Hey guys

Hey guys

Hey guys,

I made a thing. There was a question over on the Reddit group about how to ask questions and the future DM didn’t feel they had a good “understanding” (may not be the right word) of how to ask questions to draw answers out.

So I thought about some of what I’ve done in the past and made this little “cheat sheet” to draw out answers and build your world. Love to hear your thoughts. It’s probably pretty well known for a lot of us, but hopefully it will help someone!

19 thoughts on “Hey guys”

  1. Interesting… I love this in concept, but Brennan OBrien, I think you and I ask very different sorts of questions of our players.

    EDIT TO BE CLEAR: I think this is a super cool idea, and thanks for sharing! I’m just looking at the questions and not finding them my style.

  2. Jeremy Strandberg Very possible! Though, candidly, these aren’t meant to be the questions YOU might ask (or even that I might ask), rather showing how to tie a framework together to create the questions someone might ask. Heck, for many people I could see wiping out 90% of the table and replacing with their own questions (which, really, once shared makes it 1000% more valuable!).

    Now I’m all curious, though — what are some questions you might ask instead?

    One of the things I really like about DW is how different people approach the narrativist elements based on their own beliefs, life events, etc.

  3. this is awesome!

    What I’d love to see is a GM guide/process to help use the responses, to help them honour the player input while freshening it in a way that feels both surprising and inevitable. Because asking is just the first step, and not the hardest one!

    (I’d write it myself, but I’m super busy right now.)

  4. John Aegard oooh… that’s shiny! Okay, let’s think about that. We would want our answers ultimately to inform? Worldbuilding? Fronts? NPC relationships? How much is the player making these decisions versus the DM (and to me the questions apply potentially to both).

  5. Brennan OBrien I’ve been trying to put my finger on what felt different, and I think it mostly comes down to Crossing the Line (https://goo.gl/sQW5os). Which I know not everyone is a fan or adherent of. But it definitely informs how I ask questions.

    So, like, I can’t really see myself asking “who are they?” about an NPC. But I would definitely ask Vaughn the Fox “so, who do you know in Darkwich that could help you unload that loot? Oh, Havid, is it? How do you know old Havid? Oh, you’ve sold to him before, huh? Is he, like, part of a thieve’s guild there? or independent?”

    The questions on your sheet that most jump out at me are the “will” questions. “When will their plans come to fruition?” or “How will they be defeated?” Unless I’m asking a character about a prophecy, I’d never ask anything remotely like that. I might ask “Why is it so important than you get get out of town before dawn?” or “What do you think it’d take to bring them down?” Like, questions that ask the character about how they perceive the future. But I wouldn’t ask the player to tell the future about a group or a place.

    I’m trying to picture what this sort of thing would look like for the questions I tend to ask. I think the questions themselves would have more blanks in them. So, not “Who are they?” but “Who do you know in __ (who can __)?” And I think I might organize them differently? Like, maybe not by noun/object vs. interrogative, but by, like… goal of question vs. frame of reference? I dunno… I’d have to play around with that a lot to see what stuck.

  6. Brennan OBrien here’s a crude example of what I’m thinking about:

    GM: Where are the bandits laired?

    Some player: In the old purple worm caves, just inside the pass.

    GM: Who here knows this place?  Can you draw me a map of what you remember about it, or tell me what you’ve heard about it?

    Some player:


    Now you have an encounter area that the party is legit familiar with, naturally evolved to contain some surprises. Maybe the purple worms ate all the bandits and the prisoners and are now engorged and aggressive.  Maybe the bandits are a purple worm cult!  Maybe they are underpaid / bored mercenaries hired to guard a purple dye harvesting expedition.

    Or you could get weird and meta with it.  Maybe the purple worm psi-cloud is clouding the players’ memories and the place they arrive at only very superficially resembles the place they remember … one detail is exactly the same, but everything else is different. This is probably only a move I’d use in a high-trust group.

    Things like that. GM as funhouse mirror or evil genie, taking players’ ideas and warping them.

  7. Jeremy Strandberg Thanks! That makes a ton of sense. Let me think on that a bit. What I think I’m hearing is that your questions are both more subtle than I’m asking here, and likely less far reaching.

  8. Reading Jeremy Strandberg’s thoughts here while procrastinating some dayjob crap … I think another useful technique for questioning like this is phrasing them so that the answerer is situated in the answer:

    “Where are the cheap sketchy potions sold in this town?”


    “Bathazaar, where did you go last time you needed a cheap potion?”

    (note that an outraged “what! I don’t cheap out on potions!” is a legit answer to this question! And I’d ask “how did you learn that lesson?”)

    Make the question less about establishing a fact of the setting, and more about establishing relevant player backstory. That way the player isn’t just authoring stuff of general interest, they’re also presenting that input through the lens of their character, which is golden for establishing and deepening characterization.

  9. Maybe? I wouldn’t say “less far reaching.” I’m perfectly happy to ask questions that define the entire nature or tone of the world.

    “Where’d you learn magic, Ovid? Oh, at University? So there’s a University for Magic? Who can study there? Really, it’s hereditary? So you come from a long line of magic? No? How’d you get in then?”

    And, like, bam, the player has now told me that Magic is common in this world. There are other practitioners, formally trained, and institutions built up around it. There are family lines, and an implication of snootiness, and a stable-enough and prosperous-enough society to support said families and institutions.

    But that same seed question could have gone down a path of dark sorecery and pacts with otherworldly powers and strange lotus dreams, and the world would be very different.

    I think it’s less about scope and reach, and more about context. Asking the character gives your questions built in context and a built in point of view. The answers then get tinged with that point of view, and provide insight into what the character values or thinks about the answers they give. You get a lot more bang for your buck that way then if you just ask, e.g. “How does magic work in this world?”

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