View Full Version : Ask a GM [05/04/09]: Questions to flesh out a PC

05-04-2009, 12:51 PM
Envikin asks,

Beyond the physical description, ability points, and powers that go on a character sheet, what questions do you ask your players about their characters. What questions give you plot points later in the game. What questions get the players to think longer about the kind of person they are playing and make a character more than 1 dimensional. Or do you get them to grow as the campaign grows?

05-04-2009, 12:56 PM
My questions tend to spring up organically from the character concept and are very free form. Most RPG books have a number of suggested questions, I would start with those to get the creative juices flowing and then just talk the character's background out. What I generally want to know about the character (and what I want the player to ferret out) is what their motivation is for pursuing their profession and course in life up to the point that the character first enters center stage. And, I want the player to develop something beyond a typical personality archetype and have thought about some of the major events that happened in the character's life to make the character the way he or she is. Beyond that, I encourage the players to further develop their back-story as the game goes on.

05-04-2009, 12:56 PM
I too take a wait and see approach. Making a character is fun, but everyone approaches it from a million different angles. Going in, I like to give my players enough background for them to create a character that will fit within the setting I am running, but then I set them loose to see what they will do.

Asking them a bunch of questions in the process will definitely yield hooks I can pull into my game's story; but some folks just don't want to think about it that fast. I respect that and take what they give me, be it a sheet with a name and stats, or a six page background written for the character. Then I start my work.

Folks who don't get into writing a lengthy background can still be worked into the game, but you do it by paying attention to what they do and say at the table and weave that into the plots. This gives them just as much GM attention in the long run, and does not stick them with having to do more work than they might before the game.

So, none really... but I certainly welcome people who put extra effort into their characters without questions from me!

05-04-2009, 12:56 PM
I usually like to wait and see how the players roleplay their PCs. Let them grow the character as the campaign progresses. I like to use what I see the players doing with their characters to help create the encounters that they come across. That, along with little bits that I can get from a player's background that they create for thier character, allow for lots of future plot twists in the game.

Now, if the character is going to be used in just one particular campaign, then I usually don't worry as much about it as I would if the character is going to be used over and over. Especially one that is starting from the begining at level 1. In the case of a level 1 character, I definately have to wait and see how the player developes the PC as they progress through the game. I am not big on telling people what their characters are like. If you tell them what their character is like, you have now just taken alot of thier abillity to roleplay away.

05-04-2009, 01:21 PM
I do like to ask why they want a particular skill set.

For example, if they have a good roleplaying reason for a druid to have disguise, I will let them take ranks in disguise as a class skill for their first level (say they live in a culture that will hunt down and imprison or kill druids). I justify this under the assumption that their first surge in points for skills is there to reflect their life experience up until that point.

05-04-2009, 01:22 PM
Id say a brief summary of their character's background / history if they have developed one. Allowing you an insight as to why they may be on said adventure, and being the DM allowing you to pry deeper into their character makeup and toy with their general character personality / story line by introducing relevent or irrelevent characters, events, omens, or inuendos into your campaings that suggest somthing deeper, leading to all sorts of plot tangents.

A general synopsis of the character's background IMO is a important key to a long term group and adventure. It give s the DM a look at the inner workings and the possible whys of a character's being.

05-04-2009, 03:38 PM
This is a tough question. I would say the best way to create background and character history is once the player picks a class, to have them truly understand their race. Their upbringing, beliefs, and surroundings as an(example: Dwarf). Then have them apply that to the class that they chose. As a (Dwarf) how do you think you would handle being a barbarian? How would it for example be different from the way your barbarian would act as opposed to an elf who played a barbarian? Once you have that I think the morality along with everything else should fall into place. Kind of like making your player do method acting.

