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Bucket Lists For Players and Characters

Posted By John Arcadian On June 12, 2012 @ 12:48 am In GMing Advice | 11 Comments

file7241241891848 A while back I was asked by someone what was on my bucket list. It was weird. I didn’t really have one for myself. There are things I want to do in life, but none of them feel like they are on a bucket list. However, my mind immediately leapt to the fact that I’ve yet to play my rigger concept for shadowrun or a warlock in D&D 3.5, that Jocail the Pirate wanted to turn his sailing ship into an airship at some point in his life but we haven’t played to that point yet, and that “Sun” the Warrior had yet to face down a dragon single handedly like he always wanted to.

I know more about my characters’ bucket lists than I do my own. But in some ways, that’s natural. We have a different perspective on our characters and our gaming life than we can have on our real lives. We know the types of options that are there for our characters, and we can pour through books and setting information to see what kinds of things are available. We also get to bend the ear of the world controller (the GM) a bit and ask if it is possible to work something into future sessions. That is a great power when you think about it. So it’s no wonder that we can have a clearly defined plan of things that we want to happen to our characters. It takes so little real world effort to make something awesome happen for a character, and once that thing has happened, we can move on to the next thing with little effort as well.

I know Johnn Four has a bucket list of modules he wants to run, and you might not have thought about Bucket Lists for players and characters as a defined thing, but I bet you can easily come up with 3 or 4 things you want to do with a character in just a couple of seconds. Thinking about Bucket Lists for your game and your players can have some great benefits.

Gaming Bucket List For The Current Game

Ask your players for anything that they want to do before the end of your current campaign. Do they want to explore various side elements of the campaign? Do they want to fight some awesome monsters before it ends? Do they want to rob a bank owned by the BBEG, just to stick it to him before the final confrontation? In your new cyberpunk game, do players want to explore the options cyberware opens up for them before the end of the game? Ask players for a bucket list of things they want to do in this campaign specifically. They might take a few days to think about it, but they’ll practically write your plot hooks for you, and you’ll have guaranteed buy-in and excitement for the next few sessions.

Gaming Bucket Lists For Players

Players have loads of character goals for later on down the road, and if you ask your core group of players what some of their gaming career bucket list items are, you can incorporate them into future games and get some incredible buy-in. If a player knows that they’ll finally have the chance to play their super-assassin in your next upcoming game, they’ll be incredibly into it and excited. You’ll also get a better feel for what kinds of things make individual players tick. If the majority of things on one player’s bucket list are about acquiring unique treasures, you can get a feel for what his win-scenarios are.

Gaming Bucket Lists For Characters

image While players have bucket lists of things they want to do in any game, they also have bucket lists of things they want certain characters to do. While these are pretty much just character goals, things on their bucket lists might not feel as weighty as those they would consider character goals. They might bring up the fact that they want to take down Duke Dunderhead before the end of the campaign, but not that they would love some more time to just sit in the market and pickpocket important people.

My Own Gaming Bucket List

I’ve got quite a few things on my gaming bucket list, and I’ll share it with you so that you can see an example of what a defined gamer’s bucket list might look like.

For The Current Game (Cyberpunk World Of Darkness, I’m a player)

  • Explore some of the fun, but mundane uses of Cyberpunk in the world
  • Get to play up my character’s introduction into the supernatural world
  • Hijack a flying car in a Harrison Ford-esque way
  • Walk away from an explosion without looking back

For Me, as a Player

  • Fight a dragon single-handedly, and win (or die trying)
  • Play A Warlock
  • Play a Rigger
  • Play an incredibly suave airship pilot
  • Do a really awesome and sneaky infiltration scenario

For My Last Character (A steampunk mechanist skater with a jet-pack)

  • Do some incredible things with my flying ability
  • Face down the person who murdered my brother
  • Get into a one on one duel with someone badass, but related to the BBEG
  • Unleash all of my arsenal in one party saving, awesome salvo.

Those are some of the things on my bucket list as a player, and I would love to have my Game Master’s ask me about them. It shows they are interested, and phrasing it as a Bucket List makes me think of it in a defined way. Try asking your players what is on their bucket lists for their characters, the current game, or just in general as a player. I bet you’ll find that they have a lot of great thoughts. What’s on your bucket list? What sorts of things have you always wanted to do as a player or run as a Game Master?

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About  John Arcadian

John Arcadian is the head of Silvervine Games, a freelance writer and art director, a website developer, a builder of sonic screwdrivers, and a purveyor of kilted mayhem. When he isn't out causing trouble in his kilt... Well, no, that is pretty much what he does when he isn't running RPGs or or trying to take over the world.




