27 Questions To Ask Your New Character

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on November 10, 2010

The character creation process is one of the most important steps at the beginning of any campaign. The choices you make will echo over the course of many levels. Making a truly memorable character requires you to make a lot of important choices. From race, class and attribute distribution all decisions will factor into the overall enjoyment of playing this character.

While the numbers and powers that describe your character are of great importance they are not the most important factors in the design process. The key to creating an engaging character is developing a back-story full of life and intrigue. This process isn’t easy and often takes more time than selecting powers and equipment.

A fully fleshed out character provides you, as a player, with more opportunities to role-play in a meaningful way. Your decisions will carry weight as they are derived from the creative process of defining your character. Listed below are 27 questions that every character you create should be able to answer about themselves and their background.

  1. How old is your character?
  2. Are your parents still alive?
  3. If one or both of your parents are dead when and how did they die?
  4. Who raised you after your parents died?
  5. Do you have any siblings?
  6. Have any of them died?
  7. If any siblings have died how did they die?
  8. What do your siblings do?
  9. Is your character married?
  10. Does your character have children?
  11. What social class is your character from?
  12. How has their upbringing affected their world view?
  13. How did your character get started in their chosen class?
  14. Does your character have any heroes or inspirational figures?
  15. Does your character have any significant personal items?
  16. Is your character religious?
  17. Is your character guided by a prophecy?
  18. What is your character’s view on magic?
  19. Has your character ever served in the military?
  20. Has your character ever been arrested? What for?
  21. How did your character meet his current adventuring companions?
  22. Has your character ever crossed anyone?
  23. Does your character have any enemies?
  24. What are your character’s goals in life?
  25. How important is the accumulation of wealth?
  26. If your character died tomorrow what would they be remembered for?
  27. Where did your character learn or train their skills?

There are other ways to approach character creation and you may find the following articles useful.

What steps do you take when creating your character’s back-story? Do you follow the same steps for every character or do you find that the creation of each character is a unique experience?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 anarkeith November 10, 2010 at 12:58 pm

The great thing about character background is the fuel it can provide for a GM. This information contains built-in story hooks for the GM to run with, and since the players wrote it, it’s almost guaranteed to hook ‘em!

Putting the info to work means the players are encouraged to elaborate on it, and you can achieve a virtuous narrative circle between players and GMs.

2 Alphastream November 10, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Nice write-up and good questions! I have linked to this within my recent blog on PC Backstory: http://bit.ly/DSbackstory

3 The Red DM November 10, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Perfect timing, I have been looking for a list like this. Thanks.

4 Wimwick November 10, 2010 at 8:57 pm

@ anarkeith
Agreed, I love using character backgrounds and I find it thoroughly enjoyable when my DM takes something I created and uses it in a way I hadn’t anticipated.

@ Alphastream
Thanks for the link and the comment!

@ The Red DM
Excellent! I’m glad you found the post!

5 Chris November 11, 2010 at 8:38 am

I used to give my players a similar questionnaire to fill out – but it was several pages long. I didn’t say it was a necessity, but I got a surprisingly good return rate. I think it helped a lot of them define themselves a little better. It makes a big difference when your players are only 14-16 years old.

6 Gumby November 20, 2010 at 9:40 pm

The problem with this method, or any other “form fill” backstory generation, is that it encourages the player to bulk up their character concept with irrelevant details. If your character’s relationship with his parents was amiable but void of meaning or deep connection, then their life or death will not be of any significance.

A somewhat-extensive (without being massive) checklist of common background elements, like this one, is a good way to give yourself ideas that may not have otherwise come up. However, you should only focus on the salient details – just fill out the ones that grab you! Or, if you’ve dutifully filled out the whole thing, do your DM and fellow players a favor – never mention 10 or so of the less-important elements. Maybe you’ll get a better idea later, and it’d suck to have a lame concept “locked in”.

7 Iszi November 30, 2010 at 10:17 pm

I recently started an online game where we did a form of group character creation. We took the following steps, passing the character to another player in between each step:

1.) Select a Race
2.) Select a Class
3.) Choose 2 Backgrounds, and give backstory details for each.
4.) Repeat step 3.
5.) Repeat step 3 again.
6.) Assign characters from the pool, to individual players. End character rotation.
7.) (Optional) Repeat step 3.
8.) Choose which two bonuses will be applied from the Backgrounds selected for your character.
9.) Choose powers, feats, and equipment.
10.) Fill in any missing details for the character.

I think this worked very well for us to have a fairly diverse, and story-rich group of characters to play. I definitely would recommend the process to other groups, but only if they are having a live character creation session. Doing this asynchronously can make the character creation take longer than your entire first, or even first two encounters!

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