05-04-2009, 04:49 PM
I've always viewed a character, be it a PC or NPC, as being more than a collection of attributes, feats, talents, proficiencies, traits, skills and/or class, and so forth. My player's understand this. They know that I value a good character background. It doesn't have to be a richly detailed 10 page biography as to how their character grew up. It simply needs to have 3 or 4 events that helped direct their character towards becoming the fledgling hero the player is intending to play. Usually, I get the 3 or 4 events, plus they give me names, professions, and personality descriptions of one or two important people...mentors that helped shape their characters or taught them some important facet of their character, such as a wizard's mentor. The only other thing I get them to think about, is what motivates their character. Beyond that, everything else gets fleshed out as we play.

Of course, I run very gritty games, and it's not uncommon for my player's to lose a character or two throughout the course of the campaign. I tend to require less background info from those characters, allowing the player to make up background as the game moves forward.

05-04-2009, 07:19 PM
Generally I will brief the players about the area they live in. Then as they think about the character they want to play i ask them to tell me what their character did to earn a living prior to this moment. Then we go into the building of the character. Currently I am using skills rather than levels. Older characters get more points to buy their skills. Older characters also get the negative effects of aging sooner.

05-05-2009, 08:08 AM
All I really ask of a character is that they provide a valid reason their character would be in the area we're going to play in. I'm more than willing to work with people to find out what that reason is and provide options for them. Also, traits in Exalted are rated 1 to 5, so I tend to ask that they have a reason for every trait rated at 3 or higher. This is because a trait rated at 3 (such as Athletics or Medicine) means the character is good enough to make a career out of using that skill. 5 is the pinnacle of human achievement, so I understandably (I think) want to know how you got that good.

I also like to ask that players not make loner characters, or those that refuse to work in groups and/or trust no one (in the group or otherwise).

05-05-2009, 11:20 AM
I like to ask questions at character creation. I like it even more if players will give me an extended written background. This is all because i want the game to be tailored to my PCs, and if I have this information at the start, its easier to pull in plot and story points from the information they have given me, or design adventures and plot hooks specific to their desires.

My favorite questions are regarding:

Family - are parents or siblings alive? are they on good terms?
Other than family, who are their allies? who do they trust?
If the player is willing, give me an enemy, too - an old grudge, perhaps
I love to ask for the PCs most treasured possession. This will often prompt a great story about how they got it.
some sort of personality question - how would they react in situation X - like if they rescue/find a child orphaned by a monster attack, or if they walk into a tavern full of nothing but cloaked, mysterious individuals brooding at their respective tables.

05-05-2009, 12:05 PM
I always encourage players to flush out characters. I give out starting points to individual players who do this, and i give out bonuses to the group to divide up as they see fit if they make a set of characters that works well together. This alone is worth it... as without some sort of connection beyond 'you meet in a bar, trust each other implicitly, and decide to kill and loot' , there's a lot less chance of good roleplaying and character interaction.

The questions i ask are what is their upbringing - farm, city, etc. What background do they come from - parents vocation, social class, etc. I also try and get them to take a code of conduct - what will you do or not do in situations - torture, unarmed foe, lying, etc. Their species and origin location also add perspective and i encourage players to adopt those outlooks... rewarding them in places where they really dig deep for good roleplaying of those views.

That said, a lot of players don't like to waste starting points on flavor and character depth... and they are so typical that it may as well have been a duplicate of their last. Thats fine, don't pressure them, but find a way with the rest of the group to fit that in.

05-05-2009, 10:04 PM
I use a riddle from BGII, it forces a player to think about how their character would think and how they think other characters think.

"You and your sibling are trapped in separate cages. You can not see each other or talk to each other and there is no way out of the cage. In the cage is a button, if you press it and your sibling does not they die and you go free. If they press it and you do not they goes free and you die. If you both press it you both die. If neither of you press it you both die."
What does your character do?

I ask it at the start of the first game and remind people of it when they start losing their grip on their character. The answer isn't important, so much as thinking about the answer that is important.

05-05-2009, 10:16 PM
People they know families, friends, enemies, acquaintances, etc.

