new player survey

New player surveys are a worthwhile time investment

Roleplaying Tips reader Zerfinity sent me a campaign survey he used to build his new group. A friend once told me the best finishes have great starts. So it is with great campaigns, and one key is getting a group of like-minded, enthusiastic people around you each game night. Zerfinity’s survey offers a great tool to help you make this happen.

As a double-win, a reviewer of Filling the Empty Chair was looking for advice on campaign surveys, and this post is in answer to him. To paraphrase Lowell, how do you select a new player if you get multiple responses to your gamer wanted ads? A campaign survey like Zerfinity’s could be your answer.

Zerfinity’s Campaign Survey For Prospective Players

Thank you for your interest in my campaign. I want to create a group where players needs and interests match my interests and GMing strengths. To do that I’ve created this survey. There aren’t any wrong answers to these questions. I’ll be evaluating responses to these questions according to the degree to which your answers suggest you will have fun in a game that I run.

Hopefully, even if my campaign isn’t a good fit for you, you’ll learn a little about your gaming interests and needs as a player.

Please only take this survey if you are interested in my campaign, willing to travel to the [city or area code] for games, and can commit to attend sessions [required frequency] [required percentage]% of the time. There are a limited number of free spots here, so it is important that only potential players take this survey.

These first questions are necessary to find out if the most basic elements of match to a campaign I run are present.

1. Can you commit to only playing good characters?
Y/N

2. Can you commit to gaming every other Saturday most of the time?
Y/N

3. If you marked yes, what percentage do you expect to be able to attend?
80%
90%
95%
100%

4. Please indicate if there are any types of people that you aren’t willing to game with:

The next questions are about roleplaying styles. Often a mix of fairly closely related styles help but so does some degree of diversity. Just be honest and know that I don’t have one of these but rather several that I think can work in a campaign I run.

5. My favorite ways to rock on my air guitar in game have been:

  • To acquire, use, and optimize new spells/powers, abilities, and other resources to make me and the party successful.
  • To think cleverly, strategically, or creatively to overcome obstacles or make obstacles easier to defeat.
  • Me bash!
  • To play the same kind of character I usually play in most campaigns.
  • To have a character participate in a fun story and hopefully to be successful.
  • To stay in character even when it might hurt me. To get and revel in the spot light.
  • Hey, I’m just here for friends and snacks. So if I laugh hard and make others laugh, that is a good session.

6. Please name some of the systems that you are most interested in playing:

7. Tell me at least three campaign events or situations you have enjoyed in previous gaming:

8. Please tell me a little bit about two campaign events that you did not enjoy from a previous campaign and help me understand why you didn’t like them:

9. Please tell me about a conflict you have had with a player or GM and how that was resolved. Please share especially your role in the conflict, what did you to create it, and what did you do to resolve it.

10. If you can’t attend a session, please indicate what you like to have happen to your character:

  • My character’s abilities may being used.
  • My character may be roleplayed by a player I trust.
  • A GM I trust may roleplay my character.
  • It’s okay if my character dies while I’m gone.
  • It’s okay if my character dies while I’m gone but only in near TPK or TPK situation (so we’re all in the same boat).
  • My character may pop out of the action when I’m gone and back in when I return the next session.

11. Please indicate which of the following responses best matches your expectation for missions:

  • I’m okay with failing a tangential mission.
  • I’m okay with failing a mission related to the overall campaign goals.
  • I’m okay with failing a mission related to the overall campaign goals, but only if it isn’t too hard to fix the failure.
  • I’m okay with failing an overall campaign mission thus far (e.g., prevent a gate from forming to an evil plane) as long as we get new related goals (e.g., fight what comes through the gate and then close the gate).
  • I’m okay with failing a mission related to the overall campaign goals as long as we get new goals and those goals may be unrelated (e.g., survive the demon horde pouring through the gate; save/protect the McGuffin from the demon horde).
  • I’m only okay with failing side missions that are tangentially or only loosely related to main goals. Beyond that, I like a GM to keep us moving closer to a successful completion of the over all goal.
  • I’m okay with failing. Period. Even the whole campaign.
  • Though I know the party won’t be perfect, I really need every mission to end with at least a modicum of success.
  • I prefer the party to set its own goals and don’t want a given goal in the GM’s mind before we create characters or before we start a mission.

12. I like roleplaying where:

  • Everyone focuses on the group goals
  • There are group goals, individual goals, and those goals may be different.
  • I like individual goals to converge with group goals.

13. When has it been okay or even fun for your character to die in a game? (Check all that apply.)

  • Never. How could that even be fun?
  • When the character can be resurrected and eventually catch up to other characters in power level.
  • When it forwarded a plot overall or made a very dramatic enjoyable scene.
  • When the GM thought we made serious mistakes and the dice dictating it.
  • When I got an awesome death monologue.
  • When I had something else to do at the table afterward.
  • The acceptability of character death is inversely proportional to the amount of time it takes to create a new character.
  • Character death is more acceptable the longer and more successful my character has been.
  • Character death is less acceptable the longer and more successful my character has been.
  • Character death appropriateness is based on my character. If I play a cautious, careful, combat avoid, and combat savvy character, I expect those traits to help the character live longer. If I play a reckless foolish character, I expect death to catch up to the character eventually.
  • It is okay to me if other characters die for character/story reasons but not if it affects my character too much.

