Motivation for players that aren't exactly "White Knights"?

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How do I motivate a group of mixed motive players? I've got a few who will go along with the plot so long as there are innocent people in trouble, but a few who need some other interest to pursue. What sort of general themes can move a player to want to continue? And how can I make it work for everyone at the table? 

Throwing money at them only works for so long.  
This is where character backstory comes in handy. When the character, or someone closely affiliated with the character, is directly affected by the outcome of a plot, it increases the chance that they'll go along with the story.

Happy Gaming
I'm not a big fan of backstories. For all the hype, they are generally useless, cliched, and never see screentime. Then you'll have DMs that get pissed when they do use them and the player decides they want to do something else, but now the character is all tied up in the plot. You'll get more bang for your buck and less problems if you simply let that come about during actual play.

You're better off just asking your players outright what will motivate their characters to engage in heroic adventure and then do that. Otherwise you're just guessing. Ideally, you'd have worked this out prior to putting pen to paper in the first place, but now is as good a time as any.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Each character has his or her own motivation, and therefore goals vary wildly between one PC and another. One solution may not work for all the PCs. For less *ahem* morally sound individuals, it is best to target their flaws, and what would compliment those flaws.

For more mercenary players, money works fine to a point. When that fails, offer unique magical items or other implements to better serve their needs.

For power-hungry players, the offer of power is usually enough. Be it a ritual or a magic item, it is good to remember to make it suitably impressive or interesting. For PCs with a more roleplay-oriented style, offer social renown or political power.

If such things do not work, you can always switch to negative reinforcement; running from jailtime, magical compulsion, etcetera. Be wary of jumping to such tactics, and do not make it a habit. The PC might feel railroaded. To avoid this, set up a goal or condition by which the motivation can be ended.

That's my opinion anyway. Others with more experience may think otherwise.
Throwing money at them only works for so long.

Ok, sure they don't need money. Or items. By the way, the threats are just going to get worse, but if they're okay never getting better items or being able to afford, say, passage out of a war zone, then I can see how it would be hard to motivate them.

Look at Han Solo. He's not motivated by money, he's motivated by the person to whom he owes money.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Throwing money at them only works for so long.

Ok, sure they don't need money. Or items. By the way, the threats are just going to get worse, but if they're okay never getting better items or being able to afford, say, passage out of a war zone, then I can see how it would be hard to motivate them.

Look at Han Solo. He's not motivated by money, he's motivated by the person to whom he owes money.




That is pretty lol right there!

In my Dark Sun Campaign, one of there characters is a slave.  But not a slave to the party.  When asked "when / how did you get free?"  He replied "Free?"  His character is still a slave in service to his master, and his master's motives are hidden from the party.

So, like ToeSama said, backstory is important to a degree, but also like iserith said, motivation is important as well..

You can be a heavy handed DM and force them into a situation that motivates them.  The infamous "exploding" collar around their necks, if you want to be an evil jerkface (although there could be really good story reasons for this.)

Survival itself can be a strong motivator though.  Say, for example, a throng of ravenous zombie-murder-bats descend upon a town, consuming everything in it, the motivation for survival could be to escape the town, or to seek out the source of the creatures (if the town was where the heroes lived) and eliminate it.

Motivations don't always have to be "character" driven.  The events of the world can push them in one direction or another.

But don't neglect the bonds of friendship and brotherhood for characters.  PC's might have a different perception of events that happen in the world, to the point where one wants to be involved and the other doesn't, and even though the objector "objects", his best friend wants to get involved, so he'll stay with his friend.



You're better off just asking your players outright what will motivate their characters to engage in heroic adventure and then do that. Otherwise you're just guessing. Ideally, you'd have worked this out prior to putting pen to paper in the first place, but now is as good a time as any.



This.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.

Prestige, Vengance, Power, Impressing the opposite sex, Self Preservation, Loyalty, Duty, Honor, Excitement, Curiosity. 


Or yeah, just ask them for ideas. 

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"                                                  "I'd recommend no one listed to Krusk's opinions about what games to play"

Have some noble look down upon them or snub them. Afterwards your amoral players will be angry. Some time later, have him try to hire the party to do something illegal. If they do it, have him betray them. Regardless of their choices, he becomes the bad guy and they have a personal Vendetta against him. Hatred is a wonderful motivator in a game where love/compassion isn't working.
This is where character backstory comes in handy. When the character, or someone closely affiliated with the character, is directly affected by the outcome of a plot, it increases the chance that they'll go along with the story.

Happy Gaming



I'm already doing this, however, even if say my Barbarian's brother is about to get killed, that's not motivation if this particular barbarian doesn't have a soul. 
I'm already doing this, however, even if say my Barbarian's brother is about to get killed, that's not motivation if this particular barbarian doesn't have a soul. 



Which is exactly why backstories aren't the best way. One of many reasons, anyway. You can't control how players are going to feel about something.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I'm already doing this, however, even if say my Barbarian's brother is about to get killed, that's not motivation if this particular barbarian doesn't have a soul. 



