Wanna know how to get your players’ attention? Post this mess into the group forum: “Apropos of nothing, please take a moment to list your character’s greatest fear.” Among my group, the paranoia and speculation were rampant. Were there evil illusionists coming up? Maybe a phantasmal killer trap? Harry Potter style boggarts? How can we buff our Will saves on short notice? Dude, lend me your cloak of resistance!

But as much fun as it was watching my players squirm, their responses were even better.

  • Accident-Prone Alchemist: Loss of remaining un-exploded family.
  • Unhinged Investigator: Learning I’m farther gone than I realized. (e.g. My familiar is imagined, I’m still trapped on that island, etc.)
  • Preening Sorcerer: Obscurity. I left home because I needed to be a special snowflake. Finding out I’m normal and boring would be terrifying.
  • Frat Boy Paladin: My friends turning on me, a lack of fellowship, betrayal from within.
  • Paranoid Oracle: EVERYTHING!

Most of the time we think about character questionnaires as before-the-campaign type exercises. We jot down our answers, flesh out our dudes, and then let the dice fall where they may from session 1 on. But I’ve found that staggering the questions out and using them as foreshadowing can keep players invested. The variant harpies that my players encountered were almost beside the point. Their nightmare-inducing song may have yielded some cool moments (“I would never betray you, bro! Let’s hug it out.”) but the introspection was the real highlight. My players paused, reflected, and got to know their PCs a little bit better. That can’t help but improve a campaign.

So in the spirit of today’s comic, what do you say we repeat the exercise right here and now? Take a minute and tell us about your character’s greatest fears. Let’s hear it down in the comments!


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