Twenty Questions

Hobbies? Only the sport of wizards!

A while back, I talked about different methods of writing character backgrounds, focusing on the Ten Minute Background and the 20 Questions method, in which I mentioned that I wanted to switch from the former to the latter. I’m starting a few new games in the coming months, so this is a good opportunity, and I wanted to share the questions I’m using with you. 

The reason why I’m switching is because this can incorporate all of the details of the 10 Minute Background, but provides some more direction. I wanted to avoid questions with yes/no answers in favour of ones that push players to describe things in more detail. So here they are, my twenty questions.

  1. What are three things that stand out about the way you look?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. What’s the your social and political background?
  4. Hobbies? Only the sport of wizards!

    What are five things about your history or personality that are essential to getting to know you?

  5. Who are two people you consider friends?
  6. How did you meet them?
  7. Why are you friends?
  8. What’s one secret that you have?
  9. What’s one secret that relates to you, but you don’t know?
  10. What are two goals that you have?
  11. Why do you have those goals?
  12. Who is one person who’s hostile toward you?
  13. Why are they hostile toward you?
  14. What are your three most vivid memories?
  15. What’s a hobby that you have?
  16. Why are you with the party?
  17. What strengths do you bring to the party?
  18. What do you hope to gain from being in the party?
  19. What did you do during the recent war?
  20. What is your name?

I spent most of the questions fleshing out the 10 Minute structure, but wanted to focus on personality and background outside of that. I’m especially interested in the hobbies that people will come up with. I’m encouraging my players to get creative, with the setting, preferably without making themselves the prince of Ruritania, but I want to give them the opportunity to add to it, creating new places or even organizations.

What do you think? What questions would you add or take away? I’ll let you know how it works out, and I’ll have more on the games later.

3 comments

  • I think every question could work, and even if you hit a system specific block, it wouldn’t take much for a GM to make a tiny tweak to bring it back to relevance.

    • Thanks Shortymonster,
      There are a few setting specific questions in there, like the war, but I agree, it can be adapted for any setting. What’s one question you’d add to flesh out a character?

  • As a participant in the brain storm that lead to this list, I just wanted to point out that a great source for these kinds of things is Dread. Dread is a fun, one-session horror game played with a Jenga tower (instead of dice). The cool thing is how characters are created, the GM gives you a list of 10-20 loaded questions (such as “What did you frame your sister for and why would she forgive you?”) and your character is defined by your answers. If you want some more ideas for really driving questions look to the Dread rulebook, it’s got a question on the bottom of every page and some are gold.

    I realize not everyone would be on board with this (since questions like the ones you find in Dread are often loaded and are not only driving the player to think more about the character but also injecting some details into the character against the player’s will), however the result is inevitably deeper, interestingly flawed characters. It does require a bit of finesse to pull off without making your players angry at you (which is to say, don’t overdo the loaded questions).

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