Last week I went over how to work with your players to construct a story arc that creates a bond between two characters. You make them all the time, but they don’t, so your help can go a long way toward making the process fast and painless. Of course, that means you have to be a bit of an expert, so here are some questions you can ask at every phase of the story arc to get players thinking and help them along.
Players with very dissimilar characters can have trouble getting together. Nobles, assassins, paupers, and soldiers don’t usually go to the same bars, after all. Here are some questions you can ask to help them out.
- “What’s one place you might both be?”
- “What kind of person would know both of you?”
- “What’s some way one of you could help the other?”
Once you have a setup, the common goal can be simple. They don’t have to start with a common goal but, for example, someone connected to both of them might ask them to protect an artifact, or a bar they both enjoy might be burnt down by an evil sorcerer. If they’re having trouble, you might ask
- “What’s one place you both want to go?”
- “What’s a pressure that would put you together?”
- “What’s one duty or value that you share?”
With challenges, I like to have more than one, but usually no more than three. You want to get through a lot of these stories in a session, so you can’t afford to spend too much time on it. Encourage players to expand on it outside of game, instead. Challenges should always be linked to the goal, but come in different kinds. Good ways to sort them out include asking
- “Who was someone you had to deal with to reach your goal?”
- “Which one of you was essential in overcoming this challenge, and how?”
- “What’s one obstruction you faced that you couldn’t overcome by fighting?”
The climax is always my favourite part, because I love watching what players do. Some of them want their characters to triumph, but others want them to lose, for the villain to live to fight another day and even get one over on the heroes. So the first question I always ask is
- “Does it end in victory or tragedy?”
- “What do each of you do to resolve the situation?”
- “How do you feel about how it turns out?”
This is usually the fastest stage, and I use it to wind everything up. Still, it can be hard. Do they hang out and become best friends forever? Do they part ways? If they’re having trouble, I try and prompt them with questions like these:
- “What do you do next?”
- “How do each of you feel about the other?”
- “What’s one fond memory you have of your time together?”
These will help you create some warm feelings, feelings that will persist when their characters meet in game, and resolve a lot of the initial trust issues that every PC in any game has, pretty much.
These aren’t the only questions you could ask of course, and I definitely recommend going over character sheets and backgrounds to customize your questions to the character, because it will make them way more effective. Ultimately, the one who knows their character best is the player, but if you can get an understanding of their basic values and goals (possibly by getting them to answer the 20 questions), you can do a lot to help them out.
What questions would you ask players to help them create a story?