Your GM picked out the adventure, did all of the background work, fleshed out the NPCs, balanced treasure and other rewards. Now it’s finally time to run the adventure, it’s up to the GM to find a way to motivate your character. Right?
True, the GM will most likely provide you a motivation for going on the adventure, but you can help by providing your own motivation for your character.
While “My character wouldn’t do that” can be a legitimate concern (I’m a “method actor”-style player, myself), it’s not helpful. If you try hard enough, there’s usually some way you can provide your character with a motivation to undertake the adventure.
Even if you don’t have a detailed backstory for your character, you can find a way to work something about this adventure into your character’s history. In fact, it’s probably easier to do it without a detailed history. But even if you’ve written down information for every month of your character’s life, you can still usually find a way to work a motivation for the adventure in there.
Perhaps you stumbled across this dungeon when you were growing up and always wondered what was down there that was so dangerous your parents wouldn’t let you explore it. Or your now-deceased mother had been an adventurer but had fled from this dungeon before exploring it thoroughly and you want to find out what could make a generally fearless woman flee in terror.
These are simply suggestions; you’ll do much better to find some reason yourself. The point is, that it doesn’t have to be a driving passion to provide motivation. Simple curiosity can be enough. Maybe the owner owes you some money and if you can’t get the money, you’re going to take payment in goods of equal value. Or perhaps you want to prove yourself a better adventurer than your mother who’s shadow you’ve been in since you started your career.
That brings us to our next type of motivation: other people and the relationships your character has with them. It could be your favorite uncle asked you to check out the city sewers to find proof of the giant cybernetic rats and cockroaches he’s always said live down there. Maybe your familiar or a favorite pet wandered into the Mayor’s Mansion and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Or maybe, just maybe, your brother dared you to go into the spooky cave.
Again, the reasons don’t have to be deep of life-changing or part of The Big Picture. It can be petty concerns. The important thing is to have a reason that will motivate you to undertake the adventure. It could even be something simply as the party’s cleric said “Please” when he asked you to come along. Of course, if you want to have this adventure affect your character deeply, go for it.
This brings us to our last set of motivations: your character’s goals. Maybe you want to collect one of every type of potion in the world. Or maybe you need some scrapings from the wall to to mix the exact shade of grey paint to finish your current project. See, even here you don’t need grandiose ideas — simple ones will do as long as it gets your character moving.
Of course, you’ll want to clear your motivation with your GM. If he hears, for instance, that you think there may be potions for your collection, then he’ll most likely go out of his way to put one in there as a reward. Maybe you just want to complete your rock collection and the last type of rock you need is said to exist in this lich-controlled forest. placed in there.
Brainstorming or “Mind-Mapping” can help you find a reason. You can get special software for that, but I find good ol’ pen and paper work great for the job. If you’re really stuck, you might try having the GM other person you trust over for a brainstorming party. If something doesn’t come to you immediately, keep trying until you come up with something you can play. You’ll find the game much more enjoyable.
Stumped for a background for your newest character? Why not try some randomly generated ones? Last week, we covered the steps for generating a random background event and the tables for bad things that could happen to your character. Today, we’re covering the good things. Check out last week’s post for full details.
Of course, you can also use these for “down time” events in-between adventures.
Look for next week when we’ll begin a “Player Month”, with articles for the players in your group.
Sometimes a good background is hard to find. Usually I have no trouble coming up with a full-fledged past for my characters, complete with NPCs, subtle plot hooks, and flaws ready-made for the GM to exploit. Usually, I hand the GM a six-page character questionnaire loaded with personality quirks and background events.
A few months back, my fiance (I’ll call him “Jay”) started a 3.5 D&D game and I sat down to make a new character. I’m currently playing a bard/sorcerer in another D&D game and wanted to try something different. I thought playing a “blaster caster” would be a lot of fun, so I built my character as a half-even sorcerer/rogue. I pulled out my well-used list of character questions and sat down to fill it out.
I couldn’t think of anything really interesting to build this character around. All of my ideas seemed trite and over-used. Six months of play later, and I still didn’t have any background to this character.
Now, I know I can play the character without any background material. But I’ve always been a “method actor” type roleplayer and I find it really hard to get enthused about a character that’s just stats and abilities. That’s when I remembered Cyberpunk 184.108.40.206 and its lifepath tables. If I couldn’t think up a background for my character, I could roll one up!
Cyberpunk 220.127.116.11′s life path is a very thorough. It involves rolling on several charts to determine what the character’s personality is like as well as what’s happened to him in his background. I’ve simplified the process greatly and changed the options to fit a fantasy game setting.
