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Questions for Creating a Character

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Well, folks, continuing my line of (hopefully) useful posts, this is one post I am translating from an original I have in Portuguese, in the forum I take part in (the already mentioned SpellBrasil, in the Big List of D&D Useful Links). The basic questions were a compilation of mine after seeing several such lists. The long list of questions were created by the user Lofwyr of the mentioned forum, for use in the Shadowrun RPG, and were more or less converted to use for D&D characters by yours truly.

--Gladius Dei

Basic Questions

  • What is the name of your character? Age? City of birth?
  • Does s/he have a family? Friends?
  • Describe his/her appearance shortly.
  • Describe his/her past shortly.
  • Why does s/he do what s/he does (i.e., why did s/he choose to be an adventurer/warrior/mage/etc)? Why did s/he leave to start adventuring? Why does s/he adventure with other characters (this question is for use of established parties in PnP)?
  • Does s/he have any purpose or objective? Desire? Fear?
  • What are his most prominent characteristics (physical, mental, spiritual, etc)?

Advanced Questions

Who is your Character?

A character is just a bunch of numbers until the moment the player breathes life into them. Every good character, be it from RPGs, romances or movies, possess a whole history behind them that influences their actions and choices along the told story. In short, a character is not only the moment of present, but also his/her past and his aspirations for the future.

To facilitate the creation of a more concrete character and help players in the act of "breathing life" unto their characters, we have formulated this questionnaire. The questions it contains are facts that permeate the life of most characters in any universe of D&D, but facts that not always the player remembers answering in advance to the playing. Answer with thought, because your choices in the past may, and certainly will, influence their future.

1. What is the race of your character? What does s/he think of his/her race and of other races? Is s/he a racist, a defender of equality or just indifferent?

Is your character human or belongs to any of the other races of the D&D universe? Does your character possess any kind of preconception and thinks ill towards any specific race? If yes, what's the reason for that? Was s/he harmed (physically or not) by any member of such race? What's the origin, if it exists, of his/her hatred? Is s/he a defender of causes for the pacific existence of the races? Or simply defends the causes of his/her own group?

2. What is the social class of your character?

From what social class does your character comes from? Does s/he live in a small, far away village or in the grand capitals and kings' castles? Was s/he born in that social class, or did s/he ascend/descend in the ladder during his/her life? If ascension/descent, was it due to his/her own merits, or did s/he receive external help? What is your character's relation with the other social classes and what is his position, if he has any, in relation to the social differences that exist in the D&D universe?

3. What is the relationship between your character and governments/authorities?

Does your character works for any of them, maybe full time, or maybe s/he sells his/her services as a mercenary to some of them? Does your character possess a hatred or love for any one such governments/authorities? If yes, what is the reason of such feeling? Your character has been, or is, a serf to someone?

4. Does your character have any family?

Father? Mother? An orphan sister? A half-brother that hates him/her? A twin that serves an authority? Children? What is your character's relation with them all, and with which frequency do they communicate with your character and vice-versa? Does your character cares about them, or s/he couldn't care less if they simply disappeared? Do any of them live with your character?

5. Does your character have any courting lord/lady or passion?

Does your character have any amorous relationship with someone (be it with the opposing or same sex)? What kind of relationship, and how strong is it? What would your character do for love, to where would s/he go?

6. Where does your character live?

How does his residence looks like? Does s/he have a very own house, a family house, a mansion in the woods, or does s/he have to fight every night for a warm dry spot among the alleys of the poor people's houses? What kind of facilities and things your character possess at home? Does s/he have a pet? Does anyone else lives with your character?

7. Who was the first person your character lost? Under what circumstances?

Cite names, dates and level of relationship of the first person your character has lost. Disease? Murder? Natural death? What did that person bring with her to the afterlife from your character? What did such person leave to your character (again, not necessarily physical)? How does your character feel when s/he remembers that happening?

