Q is for Questions

But first, Q is also for Q-Workshop Dice! Simply the coolest dice sets around!

Now on to the main event!

Questions. GMs deal with a lot of them. From the self inflicted queries like: 
“where is this adventure leading?”
“what will my players do next?”
and “Why do I put myself through this?”

to questions posed by the players like:
“What’s on this scroll I’ve had written on my character sheet for the last year and a half?”
“How does grappling work?” 
“Where are we again?” 
“Why did you kill my character you horrible piece of…”
“Hey Mr. Lizardman, does this mysterious master of yours eat people?”This was actually posed to an NPC in my game.
“Wait, Broga’s an orc!?”  also actually happened, but I was a player, not the GM in that game.

A GM must be prepared to handle a nearly infinite array of questions largely on the fly, because there is no way to explicitly prepare for what the players will throw at you. Players are unpredictable that way.

That being said, questions are also a valuable tool for creating deeper adventures and especially, more fully formed NPCs. When I create a supporting character for my game, I often pose a James Lipton-esque series of questions to myself with regard to the character. I have never compiled these questions into a definitive list, but some of the most common are as follows:

  • If you could equate yourself with anyone real or fictional, who would it be? (e.g. Rick Moranis, Dr. Byron Orpheus, or Frau Blucher)This gives me a quick summary model for how to play that character in game.
  • What is your favorite phrase? I know it sounds like I’m making a schlocky 80’s sitcom, but having an oft-repeated epithet can really help a character stick in the minds of my players.
  • What is most important in life? I like to establish a character’s top three motivations. (e.g. stay alive, earn lots of money, find a girlfriend) This can help me play their personality. A fanatical zealot who is not afraid to die if it brings her glory in the eyes of her god will behave very differently in a combat or interrogation scenario than the city guard who took a night watch job to feed his family.
  • What do you love? Similar to the last question, but more focused on peripheral things like hobbies and common topics of conversation
  • What do you hate? The rules of diplomacy in 3.5 edition D&D are such that it is VERY difficult for a player to accidentally hurt someone’s opinion of their character. Giving NPC’s aversions to particular races, to being manipulated through fancy talk or by mentioning that good for nothing prince adds an element of risk to diplomancer characters.

Now, I’m not saying these questions should be asked of every goblin spear-carrier the players are likely to drop a fireball on top of, but with major NPCs, and even with lesser NPCs who are likely to be encountered in a more social environment *cough!*tavernkeepers*cough!*, asking questions like those listed above goes a long way towards making the characters, interactions and the world feel more real.