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Currently in the game I'm running, one of my players is constantly excited about the game. Outside of the game, he writes pages and pages of material about his character, and consistently adds new facets to his backstory. This is great for me to work with, since he's creating a treasure trove of plot hooks and character points. The issue comes with the other players. Because I'm receiving so much rich lore from this character, I tend to have less for the other characters to explore. It would be unfair to tell this player to stop creating what he loves doing as part of his game, but I want to find ways of including the other characters' backstories into the game equally.

What can I do to avoid centering the plot around this character, and incorporate the other player characters more deeply into the story? It's a Pathfinder game, if that helps.

EDIT:. Accepting this is less acceptable of an outcome here, as my my players have at one point explicitly or implicitly expressed their desire to be more included in the overarching plot.

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I know @BESW has some experience in playing D&D-ish games where the main plot was built around a single character (the most reliable player) and still the other players had something to do. This could solve your problem while not being a proper answer to your question. If you want to, you could expand your question to ask for these kind of solutions too. Otherwise, I think you'd benefit from opening a second question on the lines of "How can I have my players enjoy the game even if I were to focus on one player character"? –  Zachiel Apr 7 at 23:40
    
+1 for a great suggestion. However, I know I would lose the attention of the other players as well, especially one who is easily distracted when the focus is not on his character. Still, I'll ask the question for record's sake. –  Nameless Nick Apr 7 at 23:47
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No real need. Our questions should steam from necessity, not sheer curiosity. If somebody needs that they're going to ask. Maybe mention the option and why it's not good for you here? –  Zachiel Apr 8 at 0:05
    
"my players have at one point explicitly or implicitly expressed their desire to be more included in the overarching plot" if they really want to, why don't they also try to write some backstory? –  Lohoris Sep 5 at 7:48

9 Answers 9

Enlist the help of your Creative Player to involve the others.

CP is very creative and he is clearly motivated with the game. Explain him you have to focus on the other players and use hooks for them, so he could help you creating those hooks, being in character (he ask the other PCs favours that involve them) or totally out of character (he makes up that an old enemy is looking for one of the PCs).

Ideally, each player would create his own hooks, but some players are not so motivated, so creative, or they lack the time to dedicate so much effort in the game. So, using CP to give you and the other players plot ideas is less than ideal but better than nothing situation.

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Either through high mortality rates, copious amounts of backstory, or actual force of personality, some characters become more "main" than others. This is something you should be taking advantage of.

There are a few things you can do:

  • Ask for more holes in backstory to make a common backstory for other characters. ("We both defended the City of Rumblestum!" "I met the fighter in the King's Army during the Goblin Wars...")
  • Ask your other players to suggest ideas for their backstory, and use that as well. (This merely shifts the focus to other players, and is not the best solution.)
  • Use their excitement for backstory, etc. to help fill in the gaps in the world: have the write the myths, legends, and folklore of the world! This works better, because then everyone can take advantage of that writing.
  • This player may make a good DM. Encourage them to make their own adventure, and maybe sit in as player for a session.
  • Challenge the player to limit the length of their writings. Instead of pages and pages, you'd get paragraphs, but very well-formulated and concentrated ones. This may also help their writing abilities in general.
  • Have the creative player write a journal on the adventures of the group, written from their character's perspective. This helps when others miss a session. Also, it can cause much hilarity.

The best outcomes here involve funneling their creativity so it helps others. Shift their creativity from focusing on their character to something that everyone can enjoy.

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Push your PCs together. You can do this several ways.

Your excitable player is going to be the most vocal person at the table no matter what, so to involve the other players, make his vocalizations be with them. Call for a scene. "This is going to impact Simon the Mage, let's see the scene where you two talk about it."

If your excitable player's new detail has something to do with the past, sometimes it works to call for a flashback and stick another PC in there. "Let's see the scene where Sanguine first found out about Bomber's messed-up childhood." or "You were in the Cyclone Wars too, weren't you Jonjon? Did you two ever have a conversation about your experiences? Let's hear some of that."

Every time your excitable player adds another detail or plot hook, ask another player how they were involved in that hook. Sometimes they won't have any ideas, and that's fine. But when they work, run with them. Match the excitement. Your excitable player will start to learn that your purpose here is to find ways to tie the characters together, and their suggestions will begin to follow suit.

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Just to add to some very very good answers, here are my 2 pence.

Talk with them

RPGs are a group activity, an activity in which a group of friends come and talk with each other about fictional characters. The main thing here is the "talking" part and from here I believe that your solution should come. Talk with them after the session; understand why they can't write those long-long pages of fluffy material. Maybe you can help them, maybe you can solve the problem or maybe you can't do a thing, but you'll be much more understandable of their situation, and due to the knowledge it will be much easier to know what to do next.

Focus for one session on this particular player

A bit risky option, but one that I've used in the past a few times revolves around focusing an entire session on this player. The idea here is to draw the players' jealousy and from that persuade them to write those extra pages. "Wanna the same focus as Lisa? Do this pesky extra work and you'll get the same focus also."

Ask your CP to sit with them

Maybe the creative player can help them to overcome whatever is holding them down. Maybe if she'll sit with them they'll be able to write those extra pages too. When you've got those pages, you'll have much easier time coming with plot hooks that connect them also.

If they have a background- tie them in

If your other players wrote backgrounds at the time, use it: Tie them in. Find those places where there are holes in their background, or where they kinda connect with the background of other players (preferably the CP) and roll from there. It will give you the excuse to add those players to much more scenes, thus changing focus from the one CP to the entire group.