Which is exactly why backstories aren't the best way. One of many reasons, anyway.



I wouldn't make that generalization. Backstories have been great for two of my players - my sister's character is tied in with her feelings for her home town which is slowly being taken over, and my rogue has hidden noble ancestry that she's just discovering. My barbarian just likes to fight things and hit on women, so I guess I'll keep going with that, despite the fact that I feel like I'm leaving him on the sidelines of gameplay a lot. My ranger is tricky to work with, since he likes backstory but tells me he keeps wanting to change it - if I continue with his old backstory, he'll get upset - if I tell him he can't change it, then he'll probably tell me that I'm being too strict and talk about it for hours.

Oh, and my woodling ranger is motivated by tree puns.  
I wouldn't make that generalization. Backstories have been great for two of my players - my sister's character is tied in with her feelings for her home town which is slowly being taken over, and my rogue has hidden noble ancestry that she's just discovering. My barbarian just likes to fight things and hit on women, so I guess I'll keep going with that, despite the fact that I feel like I'm leaving him on the sidelines of gameplay a lot. My ranger is tricky to work with, since he likes backstory but tells me he keeps wanting to change it - if I continue with his old backstory, he'll get upset - if I tell him he can't change it, then he'll probably tell me that I'm being too strict and talk about it for hours.

Oh, and my woodling ranger is motivated by tree puns.  



But what you're saying is - it works for some, but not for others. In other words, it's hit or miss.

So you can put your time and efforts as DM into doing things that are hit or miss or you can do something that works every time like talking to those players in particular and asking what'll get their characters motivated, then do that.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I wouldn't make that generalization. Backstories have been great for two of my players - my sister's character is tied in with her feelings for her home town which is slowly being taken over, and my rogue has hidden noble ancestry that she's just discovering. My barbarian just likes to fight things and hit on women, so I guess I'll keep going with that, despite the fact that I feel like I'm leaving him on the sidelines of gameplay a lot. My ranger is tricky to work with, since he likes backstory but tells me he keeps wanting to change it - if I continue with his old backstory, he'll get upset - if I tell him he can't change it, then he'll probably tell me that I'm being too strict and talk about it for hours.

Oh, and my woodling ranger is motivated by tree puns.  



But what you're saying is - it works for some, but not for others. In other words, it's hit or miss.

So you can put your time and efforts as DM into doing things that are hit or miss or you can do something that works every time like talking to those players in particular and asking what'll get their characters motivated, then do that.



Except my characters mostly created their own backstory (so "time and efforts as a DM"... no. Just no.) and I know that if my characters were just cardboard cut-out people chasing after plot points for no reason, some people at my table would be a) bored or b) pissed off. If I ask them every time for what they want to do, then there's really no point in having a DM, is there? 

So I don't exactly know what you're saying "always works", because nothing "always works".
So I don't exactly know what you're saying "always works", because nothing "always works".  



Yes it does. You ask someone directly what motivates their character. You then incorporate that into the adventure. You don't need a backstory for this. It may be as simple as "the opportunity to slay things." If they are still not motivated even after you've changed things to incorporate what they say will motivate them, then the problem is not motivation, it's a player who is a jerk. The solution to that is something else entirely (which also works 100% of the time).

"Time and efforts as DM" aren't about writing their backstories. That's not what I was referring to. I'm referring to you trying to come up with hooks that will motivate them without asking them. That's hit or miss.

How do I motivate a group of mixed motive players? I've got a few who will go along with the plot so long as there are innocent people in trouble, but a few who need some other interest to pursue.



Quoting your original problem for focus purposes. Answer, again: Talk to those players and ask them, then do that.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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As everyone else has said, ask them what motivates their PC.

When I DMed an evil party I had a NPC who blackmailed and threatened them into working for him.  I was hoping they would try to kill him towards the end of the campaign, but they never did.  Some of the PCs had their own motivations on top of this I had to adapt for.

In that same campaign I talked to one of the players who wanted to play a barghest and before the campaign started I drew up a contract between him and the NPC.  His PCs only motivation was to survive and fulfill the terms of his contract, which led to many good RP situations.

I like being railroaded to some extent as a player and how easy it is to come up with a motivation for a PC varies wildly from campaign to campaign for me.
As everyone else has said, ask them what motivates their PC.




What I've been trying to get across is that I technically do this already. I get them to talk about it with me afterwards, what they think would be "cool" next time, what they think is going to happen, etc. etc. I do that and I do not yield any major results. Unless I ask them "WHAT EXACTLY do you want to happen in the next game?" then I'm not really going to get anything out of them, and if I were to do that, I'm a useless DM and there's no reason they couldn't run the game themselves if that's how it worked. When I gesture at asking them what they think would be a good plot point,  I get things that are not likely to happen within the next game but within the distant future - sort of a "if we did this after we do the things we need to do".

