DISCUSSION: How long is it reasonable to hold the spotlight?


Victoria Rules
Round here parties split and-or individual PCs go off on their own all the time, usually in situations where they feel (rightly or wrongly) there's little known or perceived danger but much exploring to be done, and simple logic says multiple groups/people can cover more ground than one combined group. The result often resembes the herding of cats... :)

Also, any character with flight is going to fly off and scout All. The. Time. And usually invisible, thus the party on the ground can't see which way the scout goes and-or keep track of it.

And then there's unintentional splits. In the course of one adventure it happened twice in fairly rapid succession:

First, due to a wild magic surge each of the ten characters in the party got teleported to a random place in the (very big!) dungeon. Fortunately, they'd mostly already cleared it out, but trying to run each individual character as he-she tried to find anyone else and-or figure out where they were - yeah, that was fun. :)

Then not long after they'd reunited this happened: during what was supposed to be a rest day the Ranger left to escort a rescuee back to safety. The MU and another PC teleported back to town for some reason. And then the remaining six decided to do some exploring instead of resting, except the Dwarf was left to guard (and count, and recount!) the hoard of g.p. they'd found. The explorers found a teleport trap on the other end of which was a very nasty encounter. The Thief was first in, dead in two rounds. When Thief didn't return the rest went in as a bloc but then got scattered; one ended up falling into a pit trap and just staying there to hide, another fled, and the rest used a device to bail out for home! (so at this point they're now split in six)

Eventually they again got back together (one of the characters having a device of scrying helped immensely!), and carried on.


Dances with Gnolls
It can be hard to gauge.

Especially if your group of players/characters are very asymmetric. By that I mean, some of them come up with brilliant ideas for directions to take their characters, while others seem to be more happy with little segments here and there or just plain following.

For my group, there are a couple who always have plans they want to enact or ways they have become invested in the shared world that can effect the story. Then there are some who don't as much but do still have interesting character arcs. And there is one who I am very certain would be fine with just fighting and following.

I have become better at chopping up the busy-bodies time more when needed and giving those that do still want focus a moment in the light.

I wish I could regiment it down to 10 minutes! That would allow us to really pick up the pace some nights.


Despite @Umbran 's earlier statement, it has been scientifically proven that the Maximum allowable spotlight time is 8 minutes per 4 hour session with one 17 minute spotlight 'enhanced event' once per 31 sessions.

Or if you don't believe that, it depends.


Victoria Rules
Despite @Umbran 's earlier statement, it has been scientifically proven that the Maximum allowable spotlight time is 8 minutes per 4 hour session with one 17 minute spotlight 'enhanced event' once per 31 sessions.
OK - if the session is 4 hours and each of let's say five players gets the spotlight for 8 minutes, who gets the spotlight for the remaining 200 minutes?

And the answer, of course, is the host's cat. :)
There's two types of spotlight: focused attention and solo activity. Focused attention is when each player gets to be active, even during group moments (the face during social activities, the scout/tracker during exploration, etc.). Solo activity is when a part of the group breaks off, taking time completely away from the other part of the group.

Focused attention tends to natural evolve within the group. Some players tend to be more dominant, while others are more passive. Sadly it's possible to have two "alpha" players who try to dominate the game, causing friction within the group. The easiest solution is to make sure they build characters with different focuses, and when they both have the spotlight they try to share.

Solo activity can be very good, or very, very bad. As a DM I often have solo activity occur during urban activities, because different PCs will want to interact with certain PCs (and vice versa). Most of the time these activities I try to keep down to 10 minutes tops, as to avoid focusing too much on one player (unless it sets up a plot hook). When a player decides to go off and do something on their own, this seldom goes well. Either the player is attempting to wrest the spotlight for an extended period of time, or they're going "batman," trying to solve everything themselves. I tend to discourage this by asking the player what their goal is; if it can be resolved within 10 minutes, then I'm okay with it.