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RPT Newsletter #1,207 | How to Motivate Your Players - Part II

What motivates you as a Player?

  • Spotlight. The more the better. I love attention.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Rules. I like getting the most out of a system and building the optimal character.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    5

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
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How to Motivate Your Players - Part II

From JohnnFour | Published June 27, 2022

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1,207


Brief Word From Johnn​


Some GMs have more free time and get a lot of gaming done in the summer, while for others it gets busier and they play less. Either way, I hope you had a fantastic June.

This week I have the next part of Jonathan's series on how to motivate your players. A few simple things make a huge difference in engagement.

Related, some interesting videos came up recently in my YouTube echo chamber about motivation. According to neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, our ambitions and motivation to act on them comes heavily from dopamine.

I always thought sugar, cell phones, video games, TV, sports, connecting with people, and so on created more dopamine, translating into pleasure and escalating desire to pursue more such activities. And when your brain produces too much dopamine you must do more and more to get the same pleasure from it. Turns out that's not entirely true, according to Andrew.

The nuance is, dopamine quantity does not increase per se. Instead, it's how receptive the brain is to receiving that dopamine. The more that floods your system, the less able your brain is able to receive it and process it. Therefore, engaging in constant activities that create dopamine, like checking your phone 100 times a day, eating lots of snacks, and consuming a lot of YouTube echo chamber videos, heh, in effect reduces ambition and motivation.

Something to think about perhaps as we seek living good lives.

Also in today's issue at the end are a trio of reader tips you might be interested in:
How to Measure Map Distance
Multi-GM Campaigns
Create Cheat Sheets of Page Numbers

If possible, motivate yourself to get some gaming done this week!


Section Divider


How to Motivate Your Players - Part II
By Jonathan Hardin, sojournersawake.com

[Comment from Johnn: this is part two of a series Jonathan started here with RPT #1,202 | How to Write Motivation Into Your Games.]


The Power of a Motive
Begin your game by highlighting why the player characters choose to adventure. Is it for glory and fame? Wealth and Riches? Absolution? Knowing the motivation of the player characters helps you design quests and encounters that speak directly to what players want. Watch your games run with more group engagement when you build character motivations and make those part of your quests and encounters.


Where Do You Place the Motivation?
Activate motivation each session by hinting at it in your narrative introduction. Do you remember how to write up an introduction to start off your sessions (RPT #1,202)? Place the motivation there.

For example, a character’s motivation is to learn the stars. Bringing to light the motivation could look something like this game:

GM: The week drones on as the warrior carries buckets of sand for the lizard overlords. Warrior, your body begins to break under the stress and you must succeed with a strength test or take a point of exhaustion. However, roll with advantage since you are able to see the stars at night.

Player: That makes sense, because one day my character wants to learn the magic of the stars!



Bake the Motivation Into the Quest
Assign motivations to player characters without any. This helps those players focus on playing rather than writing up backstories, and ensures every PC has something to struggle for.

Your encounters and quests will not go to waste now since you can build them to perfectly suit the PCs. This method works especially well with new players who are still grappling with the rules.

Examples
Players in a new sci-fi game show up with characters generated but without motivations. So the GM assigns motives:

Space Marine Alex wants to discover new life in the galaxy
Space Marine Jordan wants to obtain rank in the empire
Officer Blake desires to gather information for a secret organization
Medic Max wishes to find a cure for an illness

Each player character can enjoy the game while the game master assigns the motivations outright and then builds the encounters around them.

In this example, we create a quest to visit an abandoned space colony and return mysterious cargo to the outpost. This quest provides encounter rewards that discover new life, serve the empire loyally, obtain information to sell, and find a clue to curing Max's illness.


Collaboration is Welcome
Gather your group to participate in the development of each character's motivations. To do this, ask each player to choose a person, place, or thing to anchor in their character. This ensures, with the creativity of your players, that motivations still drive the quest.

Person
NPCs are often the easiest anchor because linking a PC to this person fosters empathy and hooks them into the quest. Whether this person is a victim or a villain, they either need something or are causing problems. They make great quest givers and quest makers.

