Salutations, nerds! One of the big things that comes up a lot in terms of characterization is, “What reason could your character possibly have for wanting to risk their life in a dungeon?” And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. I give you five reasons a character might want to be an adventurer.
Go on an adventure
5 – It’s lucrative!
You get a lot of gold adventuring. A lot more than you get, say, running a tavern. There be gold in them there hills, after all, and a year or two slaying monsters can set you for life. Let’s be honest, if being an adventurer were a viable option in the real world, that’s what a lot of us would be doing instead of what we’re doing currently.
The big pitfall here is it can become a really toxic motive in a group environment. And there’s not a lot to pick at. Something useful might be to fund something specific. For example, your character might want to open an orphanage or a public school in their home town, or build some kind of monument.
They might even want to found an entirely new town. Who’s to say? But having a particular goal for all of that gold is useful because it says a lot about your character’s motives and goes a long way towards preventing in-party fighting over treasure drops.
4 – Wanting to know what’s out there
Most peasants never get more than a few miles away from home, after all. Your character wants to travel and becoming an adventurer is an excellent way to see the wonders of the world.
This one is particularly great because it gives your character a motive for going to the far corners of the world. All the Dungeon Master has to say to get you to go to the adventure is, “This is an interesting location,” after all. It’s excellent investment and a great motivator for a younger curious character.
And it comes with the inevitable eventual disillusionment with risking life and limb. That kind of character growth is pretty amazing.
3 – Desire for fame and legacy
Many people want their names to go down in legend. Bards will sing about you, what’s not to love about that? Characters like this are more likely to do the heroic thing and that can be pretty fun to play as well.
They’re also more likely to take quests “just for the exposure,” which can lead to the rest of the party side-eyeing them especially if they’re people who want the loot more than the glory, but hey. That can be some interesting conversation as long as everyone is on board on an out of character level.
2 – Questing for something specific
So your father was an adventurer and you are off questing to find his sword. Or maybe you have a sick relative and you want to find the one rare herb that you can use to save their life. Maybe you’re questing to get revenge on the man that burned your village to the ground.
Whatever it is, this is going to give your DM plenty of fuel and that’s always a good thing. It gives you something to look for when you get into town and gives you a diehard reason for doing what you’re doing.
The biggest pitfall of this though, is why continue adventuring once you’ve found it? Well. Any of these other reasons is good enough, and maybe by that point you’ve just acquired a taste for it.
1 – To get away from bad circumstances at home
If you think for a second Cinderella wouldn’t have gotten up and decided to go be a warlock with a fairy godmother patron if that had been an option in her world you’ve got another thing coming. Sometimes, you’re a criminal. Sometimes, you just have horrible relatives that expect you to do everything for them and would do anything to get away from that.
Sometimes you were born and groomed to take a place as a priest in a temple that enforces a vow of silence but all you want to do is sing (I’m looking at you Acolyte background bards — actually I think I’m going to play that character at some point but, moving right along).
Anywhere but here is easy when you have the option to be an adventurer instead.
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Speculative fiction writer and part-time Dungeon Master Megan R. Miller lives in southern Ohio where she keeps mostly nocturnal hours and enjoys life’s quiet moments. She has a deep love for occult things, antiques, herbalism, big floppy hats and the wonders of the small world (such as insects and arachnids), and she is happy to be owned by the beloved ghost of a black cat. Her fiction, such as The Chronicles of Drasule and the Nimbus Mysteries, can be found on Amazon.