Creation Questionnaire

My friend, Evil Tim, is running a game in the Fallout universe. If you don’t know, it’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland survival kind of setting. During character creation, we took the G.O.A.T. — Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test. It’s a multiple-choice personality quiz that helps you determine your skill loadout in the video game and in our tabletop game, it determined our starting class in the d20 Modern rules. We answered the questions as our characters-to-be would. Then, he told us our results. It was fun and a perfect fit for the campaign. And I started to wonder what else you could do with the idea.


To Quiz or Not to Quiz

Administering a questionnaire at the beginning of an RPG is an old tradition with many benefits. But this particular kind of character creation exam removes at least some element of choice from the creating player using the standard creation rules – they don’t know what their responses will lead them to. Therefore, it is not right for every game or every group. But when is it a good choice?

In our Fallout game, the G.O.A.T. fit the theme. It was administered by a heartless mega-corporate entity that had absolutely no concern for our characters as individuals or what we wanted to do with our lives. We immediately felt like powerless cogs in a machine that twisted our quiz answers and assigned us jobs that were ill-fitting and arbitrary. The lack of choice was part of the feel of the world – a twisted expanse for which none of our sheltered, Vault-education prepared us. The lack of options was part of the theme of the game, and any campaign that had similar ideas of powerlessness or entrapment to convey would benefit from the same concept.

One-shot games are another example of a good place to use this technique. If you don’t have time to let your players pour over books and websites to craft that perfect level one hero, don’t let them. Use the questionnaire to speed up the process and let their answers either narrow down the selections or let them lead directly to a pre-made character. New players, players unfamiliar with the rules, or players who get overwhelmed with too many choices could also benefit greatly from quiz-creation as an option. Some game systems already incorporate this as part of their process – steal them! (the ideas, not the books)… Convert their questions to your own game setting and tweak what you need.

Double Jeopardy

Some players hate to give up control. Remember, creating a character and making decisions as that character are the only things players get to do in a game. Other players will jump at the idea with enthusiasm. And many players, intentionally or subconsciously, will try to game the test – tweaking their responses with educated guesses to get the thing they actually want instead of following the spirit of the questionnaire. So, why go to the trouble?

Mini-games are fun, and you can treat a creation questionnaire as a kind of mini-game. Take it all together as a group by saying questions and answers aloud, in character if possible. The party can get to know one another before they start and players can practice roleplaying before the first scene. A well-crafted quiz can set the mood for the game and get players interested and inspired, as well as teach them a little bit about the world in which they are about to adventure. You can also tailor the questions to foreshadow the plot. If you’re careful about your wording, you can even have a few questions that let you as the GM know what the party is likely to do in a future scenario. “A friend confesses a terrible secret but says she has a good reason to do what she did. Do you listen, walk away, or challenge her immediately?” Later, when the kindly old innkeeper reveals herself to be the Big Bad Boss, you’ll know if she’ll have a chance to explain her twisted logic before a fight breaks out.

Also, you can use the questionnaire method to ensure that the party has something they need for later or doesn’t have access to something in the standard rules that will be game-breaking to your particular campaign. This is handy if you want to avoid an argument from a problem player or if you want to avoid a spoiler for a cool reveal – like, “don’t put points in ‘Pilot: Hovership’ because your characters are still trapped in the Matrix.” Let’s say that it’s crucial for your main storyline that at least some of the characters in the party belong to a particular religious order. Construct your questionnaire in such a way that this is unavoidable, but still allows them to be otherwise unique. Alternately, if you need to make sure no one starts the game with anything magical that lets them fly because it will ruin all your cool puzzles and traps, just quietly remove the option from your quiz results and no one will be the wiser.

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