Tips To Motivate Your Players

Your session is in chaos. Your plot hooks have been ignored and the content you have prepared can't be re-skinned and is totally incompatible with where those idiots have ended up. You're tired, not in the mood to make it all up again and would just really like to use what you have already. Before you call it early and decide a bathtub is a much better place for you to be right now, try some of these tricks to get them back on track.

Steal Their Shit

Steal Their Items

Your player's greed and vanity may continuously shock you, but there's also a way to use it to your advantage. A person's sense of loss prevention is much stronger than their desire for new rewards, and you feel a much stronger urge to defend what you already have when faced with the possibility of losing it. Players will often go to really extreme lengths to get back what's theirs, and when in doubt you can get them to go where you want by having a sneaky bandit rob them in the night - during the watch of the character with the lowest perception, naturally. Then when they wake in the morning all that remains of their possessions are some discoverable clues leading to that hideout you've been telling them about. Or perhaps a particularly bold and nimble thief runs up and snatches something off their belt, before running in the direction of that tomb where that crystal the king wanted is. If that wood elf pickpocket somehow wriggled past the tomb's boss (or was killed by them), the party will charge head-long through that dungeon with greater determination than ever, perhaps even reckless abandon.

Sometimes even the gp value doesn't matter if they have any sort of personal connection with the item. Even simple, replaceable items may be tracked down with extreme prejudice, because here's the thing about adventurers: they're incredibly vain. The PCs are used to being given things or looting places and taking their stuff. The thought of their stuff being looted is an incredible insult, possibly something they hadn't considered before.

The more you go to this well for water, the more your players will wise up to it. In essence that's a good thing, they're getting more immersed in the game and thinking like their character. It just means this is a limited resource that you will eventually deplete.

Sell Them A Bogus Magic Item

Scam Them

A different sort of theft, a merchant or otherwise sells the party a powerful magical item they want. They're nailing this transaction, persuasion checks are bringing the price down and the merchant seems like a fan of their hijinks. If you have a particularly suspicious and difficult to convince party, consider the Glibness spell. Only later once they make use of the item do they realize they've been scammed, it doesn't work anything like advertised (maybe even a negative effect) and the merchant is long gone with their money. A good lesson on who you trust we all end up having to learn? Nope, that merchant is being found at all costs.

Players will often throw good money after bad, their sense of personal justice and desire for revenge overriding anything else. Maybe this merchant is a disguised agent of the enemy they're supposed to be dealing with, or will leave town in a more useful direction.

Like with regular burglaries, the players will wise up to this. Can also have a good outcome, as some players may hesitate to “waste money” on identifying items. It can also be a fun way to introduce cursed items to your campaign.

A Bird With A Cute Hat On

Bird With A Hat

Here's a classic that never fails: the Bird With A Hat (BWAH). Players are motivated by whatever interesting things you provide them: they see something cool and they go investigate it. The more unexpected and seemingly random the BWAH is, the more effectively it will pique their curiosity. Once they see the BWAH they'll have to check it out, and once they do it'll run away to a much further branch. Then further, and further until it's an all-out chase and intense tracking session.

The bird can just as easily be a squirrel, and the hat a cute scarf. Cute animal with cute accessory tends to work pretty well, so you can experiment to your heart's content.

Once your players are back on track, you can experiment with keeping them there by keeping in mind the rules that tend to govern players. They're looking to get rich and improve their characters while interacting with interesting things in the world. Also avoiding having bad things happen to them in the meantime. You may find keeping these objectives in mind while making your plot hooks and events makes them more enticing for the players, or as useful tools to get your players back on track when things have gotten completely out of control.

There's a lot more tools, articles, and generators to help with your campaign available here.

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