Place
Locations in peace are not a good anchor. They should be threatened with conflict. Once a conflict arises, the place can anchor player characters to the quest. Also, places yet to be discovered provide an excellent lure for a character to get out and adventure.

Thing
Jewelry, relics, tomes, and other special items, if desired by the player characters, can keep the dice rolling as the party searches for whatever is missing. Increase the dynamic of this anchor by another faction desiring the same thing.


Motives are the Promise of Reward
Each motivation powers the game. The reward is reaching the goal of that motivation. If the player character serves a friend, the reward is the continued friendship. If they protect a land, the reward is that land. If they desire a thing, once found, that thing is the reward.

Motivations are like the covers of a book. From open to close, they provide structure so we can tell the story.

May your story continue!
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
RPT GM Tips
Tips from and for our fellow Roleplaying Tips GMs to help us have more fun at every game.

How to Measure Map Distance
RPT GM Sarah asked me:

"...how to translate distance on the Breath of the Wild map. Obviously there’s a set amount of time it takes to travel in dnd with various kinds of transportation and actions while traveling.

"I can’t quite figure out how determine how long it would take to travel on average, say to The Great Plateau, then apply that to the rest of the map. I might just order a massive poster of the map from the game and say every inch is three miles or something just to start."



Thanks for the question, Sarah. Three things you might try:

1. Put a distance legend on your digital map. I'm kind of an "ish" GM when it comes to travel. So I'm happy to look at the marker and estimate using it with me old eyeballs.

Turn images on to see an example map legend.


2. Open the image file in Chrome or browser of choice that supports add-ons. Find a "ruler" add-on. Web developers use these all the time for image dimensions and whatnot. With such an add-on, you can drag and draw temporary ruler lines and you'll get a readout of the length in various units. You might say, for example, 100 px = 1 mile at 100% zoom level.

3. Use a free VTT like Roll20. Upload your map and enable the grid/hex overlay. That'll let you count hexes or squares between points.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
Multi-GM Campaigns
RPT GM Max asks:

We are running some kind of experiment. We just started a new campaign free roaming around Westgate in Faerun in D&D 5e. Since we all have little time but high spirit we thought about a way to split the GM responsibility by 3. We are all more or less experienced so we thought it could work out.

Every GM gets some kind of arc one after another. 4-10 sessions, then the next GM starts. All in the same group. GMs who are not GMing become PCs. Maybe you have heard about similar projects and have some tips for me and my fellow GMs about the organisation, wealth distribution etc.?



Cool beans, Max. Thanks for the question. I have run only a couple of co-GM'd or shared world campaigns. Most notably, the Ars Magica RPG (awesome btw) has this baked in with their "Troupe" system. Each player takes a turn GMing a "season" of gameplay. There are three tiers of PCs:

Magi => each player gets their own powerful PC
Companions => players share a pool of more typical heroic characters
Grogs => players share a pool of commoners who serve as hirelings, plot devices, and so on

There are also meta goals called Covenants. All players work together to protect and grow their group's Covenant over decades or centuries.

It looks like you can get Ars Magica 4E free by subscribing to the publisher's newsletter. Check out the sidebar here: https://www.atlas-games.com/product_tables/AG0204

I'm not saying to switch to Ars Magica. But instead to check out the troupe play section and see if there's anything there you can scoop for your campaign.

You might also be interested in checking out RPT#273 » 5 Tips For Co-GMing Games.

Those are my initial thoughts. Hope they are of interest, Max.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
How to Measure Map Distance
RPT GM Sarah asked me:

"...how to translate distance on the Breath of the Wild map. Obviously there’s a set amount of time it takes to travel in dnd with various kinds of transportation and actions while traveling.

"I can’t quite figure out how determine how long it would take to travel on average, say to The Great Plateau, then apply that to the rest of the map. I might just order a massive poster of the map from the game and say every inch is three miles or something just to start."

I had the problem recently. I just began with how long I believed travel distances should be in days of regular travel.

