View Full Version : DM Help I need a list of motivations for character creation

2016-12-18, 07:42 AM
I'm trying to come up with some sort of comprehensive list of motivation categories. This is part of a homebrew project where every character, during creation, begins with a motivation to leave home and adventure. Some sort of personality trait or event that changed the character in some way, or something that will carry them through and provide impetus to the player to join and drive the story. It can't be a goal that can ever be achieved though, as a motivation and goal need to be two separate things. This needs to be something that will either be with the character forever, always spurring them to greatness, or be something that can be swapped, or changed to another motivation as the character evolves.

The closest to this concept I've been able to nail down so far is this list of TV tropes:


But I'm not sure how to really name them as individual categories that fit within a fantasy style setting. I was hoping to get either inspiration, suggestions to make my own list, or directions towards a list that would fit better for my purpose.

Koo Rehtorb
2016-12-18, 07:57 AM
Doing good.
Religious obligation.

2016-12-18, 10:06 AM
A bad case of Chronic Hero Syndrome.

2016-12-18, 11:18 AM
Doing good.
Religious obligation.
Hate (more general then revenge)
Love (in the sense of the classic quest for princess)
Love (making the world better for children)
Duty (with less emotion)

Jay R
2016-12-18, 01:42 PM
I really prefer for my character's motivations to be unique when possible.

Gwystyl, my gnome illusionist, is adventuring because he's been put on a quest to do something (he doesn't know what), for a reason he doesn't know, given by a source he cannot identify. All he knows is that he must learn the history of his ancestor's hooked hammer in order to do it. So he's investigating any old stories, ruins, etc. that he can.

Gustav, my Ranger, accompanied a party of city-dwellers into the Dark Forest, because he needed to protect them from the forest. Or protect the forest from them. He didn't know which when he started.

Pteppicymon, a 1e wizard, is one of 100 children of the pharaoh, trying to prove worthy to be his successor. [This was supplied by the DM, and is every PC's primary motivation.)

Ornrandir was a 2e elvish thief/wizard, in a land in which wizards are feared, thieves are arrested, and elves are 2nd level citizens. He set out to prove himself better than the people who look down on him. [He eventually became an Earl, and is adamant that people in his county will not be mistreated.]

Gwydion, my original D&D bard, wanted to find new heroic stories that no other bards knew. The easiest way was to travel with the heroes.

Dr. MacAbre, a mystic super-hero, wanted to join a superhero group, because his powers sometimes turned him into a wolf, a bat, or a mist. He was afraid that he might be slowly becoming a vampire, so he wanted to surround himself with powerful people who could take him down if he ever lost control.

Shadowmonk, a shape-changing martial artist, was a drug smuggler until he saw a kid murdered. He is now trying to protect people in his slum neighborhood.

Professor Power, an electrical engineer who developed electricity/magnetism powers in a huge meteor accident, spent the first several hours using them to help the wounded, simply because they were hurt, and he had the ability to help. Since then, it never occurred to him to stop.

Hyperion is a meta-human whose wife studies meta-humans. The best way for her to get data is for him to be with them.

Ultra was a super-powered teenager who had been a thief, but had been captured and put on parole. His parole officer was also a hero, so being a hero is the best way to impress him. He also discovered that it's more fun than being a thief.

Leprechaun is a 3-foot tall Irish martial artist with a red beard. He enjoys how people respond when they see him.

Jean-Louis is a foundling, and a Flashing Blades Rogue, left on the steps of Notre Dame in the days of the musketeers. He has found doing political jobs to be much more lucrative than being a pickpocket.

I told the group that I was planning to pattern my western hero after a TV show. So I showed up with Cali Yang, a Chinese martial artist obviously based on Kwai-Chang Cain in Kung Fu. But he wasn't. In the fourth session, he needed to take off his disguise, and revealed that he was really Cal Young, a disguise-artist federal agent based on Artemus Gordon of The Wild, Wild West.

Sir Cornelius, a C&S knight/alchemist, required dragon eyes, or other monster parts, for his alchemical studies. So he went after them.

David, a nine-year-old thief from original D&D, was actually the prince and heir of a conquered land. He was hiding himself at first. He was trying to help tribes of orcs, goblins and kobolds defend themselves, in hopes to eventually earn enough gratitude and respect to use them as an army to take his kingdom back.

2016-12-18, 02:14 PM
Just one question which may change the direction of your Motivations chart:

Are these motivations going to be realized before the end of the campaign? Or are they supposed to be never-fulfilled-until-the-last-page-of-the-final-book er I mean -session?

My personal preference is to have plausible motivations which you get a reward for finishing, and then you pick a new motivation -- but I usually see the opposite, and frankly the opposite plays out like a sitcom where no deviation from the status quo is allowed, which (in my experience) gets boring after a few months.

So. Decide what you want to get out of Motivations. Are they supposed to be invariant character traits which last for the whole campaign, and will therefore never be accomplished until the campaign is over? Or are they plausible goals which will drive the actions of the characters for a few dozen sessions, and then the characters will be allowed to grow?

2016-12-18, 02:17 PM
You can only use it once, but simple wanderlust always gets overlooked. Having no roots or reason to stay. Just wanting to be on the move because it's the most comfortable life for him.

2016-12-18, 05:58 PM
Everyone else seems incompetent.

2016-12-18, 06:09 PM
Candy! Lots of candy!

2016-12-19, 01:27 AM
Acceptance - the need to be appreciated
Curiosity - the need to gain knowledge
Family - the need to take care of oneís offspring
Honor - the need to be faithful to the customary values of an individualís ethnic group, family or clan
Idealism - the need for social justice
Independence - the need to be distinct and self-reliant
Order - the need for prepared, established, and conventional environments
Power - the need for control of will
Romance - the need for mating or sex
Saving - the need to accumulate something
Social contact - the need for relationship with others
Social status - the need for social significance
Tranquility - the need to be secure and protected
Vengeance - the need to strike back

2016-12-19, 03:09 AM
Loss - there was nothing back home that would keep them. It was time to move on, find their own meaning of life.
Fear - either they are afraid of what could happen if they stay home...or they are afraid to stay home.

Also, does Amnesia fall under Chronic Hero Syndrome?

Joe the Rat
2016-12-19, 11:37 AM
Upholding the Good
Seeking Justice
Thrill of Adventure/Thrill Seeker
Responsibility of Power
Unwanted Power
Power Lust
Psychopath / for the lulz

2016-12-19, 12:25 PM
Murder Addiction
Megalomania (I'm going to be the greatest wizard and then become a god)
The great white hunter syndrome (The need to kill bigger things)
Narcissism (nobody can solve these problems except me because I'm fabulous)
Sociopathic tendencies
Psychopatic tendencies

Now we have the motives for most of the murder hobos, ideally pick 3.

Stealth Marmot
2016-12-22, 01:52 PM
The ladies dig a guy with class...levels.

Or just plain boredom.

2016-12-22, 02:09 PM
Curiosity (What's behind the next hill? What's in that cave? How does it look on the ground of that lake? Where is the end/edge of the world?)

Stealth Marmot
2016-12-22, 02:11 PM
Curiosity (What's behind the next hill? What's in that cave? How does it look on the ground of that lake? Where is the end/edge of the world?)

Where did I put my cell phone charger?

2016-12-23, 05:21 AM
"Whenever people think 'somebody ought to do something about this', 99 in 100 stop there. I'm the 100th person, the one who goes on and thinks '...and that somebody is me'."

(credits to Terry Pratchett :smalltongue:)