05-06-2009, 05:30 PM
It could be my experience with WoD and White Wolf, but i always insist that the characters come up with the concept of character before ever generating stats. In some cases, when i start campaigns where the characters are children, their personality comes out, grows, and changes with the unfolding campaign. In other instances, when characters start in their late teens, early twenties... i usually bring up family background, life experiences including what brought them to become a wizard, barbarian, bard, etc. Did they have a mentor, what were they like, what influences did they bring to the table? Also to round out the character, i ask for likes, dislikes, and why, personal habits, and even mannerisms. This is all optional of course, but it does act as an effective tool to help the player visualize the pc.

05-09-2009, 06:41 PM
I like my players to consider some things about their characters. Whether I know what the answers to these questions are or not doesn't matter as much as having them just stop to think about what answers their character would have.

These questions came directly from the Character Creation Information document I gave my players to make characters from. I was planning to run an Eberron game this summer that fell through, but I got interesting feedback from the players.

Who/what is most important to your character?
How do they seek it in everyday life?
Where does their loyalty most strongly lie?
What comes before that loyalty?
What do they want most in the world?
What would they give up to obtain it?
Who will they defend to their dying breath?
Who would they give their life to destroy?
What is their most prized possession?
What place on Eberron (substitute your own world if you wish) do they hold sacred?

These inquiries call into question the character of their character and forces them to prioritize and gives them reason behind their character's actions. I had a few players talking to me about character concepts, and the discussions fueled by these questions were very productive.

05-11-2009, 08:18 AM
One thing a DM of mine used, and that I still use for myself now was character development sheets. Using ones specific to Eberron my Dm adapted the sheets to his campaign. Including questions about family, feelings on other races, romatic interest(s), alignment applications (the way a PC acts within and veiws his alignment), and personal backgrounds including meaningful experiences.
It helped the DM better tailor the campaign to PC goals, but also forced players who wouldn't normally put alot of depth into their PC's to think, at least some, about the character they are playing beyond stats, weapons, and feat choices.

05-11-2009, 05:18 PM
so far i've just asked questions, kind of a sit-down interview style. however, it might not be a bad idea to adopt a questionnaire since i'm mostly stuck with play-by-post. =D

05-11-2009, 08:51 PM
Something I have come to like is to have players recap everything that happened after the session from their character's point of view. This helps them really flesh it out.

05-12-2009, 12:28 PM
Something I have come to like is to have players recap everything that happened after the session from their character's point of view. This helps them really flesh it out.
I used to do this, but not from the character's point of view. It sounds like a nifty idea, though :).

05-12-2009, 01:29 PM
It is...
to see it in action, go over to Reclaiming Daven in the Play by Post area.
We run live games and supplement in between with Play by Post. So it is handy to have everything recapped online.

05-14-2009, 09:47 PM
I run my own game, by which I mean I developed the system and setting independent of anything currently out there. In the character creation section of my game I actually tried to come up with questions that were not already included in other areas, such as:

What was your character's relationship with her father/mother in childhood?
Has that relationship between her parent(s) changed now, and if so, how?
How important was her faction's cultural influence on her personal development?
Does she agree with her faction's political stances?
Does she agree with her faction's social stances?
What does she consider her most cherished possessions and why?
Does she feel like she belongs anywhere?
Why did she choose to follow her path?
How does having a path affect the way she feels about herself and others?
How did she come in contact with her master or mistress?
How does that affect their relationship?
What does your character do for entertainment?
What is her favorite food?
What is her favorite pastime?
Does she complain often about perceived injustices or is she more accepting?
Has she ever been away from home before she started on her path?
What does she think of the other species?
What does she fear the most?
What is her greatest hope?

05-17-2009, 12:53 PM
I usually start out with a pretty linear adventure at first and find out how the players want to run the character. Afterwards I ask for background information and offer up a worksheet that they can fill out as well. This includes things like family, friend, enemies, romantic interests, aspirations, goals, long term goals, physical descriptions, habits and quirks. I then present them with 5 typical scenerio questions "What would you do?" sort of thing for them to give me an idea of what the character's personality is like, ranging between tactics to morality to zeal. I also encourage that the players mark down which entries the character actually knows of. His father was a noble but he doesn't know it - that sorta thing.