14. When we start the campaign, I want my character to be able to:

  • Influence a small group of people known to him or her
  • Influence events in a small group
  • Influence events on a local level (neighborhood or small town)
  • Influence a large city
  • Influence a state or region
  • Influence a country
  • Influence a world
  • Influence a plane
  • Influence the fabric of reality

15. By the time we finish a campaign, I want my character to be able to:

  • Influence a small group of people known to him or her
  • Influence events in a small group
  • Influence events on a local level (neighborhood or small town)
  • Influence a large city
  • Influence a state or region
  • Influence a country
  • Influence a world
  • Influence a plane
  • Influence the fabric of reality

16. How fast do you like your character’s power level to develop?

  • I like to see power development every session.
  • I like to see power development every few sessions.
  • I like to see power development a couple of times a year.
  • Power development is not as important to me as character development.

17. How realistic do you like character mortality to be?

  • Realistic: A point blank shot to the head should be fatal almost every time even for PCs.
  • Heroic: For most people in the world a point blank shot to the head would be fatal but not for my character.
  • Realistic or Heroic as above but with faster healing to keep the game moving and my character in the story.
  • Cinematic: A point blank shot should kill, but the bad guy flinched and grazed me instead. Then I knocked him out and grabbed the gun out of the air and turned it on him before he even hit the ground.
  • Superhero: My skull flattens bullets.
  • Godlike: “How will you shoot me in the head with that fish?”. . . .”Bwa?!”

18. What kind of overarching campaign goals interest you:

  • Halt a danger to a home town
  • Fight a war of defense
  • Be loyal to an organization (get orders, fulfill missions)
  • Stop an evil organization/evil overlord
  • Save the world/universe
  • Stop the internal power grab within my organization/country
  • Build up the power/wealth/status of my loyal patron
  • See the world
  • Explore different cultures
  • Get the McGuffin
  • Build a menagerie
  • Avenge the wronged
  • Protect the weak
  • Build my power and the power of my friends

19. How do you feel about dice:

  • The dice rule the game
  • Die rolls are suggestions
  • I want a GM to ignore the dice when it favors me
  • I want a GM to ignore the dice when the story would be furthered (even if that sometimes hurts my character)
  • Do we really need dice?

20. Desired length of campaign:

  • 6 months
  • 1 year
  • 1.5 years
  • 2 years
  • An epic campaign of epic longness
  • As long as we can keep it going and fun

21. I like playing in a game where:

  • Scene A leads to Scene B leads to Scene C, and our success or failure in each leads to how difficult the next scene will be but not whether the next scene will be.
  • Where the adventure starts with Scene A and leads to Scene D, but where, when, how and whether B and C come about is up to the players.
  • Where the adventure starts with Scene A and leads to goal D, but the path between those points is up to the players.
  • Where the adventure starts with Scene A, and from there the players are free to set, change and accomplish their own goals.

22. How do you feel about GM improvisation:

  • I like a GM to improvise so I can be free to decide what I want to do. I’m willing to accept some gaffes from the GM as sometimes happens when improvising.
  • I like a well planned, well balanced adventure and am willing to accept some railroading so the GM can meet that need.
  • I like a well balanced seamless but improvised adventure and get frustrated by GM mistakes or railroading.

The next questions are asking about engagement and participation in a campaign.

23. In previous campaigns, I have enjoyed (please check all that apply):

  • Writing character background
  • Writing character journals
  • Writing session notes
  • Finding/making/painting markers for my and other characters
  • Helping others and the GM remember the rules
  • Tracking NPC contacts
  • Helping players/the GM in other ways. Describe:

24. In this campaign, I would be willing to and would enjoy (please check all that apply; don’t worry though, I’m not asking for a commitment, and I’m not expecting you will do all of the ones you check or that you will do any of them all of the time):

  • Writing character background
  • Writing character journals
  • Writing session notes
  • Finding/making/painting markers for my and other characters
  • Helping others and the GM remember the rules
  • Tracking NPC contacts
  • Helping players/the GM in other ways. Describe:

Roleplaying encompasses a huge range of or lack of violence. Not everyone is comfortable with every style. I’ve seen players be quite disturbed by the scenes/acts described by the GM or other players. So, the next few questions are an attempt to find out a little bit about what you might be comfortable with in game.

