What is at stake for the PCs?

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I have found that last motivation, whether rational or not, to be a powerful stake in most campaigns. PCs get attached to NPCs...

In my Ashen Stars game, one of the PCs got attached to... a tall, ugly bird-like creature that goes "honk" a lot. It is of an endangered species, and its eggs were getting smuggled around as a food delicacy.

PCs are weird.
 

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Numidius

Adventurer
I'm running the introductory adventure for a Trail of Cthulhu game, provided in the core manual, which actually revealed itself being a proper scenario of Cleveland, summer of 1938, based on real life murderous events.

Pcs have chosen their own basic drives during char gen, for the explicit purpose of solving the mistery, and, pretty much, that was it.

We took a spontaneous relaxed approach, and instead of focusing on the main investigation, the Pcs delved on the many side story elements of the scenario and I improv/prepped new linked situations from those detours, to a point in which, instead of those rather two dimentional Pcs, I've seen how the Npcs are becoming recurrent and developing their own motivations and willingness to follow closely and interact with the players' main line of investigation, as the supernatural mistery slowly unfolds; such as to act in the interest of an affiliation, for personal political advantage, forbidden lore, redemption, vengeance, disinhibition after exposure to Mythos, self awareness... And the like.

We're into half a dozen sessions, and still navigating in deep waters, regarding the core clues examination and comprehention.

From my perspective the above is unexpected and welcomed.
The scenario is inspiring enough that I want to spend a long time in it and have the chance to develop my Npcs thru a prolonged play, while, hopefully, fostering the same mentality among the players.

I soon abandoned the actual rules for action/combat resolution, in favor of a full player facing style, using the non-combat/investigative ruleset as guideline, meaning less dice rolling and a lot more interactive roleplay with the Npcs, punctuated by resource spending on the Pcs side.

They are only recently experiencing the blandness and ineffectiveness of their characters, the need to take back the reins of the investigation itself in a setting in which the Gm's characters are more nuanced and proactive, than just mere info givers and clue donors.
I may ask them to (re)consider the drives and pillars-of-sanity of their Pcs as the basis on which to chose courses of action in the story, and, eventually, build a personality that they will enjoy playing and also risk losing, along with their Sanity ;)
 

I have found that last motivation, whether rational or not, to be a powerful stake in most campaigns. PCs get attached to NPCs and thus begin to care about protecting them or supporting their goals or opposing their antagonists, etc. Or the opposite—most of us have probably played in games where we were out for revenge against an NPC villain.

Very true. My current campaign, currently 24 sessions in, has as it's linchpin a NPC whom I intended to be used as a single-encounter 'color' event.
 

generic

On that metempsychosis tweak
Very true. My current campaign, currently 24 sessions in, has as it's linchpin a NPC whom I intended to be used as a single-encounter 'color' event.
My PCs got attached to a Githyanki who I never intended to be a major character. They were devastated when she fell in combat.

Similarly, a Human scholar (who still lives) became an unlikely ally.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
In the Blades in the Dark game I’m running, there’s all kinds of motivations that drive play. The game is very much about the Crew and its rise. This is in line with the stated play expectations. The idea is to create something that will last beyond the PCs, since their lives as violent criminals will not likely last.

So there is always the goal of pursuing their criminal enterprise. They’re Hawkers....purveyors of illicit goods...and they’ve established a pretty good position for themselves. They’ve made alliances and have a good deal of clout, but they’ve also made enemies....and they’re far from the top of the heap.

Each of the PCs has personal goals, as well. Many are related to their criminal enterprise, but I find that to be very organic.

The Spider PC (a master manipulator) is an attorney who’s been stripped of his license to practice law. His goal has been to be reinstated, and he recently managed to pull that off, so now he’s going about reestablishing himself in the city’s legal circles.

Another PC is in a relationship with a Spirit Warden, which are basically arcane investigators. He wants to keep that relationship despite the fact that his crew deals a drug that is supernatural in nature....the kind of crime the Spirit Wardens seek to prevent.

Another PC is determined to increase her own arcane power through deals made with powerful entities, like demons and forgotten gods.

