This pre-game survey is intended to serve to help you quickly determine how your players would like a game to be run. Differences in preferences and other problems can be solved long before you start playing, which will result in a better game experience for everyone.
The questions below are mostly multiple-choice, and can be easily shared with your players using a variety of online polling solutions like SurveyMonkey. While this is primarily intended for GMs to distribute to their players, the GM should also have answers to the questions below. You’re as much a player in the game as anyone else, and your opinion matters, too.
At what power level should the players be built?
|Characters will be intentionally worthless.
|Characters will be built using options which are generally considered weak, difficult to play, or otherwise bad. The players will likely struggle with mechanical challenges.
|Characters will be built with below-average options, options which are only situationally useful, and options which only work in specific campaigns. This will likely require the GM to tailor the game to these characters’ strengths.
|The “sweet spot” in most games. Characters will use options which are effective but not always exceptionally powerful.
|Characters will be built using the best and most mechanically optimal character options. Characters will be powerful, and published content may require adjustment to keep the game challenging.
|Players will build the most incredibly powerful characters they can concieve. The DM will need to adjust the game to avoid making mechanical challenges insultingly easy. This will effectively turn the game into an arms race.
How lethal do you want the game to be?
|Characters may be rendered unconscious or disabled, but won’t ever actually die, and won’t suffer permanent injury. I love my characters and never want anything bad to happen to them. A TPK will result in the characters being rescued in some fashion.
|Characters who “die” can come back with a permanent penalty of some kind, but won’t actually die. This does not include obviously suicidal actions (swimming in lava, etc.). I like my character, and want to play them for a long time, but I’m okay with them taking a few hits along the way. A TPK will result in something bad happening to the characters, such as being captured or robbed.
|Enemies will not actively attempt to kill disabled characters, but may kill the character while attempting to disable them. Enemies will not coup de grace anyone already unconcious. I like my character, and I’d rather not die. TPKs may result in players bleeding out or naturally recovering; it will fall entirely to the rolls of the dice.
|Enemies will attempt to kill disabled characters when the opportunity arises, but will typically focus on important threats first. I like my character, but death is a part of the game. TPKs will have varying results depending on the nature of the enemies; players may be killed or captured.
|Enemies will target easy targets, and will make a concerted effort to kill as many players as possible. Death will be a serious concern. Character death is a thing; I won’t let it ruin the game for me. TPKs will have varying results depending on the nature of the enemies; players may be killed or captured, but are more likely to be killed.
|Very high lethality
|Someone will probably die every session. Encounters will be above average difficulty for your level. Combat will be fast and brutal. Forget my character, I’ll roll a new one. TPKs will have varying results depending on the nature of the enemies; players may be killed or captured, but are more likely to be killed.
|Absurdly high lethality
|Bring a stack of new characters to every session so that you can warm yourself around the pyre which the DM will throw them upon.
How should dead characters’ items be handled?
|Lost in time and space
|Any items the character was carrying are lost forever with no chance of recovery, and possibly with no explanation.
|Keep the big stuff
|Items relevant to the plot or crucial to the party are kept, but other items disappear.
|Something to remember them by
|Important items are kept, and each player may keep one minor item.
|Just a few things
|Important items are kept, and remaining items have a random chance to survive their owner’s death.
|Most of his stuff survived!
|Important items are kept, and remaining items are very likely to survive their owner’s death.
|I loot the body
|All items survive and are available to the party.
How should new characters be built?
|New characters start at the same XP as the highest level character in the party. Generally best if all characters have the same amount of XP. New characters are new, shiny, and ready to rock and roll.
|New characters start at the average XP of the current party members. New characters will fit right into the party.
|New characters start at the minimum XP for the average level of the party. New characters will be essentially in line with the party.
|New characters start at the minimum XP for the party’s average level-1 (minimum level 1). New characters will need to do some of catching up.
|New characters start at the minimum XP for the party’s average level-2 (minimum level 1). New characters will need to do a lot of catching up.
|Start from 0
|New characters start at level 1.
How should new characters be introduced?
|From The Aether
|New characters appear fully formed with no further explanation and no questions asked.
|New characters appear somewhere convenient, and join the party with no further explanation and no questions asked.
|Waiting in the Wings
|New characters are recruited from the local populace, and join the party with no further explanation and no questions asked.
|New characters are recruited form the local populace, and the party must make an effort to integrate the new party member.
|An old friend
|New characters must be selected from established NPC’s who are fit to join the party, and the party may need to make an effort to integrate the new party members.
|No new characters
|If someone dies, the party continues short a member and Blackleaf gets kicked from the table.
