Is anyone familiar with a guide to provocative/good questions? Like:

Is anyone familiar with a guide to provocative/good questions? Like:

Is anyone familiar with a guide to provocative/good questions? Like:

* What makes good questions vs. bad?

* Leading questions vs. open questions vs. what-do-you-do questions?

* How to come up with a good leading question?

* Dos/don’ts

* Playing with the form

* Other stuff I’m not thinking about

Caveat 1 Yes, I’m familiar with John Harper’s “The Line”.

Caveat 2 I don’t think I’m bad at questions (I think I’m pretty good, actually). But a project I’m working on could use some guidance like this and I’m wondering if anyone’s done it yet.

20 thoughts on “Is anyone familiar with a guide to provocative/good questions? Like:”

  1. I think a provocative question is one where the answer is not obvious and has serious repercautions no matter how you answer. Leading questions can be great to establish early game situations, like who else knows about the burried lock box? Non leading questions when well timed can really hit home too.

  2. Aaron Griffin I’m not thinking about what you ask about so much as how you construct the question.

    Like, there’s a world of difference between starting a game of DW with “where do you all find yourselves?” and “Wizard, what arcane wonder are you hoping to find here in the Hungry Swamps of Djiboon?”

    I’m wondering if anyone has done the work of defining what makes that difference, and how to go about creating the 2nd type of question if it doesn’t come naturally to you.

  3. Angela Robertson… thanks for the link, I just gave it a listen. It’s a fun conversation… I’ll have to listen to more of their stuff.

    Paul and Senda definitely try to do at least some of what I’m thinking about, but I don’t quite agree with either their definitions or Paul’s process for making leading questions.

    They define a leading question as one that’s “angling for a specific response,” a question that is framed in such a way that it pushes answers within a somewhat predictable range.

    While I’d agree that a leading question does narrow the range of possible answers, I don’t think that’s what it is. I think a leading question (at least in the context of RPGs) is a question that makes an assertion while still asking for player input. “How did you break the barmaid’s heart?” is asserting that you have broken her heart and asking for the details. “Why was the prince’s wife so angry with you when she came to the study?” asserts that 1) you’re in the study and 2) the prince’s wife has recently arrived and 3) she is angry with you; it then basically asks you to provide the conflict for the scene.

    As for how you create a leading question, I think Paul gave more of a taxonomy than a method. He says you need (paraphrasing here) an object (thing being asked about), an inquiry (what the question prompts the player for), and a slant (specific tone set by the question). But all questions have objects and inquiries… otherwise they wouldn’t be questions.

    So basically, his “method” is “ask a question that sets a specific tone.” That… doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s basically: “how do you structure a leading question?” “You ask a question that leads to to something.”

    Personally, think you need to identify…

    1) what you’re trying to assert with your question


    2) what you’re want/are willing/are interested in having the player invent

    …and then combine those two things into a question. The more concrete and detailed your assertion, the more constrained the players answer will be.

    So if I want to assert that the PCs are at the door to a dungeon but otherwise let them make it up, I could be like “Rothgar, what do the locals call this dungeon?”

    If I’m worried that Rothgar’s player will get stupid and put us in the Dungeon of Farts, or if I’m worried that he’ll draw a blank or give me something super bland, I might assert something like the name or location of the dungeon and ask their reasons for coming. “Rothgar, why have you climbed these rocky slopes and made your way to the ruins of Castle Vadistock? What are you hoping to find here?”

    If I want to establish that there’s a time pressure and maybe an NPC villain or rival or whatnot, but want them to say who or why: “Rothgar, who else is looking for this place and why was it so important that you get here first?”

    There’s probably a lot more to it than that. What are you hoping to accomplish by asserting something with your question? Why are you asking a question at all instead of making a statement? What sort of assertions should you avoid? How do you make sure that a leading question still leaves room for meaningful contribution?

    Huh. I’ve probably got an essay to write, now.

  4. I only have limited experience with asking good leading questions, but it’s a thing I’m very much interested in getting better at, and here are my possibly vague thoughts on it:

    Generic (or even boring) questions will lend themselves to generic (or even boring) answers (though that’s obviously not always the case). When I get a boring answer from a player, I can usually come to the conclusion that I should have just asked a better and more specific question.

    I think a good leading question is evocative, and should include an interesting bit of information itself as a direct prompt or hook for the player to latch onto. So instead of asking “where are you right now?”, I could ask “what are you doing at [insert cool/dangerous/odd place to be]?”. I believe this serves three important purposes (next to making the job easier for the MC, who doesn’t have to come up with everything themselves this way).

    • First off, a good prompt/hook can make the player go “oh that sounds cool/dangerous/odd”, and then they get to add to it! That’s really cool for both the player (since this isn’t usually how they get to influence the world) as well as the MC, and simply makes for a more conversational approach to the game.

    Restriction breeds creativity. As I said, a boring question will get an obvious answer (not even saying it’s gonna be a “boring answer”, but it’s probably gonna be low hanging fruit). “Where are you right now?” “Uh, dunno, at home.” “What are you doing?” “Uh, just hanging around.”

    But if you throw a wrench in there, make the question provocative by adding tension or something unexpected, they’ll have to get creative. They can’t rely on a safe go-to, because this is not a safe-go-to-sorta situation. “What are you doing in the no-man-zone all on your own?” “What, man!” “Yeah, what’re you doing there?” “Jeez, I dunno, I guess I’m looking for someone.”

    You get to find about a thing that interests you personally. A good leading question could also just be a bit more egotistical in nature than just wanting to share world building with the players. Maybe you’re just really interested in this one cool thing, and wanna find out about it and set yourself up for something new and unexpected – so you ask the players!

    Also, apart from the actual question, and what’s okay or not, there’s also an issue about hard-framing and how much the players trust the MC (or the other way round!). But I guess that’s another topic in itself.

  5. My biggest advice* on asking questions, especially wrt running games:

    1. Oh holy cats, ask ones where you want to know the answer!! If you are not actually curious, why are you even asking!?!?

    2. The question that comes to mind is probably the right one to ask. Don’t try to be too clever, or too anything. If what comes to mind is “so what’d you name the dog that followed you home?”ask that and follow along to see where it goes. Only caveat there is that if you know the answer and you’re still asking, what are you actually trying to ask.

    3. If you want to give them a choice, and make them choose, do. Ask “You can only take one, so which do you chose, the green box or the yellow box?”, not “do you pick up a box?” Note: some players will kick at this coloring on their character sheet. Heck, I have kicked at that coloring on my character sheet by other players saying what I do, or GMs assuming what I do. But still, it’s a thing to remember and use wisely.

    *which you didn’t ask for, but the links etc are good and this is what I’ve got to add!

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