Playing an adventurer with no reason to adventure? An short tale


Gamer Life General Discussion

Silver Crusade

The following is a story of a player who genuinely confused me.

I started in a campaign earlier this month with my DM friend and 3 new players. Our first adventure hook was that we saw a thief from a local apocalypse cult stealing a sacred book from a temple to Nethys, a priest-librarian running out and pleading for us to stop him because the book contains a secret that could "open the gates of the Abyss in this very city." Not liking the sound of that, we all decided to chase the thief... except for our bard.

I was a chaotic-good cleric of Gorum, he rolled a true-neutral bard who had a simple background and was a simple guy who played in taverns to make his money. Our characters were acquaintances and when it appeared he wasn't coming I asked "Aren't you coming to join us in glorious battle?" to which he responded "Why should I?" Odd, but I figured he just needed a nudge. "The city might be in serious danger!" "How is that my problem? I can just leave." Getting a bit frustrated and wanting to get the action started: "There could be a big reward in it for you!" "I make enough at the tavern I play." At this point the DM looked as confused as I was, so my character grabbed him by his collar, hoisted him up on my horse and started riding the direction the thief went. From there, he begrudgingly aided in stopping the initial cultists and afterward our characters sat down and had a serious chat about whether he wanted to keep fighting the good fight against the bad guys. He took an rl 5 minute break to come up with a reason, eventually coming to the conclusion that my character owed his for his services and that he would travel with us until he found a way to make me pay for shanghai-ing him the first time.

My question is: Do you have experience with characters who (quite literally) needed to be dragged into adventuring? I'm not mad or anything like that, I'm just confused and I don't want more occasions where my character has to crowbar his into participating.


does the player really want to play y/n

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I was expecting worse. Maybe he just wanted a more personal motivation, like that a loved one would be endangered? His responses sound pretty reasonable for a non-heroic type of person; was the campaign originally presented as one where the PCs needed to be the type of heroic individuals who would jump into danger to right wrongs? If so, then he should have made a different character. But if not, then it was kind of silly to make an adventure hook that required that type of character.

So, what was the understanding among the group before the campaign started?


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This is why when I GM I present at least the basic campaign theme and require players submit characters that are going to be interested in and motivated by that theme.

This is a more severe example, in that it seems the character has no reason to adventure, but absent a theme a player will often make a character with a background and/or motivations that push them a certain way, and if they don't fit, it can be tough for them to change them and enjoy the game. Putting this together ahead of time prevents this problem.

This is what you don't want:

GM: Everyone have their character?
Bob: Yes, Bruk is a dwarf whose greatest ambition is to explore the depths of the underdark.
Mary: Emerald is a bard that dreams of performing on the finest stages in the world. She prefers to use subtlety and intrigue rather than force to get what she wants.
Steve: Sir Tarrin is a Paladin who wants to travel to the worldwound and face down the demons there.
GM: Ok, so you have your ship are and ready to embark on a career of piracy. Word has it, that the Dowager Empress, a well laden merchant ship will be passing through the Isles and if you head out now you just might be able to intercept her and gain rich plunder.
Players: What????

Sovereign Court

Why is that character an adventurer at all? It seems like their current character should become a lackluster NPC and they should start playing an adventurer.


I had something similar happen.
I was setting up a campaign. Told the players. "Preferably you are all war buddies, but one of you can be a close friend to NPC X, so that when he was murdered you'd want to work with his other friends and help avenge him"

The player readily agreed that he would do such. Then created a drunken monkey that had had a few drinks with NPC X and all he wanted to do was go and be drunk. Yeah, that didn't work out well and had the player make a new character. Then he made a CE gnome when we had a paladin, I said if he could find a way that the paladin would want to work with him and wasn't disruptive anymore to the story he could do so. He soon thereafter wasn't in the game anymore.

Sovereign Court

Chess Pwn wrote:
The player readily agreed that he would do such. Then created a drunken monkey that had had a few drinks with NPC X and all he wanted to do was go and be drunk. Yeah, that didn't work out well and had the player make a new character. Then he made a CE gnome when we had a paladin, I said if he could find a way that the paladin would want to work with him and wasn't disruptive anymore to the story he could do so. He soon thereafter wasn't in the game anymore.

That sounds like they had an especially disruptive variant of SSS.

Special Snowflake Syndrome.


It was super annoying. Plus he was flaky too, but the rest of the group didn't want to play with a player missing, even if the player just sat at the tavern while the rest did the adventure when he was there. Just not a good fit.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Why is that character an adventurer at all? It seems like their current character should become a lackluster NPC and they should start playing an adventurer.

