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Thread: Ask a GM [05/04/09]: Questions to flesh out a PC

  1. #16
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    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.

  2. #17
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    PC developement

    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.

  3. #18
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    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
    nijineko the gm: AG16, CoS. nijineko the player: AtG, RttToH; . The Journal of Tala'elowar Kiyiik! .
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  4. #19
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    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.
    The Big.
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    Playing in the darkness. www.farlandworld.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by DM_Running_Farland_3.5 View Post
    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 .
    Games: Exalted 2e pre-errata (hiatus), Recruiting for a Sci-Fi/Fantasy game (System TBD) in SF south bay area
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    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.
    The Big.
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    The Ben.
    Playing in the darkness. www.farlandworld.com
    "Dude, we totally play 1d4-2 Friday nights per month. More or less."

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    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?

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    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.

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    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

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    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... Not MUCH room for actual story and roleplaying.
    I don't need reality.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Getting Good Storylines out of Players

    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles View Post
    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.
    "Wit is educated insolence." - Aristotle

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    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

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