I wrote this questionnaire a long time ago, and have used it with in at least a dozen campaigns. If you’re running a point-based RPG like Cosmic Cutthroats, you might find it helpful to answer the questions before creating your character. This helps you flesh out the character concept that you’re building.
If you’re running a system with more randomized generation, it makes more sense to answer after your character is finished. That way, you’re giving context to all those random roles, weaving them together into a coherent whole. And if your game features high lethality, maybe answer one randomly-chosen question per game session. By the time you answer enough questions to get attached, your character might be strong enough to survive, at least a little while longer!
1. What is your Character’s name (first, middle, and last)?
2. Does your Character have a nickname? What is the Character’s code name?
3. Does the Character have any commonly used aliases?
4. How does the Character feel about their name; do they particularly like or dislike their name or nickname?
5. Is the Character human? If not, what is your Character’s species, subspecies, and/or race?
6. What is your Character’s height, weight, eye color, natural hair color, current hair color, and skin color?
7. Does your Character have any body modifications, such as tattoos, burns, scars, body piercings, bionics or genetic alterations? If so, describe them.
8. Is there a story behind any of the Character’s modifications (from above)?
9. Is your Character very attractive? Describe their build — are they muscular, lithe, willowy, husky, flabby, voluptuous, ripped, or what?
10. Is this despite or because of the care they take of themselves?
11. How does the Character dress, and what is their hairstyle and posture Examples: Dapper or preppie, or slacker, or slobbish.
12. What does the Character’s voice sound like?
13. What is the look in the Character’s eyes? Dangerous, daring, cunning, dull, or bewildered?
14. What is your Character’s family background? Is the Character an orphan? If so, skip questions 15-20, or explain the nearest equivalents.
15. What are the Character’s parents’ names and occupations?
16. How many siblings does the Character have, and what are their names, genders, ages, and occupations?
17. Does the family maintain contacts, or are they distant?
18. Any there any other important family members, such ans grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins?
19. What is the Character’s feelings towards each of their family members? Examples: Attachment, competition for attention, love, loathing, or even fear.
20. Are all of the Character’s relatives living? If not, describe how they died, and what effect did their death had on the Character. Was it an accident, negligence, illness, or even murder?
21. Where did the Character grow up? Examples: The suburbs, the ghettos, downtown, on military bases, on reservations.
22. Does the Character have any favorite memories of childhood, such as a playmate, a tree fort, a favorite game or toy? Instead, was it so bad that the Character usually blocks out all of their childhood memories?
23. What is your Character’s job?
24. Why did the Character choose that job? What qualifications does the Character have for the job?
25. Where did the Character go to train in that occupation? A college, armed service, or trade school?
26. Has the Character ever changed jobs? If so, describe any important former positions, and why they left, or were fired.
27. What is the worst thing about their job, in the Character’s opinion?
28. What is the best thing about the job, in the Character’s opinion?
29. Are they loyal, or would they jump ship for better wages — or even for worse ones?
30. What is the Character’s dream job? Describe the employer, the job position, salary, colleagues and underlings, and duties.
31. How tight a handle does the Character keep on their money (free spender, or miserly)?
32. Is there one kind of product that they have a special weakness for spending lots of money on?
33. Does the Character pay their bills on time?
34. What does the Character use for transportation — an old junker, or a classy new jobber?
35. What sort of dwelling does the Character live in? Examples: A house, an apartment, a trailer-house, a mud hut, a cave, or a refrigerator box? Provide a simple (at least 1 sentence) description of the interior.
36. Does the Character have any friends? If so, names and a short (at least 1 sentence) description of each, noting any ‘best friends’ or former romantic interests.
37. What do the Character and each of their friend(s) have in common, and what is different between them?
38. How did the Character and each of their friend(s) meet?
39. Does the Character have any pets — now or in the past? If so, what kind, and what were their names, and why were those names chosen.
40. What sort of pets does the Character prefer? If any, state what reasons do they give for liking them.
41. Is your Character currently in a significant relationship with a member of the opposite sex? Note if it is a possibly long-term relationship.
42. Is the relationship sexual, platonic, true love, or any combination?
43. How did the Character and their S.O. meet?
44. What is your Character’s sexual preference?
45. Is the Character’s philosophy ‘love the one you’re with’, ‘faithful ’til the end’, or ‘as long as we have an understanding’?
46. What is the Character’s dream mate, in appearance, personality, etc. The description will show how shallow or deep the Character themselves are.
47. Has the Character ever been, or are they, married, and to whom? If they are no longer so, note when that was, if it was a legal, religious, or common-law marriage, when it was broken off, and why.
48. Does the Character maintain contacts with any ex-girl/boyfriends or ex-spouses?
49. What are the Character’s moral/ethical beliefs?
50. Their spiritual/religious beliefs?
51. Do they adhere to a specific philosophy, or are they freewheeling?
52. How committed is the Character to these beliefs — would the Character die for them, or kill for them?
53. Are they generally good, selfish, indifferent, or evil?
54. Was the Character raised with a specific philosophy, and do they accept or reject it?
55. Does the Character believe in an afterlife, and how do they plan to get there?
56. Does the Character struggle with their faith, or are they strong and committed?
57. Does the Character attend any kind of religious services regularly?
58. How does the Character feel about: violence/killing, extramarital sex, sexual orientation, sexual deviancy, religion, stealing, lying, gender roles, use of torture, loyalty and trust?
