Thursday, March 31, 2011

Click... Click... Boom!

Motivations are Killing Me, Shoot me now!

Richard of richardthinks, wrote about weekend reading: D&D as heist, were he talked about the "...assumptions behind the play style", where a character would delve off into a dangerous setting for what equated to "...a long string of Russian Roulette spins."

What motivates a person (character) to risk playing or taking a potential series of life risking endeavors? Where is the motivation?

Richard linked to 's blog, The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope, where he discussed, what I perceive as motivations, in the form of capers (The Acererak Caper), or heists, in the RPG settings.

This is great stuff, presented by both. Richard points out the lunacy of playing Russian Roulette style adventures, and Michael gives a motivation as to why to do just that. The motivation is however one-sided IMHO. I mean, yes, once you are committed to going after 'X' in the final sandbox climax adventure, granted levels of experience later, motivation is established. But, what kind of setting does such motivation birth?! This is a setting level motivation, where is the character level motivation?

Choo choo, hop on the thought train. Yes, "We need the Scepter of Sphinxster to save whatever", but why? A couple of options are; the world is a terrible awful mess - everyone knows it - and the PCs want to fix it - or - the world appears to be hunky-doory to most inhabitants - but the PCs know better - and want to fix it. Either way, how does this become an individual's motivation?

Greed is often an unwritten character background motivation, but if so - a weak one for reasons I will explain - or a player motivation. If greed was a strong setting motivator, the halls of every tomb would be littered with the bodies of the oppressed and poor when the characters entered. Why is the riches there anyway?! I think it is more a player's motivation. We get things from the game that we might not in real life. We can, through are character, become; rich, famous, leaders, etc. Again, that is fun motivation for the player, but why is the character's motivation hand-waved?

Granted, I have played in games where extensive backgrounds were required, to games where none were. Even with extensive backgrounds, none that I recall, were sufficient for the in-game life exhausting mission of perpetual Russian Roulette. Too often, IMO, character motivations are assumed from player motivations. I want to be rich! I am not gonna rob a bank (read, delve into a dungeon) because I don't want to pull the trigger! I'm scared to. But my character isn't! "To the Mines of Misery!" But what makes my character different than me? I think too often this is glossed over. Is, "Well, he is a hero...", sufficient?

Rolling into Discovery Station. I think this is where I fall way short at being a great GM. I discover the more I think about it, that I am a good GM, but not great and why 'Sandbox' Settings allude me. With a sandbox, you can't railroad that motivation. You have to take that, "I want revenge on the Black Bark Brigands for stealing my family's savings and forcing my mother into prostitution and my father into suicide!" into, "That's great, but to do that you have to plunder the Dungeons of Diabolic Dispare." I have to find the 'why' here, and often do not! What is the connection between the Dungeons of Diabolic Dispare and being able to have their revenge on the Black Bark Brigands?!! As a GM, I am detracting from the immersion of the player into the character that they want to play. Or, so I am beginning to believe.

IDK, maybe I am just waxy philosophical, or perhaps I am just losing my mind. I often wonder if the few people that read this are interested in what I have to say, or swing by to see if I have finally been consumed by ranting mental issues...

Found It! The motivation is always The Girl!



  1. hey, Bane. Yes - the girl has much more motivational pull than greed... but maybe the best motivation is one that pulls the players as well as the characters - the promise of the game changing (and the PCs gettign control over how it changes?)...

    I only just saw this - sorry for my months of silence. I also mentioned you in my follow-up post.

  2. Good point. I am also considering capitalizing on Zak's post of "Sandboxes And The Roguish Work Ethic" which coincides with your observation of Player motivation.

    Self propelling motivation is, or seems to be, more desirable in a sandbox... hmmmm.

    Thanks for the mention and stopping by. You have rekindled this thought experiment for me.



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