it never hurts to find out if someone wants an IC direction or boost, but just isn't sure how to do it.


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