FIVEY: Pregame Survey

I shared this on Twitter and Bluesky earlier, but wanted to blog about it and also retype the Q&A section so it can be used outside the sheet itself! Below is a "pregame survey" that I wrote for my homebrew heartbreaker FIVEY, which asks participants questions in order to help the table align on expectations for the game and how to play it. This is because I play D&D with people who have a wide variety of play styles or come from different game cultures, and I want to accommodate those different crowds.

One question I asked myself while working on this was: why accommodate instead of specializing? Is it possible for one ruleset to please everyone? Or does a general ruleset please anyone? My answer is that D&D, as a cultural "practice", mostly comes down to a certain aesthetic and formal ruleset. The specific way in which people "use" D&D varies wildly, and even one particular version of D&D can be employed to different ends. Think about how AD&D 1E and 2E are virtually the same "game", but were played in very different ways; likewise, people stretch 5E to accommodate almost mutually exclusive play styles. This is because, I think, it's less the formal rules that matter than the informal, unstated rules of cultural expectations and play style.

If FIVEY is an attempt to simplify 5E with a view towards character customizability and variability, that aim basically speaks for itself within the universe of D&D discourse. I hate to be annoying and evoke the buzzword of "toolkit rules", but strictly speaking that's what I'm going for: a toolkit for a genre of game with a specific focus on characters. I have my own personal preferences, but (to reiterate) I play so often with people who have different preferences. Yet aren't we all still looking to play something fun together? I don't think it's bad to represent a variety of tastes.

Anyway, the survey itself is inspired in part by Bankuei's "Same Page Tool", which similarly helps a table align on the play style and direction of a role-playing game. I wanted a survey more specific to D&D as a specific type of game (a fantasy adventure game?). I was also inspired by a survey that I took prior to playing Trophy Gold with Alex as our table's game master, from which I took the safety tools section on the bottom third of the sheet. I liked that it not only had lines and veils (things to avoid) but also interests.

The Survey

This is a survey to help the table align on the premise and direction of a game, before the session or campaign begins! Each participant should rate each answer to each question from 1 (least agree) to 4 (most agree). The answer with the greatest total score is the most agreeable to the table. If there's no clear "winner", talk about it!

1. What game premise excites you the most?   
a. Crawling treacherous dungeons to recover what treasures lie within.   
b. Helping common people by solving problems beyond their reproach.   
c. Untangling and navigating complex social networks or political situations.   
d. Wandering a fantastic world to see what all it has to offer.

2. Which play activity interests you the most?   
a. Exploring fascinating locations and learning about the world and its history.   
b. Fighting and overcoming monsters or other enemies in mortal combat.   
c. Interacting socially with other characters and build meaningful relationships.   
d. Surviving dire situations through careful investigation and resource management.     

3. How do you want to approach the game's premise or activities?   
a. I want to challenge my little gray cells by creatively solving problems.   
b. I want to fool around and have a fun, casual time with my friends.   
c. I want to master a game system and optimize my character's abilities.   
d. I want to tell a collaborative story about our characters in a fantasy world.     

4. Which relationship to your in-game character do you strive for?   
a. My character is my dramatic persona, and I want them to have a compelling story arc.   
b. My character is my fantasy avatar, whose fate is in my hands for better or worse.   
c. My character is my game-piece, through which I play the game in order to try to win.   
d. My character is a make-believe individual, whose desires or behavior I want to play out.     

5. How should the game master facilitate or support the game?   
a. The game master should challenge players by imposing interesting problems.   
b. The game master should design a fleshed-out world for players to discover.   
c. The game master should improvise a world in order react to players' decisions.   
d. The game master should outline a story for players to uncover.   


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