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Reinforce Cooperative Character Motivations

by Mike on 30 August 2021

Even the best players sometimes build characters that just don't get along with the rest of the group. The idea of a complicated character filling the role of the reluctant hero seems great initially but at the table it can end up being a pain in the ass.

If you'd rather watch a video on this topic you can see my YouTube video on reinforcing cooperative character motivation.

Before the session zero of any of my campaigns I like to give out a one-page campaign guide such as my Rime of the Frostmaiden campaign guide, my Eberron campaign guide, and my Descent into Avernus campaign guide as examples. In each of these I like to reinforce two things: the connection between the character and the story of the adventure and the cooperative connection between the character and the rest of the group.

It works well to do this before the players start building characters. That way we slide in before they start thinking of their character as the lone wolf druid or the mercenary fighter who only cares about money or the shifty rogue who likes stealing from the group's wizard.

We can distill down this idea to it's simplest form by presenting the players with a single clear motivation they should bake into their characters:

"You're character works in cooperation with the group to accomplish X" where X is whatever the story of the campaign dictates. In Rime of the Frostmaiden it's helping the people of Ten Towns survive the endless night. In Descent into Avernus it's to serve the city of Elturel and honor the Hellriders.

Then, during character creation, you can ask the players to describe what motivates their character to work with the group. This changes the dynamic consideribly. Sometimes you'll get a blank stare as they realize they didn't even think about the group when building their character but it's better to tackle that now instead of when you're deep into your campaign.

The next time you're starting a new campaign or introducing a new character into an existing campaign, work with the player first to reinforce the motivation of their character to cooperate with the group. It saves a lot of problems down the line and gets us away from the cardinal sin of D&D, "It's what my character would do!".

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