Initial character creation prompts

I’m working with some new players creating characters, players without any experience with roleplaying games, and I tried asking some questions to answer as if their characters were answering. I wanted to prompt ideas about character background & what they believe before engaging the game mechanics. Once players have decided on character concepts & background it seems easier for them to tackle the recruitment steps of determining skills & traits.

Anyway, here are the 20 questions I handed out to my players. I’m still in process of revision for a game I may run at my FLGS in the future.

Part I: Who are you?

  1. What do you call yourself?
  2. Are you a male or female mouse?
  3. What color is your fur?
  4. How tall are you?
  5. What is your body type?
  6. What is your age?
  7. Where were you born? What is the story your family tells about your birth?

Part II: What was your family like?
8. What are the names of your parents?
9. Were you the oldest of many children? The youngest? In the middle? Only child?
10. Did your parents die when you were young? Were any of your siblings killed by predators? Did your father fight in the Weasel Wars? Were you sent to live in an orphanage operated by the Mouse Guard?
11. Did you grow up in town? In a fishing village? Were your parents tradesmice like bakers, weavers, or smiths, or were they merchants or shopkeepers? Did they work with bees or insects? Did they work for the town government or in the library as archivists or administrators?
12. Did you grow up in a harvester community outside of a town? Were your parents gatherers & harvesters, storing nuts & grain for the winter? Were they leaders in the community, organizing the storage of food for winter, or were they just simple harvesters trying to keep their families fed & warm?
13. Did you grow up with a band of wandering mice, constantly moving from one town or settlement to the next in a caravan, entertaining & trading with the mice your family met along the way? Were your parents Loremice who sang songs & recited stories from the past?
14. What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you want to be what your parents were? Did you want to join the Mouse Guard?

Part III: How did you join the Mouse Guard?
15. Were any of your relatives in the Guard? Did you join as part of a family tradition? Are any relatives still in the Guard?
16. Were you recruited to join by a Guard Patrol visiting your community? Were you looking for adventure or just a chance to escape the boredom of your life at home?
17. Were you compelled to travel to join the Guard out of desperation or poverty?
18. Did you commit an offense which could have been punished with exile from the Territories? Was an offer to join the Guard your only alternative?
19. Did you intend to serve only a short time in the Guard & then go back to your home?
20. Are you a “lifer” in the Guard?

I don’t have Mouse Guard in front of me but isn’t character creation for Mouse Guard answering questions to determine your stats and traits and so on?

Why not just do the character creation out of the book that asks, if memory serves, a few of the same questions as you are asking?

You’re absolutely right. But I’ve noticed players new to the whole roleplaying experience look at all those skills & traits and their eyes roll back in their heads. I still have players go through the character creation process in the book, but first I try to help them establish a character through stories by asking questions which prompt stories rather than item selection. Sure, in the book there’s a question about what the character’s mentor stressed in training–now choose a skill from the list; but who was that mentor, and why did the character ever want to join the Guard anyway? I want to explore those issues which drive a character’s decisions rather than collect a list of skills.

But maybe I’m playing the wrong game? One reason I stopped playing RPGs years ago was because character creation felt more like filling in blanks & fiddling with a combination of characteristics to win conflicts rather than creating characters with interesting stories. Mouse Guard is the first RPG I bought in 15 years & begins to offer what I felt was missing in those other games. But, still, with new players, I want to offer an approach to creating their characters as individuals with interesting backgrounds & stories rather than overwhelm them with a collection of stats, skills, & numbers.

Also, I’ve been playing with some folks who haven’t bought a copy of the book, but they wanted to get started with their characters before we met for our first session. By sending out those 20 questions they were able to begin creating their character, and then when we met & went through the process from the book many of the questions they had already thought about fell into place with the skills & traits. Mostly, however, I was trying to avoid copying out the entire Recruitment section of the book & distributing those copies.

I think the idea is good. We’re a bunch of seasoned role players over here and we discuss much of these thing in advance and during character generation. For beginners I think written down questions might help and even for seasoned ones if the culture is different. For my roman fantasy role playing game I made a lot of questions ranging from how the character values slaves and foreigners to status in family to reaction on help offerings from different persons to what the character think of certain roman special food. They’re not meant to be answered all of them or even half of them but to get the players brain going in the right direction and thinking about his character in the right culture concept. Most romans didn’t value all humans equally and so on.

I haven’t really evaluated your exact questions but I like the idea.

I think the point you have about further exploring certain parts about character creation is great, such as when you talk not just about what traits are gained from a mentor, but why and how. I think I’ll do that when my group recruits mice in a few days.

Of course, when I’m running the game for new players I almost always let them use a template from the book. As much as I try to explain what everything does, it’s just plain easier to let them discover how everything works during play.

Sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear.

