The Newbie DM posted a PDF of his personal player questionnaire today, and it got me thinking about the questions I'm going to ask my players prior to my upcoming campaign. I have three newbie players, who are completely new to paper/pencil RPGs lured only by the increase in nerd cred being able to play D&D nets you. Newbie DM's questions are great if you've got people who already know the game, but what do you ask players who know next to nothing but myth and hearsay about RPGs? Before you even get to teaching your players the ropes, it's good assess their gaming history. Here's my working list of questions:
- What are your favorite games?
It's important to get to know the player's experience with gaming in general. A player who's really into Risk is going to want a very different gaming experience than one who's totally in love with Uncharted 2.
- Why do you play games?
This one can be really telling. If they say anything like "to win," you, as the DM, have some work to do, since you can't "win" D&D in the traditional sense. Some players are malleable, and are able to reframe how they think about gaming, but with others you're going to have to figure out what it is that gets them charged up about "winning" and give it to them by proxy in your D&D game.
- Why do you want to learn to play D&D?
Usually this isn't a problem, but every once in a while you get someone (significant other, close friend, etc) who's been coaxed into learning against their true desires. This question is to ferreting this out, as it can be poisonous to the game, especially when the mostly-unwilling participant is an extrovert. If they don't seem completely truthful in their response to this, ask followup questions until you feel satisfied.
- What does "D&D" mean to you?
In my experience, one of the hardest things to get over for a newbie player is their expectation of what the game's going to be like. Everyone has some kind of idea what D&D is like, even if they've never even come close to playing, and it's good to get these expectations on the table and talk about them if they're way off before the game starts.
- An evil, tyrannical dragon has captured a beautiful princess and taken her back to its treasure-filled lair. If you had to choose between slaying the evil dragon, rescuing the princess, and looting the lair, which would you choose?
This one's partly to get the newbie player making the kind of decisions he/she will have to make in-game, and partly to get an idea of the player's game morals. Of course there's the chance that they respond outside the parameters of the question, which is perfectly fine too, and even more telling.