Looks like Wizard finally got interested in the plot! Just… maybe a minute too late.

Sadly, this seems to be something of a theme between our elven archmage and her not-so-favorite frontliner. The narrative arc is coming to an end, a satisfying conclusion is just around the corner, and suddenly Fighter finds a way to screw it up. As a giant diva myself, I feel for Wizard in this situation. Happily, there are ways to work around the problem.

Let me first preface today’s blog by pointing out that not every group wants or needs “spotlight moments” for individual characters. If the dice are sacrosanct and all the fun lies in turning chance into fiction, then there’s no such thing as “stealing the spotlight.” What the group does is the spotlight. Plainly, that’s not the case for Wizard. Homegirl may be a prima donna, but at least she’s up front about it: This is what her fun looks like. If you want a player like that to have a good time at your table, you need to take those preferences into account.

So as much as I hate to defend our resident That Guy, today’s spotlight thievery isn’t exactly Fighter’s fault. After all, how’s he supposed to know how many hit points Wicked Uncle has left? There he is hacking away, just doing his job and trying to contribute to the team victory, when all of a sudden a big steaming oops-he’s-dead plops out of Mr. Stabby. In those moments, there’s not much you can do as a player. Happily, you’ve got options as a GM.

  • Dramatic Last Words: If you guys have ever played an Assassin’s Creed game, you know what this looks like in practice. There may be a dozen bodyguards standing around the merchant prince you just knifed in the market square, but that doesn’t matter. The game recedes into the background. You go into “cutscene mode,” and the party’s latest victim gets to hold a dramatically appropriate conversation before sighing his last. This can break immersion and strain credulity, but it is also a straightforward way to allow for spotlight moments.
  • One Last Round: As a GM, I will occasionally write “HP: dead” next to my BBEG once he’s lost his last hit point. From there I’ll allow him to fight on until the “correct” PC lands the killing blow. If the sleight-of-hand is successful, this technique can preserve the feeling of the game while allowing for the fiction. Do it too often though and you risk cheapening both.
  • Pass the Kill: Matt Mercer is famous for his catchphrase, “How do you want to do this?” Rather than letting the PC that landed the deathblow describe the kill, you can “pass the kill” to the appropriate PC and allow them to narrate the moment. This can feel a bit like a consolation prize, but it serves as a nod towards the spotlight player. In today’s comic, it would probably look something like, “As Wicked Uncle clutches at Fighter’s sword, the light fading from his eyes, I lean close and whisper, ‘I received your letter, Uncle. Now scooch off my chair please.'”

So how about the rest of you guys? How do you like to handle it when spotlight moments come around? Are they sacrosanct, or is stealing the spotlight not a problem for your group? Do you have any techniques to add to today’s list? Tell us all about your most dramatic kill steals down in the comments!


ARE YOU AN IMPATIENT GAMER? If so, you should check out the “Henchman” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. For just one buck a month, you can get each and every Handbook of Heroes comic a day earlier than the rest of your party members. That’s bragging rights right there!