Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ask pesky questions

The other day for no particular reason I got to thinking about a 'What If?' scenario wherein someone else was starting a new first edition AD&D campaign. If I was invited to play, what sort of character would I want to be? Now I'm normally of the roll-the-dice-and-take-your-chances school of PC creation, so my choices would be limited by my stat rolls.  On the other hand, if the party desperately needs a particular class (i.e. no one's playing a cleric) then I would be willing to take one for the team. But I got to thinking that if the field was wide open, what sort of further information would I need from the DM? Here's a few questions I've come up with to ask the DM, broken down by class.


Are you using weapon vs. AC or speed factors?  That would radically affect my weapon choices.
Any weapons considered particular high or low class?  E.g. would being a crossbowman preclude me from being knighted?
A first level fighter is a Veteran.  Has my character been in any famous battles?
Can I play a knight or do I start out as some low class schlub with a spear?
How picky are you about encumbrance?
Do you use any crit charts or rules about attacks versus folks not wearing helmets?
Do I have any particular obligation to a military organization or feudal lord?


What sort of gods do I have to choose from?
Which gods have temples in the starting campaign area?
Do I have any particular obligation to a certain temple or high priest?
Are the gods at each other's throats, such that I would get in trouble for honoring deities besides my own?


Do I get to pick my starting spells?
Do you track material components?
Are new spells available for purchase anywhere?
Do I start out as a member of a magic-user's guild or a graduate from a mage's school?
Am I an apprentice to a higher-level MU?


Do you object to evil characters?
Am I a member of a thef's guild?
Do I start with criminal contacts for fencing goods, smuggling, obtain poisons or drugs?

Obviously some of these questions are mechanical, some are about the DM's style and some concern the campaign world.  More question could easily be written for the other classes in AD&D and the various races.  I'd hate to make up a perfectly decent half-elf druid only to discover after play begins that half-breeds are universally reviled in the setting and that the DM took the mistletoe rules seriously!

The point of all these questions is not to put the DM on the spot, so if you actually asked some things like the above list you'd probably do well to put it in an email before the first session.  Some of these questions could end up being things the DM hasn't thought about yet for this particular campaign.  That's not a bad thing.  The DM is probably going to spend some time on the campaign no matter what you do, you might as well steer them towards topics you care about.


  1. It is my opinion that asking questions like this can help you make a unique, interesting character without needing twelve books full of paths or prestige classes or feats or whatever.

  2. And this illustrates why I don't really get D&D. Most of your questions would not be mine because if I had to actually ask the DM these questions, I wouldn't want to play in that game.

    As examples:

    *Fighter - A first level fighter is a Veteran. Has my character been in any famous battles? Can I play a knight or do I start out as some low class schlub with a spear?*

    To me these are the same question. Can I decide what my character did before the first adventure of our campaign. Its my character, so if the answer is anything other than, "Yes, as long as it gels with my world" I will be moving on to another game.

    Magic User - Do I get to pick my starting spells?

    First, if the answer is anything other than yes...well you get the picture. Second, are there DM's that don't allow their players to pick their starting spells?! Is it too late to place bounties on their heads?

    Likewise the questions about obligations to a lord, am I a member of a mage guild (or thieves guild for thieves) or any such similar question would be answered by me, the guy playing the character. I would be sure to make it fit with the world I'm gaming in and if there is a particular story or theme to the campaign it would surely be taken into account but for the most part these are questions I as the player ask myself, not my DM.

  3. This post inspired me to post my own version:

    Do you object to evil characters?

    Do you object to evil characters?

    Do you object to evil characters?

    Do you object to evil characters? ;)

  4. I like that list of questions. As a DM, it'd make me feel that you were interested in getting really involved in the game. I like that in a player.

    So, if you happen to be in the Seattle area April 17, there's space at my AD&D table for you!

  5. Barking Alien, in my experience, GMs who don't allow Magic Users to pick the spells in their spell book generally allow the MU a much larger variety of spells in the book than MUs who got to cherry pick their starting spell loadout. Sure, your wizardly mentor didn't know the sleep spell, but he taught you, like, six OTHER spells while sleep boy has that spell and, like, read magic.

  6. Anonymous6:58 PM

    Other than anything conflicting with game mechanics, I would generally allow the player to fill in the details (without anything world-threatening).

    If a player asked me these sort of questions, I would smile and say, "So, you plan on your character staying alive that long? I admire courage like that in a player. Yes, yes, and, let's play!"

    I have merged so many things sensibly into my world at the drop of a hat, it wouldn't hurt a general game. If the players hang on for longer campaigns, then it would get more defined.


  7. I'd ask these, but that's 'cause I expect to have tjhem asked of me, and if I ever did not know the answer...something was wrong.

    But they are all great questions that the player should know the answer to.

    (I overpowered the Pilum in my world just becasue no one EVER picks a spear...)