So all these motivations are at play, pushing the story forward in different directions. The way Blades is set up, the existing NPC Factions respond to the PCs, and that helps create a lot of drama as well. There are built in friends and enemies and the PCs don’t exist in a vacuum. So they’ve got some personal vendettas against other factions.
 

Bluenose

Adventurer
What drives the action in your RPGIng?

In the Glorantha (Heroquest 2e) game I've just started, we the players have got the survival of our clan and our way of life at stake, and are wondering how much of the second we'll have to sacrifice to preserve our families and herds.

In the Pirates of Drinax (Mongoose Traveller 2e) game I'm running different players have different motives. One is focused on establishing security in the region so that her families trade interests will profit, one wants to become rich and important, one just wants to fly the best ships he can get his grubby hands on, one hates pirates and likes to kill enemy ones, and one is aiming at the throne of Drinax himself, via marriage to the heiress.

The oddest motivation I remember was in a superhero game where one of the other players had a 'mad scientist' type character whose main desire was to miniaturise an elephant so he could walk it on a lead like a dog.
 

pemerton

Legend
I soon abandoned the actual rules for action/combat resolution, in favor of a full player facing style, using the non-combat/investigative ruleset as guideline, meaning less dice rolling and a lot more interactive roleplay with the Npcs, punctuated by resource spending on the Pcs side.

They are only recently experiencing the blandness and ineffectiveness of their characters
Would you abe able to elaborate on these two things ie (1) your rules changes and (2) how their PCs have revealed themselves to be bland and ineffective?

The only CoC I've played recently is Cthulhu Dark, which (as the name suggests via word-play) is very "lite" with a simple but (as I've experienced it) effective resolution system and rather colourful PCs.
 

pemerton

Legend
The Spider PC (a master manipulator) is an attorney who’s been stripped of his license to practice law. His goal has been to be reinstated, and he recently managed to pull that off, so now he’s going about reestablishing himself in the city’s legal circles.
This reminded me of a PC in a 1990s RM game I GMed. The character was a wizard who had been born a slave, bought his freedom, become a lawyer, and wished to become a magistrate in his city (it was at this point in his life that he entered play). But various turns of events led to him becoming addicted to an expensive magic-enhancing drug, as a result of which he lost his house, and that plus some other misfortunes meant that he lost his dignity. In the end another PC. also a wizard and from the same city but who was plotting with Vecna to conquer said city, persuaded the first PC to join the plot in exchange for the guarantee of a magistracy.

I think the quest for status (which doesn't have to be nobiity, though of course it can be) can be a powerful driver in RPG play.
 

pemerton

Legend
In the Pirates of Drinax (Mongoose Traveller 2e) game I'm running different players have different motives. One is focused on establishing security in the region so that her families trade interests will profit, one wants to become rich and important, one just wants to fly the best ships he can get his grubby hands on, one hates pirates and likes to kill enemy ones, and one is aiming at the throne of Drinax himself, via marriage to the heiress.
How do you handle this in your Traveller game? In the Classic Traveller game that I'm GMing (it had been our principal game until it got eclipsed by Prince Valiant, but I still consider it "active"), the PCs have various motivations and I try to frame scenarios that speak to them through various intertwined elements, but I find it a challenge because so much of the action is oriented around the group and its travels on its ship.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I ran a Primeval Thule campaign where during Session 0 my 3 players decided that their characters were brothers. They came from a barbarian tribe that worshipped the Black Goat With A Thousand Young and were part of the chieftain's family.

The oldest brother (actual Barbarian class) was the heir apparent, engaged to be married to the daughter of another powerful family in the tribe. The middle child (Rogue/Poisoner) was in training to become the tribal healer/shaman/medicine man. The youngest brother, by tradition, was to be sacrificed to Shub-Niggurath (the aforementioned Black Goat).

The event that immediately preceded the campaign kickoff was the two older brothers interrupting the sacrificial ceremony and rescuing the youngest. By doing this they were all expelled from the tribe and banned from ever returning. The touch of the Goddess sparked a change in the youngest brother, who became a Warlock (GOO of course).

This background allowed me to tailor adventures to them specifically, working with the inherent tragedy and weaving modules into this larger narrative. As someone upstream mentioned, the small size of the group let us focus on an intensely personal game, and it was absolutely fantastic.
 

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