Player Motivations for Role-Playing


The actor likes to pretend to be her character. She emphasizes character development that has nothing to do with numbers and powers, trying to make her character seem to be a real person in the fantasy world. She enjoys interacting with the rest of the group, with characters and monsters in the game world, and with the fantasy world in general by speaking “in character” and describing her character’s actions in the first person.

The actor values narrative game elements over mechanical ones. Unlike the storyteller, she values her character’s personality and motivations over other story elements.


An explorer loves to see new places in the fantasy world and to meet the residents of such places, fair and foul. All the explorer needs is the promise of an interesting locale or different culture, and off he goes to see that place.

The explorer wants to experience the wonders the game world has to offer. He also wants to know that there’s more out there to find. He presses for details: proper names of characters and places, descriptions of the environment, and some idea of what’s over the next hill. He’s sometimes interested in the adventure plot and his character’s motivations. (The explorer is close kin to both the actor and the storyteller.) The wonder of new discoveries is what is key to keeping the explorer happy.


An instigator enjoys making things happen. She has no patience for careful planning or deliberation. She’ll open an obviously trapped chest “just to see what happens.” She provokes authority figures and opens dungeon doors to bring more monsters into an already difficult fight. The instigator loves the vicarious thrill of taking enormous risks and sometimes just making bad choices.

The instigator can be disruptive, but she can also be a lot of fun for the other players. Things rarely grind to a halt with an instigator in the group, and the stories that get retold after the game session often revolve around whatever crazy thing the instigator did this week.

Power Gamer

A power gamer thrives on gaining levels and loves the cool abilities that come with those levels. He defeats monsters to take their stuff and use that stuff against future enemies. The story and roleplaying are secondary to action and awesome abilities and magic items.

Most players have a little power gamer in them. A couple of the core elements of fun in the D&D game are the accumulation of power and the use of that power to accomplish astonishing deeds. Nothing is wrong with enjoying that in the game.


The slayer is like the power gamer, but she is even easier to please. She emphasizes kicking the tar out of monsters. Maybe she does so to let off a little steam in a safe way, or she likes the joy of feeling superior. Perhaps it’s the pleasure of having the power to mete out punishment to villains.

D&D combat is thrilling. Few other aspects of the game put a character in such apparent jeopardy. Beating the bad guys is a clear success. Most players enjoy these D&D elements, but the slayer seeks them foremost.


The storyteller is a player who prefers the narrative of the game to individual character motivations and personality. This player sees the game as an ongoing chronicle of events in the fantasy world, and he wants to see where the tale goes.

For the storyteller, the rules are there to support the game’s ongoing story. He believes that when the rules get in the way, the narrative should win. Compromise for the sake of the story is more important than individual character motivations.


A thinker likes to make careful choices, reflecting on challenges and the best way to overcome them. She also enjoys herself most when her planning results in success with minimal risk and use of resources.

Solving a challenge in a creative way is more important to the thinker than character power or roleplaying issues. In fact, the thinker might prefer sound tactics to acting in character or straightforward, brute force battle.


A watcher is a casual player who comes to the game because he wants to be part of the social event. A watcher might be shy or just really laid back. He wants to participate, but he doesn’t really care if he’s deeply immersed, and he doesn’t want to be assertive or too involved in the details of the game, rules, or story. He enjoys the game by being part of a social circle.


Folksonomies: rpg role-playing games

/family and parenting/children (0.518555)
/society/crime (0.398315)
/art and entertainment/humor (0.386088)

fantasy world (0.945269 (positive:0.486607)), power gamer (0.904944 (positive:0.273521)), individual character motivations (0.873355 (positive:0.692280)), narrative game elements (0.664495 (negative:-0.456875)), game world (0.629251 (neutral:0.000000)), little power gamer (0.612410 (negative:-0.662193)), obviously trapped chest (0.609932 (negative:-0.247796)), brute force battle (0.588656 (negative:-0.295482)), instigator (0.571851 (positive:0.195882)), Player Motivations (0.541095 (neutral:0.000000)), character development (0.515186 (neutral:0.000000)), character’s actions (0.506796 (neutral:0.000000)), storyteller (0.502448 (positive:0.490316)), explorer (0.487596 (positive:0.659290)), game session (0.486320 (negative:-0.444615)), story elements (0.483991 (neutral:0.000000)), Role-Playing Actor (0.482825 (neutral:0.000000)), character power (0.480661 (positive:0.675858)), mechanical ones (0.479118 (negative:-0.456875)), real person (0.474775 (neutral:0.000000)), different culture (0.473345 (positive:0.564858)), careful planning (0.471943 (negative:-0.542415)), vicarious thrill (0.470962 (positive:0.661275)), adventure plot (0.470466 (neutral:0.000000)), interesting locale (0.468518 (positive:0.564858)), proper names (0.466984 (positive:0.442783)), new places (0.466064 (positive:0.679222)), astonishing deeds (0.464609 (positive:0.799677)), close kin (0.464109 (positive:0.557600)), new discoveries (0.462919 (positive:0.835479))

Fiction (0.944125): dbpedia | freebase
English-language films (0.881795): dbpedia
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (0.806718): website | dbpedia | freebase | yago
Storytelling (0.798250): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Actor (0.792106): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Player (0.705677): dbpedia | freebase
Narrative (0.700346): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
The Storyteller (0.692944): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Dungeon Master's Guide 4th Edition
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Slavicsek, Wyatt, Laws (2009), Dungeon Master's Guide 4th Edition, Retrieved on 2015-02-24
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: games


    22 FEB 2015

     Role Playing Games

    Comparative notes from various RPGs, including multiple editions of D&D.
    Folksonomies: rpgs role-playing games
    Folksonomies: rpgs role-playing games