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D&D General Roleplaying Motives - 200 pages of answers?

The 200 page thread on races got me thinking about what I and the other players use for roleplaying motivation. So I thought I would break down the areas I have seen:

Race: "My dwarf bellies up to the grub and scarfs it down faster than anyone at the table. Then, I chug my ale and burp loudly, you know, to let the barkeep it was good - and my cup is empty." Obviously some people play racial tropes, as they are described in the PHB or as they have seen in movies and video games. It is definitely one inspiration I have seen across all tables and players at one point and time.
Age: "I smile, the way only an 18 year old can smile when they think they're invincible, and laugh at the guards threatening me." Age has been a primary motivator for one of my characters. I think all the rest it hasn't come into play. For others, I have seen age be used as a badge, the old grizzled warrior comes to mind. I know, as a DM, it gets used all the time.
Height & Weight: "My goliath towers over the halfling tied to the chair and I crack my knuckles, which are the size of his head, in order to intimidate him into giving us the information." I have had a player use this and given them advantage. Not sure if other players out there have used it to their benefit in roleplaying, but my guess is it is common. (At least at my tables.)
Health: "My fighter limps over to the enemy, blood dripping down my leg from the gash. I spit, look the demon in the eye, and say: 'Bring it.'" Not super common in my experience, but I have seen players use their HPs to roleplay their mood or health.
Attributes: "My low intelligence fighter just stares at the puzzle and scratches his head." This is one that seems like it used to be really common. I mean we would have people with high intelligence scores looking up big words just so they could use them to play their character. We also had players that clearly solved the puzzle, but because their character had a 7 intelligence they sat out. High charisma characters always acting in character as flirty, and people with high dexterity describing their grace. Lately, this motive seems to have fallen to the wayside.
Skills: "I walk over to the horses before our trip and whisper to them, letting them know that they will be okay by giving them a big hug." No need for animal handling there, but I've seen a character do that and not wanting to roll, just to establish that his character is in tune with animals (had expertise). I thought it was a very cool move since skills are so rarely roleplayed in my experience.
Equipment: "My character walks into the cave and the first thing the goblins see is the glowing tip of my wand. It looks like fire. Hot lava smoking, the tip of a volcano ready to go off." I've seen several players really focus on a piece of equipment they have to describe what is happening. Definitely more common with magical or heirloom items, but have seen it with mundane items like cloaks and boots too.
Alignment: "I watch the thief steal the loaf of bread and leap into action!" We all have seen the lawful d*@# or players that use chaotic as an excuse to just be a random pain, but I am not really talking about them. From an RP standpoint, these pieces have traditionally been pretty strong anchors. Many players equate it with a character. I mean, we used to always equate Robin Hood to chaotic good, and then model our behavior off of his motives.
Background: "I pull out my sewing kit and begin patching up leaking tent. Good thing I am a part of the tailor's guild back home or you sods would be sleeping in a puddle." This one seems to be hit or miss in my experience. People take this background, which constitutes a portion of their life, yet rarely roleplay its aspects. I have seen some (including myself) hyper-focus on it.
Backstory: "I look down at the reflection, sad, and wipe the scar on my face." Obviously backstory is a solid inspiration for roleplaying. I have seen it used to great effect, and also seen it beautifully written, but never used to inspire character actions. I also think culture can be captured in here, if not captured in race.
Traits, Ideals, Bonds, Flaws: "I give the orphan my food. I was in his shoes once and feel compelled to not let it happen to anyone else." From my experience, the players I have seen follow these generally do a really good job at keeping their character actions consistent. I have seen it drive entire RP scenes in directions the DM could navigate well because he knew the bonds or flaws would be used.

I am sure I have missed something. Please feel free to let me know.

My question is threefold:
1. What do you see as a primary motivator for you and your players? When you RP, is it more race or equipment or alignment or etc.?
2. Is there one that should be used more than it is in your experience?
3. Is there one that shouldn't be used at the gaming table because of changes in the way we play?

Thanks for reading.
 

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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Personally I come up with a character history, concept and motivation and then start implementing that into the rules. So it can vary a lot.

I mean, I'll regularly know who my PC is (or at least starts as) before I know background, race or class. From there I start filling in blanks. Sometimes the ideas will include family history tying my story into the setting if it's my wife's campaign, other times it will be just some simple gimmicks/hooks if it's an AL game.

So every other descriptor from race to alignment to traits and flaws flow from the initial concept and help further define the character.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
My question is threefold:
1. What do you see as a primary motivator for you and your players? When you RP, is it more race or equipment or alignment or etc.?
2. Is there one that should be used more than it is in your experience?
3. Is there one that shouldn't be used at the gaming table because of changes in the way we play?
Ultimately, it's going to depend from player to player and from character to character. I don't think I would expect any one of those to be primary in general. For some characters I've played, pushing dwarven cultural quirks was more important than either his class or alignment, for another his background and class were more important, for another character it was alignment and personal convictions.
 

payn

Hero
My question is threefold:
1. What do you see as a primary motivator for you and your players? When you RP, is it more race or equipment or alignment or etc.?
2. Is there one that should be used more than it is in your experience?
3. Is there one that shouldn't be used at the gaming table because of changes in the way we play?

Thanks for reading.
1. Campaign setting and pitch is usually a primary motivator. What type of game are we playing? What types of genres are we trying to emulate. I didnt notice that option in your list of stuff above. I guess background and backstory would be primary motivators, with race and class perhaps being secondary motivators. Alignment in D&D/PF games is an important element at my table. It helps determine the characters views, goals, and methods.

