There's an easy way to get more info out of your players, though. Have them fill out a dating profile for their PCs.
|Enjoys crushing his enemies, seeing them driven before him, and hearing the lamentations of the women.|
This sounds like a joke, but I'm quite serious. If your players are having trouble giving you the detail you need as a DM, have them fill out a dating profile for the character in question. It asks all the right questions, and it will get players to talk about the mundane, average things, as well as the big, important details.
I Don't Want My Character Dating Anyone!
Don't get mixed up, this isn't about figuring out who your PCs are going to be shacking up with. I already covered that topic in Sexuality Matters in Roleplaying Games (And Here's Why). That isn't what we're talking about here. Because a dating profile isn't just about who you want to get romantic with. It's about giving a total stranger a snapshot of who you are. It shares your pertinent details (age, height, weight, ethnicity, gender, if you have kids, if you have pets, birth sign, etc.), and it allows you to tell people about yourself. Which is what a DM needs in order to understand the driving goals, history, and wants of the characters coming to the table.
|5'10", enjoys long walks on the beach, and hopes to one day break the chains of oppression.|
This idea can be altered, depending on the campaign in question, too. For example, if you're running a game like Spycraft, you could make up an agency dossier for each character instead of a dating profile. If you're playing a game like Vampire, then you could write up a history entry detailing the life and times of the bloodsucking immortals in question. Or, if you have certain things you personally want to know as a DM, then make up your own questionnaire to get your players thinking.
No matter what form it takes, though, the goal is always the same; get your players to fill in the details. Get them to think beyond race, class, height, weight, and weapon of choice. Ask what these characters do for fun, what their favorite food is, what their hobbies are, and if they're married, single, separate, or divorced. Were they raised by their parents, or by a sibling? Do they have an extended family? Do they smoke, or drink, and how often? How many tattoos and piercings do they have? What do they mean?
And, if you want to, describe what they're looking for in a partner. You know, just to round it out.
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