Main Character
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Basic Information

The Main Character of a story is the character that the story is about. Often the tale is from their Point of View, and the character is played by the biggest star on the marquee. They'll get the lion's share of the screen time (or page count), and be hip-deep in plot from their first scene.

The Main Character of a Role-Playing Game is… well, that gets a little complicated. It might be:

  • the loudest player, or
  • the Faceman who does all the in-character talking, or
  • the leader of the adventuring party, or
  • the most quirky or memorable character, or
  • the PC whose back story just accidentally fit the GMs big picture, or
  • the guy who keeps digging himself a hole (and dragging the rest of the group down there with him), or
  • someone else entirely.

For some gaming groups, there's a particular player who's always the Main Character, regardless of game, just because of interpersonal dynamics. They may be the most charismatic player, everybody's buddy, or the GM may have a crush on them. Other groups tend to pass the Main Character duties around from campaign to campaign depending on character concept, and may do so without realizing or thinking about it. Other groups find perfect ensemble balance. It all depends on who you're playing with and what kind of story it is. The thing that stands out is, like in fiction, the Main Character drives the plot, and has the most power (of the PCs, anyway) to influence where the story is going.


1. Main Character Theory of Role Playing - A blog post from a friend of mine that opened my eyes to the dynamics that had been sitting just out of focus for years.

Game and Story Use

  • Gaming is a collaborative project, and, in theory, every player contributes equally. But, when you think about it, we all know that's not always true. Sometimes the spotlight lingers on one player, and they grab the plot and run. This a pretty natural trope to fiction, and often makes for better stories. So, it really shouldn't be surprising or alarming when it happens in gaming.
    • Having a main character can really help focus the plot, and give direction to the campaign.
    • Sometimes it's fun to just sit back and watch the inspired madness of another player. Being the spunky sidekick (or some other support role) can be fun, and it means less burden on your shoulders.
    • Just the same, if you weren't expecting it, it can be unnerving to find yourself playing the sidekick role when you thought you were an ensemble star.
      • It may be helpful to point out the potential for this to happen, especially to newer players (or players new to your group dynamic). If you discuss it openly, players may be more comfortable than if they just sat there wondering why Fred's character keeps getting all the glory.
      • At the same time, the GM should make a point of sometimes tailoring scenes to the other characters. Just because Fred's character is born of royal blood, invented a time machine, and has a bitter rivalry with the main villain doesn't mean everyone else should always play second fiddle. Gaming is a form of escapism and wish fulfillment for a lot of people, so give them their moments to shine. Spread the challenges and the solutions around, even if the plot seems to naturally emanate from the same chair week after week.
      • As a player, remember that this is natural and often unconscious on the part of the GM and whichever player took over the plot. If you're not getting the attention or stardom you crave, try to ride it out at first, and then talk to the GM candidly if the situation continues for more than a couple sessions. It's not that they hate you, they may not realize that you're being ignored.
        • Some players just quietly bow out of a game that's not about their character, but that's far from ideal. The GM may not realize what was happening, and won't learn from that experience. Instead, they'll be confused, and possibly have their feelings hurt. In my experience, most GMs want to improve their craft, and feedback is the most important tool towards that end. Even if you're planning on quitting the game or group, tell the GM why instead of just vanishing.
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