Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools

  • 15 Replies
Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« on: May 30, 2012, 12:18:16 AM »
One idea I had is using the Extended Character Concept Generator, from Deeper in the Game, as a cue for questions to ask player characters. For example, I imagine looking at and then saying

"You're a mercenary right, from down South. But what's your reputation round here? What have you done to earn that?"

"What social status can a follower of the Veiled One expect? Do you think that's right?"


Extended Character Concept Generator
A (personality trait) (profession/role) trying to (goal) despite her (flaw).

She wants to become (profession/positive trait), achieve (social status), overcome/move beyond (past trouble, mistake, tragedy). She believes in (ideal or personal credo) and can’t stand people who (believe other credo/behave in a certain way). People know her as (reputation) and expect that she will (achieve/fail/become something).

She is a part of (social group), is expected to obey (authority figure), assisted by (friend/group of friends), is opposed by (rival group).

She wants to earn respect/love of (NPC), see (NPC2/rival group) get their just desserts for (dirty deed), help (NPC3) deal with (problem/flaw), fulfill (promise made) for (NPC4), and protect (NPC5) from (personal flaw, danger, other NPC or group).

Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2012, 07:51:09 PM »
Asking leading or open ended questions is core to running DW off the cuff. Even in a module asking questions is important as a way to bind your party together. Keep asking questions until 1) the party has some reason to be together, 2) there is some obvious short term goal most of the players can get behind.



  • 777
Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2012, 04:21:12 AM »
I do like that, WGR but it is geared for heroquest, with its intrinsic flags (traits, professions, flaws) built into the questioning process.

So as Josh suggests, cater your DW questioning to the flags the players have given you. Just dig a little deeper into their choices and remember to address the characters.

For instance, the playbook (or class) that the player chooses says an awful lot about the type of character the player wants to play, or moves that they may be interested in authoring into the story. So instead of asking the player why they chose the fighter as their avatar, address the character... So Ozruk, what made you pick up your signature warhammer and take up arms to defend your dwarfhold deep in the mountains?

The questions lurking in that character generator are gold, just don't  constrain yourself to the 'format'. Disseminate, tear apart and re-incorporate, especially involving the flags that your players have identified: Classes, races, moves, spells, equipment and bonds.


Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2012, 04:51:55 AM »
 One of my favorite tricks is to get one player going on what their great plan to be awesome is and then turn to their neighbor and ask them how it is all going wrong. The more questions that you can mine for NPCs the better and the more players you can get answering questions about the same thing the better for buy in.

Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2012, 06:49:41 AM »
Hey noofy. I think we're totally on the same page, I liked this as an additional cue for question because it neatly encompasses a lot of the complexity of being a social, emotional, physical being.   

I hadn't thought that the (words) were jargon terms for a particular system. I just saw their plain english meaning as useful. Like, when I see (profession), I think both of a PC's class but also their other roles in the fiction, e.g. Marlow's the thief in our game but also has a job as a job with the University for Pelgun as field assistant to a Professor of Archaeology.

Hey JBMannon.
Snap! That line of questioning is cool. Along the same lines, I'll ask a player, "What have you heard about / know about...", followed by asking another player "And what's really going on...". This establishes differences in perception and can broaden the fiction around NPCs, events, organisation, etc.



  • 777
Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2012, 08:14:30 AM »
Oh we are totally on the same page WGR! This is an awesome idea you have. The questioning process is one of the most valuable tools for the 'conversation' of DW (or any roleplaying for that matter).

What I meant from Chris's blog post was that he had adapted mechanical tags or player determined cues (flags) as a means to establish situation and immediate conflict in a game. Sort of like pushing Bangs in Sorcerer, or antagonising beliefs in Burning Wheel. This is great!  If you can link a Dungeon World player specified mechanical tag or cue or move or stat or class or resource (a choice from a list basically) with a provocative question that ties them into the situation at hand and then act on the answer you actively support player investment. You are a fan of the characters!

So my suggestion is to tie into some reward feedback loop with the players to encourage them to not only answer your questions, but establish deeply enmeshed situations and conflicts that are brewing, encouraging NPC-PC-NPC triangles that upset a few different character bonds. (and thus become an XP goldmine).

I fully endorse having other players answer questions posed by their fellow players as Josh suggests, this is brilliant for hooking back in 'disinterested' players (not that this happens much!)

I love talking about questioning, its one of my favourite RPG things to do :)

Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2012, 09:46:29 AM »
Player 1, how is this thing on your character sheet going to make you awesome soon?

Player 2, what is this organization you are clearly a part of doing that is getting in the way of Player 1 being awesome?

Player 3, how have you been profiting off the conflict here?

