Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rich Hershey / Fat Goblin Games
I recorded a recent episode of the Tome Show podcast about The Demonplague, and host Jeff Greiner asked me about something I do as a GM. He said in listening to the Demonplague actual play podcast he heard me introduce a few sessions by asking the players questions about their characters. The questions usually had to do with backstory or emotions the characters were feeling at the moment. After the players answered the questions, I awarded them inspiration.
Jeff like this so much that he uses it at the start of each of his game sessions now. He said it’s particularly good for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons in particular, because he always remembers to give inspiration and his players use it, because they know they’re going to at least get it again before next session.
While this is particular great for D&D, the technique is something you can use in any RPG. If this is the kind of RPG that gives out bennies for good roleplaying, you can award such a thing whenever a player gives a great answer to a question (or simply answers the question if you want to encourage people giving roleplaying a try… but that’s another post!).
Would We Know the Answers?
For many players it is difficult to separate what they know and the knowledge their characters possess. When you ask one character to share a moment from their backstory or how they felt when their father’s sword was stolen, it might be hard for the other’s players to know if their characters also learn what is being shared. Luckily there’s an easy way to make sense of it all.
Player characters are usually friends. They travel to together, share meals, and often LIVE together. Even as they rest in a dank tomb or Hutt prison cell, they would naturally share stories, thoughts, and feelings with each other. Before they answer these questions, tell your players the answers were shared with the group during a meal, travel, etc. You can even have the players ask each other follow-up questions in character!
Here’s a list of questions you could ask your players at the start of a session. Use these as inspiration to create your own! Note, they are numbered so you could roll if you like a bit of randomness or can’t think of what to ask.
- Last session when you did [DECISIVE ACTION TAKEN BY CHARACTER], what was going through your mind?
- How did you get your [OBJECT IMPORTANT TO THE CHARACTER]?
- Tell us about an important friendship from your past.
- Tell us about an important rival/bully/enemy from your past.
- How do you feel about the party’s current mission?
- Tell us about a form of art you enjoy and why.
- What food or drink do you crave right now?
- Tell us about a hobby you have to pass the time.
- What is one crazy dream you have?
- Tell us about the moment you decided to live your current life (i.e. become an adventurer, criminal, or hero)?
- Tell us about an important location from your past.
- Tell us about a nightmare you had recently.
- Share a story with us about the people or person who raised you when you were a child.
- What is one of your best memories?
- What is one thing you plan to do when you retire?
- Tell us about one of your past romantic relationships.
- Tell us a story about a time you were proud of yourself.
- Tell us a story about a time you embarrassed yourself.
- Tell us something you dread about the future.
- Share any story from your past.
You could also use these questions to keep the pace of your game steady, as I’ve written about previously.
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