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Totally Guy
2009-07-05, 05:55 AM
When roleplaying I find it enjoyable to bring to the table an agenda for the character to pursue when left to own devices. But it's not always so easy. If my D&D guy wants to start a school but his adventuring is ongoing he'll not settle down to one place and get a chance to use it. I've had character agendas abandoned in this way because they just didn't give me any character depth due to inpracticability.

What makes a good agenda? How can an agenda pull in the cooperation/adversity of the rest of the party.

If I'm DMing a game what is a good way to encourage the players to use an agenda? Presenting a sandbox should help an agenda come to the foreground but in my experience it leads to bewilderment at the lack of direction. I think the answer "tell the players what you expect the game to be" applies. We should start calling that line "Glug's answer":smalltongue:.

As a DM what's a good way to weave an agenda a character has into the narrative? The player would have his creativity acknowledged. Or can this go wrong? If you put a complication or plot hook onto an agenda might it upset the player that his schtick is being messed with?

Your stories? You character agendas? Let's hear them.

Pulsecode
2009-07-05, 06:07 AM
When I run games, they tend to be a sort of... semi-sandbox. People are free to do as they wish, by and large, but so are the NPCs. Everyone has an agenda, the characters and the NPCs, and they all have various means of going about getting them. Some of them will contradict each other, and that's where the fun lies.

There's a game I'm running at the moment using the White Wolf Masquerade system. The characters are a pack of vampires based in Detroit, and there's an impending war against another faction of vampires based in Toronto.

Each of the player characters has their own goals - one is dedicated in service to the voice in his head, which he believes to be God, another is a sort of reluctant authority figure, trying to keep the pack of rapidly degenerating monsters in line, another is fanatically devoted to the ideals of the overarching faction, and seeks to advance himself in it... so on and so on. And they're all free to pursue these aims, but at the same time, the NPCs are pursuing theirs.

For instance, a recent plot had an agent of the other faction undercover in the city, in a position of some political power. She was a campaign advisor for a politician up for election, which gave her some freedom to gather information and press for things she wanted done. Her real goal, naturally, was to undermine the local vampiric society, and weaken it for a possible invasion. Suddenly, the character's plans are thrown into ruin as key people start disappearing. One pack of vampires they'd been allied with was wiped out entirely when the building they sheltered in by day was torn down by a demolition crew.

Their contacts and support networks were quickly disappearing, their plans were in peril, and to top it off another NPC - a ranking member of their own section - was offering a reward to anyone who brought her in. Suddenly, there was a quest! :smalltongue:

I find with enough believable NPCs around, all with their own schemes, methods and resources running at crossed purposes, the games more or less write themselves.

Saph
2009-07-05, 06:13 AM
Mobile agendas generally work best, since most parties travel around a lot. My favourites:

Something Missing - the character has lost their girlfriend / boyfriend / fiancee / parents / master / childhood companion / pet / car keys and is travelling from place to place searching for them.
Gotta Learn - the character wants to learn or discover something. Anything from "where is the Lost City of Skifander?" to "how should I cure the Deadly Wasting Disease of Svivros?" to "how can I get the girl next door to like me?"
Must Get Stronger - Character wants to get more powerful. Boring, but effective.
Short Attention Span - Character just wants something interesting to be happening, because of ooh shiny! What's that? Can be considered the default attitude of all PCs.

- Saph

bosssmiley
2009-07-05, 10:45 AM
When roleplaying I find it enjoyable to bring to the table an agenda for the character to pursue when left to own devices. But it's not always so easy. If my D&D guy wants to start a school but his adventuring is ongoing he'll not settle down to one place and get a chance to use it. I've had character agendas abandoned in this way because they just didn't give me any character depth due to inpracticability.

That's because (traditionally) D&D characters don't settle down and found a school/guild/temple/keep until 9th level or so. Until then they're too busy being wandering killer hobos in order to build up seed capital to put their long-tern master plan into operation.

As for weaving PC agenda into play, this will happen naturally in a sandbox-style game as the players decide which plot hooks to nibble on. Just bait the hooks with delicious and tempting stuff and, before you know it, PCs will be involved in the politics of the setting to further their own interests.

What makes a good agenda? Anything that ties the character into the game setting and encourages player investment.

Oh, related: instant agenda/motivation generation table (http://dungeonskull.blogspot.com/2009/02/dungeon-motivations.html) (roll 1d100)

TheCountAlucard
2009-07-05, 02:53 PM
Short Attention Span - Character just wants something interesting to be happening, because of ooh shiny! What's that? Can be considered the default attitude of all PCs.Indeed. The three PCs in my Friday games are all chaotic-aligned, and have a tendency to react when they spot something shiny and/or red.

