member, 1776 posts
 "Hugs for the Hugs God!"
 - Warhammer Fluffy-K
Wed 24 Mar 2021
at 16:04
Strong but flexible character motivations
I just wanted to share a quick story/example of how having strong but open-ended character motivations can help a party stick together.

In one of the games I'm playing in my character is not pleasant, frequently butting heads with the others and they have often questioned why he is adventuring with them if it is clear he does not like being around them.

What they don't know is that his backstory is that he is being hunted by a shadowy organization and he is convinced that the current adventure thread (assassins trying to murder them while they were staying in the inn) is because of this.

What this means is that even though he gets into frequent arguments with the rest of the party there is no question he is first in line to go investigate and dungeon dive to get to the bottom of it because he feels he has to know if this is the result of the people he thinks are hunting him.

It is a great motivation point because it is flexible enough that he can make it apply to anything. Any plot point the GM throws out could be twisted to give the character a real motivation to see the quest through beyond just regular gold and glory. Thus even though there is a huge alignment clash (he is Lawful Evil while most of the party is Chaotic Good) there is never any real risk of splitting the party. He HAS to see it through and the others know he is going to stick with them whether they want him there or not. Add in a dose of being very effective in combat and you have some nice healthy intraparty conflict without the risk of fracturing the group.

It is a powerful motivator but flexible that it is easy to apply it to whatever hooks the GM throws at us or whatever the party collectively agrees to pursue.
 member, 27 posts
 I do boogie consistently.
 Consistently boogie I do.
Thu 25 Mar 2021
at 17:20
Strong but flexible character motivations
I really thought this would get more traction.

I appreciate this example, and try to follow this line of thinking in my own character development. Especially with the background. It helps keep me humble and from from making campaigns focused solely on my own character, and also helps me to promote inter-character communication and development. Thanks for sharing.

In my design for character motivations also I do what I can to either make the personality receptive enough to take on new tasks. Even when I've played hard-headed characters or edgelord 'lone wolves' (I can have a soft spot for one every now and then, so please forgive me), it's easy to roleplay them by the fact that it is unusual for them to work with others, and they don't have to be chumps or asinine.

Never have I been a fan of "that's-what-my-character-would-do-so-bump-you" attitudes; there's nearly always a way to justify your character's place in a party and campaign.

Again, thanks for sharing prague.
 member, 1779 posts
 "Hugs for the Hugs God!"
 - Warhammer Fluffy-K
Thu 25 Mar 2021
at 17:49
Strong but flexible character motivations
Rich Burlew, of Order of the Stick fame, did a really interesting blog post about "making tough decisions". Half of it was about integrating roleplaying into your rollplaying but the second half was really interesting about party conflict.

Here is an excerpt:

Another useful application of this concept involves accepting story hooks your DM gives to you. Try to never just say, "My character isn't interested in that adventure." A lot of people mistake this for good roleplaying, because you are asserting your character's personality. Wrong. Good roleplaying should never bring the game to a screeching halt. One of your jobs as a player is to come up with a reason why your character would be interested in a plot. After all, your personality is entirely in your hands, not the DM's. Come up with a reason why the adventure (or the reward) might appeal to you, no matter how esoteric or roundabout the reasoning.

If the paladin is to blame for the last problem, this one belongs to the druid. Druids have such a specific set of principles that players often mistake them for being a free pass to demand that each adventure revolve around their goals. Raiding a dungeon for gold doesn't appeal to the druid mindset, so what are you to do if you play one and are presented with that goal? You improvise. Maybe the gold will enable you to purchase magic items that will let you protect the wilderness. Maybe the ruins contain unnatural monsters that need to be killed regardless of the treasure. Maybe, just maybe, the other PCs are your friends and you are willing to help them just because. Too often that last part is forgotten; I don't think anyone reading this has never spent the night doing something they'd rather not because a friend asked.

It is unfortunate he didn't bring this along when they migrated forums. I wish we could sticky this in the community chat or something because the whole article is grade A gold.

edit: So rpol makes me write a certain amount to also do a big quote. This is still not enough non-quoted text. Neither is this. Or this. I wish I knew the ratio of quoted to unquoted text. I might have to give up on using quotes and just use quotation marks.

edit 2: That was enough!