25. Please let me know what kinds of dramatic events can escalate tension or enjoyment and motivate your character(s) to fight against:

  • Descriptions of graphic violence/gore
  • Violence against
    • innocents
    • women
    • children
    • animals
    • men
  • Torture/Sacrifice
  • Dismemberment
  • Insults
  • Kidnapping
  • Threats
  • Death
  • Other

26. Please let me know what kinds of dramatic events you don’t feel have a place in a game that would be fun for you:

  • Descriptions of graphic violence/gore
  • Violence against
    • innocents
    • women
    • children
    • animals
    • men
  • Torture
  • Dismemberment
  • Insults
  • Kidnapping
  • Threats
  • Other

27. Please let me know if there are any types of violence that would not be okay to happen to your character:

  • Descriptions of graphic violence/gore
  • Violence against
    • innocents
    • women
    • children
    • animals
    • men
  • Torture
  • Dismemberment
  • Insults
  • Kidnapping
  • Threats
  • Other

28. Please let me know if there are types of violence that would not be okay to happen to your character’s loved ones or family:

  • Descriptions of graphic violence/gore
  • Violence against
    • innocents
    • women
    • children
    • animals
    • men
  • Torture
  • Dismemberment
  • Insults
  • Kidnapping
  • Threats
  • Other

The next questions are about your experience GMing. Don’t worry if you don’t have any GMing experience, these questions are near the end because they are much less important to me.

29. I might be interested in GMing this group if it is also a good fit for my style:
Y/N

30. I have GMed before?
Y/N

31. I am GMing now?
Y/N

32. I read:

Okay now, for the big reveal. Here are some of my preferences and what I’m hoping to build in a group. Let me know what you think below.

33. I’m interested in running a group and campaign that has high player investment (e.g., journals, notes or backstories), where we co-create a story in a world, where the characters are low powered but with occasional cinematic flair, with slow skill/power development.

A group that can last years, where players are nice to one another, where characters are good or at least benign (though not necessarily moral paragons), where characters may die but not often and where self sacrifice would be rewarded.

I’ve also recently discovered something about myself: I tend toward the cinematic. I’m inclined to ham it up for the fun of everyone. As I GM I’m going to be exploring what it means to keep things low powered (no fireball) but still larger than life and cinematic (more swinging from chandeliers). This means more flaboyant NPCs, more crazy leaps from the tops of stairs, and more tentacles that grab you around the neck when you stick your head over the edge of a well.

  1. That’s not for me
  2. This could be okay but what exactly do you mean by…
  3. Meh, its better than no group.
  4. Sounds good.
  5. Sounds great.
  6. Awesome.

All of the questions that I’ve asked are an attempt to help me identify people who would have fun playing in a game like that. I’m not especially fixated on a number of people, though I think the smaller end from 2-5 seems best. If you’re familiar with Robin’s Laws of GMing, you may be interested to know that I’m a Storyteller first, Method actor second, and Butt kicker a distant third.

To satisfy those needs, I intend for the game to be comprised of a mix of approximately 75% roleplaying and 25% combat. Where that spread would be true across sessions is some sessions might not have any combat. I’m open to casual players, especially if she or he is attached to a more invested player.

I like running a campaign where it is possible for players to experience setbacks, but where they ultimately triumph even if ultimately is some time away. I’m not that invested in what happens to a character while a player is gone with the exception that popping out of existence suddenly can cause an encounter to become unbalanced, so that doesn’t work well often.

Comments:

34. Which of the following campaign ideas sounds like the most fun to you? (Please rank them 1-7, with 1 being the least fun and 7 being most fun; I may try to blend the highest vote getters together if possible.)

  • A *role* playing heavy low magic fantasy campaign where the players and their characters don’t really know how magic works but get to discover it throughout the course of the game. All or most characters magical.
  • A *role* playing heavy low magic fantasy campaign where magic is well established and the characters are working with a magical college as ambassadors, investigators, magical security, and maybe supplemental military forces. All or most characters magical.
  • A *role* playing heavy low magic fantasy campaign where your goal is to increase the prosperity of a magic shop that you are affiliated with.
  • A *role* playing heavy low magic fantasy campaign where your home city is in danger and the purpose of the campaign is to find the way to rescue it.
  • A *role* playing heavy mostly city based low magic fantasy campaign where the short term plot lines are diverse but there is one over arching, save the world plot.
  • A *role* playing heavy, low power, psionic, non-military campaign set in a relatively low tech sci-fi future.
  • A *role* playing heavy, low power, psionic, military campaign set in a relatively low tech sci-fi future.
  • None of these really interest me below this point what are the other options?

Thanks for the survey, Zerfinity! Campaign Mastery readers, what do you think? Any questions missing for you?

My group plays about 20 times a year, 5 hours each time, and we’re going on 5 years now. That’s a 500 hour investment – and counting. While the survey initially seemed a bit long to me, I realized the total time I’ll be spending with the person means a little time spent up front to find the right player is worth it.

I can also see many GMs doing this interview in person, verbally. That would make it social, faster and easier. It would certainly be less intimidating for the player.

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