Channel the CPs creativity to other places

Surely there are places in your world that haven't been defined yet, why not using the CP in order to define them? She has the creativity, and the time, and it is a really nice way to channel her creativity without giving her character more reasons for extra screen time. Use that to your advantage.

Bribe them

Sometimes, and for the short term only, you should give them something in return. To some players who haven't tried yet character focused scenes, those scenes don't seem yet as a real reward. Until then, maybe another kind of reward is preferable. Maybe this is all they need to start those engines.

And an end

So these are my 2 pence on the topic, all hope that it will help you.

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It doesn't always matter

Long story short, I have played a Pathfinder campaign where my Ranger was mostly a support character, and I still really enjoyed playing the campaign. I intentionally didn't seek out the "spotlight", so to speak, so naturally - over the course of many sessions - one of the other characters got sucked into a conspiracy and my Ranger just tagged along for the ride.

As stated before, you could talk to your players and ask them what kind of role they want to be filling as the campaign progresses. In the case where they all want to hog the spotlights, it has at least tickled them to think about their character's future, and incidentally possibly a hook for those characters.

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+1. Being in the spotlight also means you will always be the player that has to figure out what the DM expect us to do... which I am not really good at. I'd rather let this roles to more experimented players, especially with my current DM who gives us a lot of liberty for deciding actions that could even have a great impact on the surrounding world. Sometimes tagging along and provide support while only making a suggestion from time to time is the easier way, while still entertaining –  Epeedefeu Apr 8 at 15:36

Ask the other players what they think is cool about their characters. Have them explain why they made the character, and what matters to them about him/her/it. Ask them why their character is awesome. Look at their character sheets. You'll find flags there, details that directly tells you what they think is awesome, and what they want the story of their characters to be about.

Once you have figured out what they think is awesome about their character, you know what kind of stuff they want to see.

It's all about getting into their headspace, and really diving into why they play what they play and what they think is awesome. Once you have a firm grasp of that, it'll be easy to make up stuff to hit those buttons.

They might not have produced dozens of pages of backstory and plot hooks, but they always have a clear vision in mind of what their character is like at their coolest, and it's your job to bring that awesome out into the game.

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If everything else fails you can try a technique, I thought up:

Give players who feel ignored a prologue. That is a short setup specifically designed for their character. It's usually

  • for a single character although they may choose to involve others
  • short, say 10-15 minutes
  • the first in game thing to happen that evening, e.g. while waiting for the pizza to be delievered
  • unrelated to the following events, or is it? ;)
  • creating a choice that the player can use to reveal something about their character (Do I help? Do I cheat? Am I vicious?)
  • paying not much more than the daily expenses the character has / had

I occasionally used it to add a plot twist, by revealing a relation to the main quest at the end of that quest. Here are some general examples for prologues:

  • dubious characters might be asked by a connection to remind someone to pay back a debt
  • lawful characters might witness a crime. As a variant the crime might be minor or even necessary, e.g. theft of food by a beggar child
  • selfless characters might see a chance to help an ill or injured person
  • any character might find a lost item and be asked about it by the one who lost it
  • competitions and festivities
  • a hunt with some royals (in fantasy based RPGs)

More specific prologues:

  • a Rigger (in Shadowrun) might participate in a street race
  • a Decker (in Shadowrun) is asked to remotely retrieve some data during a short period of server maintenance, when the security programs aren't up (<- that data was paid for, but proved to be related to the actual run)
  • a sparring fight between the warriors of the group
  • a mage is asked for his service to identify/disable/appraise a possibly magical effect/trinket

Some of these can pay a little reward. Some of them like invitations to a hunt or dinner can be a reward themself. I use them to

  • balance, if a player/character came short for a period of time
  • tease a player to get more involved
  • introduce a little action into the first evening of a campaign, which usually starts with receiving a task, negotiating a payment and gathering information
  • imply that the characters don't save the world all the time but have an interesting live between adventures as well
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This can be a real problem. Players can get very excited about the character they've created, and completely neglect the fact that, as a player, it is their responsibility as well as yours to make the campaign interesting for the other players - not just for themselves.

Your player is excited, which is always good, but perhaps a bit more excited about their character's personal development than they should be. I would encourage them to try to engage the other player characters, or even write them into their engaging character development.

They have a villian wandering around the land that is their long-lost half-brother? Great, and Jim the Mage used to work for that guy. They know the captain of the guard from back in the day? Even better, because Valerie the Ranger used to date her.

Actually, this should be done at the table, and with the consent of the other players - encourage them to inject themselves into this backstory and get involved with this exciteable character. The excitable one, if they're a good role-player, will likely wind up being the party's face, so it's a good idea to tie them into his character arcs anyway.

In Addition

If your players haven't written their own intricate arcs like this exciteable character has, maybe it's time you take them aside and write some. Set aside some of your usual Role-Playing time to talk with them about some character ideas. Make it clear that you want to focus on a few characters in specific that you'd like to hear more about, and think of ways, together, to get them more involved in the story.

Then, act on them. Heck, if you're meeting regularly for sessions, you could even discuss the upcoming session beforehand, then act upon your character-building talks right away. Make it a ritual half-hour talk before each session to hammer out any holes that might be in certain character's development.

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get them to work together: if you've got one guy who loves coming up with this stuff maybe you could talk to the other players and see if he can help them come up with things for their characters too

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Kerri, take a look at our faq. We're not a forum, and we do strongly desire answers to be well formed grammatically and to be complete answers to the question. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 10 at 13:58

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