Thanks to the people who've given more specific answers and examples of what kinds of things motivate players.  
Unless I ask them "WHAT EXACTLY do you want to happen in the next game?" then I'm not really going to get anything out of them,



That's what you should do. Why wouldn't they give you anything to work with? That's weird.

and if I were to do that, I'm a useless DM and there's no reason they couldn't run the game themselves if that's how it worked.



It's a collaborative game. Why do you think you'd be useless?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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If my DM is asking me what I want to happen, and then does what I said, I'd consider that pretty useless.
What I've been trying to get across is that I technically do this already. I get them to talk about it with me afterwards, what they think would be "cool" next time, what they think is going to happen, etc. etc. I do that and I do not yield any major results. Unless I ask them "WHAT EXACTLY do you want to happen in the next game?" then I'm not really going to get anything out of them, and if I were to do that, I'm a useless DM and there's no reason they couldn't run the game themselves if that's how it worked. When I gesture at asking them what they think would be a good plot point,  I get things that are not likely to happen within the next game but within the distant future - sort of a "if we did this after we do the things we need to do".

What do you do already? You shouldn't be asking about what they think would be cool/what they think is going to happen/blah blah blah. While it's somewhat useful to ask them broad open ended questions, you will get more mileage out of asking them very specific questions about how their characters have interacted with the world. Ask your barbarian what he collects as proof of his combat prowesss (trophies/notches/etc), ask your ranger about the first animal he saw die. Ask them what their drink is that they always get at the tavern, where did they get their clothing from? 

I've used this to pretty great effect with my players, but it works best at character start. Still there are some questions that might be useful to propose to your players. I would have them roll randomly. If it works with their character (your call) make them answer it, but if it doesn't, have them reroll: www.reddit.com/r/rpg/comments/nmkuc/my_p...

Give your players awesome loot: Loot by Type
Unless I ask them "WHAT EXACTLY do you want to happen in the next game?" then I'm not really going to get anything out of them,

That's what you should do. Why wouldn't they give you anything to work with? That's weird.

I don't find this particular weird. People want different things from the game and some people simply want to be entertained by the DM. Of course, those players than should not have unreasonable expactations about personalized adventures and complex plot hooks. If they don't offer clear motivation, they should be a lot more agreeable to the simple hooks knowns as money and glory. It is a collaborative game and it is not solely the DM's responsibility to provide the right kind of plot-hooks to draw in the PCs. By sitting down at the table the player goes into the unwritten agreement that they are there to adventure, otherwise why play D&D? ;)
If my DM is asking me what I want to happen, and then does what I said, I'd consider that pretty useless.



DM: What do you want to focus on next week?
Player: I'd like to go to Red Creek and give those goblins what for!

(One week passes.)

DM: You're approaching Red Creek to slay some goblins...
Player: Jeez, you are USELESS.

Does that make even one iota of sense?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I never mentioned a week passing.  If I had a sentence "If I tell my dog to go outside, and then he pees on the floor, I'd rub his nose in it." would you suppose a week between the order and the act?  I don't think so, I think you did it so you could make a witty response.

 Besides, the DM need not directly ask the players what they want to happen next time.  Mostly, the DM should have plenty of insight as to what the players are likely to do.  The DM can tell the players want to go to Red Creek by the fact that they will go to red creek.  The players can do what they want, after all.  If they inform the DM they want to and are going to Red Creek to show the goblins what for, awesome!  A DM asking the players what they want to see happen then doing it sounds like a snoozefest.  It sounds worse than railroading.  Not to mention a DM should have a pretty good idea of each player and their character's goals, wants, and aspirations from the first session when that was discussed.

Not to say there aren't situations where the players might make a request out of game about what they'd like to see happen, and a DM should try to make his players happy.  A DM can't think of every cool idea, and if a player has great one, use it!  But the default method shouldn't be ask players, get answer, do what they say.

A far better way to make sure all players are doing things they like is to throw out multiple quest hooks.  If the players like it, they'll bite, if they don't they won't.  This way the players don't feel like they know what's going to happen (because they don't), but they can still get excited when something pertinent to their background shows up (maybe a player is the last of a royal bloodline, but finds his childhood buttler at a bar) they can interact with it, and follow that hook down to it's eventual quest.  Or not if they don't care.   Throwing out many hooks to all the players, some individually, and sometimes as a group, is a great way to make sure there's plenty of things for the PC's to do.  Ideally, you can set them up so the players are introduced to the hook, but can't pursue it right at that moment (maybe due to their current pressing quest).  This gives you some time until next session to actually think about these bitten hooks you've thrown out there.
The lure of magic items always works for my players. One player is so greedy for magic items, I give him the ability to "Smell magic items" so he knows what direction to go.
I never mentioned a week passing.  If I had a sentence "If I tell my dog to go outside, and then he pees on the floor, I'd rub his nose in it." would you suppose a week between the order and the act?  I don't think so, I think you did it so you could make a witty response.



