(based on the questionnaire of Heather Grove http://www.burningvoid.com/rpg/2001/pcquestions.php and Tim Emrick http://www.geocities.com/thastygliax/ooth/bkgr-q.html)
These are questions directly related to the Western Shores setting.
- What race is your character? Are they unusual for their race? Did they suffer from prejudice growing up?
- What type of culture did they grow up in? Was is human? Norwegian (Viking)? Arabic? Anglo-Saxonish (English)? Normanish (French)? Germanic? If they aren't from the Western Shores, how did they get there? Why are they there?
- Can the character use magic? Do they like magic? Has magic influenced their lives?
- How do they feel about the dominant religion? Are they regular church attendees? Are they well known by the dominant religion?
- Has the character recently been in, near or influenced by war? Magical accidents? Political intrigue? Raiding parties? Monsters?
- Describe their first encounter with a nonhuman monster. (Not counting player races, animals, etc., that they grew up with--but feel free to mention them, too.)
- If they are a spellcaster, describe their first experience with using magic. What were the circumstances? Were they expecting it?
- If they have an animal companion or familiar, describe how they acquired it. Describe this ally's personality, and its attitude towards them (loyal unto death, mischievous, lazy, etc.).
- If they have any unusual personal possessions, describe how they acquired them. Is their value practical, monetary, sentimental or some combination of these?
- If you wish to add any pre-game history that is not already covered by the questions below, please do so (especially if you are much older than the default starting ages).
- How do they feel about the dominant religion? Are they regular church attendees? Are they well known by the dominant religion?
- What are their beliefs about religion and the afterlife? Do they follow any particular god or gods? What appeals to them most about this religion? Least?
- Where do the spirits of nature, the elements and the dead fit into these beliefs?
- What gods, religions, or priesthoods will they have nothing to do with?
- What is their moral code? Under what conditions will they kill? Steal? Lie? Do they have a personal code of behaviour about violence? Magic? Sex? Dealing with evil beings?
- How committed are they to seeing through something (a task, quest, bargain, etc.) that you have started?
- How important are the following to them?: Power? Wealth? Fame? Honor? Family? Friends? Love? Knowledge? Religion? Their job? To what lengths would they go to acquire or preserve these things?
- How often do they remember your dreams? How much attention do they pay to them? Do they inspire them? Guide or warn them? Frighten them?
The other PCs
- How did they meet the other PCs? How did they become companions?
- What were their first impressions of the other PCs, and how has that impression changed (if any) since then?
- What is their relationship with each of them like? What bonds keep them together?
At the heart of every story there is a character--and usually a whole bunch of supporting characters, too. These are the supporting characters in your character's life.
- Who is your character's confidante? Who do they talk to when they're scared? Who do they tell when they're in trouble?
- Who would bail them out if they were arrested?
- Are they married? Does your character have a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancee, "significant other," lover, or several of the above?
- Are they protecting someone? A child, relative, friend? Why do they see themselves as their protector?
- Who do they live with? Do they still live with their family? What about housemates or roommates? Are these people their friends? Do they hate each other? Do they avoid each other?
- Who was their first love? Did it work out? Why or why not? Do they still know each other?
- Who do they work with? are they friends with them co-workers? Bitter rivals? Do they hate their lazy employer or have a crush on their good looking subordinate?
- Who is their worst enemy? Why?
- Who did they give birthday presents to last year? What did they give them?
- Are they a disappointment to anyone, or is someone proud of them for them accomplishments? Why?
Who are your character's friends? Most people have someone they enjoy spending time with. The world would be a very lonely place without friends; of course, maybe your character is a lonely person.
- What sort of people does your character tend to make friends with? Other people their own age? Co-workers? neighbours? People they grew up with?
- Where does your character go/what do they do with their friends? Do they go out drinking with them? Who do they have meals with? Do they go hiking or adventuring with a club? Do the neighbours invite them over for dinner?
- How deep are the friendships they tend to form? Do they prefer to have a lot of surface-level friendships or a few deep ones?
- How close are they to their friends? How well do they know them? Do they know their hopes and fears? Will they notice if they disappears or come home with bruises?
- Who is their best friend? Why? What secrets have they shared? What have they gone through together?
Everyone, like it or not, has family. Some people have huge, sprawling families while others have one or two people. Some people love their families and others hate them. Some people don't even know who their families are--only that they must have one out there somewhere, or had one at some time in the past.
- Do they get along with them family? Why or why not?
- What does their family know about them? What secrets do they keep?
- What do they know about their family? What secrets have they kept?
- How big is their family?
- Is it a close family, or spread out and distant?
- Who are their favourite and least favourite relatives? Why?
- Do they have any siblings? What is their relationship with them like? How similar are they?
- Do they have any children? How has having children impacted their life?