Sometimes players don't realy care about their character's background and are more insterested in their character's progression. I tell the players that the more of that sheet they fill out, the more story about their character's I will end up with.

05-17-2009, 01:29 PM
Dressi, your players are so alien to me! They don't want to flesh out their pcs? When I play a character that's all I want to do. I am constantly thinking about the history and life of my character. Honestly, to me I want to play more and I get more into the whole experience when my character is fleshed out

05-17-2009, 05:59 PM
Usually, the players characters will grow as the campaign grows. Background story is usually very light for them, and they develop more and more into full blown characters somewhere down the line. A good portion of the players I DM for are combat crazy maniacs, though... :mad: Not MUCH room for actual story and roleplaying.

05-17-2009, 06:11 PM
I feel like battles and the like are heightened when the characters storylines are fleshed out. There is more emotion involved. Thats why I am no longer big on hack and slash. I used to love that style, but I grew up. I think a good storyline and fleshed out characters and solid role playing can take a campaign that only has 35% fighting and make the battles far more memorable then a campaign that has constant battling. You get to a point where you just want more sustanence and it honestly provides for a much more enriching adventure.

05-18-2009, 11:15 PM
I like to sit down with a player and just say "tell me about your character," and from that point ask questions as they relate to the story I'm being told, and take notes, or offer suggestions. Two of the best questions, that usually always come up are, "what does your character love most?" and "what does your character hate?"

Like a couple of other posters on this thread, I also like to ask what if questions. One of the best is what I call 'The Law & Order Intro.' The question is some variation of "You and your friend/girlfriend/wife/sister/child are coming home from market/work/the tavern/church and you discover a dead body. What do you do?"

However, better than all of these, is a system used by White Wolf, called the prelude. Just a short 1 on 1 scene with the player where you walk them through an ordinary day of their life, or hit on important parts of their supplied history, this helps you understand the character, and helps the player learn how to play it.

05-19-2009, 10:21 PM
To whom it may concern;

I have been a DM now for 5+ years and I understand your question. First, make them come up with their own past for the character. Name of parents, siblings, how things were at home, how or why they left and how they got to where you're starting the campaign. Then, speak to them individually and find out what their aspirations are for the future of their character. Do they want to be a hero, the leader of a guild, have an alternate identity, have a base of operations, etc... Once you know their past, and maybe, an idea of what they want for their character, then you have the ability to put in contacts, storyline hurdles and arcs. Also, one of the most important thingd you want to remember... DO NOT make their storylines about revenge.
Also, a great thing you can do when starting off for the first 2 missions is throw in an extra party member. Make him yourself, and make him a lot like you. Then at third level take him out of the party and give him a position in a frequent town as mayor, part of city council, etc... this will give them a contact they know, hopefully like and a way for them to feel more connected with the world.

05-19-2009, 11:46 PM
DO NOT make their storylines about revenge.

Is there a particular reason why you dislike these storylines?

In my experience, they can sometimes serve as a crutch. A player who feels lazy, or doesn't have a good idea, will often make up a background of revenge.

But I have found that revenge can be a very powerful motivator. Especially if it happens IC. One campaign I ran, had the party competing with some NPCs to see who would obtain a special jewel first. When the party arrived, the NPC party tricked them into giving over the jewel. When the party found out, the story took a very cool, very exciting turn as the PCs vowed not only to get the jewel back, but to get revenge for being made to look foolish.

William Murderface
05-20-2009, 12:09 PM
i like to get some semi vague details about the character then leap into a wild melee of conflict and intrigue and let the rest of the character details come out from character interaction

Bob the Dalek
05-20-2009, 02:31 PM
My last campaign was a teaching campaign. I had 2 guys who were vets and they brought their girlfriends to play. The vets were pretty cool about having an established life in the town before they became adventurers and the newbies were just over the age to choose a career. It worked out well because the vets helped the newbies figure out their place in the world. Creating your character in the context of the group and having the rest of the table help you can be quite fun.

