My Old List
Well, okay, not twenty exactly. These are just some questions that I've found can help players, especially newer players, develop good personalities for their characters. These are quite old - I think I first wrote them up when I was 16 or so, and they've certainly been inspired by similar "twenty-questions" writeups others have done before me.
- What do you look like? Try to describe not just your hair and eye color but also stuff like distinguishing marks/features, mannerisms relating to dress, etc.
- Who are your parents? Your family? Are they still around?
- What about friends — got any? Close ones? Regular acquaintances?
- On the opposite end of that spectrum, what about enemies? How powerful are they?
- What caused you to move away from home and begin your life of adventuring?
- Where did you learn the tricks of your trade? Did you receive schooling (most mages and priests do; mages apprentice and priests join a temple, but when, how, and why)? Did you have a natural affinity but little training? Did your parents or another family member teach you?
- Do you belong anywhere (e.g., guild, organization, etc.)? If so, where? How did you get involved?
- What kind of person are you? Try to name some traits of yours… and WHY do you have these traits? Do you even know, or are they just integral to your personality… just because?
- How do you feel about authority figures? Why?
- Why is your moral code (or alignment, if appropriate) what it is?
- What motivates you deep down inside?
- Finally, try to list some quirks or identifying mannerisms. I usually aim for between 10 and 20 little quirks, like "strokes his goatee when thinking" or "has trouble looking people directly in the eyes." Just jot down anything that comes to mind about yourself. Don’t forget to jot other notes as you play; half the fun (or more) is how your character can grow during the course of a campaign.
Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign
If you have the Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign book, the whole of Chapter 1 describes creation of a character background. The chapter is slightly Pathfinder-centric, of course, but many of the questions and situations posed are applicable for any campaign. Things they suggest you consider range through:
- Circumstances of Birth
- Major Childhood Events
- Where You Live
- Social Rank
- Education Level
- Magical Ability
- Religion and Ritual
- Going Through Adolescence
- Initiation Rites/Rites of Passage
- Friends, Allies, Influences
- First Love
- Duty and Responsibilities
- Conflict and Enemies
- Personal Behavior
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