Writing A Good Prompt (For Character Creation)

It’s time to launch the Deeps of Lyrae campaign. (If you like, refer to the last post for a one-paragraph synopsis.)

I find one of the key things about launching a successful RPG campaign is to come up with a good prompt that you give the players in order to help them create characters. Contrary to other advice I have seen about this, I think the best thing is to KEEP IT SHORT. My character creation prompt is usually one sentence.

Here is my prompt for the Deeps of Lyrae:

Your character is in a boring suburb on a backwater planet and has a good reason to want to become a space pirate

Maybe a short prompt works because I meet in-person with players to do character creation with them, so I don’t usually need to specify a bunch of rules. I often play with people who are new to GURPS system, so they likely have zero interest in being handed a specification and trying to decipher it. Instead, we just meet at a coffee shop or whatever.

To be fair I also told them in advance that we would be playing a:

cinematic sci-fi / space opera / space western

(Yes — Firefly fan here obviously.)

*Note that I don’t mean any specific GURPS Cinematic rules, it is just cinematic in flavor.

Over a few years since I started this campaign this prompt has worked very well for a LOT of players. Here are some responses:

  1. One character wanted to be a space pirate because she inherited a space ship and didn’t know what else to do with it. (I sat up and thought: there’s the first adventure right there, inheriting a space ship.)
  2. Another wanted to be a space pirate because he is already a petty criminal and for him space piracy means he is stepping up “to the next level.”
  3. One was a revolutionary fanatic who would do anything to act against the government.
  4. An amoral criminal, wanted by the police (for bigamy of all things), needs to get off the planet as fast as possible. Space piracy? Fine.
  5. A hotshot pilot was grounded and unemployed because of his drug addiction. He’ll do anything to fly again. Or he thinks he will. Nearly anything? Time will tell.
  6. One player decided that her character was previously wronged by space pirates — her passenger ship was attacked and all of her belongings stolen. She swore revenge. Becoming a space pirate herself might be the only way she has a chance of mixing it up with the gang that she’s hunting.
  7. An interstellar orphan and needs to explore the galaxy in order to find her lost family. She doesn’t necessarily want to be a space pirate, but no other way of plying the trade routes is going to present itself. She can’t exactly get a space-faring job yet: she’s a teenager.

Hope this prompt gives you some ideas too! Feel free to share your SHORTEST prompt. Or just share whatever. This blog is new.

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