I've ran into a bit of a dilemma with a 5e campaign that's soon coming to a close. It's been running for about a year, and one of the primary goals that I had when I started the campaign was to focus as much as possible on the journey of each player character in my party. Unfortunately, as story arcs are completing, it's become clear to me that this approach has only really worked for a single character out of four. Let's call him Carl.
Why has this only worked out for Carl? The reasons are varied, but they basically boil down to this.
- Carl invested a significant amount of effort into developing a compelling backstory hook for his character. He is also by far the most talented performer and experienced D&D player out of the group.
- One of the players has strong roleplaying ideas and a highly developed character but struggles greatly with improvisation, leading to moments falling flat as he searches for words.
- Another player is highly engaged in roleplaying moments and reacts realistically and appropriately to his character, however he hasn't established a compelling backstory or strong character motivations.
- The last player is simply is not interested in "immersive" roleplaying (i.e. he enjoys roleplaying from a humor and shenanigans standpoint but has never responded to or made attempts to delve into exploring emotions, motivations, etc.)
- Carl is the only player that takes an active approach to roleplaying his character. He's constantly seeking to advance his storyline through his own actions, while the other players have only really shown a capacity to react to events.
Unfortunately, from a story-telling standpoint, this has resulted in a storyline that seems highly Carl-centric. I've frequently found myself writing long sequences purely focused on Carl's story arc, and I'm beginning to worry that he's become the "main character" in a campaign that was supposed to focus on the entire party.
Of course, I've made efforts all throughout trying to include the other characters and trying to solidify their storylines, however after seeing these attempts fall flat (for various reasons, like characters forgetting their own backstories, failing to respond in a way that feels logical or genuine) I found myself getting discouraged and sort of giving up on trying to create more character moments for them.
That said, I'm left with a bit of a troubling question in retrospect:
How can I ensure that everyone feels involved when only a single player is driving the story?
As we draw to the end of the campaign, I've been able to sense that some of the other players grow disinterested when we arrive yet-again at another crossroads in Carl's story. These moments, in my opinion have been the most interesting and compelling moments from a story-telling perspective, but I'm worrying that they might feel like they've been neglected all this time.
Have any of you had experience with this kind of problem? Is there something that I could have done differently?