Triple Hook: The 3 100% Motivating Factors

Table of Contents:

Got a great tip for you from RPT GM Ryan about motivating players.

This tip works equally well for a question that came up on Saturday’s monthly Wizard of Adventure Q&A call about how to get players to hate NPCs.

By the way, if you’re a Wizard of Adventure, you can catch the recording here.

And if you’re not, sign up today. It’s only two bucks! And you can listen to dozens of calls, plus get other great GMing loot like exclusive tips and templates to help your campaign.

Graphic of section divider

After DMing hundreds of sessions I found out the 3 pillars of adventure that always get characters motivated 100% of the time:

  • Greed
  • Curiosity
  • Revenge

That’s it. There is no other 100% motivating factor. Some characters are motivated by the need to help others, but most are not.

If you can combine all 3 of these things together at once you will get the players high-tailing it towards your adventure in no time.

Don’t ask the players to go save the damsel in distress. Instead:

  • Have a big bad’s henchman spit in their food at the tavern. (Revenge)
  • Have someone offer them a big shiny gem to go get something, which just so happens to be related to the group that spit in their food. (Greed)
  • Leave a big secret about whispers of a secret door at the bottom of the tower that leads to untold riches. (Curiosity + more Greed)

Then see them scramble to go on the adventure as quickly as possible.


You can’t give the players too much gold or magic items or it will imbalance the game and raise their expectations too high for the next time.

But if you don’t offer them, or entice them, with enough gold or magic items, then they won’t care to go after it.


A little revenge goes a long way, and too much revenge can make your characters go berserk.

A little revenge, for example, is having a pickpocket steal their coin purse, leading them on a chase, or having the big bad’s bandits spit in their food at the tavern.

Too much revenge is stealing the characters’ favorite or most powerful item, killing their favorite follower, or cursing them so much that it makes their character nearly unplayable.

Make sure that getting their revenge is actually attainable (otherwise it is highly unsatisfying for them). And when they do get their revenge, let them revel in it.


Curiosity is always good to sprinkle into almost every encounter.

  • What’s in the chest?
  • Why is the map we found incomplete?
  • Why is there a hidden cave in the woods?
  • What is behind the locked door?

The trick with curiosity is to not give away the secret. Let the characters figure it out on their own. Provide clues without giving away the secret. And try to have the discovered curiosity lead to another curiosity.

For example, the bandit leader has a map leading somewhere in the woods, but it doesn’t say what. This leads to a hidden dungeon entrance, which leads to a locked chest, which contains an ancient artifact that only the reclusive wizard in the next town can identify, which leads to the wizard’s mysterious disappearance….

Graphic of section divider

I’m going to endeavour to add more Greed, Revenge, and Curiosity in my Basilica campaign.

Also, thanks to Dave in my GM coaching group, who reminded me that many GMs have kids at the table, or players who aren’t always wanting darker or grittier themes.

For those fine folks, I’d still use Ryan’s great three-pronged tip and pivot to:

  • Desire
  • Curiosity
  • Justice

Curiosity is universal for everyone. And Desire and Justice can be GM’d in a positive way to motivate players and characters to chase your hooks.

As mentioned at the top, you can also use these hooks to get players well-entangled with NPCs. Also on Saturday’s call, we had fantastic discussions around:

  • How do you introduce a new game system to players?
  • How do you get players stuck on wanting to play only one system to try a new game?
  • How do you handle a player who cheats at the table?
  • What if you have guest players drop in? What if they derail things?
  • Monday, I have a new game starting where one of the characters is trapped in a wizard’s spellbook. Her greatest wish is to have a physical body again. How would you grant this heart’s desire of hers?
  • My players took over a hangout. How do I manage that to be simple to keep track of?
  • How do you communicate to people resistant to using AI?
  • How can you make players vehemently hate an NPC? I’m not looking for specific examples, but general advice.
  • How do you reward players mechanically, especially with magic items, when 5E operates under the assumption that players will have few magic items?

Sign up for $2 and listen to all the great advice, or read the transcript.

Have more fun at every game!

P.S. When you are ready, here are +4 vorpal ways I can help you with your campaign:

+1 Take the Free GM Organization Challenge
Stop the confusion and frustration of not having what you need to prep and run games at your finger tips. Become an organized GM in just one week:
Enroll at no charge here and start getting organized.

+2 Use Campaign Logger to Make Prep & GMing Easier
With features like automagic tagging and instant linking, use my web app to make logging sessions and prepping campaign details quick and easy:
Get your unlimited time free trial here.

+3 Get the Demonplague (with 62 5-Star Ratings so far)
A complete level 1-20 campaign D&D 5E adventure path that offers intense roleplay, sandbox and hexcrawl play, cunning combats, and fiendish monsters.
Click here to see more details and to order.

+4 Get More GM Loot
Visit the Roleplaying Tips DriveThruRPG store, or browse books and courses to level up your GMing at the store.

Join a private community with Johnn