To be fair, you could have said the same of Luke Skywalker at the start of Star Wars. Could be that the player was waiting for the GM to drop the smoking, bloody remains of his only family members onto his lap. That's why I was asking earlier what pre-game agreements (if any) had been made about character creation and the premise of the adventure.


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Jiggy wrote:
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Why is that character an adventurer at all? It seems like their current character should become a lackluster NPC and they should start playing an adventurer.
To be fair, you could have said the same of Luke Skywalker at the start of Star Wars. Could be that the player was waiting for the GM to drop the smoking, bloody remains of his only family members onto his lap. That's why I was asking earlier what pre-game agreements (if any) had been made about character creation and the premise of the adventure.

In all fairness to the GM, if the player wanted that type of personal motivation and attention to bring his character into the campaign they probably should have talked to the GM about it before finalizing the character so both parties could have been prepared.

These types of problems are specifically why I like the Campaign Traits as they are used in the Paizo APs. If done correctly they will nudge the character into the adventure in a natural, organic way while also offering a small reward for the little bit of "railroading" of their background.

Silver Crusade

Sometimes players fall in love with a concept and don't notice that it won't fit in the campaign until too late. And, for sone people, once a character has "gelled" it is too late to change.

I was in a campaign once where a PC lasted exactly one session since it had no reason whatsoever to asventure. Player created a new character for the secobd session.


Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Why is that character an adventurer at all? It seems like their current character should become a lackluster NPC and they should start playing an adventurer.

The antihero (and by that term I mean a "hero" that lacks the typical heroic qualities, as opposed to SUPER DARK HEROES) is a perfectly valid and interesting character to explore, and in many campaigns will be fine- notably, campaigns that are plot heavy and dare I say a wee bit railroaded.

The problem is that Pathfinder is a combat heavy, teamwork heavy game and there is an unspoken rule that isn't obvious at all to newcomers- The Party Comes First. Any Evil, Selfish, or Just Plain Uninterested character is fine narratively, AS LONG AS that character has reason- some reason, any reason, even if it's a lame one- to work with the party and go on adventures in the long term. Newer players might not realize that and need some GM prodding, and if this isn't realized immediately it will become a problem.

This is why Session 0s are super useful, to make sure all characters have a reason to work with the others, that no problems will come up, and if problems do come up, brainstorm ways to get around them without sacrificing the character concepts.

This is far from unsolvable, though. You can ride the unpaid bill excuse for all it's worth, and while doing so make an effort to get to know his character (and try to get him to do the same). The result will be that your character will want to travel with the party due to simply being friends with the party. You can ask him "What WOULD make you go adventuring", out of character of course, and then try to write that into the adventure.

You could even Leave him behind for awhile (have him take over an NPC or something), and use the time that his character is offstage to redefine his character. The next time the party meets him, maybe he's gotten himself captured by bandits, maybe he's had his family heirloom instrument stolen, maybe the local authorities hired him against his will to go fight bandits. The point is, the second meeting he should be ready to play (and the GM and Player should work to ensure that he is). He can still be a boring, simple man, but now he at least has some form of motivation to work with the party.

The key is communication between GM, player, and the rest of party. There's all kinds of narrative hijinks you can pull as long as everyone is on the same page.


One of the group of a game I joined was an alchemist who worked at a tavern. The game was nautical (later Pirate) themed and his character lived and worked in this port bar. He had no reason to adventure amd when promised wealth and freedom, he turned it down. Ultimately he was kidnapped and brought aboard the ship as the party had no other way of getting him to join.

Personally, I shove my character into the game as someone who is from a critical game location and working as a background character within whatever group the GM has that brings the party together. In the case of the mentioned game, I was a deckhand on the ship the GM was trying to get the party on, from the city of pirates, who had left to be free of their corruption and seek an honest life. Ultimately my character was the only one with ties to 90% of the campaign.


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Gaius Dinnereater wrote:

The following is a story of a player who genuinely confused me.

I started in a campaign earlier this month with my DM friend and 3 new players. Our first adventure hook was that we saw a thief from a local apocalypse cult stealing a sacred book from a temple to Nethys, a priest-librarian running out and pleading for us to stop him because the book contains a secret that could "open the gates of the Abyss in this very city." Not liking the sound of that, we all decided to chase the thief... except for our bard.