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11 Comments To "Bucket Lists For Players and Characters"

#1 Comment By ironregime On June 12, 2012 @ 7:34 am

What jumps to mind for me is a bucket list of games I want to run/play. There are a whole slew of storied RPGs out there. I’d like to be able to say I’ve experienced a fair number of the major ones; over the years I’ve run or played all the D&D editions, Cthulhu, V:tM, Exalted, Traveller, Ars Magica, WEG Star Wars, MERP, WFRP (plus less de riguer systems like Talislanta, Ghostbusters, Elric, Everway…).

Most of the unticked boxes on my RPG bucket list are really old (Petal Throne, Bunnies & Burrows, Met. Alpha, Paranoia, Pendragon, Gamma World, Runequest, Space 1889); some are newer (SotC, Fiasco, Savage Worlds); and some are simply obscure.

#2 Comment By JDSampo On June 12, 2012 @ 8:29 am

I actually accomplished a bucket list goal a couple years ago when I got to run the Raid scenario in ‘Escape From Innsmouth’. Freekin fun that was :-)

Meanwhile I have a heck of a time getting character goals out of some of my players. Putting it terms of a bucket list is a great idea; I’m definitely going to try that out.

#3 Comment By NoFairFights On June 12, 2012 @ 8:50 am

I use this kind of thing to get into the head of a new character that I’m playing. So the night that we made characters for All For One: Regiem Diabolique’…I made the following list.

Things you can expect my character to try to do/be like:
- throw the grenade back
- agree to second or proxy on duels
- Lie in cases of mistaken identity to save his betters “I’m Spartacus”
- wont wait too long for elaborate plans
- punch a dandy after losing a battle of wits or social to him…
- volunteer to do the dangerous part of the plan

It worked great to get the ideas flowing for me. Now, in that game I find myself working towards situations that are on my list, and having fun doing it.

#4 Comment By John Arcadian On June 12, 2012 @ 11:54 am

@ironregime – That is what Johnn Four talked about in his take on bucket lists adn gaming. There are a lot of games that I want to run, but I’m not sure my group would be down for them. Is your group one that would be up for trying the old games, or would you be running them at conventions?

@JDSampo – That looks like a cool scenario.

@NoFairFights – Have you shared that with the Game Master? I’d be curious to hear if sharing it with him/her helped them shape opportunities for your character.

#5 Comment By ironregime On June 12, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

@John Arcadian – My group is pretty open-minded so I can usually foist different games on them without much arm-twisting. Sometimes its a great success, sometimes a fail.

Since I’m usually the one GMing, I dont have a character bucket list. :(

#6 Comment By Riklurt On June 13, 2012 @ 9:36 am

This sounds like a great idea, actually! I know right off the bat a few things on my own characters’ bucket list. I’ll ask around among my players to see what they would like to see.

Would you say this advice goes well with the advice to frontload your campaigns and put the cool stuff up front? Do you think something on a characters’ bucket list should happen as soon as possible (without being disruptive, of course)?

#7 Comment By John Arcadian On June 14, 2012 @ 11:24 am

@ironregime – That’s one of the reasons I love conventions. I get to be a player.

@Riklurt – Hmm. It can work well with frontloading. The only problem with front-loading character bucket list goals is that they won’t feel like their is anything to look forward to. Doing one or two things off the list up front lets them know you were listening. Doing them all means there isn’t anything else for them to anticipate. They can always come up with more bucket list goals though.

You could always carousel them. 4 players with 3 or 4 goals each might look like:
Session 1 – Player 1 Goal 1
Session 2 – Player 2 Goal 3
Session 3 – Player 3 Goal 1
Session 4 – Player 4 Goal 2

Session 5 – Player 1 Goal 2
Session 6 – Player 2 Goal 1
Session 7 – Player 3 Goal 3
Session 8 – Player 4 Goal 4

Session 9 – Player 1 Goal 3
Session 10 – Player 2 Goal 4
Session 11 – Player 3 Goal 1
Session 12 – Player 4 Goal 2

Use those to make the overarching story and you’ve got a whole campaign created by the players, even if they don’t realize it.

#8 Pingback By Friday Knight News – Gaming Edition: 15-JUN-2012 | Game Knight Reviews On June 15, 2012 @ 5:02 am

[...] Bucket Lists for PLayers and Characters by John Arcadian @ Gnome Stew [...]

#9 Pingback By Ameron’s D&D Bucket List — Dungeon's Master On June 18, 2012 @ 6:30 am

[...] week John Arcadian over at Gnome Stew posted the article Bucket Lists For Players and Characters. The article encourages players to create a bucket lists for their character in order to help [...]

#10 Pingback By Lane Weinberg » Ameron’s D&D Bucket List » Lane Weinberg On June 18, 2012 @ 9:14 am

[...] week John Arcadian over at Gnome Stew posted the article Bucket Lists For Players and Characters. The article encourages players to create a bucket lists for their character in order to help [...]

#11 Comment By kirkdent On June 19, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

I suppose “getting my socially-deficient ranger to a city so he can miserably fail a social encounter” kinda fits in the bucket list for my current character.


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