The players are dogs? I'm not sure what you're getting at here and I hope that's not how you housetrain your puppy.

Besides, the DM need not directly ask the players what they want to happen next time.  Mostly, the DM should have plenty of insight as to what the players are likely to do.



If you're not asking directly, you're guessing. Can you guess right? Sure. I know I can, often. But when we're talking about a DM that can't figure out how to motivate one or more of her PCs, then would you rather keep guessing or just flat out ask? What's more productive?

The DM can tell the players want to go to Red Creek by the fact that they will go to red creek.  The players can do what they want, after all.  If they inform the DM they want to and are going to Red Creek to show the goblins what for, awesome!  A DM asking the players what they want to see happen then doing it sounds like a snoozefest.  It sounds worse than railroading.



I'm not sure we're speaking the same language here. There is some kind of disconnect that I can't put my finger on.

If you're suggesting the players have choice (go to Red Creek and kill goblins... or something else) and the DM gives them what they say they want to do (go to Red Creek and kill goblins), that's a snoozefest? Should the DM have sent them elsewhere? I'm not sure I follow you.

Not to mention a DM should have a pretty good idea of each player and their character's goals, wants, and aspirations from the first session when that was discussed.



Ideally. But that wasn't the case here. So the DM should ask. Directly.

But the default method shouldn't be ask players, get answer, do what they say.



Again, an issue of choice. The PCs want to do X. You send them to do Y? That's railroading to me which I'm okay with doing if my players want that.

And nobody said that was the default. It's the solution to the specific problem the OP was having. Everything else is just guessing.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I don't understand what you mean by "send them to do Y".  You don't usually send your players places, usually they go places they want to.  And that's how you know they are doing what they want to do.  If they do it.
I never mentioned a week passing.  If I had a sentence "If I tell my dog to go outside, and then he pees on the floor, I'd rub his nose in it." would you suppose a week between the order and the act?  I don't think so, I think you did it so you could make a witty response.


And Iserith never mentioned that a DM should be so shortsighted that he's asking the players what they want to do RIGHT AS IT HAPPENS.  Its called planning ahead. 

 Besides, the DM need not directly ask the players what they want to happen next time.  Mostly, the DM should have plenty of insight as to what the players are likely to do.  The DM can tell the players want to go to Red Creek by the fact that they will go to red creek.  


In which case, if the DM was expecting them to go somewhere else, should he sacrifice the quality of the encounters because HE was unprepared and didn't ask them a session in advance?  I don't know about you, but i put time into my encounters, meaning that the encounters are crafted so that WHAT is involved, WHERE it is encountered, HOW it is approached, and WHEN it is encountered all work together.  If i was shortsighted enough not to bother asking my players what they generally wanted to do NEXT WEEK, then the entire campaign suffers due to lack of ability to properly prepare.  "A DM who doesn't have the information to plan a proper session? that's pretty useless"  (see what i did there?) 

  
 The players can do what they want, after all.  If they inform the DM they want to and are going to Red Creek to show the goblins what for, awesome!  A DM asking the players what they want to see happen then doing it sounds like a snoozefest.  It sounds worse than railroading.  Not to mention a DM should have a pretty good idea of each player and their character's goals, wants, and aspirations from the first session when that was discussed.

a DM won't necessarily have the insight (as you put it) to correctly interpret every reaction to every decision presented (or even the PCs creation of a decision where none was meant to exist).  Hence - ASKING them what their short term plans are one session beforehand.

Not to say there aren't situations where the players might make a request out of game about what they'd like to see happen, and a DM should try to make his players happy.  A DM can't think of every cool idea, and if a player has great one, use it!  But the default method shouldn't be ask players, get answer, do what they say.

you say a DM can't think of every cool idea....but completely seem to neglect that a DM also can't think of every possible contingency, and should have that info so that he can properly prepare a session.

A far better way to make sure all players are doing things they like is to throw out multiple quest hooks.  If the players like it, they'll bite, if they don't they won't.  This way the players don't feel like they know what's going to happen (because they don't), but they can still get excited when something pertinent to their background shows up (maybe a player is the last of a royal bloodline, but finds his childhood buttler at a bar) they can interact with it, and follow that hook down to it's eventual quest.  Or not if they don't care.   Throwing out many hooks to all the players, some individually, and sometimes as a group, is a great way to make sure there's plenty of things for the PC's to do.  Ideally, you can set them up so the players are introduced to the hook, but can't pursue it right at that moment (maybe due to their current pressing quest).  This gives you some time until next session to actually think about these bitten hooks you've thrown out there.


Sure, i wholeheartedly support tons of quest hooks, but if you have, lets give a conservative estimate of 5 quest hooks (say 2-3 general ones a 2-3 individual ones) out there at a time, its reasonable to say that each quest should have 2 possible routes or outcomes (thus making choice matter) and what if the PCs deviate in an interesting and unforseen way from those routes or outcomes, or from the quests entirely, probably doubling the amount of work you're doing to predict what they're doing.