05-21-2009, 01:19 PM
The reason I say "Do not make their story lines about revenge"... When I was a novice DM I had players, and myself, try the "revenge storylines." To me is seemed the negative emotions of revenge eventually made the campaign less fun for everyone overall. And above all else you want the game to be fun... for all the characters involved. A lot of the time "revenge storylines" aren't drawn up for the whole group, but for individual characters. And it usually plants the seed of individualism into the character, and the player, rather than planting a seed of teamwork.
For some it may work, but for me the cons have never, in the end, out weighed the pros.

05-21-2009, 02:48 PM
Is there a particular reason why you dislike these storylines?

I know that I'm not the person you're asking, but hey, you asked in public, right?

The only thing I dislike about revenge backgrounds is that you sometimes wind up with the "Inigo Montoya" problem. Once he'd killed his great adversary, what was he supposed to do with his life?

Revenge stories when done well, can be an excellent exploration of the avenging character, but I suspect that far too many GM's don't have that skill level.

05-21-2009, 03:03 PM
Those are valid points.

I was thinking more along the lines of them being cliché.

Luke Skywalker, Inigo Montoya, Hamlet, Captain Ahab, Titus Andronicus, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Punisher, the Crow, V from V for Vendetta, Beatrix Bee from Kill Bill, Wolverine, and even Khaaaan! from Star Trek II are all characters based on revenge who are highly popular.

It's an easy cop out to go, the gnolls killed my father, but it's also a classic angle. If a character comes up with a good reason to seek revenge, I usually allow it, but try not to make it the focus of the campaign.

05-21-2009, 03:11 PM
Character Questionnaire –
Do you read your local newspaper?
Local Magazine?
Locally related blogs?
Place of Birth:
Personal Goals:
Personal Philosophy:
Parents’ Names & Occupations:
Living or deceased?
Did you/do you get along well with them?
Describe your voice. Is it formal or casual?
Take the Devil’s Advocate stand against your character. What do you (the player) dislike about the character?
What are some good reasons for the other characters to hate your character?
What minor bad habit does your character have that would annoy anyone after a while?

* I've used this questionnaire several times modifying it on each occasion.

05-21-2009, 03:14 PM
This is kind of long and drawn out... but I had a DM who wanted us to fill these out... it was... kind of a pain. But we had AWESOME characters.

100 Questions for Character Background

Part 1: The Basics

1. What is your full name?
2. Where and when were you born?
3. Who are/were your parents? (Know their names, occupations, personalities, etc.)
4. Do you have any siblings? What are/were they like?
5. Where do you live now, and with whom? Describe the place and the person/people.
6. What is your occupation?
7. Write a full physical description of yourself. You might want to consider factors such as: height, weight, race, hair and eye color, style of dress, and any tattoos, scars, or distinguishing marks.
8. To which social class do you belong?
9. Do you have any allergies, diseases, or other physical weaknesses?
10. Are you right- or left-handed?
11. What does your voice sound like?
12. What words and/or phrases do you use very frequently?
13. What do you have in your pockets?
14. Do you have any quirks, strange mannerisms, annoying habits, or other defining characteristics?

Part 2: Growing Up

15. How would you describe your childhood in general?
16. What is your earliest memory?
17. How much schooling have you had?
18. Did you enjoy school?
19. Where did you learn most of your skills and other abilities?
20. While growing up, did you have any role models? If so, describe them.
21. While growing up, how did you get along with the other members of your family?
22. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
23. As a child, what were your favorite activities?
24. As a child, what kinds of personality traits did you display?
25. As a child, were you popular? Who were your friends, and what were they like?
26. When and with whom was your first kiss?
27. Are you a virgin? If not, when and with whom did you lose your virginity?
28. If you are a supernatural being (i.e. mage, werewolf, vampire), tell the story of how you became what you are or first learned of your own abilities. If you are just a normal human, describe any influences in your past that led you to do the things you do today.