59. What is the Character’s relationship to the authorities?
60. Have they ever been convicted of a minor crime? A major one?
61. Is this despite or because of the care (or lack of) they take in dealing with the police?
62. Are the crimes cleared or outstanding?
63. Is the Character currently wanted, on probation, or have bounties on them?
64. If the Character travels (or could travel), where to? How often? With whom?
65. If the Character participates in or even watches sports, which ones? What style — hardball or softball, touch or tackle?
66. What TV genres, books, magazines, musical styles, movie genres, or computer games do they enjoy? Favorite card, board, or war games? Do they cheat?
67. Does the Character use any recreational drugs? Examples: tobacco and/or alcohol (give specific brands if they are that particular), marijuana, or any others.
68. Does the Character support the current national administration? Why or why not?
69. Does the Character count themselves part of any particular political movement or party? Or is the Character anarchist, radical, absurdist, or monarchist, democratic, Machiavellian, socialist, hegemonist, imperialist, or apolitical?
70. Is there some political alignment that they absolutely cannot stand, or find laughable?
Sanity and Madness
71. Is the Character plagued with any specific doubts about themselves?
72. What does the Character fear most about the future?
73. Does the Character believe fanatically in only the tangible (materialist), or in a bit of the supernatural, or do they believe anything they’re told?
74. Does the Character get along well in society, or are they handicapped by any eccentricities they have?
75. How does the Character perform in combat? Fast and furious, slow and measured, deceptive and misdirecting? Describe a typical combat scene.
76. Does the Character talk, scream, giggle, sing, or growl in combat, or are they deadly silent?
77. Does the Character train in any specific fighting style or martial art? If so, mention why they chose that art, and their degree of proficiency in it.
78. Is there some weapon the Character prefers, either a specific weapon (grandfather’s Musashi sword) or a class of weapons in general (Colt .45s)? Mention why the Character has such a preference, and their degree of proficiency with it.
79. Is there some flashy, tricky move or weapon kata that they love to use? Examples might include wide flourishing disarms, trips, swiftly slashing their initials on the enemy or their belongings, or clipping off buttons or armor buckles.
80. Does the Character prefer sneakiness and subterfuge, brazen attack, or a combination, with grand, intimidating entries? State if the Character has any degree of skill with stealth.
81. What is the Character’s attitude towards death? Examples: Scared, transfixed with horror, morbidly fascinated, uninterested, or totally unafraid.
82. How would the Character want to be disposed of once they pass on?
83. Does the Character believe in an honorable death for all, or are murder and assassination justified to them?
84. Is the Character an introvert or an extrovert — shy or outgoing?
85. How does the Character solve most interpersonal problems? Examples: Looking up possible solutions in a psychology textbook, brazenly ignoring – or confronting — the problem, seeking neutral arbitration, lying and sneaking their way out of it, or conscientiously speaking the truth.
86. What is the Character’s attitude towards life itself? Examples: It is a battle that goes to the strong, a training grounds for some final battle at the end of time, an enormous test set up by the gods, a joke, a joke in very poor taste, just a bit better than death, worse than death?
87. What is the Character’s prize possession? Mention how they acquired it, from whom, when and what significance it holds for them.
88. The Character has discovered someone breaking into their house; what do they do? Examples: Kill the intruder instantly, talk to them, scare them away, capture them and torture them, or cower under the bed with a broomstick.
89. How does the Character accept the following: compliments, flattery, gifts, charity?
90. How does the Character accept the following: being ignored, insults, requests for charity?
91. Is the Character prejudiced about any one species, race, gender, culture, or sexual orientation, and if so, why?
92. What sort of foods does the Character enjoy? If any, mention if they are capable of cooking, and how well.
93. The Character is asked to go to a formal function, a fancy wedding, for example; how do they spend the majority of the reception? Examples: Eating cake and/or finger foods, talking, dancing with friends, or with strangers, people-watching from corners, or slipping out early.
94. What is the Character’s favorite saying, or a good, illustrative quote by the Character?
95. What song (or band/performer, or music genre) best evokes the mood that would fit the Character’s personality — and would they like the song?
96. Who are the Character’s heroes, and if there are none in the game-world, who would they be in our world?
97. What is your Character’s attitude towards luck/chance/fate/destiny? Do they even believe in luck? Are they pessimistic or optimistic? Do they see themselves as pessimistic or optimistic?
98. What are the Character’s dreams for the future? A wife, a dog, three kids, and a house with rose bushes and picket fences; a series of wild adventures crossing the globe, punctuated by carousing and spending sprees; touring the world in a ship, rubbing elbows with the elite, ridding the world of crime and evil once and for all, becoming a god, or what?
99. How does the Character’s abilities fit into the hero group? Does the Character have the super-strength to keep enemies from the party’s weaker members, or the telepathic talent to tie their teammate’s minds together?
100. How will the Character fit into the Campaign? What adventures does the Character’s background make possible?