BUT you refuse to ask them about their plans 1 session in advance, so while i might also have 5 hooks, with multiple ways around them, and some potential player wrenches thrown in the works, i'm able to focus all my time on the one route that they mentioned to the one hook they chose to follow up on, and can put any extra time i have into perhaps the other route they might change to, or the possible unforseen circumstances that could crop up.  You, meanwhile, have the same amount of time to prepare approximately 10-20 times the content because it could be totally up for grabs which hook and which route The PCs take at that moment.  So unless you are 10-20 times better of a DM than i am, or have 10-20 times more time to put into session planning, it stands to reason that those choices are hurting your game.

I don't understand what you mean by "send them to do Y".  You don't usually send your players places, usually they go places they want to.  And that's how you know they are doing what they want to do.  If they do it.



So, you propose in a situation where the DM doesn't know or understand a PC's motivation to want to adventure, they should throw darts at a dartboard and hope for a bullseye? Why wouldn't you just ask them directly? "What motivates your character to want to go on heroic adventure?" Get the answer. Incorporate it. Success!

I honestly can't believe I'm even debating this. This isn't even a D&D concept. It's a concept of dealing with other human beings.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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As a player it's just more interesting if you don't have such a preconceived notion of what's going to happen next.  As a DM well...   Really I've never seen it as that hard to make a hook, see a player is interested, then think for a minute what could happen.  In 4e encounters are ricidulously easy to balance.  We've all seen plenty of movies, tv shows, and being geeky probably read books and comics.  We all know how stories work.  When a DM introduces a hook, players automatically think about it and imagine where it can lead long before you even say where it's going to go.  I never feel like anything is sacrificed when something unexpected happens.  Heck, it doesn't take as long to think of what's going to happen as it takes to play the game.  Kind of like listening to a song before it's done downloading.  You really only need to come up with what's happening now, with a mind for the future.  As the players are talking, discussing what they think, discussing what they want to do and how they are going to do it.  You can pretty much think of what you'll do in reaction to any of the things they are discussing as they discuss.  If you need longer to think, during a battle is perfect time.  If you really need some more time, you can just tell your players you need to take 15.  Happens all the time.
in that case i see the issue, its simply a matter of playstyle.  I don't think its ever taken me less than about 35-45 minutes to design a good encounter, and even longer if its going to interact with the terrain (which really, why shouldn't it? yeti's don't make homes in volcanos, they choose lairs which complement them).

If you're presenting multiple hooks to players with multiple different personalities and motivations, AND including hooks that will specifically appeal to individual players in unique and individual ways, how can you possibly know WHICH the party will choose?

I ran the thunderspire labyrinth for my players, the first time they'd seen it, and since the first place they visited to ask about the area was the shops, i had the shopkeeper send them out for the dwarf owner's missing dire boar.

along the way they found the slavers and their captive, they roughed em up real good, found the special other inhabitants that the slavers were selling to, found the recently used chains and bindings the recently sold slaves were kept in, and found the NOTE saying that the slaves were sold to those special other inhabitants (trying not to give anything serious away for people who haven't played it).

The PCs then decided to keep on hunting for the boar...who doesn't even show up until very late in the second portion of the module (i wasn't too thrilled with that hook later, seeing how far along it takes to get anywhere, but that was a module issue that would change if it was run again).

I was FLOORED that they'd choose to keep looking for a pig over the sold slaves, considering their backgrounds and general personalities.  I had ended the session after clearing out the slavers and giving them all the information too.

if i had asked them "what are you going to do next?"  My next session would have gone swimmingly.  I wouldn't have prepared several encounters for following up with the slavers.  I would have had time to tie in the hook they chose to pursue towards the main plot (the hook was primarily designed to just get them into the labyrinth), and my encounters wouldn't have sucked so bad....sure they were OK....they used standard monsters in not-quite-gouge-your-eyes-out-level-of-boring terrain, but the point is a simple question of their goals would have solved it all.

Iserith is not advocating asking the PCs "what do you want to happen?"  He's saying "what do you want to DO?"

The order is simple.  The PCs tell the DM what they want to do, then the DM plans for it.  Maybe what the PCs want to have happen when they're doing what they want won't happen, but the base assumption is that they get to do what they want.  I still have no clue how you're arguing against simply being prepared for what they will do...

EDIT:
No one is saying the players should have a perfect notion of what will HAPPEN next.  But EVERYONE involved should have a STRONG idea of what the players are DOING next (PLEASE note the difference...)  
Perhaps it is playstyle, you may be right.  My philosophy is very incompatible with premade adventures.  I generally find premade adventures to be silly and unnecessary.  I'd much rather see what a DM can cook up for me than some paid writer I don't know.
Iserith is not advocating asking the PCs "what do you want to happen?"  He's saying "what do you want to DO?"



