Character creation questionnaires


So, when I start a new campaign, I always like to come up with ten or so capaign specific questions that I want the players to think about to use in creating their characters and backstories. I feel like it helps ground their characters in the world and story and gives them and myself a stepping stone into keeping them involved both in the plot as PCs and invested as players. What kinds of questions do you like to ask your players when starting a campaign? Is it setting specific? Do you have a form survey you like to send out?


  • thaen
    Posts: 1,083 edited September 2020

    @Jynx001 posted this quote from Robin D. Laws - GUMSHOE and Drama System designer: "A character sheet is a list of stuff they (Players) want to see happen."

    So maybe just ask what ability they are most looking forward to using, and then craft the story so that comes up in the plot?

    I've never tried this approach before, so I'm curious to see what you've tried in the past that's been successful...and also what seemed like it didn't help anything?
    Post edited by thaen on

    Obsidian Portal Developer

  • Jynx001
    Posts: 80

    In campaigns focused on adventure or investigation, especially ones where characters have chosen that sort of lifestyle as their occupation, I like to find out the specific turning point that led them into that life. This could apply to survival games and other scenarios, too - I call it the Crux.

    Some games set things up so we can see that happening in the first game session, but if these are already established adventurers/investigators/survivors/etc., knowing that element can help the GM craft scenarios that play to that motivation.

    For example: the character was tricked into a Warlock pact and now seeks out ancient texts and forgotten knowledge that might help them escape the magical bonds, so they started adventuring and looking for old ruins. Then, as the GM, I set up a series of clues that lead to an old ritual of freedom and spread them out in different places in my campaign, making sure to include the first one early enough to hook that Player's attention.

  • twiggyleaf
    Posts: 2,014

    I just let the players know a bit about the world and let them submit any character.  Sometimes I have exclusions because of the world.  So in my Mysteria campaign there is a list of permitted races, but on the other hand I allow any class they choose to play.  As to other facts regarding their background, I let them choose what they want but will work with them to create some reason for being in the world, or for coming from some particular place.  I generally only ask questions based on what they submit to me.


    "I met a traveller from an antique land....."

    CotM May 2016: Mysteria: set in Wolfgang Baur’s MIDGARD.

    Previous CotM Aug 2012: Shimring: High Level Multiplanar Campaign

    Inner Council Member

  • UselessTriviaMan
    Posts: 546

    At character creation, I ask each player to give me the names of five people who are important to their character: friends, family, mentors, rivals, or enemies. It gives me plot hooks galore, and lets the players feel like their characters matter to the story.

    Ptolus, City by the Spire - 2016 Campaign of the Year

    "Please pay attention very carefully, because this is the truest thing a stranger will ever say to you: In the face of such hopelessness as our eventual, unavoidable death, there is little sense in not at least TRYING to accomplish all your wildest dreams in life."  - - Kevin Smith

  • twiggyleaf
    Posts: 2,014

    A good point, @UselessTriviaMan.  I also do that but to a lesser degree.  I just forgot to mention it, so thanks for reminding me.

    "I met a traveller from an antique land....."

    CotM May 2016: Mysteria: set in Wolfgang Baur’s MIDGARD.

    Previous CotM Aug 2012: Shimring: High Level Multiplanar Campaign

    Inner Council Member

  • gastoff
    Posts: 136

    You would have your players familiarize themselves with the 12 steps of a Hero's Journey and have them concentrate on making sure the first 4 steps are covered in their backstory. This will ensure that their characters have depth, a calling/purpose, and a direction they are intending to take their character that will help you as the DM in crafting the story around them.


  • Kallak
    Posts: 1,090

    @gastoff, I really like that idea. I could see that working really well.

    All the best,
    - Kallak
  • Conan_Lybarian
    Posts: 240

    Look at @gastoff going literary. Worked for LotR and Star Wars. Never thought about applying it directly to game before... It's pretty brilliant!

  • GamingMegaverse
    Posts: 3,001

    We use Microscope for our worldbuilder- it helps not only with characters, but players becoming personally invested in their world.

    Just trying to help out.

  • Jynx001
    Posts: 80

    Link for the lazy: 12 Steps of the Hero's Journey

    1. Ordinary World

    2. Call To Adventure

    3. Refusal Of The Call

    4. Meeting The Mentor

    5. Crossing The Threshold

    6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

    7. Approach To The Inmost Cave

    8. Ordeal

    9. Reward (Seizing The Sword)

    10. The Road Back

    11. Resurrection

    12. Return With The Elixir

  • Frak_Lou_Elmo
    Posts: 174

    I say I want at least 300 words of creative writing. not lists of things, but actual story text. They can put whatever they want as long is it alludes to how they became a class and touches on their background (5e).

    Given I write at least 1000 every session, this is the least effort they could do.

    twitter: @Frak_Lou_Elmo

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