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The Purpose Of Your Existance

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A Brief Discussion on Motivating Your Characters

The most basic question everyone faces in life is: Why am I here? What is my purpose?

The scientist says that life’s purpose is the continuation of life through procreation.

The philosopher says that life’s purpose is to find happiness through any means.

The preacher says that life’s purpose is to lead a good and noble existence through an established dogma.

And Rosencrat? Rosencrat says that life is all about enjoying role-playing. And Rosencrat says that, to enjoy role-playing, you need to give your characters a purpose.

+-- Benefits of a Driven Life--+

”When you have once devoted your life to your enterprises, you are no longer the equal of other men, or, rather, other men are no longer your equals. Whosoever has taken this resolution [of purpose] feels his strength and resources doubled.”
-Edmond Dantes, The Count of Monte Cristo

The first thought that strikes is that of curiosity: Why must I give my imaginary character, my child born from my caffeine and action-movie addled consciousness, such a human aspect as a purpose?

To put it simply: It will make role-playing much more rewarding and drive you towards activities and endeavors.

The first impulse of a person, upon making a role-playing character, is to live out their ideal life. For many, their fantasy is living without rules or responsibilities. Freed from realistic constraints, they have no want for money and have no obligations to taxes. Drinking in a tavern all day. Running around battling or reading as the whim seizes them. Loving, hating and doing what they will without care or concern, firm in the knowledge that they live in a world without consequences.

I do not say that one must live the realistic life of toil and ignominy. That’s boring. But this life of purposeless wandering, with no desires or goals, is one of slow decay. Without a passion to consume your life you are nothing but playing a playboy, a spoiled rich child who uses his resources and freedom to indulge his passing whims.

How many movies have you seen where the rich playboy, after living a life of fruitless passions, looks back and sees with regret what he has squandered? Would Batman be a gripping story if Bruce Wayne remained a playboy and never fought crime? Would people tune in to Big O if Roger Smith did nothing but putz around in his car and act snide? Would anyone enjoy Bill Gates if he just used his money to pay attractive people to give him high fives?

Living your life with a purpose grants you direction when you are bored and listless. To complete a goal you will venture to obtain a certain item or conquer a certain obstacle. It will drive you to hold events, involve character and make lasting friends.

Giving your character a life goal also gives your character depth and realism beyond petty emotions and back-story. It makes them seem more human and makes you a better role-player. Your skills as a writer and role-player will increase.

But most importantly: If you have spent your life working towards a goal, and the goal is either selfish or altruistic, you will receive fame or infamy in equal measure.

Fame. Activity in role-plays. Realism. This can all be received simply by giving your character a purpose and following it closely.

+-- How to Find Purpose --+

“A life without cause is a life without effect.”
- Barbarella, Barbarella

The Meaning of Life has been something a lot of people have been searching for. Well, nuts to them. Finding your purpose won’t require shutting yourself off in a cave for seventy years, denying yourself earthly pleasures and only eating bits of ham and your own toenails.

The meaning of life is not found, it is made or born with based upon their histories and experiences.

You can give your character a purpose in one of three ways:
  • Using your character’s backstory as the basis, sculpt a reasonable life goal to fit his or her personality and past.
  • Based upon a life goal that you would enjoy following, sculpt a reasonable history and personality around it.
  • Create a character and then, through events in a role-play, come upon a life goal that you dedicate the character towards.

But what constitutes a good purpose?

First, the goal must not be easy to achieve. If your purpose in life is to make five dollars, eat a sandwich or kill a homeless person then you will have met your goal admirable after…A day? A life’s goal must be difficult. It must be time consuming. It must involve effort. It need not be achievable or perceived as such. Sometimes the most memorable and dramatic goals are born from insanity.

Secondly, the goal must be born from very reasonable emotions. A person who hates Night Elves would not, unless some great upheaval changed their state, desire to see them happy. One who fears dragons would not desire to own one as a pet. These are unrealistic and must be changed.

Thirdly, the goal must be made from an OOC desire. A person who loves to do only good must not create an evil goal and vice versa. A goal that is born from the creator’s heart springs forth unto their creation with greater strength and passion then one contrived from thin air. This allows you to create honest, realistic quests for your characters and to follow them religiously. I you simply create a goal for a desired purpose or to accrue fame/infamy, you will find little in the way of desire to work.

Fourthly, remember where to begin. Often starting from humble beginnings and climbing a ladder to reach an ultimate success is a rich and rewarding experience. Yet other times starting from a position of power and self-evaluating yourself is also a great way to go about things.

Lastly, follow your goals. Do not simply say them for the sake of role-play. Create events. Rally players. Drive yourself towards the end. The journey, not the end, is the true prize. Relish the former and mourn its passing when you reach the latter.

