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20 Questions

Recently Chris Simms asked “What do you know about your #dnd character? Favorite color? Birthday? More? Less? What?” on Twitter, and this got me thinking about these sorts of questions and how I develop a character.

My characters tend to develop on an ad hoc basis, as they are forced to make decisions or answer questions I fill in their personality as I go. I rarely have a full background or anything sketched out, and this works fine for me by and large. I see characters as a loose framework meshed together between mechanics a picture and sometimes a few other key ideas. This lets me look at that framework in my head and figure out how the character will make decisions.

But there are other means of approaching this and one that I like was first introduced to me by Legend of the Five Rings (L5R): The Game of 20 Questions. You can read the original questions and the basics of L5R character creation here, and AEG produced a similar set of questions for their other games as well, and while many are specific to L5R the list of questions can be adjusted for other games as well – like DnD.

Here is an example of “20” generic questions you might answer about your character:

  1. Is the character married and to whom?
  2. Does the character have children (or want to)?
  3. What other members are there of the character’s family?
  4. What does the character think about their family?
  5. How would others describe his appearance?
  6. Does the character have any prejudices?
  7. What is the character’s main motivation?
  8. Who is the person character trusts most?
  9. What is the characters greatest strength and greatest weakness?
  10. Does the character have a code of behaviour and what is it (or why not)?
  11. Does the character belong to an organisation?
  12. To whom does the character owe the most loyalty?
  13. What are his favorite and least favorite things?
  14. Does the character have any recurring mannerisms?
  15. What about the character’s emotions? (Is the character emotional or cold? Do they have a dominant emotion?)
  16. How would the character handle a subordinate’s improper behavior?
  17. How would the character’s parent’s describe them?
  18. What is the character’s highest ambition?
  19. How religious is the character?
  20. If you could, what advice would you give the character?

Another example taking the L5R questions and adapting them for an Eberron game (intended to be answered before you get to the crunch):

  1. Does the character have a Dragon Mark (and which one)?
  2. Does the character belong to a House (and which one)?
  3. How would others describe his appearance?
  4. Is the character a warrior, a spy, or a politician, or something else?
  5. What is the character’s main motivation?
  6. Who is the person the character trusts most?
  7. What is the character’s greatest strength? Greatest weakness?
  8. What does the character think of  the Prophecy?
  9. What is the character’s opinions of the Houses?
  10. Is the character married and do they have children?
  11. Does the character have any prejudices?
  12. To whom does the character owe the most loyalty?
  13. What are the character’s favorite and least favorite things?
  14. Does the character have any recurring mannerisms?
  15. What about the character’s emotions?
  16. How would the character handle a subordinate’s improper behavior?
  17. How would the character parent’s describe them?
  18. What is the character’s highest ambition?
  19. How religious is the character?
  20. If you could, what advice would you give the character?

Of course you can also answer simple questions like their favourite colour as well, after all it doesn’t pay to get the answer to that question wrong.🙂

Categories: Game Theory
  1. Jallorn
    July 4, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Bit nitpicky, but that first question should read “to whom”, not “to who”.

  2. July 4, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Nitpick appreciated🙂 (And correction made.)
    At least I know a real person read it😉

  1. June 21, 2010 at 10:08 pm

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