Part 3: Past Influences

29. What do you consider the most important event of your life so far?
30. Who has had the most influence on you?
31. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
32. What is your greatest regret?
33. What is the most evil thing you have ever done?
34. Do you have a criminal record of any kind?
35. When was the time you were the most frightened?
36. What is the most embarrassing thing ever to happen to you?
37. If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be, and why?
38. What is your best memory?
39. What is your worst memory?

Part 4: Beliefs And Opinions

40. Are you basically optimistic or pessimistic?
41. What is your greatest fear?
42. What are your religious views?
43. What are your political views?
44. What are your views on sex?
45. Are you able to kill? Under what circumstances do you find killing to be acceptable or unacceptable?
46. In your opinion, what is the most evil thing any human being could do?
47. Do you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?
48. What do you believe makes a successful life?
49. How honest are you about your thoughts and feelings (i.e. do you hide your true self from others, and in what way)?
50. Do you have any biases or prejudices?
51. Is there anything you absolutely refuse to do under any circumstances? Why do you refuse to do it?
52. Who or what, if anything, would you die for (or otherwise go to extremes for)?

Part 5: Relationships With Others

53. In general, how do you treat others (politely, rudely, by keeping them at a distance, etc.)? Does your treatment of them change depending on how well you know them, and if so, how?

54. Who is the most important person in your life, and why?
55. Who is the person you respect the most, and why?
56. Who are your friends? Do you have a best friend? Describe these people.
57. Do you have a spouse or significant other? If so, describe this person.
58. Have you ever been in love? If so, describe what happened.
59. What do you look for in a potential lover?
60. How close are you to your family?
61. Have you started your own family? If so, describe them. If not, do you want to? Why or why not?
62. Who would you turn to if you were in desperate need of help?
63. Do you trust anyone to protect you? Who, and why?
64. If you died or went missing, who would miss you?
65. Who is the person you despise the most, and why?
66. Do you tend to argue with people, or avoid conflict?
67. Do you tend to take on leadership roles in social situations?
68. Do you like interacting with large groups of people? Why or why not?
69. Do you care what others think of you?

Part 6: Likes And Dislikes

70. What is/are your favorite hobbies and pastimes?
71. What is your most treasured possession?
72. What is your favorite color?
73. What is your favorite food?
74. What, if anything, do you like to read?
75. What is your idea of good entertainment (consider music, movies, art, etc.)?
76. Do you smoke, drink, or use drugs? If so, why? Do you want to quit?
77. How do you spend a typical Saturday night?
78. What makes you laugh?
79. What, if anything, shocks or offends you?
80. What would you do if you had insomnia and had to find something to do to amuse yourself?
81. How do you deal with stress?
82. Are you spontaneous, or do you always need to have a plan?
83. What are your pet peeves?

Part 7: Self Images And Etc.

84. Describe the routine of a normal day for you. How do you feel when this routine is disrupted?
85. What is your greatest strength as a person?
86. What is your greatest weakness?
87. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
88. Are you generally introverted or extroverted?
89. Are you generally organized or messy?
90. Name three things you consider yourself to be very good at, and three things you consider yourself to be very bad at.
91. Do you like yourself?
92. What are your reasons for being an adventurer (or doing the strange and heroic things that RPG characters do)? Are your real reasons for doing this different than the ones you tell people in public? (If so, detail both sets of reasons...)
93. What goal do you most want to accomplish in your lifetime?
94. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
95. If you could choose, how would you want to die?
96. If you knew you were going to die in 24 hours, name three things you would do in the time you had left.
97. What is the one thing for which you would most like to be remembered after your death?
98. What three words best describe your personality?
99. What three words would others probably use to describe you?
100. If you could, what advice would you, the player, give to your character? (You might even want to speak as if he or she were sitting right here in front of you, and use proper tone so he or she might heed your advice...)
--- Merged from Double Post ---
I typically don't make players answer 100 questions. But I will pick 5-10 from the list, or base my "interviews" off these questions.