2. I love the idea of traits, ideals, bonds, flaws but never seen a good way to implement it. I guess how much mechanical impact should these items have? If its significant, it leads to optimization and sort of mutes the whole point. I do like helping players add some flavor this way as not all players are great at bringing a character to life.

3. Equipment, meh. I dislike necessary magic items as used in 3.5/PF1. I had a player once use a large dwarven axe for the best damage. After a couple sessions it was like the character was the axe. I am glad modern design is moving away from item reliance. Let magic items be cool again and this might not be such a problem as its been.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
The 200 page thread on races

I must have missed this! Link?

The 200 page thread on races got me thinking about what I and the other players use for roleplaying motivation. So I thought I would break down the

My question is threefold:
1. What do you see as a primary motivator for you and your players? When you RP, is it more race or equipment or alignment or etc.?
2. Is there one that should be used more than it is in your experience?
3. Is there one that shouldn't be used at the gaming table because of changes in the way we play?

Thanks for reading.

1. Primary motivator is challenging fun! For RP, it is usually a combination of motivations developed from back story and/or from early adventures/relationships with NPCs. For example, the PCs had to make a hard choice recently between going on an adventure to get dirt on an enemy that could be useful in the future (and had a time limit to achieve) and responding to a letter from the guy that hired them for their first adventure (and helped them get their careers started) asking for their help again, and mentioning some NPCs they befriended back then.

2. Nope. Whatever works!

3. The only motivation I'd probably give some side-eye too, is out of character motivation to mess with or disrupt the action of other players or the game in general.
 

Arvok

Explorer
A lot of it depends on the character. Size, race, and statistics might be tough RP tools if you're playing a 5'10" human with most of his stats around the 13-16 range (depending on what the stats of the other players and NPCs are). The easiest way to bring in good role-playing (I've found) is to accentuate the differences between a player and the rest of the world. An urchin background might be a great RP tool...or not if most of the party has similar backstories. I think at least part of the attraction of the non-standard races is the easy RP opportunities (although that gets diluted when everybody is playing a half-dragon, quarter-goliath, quarter-goblin or something like that).
 

oreofox

Explorer
I must have missed this! Link?



1. Primary motivator is challenging fun! For RP, it is usually a combination of motivations developed from back story and/or from early adventures/relationships with NPCs. For example, the PCs had to make a hard choice recently between going on an adventure to get dirt on an enemy that could be useful in the future (and had a time limit to achieve) and responding to a letter from the guy that hired them for their first adventure (and helped them get their careers started) asking for their help again, and mentioning some NPCs they befriended back then.

2. Nope. Whatever works!

3. The only motivation I'd probably give some side-eye too, is out of character motivation to mess with or disrupt the action of other players or the game in general.

I'm sure he is referring to that "What's the appeal to the weird races" thread that has spiraled into many, many, MANY variant tangent threads to where I gave up after page 60-something, because it had turned into DM bad if restrict player options and the myriad of arguments that particular "discussion" produces.

Anyway, as for the thread at hand: For me, it depends on the DM's offering. I typically figure out what kind of background/backstory the character has, and then look at the races available to see how that plays into the backstory. Everything else is secondary to those first things.

Of course, I haven't been a player in quite some time.
 

One thing I think you could add to the list is mechanics/class features. Some players will draw from those, trying to figure out what sort of person would seek/have those abilities or how having those abilities would change a person. Abiltiy scores kind of touches on this, but it could apply to any game mechanic.

My experience has been that even a single player will rarely focus on the same things - each character has their own concept, which might lean heavily on one or another character trait. Which ones are important to a particular character will vary. But the next character might lean on a completely different set of traits to define them. There really isn't a pattern beyond lack of pattern.
 




One thing I think you could add to the list is mechanics/class features. Some players will draw from those, trying to figure out what sort of person would seek/have those abilities or how having those abilities would change a person. Abiltiy scores kind of touches on this, but it could apply to any game mechanic.

My experience has been that even a single player will rarely focus on the same things - each character has their own concept, which might lean heavily on one or another character trait. Which ones are important to a particular character will vary. But the next character might lean on a completely different set of traits to define them. There really isn't a pattern beyond lack of pattern.
I didn't even think about this, but I was making a druid up in my head last night and doing this exact same thing. Great find. Thank you.
 


1. Campaign setting and pitch is usually a primary motivator. What type of game are we playing? What types of genres are we trying to emulate. I didnt notice that option in your list of stuff above. I guess background and backstory would be primary motivators, with race and class perhaps being secondary motivators. Alignment in D&D/PF games is an important element at my table. It helps determine the characters views, goals, and methods.

2. I love the idea of traits, ideals, bonds, flaws but never seen a good way to implement it. I guess how much mechanical impact should these items have? If its significant, it leads to optimization and sort of mutes the whole point. I do like helping players add some flavor this way as not all players are great at bringing a character to life.

3. Equipment, meh. I dislike necessary magic items as used in 3.5/PF1. I had a player once use a large dwarven axe for the best damage. After a couple sessions it was like the character was the axe. I am glad modern design is moving away from item reliance. Let magic items be cool again and this might not be such a problem as its been.
Yeah, I genre is a solid one to use as well. I am actually unsure if I meant that under culture while writing that. It should definitely be in there though.
I have seen flaws, ideals, etc. worked in very successfully. They are subtler though than things like traits. They seem like the behind the scenes motivator more than anything. But, once you realize (especially as a DM) that the player is following those religiously, it makes for great RPing.
And I am with you on PF1 equipment, which seemed to kick in around 5th level. But wanted it in there as there are definitely players that seem to focus on it. (No right or wrong there for me.)
 

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