Anyone have any great questions to begin a campaign or a one-shot with?

Anyone have any great questions to begin a campaign or a one-shot with?

Anyone have any great questions to begin a campaign or a one-shot with? 

I love throwing one big leading question at my players to set the tone for the whole night. Things like:

“What are you doing on this flying island, and why is it crashing?”

“A sacred torch has protected this city for a century – what happens the night it goes out?”

I’m going to be running some one shots with my in-person table, and looking to put together a good long list to draw from for awhile. Any ideas would be helpful!

11 thoughts on “Anyone have any great questions to begin a campaign or a one-shot with?”

  1. Each of you remembers one or two flashes of another player’s past, but each of your own is a blur.

    Write these secrets down and who they are about (try to even these out across players/characters) and share them with the GM. Great potential for story hooks here.

    Final bit is collectively deciding (players, perhaps with GM coaching/ruling) what brought about their collective amnesia, whether any of their characters remember it (or had anything to do with it) and what to do about recovering those lost memories.

    This could work equally well with allowing players to grant personality traits, skills, etc on one another (within reason/player acceptance) or similar.

  2. Why are you in this dank prison cell, and who is this person who just blew a hole in the wall to break you out?

    What do you hope to bring out with you from the fortress you are currently sneaking into?

    Why are you standing in a forest, circled by scowling centaurs?

    You stand upon a bloody battlefield strewn with corpses. What events led to this catastrophe, and what are you mourning most?

    You’re standing on the docks, watching a returning ship come in. What is it bringing that you care most about?

    What do you have with you that the pursuers bearing down on you want to kill you for?

    Why are you in a room high in a wizard’s tower with 3 dead wizards?

    Why are you hanging onto a rickety raft careening down the rapids, about to go over a huge waterfall?

  3. Why are you covered in shit in the middle of the King’s court?

    What just battered you through the cathedral window?

    Who is banging on your front door at this time of night?

    Why is it your fault the three tribes are at war?

    Why are you seeking the Fountain of Youth?

    When does the Eon Calendar, and the thus the world, end?

    What will you do now the local heroes have fallen to the Necromancer?

    Why are you on a mission to save an orc sentenced to death?

    Why are you about to summon Death?

  4. Dread is a great game for these sorts of leading questions, and you might want to look through its modules for some good ones.  I really like using them to start things off.  Have you thought about getting your players to ask them of each other?  Like, go around and ask each character a question (to give them examples), then go around two more times to have anyone ask each character a question.  Some groups can’t come up with good ones on the spot, but some people might surprise you in the best way.

    Why don’t the rats come anywhere near your room?

    Did you actually commit the crime that put you in jail ten years ago?

    Why don’t you trust the wizard?

    What did you steal from the fighter, and why?

    What’s that thing growing on the back of your neck?

  5. Questions that have gone well for me:

    Why is the king so angry with you?

    Where are you sailing to?

    Why are you running?

    One of my favorite follow up questions is, “Whose fault is it?”

  6. What is on the other side of these mountains that you are braving their treacherous precipices and howling blizzards for?

    Where were you going before you got shipwrecked and washed ashore on this beach? Who is coming down the sand towards you?

    Why are you fleeing town? Why is the smell of smoke in the air?

    Whose funeral are you at? Why is there so much tension amongst the attendees?

    Why are you groveling before this towering demon?

    What urgent message must you give the king? Why won’t he listen?

    (If there is a Wizard in the party:) What ritual are you preparing for? What will happen to your home if you fail?

    Why is the local Mage’s Guild closing up shop? Why is the former Guild Leader trying to find you?

    Who are you lying in wait for in this alley this late at night?

    Why are you caught between two marauding warbands? What prevents you from helping either side?

    Who is this dwarf (or elf, halfling, etc. – pick one of your players’ races) you are chasing? Why must you kill him? Who will try to avenge his death?

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