For example, from "Beneath a Metal Sky," one of the scenarios in the core rules. One of my players was asked "How did your first pet die?" He answered that he'd never had a pet, because it didn't suit the character.

But from my perspective it feels like the question is there to force the player into rounding out the character a bit and they should "Yes And" the question a bit more.


4 Answers 4


The purpose of the questions in Dread is to build a picture of the character which will indirectly answer the larger questions of what keeps the character going when things get tough. As host, you should first make sure players understand this larger premise, and buy into it. Each answer should ideally provide some piece of the puzzle, some insight into what will keep a character motivated when a situation turns grim. Especially important to consider is this bit from the section "Filling Out a Questionnaire" on page 21 of the core rules:

When filling out a character questionnaire, you should always assume the presence of a silent “and why?” at the end of each question. It will create a better understanding of the character. The answer will cover more ground, and there will be less room for misunderstanding during the game itself.

If a player rejects the premise of every question, you might have to have a more serious discussion. But if he's only done this on one question, you have three options.

The first and easiest option is to just let it slide. The rules suggest not every question needs an answer, and if the player's other answers have given you what you need, just move on. If the player has considered it and this is his answer, move on. If the player has a block and can't answer this one, move on.

The key here is to move on. Keep things going.

The second option is one I would not recommend, but I include it because it is an option. Remind the player of the reason for the questions, and insist the premise be honored. Each questionnaire is unique, and the mere presence of the question is a declaration. Yes, your character did have a pet, and yes, that pet died. It's right there on your character sheet. Again, I don't recommend this option, but it's still an option.

The last option is my favorite. Ask the player to honor the spirit of the question while allowing him to reject the premise. This is where that rule I quoted comes in. Push for the "why." "You didn't have a pet? Why?" This option is my favorite because it permits the player a degree of control while still pushing for details that will help build a larger picture.

You mention the concept of "Yes, and..." It's a great concept. But remember, you can also make use of this concept. You can also say "Yes, and..." to any answer you think could have a bit more detail. As host, it's your job to help the players build their characters. "Yes, and..." is a powerful tool for helping them.

Hope this helps.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Upvote not only for the completeness, but the last option is IMHO a particularly good advice. The spirit of the question is, I think, what matters here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Orion
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 15:46
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Upvote for third option. I think the "why" is more important than the question itself in terms of rounding out the character and their background, and "why" the player didn't have a pet in the first place is much more useful in fleshing out the character than skipping the question (opt 1) or forcing the round peg into the square hole (opt 2). Allow your player to make their own square peg :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Doktor J
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 17:39
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Orion & DoktorJ - I agree completely. The first option is mainly there because sometimes you don't want to push the player - and that's okay. The second option is there because it is a thing that exists. But the third option is what gives you the best experience. \$\endgroup\$
    – Longspeak
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 17:47

Loss of player agency is rarely well received.

Pushing a player to add something to their character that they feel is not something that their character would have or do is something you should steer away from.

Being pushed like this can cause people to lose interest in the character they are playing. They may begin to feel it is no longer theirs, and as such lose interest in the whole campaign (I have seen this happen before).

Forcing a player to do something can also cause resentment.

For your specific question:

My character never had a pet as his backstory doesn't support it

is a viable answer to the question.

Instead of saying "No, this says you had a pet"
instead ask "Why didn't you have a pet, what about your character would prevent them from having one?"

This allows for the question to add more to the character and round them out, fulfilling the purpose of the question and letting the character create the story.

Find a way to make the parts of your campaign mesh with the players characters rather than just forcing them to conform, and you will have a happier group. :)

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE. I have edited your answer for format and flow. Please review the answer to ensure that I have not changed your meaning. I added the sentence about "player agency" because that is what you are talking about. Thank you for your answer, and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 13:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind this is a one-shot horror game's rules, not a campaign with a GM's forced question. All the PCs but one will die. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 14:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. While this answer has excellent general advice, perhaps some clarification for how best to apply this to the specific needs of Dread would help. \$\endgroup\$
    – Longspeak
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 14:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I think the answer was better in its original form... Or in some form between the two. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 14:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you Korvin, this edit makes my answer much more understandable. It was written after an extended time without sleep, and re-reading it looks like one big run on sentence. \$\endgroup\$
    – Elgagard
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 10:44

"That's very interesting; tell me more" is usually the way to go here. It's very hard to actually fail to answer a question in Dread; even a dodge often provides details, or at least a path to getting more details, in its own right.

For example, "I never had any pets" is not the only way the player could have dodged this question. They could almost as easily have said "I spent my childhood going from foster home to foster home; there were lots of pets in my life, but I never experienced any of their deaths". Or they might have said "Fun fact: parrots can live up to 80 years. Polly is still alive". Another possibility is "I come from a nomadic tribe of herders. We had lots of livestock -sheep, dogs, you know how it goes- but we didn't really have pets, per se, so I'm not sure how to answer this". They could even have said "Died? What are you talking about? Max went to live on a farm!" (which is arguably not dodging the question at all). But the player didn't take any of these routes. In closing those off, they've opened others.

In your particular case, I'd go with something like "OK, so you didn't have any pets. But the question of pets must have come up at some point in your life. What happened then?" This lets you get further details into this character's childhood (or possibly early adulthood) and the people who raised the character, much as the original question was likely intended to.


There are some great answers already, particular Longspeak's.

There are some additional things to consider when starting a Dread campaign that can make the conversation easier:

  • I've found that the most common reason a player will reject the question premise is that they can't think of an answer they consider good enough off the top of their heads. Essentially the fear of giving a wrong answer. So asking the player why they didn't answer the question is a great start. If they say that they couldn't think of anything, reassure them that there isn't a 'wrong' answer, and that their answer doesn't have to feel important. I find that a lot of answers never come up in gameplay, and that's ok. But sometimes something tiny triggers a roleplaying decision mid-game that the player would never have thought of if they hadn't answered that question, even with a mundane answer.
  • The concept of a character in Dread is entirely different from other RPGs. The questionnaire itself is a direct rejection of the idea of a player creating their own backstory; you as the GM are giving them what we would think of as a pre-gen character in most other games. So the reason for rejection can't be "It doesn't fit my character's backstory". The concept of a backstory pre-questionnaire doesn't apply.
  • Longspeak's second option can be applied in a gentler way, and this is what I usually do. Explicitly ask the player to buy in. I tell them that having answers to the questions helps me as the GM craft a better story and make the game as fun as possible. Framing this as a request rather than an order takes the sting off. Doing a favor for the GM feels very different than the GM ordering you to do something.
  • As opposed to rejecting the premise, subverting the question is fine. I see some of the best answers that way; a subversion is inherently an act of creativity. I think "Fun fact: parrots can live up to 80 years. Polly is still alive" is a great answer!
  • Last, if the player still rejects the question after you ask for buy in and give more explanation, but has answered most/all of the others, let it go. I've seen players reject questions because of out-of-game reasons and pushing the issue really hard can end up seriously upsetting the player. For example there was a person I played with whose questionnaire asked how they began dating another of the characters. It turned out that they just weren't comfortable roleplaying a romantic relationship with the person playing the other character (me, funny enough). Respecting personal boundaries is important here, as anywhere else.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Upvoted. This adds some nice points that my answer didn't go into detail on. \$\endgroup\$
    – Longspeak
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 18:50

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