Motivations and Instincts


Motivations explore the characters’ drives, motivations, and goals. In game terms, Motivations are the reflections of love and hatred, of goals and ambitions; while the rest of character creation is about what a character has learned and is able to do, Motivations define what a character is willing to fight, kill, and even die for. While it is entirely possible to create and play a “vanilla” character, without defining Motivations and motivations, these characters inevitably either develop these motivations through play or become the footnotes and bit-characters in the stories of more driven characters. Motivations, more than anything else, are what build a character-driven plot.
At creation, a character may select up to 4 Motivations and allocate 4 points among those Motivations. No Motivation may rise higher than 5


conscience refers to one’s desire to “do the right thing,” be it compassion, heroism, or any other manifestation of “right and wrong”. It’s a common quality of determined men, heroes, and others that struggle with the difference between good and evil. Conscience comes into play whenever the character does the right thing in situations where there are alternatives that might be more profitable, might make more sense, might be less dangerous, or simply be more fun.

Conscience is the only Motivation that does not need to be further clarified, characters simply have a conscience, or they don’t. Whenever a character acts within his conscience as described above, he gets to add his Conscience score in dice to any relevant die pool, making the task he is attempting a little easier. Additionally, at the GM’s option he may gain an additional point in the Conscience after the roll. Also, at the GM’s option, a Conscience may actually be penalized and reduced if the character repeatedly ignores it and continues to do whatever he wishes to regardless of what might be “right”. Characters may only take the Conscience SA once.


Destiny signifies a higher calling – perhaps to become king by your own hand, or to bring down a nation, or restore peace throughout a troubled land. Most characters will not be aware of their destiny (but the players are, and they are encouraged to use as many opportunities as possible to help the Destiny come to pass for their characters). Destiny creates special characters with added depth, but can be tricky to play. Obviously, a character can only have one Destiny at a time.

Destiny points may be added to any die pool whenever important events in the character’s Destiny come to pass. These events are rare and short-lived, but very important and should be the main time that a character stands to gain points in the Destiny SA. Note – a Destiny may not be used as an excuse to gain frequent bonus dice. Instead, the GM will determine when pivotal moments that lead to the Destiny apply, and during those (rare) moments, the character gains his full Destiny bonus on all die polls related to it until the GM deems the moment has passed.


Drive defines an extra level of determination and a powerful sense of purpose. Someone with a drive has a worthy cause that they would die for and (probably) kill for because they believe it to be extremely important. Examples of people with great drives include William Wallace, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, even Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun. The Drive Motivation must be further defined with the object of the Drive, and a character may not have more than one Drive at any one time.

Characters get to add their Drive value to any roll that furthers or defends the cause it is associated with; this applies as often as the GM agrees that it should, and after such a roll the character may (again, at the GM’s option) gain a point in the drive. On some occasions, the drive may actually decrease if the character repeatedly ignores opportunities to fulfill and/or defend it.


Faith reflects the bond between a person and his or her God. This does not pre-suppose that the God necessarily exists, as it is the belief in the God and His ideals and strictures that drives the character further and harder and allows him to achieve great things. The Faith Motivation must be further defined with the actual faith/belief or Deity worshipped, such as Faith: Christianity or Faith: The Seven Vows of the Prophet. As long as a true and deep belief exists, any Faith Motivation is allowable (at the GM's discretion). Generally, characters may only have one Faith Motivation at a time, although in certain circumstances the GM may make an exception.

Faith Motivation dice may be added to any roll that significantly furthers or defends the belief or religion involved, or to any roll that defends or protects the truly faithful (at the GM's discretion). This second application can even protect the character in some circumstances, such as adding Faith dice to an Endurance roll to walk across hot coals while chanting in a religious fervor, but it should not be used in a catch-all "I should get the dice on all combats because my God would be upset if I died" kind of way. GM fiat and common sense dictate available uses of the Motivation. After applicable rolls, the GM may award bonus points in the character's Faith Motivation, and should certainly remove points whenever the character actively works against or repeatedly ignores his Faith.
The Faith Motivations that may be taken depend on the campaign and campaign world being used.