Right, and if you throw out the plot hooks and some of the players are saying, "Meh," you ASK what it will take to motivate them and incorporate it at your earliest convenience. It's just that simple.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Iserith is not advocating asking the PCs "what do you want to happen?"  He's saying "what do you want to DO?"



Right, and if you throw out the plot hooks and some of the players are saying, "Meh," you ASK what it will take to motivate them and incorporate it at your earliest convenience. It's just that simple.



If nothing works, I admit I'd probably ask my players what the heck is up.  But really, after throwing hooks for treasure, fame, women, backstory relatedness, and whatever else I can think of I'd hope they were interested in something.  What are these hypothetical players doing?  Just going  "Meh..  I could go after those orcs and save the village...  Meh...  I could go to that guy's ancesters' tomb and get treasure...  Meh...  I could save that virgin girl the village tied up to appease the dragon.. meh..."   After that, as a DM I'd be like "Ok...  What do you do then?" and hopefully the player has his own ideas of what he wants to do, then tells me how he's going to go about doing it and I'll run with it.  

If it turns into me throwing out hooks, the players not biting or coming up with their own ideas of what to do, then it sounds like the players doin't even want to play.  I'd be like, ok let's watch a movie.

Dude, the DM says "What do you want to do" and a player says "Fighting a dragon could be cool" and the DM says "I will try to work a dragon in soon". 


It isn't "What do you want to do" "Fight a dragon" "A dragon jumps out from behind a rock and attacks".


The DM should take that suggestion and shape it. Maybe they do a "Dragonspawn army marches on a town in the west. They haven't been seen in milineum someone better go fight them, and hint hint they are probably led by a dragon". But maybe they say "An aquatic dragon kidnaps a mer-princesse go save her before her wedding day, in 3 days". 


Both examples satisfy "Fighting a dragon" example, but are very different adventures due to the DM working it into the game and shaping it in a way thats intersting.

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"                                                  "I'd recommend no one listed to Krusk's opinions about what games to play"


Dude, the DM says "What do you want to do" and a player says "Fighting a dragon could be cool" and the DM says "I will try to work a dragon in soon". 


It isn't "What do you want to do" "Fight a dragon" "A dragon jumps out from behind a rock and attacks".


The DM should take that suggestion and shape it. Maybe they do a "Dragonspawn army marches on a town in the west. They haven't been seen in milineum someone better go fight them, and hint hint they are probably led by a dragon". But maybe they say "An aquatic dragon kidnaps a mer-princesse go save her before her wedding day, in 3 days". 


Both examples satisfy "Fighting a dragon" example, but are very different adventures due to the DM working it into the game and shaping it in a way thats intersting.




I've got a lot of plot points on the back burner, much like "I will try to work a dragon in soon". It's just connectivity of the points I'm having a little tiff about..

The reason I've been staying away from the "Dragonspawn army marches into town" sort of plan is because I'm trying to connect things into a main campaign. If I spring an army, or a magic item, or a random house out of the blue, it sits disconnected from the story - sort of an odd floating "other" which my players have been known to say "that felt like a side quest, I didn't think it was really connected to the story". Even if it turns out to be fun, it can easily drive someone into a pot hole where they can't get back to progressing the flow of gameplay.


I should clarify my original question: What are some examples that you as a DM have used to motivate players? 


I'm not looking for someone to tell me "DUH, just ask them". I just came looking for examples to stir inspiration.  



The reason I've been staying away from the "Dragonspawn army marches into town" sort of plan is because I'm trying to connect things into a main campaign. If I spring an army, or a magic item, or a random house out of the blue, it sits disconnected from the story



There's the issue. You are trying to stick to your main story, that the players aren't all that interested in. When you ask for motivation, and they say "Fighting dragons" thats the new focus of your campaign. You refocus the story on that. If you can salvage parts of the original thats great, but by and large you have a new main plot. 

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"                                                  "I'd recommend no one listed to Krusk's opinions about what games to play"

I'm not looking for someone to tell me "DUH, just ask them". I just came looking for examples to stir inspiration



this may come off a bit harsh, but try not to take it poorly.

you're asking us to NOT tell you to "just ask them" and instead give you some ideas for inspiration to inspire your players whom we have no information about other than "they generally aren't interested in plot."  - do you realize how crazy that sounds?

despite the fact that you don't seem to realize it, the people here are giving you EXACTLY what you want....we simply need one more small piece of information.

Most of us here are FANTASTIC at taking even the vaguest of hooks or interests and shaping it into a great big story.  

here's the real meat of the post right here:


you want ideas that for inspiration that will appeal to your "meh" players.  With that in mind, i'm SURE you prepared to make this post by asking your players what they, as both players and characters, would be interested in.  Then, i'm SURE you took that information and presented it in one of your posts on this thread so that we would have SOMETHING, ANYTHING to work with.            