This message was last edited by the user at 17:50, Thu 25 Mar.

 supporter, 683 posts
Thu 25 Mar 2021
at 18:45
Strong but flexible character motivations
I wish I'd had that quote in the last game I was running.  The players were going on and on about how they didn't trust this guy giving them the mission, and it didn't really seem possible to them, and on and on.  I finally stepped in as GM and said, OK, you all have good role-playing reasons not to do this, but I'm asking you to suspend those and move ahead, because this is the scenario we have and I haven't given you an impossible mission.  I still couldn't pull them forward and I finally just ended the game.
 member, 23 posts
Thu 25 Mar 2021
at 19:52
Strong but flexible character motivations
In reply to Zag24 (msg # 4):

I will note that part of this responsibility falls on DMs as well. If you find your campaign goals or missions rub strongly against the expectations and goals of the players and characters, it is up to both parties to find a way forward. If multiple players are saying they don't want to openly rebel against a government purely on the words of one proven untrustworthy DMPC, you can offer more trustworthy sources to verify the claims, not rebuff ideas to try to self-verify the claims, or even offer new paths forward rather than insisting they continue on a railroad.

We're all parties to the same venture, and it is important to work together.
 supporter, 684 posts
Thu 25 Mar 2021
at 22:03
Strong but flexible character motivations
I agree I could have handled it a bit better.

On the other hand, I had tried to convince the players (including you) to do a little bit of the world-building, such as describing their temple/grove/university and their mentor there, and encouraged them (you) to discuss the situation with them.  Had you done so, you would have found another avenue of the insurrectionist movement, one that you could place a lot more trust in, and a validation of the NPC you were working with.  I could have done the world-building part, and I certainly would have participated in it if I felt there was interest (as I did with Chu Yan's attempts in this direction). However, even assuming that the players' mentors had existed, it didn't make any sense at all for them to have approached you with the information, it had to come in the other direction.

But the real problem was more one of game style, and it was my fault for not making it more clear up front that I was looking for players that are a lot more pro-active rather than reactive.  Part of the problem is that I'd really rather be running a Fate-based game, where such an approach is more expected, but I'm still not confident enough in my own Fate experience to pull the trigger, there.

This message was last edited by the user at 22:04, Thu 25 Mar.

 member, 1383 posts
 Err on the side
 of awesome.
Fri 26 Mar 2021
at 14:08
Strong but flexible character motivations
One thing that I think is important is making sure that everyone is pointed in the same direction at the game start. This is a recurring problem I especially find in Godbound and Exalted games, when the players all separately come up with strong motivations for their (I should say our, because I've absolutely been guilty of this) characters and then have little reason to work together.

If the campaign includes dungeon-crawling for treasure, make sure that all player characters have some interest in money; if you make a monk with a Vow of Poverty feat, then have them at least be worldly enough to take a share of the loot to donate to their favorite temple.

In a more sandbox game (that's not a West Marches setup, because that doesn't require party cohesion), this generally falls on the GM; make sure to be clear on everyone's motivations, weave hooks together and establish likely areas where each player can be vital support for another player's quests. In my experience, once the PCs know and trust each other and have woven their interests together, they'll usually stick together and go on quests that aren't necessarily related to their motivation (so long as they get their share of the screen time).
 member, 851 posts
 once upon a time...
 ...there was a little pie
Fri 26 Mar 2021
at 16:25
Strong but flexible character motivations
I was only an observer in a recent in-game conflict, but the sense of unseen motivations was strong. Sadly the conflict between players led to one character dying, and when they tried to roll a new one the other players didn't seem able to separate player from character and drove that character out of the game too.

Luckily for me, despite the fact that I had supported that character, the others didn't push me out as well, but it was touch and go if I wanted to stay. We will see...
 member, 1783 posts
 "Hugs for the Hugs God!"
 - Warhammer Fluffy-K
Fri 26 Mar 2021
at 16:51
Strong but flexible character motivations
This is why a Session 0 should be viewed as mandatory. I chance to OOC introduce the characters, the plot, and the overall direction of things so players can set expectations accordingly.

I feel like a lot of these conflicts come because once you've had a session or two your character ossifies so when session three you hit a conflict the die has already been cast and the conflict is unavoidable.

I know players looooove to have secrets and mysteries and reveal their backstories in bits and pieces (i know, i'm one of those) but I would rather have some surprises that the party may never get to be ruined rather than have players/characters constantly butt heads and sour the whole experience.

You don't have to reveal EVERYTHING but just letting everyone know generally who you are and what you're looking for out of things.

Another thing I do is that when I feel my character is about to make a dramatic decision (e.g. He's going to be light the captured bandit on fire) I will OOC warn everyone that my guy is about to be up to something. That came up in a recent game where we were negotiating with a gang boss and my character wasn't liking the demands being placed so I was like "heads up, he's going to try and do an intimidation check if someone doesn't stop him" and sure enough someone stepped up. You know the subtle hand on the shoulder and the shaking of the head is a classic dramatic moment.

This lets me play my character without derailing the game or springing unpleasant surprises on other players. With very few exceptions, MORE communication between players is better than less.