Adding Character Goals to Play, with Charts for Ideas

Character goals – instead of what is happening to your PC, what does the character want to do in the game world? How are they going to happen to the game world? Characters with goals are character who become more alive from becoming active in order to pursue their own goals.

Below are a number of character goals. They are defined loosely – what matters is the characters attempt to complete them, not so much the details of the actual goal. The details can remain fuzzy while the character impetus to complete the goal remains in sharp focus and attention – this shows who the character is and what they do!

In future posts I will add more potential character goals – those below are ones to start off with!

How it works is you lay out the goals on the table and a player chooses one that seems to suit their character. Players can choose a goal other players have chosen – it could be related to the same target or one that is similar. If players choose the same target but one character fails while the other succeeds, then the other character has indeed failed. It gets a little bit ‘Gimli Vs Legolas’ at that point, where both have the same goal in mind but a rivalry in regards to completing it may occur. If both pass, the one who rolled best did that little bit more towards completing the goal!

In terms of XP, one option is to assign 40 XP times the average party level. This gets distributed amongst all players, so one character completing their goal helps everyone else advance. If you prefer you could have the XP award be individually. In this case the main option is to award 10 XP times the average party level, for a completed goal.

If they happen to fail the goal, one option is to still give the full XP amount. This isn’t about winning and losing, it’s about examining the character. The character just trying to complete the goal has succeeded in showing us what the character cares about, even if he fails to do what he cares about. So they get the XP either way. That is the main option. Another option would be to halve the XP on a fail. The main point is to make goals attractive and rewarding. In my experience play does not flow when there is an absence of rewards – particular during failure!

This amount of XP probably means character goals are a background event – they aren’t ‘big’. It’s deliberate so as to introduce the idea of goals without them appearing to overshadow traditional play if used.

Ultimately this gives players practice at choosing goals for their PC that they would pursue and are mechanically part of the game!

  1. Irate Lordling – A wanna be lord has been offended, treating his own way as having to be the way everyone must behave. He must be dealt with! Somehow? But he has many guards – perhaps a dark secret from his past raised, or a startling revelation in regards to his beliefs (or both – proof his ancestors behaved in very different ways?)
  1. Alignment – The relics are out of place. Magic flows and sometimes it’s a torrent unless controlled. Ancient relics were placed long ago to maintain a peaceful flow, but one has been stolen. Or perhaps misplaced. A storm is on the horizon and the earth trembles. Will someone restore the balance?
  1. Fine print – Some of the young folk of a village have been taken. The problem is, the hooded figure who took them had struck a bargain with the village and the villagers just didn’t expect that a sub clause in the deal would have them losing their children under a certain event. The hooded figure has quite a powerful retinue – but they are stuck with a weakness in the bargain. A clause within a clause. Which if the loophole can be found, would make the deal undone and the youths set free!
  1. Vulnerable villages – Forces, perhaps green skinned, are building up to attack a number of villages or a town, near the frontier (or where ever raider menaces might be!). However, the leader of the raiders is gaining his following from a fetish item – maybe a staff or ornamental weapon. If this item could be destroyed or proven to be a fake, it’d undermine the raiders efforts. Finding out how to do either of these is your goal!
  1. Lost soul – you are trying to find someone. Maybe they got spirited away, maybe they tried to lose themselves because of a tragic event, or a mix of the two. Now you’re looking for them, so their friends and relatives can know where they are again. Maybe you are a friend or relative of them? Hopefully you can find them soon!
  1. Lost Dungeon – Find the location of a dungeon. Perhaps its seeking wealth or items of power. But you have to find where the lost dungeon is (whether it has anything in it or has been looted years ago or collapsed, who knows. But you do know you have to find it first!). Time to start looking for details of this place!


Achieving Goals

The following methods of achieving goals can be seeded through play. Ideally some could become apparent right after a combat or interaction roll. Or the player can prompt for their goal – the DC for the goal goes down by 1 if the player initiates the process of making the roll.

The idea is over two hours of play there will be three goal completion checks per player. Two build up and one final one to determine the result of whether the goal was fulfilled.

Each has a base DC of 12 that you will need to roll over. If they pass the first roll, the second test is DC 10. If they fail the first, the second test is DC 14.

The final DC is 15. For each of the previous checks they passed, subtract 2 from the difficulty of the test. For each of the previous checks they failed, add 2 to the difficulty. So if they failed both prior checks, the difficulty would be 19!

