Everyone has aspirations, dreams and ambitions, and they're not usually static. The more you achieve, experience, and see, the more your goals will change. After all, you became an adventurer for a reason.
As a farmer leaving the family home looking for adventure your goal may be to one day return to the farm a rich man. But as you adventure your goals may change perhaps to dedicating your life to the will of your favoured Deity. Finally, the wholesale slaughter of your family and friends may send you off on a crusade for vengeance.
A character is unlikely to have only one goal (e.g. to get rich), unless it is all consuming, such as revenge. Marriage, children, wealth, power, happiness, selfulfilment and a glorious death are all valid goals albeit a bit vague. Elaborate on some of these or create
some more tangible goals. Aspiring to a position in life, i.e. Captain of the army, or towards an ideal such as a Rich Merchant will give you a more visual goalpost with which to measure your achievements.
Goals will affect the way you approach life and adventuring, as two characters with different goals in the same situation will probably act completely differently.
When choosing goals for your character you should bear in mind that their initial goals in life are likely to be less grand than those they have after three years of the adventuring high life (unless you begin life as a noble).
Additionally, it is important that you know why you have chosen the adventuring life. Are you aspiring to the giddy heights of nobility, have you become so bored with life at sea that you'd risk life and limb to relieve the boredom, have you become entangled in a web of intrigue and mystery which fuels your convictions of right and wrong, or are you
atoning for some real or imagined misdeed or dishonour? The real enjoyment is deciding what motivates you. It is up to you to find your character's motivation and make them
real. Try not to make it wholly monetary, after all, it is what you want to do with the money that is important.
Arguably the most important feature of your character is their morality. What one person allows within their moral strictures will be seen as immoral by another. If you intend to play a character consistently, especially if they are significantly different from you, it is essential to know what they will and will not do. Possibly the most important of all the moral guidelines is that of personal safety.
Although you may class this as a goal, it is important to realise that it will fundamentally affect your moral decisions. If you hold your personal safety as a high priority but are in a position where it will compromise a moral decision then you must be clear which will hold strongest. Included in this will be your characters level of greed. Do you have an avaricious nature, or do you believe that money is the root of all evil? What are you prepared to do to satisfy this greed?
Would you commit what you consider an evil act to save yourself? Perhaps, throwing a baby to a hungry pack of wolfs whilst you make a hasty retreat or murdering someone in cold blood? What about torturing a suspected cultist to discover the truth (or some twisted version of it)? And what do you consider to be a Good act? Sparing someones life by endangering your own, killing an Orc quickly to end their suffering, or agreeing to save a village from a cow that produces yellow milk, for legal rights to the ownership and servitude of its inhabitants and land?
Many groups have disregarded alignment but there is a danger of all characters just becoming selfpreservationist neutrals. Characters whose every decision is completely mercenary are in danger of becoming boring. I never use alignements in my games and find them rather unpractical. But avoid the Player Character that is ever selfpreservant and dull at all costs!
Depending on your religious persuasion you may believe that it a sin to take a life. Just because you follow some pacifist or healer go does not mean that you cannot be an adventurer. You can stun, knock-out and disarm your enemies. On the other hand, you may agree with the philosophy of Lestat in Anne Rices Interview with a Vampire "God kills indiscriminately, and so shall we!". A disregard for the sanctity of life may be your way, but may also prove hazardous to your freedom, your sanity and your life. Your motivations may not be clear cut but the actions will generally be seen as such. Of course, even for those who choose to follow a certain "Good" or "Lawful" path, questions that impinge on these beliefs will constantly arise. Would you kill a baby if you believed it would become a Black Mage?
Your loyalty family, friends, countrymen, guild, fellow adventurers are all likely to have an impact on your actions. It is important to know what general order they come in. If an enemy threatens your family, to try and persuade you to betray your friends, which loyalty is stronger family or comrades? Remember, just because you are a Player Character does not mean you have to be good, pure and sickly sweet.
Playing a character with different moral guidelines than others in your party can cause interparty conflict, but in my experience this only heightens the enjoyment! (Of course you must be careful not to ruin anyone elses fun) If, for instance, you fully believe that you should not break (or bend) the law, then why would you do it.
Breaking into a suspected villains house to find evidence of their guilt is going against your moral code. If you do so, you have ignored your moral makeup and you will need to reassess your morality. Perhaps you were just weak and easily influenced. Just the right type for certain illegal organizations!
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? Responses (9)-9
This is a good article. I recall having this exact issue with a large number of my PCs. They never seemed to have goals that were worthwhile, and that made them more than a tad bit shallow. I think this article could've been a big help then, as it gives helpful advice on where to get goals from.
Very nice coverage of the topic MJS, I just wish it was a little bit longer.
Ditto CM's comment. Detailed geography in a game makes it far more classy and interesting, but I feel like much more ASCII could be thrown at the topic than you've provided. I'd love to hear more on the subject. :D
I agree with Dozus - this feels like a really good start...
Not to be repetitive, but what they said. This would make a fantastic article if expanded upon. Holding vote, in hopes of add-ons.
I feel the same way.
Update Note Added Morals.
Updated: Removed geography to tighten this up a little, Geography will come in a later sub also featuring Language.
This is a a good item to use for making a PC, but still some flaws though.