05-21-2009, 08:18 PM
I like for my players to create a basic history for their character that explains their motivations for adventuring. Additionally, I ask the players to provide a personality profile in a couple of sentences which summarizes the general nature of the PC. I encourage creativity and quirks. This information isn't so much to provide me with insights as to help the player better roleplay a three dimensional character.
One of my personal favorites is a thief (rogue) who tends to keep out of the way during battles, supporting the group with arrows, thrown daggers, and warnings, who has been known to jump into the midst of a battle to save a comrade, and then finnagle more than his fair share of the treasure afterword and who tends to get the group in trouble at times by "forgetting" to pay for items, meals, rooms, etc.

05-23-2009, 01:06 PM
It always helps if the DM is willing to sit down with players on an individual basis and just ask some questions (ex: why did you move to that city, why do you hate goblins so much, how did you come into possession of that family heirloom). Most times asking just simple questions like that can help the player flesh out their character.

From a player perspective, often I will make myself a list of personal achievements that I someday hope my character will aspire too. Some things on the list are basic, easy things but others can be grand. You most likely won't achieve everything on the list but it puts you in the mind of your character and gives you a feel for what drives them.

05-25-2009, 10:48 AM
I have the players pick out a trate andf make up some simple back story to flesh them out abit but over all the real development comes while playing the campaign. An as i see what direction their headed with their character I ajust to aid in bringing that character to life.

06-02-2009, 09:46 AM
A long time ago when I started reading about DnD and such. I read an very old magazine a buddy had. It had a section on character development and asked several questions that I still use for players. Things like where was your character born, what was their childhood like? Do they have sibblings? What attachments do you have to inanimate objects. Horse or puppy? Stuff like that. I swear its almost the same stuff you ask a perspective date, you know, minus the "will you please not press charges against me" question.

So building a picture of the character outside of combat will make for interesting information that can be used for a campaign I think.

06-10-2009, 05:11 PM
My old GM had a great way to flesh out a character during play. We'd come up with a nebulous character concept and every session the GM would ask us a roleplaying question/situations. Each session we would come up with the answers that the characters would do in these session. One example was such, "Your travelling from your home town to a nearby city and you come across a mother and daughter travelling in your direction from on of the small villages you passed earlier. You know the roads are not completely safe. Do you ignore them and go about your own business? Do you offer to escort them on their way? What do you do?". It was questions such as these that gave us players the opportunity to flesh out our characters.
--- Merged from Double Post ---

This is kind of long and drawn out... but I had a DM who wanted us to fill these out... it was... kind of a pain. But we had AWESOME characters.

100 Questions for Character Background

Part 1: The Basics

1. What is your full name?
2. Where and when were you born?
3. Who are/were your parents? (Know their names, occupations, personalities, etc.)
4. Do you have any siblings? What are/were they like?
5. Where do you live now, and with whom? Describe the place and the person/people.
6. What is your occupation?
7. Write a full physical description of yourself. You might want to consider factors such as: height, weight, race, hair and eye color, style of dress, and any tattoos, scars, or distinguishing marks.
8. To which social class do you belong?
9. Do you have any allergies, diseases, or other physical weaknesses?
10. Are you right- or left-handed?
11. What does your voice sound like?
12. What words and/or phrases do you use very frequently?
13. What do you have in your pockets?
14. Do you have any quirks, strange mannerisms, annoying habits, or other defining characteristics?

--- Merged from Double Post ---
I typically don't make players answer 100 questions. But I will pick 5-10 from the list, or base my "interviews" off these questions.

Oh lord this reminds me of the questions I saw in the hero builder book for D&D 3.5 which allowed you to use d10 as percentile dice to help you create a character background.

