March 5, 2017 by Jake
When I run a role playing game I like to think of it as a story told in episodes like a fantasy or science fiction TV show. My favorite shows are those where the character’s backstories are filled in over time and each one takes on a very diverse personality that makes them stand out among the cast. Since Dungeons and Dragons is a group story telling venture, I can’t expect to know everything that motivates each character and what it is they and their players are thinking. I can however ask them needly, prying questions in hopes that I can incorporate something into my quests and adventures that has personal resonance to the different characters as often as I can. Adventuring is a dangerous profession and what players envision of their character won’t always be the same drive or motivation and at times may even put them at odds and create inter party conflict.
Speaking of which, my old Dungeon master Gabe started a podcast called Inter-Party Conflict. Gabe was one of my favorite DM’s who had a good deal of experience under his belt playing table top games. I cant help but laughing at his uber nerditude and being inspired for my own game sessions as I listen. Please give it a try on Stitcher or iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Its really good I’m not just plugging here.
Back to the post. I’ve concocted a little questionnaire to be answered through the point of view of each player in my campaign. They don’t have to answer all the questions, but as many as possible is useful for really creating specific adventure hooks and story details to make them feel like part of the fictional setting. As the “head writer” of the story I feel like this information is incredibly valuable to the group story as a whole and can hopefully bring the personalities of each character to light, making them more three dimensional. Please feel free to copy these prompts and ask them of your own players in role playing games, and let me know in the comments below if you feel I missed any other important ones. I’d really like to hear them.
Please fill out this questionnaire to the best extent of your knowledge. If you don’t have the answers or aren’t sure, just write N/A. The end of the entry has questions for you as a player and what you like to get out of roleplaying. After each topic are various prompts to help give an idea of several responses, you need not answer each prompt specifically or any at all.
- TRAINING: How did your character learn their profession? Where they trained formally or informally? Perhaps by more than one mentor? Did you train yourself? How old where you when you started learning?
- MOTIVATION: What motivates your character to go adventuring? Is the open road what they prefer, or are they adventuring to meet an end goal? When they meet that goal will they stop altogether?
- HOME: Does your character have any personal attachment to places in the wide world? A forest or monastery they call home? A home town they return to from time to time? Is there anywhere that your character absolutely will not go?
- FAMILY: Does your character have any family, friends, or guardians they keep in contact with or not? Are any of your family still alive, are they adventurers too? How often do you keep in contact if at all?
- GENERAL QUESTS: How does your character treat quests and their role as an adventurer? Do they begrudgingly help the little people, only respond to rewards, or make judgement calls on a case by case basis?
- PERSONAL QUESTS: Is there anything your character wants to accomplish in the world? What do they need to do, why did they learn to fight? What will happen if they get their way and are they just using the party to help accomplish their goals or as mutual companions in destiny?
- LOVE: What does your character feel about romance? Do they have any current romantic relationships, do they sleep around? What do they prefer or find attractive? Do they believe in marriage or other mating customs?
- FEAR: What is your character afraid of and how do they react to this fear?
- GOVERNMENT: Does your character have any opinions on the upper, lower, and middle class? Are they born rebels or do they obey the laws of the land or nature? Do they hold citizenship or class standing anywhere in the world?
- CRIME: Has your character ever broke the law or been to prison? Are they currently wanted in this realm or the next?
- RELIGION: What are your character’s religious views? Do the gods or spirits play an active role in their life or are they atheist/agnostic? What is the building block of their faith and where did they pick it up?
- TIMELINE: What are some key events in your character’s life? The best and worst? Any core memories that shape their personality?
- APPEARANCE: Describe your character! Do they have any unique or standout traits?
These questions are mostly for you as a player:
- What do you enjoy most about roleplaying or videogames?
- Do you prefer to be contacted via, phone, email, etc? Please provide preferred method.
- What sort of experience do you want from this campaign? Epic fights? Fat loot? In depth character building roleplay? Exploration of fantastic locations?
- How do you prefer loot and treasure be handled? A group pot and dolling out cash when needed or splitting everything evenly and keeping stashes separate?
- How do you feel about spending one or more play sessions in a row without any combat encounters?
That’s it for now. I promise I will get back to writing about board games very soon. I just wanted to get all this D&D stuff out of my head.