Time is the understated resource in our lives. Whether you play D&D, please consider these words on how to make each moment shine in your life.
Dungeons and Dragons sessions often remind me of a group of musicians playing a song together on a Friday night. The same ingredients are there – a few friends, some talent, creativity, and most of all a shared spotlight. Considering the amount of players at the table, a weighty burden lies on the Story Teller to decide where does spotlight shine? As a storyteller, it is my responsibility to determine where the moment focuses on at any given encounter during a session. And so, each player must consider “how am I sharing this spotlight, am I shining within it or supporting the moment?”
I have found that paying attention, sharing attention and consideration are all things to regularly address at the table. While most have had some teaching or training on “taking turns” or active listening, I still hold that Dungeons and Dragons is one of the best ways to teach teams, friends and families on sharing the moment of spotlight in support and gracious hosting. This lesson extends beyond D&D and into your “real life”.
Sojourner – one who spends a day in journey with their fellows.
But first, let’s crunch some numbers! If you think for a moment, a 2 hour session lasts 120 minutes and if there are 4 players at your table, that’s 30 minutes of spotlight for each player and that doesn’t include the time the Story Teller speaks! Add combat, which takes (for me) on average 4 minutes per player per round, I can only plow through 3 rounds of combat for a 2 hour session, at a table with 5 players if I want to include some great storytelling moments in the session as well. When we spend time, we determine where our values lie. While some players will not speak as much, and therefore require less time in combat or otherwise, having a clear understanding of where the spotlight is located makes a tremendous difference in how everyone enjoys the game session.
If the spotlight is on a sojourner, they must be prepared to partner with the story teller to make this moment memorable. Note that I think each sojourner should bring their best foot forward in their moment. If you like verbal sparring, then speak away! If you like to tactically outwit everyone in the storyteller’s world, then go for it. Use your strengths and make the moment shine, and have fun with the scene!
However, if the spotlight is not on you as a player, that doesn’t mean you are sitting there silently (and certainly not in boredom) but means you are sharing the moment as either a support or gracious audience. As a support, your character exists to help the spotlight stay in the moment (more on that below). As an audience, you are smiling, laughing, gasping in abject horror, or simply shaking your head in response to the scene. By being a gracious audience, you are validating the moment the other sojourner is making.
Am I shining in the spotlight or supporting it?
Imagine a bowl on the table, nearby a spoon, and inside the bowl is your favorite cereal. Fresh out of the box, and now into your own personal bowl, everything is set for your Saturday morning cartoons, and now all you need is a cup of milk to douse the cereal into mouth watering bliss. At this moment, the cereal is really what holds the focus. The milk only validates the purpose of the cereals moment with the hardworking student at the end of the week. If the milk takes the spotlight, then the bowl is overfilled, cereal splashes out and onto the counter, becomes soggy and provides little satisfaction and possibly disappointment.
In the next moment, imagine on a clean counter a tall, ice cold glass of milk. It stands alone, beading sweat along the glass jar holding it contained. All it requires before you gulp it down is one simple dunk of a cookie. Satisfied, you slam the empty cup on the counter and wipe a lactose mustache off your face. What previously supported the spotlight in the last moment has now held the spotlight in this moment.
So, the question is, am I shining in the spotlight, or supporting it? Am I the cereal, or am I the milk? Am I the milk, or am I the cookie? This answer depends on the moment where the story teller directs the spotlight.
Referring back to the group of jazz musicians, imagine the conductor waves their wand and directs the soft music to collective glory, and every musician present agrees on the music, playing their part. If a random player steps up with a set up with bagpipes and begins playing a battle hymn during the symphony, the attention is diverted into another moment and the spotlight is spoiled rather than shared. It’s not that the random player played the wrong song, or even played it badly, it’s just that it didn’t fit with the recipe of the moment. And like a great song, I believe every D&D session can bring to life the creative forces within each sojourner, for each of us is an artist in the spotlight of the moment.
And so our story continues.