Session Zero Part 9: Life-Altering Conflicts, Final Thoughts, and Names

David Teniers the Younger - A Smoker Leaning on a Table (1643) miniAs we begin the wrap up character creation, we get to a seminal moment in our character’s life.  We have been building to the idea there was a life-altering event that changed everything.

Section 16: Word Associations

In this section, I really want the players to just sit back, and think like their character. Yes, nothing is more tropey or silly than saying “I say a word, you say the first thing that comes to your mind, as the character.”  But, I find the silliness pays off (plus I offer 20 gold for the effort).

Below, sorted by race, are a small collection of random-ish words that I want players to just say the first thing they think of.  From there, I have the players pick the three most important words they came up with that relate to the character.

The idea here is to have the player’s themselves connect-the-biggest-dot to their character’s past.  The words are just prompts to get them there.

DM Tip:  Since your players can clearly read the words they are about to associate, I scramble them as I read them.  Once I say a word, I record it for them, so they can just concentrate.  This is an abstract exercise, you may need to guide them a bit.

16 - Word Associations

Section 17: Life-Altering Conflict

Now that the three words from Section 16 are determined, they get plugged into Section 17 to build a major conflict in the character’s past.  Have the player decide which word could represent a Conflict, Ideal or Bond, and the People it may have affected.

This is an abstract process, but no more so than a roll table.  If a player already has a Life-Altering Conflict in mind, have them discard the Word Association method, and plug in their ideas instead.

What we are looking for here is to add maybe one or two more ideals, bonds, traits, or flaws.  Remind them THIS event is a turning point in their lives.

17 - Life-Altering Conflict

Section 18: Final Thoughts

If players do not have a good visual picture of their character yet, referencing a character from a movie, tv show, or even the another real person.  To aid, I often recap the physical appearance we crafted earlier.  I have had players pull inspiration from just about anything.

This is also a great time for the table (DM included) to ask a last, single question about a particular character.  Each player at my table participates.  This usually picks up any loose ends.

Finally, I have a player write down on the questionnaire one final secret that only the player and DM know.

18 - Final Thoughts

Section 19: Name & Signature

Okay, this last section is where we finally name our characters. Then lastly, I have each player sign the questionnaire as the character.  This last thing is admittedly goofy, but in almost every campaign I force players to have their characters sign some sort of contracts or agreements formally.  It is just a final point.

19 - Signature

Character Naming tables are here:

Character Creation - Names Table1Character Creation - Names Table2Character Creation - Names Table3Character Creation - Names Table4

Now, the world has a few new very fleshed out characters!

Next time, we wrap up our questionnaire as the players decide how they know each other and where they work.

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