Borderland+Belt-Map-V03-0606.jpg

E,g, I knew that I wanted enough distance between places to make for interesting encounters and at least 1 camping night in-between for night encounters, but not too much, so that travel between these places was common enough.

So, based on Jochen's suggestion of 2 days travel between the capital of the Borderlands, Holt-Lindeck (in the west) and True Auheim, I put another 2 days travel towards Thistle Bush and 2 days travel towards Elvenbridge, and again 2 days travel to the mighty Sapphire Empire's border.

Usual travel distance with march speed is 30 km per day in my world. Or in my case 6 hexes.
I have smaller humanoids and slower wagons move at 20 km (4 hexes), while big humanoids (ogres, trolls etc.) are at 40 km (8 hexes), giants are moving at 50 km per day (10 hexes), and riding horses even allow for 60 km (12 hexes), which is the above distances in 1 day instead of 2 with trot, and 50 km (10 hexes) per half a day in running speed for the very fast messages that need to be delivered.

At this point, this works very well.
Here are the tables:


Overland Movement​

Mode of TravelDistance travelled
in 1 hour*
Distance travelled
in 1/2 day (4h)
Distance travelled
in 1 day (8h)
March Small Humanoids (dwarves, halflings, gnomes, goblins, kobolds, etc.)3 km10 km (2 hex)20 km (4 hex)
Pulled Cart / Wagon3 km10 km (2 hex)20 km (4 hex)
March Humanoids (humans, orcs, elves, etc.)4 km15 km (3 hex)30 km (6 hex)
Donkey / Ox / Slow Horse / Step Light Riding Horse4 km15 km (3 hex)30 km (6 hex)
March Big Humanoids (ogres, trolls, etc.)5 km20 km (4 hex)40 km (8 hex)
Fast March Humanoids (exhaustion!)**6 km25 km (5 hex)50 km (10 hex)
March Giant Humanoids (giants, titans, etc.)6 km25 km (5 hex)50 km (10 hex)
Encumbered Riding Horse / Heavy Warhorse7 km30 km (6 hex)60 km (12 hex)
Trot Light Riding Horse / Dire Wolves8 km30 km (6 hex)60 km (12 hex)
Running Light Riding Horse / Dire Wolves (exhaustion!)**12 km50 km (10 hex)-

* For gaming purposes we round the speed and distances and estimate as appropriate. 5 km = 1 hex.
** Fast March = March x150 % and exhaustion (every hour: FP-Encumbrance).

Terrain​

The strategic movement speed is reduced depending on the terrain.

TerrainDwarven RoadPath / TrailWilderness
Mountains75%75%50%
Grassland / Plains100%100%75%
Hills100%75%50%
Swamp / Desert100%75%50%
Forest100%100%50%
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
Multi-GM Campaigns
RPT GM Max asks:

We are running some kind of experiment. We just started a new campaign free roaming around Westgate in Faerun in D&D 5e. Since we all have little time but high spirit we thought about a way to split the GM responsibility by 3. We are all more or less experienced so we thought it could work out.

Every GM gets some kind of arc one after another. 4-10 sessions, then the next GM starts. All in the same group. GMs who are not GMing become PCs. Maybe you have heard about similar projects and have some tips for me and my fellow GMs about the organisation, wealth distribution etc.?
I had something like this in the past. Alas, it didn't work out. One GM's story arc took only 2 sessions, while another GM's story arc took 14 sessions. Also, the GM-PC was either in the way or didn't know what was going on and was played so seldomly, that it didn't even make sense. In the end, it quickly developed back to being one main-GM and the others just saying they would eventually run a game for... well.. me. Everytime we came to that point though, there were all those "bad timings" and excuses. In addition, when it actually happened, the whole world seemed to be turned a page. It felt different. In a bad way. NPCs who had been there before reacted totally different than before (we later limited NPCs to specific GMs, but even that didn't work out well). The tone of the setting became different, the expectations different, even rules became different.
People run different kinds of games, even in the same group of players.
And once they do, you usually don't want to hurt their feelings...
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
How to Motivate Your Players - Part II
By Jonathan Hardin, sojournersawake.com

[Comment from Johnn: this is part two of a series Jonathan started here with RPT #1,202 | How to Write Motivation Into Your Games.]

