View Full Version : Campaign setting & player motivation

2008-01-31, 01:03 PM
Iím DM for the first time and quite new to d&d alltogether, so Iím looking for some help and advise with my campaign setting and motivating the PCís. I havenít really thought the world where the campaign is set very thoroughly, but Iíve got some sort of a plot or story arch put together inside my head.. and Iíd also appreciate the help in offering plot hooks to the players.

The world we play in is sort of a colonial/imperial setting where the Ďold worldí races (elves, dwarves, humans) have arrived to a new continent to colonize it and so on. The new continent is inhabited by orcs, goblins, ogres and other races, basically anything but the old world races to begin with. All the the three colonizing races are on the new continent for various reasons:

Elves, who were the fist race to arrive to the new world, have been driven out of the old continent mainly by humans and also by dwarves. The elves are seeking the help of the deity Bahamut and for some legendary dragon-related artifact to help them reclaim their lands.

Dwarves were the second race to colonize and are there mainly to conquer new lands and to claim precious trading materials.

Humans are the last to have arrived and are now fortifying their positions on the new continent as well as on the old one. The humans are also the first ones to enslave the indigenous orcs and others, which has caused a prophet of Gruumsh to rise and start raising the orcs to a organized rebellion against the invaders.

The group consists of:
Half-orc barbarian, who is seeking his father amongst the orcs
Half-elf sorcerer/bard, seeking grandeur
Human cleric
Halfling rogue
Elf ranger, who hates orcs

Donít have much more info about the characters, because the players havenít really supplied me with their backgrounds or what motivates them and so on.

Until now the players have done some quests for the dwarves, who are divided to two powerful clans, one which wants to co-operate with the orcs and another one who wants to destroy them. The group has also found one elven ruin of a temple of Bahamut. Iím thinking of poking them to the direction of a bigger city, where the evil human lord has imprisoned his brother and taken over and importing soldiers to conquer the dwarven and elven lands and to destroy the orcs.

Uh, that didnít really come out as clearly as Iíd hoped, but Iíll fill in with the details later. So my biggest problem is giving good incentives to the players so that they might find it purposeful whatever it is they choose to do.

Thanks for the already in advance.

2008-01-31, 01:16 PM
Very ambitious concept for your first campaign. I'm impressed.

Before going any further, what's the general tech level like? How abundant is magic? What are your party members alignments (if you're using alignment)?

2008-01-31, 01:18 PM
I skimmed over your post, but...

What do players like best?

Treasure and XP.

"Streets paved with gold" may or may not be literal :smallwink:

Miles Invictus
2008-01-31, 01:19 PM
The most direct solution involves hiring them to go to the city for one reason or another. Maybe the dwarves have a friend there that needs some help. Maybe a recruiter for the evil overlord tries to get them to sign on.

2008-01-31, 01:19 PM
I rely very heavily on backstories for motivating players. There's nothing they like more than having something they wrote turned into an important plot for the game.

The trick is to disguise it so the players don't all know it's so and so's plot. It's very easy to set things up so that when you use Steve's plot everyone else knows this is Steve's session to be in the spotlight and they'll wait patiently until the next session when it's someone else's turn. You need the group to be into Steve's plot independent to Steve telling them how important it is. The way I usually do this is by writing normal plots with normal hooks but then adding in someone's long lost brother, love, bounty hunter, etc. Maybe they get a cameo or maybe they're a central character. But the plot has to be interesting to everyone else too.

The other way I motivate players is with hate. This doesn't depend on a backstory so much. I'm not sure why but it's easier for me to make them hate an NPC than care about one. I guess it's because any time they decide to protect someone they care for, they're doing it because that's the way the game should go and they're nice players who don't ignore plot hooks. But if I make them hate something then they're going to want to kill it regardless of if I told them it's the plot or not. So far the best way I've found to do this is with betrayal. Sell out the players. Make a former ally turn evil. If you have a mature enough group another player could be the one who goes evil. This works well if a player has to drop out of the game and you get your say over his character. One of my favorite villains I wrote was a paladin who saved the group several times and then went blackguard. Since he'd saved them before, the group knew he was more powerful than them as they'd seen it first hand, but it was also a much more personal fight than the usual wandering monsters.