Most people have a set of places they tend to frequent--certain inns, stores, farms, villages, towns, and so on. What places does your character like to visit?
- Where does your character hang out? Do they go bar-hopping? Do they pick up people at inns? Do they attend balls? Do they play board and card games? So they read at the library, go to public social events, or go to meetings of the hunting club? What about the town hall, the marketplace, a local inn, or the commons?
- Where do they feel safe? Why?
- What sort of place spooks them? Why?
- Is their any place that they refuses to go? Why? What happened there?
- What is their workplace like? Do they like it? Does their work area reflect their personality?
- What is their favourite restaurant? Do they go often enough for them to be recognized?
- When your character travels, what sorts of towns and places do they like to go to? Why?
- When your character goes shopping, which stores do they frequent and why?
Hobbies and Habits
Almost everyone has some interesting hobbies and habits to occupy their time. In particular, a fictional character needs a few good interests and quirks to round them out in order to be compelling. Whether or not these are things you need or wish to put "skill points" or similar things into (in the case of roleplaying game characters) is up to you and your game master (GM); in some cases they may just be colourful background, while other GMs will work interesting abilities into their plots for fun and variety.
- What are your character's hobbies? Candle-making? Gardening? Herbalism? Wood-carving? Floral arrangements? Cooking? Cabinet making?
- Where did they pick up their hobbies? Who taught them? Why are they important to them?
- Which ones do they rely on to relax them when they're stressed? Which ones fall by the wayside when they're short on time?
- Do they read for fun? What books do they read? What newspapers or periodials? Do they prefer science fiction, fantasy, horror, historical, mystery, romance, or current events?
- How do they read? Do they take books out of the library or buy whole cases of them? How do they pick which book to read next? Do they have a favourite reviewer? Do they re-read books, and if so, which ones do they read over and over? Where do they read?
- Do they do puzzles?
- Do they read the paper every time it comes out? Which section do they read first? Which don't they read at all? What do they do with the paper when they're done with it (compost, trash, recycle, give to a neighbour, line the bird cage)?
- What plays do they watch? Do they go to the theater or watch plays at home? Who's their favourite actor or playwrite and why?
- Do they watch musical performances? What's their favourite composer? What composers do they hate? What's their favourite piece of music and why? Who's them favourite musician?
- What's their taste in music?
- What do they do for exercise? Do they work out at a gym? Do they take long walks or run marathons? Do they have a job that involves physical labor? Are they lazy? What do they do when the weather is bad?
Fears and Dreams
Questions about your character's fears and dreams can often be the source of a lot of understanding about what, how and why your character thinks and feels.
- What did your character want to be when they grew up? Did they realize their dream? If not, why not? Do they regret that they never made it, or regret that they did? Do they still have a chance to get there if they didn't?
- What nightmares do they have? When they wake up screaming in the middle of the night, what do they see?
- What makes them cry? Is it a perfect flower? A song that reminds them of something? The memory of their dead grandmother? Is it a happy, nostalgic thing or a deep, abiding grief? Do they cry a lot, or almost never?
- What makes them laugh? How often do they laugh? Do they have laugh lines? Do they have a good sense of humor? do they hide it or let it shine?
- What do they wish they could do that they can't? Is there a talent they wish they had? Is it something they don't have the money for? Is it something their species isn't capable of? How badly do they want it and what would they do to get it?
- What is their secret dream? What one goal, ambition, or desire do they keep hidden from everyone? Is it small or large? Personal or global? Realistic or unrealistic? Are they actually trying to accomplish it (and how?), or do they consider it untenable?
- What is their worst fear? What terrifies them? What do they dread? Is it something terribly personal, or a generic phobia? How did they acquire this fear? Are they ashamed of it?
- If they could be any famous person, who would it be and why?
- If they could live in any historical period, which would it be and why?
- If they could change the world in only one way, what would it be?
- If they knew they would die tomorrow, what would they do today?
A character's present is rooted in them history. them past has shaped and molded them. Look to the past, and you can find many clues about the future.
- Where did your character go to school? Did they have formal education?
- What did they study in school? Is it what they wanted to study, or what their parents wanted them to study? Are they glad they studied it, or would they go back and change it if they could, and why?
- Did they particularly love or hate any of them teachers? Which ones and why?
- Were they picked on or bullied? Were they a part of the "in" crowd? Why? How has this affected them?
- What jobs have they had? What do they do for a living now? What part-time or temporary jobs did they have while schooling? Do they have a "career" or do they have a "job?" How many hours do they work? How much money do they make? Have they particularly loved or hated any of their old jobs? Why?
- What foolish things did they do when they were younger? Did they go through a rebellious phase? Did they keep secrets from them peers or parents? Did they steal things? Did they hurt someone?