What stat do they do the test on? Decide the one that seems appropriate!

If the player attempts at all to engage the fiction on any of the tests (eg “I look at the strange runes on the wall”) the DC is reduced by one. This encourages interaction, regardless of whether the interaction is one that will help. Enthusiasm is more important than accuracy. And for particularly interesting and adept interaction, feel free to give bigger bonuses (like Advantage in D&D 5E)

The final roll to attempt to complete the goal represents doing the final deeds in completing the goal. This can be abstracted – the character is assumed to go off and quickly do what they can to try and meet the goal. They may give a quick description of what they do in order to reduce the DC of the test and maybe gain other bonuses to the roll. If they pass, then a quick narration of the positive event. If they fail, a quick commiseration. It’s a quick abstraction, rather than going through every five feet of the event.

Which way to achieve the goal?

It really depends on where the PC’s are – if they are in a dungeon, probably roll on the exploration of ruins chart. If they are in a city or town, probably through street contacts. If you’re not sure, choose either Exploration of Ruins or Street Contacts as the closest and flip a coin to see if it is that or through Research. Or just choose one that seems about right! Regardless, then roll dice to see which method is the one involved.

Achieving your goal through Street Contacts

  1. The owner – You see the owner of a tavern you once helped out when things got a bit dicey on their establishment. They have heard many a thing and a few careful questions might get you that one step closer to your goal!
  1. Fair trade – You pass by a market trader, either as he travels with his cart or has his stall set up here. He’s made some coin from buying trinkets you’ve found in the past and then found collectors to buy them for some amount more. More importantly, he keeps an ear out on what is happening. Ask a few questions and gain some ground on your goal!
  1. The rogue – They aren’t always in dungeons. This rogue is a sometimes pawn shop owner, sometimes skulking around back alleys and seedy bars, scaring up work around these parts. Maybe you’ve had to rough him up in the past over felonious acts, maybe you’ve pawned an item or two. But you’ve got a bit of a rough understanding of each other, there he is over on the corner, and you’ve a few questions to ask him about your!
  1. Street urchin – Somehow children fall through the gaps and end up trying to make some sort of living for themselves on the streets. Maybe that’s how rogues are made? So you’ve passed a coin or two to one of them in the past for shined shoes or to buy fruit from them, stolen from who knows where. But now you need information and either you’ve spotted the urchin or spotted one of his friends and gotten him to fetch him, so he’ll be here in a moment. You’ve a goal and some questions to ask!

Achieving your goal through Research

  1. Unpublic library – You’ve gotten to know a few people or a certain circle of scholars – and nearby there is one of their private libraries. It might be just the place to quickly research and find out some information on your goal!
  1. Scattered wizards scribings – In your profession you have gotten to know a wizard or two and nearby is one of their abodes. Inside, no doubt, are a flurry of papers detailing various things they have observed. The servant at the door will recognise you and perhaps under the mass of paper you can find a few scant clues to aid your progress towards your goal?
  1. Market of information – Like other goods, information can be sold at a market too. Stalls lined with old books, which for a coin or two allow you to peruse their wares or even buy books outright. Sometimes their stock is fairly eclectic, but you might just find a lead in the pursuit of your goal!
  1. Your eyes only – The local officials of the kingdom are a little bit lax with their security, it’s not impossible to slip in, peruse a few lower level official records and slip out. Which might be just the thing you need to get ahead in the goal you’re pursuing!

Achieving your goal through Exploration and Decryption of Ruins

  1. The wall – Suddenly a wall comes into view that is covered in pictograms and icons. Or maybe it was hidden until you looked at it in just the right way. But this could have information on some sort of method to achieve your goal!
  1. Whispering bones – There are bones here. Or perhaps the remains of a battle. And amidst it all, scraps of papyrus or even tree bark with markings. They’d carried some information with them, on where to find something or an important place to go. And now if you can decipher it, it’ll help you get yourself to where you need to go or what you need to obtain to help you with your goal!
  1. A code – There are faces carved on the walls, statues gesturing, icons. It appears like decoration, but there are secret inferences and relations between it all. And if you can decrypt it, it could tell you something that will aid you in the pursuit of their your goal!
  1. Worn – the way this rooms floor has worn from footsteps of visitors in the distant past, the way they have worn out objects in the room from use – the repeating pattern of behavior gives clue to a hidden place. If you can just detect enough of these marks of habitation, you can figure it out and find something that will likely aid you with the goal that you seek!

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