2008-01-31, 01:23 PM
I would say, especially if you have a new group or new players avoid personal motivations. Too often I;ve been in and run games that had us all after one guys quest that everyone else grew bored and lost interets. Try not to too openly show you favor one character.
I like to have my players fill out a questionnaire...

Character Name, Family, Age, Motivations, and what the player themselves want (loot, xp, travelling, owning a home, whatever). Then I try to find any consistent themes and bas an adventure off that. Or I just do some random one offs and see how the party composition breaks down and where and what the might be able to do.

I tried running the Age Of Worms from Dungeon/Dragon in eberron. We had 3 players and it was going well. We added 2 more a couple adventures in who ha docmpletely different play styles and the campaign died out. Don't tie them inot anything until you know what they will be willing to do.

Valadil was posting just as I was and said most of what I meant. :) Reading it now I agree with him 100%. everyone needs some DM cuddle time, just try not to make it last longer then a session or 2. One of our most famous moments came when a new player joined right in the middle of a down turn in a campaign that had run for over a year. The player swere just doing down time town stuff and cleaning up threads. 8 hour sof role play, finally, after being bored about half way through the guy asks "Can I roll to see if anhyhting cool happens?" He lasted one mroe session with us. :) Also, one good NPC to hate will turn any fractured group into a cohesive misison driven machine.

2008-01-31, 01:37 PM
Thanks for the tips, i'll try to force the player's to think about their characters a bit more..

And sikyon, the two dm's best friends have worked quite nicely so far, but i'm looking for something else besides those two :)

Forgot the alignments:
half-orc CG
half-elf CG
halfling CG
human NG
elf CN

so, not too complicated. Haven't really thought about tech levels or magic's abundancy, it's a basic d&d setting.. medieavilsh with normal amounts of magic. I'm brining in the deities as the big players and with them power-seeking clerics and such.

I'm thinking about getting them a sort of a 'secret agent' mission working for the halfling resistance trying to rescue some imprisoned important good npc from the evil lords castle whilst they run about doing tasks for the lord.

2008-01-31, 01:48 PM
hehe.. chaotic and neutral... good luck with any plot or missions there! lol Sorry, just played with some abusers of the alignment... found that the people who generally take it are nto the ones who will follow where others lead. As maybe it should be..?

2008-01-31, 02:24 PM
My players have enjoy our Eberron campaign because I use a lot of ambuguity regarding good and evil. I don't like alignment as a hardcore rule, but as a general reflection of character behavior. I always like for the PCs to witness things like an evil dictator helping out an orphange (because its useful to him) or seeing lawful good guys do something henious in the name of their cause.

I also try to reveal as little of the plot to the character at a time. Vagueness works wonders. I have my current set of PCs against each other. Three on one side, three on the other. They know that they are after the same artifact, but that's about it. They must work together to get it, but that won't be easy. The twist will come when they come to the end of the current adventure arc.

Keep your players on their toes, and they will have a blast. Last time, we didn't role a single damage die because the players spent most of the session trying to plan or prepare for the encounter with the BBEG. It wasn't a BBEG, but an NPC who wanted somethign the charaters have.

2008-02-10, 03:57 PM
Thanks for the answers, i think we've made some advancement with the group on these matters..

But now the team is heading towards a bigger city, and i'd really appreciate some tips on how to create a lively and adventurous city environment, where all the players would get a chance to shine, and not just the ultra-diplomatic half-elf.

So any advice on how to create good adventures in an urban environment? Or probably there's already an existing thread about these questions..

2008-02-10, 05:46 PM
ultra-diplomatic half-elf.

does the diploamt half-elf np abpit epic diplomacy? if so either pray that he doen't abuse it or start homebrewing diplomacy.