I was a chaotic-good cleric of Gorum, he rolled a true-neutral bard who had a simple background and was a simple guy who played in taverns to make his money. Our characters were acquaintances and when it appeared he wasn't coming I asked "Aren't you coming to join us in glorious battle?" to which he responded "Why should I?" Odd, but I figured he just needed a nudge. "The city might be in serious danger!" "How is that my problem? I can just leave." Getting a bit frustrated and wanting to get the action started: "There could be a big reward in it for you!" "I make enough at the tavern I play." At this point the DM looked as confused as I was, so my character grabbed him by his collar, hoisted him up on my horse and started riding the direction the thief went. From there, he begrudgingly aided in stopping the initial cultists and afterward our characters sat down and had a serious chat about whether he wanted to keep fighting the good fight against the bad guys. He took an rl 5 minute break to come up with a reason, eventually coming to the conclusion that my character owed his for his services and that he would travel with us until he found a way to make me pay for shanghai-ing him the first time.

My question is: Do you have experience with characters who (quite literally) needed to be dragged into adventuring? I'm not mad or anything like that, I'm just confused and I don't want more occasions where my character has to crowbar his into participating.

Simple... leave him behind. The player will either rethink his character and join up, or roll up a new one, or prove that he did not belong in your gaming group by leaving.

Many people who set up characters like this do so in order to get extra attention and spotlight to get their characters moving.

Sovereign Court

Jiggy wrote:
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Why is that character an adventurer at all? It seems like their current character should become a lackluster NPC and they should start playing an adventurer.
To be fair, you could have said the same of Luke Skywalker at the start of Star Wars. Could be that the player was waiting for the GM to drop the smoking, bloody remains of his only family members onto his lap. That's why I was asking earlier what pre-game agreements (if any) had been made about character creation and the premise of the adventure.

That's the sort of backstory which the player should have made up as having happened to them before the first session.

I sure as heck wouldn't want to play through a session as a droid wandering through the desert who gets captured by jawas either.


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I have very limited patience for players that need extra push and attention to just play the game and stop being deliberately disruptive. Roleplaying your character is one thing, but this is an adventure game, be an adventurer. If your character is the type of person to drag their feet, such as Bilbo Baggins, then work your reluctance towards adventuring into your background, but making your characters motivation thr responsibility of your fellow players is just...annoying

Silver Crusade

I called and asked him today and he apologized for making it look like he didn't want to play. He basically just did it because he wanted to see how/if he could make it work and made it clear he will stay with the group even if he has to come up with more excuses for it.
So he basically just wanted to try something unusual (playing a mostly average-joe, not particularly good or evil, who just happens to fall or gets shanghaid into the adventuring life) and seeing how far he can run with it. I won't lie, it has kind of annoyed me so far, but I'm hopeful it will lead to some interesting roleplay between him and my Gorumite cleric who sees the potential of a great warrior in this simple musician, so we'll see where that takes us. Thanks for the answers.

Liberty's Edge

Rincewind?

A character who is a coward, wanting to stay home, but forced by fate to go out and save the world, could be fun.


The solution is simple, your cleric worships the god of battle, clearly this guy is a worthless coward, so your cleric tells him cowards like him are unwelcome in his presence, the player can either decide to have his character be motivated by that or make a new character. Or he could want some special snowflake story, but you are best of just telling him to shove it in that case.


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If your character hasn't got a motivation for doing anything, then you haven't got a character.


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I always, always make sure, "Your character must have a reason to want to be involved," is something every play on the table has.


Jiggy wrote:
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Why is that character an adventurer at all? It seems like their current character should become a lackluster NPC and they should start playing an adventurer.
To be fair, you could have said the same of Luke Skywalker at the start of Star Wars. Could be that the player was waiting for the GM to drop the smoking, bloody remains of his only family members onto his lap. That's why I was asking earlier what pre-game agreements (if any) had been made about character creation and the premise of the adventure.

Yeah but didn't Luke actually yearn for more even before everything went down? He wanted to be a pilot for the Empire at first I thought? I think there's enough motivation to make it feasible, even if his desires changed halfway through.

Rey is definitely a good example though. Even after a chance to be Han's protégé and meet "THE" Luke Skywalker, she's still like, "Nah, I have to go back to the crapsack planet my parents dumped me on and serve the dude that just tried to kill me. Sure would be cool to save the galaxy, but unless someone captures and drags me into space I'm just going to eat sand for another 20 years."