8. Has your character killed anyone? If yes, why?

The world is a dangerous place, and sometimes we take necessary attitudes that may make us feel ashamed. Has your character killed anyone? Who was the first? What were the reasons that lead to that? How did your character feel in that moment?

9. What would make your character betray his/her friends or leave the group?

It's said that everyone has a price, what is your character's? What would make him betray his/her friends or abandon the group s/he belongs to? Fear? Greed? Mercy? Something else?

10. Is there something for which your character would give his/her life?

Emotion and reason sometimes lead us to extreme actions. For what would your character make the final vow of devotion? For what would your character die? Love? Honor? Glory? Duty? Something else?

11. What is your character's reaction towards magic?

Magic in the D&D universe is not something unheard of, but even so many have a fear for it, uneasiness, or simply prefer it to be far away from their lives. Some religions accept and propagate it, others respect and tolerate it, and some abominate certain kinds of magic. Is your character a spellcaster? If yes, where does s/he believe magic comes from? What manner of magic does s/he uses? What was his/her first contact with magic, and how did it go? Did someone teach your character magic, or did it come innately?

12. Sports? Hobbies? Vices?

Does your character possess any "passions"? Theater, music, art, any manner of sport or competition? Everyone has a hobby, and that's not different in imaginary worlds. And while many have healthy hobbies, others try to avoid reality through drinking and drugs, even magical ones. Does your character possess any addictions? If yes, what led him to such dependency and what does s/he do to try to leave such dependency behind? Does s/he try to get free from such addiction?

13. Crime and Punishment

Many adventurers in D&D can end up, sooner or later, breaking laws. There are many times an adventure is not "clean" or doesn't cause harm to anyone, and sometimes it's necessary to kill in order to survive. How does your character face this relation between adventure/risk/criminality or prejudice? Does your character believe that anything is "game" in order to survive? Or does s/he see him/herself as some manner of Robin Hood, helping people through crimes (in case they are committed, mind you)?

14. Career's Beginning

How did your character get him/herself involved with the adventuring profession? Did s/he have a choice? Adventurers have various functions (soldiers, fighters, bodyguards, specialists, artillery, support, herald, etc), what is your character's function in a group? How does your character feel about that?

15. What is your character's greatest objective? And greatest fear?

Everyone has an objective. A destination that they consider the last peak, something they consider the greatest font of joy. What is your character's objective, what does s/he search for? And on that path, s/he finds and faces or flees from his/her fears. What is your character's greatest fear?

The following questions do not need to be answered by the players if they do not wish. They are just question upon which the players and DMs can ponder and explore on their characters. Think of these questions as a series of inquiries that the player itself makes directly to the character, and how they would answer it. This material has been compiled by the French author Marcel Proust, and was used when he created his characters.

  • What is your greatest accomplishment/feat?
  • What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  • What is your present state of spirit?
  • What is your favorite occupation?
  • What is your most valued possession?
  • Who, or what, is the greatest love of your life?
  • What are your most prominent characteristics?
  • When and where are you most happy?
  • What do you hate the most?
  • What is your greatest fear:
  • What is your greatest extravagance?
  • Which live person do you hate the most?
  • What is your greatest regret?
  • What talents would you like to have?
  • Where do you live?
  • What would it mean, for you, to be in the lowest level of poverty?
  • What quality do you enjoy the most in a man?
  • What quality do you enjoy the most in a woman?
  • What is the characteristic you consider the most despicable in yourself?
  • What is the characteristic you consider the most despicable on others?
  • What do you value the most in a friend?
  • Who is your favorite fictional hero?
  • Who are your real life heroes?
  • Which living people/person do you admire the most?
  • Which do you consider to be the most underestimated virtue?
  • In which occasions would you lie?
  • Which words or phrases do you use the most?
  • If you could change something in yourself, what would it be?
  • What are your favorite names?
  • How would you like to die?
  • If you died and could return to life and something or someone, what do you think you would be?
  • What is your motto?