Character Motivations


Character Motivations

Hail! Here are some example of character motivations that you might find useful for your own characters, or NPCs in your games!

Greed: Characters can be motivated entirely by greed. The accumulation of gold, jewelry, gems, and the most coveted magical items can be powerful motivators. It’s important to remember that being greedy doesn’t need to be “evil” or “corrupt”. Some characters - and players - just enjoy discovering and collecting riches.

Curiosity/discovery/exploration: Characters can also be motivated by curiosity, the thrill of discovery and exploration. I am one of these players! I love exploring dungeons, investigating the history behind a painting of a long-dead noble, and hypothesizing about why this dungeon is designed by a madman. And I know many old school players also enjoy adventuring for the sake of adventuring.

Fame/glory: Many characters enjoy gaining fame and glory - earning renown. This could be the end-goal of the character, or it could be a means to an end. How can one establish a new religion or settlement without some fame?

Class-focused goals: There are countless ways that a player can use their class as a decision point for their character goals. Fighters fight, clerics establish temples, paladins seek and destroy evil, wizards build towers and do research, and so on. Using your class to fuel motivations is a great way to tie in to the world.

Race-focused goals: Similarly, the way race is displayed in fantasy gives plenty of goals to explore. Dwarves can fight for their clan’s position in society, elves might seek out ancient songs and poems that hold secrets to their past, halflings might seek riches to fund their hamlet’s festivals, etc. Yes, there is some overlap with “culture” here - flavor to your setting’s preference.

Profession-focused goals: Adventurers may often do other things - blacksmithing, jewelcrafting, alchemy, whatever. Adventuring can supply the resources, be they gold or otherwise, to fund and advance the professional goals of the character.

Passion: Whether love or hate, or something else, passion is a great motivator.

There is plenty of overlap between motivations. Characters are rarely motivated by a singular goal to the exclusion of others. Often, characters motivated by “greed” actually desire the riches to support another endeavor such as building a temple to their god.

What motivations have you, or your players, used that you thought were exceptional?



That is a very nice list!

After reading this article by the AngryGM, however, I have come to split Motivations and Goals as he describes them: I request the players pick a motivation from the list provided in the article and then attempt to offer goals appropriate to those motivations.

Motivations have become useful to manage social encounters and for a while I’ve pushed the idea further by focusing motivations through alignments (Meet Out Justice isn’t the same to a Lawful Good and to a Chaotic Evil character)… but then I’ve red this excellent article and now I’m still reeling from the shock! XD

What do you think?


Matt Colville just had a video related, obviously from D&D perspective but advice was very ICRPG - loot linked to goals basically, he even did an index card demo. But the idea of finding goals that fit with your players motivation / story / etc and how the system is failing in D&D 5e (and in 4e as well). I thought it was reasonable advice for any game design, and of course ICRPG is going to be the best way to implement it.


That was such an inspiring video! As soon as I watched it I grabbed my journal and made notes about concrete goals to hand out to my players. I’m definitely going to try to be more up front about the goal>reward relationship.