Magicus
2009-07-05, 03:01 PM
Personally, I think agendas work best when combined with lots of downtime, especially if the DM institutes mandatory training times between levels/stat increases. In one AD&D game in which I'm currently playing, the party thinks nothing of taking a few months off between adventures for training, weapon-smithing, etc. This gives the characters time to accomplish their non-"killing monsters and taking their stuff" goals - the wizard consults with loremasters, the thief commits some crimes, my Dwarven Cleric gets to entrench himself further into the community, and so on. We've even started building our own keep.

Devils_Advocate
2009-07-05, 03:10 PM
What makes a good agenda?
A good agenda for an adventurer is one that's advanced by adventuring. For example, if your guy wants to found a school, maybe he decided to become a treasure hunter to get the money to finance it. Your character should have at least one goal that's served by adventuring. Otherwise, why is he an adventurer?

Having a specific goal for a character may mean that he eventually retires from the game. Which is fine. Even if the campaign is open-ended, that doesn't mean that every character's personal story has to be. But it doesn't have to work that way. It all depends. There are three main possibilities here:

1. Your character is adventuring in order to move on to doing something else. If you want to found a school, for example, you'll probably stop adventuring once you have the means to do that, because then you'll be busy with the school afterwards.
2. Your character is pursuing an open-ended goal that's not likely to ever be completed. A paladin's quest to defeat injustice doesn't end when all injustice is eliminated, for example, it ends when the paladin dies (or falls). So that motivation will always be there, unless the character changes his mind.
3. Your character has a specific goal that he wants to accomplish, but no plans for afterwards. This way there's nothing keeping you from continuing on with any other quests you've gotten involved in, or finding a new one. For example, maybe after you finally kill the man who murdered your father, one of your companions mentions to you that you'd make an excellent Dread Pirate Roberts.


How can an agenda pull in the cooperation/adversity of the rest of the party.
The best way to ensure that the rest of the party shares your agenda is to be the team leader who recruits the other party members to help you on your quest. Hey, it worked for Roy!

There's also "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." AKA "Many hands make light work." Maybe the whole reason that your group teamed up in the first place was that each of your individual goals is easier to accomplish with a bunch of other people backing you up. This, too, gives you a reason to continue adventuring after your personal quest is complete.

It would be interesting to see a campaign where the DM specifically creates a story arc for each member of the party, based on their personal goals.

Set
2009-07-05, 03:14 PM
Mobile agendas generally work best, since most parties travel around a lot.

Very important and useful advice, there!

If your character's agenda involves item crafting or researching new spells or founding a temple or rising in the ranks of the ducal guard, you may find that the adventure's drag you far from your goals, and make them pretty much impossible to attain. It's a recipe for frustration.

Open ended agendas need to be presented to the DM and bargained over.

If my character has mysterious tattoos appearing on his flesh and wants to know what they have to do with the ancient magics of the Thassilonian Empire, it's going to be a completely moot background motivation if the adventure consists of killing stuff and getting loot. But once the DM knows about the motivation, he can seed clues in various adventures, scraps of arcane lore, new tattoo-related discoveries, etc. into the storyline.

If my character has a mysterious amulet given to her by her mother, as a sole keepsake, and a Sorcerous bloodline, the DM can work that into the plotline, by having the character discover some writing in the long-lost language on the amulet, or even have the character discover a key that *opens* the amulet, revealing it to be a locket containing something that further advances the character's personal storyline, such as a mysterious map, or a lock of hair, or whatever.

Yukitsu
2009-07-05, 03:57 PM
Current agenda of my little girl evil necromancer:

-Get that cute paladin boy to pay attention
-Get a pet cat (done)
-Do well in magic classes
-Adventure with friends
-Plot the downfall of society into an endless reign of anarchy by destroying the tyranical heirarcy structure and all there line (finished one government)

I try to make is so that none of my character personal goals require a dedicated effort in one go. This lets me deal with a bit when I have some down time. I also always try to include something from plot in there (in this case, the adventure with freinds bit.)

Quietus
2009-07-05, 04:10 PM
It would be interesting to see a campaign where the DM specifically creates a story arc for each member of the party, based on their personal goals.

This is similar to what I'm planning on doing when I run a game; I'm going to lay out some role each party member will need to conform to ("You're all working for the city guard in some role", for example), or simply require that every character know each other and/or be associated with them in some way, and let the players roll with that. Each character has to have at least SOME defined goal/drive that would allow them to go adventuring in some way - in the aforementioned "city guard" business, it could be the city sending them out on some special mission, for example.

For the opening session, I'll have two or three loose ideas for unrelated things to do around town ("Dragon-freak is being attacked by random mob", or "City is attacked by <X>" type stuff) that doesn't necessarily roll into a major plot, but is designed to give me, and the players, a better sense of what's going on, and are open-ended enough for me to tie them into things if I like. Then at the end of that session, I'll go home, find what the players keyed into, and create a plot based off of that - including hooks that can tie into each of their individual goals/motivations.