First, determine how many life events you want to roll for. As a limitation, I decided I could stop rolling for events when I wanted to, but that I couldn’t remove any results already obtained. I developed two tables: one for bad events and one for good. To determine which table to roll on for each event, I rolled a d6. If it came up even, then I rolled for a good event. If the result was odd, I rolled for a bad event. Of course, you can also pick some thing rather than rolling for it at random.
That’s enough for one day. I’ll post the good events next week.
Whether as a PCs or an NPCs, evil characters tend to get the short end of the stick. All too often, they’re portrayed as short-sighted, reactionary, shallow, and … well, stupid. Frequently, all evil characters look and act the same, like they are clones of one another. Which is a real shame; after all, what’s more engaging to your players than defeating a worthy opponent? Here are eight tips for making your evil characters more in-depth and engaging.
Generally, you’ll play an evil character just as you would play a good one. The main difference is that the evil character will pursue his own agenda, no matter the cost to other people. But that doesn’t mean she’ll do the most rash and immediate thing, nor does it mean that when faced with a moral question, she’ll always take the opposite action of a good character.
Make sure your evil character has a reason for taking the actions beyond “it’s the evil thing to do.” That one thing alone will make your evil character stand out in a good way .
Playing evil characters can be a lot of fun. Just remember that they take as much (or more) work than a good character of similar importance to the game. Look at your character as a whole person, figure out his goals and what he’s willing to do achieve them. You’ll get more enjoyment out of your game and so will your players.
I’m taking a break from Meadowbrook for a few days; I don’t want this blog to become “all Meadowbrook all the time”. I’m considering starting another blog devoted to world-building that would chronicle my development of Meadowbrook and it’s surrounding world; if this is something that would interest you, please leave me a comment. Now, onto your regularly scheduled post.
For years, I’ve used information as a commodity in my games. I generally run “limited information” campaigns, where I try not to give the players any more knowledge about the situation and/or world than their characters would know. This isn’t about “cheating”; I have excellent group of players who are well-skilled at separating character knowledge from player knowledge and playing accordingly. What I’ve found, though, is that when player knowledge matches character knowledge, the players can relax more. They don’t feel like they have to police themselves to stop and think Hey, would my character actually know this? before they take action.
An useful outcome of this is that information becomes its own reward. Especially when it comes to a PCs individual goals. For example: if the party does a favor for a prince, as a reward he may be able to tell them the location of the tower belonging to the evil wizard that killed their team member. You don’t always have to give out money, treasure, spells, or what-not to your PCs. Information can be just as valuable and won’t ratchet up your PCs experience level or ability to obliterate your bad guys; this can help you keep the PCs from rising in power earlier than you’re ready for them to.
You can make choices about how secretive and hard to gain information is in your game. Do all party members know everything any other member knows? How closely do they guard their own backgrounds from the rest of their party? This can vary between one GM to the next. I’ve known many GMs who don’t like the PCs to keep secrets from one another; they feel it causes divisiveness among character who are supposed to work as a team. I err on the restrictive side: more often than not, I tightly control information in my games. I usually set up their character’s background with her player separately, then let the player decide how much information to give the others.
During the game itself, I generally give information out based on PC had access. If one or two of the PCs wander ahead and overhear a conversation between a vampire and her childe, for example, I usually take them aside or write a note (if it’s short) to describe what they hear. I then leave it up to the players to reveal the information as the characters see fit. If, on the other hand, I know that the scouting PC is going to go and immediately relate what he overheard, then I’ll go ahead and describe the conversation to the whole group, so neither the player nor the GM has to repeat themselves, particularly if the conversation is long or complicated. So it’s purely situational — think “Will the other PCs also hear this or will they know about it in the ten to fifteen minutes?” If so, it’s a lot easier to tell the whole group what transpires.
Sometimes even players will get into the limited information act. I once ran an Amber game where two of the PCs decided to marry and all of the players kept it secret for a couple of weeks, real time. They didn’t want me to find out about it beforehand so I wouldn’t have time to plan something to go wrong with the wedding. Other GMs might hate being in the dark about any aspect of their game, but I loved it.
Some games lead themselves to secrecy better than others. Amber and Vampire have secrecy as a core concept and I rigidly control the flow of information in those games. I tend to be more free with information in a D&D game, for example, but I still allow the players to determine how much of their character’s knowledge they share. It all depends on your style and preference.