Monday, December 28, 2015

Six Protagonists

Recently one of the players in a game I run was worried about the character he wanted to bring in.  See, we're about to start the 4th generation of my L5R game, and he was worried that his character was a little too "main character" or "protagonist." Essentially, he didn't want to play a character that would take over the game and make the whole thing be all about him.

My response to this was simple: I want every player in my game to make a protagonist. I want a six protagonist pile up. Why? Because if everyone does that. If everyone brings a character that could have the whole thing be about them, then the game gets to be very special as we see all these plot lines collide and see what pieces hit the ground where.

Now, I can do this with my game because I trust my players. We know each other. We've gamed with each other for a long time. All of us are ok if things take a little longer to get going on a personal plot if it means everyone is getting time. We can make characters that can do this.

However, my game isn't special. This isn't something unique to my game. Any game can do this, but as a group your players have to be comfortable with each other. How comfortable? Comfortable enough to push for room in the spotlight with everyone else. Comfortable enough to not be talked down and fight for time when a GM is over worked with everything that is going on.

Encourage your players to do that. Encourage them to come out into the limelight. Give them the time. As the GM, don't be afraid to slow everyone down so you can focus on everyone as you need to.

Give it a shot. You might just be happy with what happens.


  1. Long time reader. I really enjoy your posts. I'm confused by this one though. Don't players always create protagonists? Unless you are playing a "evil" game where they are the antagonists? I'm just not sure what you mean.

    1. I think I'm blending types of story here. In the game your PCs should be the protagonists of that story, but there are differences between that and the nuances of say the main character in a movie/book/show. For example, in the RPG version of Star Wars, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie would all be PCs but the story is very much focused on Luke. He is the main protagonist. For whatever reason, that game has been built more around Luke than the others, and that could be because Luke's player is the one who is louder about wanting GM attention or focus on what he is doing where as all of Han's stuff is more off screen (the debt to Jabba and such) and Leia seems to have even less but it is also off screen with the rebellion.

      With this, the encouragement is that every player should go for Luke Skywalker builds with the more complex story and also be open for having the game be about and around them. Not to be jerks about stealing the spot light (doing it too much is bad) but being willing to make the move to get themselves in the limelight as well.

      So instead of 3 movies where Han and Leia are big deals but don't have much of their own story while we see Luke's personal quest stuff, you also see the Han and Leia personal stuff and their individual stuff and not just when it is a big action sequence.

  2. Hmm...I think I understand but I've found it rare that a player will create a non-main character. They all want the story to be about them. I find RPGs are different than movie stories. Those often have to have a main character. But in RPGs the player characters are always the main characters. At least that is what I've seen in my decades of gaming.

    I guess I've always played it with all PCs being main characters with the typical struggle of trying to make it all work, esp. with the quiet players.

  3. I think of PCs as more like soap opera stars, they action keeps coming around to each of them.

  4. That is an awesome thing to have happen at your group, and means - by and large - this post isn't really needed for you. Sometimes it is needed though. Some players worry about always being "that guy" or "that girl" that has the plot spinning around them. It's a good thing though. It makes the game better.