- What hurt will they never forgive? What awful thing did soemone do to them, and why can't they forgive them? Is it something comparatively small, such as an off-handed hurtful comment them father made? Is it large, like physical abuse?
- What was their favourite childhood toy? Why? Who gave it to them? Do they still have it? If not, what happened to it? What else did they play with?
Knowing details about how your character lives lends a strong feeling of reality to a game or story. It also gives you the practical details you need to make plots work out.
- What kind of neighbourhood does your character live in? Inner city? Suburbs? Rural farmland? Ghetto community? Do they like it there? Why or why not? Do they feel safe there at night?
- Do they live in an apartment or house? Rent or own? How close are the neighbours? What colour is the house? What sort of repair (or disrepair) is it in? Do they have a lawn? A flower garden? An attic or basement? How many stories is the house, and what style? (Ranch? Split-foyer?) Do they have a guest room? Are there lots of windows in their house?
- How have they decorated their home? Used furniture from relatives? Random stuff from a supply store or mismatched items from your average corner furniture store? Designer items or antiques? Could them place be described as elegant? Ratty? Jumbled? Spartan? Does it have a noticeably ethnic look? What colours prevail?
- What are the walls like? Painted or wallpapered? colour? Postered over? Artsy paintings? Nails everywhere? Holes? Frilly curtains on the windows, shades?
- Is the house clean? Does it sparkle? Does it smell like soap? Is the bathtub rusty? Are the walls mildewed? Do they clean it themselves? If not, who does? Are there piles of books and papers everywhere? Is everything neat and organized? Are there spiders in every corner?
- What does their bedroom look like? Is it crowded with boxes? Is it sparkling clean? Is it frilly or spartan, somber or light?
It's true--you can tell a lot about a person by what they own. What is important enough to them to spend money on?
- Do they keep a journal? What sorts of things do they write in it? How often? Where do they keep it? What would they do if someone read it?
- Do they have a calendar or address book? What's in it? How much does it reveal about their life?
- Jewelry? Inherited, received as a gift or bought? Worn or kept in a drawer?
- What one item would they risk them life to protect and keep safe, if any?
- What one item do they wish they didn't have, but feels they must keep anyway? Why?
- How well-furnished is their kitchen? A few rusted old pots and pans, or all the latest expensive kitchenware? do they actually use it?
- What do they have in their pockets right now?
The Physical Details
- Does your character have birthmarks or scars? How did they get them? What about disfigurements or handicaps?
- Do they have any tattoos? Why? When did they get them? Do they mean anything special to them?
- Do they get sick? How often? What do they tend to come down with, and how well do they handle it?
- Do they have any long-term, chronic, or recurring ailments? Tendonitis? Migraines? Severe allergies? Chronic fatigue syndrome? In what ways do they limit them activities?
- What sort of build do they have? Are they overweight? Underweight? Muscled? Wiry? Dumpy? Pudgy? Angular? Why? Do they resemble them parents or grandparents? If so, which one(s)? What about their siblings?
- Do they take any drugs or medications? If so, which ones and why? Do they work? What effects and side effects do they have?
- Have they ever been admitted to an infirmary? Why? What happened?
- What's your character's sexuality? How certain are they of it?
- Do they have a pet or companion animal? A fierce guard dog? A tiny kitten? Goldfish? Rabbits or birds? A boa constrictor? Mice? A large spider? A monster? A horse?
- What do they like to eat? Gourmet or takeout? Home-cooked food? Do they eat more when they're upset? Are they vegetarian or vegan? Do they have odd dietary restrictions? What foods do they hate?
- Where do they vacation, and how often? Do they go skiing every winter at their winter palace? Do they go to quiet meditative retreats twice a year in the moutains? What about beaches?
- What do they wear? What styles and colours are they partial to? What's them favourite piece of clothing, and why?
- What is their favourite colour and why?
- What do they do for yuletide or other holidays? What presents did they get or give last year? How do they feel about the holiday season?
- What do they like to do for their birthday? Do they usually get to do it or not?
- Do they save money up or spend it like water? What are they saving toward and why? Are they anywhere close to being able to buy it?
- What's their favourite weather? Hot sunny days? Blizzards? A warm rain? What's them favourite climate, or time of day?
Moods and Reactions
- What do they do to relax? Do they watch a play, read a book, go jogging, juggle?
- What is your character like when they're drunk? Mellow? Melancholy? Friendly and fun? Laughs too much? Hits on everyone?
- What are they like when they're grieving or mourning? Are they private with them grief? Quiet and stony? Crying loudly? In need of friends?
- What are they like when they're moody or despondent? Are they self-pitying, irritable, sad?
- What are they like when they're celebrating? Do they have a quiet celebration at home, or do they gather their friends together for a big bash?
- Do they have a mental illness or mood disorder? Are they prone to depression, bouts of mania, anxiety, or other such problems?