Yet again, OP, please ASK your players what they want.  THEN, if you can't think of any ideas, take what they told you and post THAT on here to ask for ideas. 

Honestly, without any more information than "they like magic items" i can't give you anything more solid then "have them quest around for magic items and artifacts with some meaning to the other undivulged details of your campaign." 

oh, also, to try to soften the nastiness (it really wasn't meant to be nasty, i'm trying to help), let me tell a story about one of the better times i managed to get my players hooked into a plot.

Now, my players are a mixed bunch, ranging from hardcore min/maxers, to hardcore under-optimizers (in favor of roleplaying) to my wife constantly distracted by our 1-year old son, and even passive players who just seem to go along with whats going on without ever taking a strong hand in it.

Creating games for this group is tough to keep everyone happy.  This game was my first ever time creating characters FOR the players.  I made characters for each, i wrote up a brief background with a few key events, i described the GENERAL personality and/or motivations, then i told them the story begins with them boarding an airship (each of them - and doggone it, ONE of these days, an airship will FINALLY safely reach its destination in one of our games...)

Anyways, the characters did not know each other before boarding the ship.  I let them describe what they were doing for a few moments, and then described a figure in a garish red cloak and black bolero (wide brimmed hat) shooting something out of a wand toward the elemental ring (propulsion for the airship).  The ring started flickering and sputtering, and suddenly the airship started shaking apart.  

I described some general chaos as people scrambled to the short range glider-style "lifeboat" located onboard, and also mentioned that due to the flaming debris and shaking of the ship, the players couldn't get there.  The last thing the CHARACTERS saw was the red cloaked man piloting the lifeboat away with several civilians on board, while sneering down at the "doomed" players.

Then we paused and "cutscened" over to the lifeboat.  I asked each player to roleplay a civilian on the lifeboat, ranging from the "everyone for themselves" guy who just wants to live, to the noble-heart, who wants to go back to save the other, to the "we're all gonna die!" sobbing hysteric.  I roleplayed the BBEG (red cloaked guy) who ends up shooting the noble-heart civilian dead after an interesting and revealing conversation.

At that point, we transition back to the players, washed up on an island, who now, as players, want revenge on the red-cloaked saboteur from the airship who left them to die, and as PLAYERS, REALLY want to give that red-cloaked man what-for for all the nasty things he said and did.  With that cutscene and exposition, i managed to set the stage for an interesting campaign that had them escape the not-quite deserted island, get a boat over to civilization, ask about the red cloaked man, steal a more seaworthy ship, track the man to his magically hidden pirate enclave, infiltrate the pirate city, gain access to the citadel where the man made his home, and disrupt the dastardly ritual, kill him, and save the people.

The key there was that the players, if given only what happened to their characters, would PROBABLY, but certainly not 100% definitely, have wanted to go for the red-cloaked man.  After the cutscene, i gave the players a stronger reason to want to go after him (he killed my NPC!) with the plot reveals to the civilians (not the characters!). 

introducing a big villain early on, who the PCs need to learn about and track is a great teaser.  Giving them an in-character reason to hate him (having him show up and screw with the PCs early on) is a great hook and tie-in to get the players after him.  Having him get the PLAYERS good and mad at him is a guarantee that they want to see him dead.                 
OP:

My Neverwinter invoker REALLY wants to find Gauntlgrym.  So much, that he might even ally with the Asmodeus-worshipping assassin to get help.

My LFR warlock is also a saleman for Horizon Imports (story award).  He wants to go to Neverwinter and fund some business ventures - lumber company? - which he hopes will make a profit.

Both of them, for their own reasons, would be interested in the Waterclock Guild.  And the plot hooks hanging off the Guild can lead them towards their personal goals.

But note that I know all about what motivates my characters.  At this point, I have no idea what motivates your players or their characters.  Nor do I know what you offered that they didn't like.

Best complements I have yet received

Making it up as I go along:

{BRJN} If I was writing the Tome of Lore, I would let Auppenser sleep. But I also would have him dream. In his dreaming he re-activates the innate powers of (some) mortal minds. Or his dreaming changes the nature of reality - currently very malleable thanks to Spellplague &c. Or whatever really cool flavor text and pseudo-science explanation people react positively to.

{Lord_Karsus} You know, I like that better than the explanations for the Spellplague.

 

{BRJN} If Bhaal approves of The Joker, does he approve of Jack Nicholson's portrayal or Heath Ledger's protrayal more?

{Stigger} That question is utterly classic, and completely on target.

 

Prepped ahead of time:

I started the 4e thread "1001 Failed Interrogation Results" (now lost in that great electronic goodnight, alas)

{ADHadh} These are all good and make sense! I just can't come up with something that's not covered here and is not completely ridiculous.

 

(News bulletin: Updated thread to be posted after I review the 5e DMG)

 

My 5e characters

Active:

none yet - gotta find a group !

