IMPORTANT UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that there are two sections covering Milestones separated by 155 pages that have almost complete identical content. I was using the earlier section, which starts on page 138, where the competing section starting on page 293 actually addressed my concerns posted below sufficiently. I’d advise people to just cross out the earlier section to avoid confusion, as the later one is better.
So I’ve been observing something about milestones in my group that is kind of disturbing me. Since only one person gets a Spotlight (per vote), and they only happen every 2-3 missions, in a group of four you might expect on average it to take 8-12 missions (2-3 months of weekly play if one mission per week) to get a Spotlight each. Then triple that for getting the first Arc milestone (since the Spotlight after the second is the first Arc, replacing the third Spotlight), so 6-9 months of weekly play for everybody to get an Arc under somewhat ideal, egalitarian circumstances. The numbers go even higher with a larger group (i.e. not-including me, we have 7 players in the current game I’m running, which would almost double these figures again).
Now I’m not going to debate whether 6-9 months of dedicated ST playing to get an extra focus (as opposed to becoming more “well-rounded” by forgetting old and potentially flavorful things to learn “optimal” ones ones) is a reasonable Arc pace. I’m trying to keep to what is in the book and not judge it to harshly, so far.
But what I am concerned about here though is, with a vote involved, how likely is it that a relatively quiet player (we have at least two in my group) is ever going to get a single Spotlight, let alone an Arc, unless given a mercy vote by the other players? I’m seeing people voting for friends and family, and for the big personalities at the table, but never for the people who aren’t good at being the center of attention or don’t have a personal outside of game connection to somebody. It doesn’t matter if the mission is constructed to revolve around their character or that they are doing a good job of roleplaying it within their limits, because unless they, the wallflowers of the gaming group, manage to win a real world cult-of-personality check against people who in another life could have acted professionally, they are potentially never going to win the vote via anything other then a sense of metagaming duty by the rest of the group. My ability to break vote ties as the gamemaster is irrelevant, since they don’t even get enough (aka, any) votes to tie with. I could of course browbeat people into spreading the Spotlight love, but in that case I might as well just assign points at a regular pace and take the voting out of the process altogether… which kind of defeats the point of having a system spelled out in the book. Even if they get lucky and win the vote once, if the more convivial people at the table are ending up getting Spotlights at two or three times that pace, how valued are they going to feel? The design seems dangerously apt for creating cliqueish behavior and excluding people who may well have a real-world history of feeling excluded already. I’d like to imagine gamers are fairer then most folk about these sort of things, but honestly that hasn’t ever been my experience in long term groups. Basically when the metagame gets involved, the person with the least friends at the table has a high chance of getting screwed.
So is anybody else having / forseeing this issue? Or are you lucky enough to have groups that vote perfectly fairly based on peoples social capabilities, or are you all mostly blowing off the Spotlight rules as written?