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Writing Die Scenarios Part 2: Persona Generation

Posted on June 27, 2024 in Game Development Resources

Hello, Producer Chant again, popping by briefly to hand you back over to Kieron. If you haven’t already, you might find it helpful to read the first part of this blog series before you go any further. Up to you, though. 

Now  you’ve done your reading, you’re ready to write a scenario. Alternatively, you didn’t do the reading, and you’re still ready to write a scenario. You were born ready, and remain ready now.

There are basically two halves to a DIE scenario. One half is the Real World Stuff (which works in a storygame tradition) (Kieron means there are barely any rules – Chant) and the other half is the In Die stuff (which works in something like a traditional game, or at least does the impression of one). The magic of DIE is in how the two interact with each other.

However, I’d say the most important part of a DIE game is Persona Gen. If you get that right, you’re basically sorted. Get interesting, messy people and throw them into DIE, and you’ll have a good time.

All published DIE scenarios take the same form. The DIE Scenario structure overview (page  305 of the DIE RPG core book) explicitly lays out the structure of a DIE adventure, and the format you’ll be writing to. Let’s break ‘em down. If you’re writing for your own amusement, you’ll likely skim over some of these. If you’re sharing, you likely want to stick to this as a format. (I’m gonna be a bit firmer here – even if you’re writing for yourself and your home group, following these steps is basically a guaranteed formula for making something cool and memorable. Follow them, at least your first time, then decide whether you want to do so in the future. – Chant)


A summary of the adventure, including content warnings. You should be able to read this to the group so that they can immediately orientate themselves to what’s going on. More on this in Persona Gen in a minute.

Extra Preparation

Anything else you need to do, beyond the standard DIE Rituals, to make this scenario work. Extra props? Put ‘em here. Specific extended discussion of content you may or may not want to include? Put it here.

It’s perfectly fine to say “As per DIE Rituals.”

Persona Generation

A specific set of questions to generate the Personas for the scenario. These are both the characters people play, and also the material which the GM mines for the adventure. (People think DIE scenarios are difficult to write for publication because they’re all geared around the flaws and history of the specific Personas players are, umm, playing. This is actually what makes DIE scenarios really easy… keep reading. – Chant)

As such, this step is the heart of a DIE scenario. It’s arguably the most important part – really, get a good group of Personas and DIE almost runs itself. These are guidelines for collaborative world building, the questions arranged so players can orientate themselves to these fictional lives and build together in a meaningful fashion.

This is the order the questions usually go. You can change this up, if you have a good reason, but after quite a lot of playtesting, this is the order that works.

  1. Restate the overview – who are these people, broadly? (School based RPG group, family game, people at work, squat-based polycule, etc.)
  2. Shared information – facts which apply to the whole group. (When were you in a squat-based polycule? Where did your polycule squat?)
  3. Who is each Persona in the broadest sense? – enough so that everyone knows who everyone else is. In some scenarios, answers to this question define what Paragon each persona will be too. (This is often a way of quickly tagging where a Persona fits into the group – you’re the older sibling, or you’re the nerdy friend, or you’re the one who broke up the polycule. – Chant)
  4. Questions to add core details to each Persona – as in, we know the big picture (they’re a nerd) and now we learn more stuff (they’re a nerd about pottery as their mum was a pottery teacher) and likely get a core thing which has messed them up (Pottery obsessed mum? She’s dead.) (Really, Kieron? Dead parents? This isn’t bloody D&D. – Chant)
  5. Questions which add firm connections and rivalries in the group. (You never liked someone in your squat-based polycule? Who? Why?)
  6. If the scenario has a time-skip in, questions relating to their life in more recent times. (What did you do after you stopped squatting with your polycule?)
  7. Questions related to the very near past – as in the decision to play another game together.

Some sections can be omitted in certain scenarios (a DIE scenario where there’s no time-skip likely doesn’t use f) and g)). Some sections can be moved into other sections – for example, it’s possible that some core character relationships are actually in c). For example, if the scenario is about a family, your family relationships need to be defined pretty early.

The short of it is that they are arranged so we know who we are as a group, then who we are individually, (which is also a chance for each player to decide what their Persona thinks about the others), then questions which solidify the relationships between characters. Stepping through the questions in this order is how you get messy, complicated relationships to grow organically. If you start asking things like “Which other player really gets on your nerves?” too early, the answer is random. Once the group exists for everyone, we all move forward in time from that moment when you knew each other – so we all can understand the twists of irony in how their lives went. Finally, we go to the near past, orientating everyone to arrive at the page.

Remember: the questions are a backbone. GMs and players will always ask more questions. (Persona Gen is a conversation – the jokes, teasing, “What if”-ing and other casual player interactions are an extra, informal layer that always gets you the best Personas. – Chant)

Picklists are great – for most, three options and a “something else” is enough. Lists are how you establish the tone and boundaries of a scenario. If you’re planning on plugging an answer directly into an encounter later, you can limit the pick list some more. So rather than just saying “something else” you could say “something else which says why you would never forgive your brother” (That bit about plugging answers in later: foreshadowing. – Chant)

If you want to, you can use a pre-existing Persona group from the DIE RPG core book, perhaps with a few tweaked questions. This hasn’t happened yet in anything we’ve published, but is certainly possible – and when you’ve got a word count to work within, that leaves more room to write the adventure bits. There’s a push and pull here: the more of the word count spent on Persona Gen, the less you have to do your adventure… however, the fewer Persona Gen questions you ask, the more you need to spend on your adventure, to ensure it works. For people not actually working for RRD, it’s all open – it’s certainly easier to just cut and paste questions from scenarios you like and add a few of your own.

That’s Persona Gen. Next time – actually going into Die and working out who the paragons will be hitting with their weapons and/or having big emotions about. 
Tune in next week for part 3! In the meantime, if you want to see some of these ideas in practice, you could do worse than start with DIE Scenarios volume 1 (available now) and DIE Scenarios volume 2 (up for pre-order).


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