06-11-2009, 02:23 PM
Oh lord this reminds me of the questions I saw in the hero builder book for D&D 3.5 which allowed you to use d10 as percentile dice to help you create a character background.

The 100 Qs are beastly. I have filled all 100 out for characters before, a couple of times, and it's... not fun. Haha. Those couple of characters that I've done them for though, are very well-developed though.

One good thing to do with them, is start a session with one or two, just to get your players thinking in character. I usually jot down a couple of notes as the players answer, so their answers can come back to haunt them. Or so I can remember to ask more about something later. "Tell me about your mother..."

12-09-2009, 01:19 PM
I generally default to the Babylon 5 questions: Who are you? What do you want? Though seldom stated that baldly.

I like to do some sort of prologue for each player during character creation. I'd rather just ask a half a dozen tailored questions than hand out homework assignments.

Most important to me is to get some sort of sense as to the character's goals. I'm also checking to make sure that I haven't misled anyone about the premise of the game and making sure that I've accurately represented any cultures in the world (and if not, do the players' assumptions destroy or enhance what I already have).

After a session or two, I'll ask another half dozen questions. Repeat as necessary, especially if a character is close to achieving a goal.

07-05-2010, 11:04 AM
I give out XP for background info. The more detailed the description, the more it will be used in plot points and thus more XP awarded. If they don't want to write a background I will at least ask them why they are adventuring. If they say something like "they were bored" then that could be used later on.

For instance, if a character said they wanted to get rich, greed would be a motivation and thus cash rewards would be the best bribe against them. If they were bored, then just a simple intriguing plot line would entice them into the story.

I would assume that the original party members either grew up together or joined a quest and would need introductions. They key is to remember how they interact with each other. If one character is absent, you can gauge what they would do if they were there. Also, it prevents metagaming when the first rogue rolls a 1 on detect traps and the second one finally backs them up.

Scribe of the Realm
07-26-2010, 11:46 AM
It helps me to give NPCs rich back stories, so I try to reward players who generate well fleshed out characters. In the game, I concentrate more on presenting scenes where the player characters need to take a stand on hot topics. Future scenes in the adventure explore other sides of those topics.

Beliefs and actions have consequences, both intended and unintended. The most immediate impact is on the relationships with NPCs. As a practical matter, it also helps me to imagine new scenes and new ways to explore my initial story arc. So what does a PC think about:
- the Civil Rights movement for undead
- the "Magically Induced Insanity" defense
- Prince Ferdinand's prohibition on reality altering magics
- the "Family Destiny" exclusionary clause in the "Fair Recovery of Antiquities Act"
- the Time Travel Tax
- and evidence gathering by divination without a warrant

07-26-2010, 01:59 PM
I've done this one for years, immediately after six stats have been rolled (I always roll!):

"Your character is very, VERY old, sitting on a rocking chair, contempating their pending demise due to old age, and a small child walks up. Acting all shy, they say, 'Daddy says you are famous. What did you do to make my Daddy know about you?'"

Some folks will just say, "I adventured and got lots of gold and riches." Others will claim that they were the King of Somewhere, or the world's greatest swordsman, or they slew the foul dragon of the Dread Marsh.

It's all adventure fodder. If you want to slay the dragon, then I'd better have a campaign that has a dragon or two (dozen... (insert evil laugh here!)). If the whole party just wants to be rich and famous, then it's easy... but if one wants to slay the dragon and one wants to raid the tomb of the Mummy of Ickiness, and one wants to save the fairy princess, then my time as a DM is busy.

Lord Captain Tobacco
08-11-2010, 04:33 PM
I have a chart for the players who haven't figured out that it is safer to compose on their own. This chart had it's start in the Mekton game and added a spice of BattleLords (particulariy the 'fickle finger of fate' -sometimes just called 'the finger' for obvious reasons.)for a truely evil mix. Most of the results are easy to incorperate into the plot; a few will almost never be heard from again but will worry the player to no end. The next time I ask the player about their background- they usually have one...though there are a few gluttons for punishment...