View Full Version : getting to know my players

2009-04-11, 10:06 PM
I am DMing a game with only 2 players. i would really like to know some background info on there characters but i don't wana just ask them. how could i go about this?

Mystic Muse
2009-04-11, 10:08 PM
why don't you want to ask them?

2009-04-11, 10:11 PM
Personally I like asking them for detailed background stories before the game even starts. Some players don't like that though.

What I've heard of other GMs doing and I'd really like to try some day is to come up with a mundane question to ask at the start of each game. Something simple. Like, what is your character's favorite book? Basically the kind of info you'd see on a facebook profile. Obviously the suggestion was meant for modern games, but it would probably work elsewhere too. I like this because it breaks up the huge backstory into tiny little chunks that let you get to know the character better.

2009-04-11, 10:13 PM
"Suddenly, an ancient wizard appears! He demands to know everything about you ever."

2009-04-11, 10:45 PM
Personally I like asking them for detailed background stories before the game even starts. Some players don't like that though.

Psh, that never works. You either get a novel-length story or a few incomplete sentences - and nobody pays attention to them anyhow :smalltongue:

No, the best way is to do it mostly in game.

First, have the players present you with:
(1) Their character's name, race, gender and alignment (if D&D)
(2) Why They Adventure (no more than a paragraph - just a basic motive)

Next, when the characters first meet say "OK, describe yourself" so that everyone gets a basic idea what they look like.

After that, let stuff develop in game. People will discover their character's quirks, their likes/dislikes, and so forth. Deeper backstory will either develop or it won't - some players will update you with backstory as they develop it (always have them OK it with you first before it becomes canon) while others may just define their edges a bit better.

If it's important to the story, also have the characters pick a region/town that they call home - their birthplace, where they grew up, where they were trained, etc.

Mystic Muse
2009-04-11, 10:48 PM
dtreaksters approach might work but also two potentially bad things could happen

they could actually tell you everything and take up however much time your session lasts. (believe me it's possible) or they might just tel you a few mundane details and nothing else because they're bored and want to start killing things for no other reason than because they can

2009-04-11, 11:09 PM
I always insist that my players give me at least a little background information. It doesn't have to be much, just a paragraph or so explaining who they are, where they come from, and why they have decided to swing swords at kobolds for a living instead of plowing fields.

Really, it's for their own benefit. If I can I will insert callbacks to their origins in the story itself, tailoring the campaign to their characters instead of expecting them to tailor their characters to the campaign.

And considering that the campaign will probably go on for months, it doesn't seem at all harsh to give the players one brief "homework assignment" that will make everyone's life easier in the long run. If I'm going to spend hours rolling up encounters for them, the least they can do is spend five minutes explaining why "Krug like hitting things with rock".

2009-04-11, 11:14 PM
Give them a sheet of paper and tell them to write their name, the name of their parents and describe their parents in three sentences or less. Then ask them to describe a friend in three sentences or less, a nemesis in three sentences or less, their home town in three sentences or less and whether it's their first adventure or not.

2009-04-11, 11:25 PM
Before playing, have them give you half a notebook page with where/how they grew up (farm, city, basics of the family), basic religious views (pious, distrustful, etc), why they decided to adventure, and why/how they got any class levels. Major personal traits (impatient and brash, overly distrusting of others, hates midget races, whatever) are a plus. Important details, character quirks, and the like will show themselves as the character is played. If they want to give something more detailed, limit it to a single page of information.

2009-04-12, 04:35 AM
The better to know how to reward their PCs in the future, or craft games for them.

2009-04-12, 07:20 AM
To be fair, I usually only have the faintest idea of my character's personality when I start playing. Basically, it's just me if I were awesome warrior guy. But after a while, they always grow away from you. The duskblade I'm playing currently is lawful good, but he's a vindictive jerk sometimes. It's usually understandable, but still, not what you'd expect. He's also a bit more holier-than-thou than I think I am, and the rest of the group seems to agree. I actually like him better now, but I wouldn't have been able to flesh him out as well as he's coming along before the campaign started. Maybe just give them a bit of time to figure out who the character is so they can tell you when they find out?