Player 4, you have something, a skill, special knowledge, a unique attribute, something that both sides need to get what they want, what is it and why are you lothe to give it up to anyone?

These are just an example but the quicker you can pull everyone in the same direction, even if they are at cross purposes, the better.

Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2012, 01:45:04 PM »
I like questions aimed at specific characters that don't necessarily have to be about them.  For example, "Whose idea was it to open the tomb of the city's founder?"  If you ask it to the group, someone will say it was their idea and give a reason.  If you point and ask a specific character, they're free to point to another character and say, "It was totally Jeffron's idea.  He kept going on and on about the gold we'd find.  Oh, and something about a book but that doesn't matter; honestly, I just needed the money."  Getting players to pass the buck is cool and emphasizes their link to the story as a whole rather than just their link to their specific character.

Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2012, 05:43:56 PM »
My favourite trick is to get a player to tell me something about the setting - something weird or that they might not obviously know and then follow up with "how do you know that?" all skeptical-like and expecting a story.  It's especially great for secrets or forbidden knowledge.

Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2012, 08:21:18 PM »
QFT and reference

Should that be stuff like "You stand before the steel door of the Vault. What lies behind it?" or "You hear skittering in the darkness. What creature of the vaults do you fear the most?"
those are awesome questions, but I think it varies with the group, there is no question that's 100% useful for every group.

However, I would be more subtle. The "Getting Started" paragraph and the "Ask Questions" goal should clarify what I mean.

Examples of questions I asked the recent first session:
• how works your magic?
• how's organized your tribe?
• why would the evil cult attack you like this?
• how about your thieves guild?

When asking question, you should look for what's interesting for the players and their characters. You are gathering details, facts, motivations, that set in motion the story and basically build themselves the fronts for the future sessions. They describe their dear homeland? Someone attacks it. They describe an enemy? You have him raise to power. They declare important facts about setting-specific details—like the wizard who learned magic studying on powerful magic tome wich allows the owner to control spirits, found in a mystical cave with walls covered by arcane signs? Then someone tries to steal her that tome, while the cave becomes conscious and starts to spawn evil elementals all around.

The book is actually very clear about all those things. Check this quote:
The first adventure is really about finding out what future sessions will deal with.

And I'm speaking like a pro while I learned how to write fronts yesterday.

Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2012, 07:48:13 AM »
I actually had a question about this re: Spout Lore.  Rather than having the GM generate some interesting and or useful titbit, can you treat Spout Lore as a BW -wise, where the player declares a fact about the world and then you roll to see if its true?  Can the GM's interesting fact be spurred on by a question the players have asked?

Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2012, 11:41:38 AM »
@ countercheck

I think of a Spout Lore interaction something along the lines of (1) the player wants to know something and wants to check if the character does, (2) make the roll, (3) GM generates some interesting or useful information on a hit.

That third step might be something the GM hasn't ever thought about or doesn't understand how it's relevant now. So the GM then turns it back to the player or players asking them to fill in the details, adding or modifying it as necessary to make it fit the established details of the world as needed.

To that end, I think it's possible to do what you're suggesting. I'd just rather do it in the order above rather than the way you mention. The players get that narrative control and shape the information into something that makes the scene cooler or gives them an advantage just the same.

Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2012, 06:58:22 AM »

Provocative  QuestionsAnother good tactic, I think, is to ask for details about their stuff

When Adventurers Return•How did you get your (whatever item)?
•Where/Who do you get your basic supplies from?
•Where/Who do you get your specialist items?
•Who's your favourite race / monster? How do you get along with Xena then, when she hates them? What do you do when people want you to agree to their prejudice?
•Where do you live? Draw it on the map. Here. Really? How do you stand the smell / location / view? Why do so many people think your neighbours are crazy / untrustworthy / aloof? Why don't you move into a different place, there's bound to be one around here somewhere?
•Are you single or attached? Anybody on the side? Why is that? So last time Thorgrim was hitting on you, what did you do? Did anybody see? So why's the barmaid always giving you that look, or is it something else?
•Where did you get your clothes? Did you buy/loot/find/make them yourself? Are they new or worn out? How many people have tried to kill you for that fancy suit of armour of yours? The Innkeeper said Dumbledoor has the exact same Wizard Robes as you, what do you think of that?
•What do you do for fun, usually? Do a lot of people do that or you on your own? What happened the last time somebody tried to stop you, and who was it? You think that'll happen again? What happened when you were doing whatever it is you do for fun that you don't tell anybody about?

