Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blogging from A to Z: G is for Gallons of Goals

Today, we're going to talk about the multi-faceted, and supremely important letter "G" (it's the most important letter of the alphabet... not because my name is Greg...).  G is for goals, and goals are arguably one of the most important things you need to take into consideration whenever you're playing an RPG.  That statement applies just as much in the game, and in character, as to out of the game, and the goals your friends have for coming to play an RPG with you.  Better get to know yours and your friends goals.

There are several different kinds of goals, which are relevant to our collective interests.  Today, I want to talk about a number of these: Player, Adventure, PC, DM, and NPC goals, are all important to understand when trying to figure out how to properly construct an adventure.

Before we start in on that however, I think it's important that we first define and understand the difference between "goals" and motivation, because there is a difference, though it may be subtle.  Goals are the end result to which effort is directed.  Motivation is the reason for striving toward that goal.  Keep that in mind as we take a look at the various types of Goals that are relevant to playing RPG's and designing a good adventure.

Player Goals
What is the players goal for playing an RPG?  That's a good question.  What are you trying to achieve by getting out your polyhedral dice, sitting around a table with some friends, a mountain dew or a beer, and probably a pizza (or some other type of party food)? WHAT DO YOU WANT?!  Well, for most people, the end goal at the end of a gaming night is pretty simple: you're trying to have fun! FUN!!!!  Many players may set their goal, unconsciously, that they want to get together with a bunch of friends and enjoy the roleplaying experience for an evening, or a series of evenings, for a campaign.  Pretty simple right?  Well, yea.  The only problem really arises when one or two people have a different goal.  Maybe someone's goal isn't really go come Roleplay, but their goal is to come to the game to mooch free food off of the GM, or to get drunk at some friend's house who is deemed to be "trustworthy" by high school parents.  For most people, you're not going to have too many problems with goals conflicting at the game table because let's face it, you have all got together to play a roleplaying game.  However, you might have problems with conflicting motivations.  Some people might be motivated to play RPG's for the tactical combat, some might be motivated to play because of the chance to roleplay.  This difference in motivation is much more likely to cause conflict and thus prevent everyone from achieving their shared goal of enjoying an evening of RPG's (and beer... or Mountain Dew).

So that problems like these don't happen, it's really best to sit down with everyone before the game starts just to make sure everyone is on the same page.  If everyone understands each other, you're not likely to get into problems later down the road.

You might find that my definition of player goals differs from what you think of when you think about that topic.  I tend to think of player goals as things that go on outside of the game and are not connected to any PC or, in fact, to any actual single game that you might be playing.  Check out PC goals below for what I think about goals for player characters.

Adventure Goals

Well, since this month, I'm trying to focus somewhat on adventures with this whole Blogging from A to Z thing, I would be grossly remiss in not talking about Adventure Goals.  What is an adventure goal? Perhaps the goal of a short adventure is getting the kidnapped princess out of the hands of the evil dragon turtle who kidnapped her from her castle.  Maybe the adventure goal is to enter the planes of chaos and destroy one of the demon lords who rules there.  If you're playing with the same people all the time, make sure to change it; don't always go back to the same adventure goal.  People get tired of:
1) enter dungeon 
2) kill all creatures inside 
3) retrieve loot 
5) profit. 

You're going to have to do better than that.

There is a big difference between a short adventure goal, which might only take a couple sessions to achieve and a longer campaign goal which has much more widespread connotations, but regardless, always try to aim high with the goal.  If your players are able to reach that awesome adventure goal, they will be able to brag about it and will remember it; if they don't, which is entirely a possibility, now you have the seed for the next adventure.  For example, if your players need to prevent a Lich from resurrecting through the use of its phylactery, but fail, than you have a great new goal for the next adventure.  Fun!!

PC Goals
Player Characters are going to have the most varied types of goals and will probably have a lot of them.  PC goals are also the most complicated because they can come in a variety of types and time frames and you, as a GM, are going to have to make sure that you know all of these goals so that you can help your players to reach them.

PC goals can be both short, and long term.  A Short term goal might be something like getting to use the awesome new magic item, that the character just got, in a useful way, sometime during the next encounter.  A long term PC goal might be something like gaining several levels in order to gain that awesome class feature that you've been waiting for.  PC goals can really range in time frame anywhere from a single session, to multiple years, so it can be pretty hard to keep track of that kind of thing.

Player goals also fall into two other distinct categories: mechanical and story.  Mechanical goals are character options, whether that be some XP, a level, a new item, some gold, etc. which will have an impact on their character in the mechanical sense.  Story goals are goals that have to deal with the role your character has played in the world.  Perhaps a Cleric NPC wants to grow up to be a saint.  That's a pretty hefty, and awesome, long term goal.

As the DM, you might want to use some type of record sheet in order to keep track of all of your PC goals.  On the sheet, make tables like you would see in the D&D 4e books for Weapons.  Mark Down the player name, where you would see Simple weapons, and then for each category of goal, i.e. Short Term-Mechanical, Short Term-Story, Long Term-Mechanical, Long Term-Story, have your player write down a few of his or her goals, or, if you hear him talking about something that he would like for his character, just go ahead and mark it down yourself.  (I'll probably get around to making a table for that at some point and post it up here... unless TheWeem gets there first ;)  he always makes the coolest accessories, loving the Fate Point Cards).

Manage your players expectations while trying to help them reach the goals that you have recorded.  If you can work those goals into the adventure in some way, than you're on the right track.  You should, however, work your way through the group, rather than focusing on one person too much.  If one person's story ends up having more importance to the larger side of the plot, make sure to take time out to have small, side-trek adventures that will showcase your less focused on PC's and allow them to achieve their story based goals.

As the DM, you have one goal, make the game fun for everybody involved.  You may have some goals, such as showcasing a really cool monster that you put together, or showcasing some cool world element that you made in your copious spare time, or you might have something even loftier, like having your players experience the awesome linear adventure you just got finished writing... but, if your goal ever comes into conflict with your players goals, to the point where they are losing interest in your adventures, you need to put those goals aside and refocus.  You're kind of like the host of the party, that means you might not have a fun time setting up, or cleaning up, but if you stay in control, and pay attention to your party guests, and their needs, they are going to have a great time and come back for the next party.  If your players are happy, they will let you take chances and try to have some fun of your own.

NPC Goals
This might be a silly thing to mention, since I've just spent all this time talking about having goals, but it's worth mentioning that your NPC's should all have goals as well.  Perhaps you don't really need to write them all down, but keep it in mind.  For an NPC, a single goal is probably all you ever need, unless that character is going to show up A LOT!  A random Baker NPC's goal is probably just to sell bread after all.  He doesn't need some crazy back-story.  An NPC assassin might just have the goal of killing player X or NPC Y.  He or she might not need a lot of other complicated goals, though a character like that probably needs to have some motivation that will make that character interesting to interact with for the players.

Well, that was a pretty long post, and I'm a bit exhausted from writing it, but I will say, I'm really happy with how this is coming along so far.  My goal for this month is to write 26 of 26 posts for the Blogging from A to Z challenge and to do them all on time.  Also, if possible, I want to have a motivational/demotivational poster in every single one of them because A) They are awesome and funny and B) I find that I need the motivation to keep doing this because it is dang hard.

See ya'll tomorrow!!

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