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Saturday, 5 March 2016

Questions, Questions, Questions: Chin Scratcher Follow-Up...


Last Sunday I asked the gaming hive-mind what the general consensus was on the topic of handing out "player-character questionnaires" before a campaign begins, and I have to admit I was rather taken aback by the avalanche of feedback.

While there were a number of people echoing +Kerry Harrison who said: "Generally no, I tend to ask the players questions about their character during play instead."

And other gamemasters who just felt it was too much like hard work (either for them or, more usually, for their players).

White Wolf summed this situation up when he said: "Unfortunately my players equate back story with unnecessary work. Why work when you can just show up at the table and react to what the GM presents? So 'nay' on the questionnaire although I would LOVE to change that!"

However, several people addressed the question as players, with +Timothy Brannan saying: "Nearly all my characters have some sort of backstory. I usually leave a lot of details open to be explored in game, but I like to know who these characters are and what motivates them. I tend to be the more "role-player"-er of the old school crowd and that is fine with me."

While +Melissa Taylor-Gates said: "I do this! Usually with some mild version of a Myers-Briggs test. I try to answer in character, and may particular attention to things that come automatically and ones that I debate for a while. I find it helps me find the character's voice."

Speaking as a Gamesmaster, +Red Dice Diaries  said: "I tend to run a session zero or discussions using email and social media to establish backgrounds prior to starting the game, I'm generally pretty lucky that (most) of my players seem to appreciate the value of a good character background. That said I quite like the idea of a survey, it would allow those people who maybe aren't so sure about what makes a good character background to be given some structure and guidance."

Uncle Asriel added that the benefit of questionnaires is that it can help emphasise "the GM-Player relationship as collaborative rather than competitive".

Several people sent me examples of questionnaires that had proved successful in their games, and they were considerably more involved that the one I'm considering employing in my next campaign.

An alternative idea was posited by imredave, of Forgotten Runes, who explained that "what has worked best for me in the past is to generate a bunch of backgrounds for my players, and have them pick one each."

If anyone has anything else they'd like to add to this discussion, or expand on points raised, please feel to free to post comments below, or via Google+ or Facebook.

2 comments:

  1. Players today are very reluctant to do back grounds, they just want to roll dice. This takes some of the joy out of gaming, for me.

    As a Player, I like having a back ground for my Character. It makes me feel they are more of a person, an extension of myself and helps me keep my own story line straight.

    As a DM I like a background from my Players because I use the material . . . and always at an unexpected moment.

    "As you enter the tavern you notice a gruff speaking, rough looking character at the bar. You stop in your tracks, something eerily familiar about the figure strikes you. Then, suddenly, your jaw drops and your eyes grow wide . . .

    It's your mother's brother, the one the entire family was convinced had dies all those years ago on the road to . . ."

    It gets some good, unexpected and unprepared for, role playing going on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've nailed it perfectly. This is exactly why I like to know the player-characters backstories.

      "Players today are very reluctant to do back grounds, they just want to roll dice."

      Do you think this is the influence of video gaming?

      Delete

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