Grim Portents
•Bring up any setting element they name drop and ask about it over and over. Get different players' opinions on the same area or person or monster.
•You'll find the kinds of details you want when your questions ask about or imply bits of the world, or personalities.
•If you want them to fill in the world more, pick a place on the map, and just ask about their experiences there.
•What do they (monsters)have that you want?
•What do you have that they want?
•Where is the most treacherous / adventurous / frightening / reknown place that you know?
•O.K. so you're hungry / thirsty / horny / sleepy / wounded.... What do you do?
•The MacGuffin is all broken. Where can you find replacement(s) or repairs? Why is that such a bad idea?

•Have you two (players) ever gotten in a fight? Elucidate
•Who would you turn to in fix?
•Where do you see yourself in five levels?
•I don't know if you've ever fought / stolen / ensorcelled / negotiaed  anything from these guys, but if you had to pick, who's the most obvious option?
•What was the last thing they did to piss you off?
•They hurt you. How? Why?
•Hey, you know why. Tell us the reason they are coming for you, teeth bared.
•Its not safe at town anymore. Where do you go?
•Out of the bunch of them, one gives you a strong gut feeling. What is that feeling? Who does it pertain to?

•Everyone knows you’re [choose stat]. What do you do about that?
•What Move are you really drawn to? (another player) What does that say about them?
•What secret are you protecting?
•We all know you’re the [playbook]. What makes you so special?

Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2012, 04:39:56 PM »
Quote from: Rickard link=
Through the years, GMing at conventions, I created a structure so the players can pick up these techniques really easy. First, I explain that what we are going to play is a roleplaying game, and it's all about bouncing the narrative between each other. The players are allowed to create things on the spot and I will make that happen by not describing the environment more than a word or two.

"You are all in a library, for example.", I say and then pointing towards a player. "What's in the library?"
"Computers", the player answers. I fill in with " ... and you can see people sitting there.". "You", I point at the next player. "What's more in the library?"
"A librarian", the player answers. "... but she is being busy with something at the computers.", I reply. I point at the third player: "Do you recognize someone in the library?"
"No, not really", the player replies and I continue with: "Because..?".
"Because I've never been to the library."

As you can see, with this exercise I both introduced The Three Words and that I ask questions. I point out that the players are allowed to create whatever they want, may it be relationships, things, places or whatever. I can always fill in with "and", restrict with "but" or sometimes give an explanation with "because" or ask questions. I repeat what I said in the exercise as examples for "and", "but", "because" and the questions while explaining this.

There are also three things I point out.
-- I wont describe details, because I want to leave that to the players to fill in. On the other side, the players should be fair and leave out the details when they narrate something, so I can continue adding stuff.
-- I'm not the only one who are allowed to add to the players narrations. The players can continue each others narrations as well.
-- I explain how the world works, but I will adjust if the players will start narrating silly or illogical things. They set the bar.

Questions are, together with The Three Words [and, but, because], one of the strongest narrating tool that you got as a GM. By asking questions, you add more wood to the fire, hopefully giving either inspiration or atmosphere. They can also give certain thinking patterns in the players. I never try to give suggestions to my players when they are about to solve a problem or wants to describe their character or the environment. Instead, I ask questions. I usually ask questions to introduce something that the players don't normally think of.

Are there any particular sounds?
Are you wearing something on your head?
Is there anything in the ceiling that you can use?
Was it something that happened between you and your friend?

You can also ask targeted questions, if you want to add atmosphere. So instead of saying "... and it's raining", you can ask if it rains. The players will most often go along with your question and answer yes, because you leave it to the players to decide. Try asking some targeted questions that really changes things like "Do you die from this?" or "Does she refuse you?". Ask these kind of questions when you want the players to elaborate or perhaps to surprise the players, taking a stance that they haven't thought of.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 12:46:00 PM by skinnyghost »

Re: Ask questions - Cues, tips and tools
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2012, 04:43:41 PM »
When describing, use "as if". Like "There are small grooves in the rock, as if something really sharp or heavy was dragged across it." These aren't adjectives, but they're concrete environmental details more than "grisly" or "harrowing".

Ask questions like crazy, but always remember this miracle phrase: "Yeah, you're almost right about that, except…"

NPCs are Locks
NPCs are locks that players can unlock by building trust and repour with them in conversation. What unlocking means depends on the NPC:


Keep three or less "key" topics that will unlock them. Something like: Cod Fisher - ask about his health, ask about his sons = reveals location of a new temple risen from the sea.

Check off each "key" after players engage the topic, unless they don’t converse for some time.

The 24 interesting conversation topics (depending on genre)
The latest news
Local area
Social life
Relationships / dating
Marriage and children Vacation
Public holiday
Leisure time
TV show
« Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 12:45:54 PM by skinnyghost »