Sewing Theme and Mechanics Together

The Goal Behind Goals

I’m ambivalent when it comes to character goals. They feel like a natural thing to include in a ttrpg, and they’re easy to sell to players and GMs who are looking for a deeper roleplay experience. But more often than not I feel like they end up left by the wayside as the party is swept up into the larger narrative. I ended up including a set of three character goals in SFU, painted as “What I Gotta Do”, “What I Wanna Do”, and “What’s On My Mind”. I like using triads when it comes to mechanics that represent character motivation, that’s a trend that appears in my other games too. It feels well-connected and balanced, as triangles are. These felt like three aspects that are connected to pretty base-level, primal feelings that anyone can understand: the pressure of expectation (Gotta Do), personal desire (Wanna Do), and unresolved emotions (On My Mind). They’re so basic that they don’t have to be colored with the character’s outer identity, as some goals are. To dip into fantasy, “enacting vengeance” is a more expected goal for a fighter, but maybe not for a cleric. But connecting the goals to base emotions can also allow the player to project pieces of themselves onto their characters, if they so choose.


I think a good example of mechanic reinforcing theme in SFU is how characters refresh their #tags. #tags are important because they provide extra dice for characters to use during Challenges, but they can only be utilized once, thus they’re an important limited resource. Players will naturally be drawn to an option that allows them to replenish this vital resource, which thematically involves having their character spend time with the others, and the refreshing of their characters’ #tags reflects the renewed energy and motivation you can experience after decompressing with friends. Thus you close the loop: go and face Challenges, use #tags, go hang out with friends, refresh #tags. Recursive gameplay! Ennies to the left, thank you.


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— Nagi

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