+-- Examples of Purposeful Activities --+

“As we struggle to make sense of things, life looks on in repose.”
-Author Unknown, Probably a Hippie

Included are some examples of hypothetical characters, their goals, their background, what they did to achieve their ends and if they are good goals or not.

Character Name
Jessica Pots

A simple farmgirl, Jessica grew up knowing no strife or hatred. When bandits killed her father and brother, however, her thoughts turned bitter. She vowed to gain strength enough to fight against such cruelties and to become a champion of good and honesty.

To become a powerful practitioner of the Light and to destroy anyone she views as evil or corrupt.

She studies beneath a powerful paladin for years. Honing her skills, she sets off to kill ‘evil’ and, in doing so, learns more about herself and what she has vowed to do.

Good or Bad?
On the whole, Good. Despite how arbitrary and hard to measure “gaining strength’ may be, it is still a long term goal that is both attainable and impossible. You can always become stronger. Can always fight more enemies. And the goal allows for self doubt and reflection, two aspects that make for good, realistic role-play.


Character Name
Joe Kavalier

Beginning as a poor boy in Stormwind, Joe had a singular talent: Painting. Orphaned and homeless, he looked upon the wealthy and nobility with envy.

To use his ability in art to attain wealth and fortune in Stormwind.

Painting murals and small pictures, he will ingratiate himself with adventurers and nobles. He will skim off them, attaining rank and position as he leap-frogs from person to person, working his way to the top.

Good or Bad?
Good. This is a realistic goal that can be all-consuming and drive his actions and moods. The only tally against it is that the means are rather poor and that it will be rather difficult to hold events and involve other characters around such means as painting.


Character Name
Jenetta Claymore

A rich noblewoman’s daughter, Jenetta is ugly and unattractive. She has money, wealth and power.

To kill women and men who think she is ugly.

To use her wealth and power to mask her murdering.

Good or Bad?
Bad. The backstory doesn’t really mesh well with the goal. That, and murdering people is a short-term gain that is more for the purpose of infamy-mongering then anything else. Not really honest and from the heart. However, the goal does allow for her to hold a lot of invents that get other characters involved.

I’ll update this as more comes to me. Currently, however, this is but a small guide.

You set yourself up for this.

(Mild sexual themes. You have been warned.)

English twits.

Shiv's reason is pure!
It's a very nice guide, and very useful. For additions to the guide, I would like to see how an RPer can set up events for others to participate in order for certain goals to be met. It doesn't have to be outright GM-arranged events, it can something subtle like simple adventures to invite others to join or riding along with the plotlines of others.
(06-03-2011, 07:33 PM)Rosencrat Wrote: [ -> ]NO MONTY PYTHON.

English twits.

You can't disguise the fact that this is a good song. I CAN SEE THROUGH YOUR LIES.

I've always found characters that seem to lack any specific goal or purpose odd, too often they end up being stuck in taverns doing nothing but casual RP without ever getting out to do anything. Something at least I find . . . extraordinarily boring.
If RPing with me wasn't terrible enough I'll be watching people and recommending this guide when I see difficulties.

I honestly feel that many of your rping woes will be solved through the implementation of character goals.
(06-05-2011, 07:12 AM)Rosencrat Wrote: [ -> ]If RPing with me wasn't terrible enough I'll be watching people and recommending this guide when I see difficulties.

I honestly feel that many of your rping woes will be solved through the implementation of character goals.

Spoken as a true villainess.
(06-05-2011, 09:33 AM)LostStranger Wrote: [ -> ]
(06-05-2011, 07:12 AM)Rosencrat Wrote: [ -> ]If RPing with me wasn't terrible enough I'll be watching people and recommending this guide when I see difficulties.

I honestly feel that many of your rping woes will be solved through the implementation of character goals.

Spoken as a true villainess.

(06-05-2011, 09:33 AM)LostStranger Wrote: [ -> ]
(06-05-2011, 07:12 AM)Rosencrat Wrote: [ -> ]If RPing with me wasn't terrible enough I'll be watching people and recommending this guide when I see difficulties.

I honestly feel that many of your rping woes will be solved through the implementation of character goals.

Spoken as a true villainess.

If there is some double meaning here, I must admit that it eludes me.

Would anyone be so kind as to enlighten me?
I have actually been working in these concepts to some of my poorly driven/designed characters. My warlock, which by their very nature, has a clear goal and is driven to it; no matter that is not easily attainable. Great job putting it in a guide.

As for rallying players and events I suggest the Humility article. This goes both ways, being the center of attention and helping others with their goals instead of your own. If you're creative then helping someone else might get you closer to your own goals, too.Beer