Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Motivating the Players

The assumption of traditional D&D play is that the PCs are after treasure. The assumption of more modern D&D is that the PCs are going on a heroic quest. Now, these two objectives can be merged, but it's not easy. The object of a quest can easily be a piece of treasure. Just look at any Indiana Jones movie for an example. The problem is that, if the treasure is the end goal, why collect all this incidental treasure along the way? Why give up searching for the MacGuffin to haul a load of coins back to town? Or if simply making that One Big Score is the goal, why keep adventuring once it's been achieved? 

In my current D&D game, the TS&R Jade campaign, I have a feeling that the players are waiting for me to drop a plot on their heads. That there will be a Big Bad Evil Guy to defeat, or a grand quest for the Great Googly Moogly MacGuffin, or some big Earth-Shattering Apocalypse to thwart. But I've just got a local area with towns, castles, caves, ruins, and factions waiting for them to explore it.

The game has been on hiatus due to various events and the holidays, but when we start it up again in January, I want to make a few small shifts in the game to hopefully bridge this gap. 

1. Give the players the DM map. No, not the dungeon maps and keys, but the overland map that has all the dungeons they could have found if they'd gone out to explore the wilderness. West Marches was all about going out to explore the unknown, and I started this new campaign still in that mindset. But the players aren't in a "go out and see what's over that hill" mindset. So best to pull back the curtain and show them the places near town where they can find adventure and treasure. 

2. Ask the players to provide their motivations. I got this idea from the Bandit's Keep YouTube channel. He suggests, after setting up an adventure, just asking the players directly what their motivations would be to actually engage with this, whether it's a dungeon, an event, a faction, or a quest. Get them involved. So when we start up again, I'm going to ask the players to answer these questions: 

  • Why does your character need to find treasure?
  • What would your character like to find?
  • What would your character like to achieve?
  • What is the party's current goal?

Hopefully, answering these questions will help get the players in the mood to treasure hunt, and also to feel more engaged with the world. When they can't answer a question, that's when I can provide them with some setting information to help them find an answer and get a better sense of the world. Or point them to a location on the map and let them know that they might get their answers there. Also, I can use their answers to tailor some of the locations that I haven't fleshed out yet to their desires.