In some ways, an Oath is similar to a Passion (see below), but where a passion is a deep love (or hatred) of a single person or entity, an Oath is a binding agreement with a person, group or organization to do (or not to do) a specific thing or task. It's not necessary to love or even like a person or group that you are oath bound to, the important factor is the character's personal honor and commitment to do what he has sworn to do regardless of personal cost or other factors. In some situations, an Oath may therefore be very similar to the Conscience Motivation, but it doesn't have to be. A character could just as easily have an Oath to do something that he knows is wrong but he feels bound to do it anyway (or he's being paid to do it, or someone is going to kill his wife if he doesn't do it, or…)

Oath Motivation dice may be added to any roll that significantly furthers or defends the character's Oath, and after such rolls the character may (at the GM's option) receive a bonus point in the Oath. Similarly, attempting to get around the Oath or work against it may lose a point, and if the character actively and irrevocably breaks the Oath then he should immediately lose all points in the Motivation (and be encouraged to choose a new one to replace it unless there's a possible way to salvage it). Characters may swear multiple Oaths and as such may have more than one Oath Motivation. What's really fun is if they contradict each other…
Oath is a common Motivation for bodyguards or militia (to protect a person or place), and even for couriers and the like who may be oath bound to deliver a message or obtain a specific item and return it to the person who made them swear the Oath.


Passion entails a specific love, hatred, or loyalty to a single person or entity that occupies your character's thoughts and actions entirely. This adds life and vibrancy to your character and is perhaps the most fun to play.
Passion dice may be added to any roll that directly affects the object of the Passion, such as defending a loved one or slaying a sworn enemy. After such rolls, the GM may award bonus points in the Motivation, or he may remove points in the Motivation if the character repeatedly ignores opportunities to engage in the passion. Characters may take multiple Passion Motivation.
Good examples of the Passion Motivation include Lancelot and his friendship with Arthur (later overcome by his love - and competing Passion - for Guinevere), Romeo and Juliet's love for each other, and the Count of Monte Cristo who spent many years plotting and seeking revenge on his friend who had horribly betrayed him


Instincts reflect what's been drilled into the character's head? What is second nature or automatic for the character? What has life forced the character to learn, through experience or in order to survive?
At character creation, players may define one instinct for their character for every 50 Development Points the character is built with (rounding up). Instincts should be written on the character sheet.

Always, Never, or If, Then

Instincts are reactions and automatic behaviors and should not involve a great deal of decision making on the part of the character. Instincts are best defined using statements like Always do X, Never do Y, or as "If this condition occurs, the character takes this action."

Whenever the conditions of the instinct are met, the instinctual actions automatically occur. The player doesn't have to announce it, it happens automatically. In certain cases, if the character actively tries to not respond instinctually, the GM may allow a check using Will to resist in a split second — but at a suitably difficult target number (still under construction). Instincts cannot allow a character to bypass a check but they can assume that you made the check at some point before trouble started.

Example: A common instinct for a skirmisher might be "When on patrol, always have my bow ready and an arrow knocked." Even if the player doesn't mention this, if it has been established (and written down), it happens automatically.


Essentially, instincts are failsafe conditions that ensure a character reacts to certain circumstances according to the player's design, regardless of the GM's meddling. Instincts are not by nature an adversarial relationship with the GM; like motivations, instincts should be seen as a way to drive the character in play.

Changing Instincts

Players may change instincts as they see fit to reflect the changing experiences of the character. However, the GM has final say over WHEN the instinct changes. To resist blatant powergaming rather than a direct result of character growth.

Example (from Burning Wheel): Rich's insurrectionist watched his friend's mind get warped and twisted by a foul wizard until he was nothing more than a drooling thrall. As soon as the scene ended, Rich told his GM: "I'm changing one of my instincts. I'm losing 'Always scrounge for weapons after a battle,' and changing it to 'If I am ensorcelled by a wizard, I plunge my sword into my throat and kill myself.'" Quite a brutal instinct, but something he felt very passionately about.

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