Role-playing games are a performing art. They’re also games, sure, but there’s more than a little theater in the mix. When you’re portraying characters, plunging them into dramatic situations, and imagining their reactions to a fictional world, it’s hard not to let echoes of the stage mix with the clatter of dice. That means that the familiar foibles of the theatrical company can enter into your gaming group. And if you’ve ever heard the terms “prima donna,” “upstage,” or “spotlight-hog,” then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

This mess hits close to home for yours truly. That’s because I identify with Wizard more than anybody else in this comic. There’s nothing I like better than chewing some in-character scenery, adopting accents, and waxing eloquent about my extremely-interesting backstory. But as a self-acknowledged Wizard type, I think that an important part of being a good player lies in being a good ensemble player.

When you’re a natural diva, there’s a risk of becoming “the protagonist” rather than “a protagonist.” And if the other players feel like you’re overshadowing the rest of the cast, it’s on you to be proactive about the situation. In that regard, my favorite tactic is to check in with my party members from time to time: “What are you hoping to do with your character? Is there anything my guy can do to help set up a cool moment?”

You see, I think that there’s a little bit of GM in every player. The common wisdom is that it’s the GM’s job to manage the group and make sure everyone is having a good time. But I think that it’s the mark of a good player to shoulder a little bit of that load as well. You’re not just there to have fun. You’re there to help everyone else at the table have fun as well. That means playing foil to other PCs, standing out of the way when it’s time for someone else’s special moment, and in general helping your more introverted castmates to shine.

Not everybody thinks of RPGs in terms of performance, and it is by no means a requirement to game. But if you are the kind of gamer that likes to go for the Oscar, it pays to remember that RPGs are a group effort. Let your pals take center-stage from time to time, and your own performance will be stronger for it.

Question of the day then! Have you ever gamed with a diva? Did they ever manage to share the spotlight, or was the game doomed to crumble under the weight of their scene-stealing ego? Let’s hear your tales of spotlight hoggery down in the comments!


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