The Power of a Motive
Begin your game by highlighting why the player characters choose to adventure. Is it for glory and fame? Wealth and Riches? Absolution? Knowing the motivation of the player characters helps you design quests and encounters that speak directly to what players want. Watch your games run with more group engagement when you build character motivations and make those part of your quests and encounters.
Great article, @JonGraHar !
Actually naming the motive in the introduction to a session is a great catalisator for the ongoing game. Energy level at the table usually peaks and the momentum brings the session to roll even without further "quest givers" to hook the PCs in.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
Cool Map
From RPT GM Maja

Hey Johnn,

Talking about distances on RPG maps, I'd like to tell you about the Aventurien map from the game "The Dark Eye."
Have a look at this: https://www.avespfade.de
It works like Google Maps. Our group had a great time using this. There is even a version for the whole planet of Dere (same game).

Thanks for your good work!
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
One Sentence Character Motivator
From Gold Wizard of Adventure Will S

Hi Johnn, great article as always!

Something in this reminded me of the "one-sentence motivator" which I have found to be a pretty useful shortcut to creating interesting characters by putting some emotional weight behind their goals:

http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2007/09/06/the-one-sentence-character-motivator/
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
Just Do Stuff
From RPT GM Terry Street, DM since 1980

I love new players and I actively attempt to recruit as many as possible. To me it’s daunting the amount of stuff that you can throw at a new player, so I talk to them early on and I tell them several of the things you’ve listed.

Then I tell them you’re going to forget 90% of this, so the number one thing for you to remember is DO STUFF! You can’t do it wrong if you are doing stuff! The rules, table etiquette, etc. will seep in as you continue to play with us.

Love this newsletter and your advice, thanks for the work.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
The Power of a Motive
Begin your game by highlighting why the player characters choose to adventure. Is it for glory and fame? Wealth and Riches? Absolution? Knowing the motivation of the player characters helps you design quests and encounters that speak directly to what players want. Watch your games run with more group engagement when you build character motivations and make those part of your quests and encounters.
As I usually begin a session with asking the players a bit about their character's background, thought, dream, believes, etc., yesterday I asked them the following question:

"I know most of you don't think yourself as adventurers (and maybe never will), but for the sake of putting a name tag to it, let‘s just call it 'adventurer' for now.
What motivates your character? Why do you choose to adventure? For Glory and Fame? For Wealth and Riches? Absolution? Hope? Acknowledgement of your people? Or maybe just because of a deep love for thrill?"


And their answers were eye-opening for me.

The bard is not sure on whether he should call himself an adventurer. For a brief time, he had thought of himself as being an adventurer. When all went well and when he had held the powerful magic sword. But then, reality struck and he almost died. His original motivation was to follow a wonderful story and to write a poem that will bring him riches and fame and will make his name be remembered by it.

The musketeer fears loosing his declining eyesight. His original motivation was hope to find a cure on this adventure. But lately a bond of friendship to the others has overshadowed his goal.

And finally our elven druid spoke up. Originally she was just on a rite of passage for her tribe to protect her tribe from some unnatural menace. But then she learned how much bigger the world outside is, how more complicated, and how many more dangers there are to her people. So she vowed to herself that she will seek knowledge to protect her tribe. Not for their acknowledgement, but out of a natural protector's instinct and deep love.


Did you hear, what their true motivations are? Fear of being forgotten. Fear of becoming unworthy. Fear of losing her loved ones.

And during the wonderful session, it became clear to me that the bard would almost do anything to make the story more glorious and chaotic (and he actually challenged an undead dragon at the end of the session!!). The musketeer was eager to show his worth by achieving things and making sure that his friends can count on him. And the druid is driven by a strong personality, actually running to the bard's rescue as the dwarven dark cleric rose half a dozen 5-yard creatures back to unlife.
 
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