Sovereign Court

Belulzebub wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Why is that character an adventurer at all? It seems like their current character should become a lackluster NPC and they should start playing an adventurer.
To be fair, you could have said the same of Luke Skywalker at the start of Star Wars. Could be that the player was waiting for the GM to drop the smoking, bloody remains of his only family members onto his lap. That's why I was asking earlier what pre-game agreements (if any) had been made about character creation and the premise of the adventure.
Yeah but didn't Luke actually yearn for more even before everything went down? He wanted to be a pilot for the Empire at first I thought?

He wanted to be a pilot off-planet, but not for The Empire. He actually mentioned hating them before his uncle/aunt were killed.


Also, the plot was designed to rapidly give Luke a major hook.

Heck, even before joining the Rebellion was in the cards, going after the droids was a motive.


Carl Hanson wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Why is that character an adventurer at all? It seems like their current character should become a lackluster NPC and they should start playing an adventurer.
To be fair, you could have said the same of Luke Skywalker at the start of Star Wars. Could be that the player was waiting for the GM to drop the smoking, bloody remains of his only family members onto his lap. That's why I was asking earlier what pre-game agreements (if any) had been made about character creation and the premise of the adventure.
In all fairness to the GM, if the player wanted that type of personal motivation and attention to bring his character into the campaign they probably should have talked to the GM about it before finalizing the character so both parties could have been prepared.

Oh, sure, if "assign blame" is a critical element of this discussion, the player probably deserves more of it. But this seems like a fairly resolvable misunderstanding.


In truth, the bard probably acted more in character Roleplaying wise than many other True Neutral characters.

He's right, why would a True Neutral character necessarily care.

If a forest fire threatens your home, normally you don't jump up to go fight it, you go somewhere else, unless you are a fire fighter and have jumped up to join in that way.

Many adventures are designed for Good characters rather than any of other alignments. They have no real reason to try to save the city, or the nation when they could easily take up stocks and go somewhere safter. Good characters think of the welfare of others...not necessarily true of anyone but good characters. Evil character particularly think of their own welfare.

However, as many have said above, for party and game unity, we normally all need to find some reason, any reason at all, to have our characters go with the plot...as it is a team game and not doing so disrupts the game.


There was a time before public body fire fighters - where if you didn't do it nobody would. Acting in your own self defence sits outside the alignment system - it is universal.

If you pick True Neutral you need to work harder to come up with motivation - but it is still your responsibility.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Looking at the original post I can *easily* see how a bard could be swayed to join an adventuring party as:

...a comedian (material for future acts based on party interactions, a la 'Seinfeld'...

...if word gets out that they fiddled while *insert town here* burnt to the ground and they did *nothing* to stop it, not a lot of venues are going to want to have them perform and may even have them banned/arrested/etc...

...the party can be the 'testing ground' for any new songs, material, ideas that the bard comes up with...

These are just some ideas off the top of my head, mileage may vary, but admittedly, players should have a little bit of a conference to hammer that thing out, as well.

The *illusion* of agency is important in a campaign...

What comes to mind here is a scene from 'Going Postal' between Lord Vetinari and Moist von Lipwig. Sure, Moist can go through that door in the back room and leave.

Spoiler:
It goes to a pit that no one is quite sure where the bottom of is...
or he can take the offer that Lord Vetinari is making and try to go with it.

While it is a bit heavy-handed, the important thing is that there is a *choice*, and the clear answer is not always the best one.


Gaius Dinnereater wrote:
My question is: Do you have experience with characters who (quite literally) needed to be dragged into adventuring? I'm not mad or anything like that, I'm just confused and I don't want more occasions where my character has to crowbar his into participating.

Then don't.

If the player has created a character with no motivation to adventure with the party, then you have a player problem. Sometimes it's deliberate, a way for the player to passive-aggressively get attention or to hijack the adventure and make it all about their character, and sometimes the player just didn't think when they created the character, or sometimes they get so into their "realistic" character they can't find a way out again. That's why campaign traits are so useful, because they generate a reason for the PCs to be together and adventure, and help set the scene. When I run homebrew, I always task the players with finding a reason for their PCs to adventure together, either by selecting a background trait or incorporating into their backstory just who and what they are, and any important events in their pasts that have bearing.

However, one thing it isn't is your problem. Unless you enjoy putting lots of extra work into getting his PC to tag along and risk his life "Think of the stories you could tell, and the songs you could sing!" then don't compromise your own enjoyment of the game. Ultimately it is his character and he has to bear responsibility for creating it; not everyone wants to play Harvests & Haywains living ordinary lives in a fantasy world.

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