I am looking at history of gaming to understand the range of RPGs that are being played today.

In the context of sharing some influence on narration between players and game masters, loaded or leading questions stand out as a method for targeted constrained creativity and spreading the load of inventing things.

What was the first game that codified the asking of leading questions and build upon the answers? What influential game made (the codification of) such techniques popular and spread them?

I am particularly interested in the use case of sharing the narrative during the playing of the game, but I assume the use in character backstory creation may precede it.


Games with codified loaded questions I immediately know are the following.

  • Apocalypse World (2010) makes it a Principle to “Ask provocative questions and build on the answers”, and makes it clear that leading questions make good provocative questions.
  • Character creation in Dread (2004) is based on sheets of loaded questions.
  • Wikipedia states about Everway (1995) that “Each Vision card depicts a fantastic scene of some sort and is backed with a series of leading questions such as, ‘What does this person most enjoy?’ or ‘What's the worst thing that could happen in this situation?’”, but on the Everway card images I have found so far, I can see no leading questions.
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    I'm not sure that any game had to make them popular - it seems like a very natural thing for GMs to do on their own. Codifying the asking of them will be very interesting to see an answer for, though. – Bobson Jan 9 '15 at 15:53
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    Re “but on the Everway card images I have found so far, I can see no leading questions.”, the leading questions are literally on the back of the cards, not the face where the image is. You can just make this out in the bottom-left of this box contents image at original size (login required to see full size). (Aside, many online images of the cards are actually homebrewed deck images; the originals are very hard to find pictures of.) – SevenSidedDie Apr 29 '16 at 22:34

Don't Rest Your Head (review) has a series of five questions for creating characters; that came out in 2006 I believe.

I think you'll find though that character creation as a series of questions may have preceded in many groups by way of house rules, long before the "story games" era. I ran a fantasy game in the early 80s in which characters received mystical powers based on a series of psychological questions.

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Over on Barf Forth Apocalyptica, Vincent Baker attributes this kind of question rule to “The Mountain Witch”, a 2004 game by Timothy Kleinert. In fact, the narrative sharing there goes in the other direction, according to a rule stating

What is important to understand about characters’ Fates is the purpose for these Fates in play is to set up future conflict. […] For this reason, to get the most out of a character’s Fate, players should use their Fate-given directorial power to “introduce” game elements. That is to say, the player briefly narrates the game element into play before handing the control of the element to the GM.

This does not yet introduce the method of establishing facts and asking questions about the “why” of these facts, though.

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