The Fifth World

Roleplaying Game

Asking Questions

When the story begins, we have no idea where it will take us. We have total freedom, but only because we know nothing. As we learn what happens, that freedom diminishes and the story takes shape. By the time we finish, we have lost all of the freedom we began with, and in exchange we have learned the story fully. We refer to this as hunting the wild story. Each track or sign brings you closer to the story. We can rush through it too quickly and miss that experience of freedom and the tension of not knowing that comes with it. We defer answers to avoid that. If we don’t learn anything, though, we never find the story. We ask questions and build on the answers to avoid that. Learning how to ask questions that will close in on the story, but not too quickly, and leave it enough space to remain wild, requires some skill.

While we constantly ask questions in play, the truth of those answers remains negotiable until we spend awareness to ask one of a specific set of questions. These questions carry more weight than the others. Their answers establish truths in our story and move us closer to discovering its true form.

When your character appears in an encounter, either as the main character or as a secondary character, you can spend awareness to ask any of the following questions:

Additionally, the value that your character holds in the highest regard allows you to add an additional question to this list:

Your family's customs offer a resource to ask questions from values that you don't follow yourself. Mark an unmarked custom on your family sheet to ask the question associated with its value. To unmark a marked custom, go to home and spend awareness to make an offering to the ancestor associated with the custom.

If you’ve learned the true name of a place, that knowledge will unlock a new question that you can add to your list while there. Beyond that, if you become initiated into the mysteries of that place, you can ask the question its name unlocked wherever you go. Learning the names of places will expand the questions you can ask, which will make it easier for you to learn things.

Answering Questions

When you ask a question, you ask it of a character played by another person. If you ask the person playing the Other, she’ll try to use the answer to hint at the Other’s need, but she’ll have to answer the question honestly, which might make that difficult or even impossible. Not every question will really relate to every need, after all.

When you play the Other or a secondary character other than your own and another player spends awareness to ask you one of these questions, you can make a decision for that character (which, you’ll recall, you normally can’t). As an example:

Giuli plays Narluga. She wants to convince a traveling wizard at the festival named Mandrake to give hen some peppermint. Agreeing to the deal would count as a decision, so Wayne, playing Mandrake, can’t make that decision for her. Giuli spends a point of awareness to ask, “What do you wish I would do?” Wayne answers, “Become my apprentice, so I can train you as a wizard.” That establishes what Mandrake wants, so when Giuli offers hens promise to come to Montreal and train under her, Wayne just portrays what we already know about Mandrake by giving hen the peppermint in exchange for that promise.