Character creation in Mouse Guard is done through answering questions, much like the ones you have listed above. That is how traits and stats are determined, though answering questions about your character.

Paka, I don’t think you understand. This thread is not about generating stats for your players, it’s about creating characters that are 3d and well rounded, and then the traits and skills and such come easy because you already know who your character is. That’s what the questions are for. Some people don’t think the book has enough questions, and their right. There’s no way the book could possibly think up all the questions you would have to ask to really crete a character

I do understand.

I find that the character creation process creates characters that are fully-fleshed out enough for me and didn’t understand the need for additional questions is all, especially when answering questions is a part of the process of creating characters in the first place.

That’s all.

Hi, MadDrB. I’m not sure from my read of the OP, but it sounds like you have had this player-character identification problem with other games and want a questionaire to avoid this with new players in MG. Is that a fair statement?

I’m in Judd’s camp. I think the MG rules as written will do this for you. But, if you and your players have more fun with your questionnaire, you should use it. End of story!

As for my feelings on the issue. I think MG rules as written give me just the right amount of characterization while leaving me stuff to find out (i.e. make up) in play. There’s tons of stuff I don’t care about my mouse. Frex, I don’t care what body type my mouse has, unless that’s important to the character (think Porthos in Three Musketeers. He’s the big, strong one. How big are the other guys? Dunno. Don’t care.)

A 20-question homework assignment does not scream fun to me. I would be thinking this game sounds like too much work. Plus, I think MG characters should ideally be created together, from scratch.

So, the questionnaire idea wouldn’t work for me. But again, if it works for you, do it.

Well, the very first game I ran involved two players without any RPG experience. I mean, the only thing they were familiar with were the six-sided dice. And I was the guy who couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating RPG characters, so I really had to slow down for them & explain some very basic concepts of play.

I had typed up lists of skills on pairs of index cards, dividing the skills into “trades” & “roles” (when I read the part about their Senior Artisan I asked them to choose a skill from the “trades” list, and when I read the part about what their Mentor stressed during training I asked them to choose from the “roles” list.) They followed along & named their parents, etc. while selecting skills & traits, but they didn’t really understand what the numbers meant or how they would work in the game, so I ended up with one character with a Baker skill of 5, the other with skills in Instructor & Weather Watcher, but none with Fighter, Hunter, or Pathfinder skills at all.

We still had a fun game, although I focused on roleplaying & didn’t throw up many obstacles. Maybe it’s my fault for not explaining how the game worked before we got started, but I wanted to teach them how the system worked to resolve conflicts during the course of play. Anyway, for future games with new players I think I’ll just go with pregen characters, giving them the chance to fill in blanks about fur & cloak color, maybe have them choose a home town & trait, then finish with Beliefs & Instincts.

The Beliefs & Instincts, not to mention the effect of tapping Nature to boost rolls, are some of the things that really make this game special for me. (And I love the scripting for the Duel of Wits.) But I guess I’m still burned out on playing skill-based RPG systems (I liked the level-based systems even less). In play of Mouse Guard I’d like to see players giving each other helping dice for conflicts based on their relationships or beliefs rather than just skills & traits.

The next game I’m running is at the local public library with some teens, and with their experience playing computer RPGs I’m sure they’ll catch on very fast.

I don’t think it has anything to do with how well you GM. But, I do think you missed a chance to provide guidance by not suggesting that they should have something like fighter or hunter.

Did you tell them about the duties of the Guard before you started creating mice? There’s a nice little chapter called The Duties of the Guard on page 20, which points out that they will be going to be out in the territories, fighting, surviving, mediating disputes, etc., which should key players into the fact that its not so much about the baking.

Also, I don’t see any questions in your list that would really have helped avoid this problem.

Dr. B, do you see a conflict the above two statements?

Also, emphasis in Baker, Instructor, and Weather Watcher is pretty rich for generating interesting situations, although it’s going to make for atypical missions (or force the players to learn things like Fighter and Pathfinder on the job, which should be fun. Remember, the players don’t necessarily fail at things they’re not good at, their lives just become more complicated).

I’ve found this approach to be very effective with Mouse Guard. There’s a reason for including all those sample missions and guardmice, and for character creation being tucked in the back of the book.

Yes, of course! I just went back & read the rule for using Beginner’s Luck. It fits together quite nicely with everything else. And I’m going to add to my play notes for next game: “If player doesn’t have a relevant skill, use 1/2 Will or Health.”

I get the point that failure doesn’t mean disaster, just an unexpected result. But the idea of developing new skills during play as opposed to earning experience & “purchasing” a new skill at the end of a session or with a new level… well, it’s taking a while to sink in, but it makes perfect sense.

Cool. Just make sure your players are clear on it, too. They need tests to advance their skills, and they’ll need both failures and successes to do so.