How would you like the campaign’s plot be handled?
|CHOO CHOO. Trains departing daily for plot town. Stops at Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, and Falling Action.
|The campaign will be largely structured, but there will be room written into the plot for the party to deviate from the plot slightly.
|Off the rails
|The campaign has a central plot, but there will be plentiful opportunities for side quests, and freedom to roam off the plot once in a while.
|Open World Sandbox
|There is a plot, but the game will swing wildly in and out of the plot. There will be lots of side-quests presented, and plenty of things to distract from the campaign’s plot.
|The DM will present a self-contained adventure each session, but the only constants between adventures will be the players and setting. It’s like an episode of a cartoon from the 90’s: everything resets at the end of the episode except the main characters.
|The DM won’t even bother writing notes before the session. Warning: Sandbox may contain a non-zero number of partially-buried turds.
How should rules be interpreted?
|RULES AS WRITTEN. ELBOW DROPS AND ABUSABLE GRAMMATICAL ERRORS EVERYWHERE. THE RULES ARE A CAGE IN WHICH TO CONDUCT CAGE MATCHES.
|Rules will be interpreted as written, unless the rules as written are completely ambiguous or extremely incomplete.
|Rules will generally be interpreted as written, but may be modified or overridden if they present issues.
|Rules will generally be interpreted as written, but even slightly ambiguous or confusing cases will be handled “as intended” according to DM interpretation.
|Rules will be interpreted as intended (in the DM’s opinion), even if that interpretation conflicts with the rules as written. House rules may be frequent.
|The DM might not even read the rules.
How graphically violent should the game be?
|Mild Animated Violence
|Enemies take damage and fall down with Xs over their eyes. Swords are made of foam rubber. Bullets are nerf darts.
|You hit people and they shoot sparks. Swords are metal, weapons shoot lasers for no apparent reason.
|Cutting people with swords may cause bodily harm or death. Think real-world violence, but cut down enough that you could show it on prime-time television.
|Death will be violent and bloody, but not horribly excessive. Gore is uncomfortably realistic.
|Death will be horribly excessive for shock value. Gore will be akin to a TV crime drama: every show is competing to be the goriest.
|Tear out your enemies spinal columns and hold them above your head in triumph. Enemies are basically bloody water balloons.
What should be the tone of the game?
|Humor will be largely absent. Themes will be dark, dramatic, and possibly depressing.
|The overarching themes of the game will be serious, but occasional humorous moments will exist, and attempts at humor by the party will not be immediately crushed.
|The story will be serious, but the way it is presented may not be overly serious.
|The story will be slightly ridiculous, and many characters will be humorous.
|Nothing will be serious. Characters will all make some attempt at being funny, situations will involve frequent humor elements.
|Off the Walls Goofy
|Everything will be over-the-top ridiculous. Nothing will be taken seriously. Anything even remotely serious will be met with cartoonish resistance.
What subsystems, variant rules, and other non-core mechanics would you like to explore in this game?
Things like crafting, corruption, downtime, survival, and other mechanics are often included in games but rarely explored because they’re not considered the conceptual core of that RPG. If you’d like to play with some non-essential parts of your RPG, the GM should know that ahead of time to that they can try to fit that into the game.
Similarly, if you’re like to use variant, optional, or homebrew rules, propose those before the game starts. Popular options include the optional rules in DnD 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Free Archetype variant in Pathfinder 2e, and the Gestalt variant dating back to DnD 3.0.
What accommodations can be made to make this game more accessible for you?
Players are people, and sometimes people have differences which can make it hard to move through the world. Those challenges don’t magically go away when you get together with your friends to play games. But with a little forethought and a little effort, you can adjust your game to make it welcome and accessible to everyone.
Keep in mind that your fellow players might have challenges which you don’t know about despite knowing them for years. Sometimes people keep these issues private, or sometimes they just never come up. Ask the question and be willing to make some changes.
For example: Players with visual challenges might request that the room always be well lit, or they might benefit from access to resources like rules text in large fonts or brail, as well as brail dice. Verbal descriptions may be more important than dropping an elaborately-painted miniature on the table.
I’m not an expert on this subjects. Consult your fellow players to see if they have challenges which make it hard to access the game. If they don’t know of existing resources, work as a group to find them. There are great organizations like DotsRPG and Knights of the Braille working to make TTRPGs accessible to everyone.
Are there specific themes, topics, or activities which you are uncomfortable including in the game?
This information should not be shared with other players if the subject is especially uncomfortable for one or more players. Common answers to this question include sexual violence, violence against children or animals, torture, phobias, etc.
Lines and Veils can cover this with more finesse, but knowing up front that some subjects can’t be part of the game makes it easier for the GM to plan the story.
Will we use any safety tools in the game?
A variety of safety tools are available to make games more comfortable for everyone when they drift toward subjects which might make players uncomfortable. Even if you’re playing with people you know very well, having safety tools established as part of your game can make everyone feel more comfortable when those subjects arise even if the tools are never needed.
For more, see the TTRPG Safety Toolkit.
When and where will we play?
I know, I saved the hard one for last.
Have a plan. Stick to the plan. Have a backup plan for when that plan fails. Agree to all of these things before Session 0.