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

  1. #31
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    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.

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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheRageOfGaia View Post
    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.

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    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.
    "Wit is educated insolence." - Aristotle

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    Character Questionnaire –
    Name:
    Occupation:
    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.

  6. #36
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    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.
    Last edited by TheRageOfGaia; 05-21-2009 at 03:15 PM. Reason: Automerged Double Post
    "Wit is educated insolence." - Aristotle

  7. #37
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    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.

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    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.

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    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.
    "It's too late. You've awakened the Gazebo. It catches you and eats you."

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    long ago.. when magazines had real info...

    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.

  11. #41
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    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 ---
    Quote Originally Posted by TheRageOfGaia View 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.
    Last edited by Simplydone; 06-10-2009 at 05:14 PM. Reason: Automerged Double Post
    "Those who earn the title great do so only by having power and NOT abusing it."
    -Persian Proverb

  12. #42
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    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..."
    "Wit is educated insolence." - Aristotle

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    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.

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    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.

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    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

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