Character Ready-to-go:

Erevyn Meliamne, Wood elf Monk1, inspired by "Radar O'Reilley" from M*A*S*H

Concepts I'm kicking around:

Barbarian w/Tough feat, to be nearly indestructible

"Truenamer" cleric - all spells are Verbal

"Buggy" Wizard - insect flavor on everything.  His DMPC / BBEG version is going to become a beetle version of a Worm That Walks.  (See the 4e Lamia.)  Because lichdom is so cliche.

One thing you could also try is having them come up with why they are going on the quest for that session. Personalities are great and all, but when they bring the game to a halt they need to be changed.

There is a great article on the subject on the giantitp site: www.giantitp.com/articles/tll307KmEm4H9k... 
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58033128 wrote:
I still get bewildered by the idea of Good races and Bad races. I mean, D&D presents a world where there are literally dozens of sentient humanoid races. And then there's a line drawn down the middle, and some races, such as elves, dragonborn and humans, to name but a few, are put on one side and called Good Guys. And with that they are People. They have Rights. And on the other side go a bunch of other races, goblins, orcs, kobolds, and so on. These are called Bad Guys, and as such, they are not People. It is considered ok by many players to track them down and slaughter them. It shatters my suspension of disbelief to see someone who calls their character a hero, a noble sort of person who tries their damnedest to right wrongs and fight evil, making sure that those goblin women and children don't get away, because, you know, they're goblins. They're not just stupid beasts. They have societies, culture and language. They have goals, and motivations. I can believe that someone would kill a drow or an orc at first sight, because they probably were up to something. But don't try to tell me that that was a Good act and that you did it because you are a Good Person. When I'm considering what to do with a group of "bad" humanoids, and I come up with an idea, I mentally replace whatever the "bad guy" of the week is with humans. If it isn't ok to do it to a human, I won't do it to any sentient race.
My Views on the Alignment System:
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Killing something because it might be evil = evil Killing something because it might do something evil = evil Killing something because it is planning to do something evil = neutral Killing something because has done something evil = neutral Killing something because it is doing evil = good
This game was my first ever time creating characters FOR the players.  I made characters for each, i wrote up a brief background with a few key events, i described the GENERAL personality and/or motivations 



Don't take this the wrong way, but if my dm would do that, I'd be so pissed, yeah, it's your world, your rules, but I'll be damned if it's not MY character. But that's just me, if your players were happy, good for you all...

At that point, we transition back to the players, washed up on an island, who now, as players, want revenge on the red-cloaked saboteur from the airship who left them to die, and as PLAYERS, REALLY want to give that red-cloaked man what-for for all the nasty things he said and did.  

The key there was that the players, if given only what happened to their characters, would PROBABLY, but certainly not 100% definitely, have wanted to go for the red-cloaked man.  After the cutscene, i gave the players a stronger reason to want to go after him (he killed my NPC!) with the plot reveals to the civilians (not the characters!). 

introducing a big villain early on, who the PCs need to learn about and track is a great teaser.  Giving them an in-character reason to hate him (having him show up and screw with the PCs early on) is a great hook and tie-in to get the players after him.  Having him get the PLAYERS good and mad at him is a guarantee that they want to see him dead.  



Wait... when you act on PLAYER'S motivations instead of character, that's where I draw the line... there is a word for it: metagaming... the game of... well... metagamers..hisss!!

If I played an egoïst neutral character, I would not have cared what happened at the NPC you had me play. Well, maybe I would, but my character would not, because that would have been metagaming.

An example of this (in a game I did not DM) was when I missed a session, in which a new player joined. The next session, that player's character was put to be hanged in the middle of the village for murder. The murders WERE justified, but only if you had information my character did not have because I missed last session. But my character does not know this, or even who the hell the murderer is, so I don't save him and don't take the hook the DM gave us. Why? Because it would have been metagaming, even if I felt bad for my out-of-game friend.

What I would like to ask to the OP is this: are your players having fun? If not, than you do have a problem. But if they are, than the problem is maybe on your side: you WANT them to do something, but so what if they don't? I wanted my players once to have a massive showdown with a sorcerer, but they found a clever way to ambush him before he got to reinforsments and kill him before he had time to cast. I WANTED them to go after his master, but they took HALF AN HOUR (real-time) getting in a moral dilema about what to do with the sorcerer's familiar..Yell...

So to answer your original question: what did I throw them as a hook to get them to do what I wanted? NOTHING!! They were having fun, so why would I have?

Now maybe this applies to you, maybe not, but ask yourself this: Is this post about you pleasing them by giving them the adventure they want or about them pleasing you by doing what you want them to do? If they ARE truly boared, then my guess is they will take hooks if only for: "better than what I'm doing right now" reasons. If they don't take the hooks, maybe they like what they are doing right now (even if it does not fit what you want them to do). If so, let it go, let them have their fun, when it slows down, then come in and offer them hooks.

Even the best hook will only work on hungry fishes (or those defending their territories... but let's not go there)

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