Friday, December 28, 2018

Character Motivation in OD&D – More Than Murder-Hobos

A fundamental assumption in OD&D is that all player characters want treasure (after all, it's the source of the vast majority of XP awarded). But this does not have to make characters simple murder-hobos. Treasure can be thought of not as the character's goal, but rather as the necessary means to attaining some larger objective. When thinking of our character's motivation – why she or he goes adventuring – we might ask ourselves the question: why would my character need a mountain of gold and magic items?

Here are 1d20 possibilities to use as-is or to inspire more original ideas:

  1. Your character is from an impoverished noble family, seeking to regain the family fortune and reestablish the family lands and legacy.
  2. A beloved person in your character's life died, and a necromancer has promised to bring him or her back from the afterlife – for a price.
  3. You are a devoted member of your religion; every coin you can donate to your church will promote the interest of your god(s).
  4. You seek revenge against a powerful lord or lady who did some great wrong to you; but you'll need to buy an army to make that happen.
  5. Monster-hunting is a family trade; slaying monsters and taking their treasure is how members of your family have always made their fortune.
  6. You're simply ambitious and you seek to become the most powerful / feared / respected warrior / magician / religious leader in the land.
  7. You come from a poverty-ravaged region and wish to bring wealth back home to reinvigorate your homeland's economy.
  8. You seek a king's ransom – perhaps literally – to secure the release of someone important to you who has been imprisoned or enslaved.
  9. You grew up in abject poverty. You watched your parents and grandparents slave away for a lifetime and die scratching a living out of a patch of mud. That life is not for you.
  10. A plague is ravaging your homeland; the sages might be able to find a cure if only they had sufficient money to complete their research.
  11. Your homeland is the constant victim of raids from surrounding territories. If you could bring back enough money, your people could build fortifications and hire troops to defend them.
  12. Your homeland is ruled by a petty tyrant. With enough money and power you could overthrow the despot.
  13. Enemy raiders come to your homeland once per year demanding a tribute in gold or slaves. With enough gold, you can keep your people safe by paying them off . . . or even drive the raiders away once and for all.
  14. Monsters killed someone dear to you. You won't rest until you've extracted weregeld (or exacted blood revenge) from every monster in the region.
  15. Your homelands were conquered and occupied by a neighboring enemy. You need gold to take those lands back.
  16. Having seen the injustice of the world, you want to create your own utopian country, and you'll need gold to do it.
  17. You are an agent of the king / queen with orders to undermine threats to the region; you are to self-finance with loot, and hand over the rest to fill the royal coffers.
  18. An oracle declared you would grow up to be a great and powerful hero / mage / champion of the faith. You are simply fulfilling that destiny.
  19. You are obsessed ancient artifacts, books, magic items. No risk is too great to secure these precious items.
  20. You fought in a war that recently ended. Apart from adventuring, there's just nothing else to do with your skill set. Getting rich is an added bonus.


  1. Monster-hunting!!!!!!!!! I pick that one! Happy 2019 and boogie boogie!

  2. Very useful Chris. I like it. A lot.

  3. It’s a good list. I’ve never had a murderhobo myself. My guys are either looking for a castle, army and land... or up to no good... or both. Treasure has always been a means to an end.

    My first heartbreaker is called Treasure Hunters in order to emphasize that the treasure is the thing. My second one is called Mythical Journeys to emphasize both exploration but also the journey from level 1 to Lord.

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