Note: my question is specific to the LMoP adventure. I am not asking for general advice on motivating players.

I've recently begun a new campaign in 5e with my group of players. We are all new to 5e and so far it's a great system and a welcome change from PFRPG. When we played Pathfinder, we ran a published adventure path (Rise of the Runelords if you're interested) and the adventure was very much so "on the rails."

Now that we've switched to 5e I decided to homebrew the setting and adventures, but having never written my own campaign, adventures, or setting, I've been looking to The Lost Mines of Phandelver for idea generation and using it as a general template.

One of the problems I'm dealing with is chapter 3, in which LMoP has a somewhat freeform section where the PCs go about doing various quests for people around town for no apparent pay and then only after they do the job are they discretely rewarded with faction ranks. Well, my players will probably never take on a job like that if they don't get paid -- they might turn it down simply because they don't know what it pays up front. When I tried to use some of the jobs from LMoP they simply turned down the jobs offered and said they had better things to do. I ended up having the NPC pay them for the job in the end.

The benefit of doing these jobs in the starter set adventure is that the PCs gain renown and faction ranks. I want to give my players' PCs faction standing but it's difficult to get them to take the bait without laying out the benefits of why they should do so before hand and without pay -- and pay is not mentioned for these jobs in the LMoP adventure.

How can I get my players to stop being so greedy? How can I get them to bite the hook for these jobs without hard cash up front? I'm especially interested in answers from DMs who have run LMoP and know which section I'm talking about -- Chapter 3, The Spider's Web.

What part of the LMoP adventure am I missing that would motivate the PCs in that adventure to do the jobs in chapter 3 for free?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related question: How to motivate players without the promise of gold and XP? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ You’ve gotten some solid DM’ing advice below, but be aware most of the quests in LMoP actually do have rewards offered (gold or valuable items). Those rewards are listed after "Quest:" in chapter 2. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim Grant
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 2:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Tim, I'm not sure about LegendaryDude but when I DMed LMoP the players declined the side quests thinking that the rewards offered were insufficient. I'm worried that they'll do the same thing in Dragon Heist. \$\endgroup\$
    – Raj
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 18:44

5 Answers 5


Use your character's backgrounds to build intrinsic motivation for your players' characters.

If you're looking at the LMoP adventure, you hopefully have the pre-built characters handy. If you look at their backgrounds, you can see that for every character, there is some kind of intrinsic motivation built into their backgrounds for at least one of the elements of the adventure.

This provides the characters with clear motivation for why they should care about both the mission and the results of the mission.

You can do this in a custom setting in a couple of different ways. First, you could assign different background elements to your players, this may be a bit of a deal breaker for some players, but I've had good luck with it using a pre-built adventure and giving my players the option of which of 10 or so to select (Horde of the Dragon Queen provides 10 different optional background elements).

However, the best thing you can do is to pick up plot elements from your characters' backgrounds. Have them write a short paragraph or even just be super detailed when they are building their BIFT part of their background so that you can mine that for details and NPCs and other motivations.

If you're looking to provide intrinsic motivation, having it worked into your characters' backgrounds is the best and easiest way to do it.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I hadn't actually looked at the pre-builts for LMoP -- like I said, I downloaded LMoP to generate some ideas and as a general starting template for the early part of my campaign. I hadn't considered that the premade characters might intrinsically be motivated to follow up on those jobs, whereas my PCs are obviously not. Now it makes much more sense. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 13:14

Let them not go on quests.

I'm a big fan of letting the natural rhythm of the setting take care of this issue. That is, if your group of unemployed ne'er-do-well's won't clear the way to the old well, someone else will. While the PCs are loafing around things are happening. The world doesn't stop just because they're not looking.

To this end I create a chart for every adventure I run that details all of the plot elements (across the top) and proceeds in time as one reads down. I use this to map out my thoughts on what would happen in the world if the PCs do not intervene at all. The "old well" column of this chart, if I were making yours, would contain entries like:

  • rumors of undead restricting access
  • Linene's niece gets a scare
  • Harbin asks for help, Daran sends three locals out
  • locals come back with reports
  • large party from town clears out old well

This way the PCs are free to just sit on their hands, but in five days the clock will have run out on that scenario. If the PCs do nothing, they'll see others gain acclaim, rise in the Order's ranks, &c. All while your PCs are paying lifestyle expenses and "spending" downtime days doing nothing =)

The key here is to make sure the players (not just characters!) are seeing what they're missing out on. You say you want them to engage in the factions and gain ranks. Try to answer the question "what good is that?" and then provide that good to some NPCs and make sure the players understand what's going on.

An example courtesy of @GreenstoneWalker:

The players in my game did not clear out the bandit hideout. At one point they came back in to town and saw Sildar drilling some militia. He had a new sword, one that glowed brightly. When asked where he got it, he said "We found it when clearing out the bandit hideout."

Then the players can make informed choices as to whether renown or reputation is something they wish to pursue, rather than you feeling the need to push it on them.

  • 12
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for letting players do what they want. Players enjoy agency, and that means they need the ability to make choices, even if those choices are bad for them. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 23:42
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe I agree, with one mental note: I (GM) have to give the players the necessary information to make (reasonably) informed choices. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 I was personally somewhat irked that the players turned down all of the side quests, but they did fine anyways once they got to Thundertree. \$\endgroup\$
    – Raj
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 18:46

You should think about this like a situation in real life

There is an opportunity to do something - how does the PC decide if he will do it or not? The same way anyone does - you ponder if doing this is worth your while. If it is you will do it if not you will pass. - Being worth your while can be money, but it can also be a good consciousness for helping someone in need, nice words of thanks from an attractive lady or even a friend who will help you later on.

Getting a better standing with a faction is a social reward, which is the same as helping a friend in real life, so he owes you a favour. If you offer this Job to the players, they need some motivation to do it. No one will do the Job if it is presented like this:

The blacksmith needs someone to clean out his garbage, but won't pay anything.

There should be a reason for the PC to help someone. Motivations for doing small favours without a tangible reward could be:

  • Someone is in need and can't do it on is own and doesn't have much to pay

    We are a poor family and simply can't afford to pay anyone to do this, but god bless you if you could help out!

  • Someone is offering his gratitude

    I can't pay you much, but if you ever need a good word or help with anything here in town you can count on me!

  • You can open connections for them

    If you do this for me and do it well, I could introduce you to someone who could help you a lot.

TL;DR You have to hint at a reward for their actions - that doesn't have to be money, but like in real life you should think something good happens for doing the job.


I found with money-hungry PCs the best plot hook is to have someone stiff them. Have a lord offer a reward to kill some goblins and refuse to pay. Or a mysterious stranger offer money for them to retrieve and amulet with he uses to teleport away but leaves behind a clue to where he's gone. Maybe he's a faction leader or one of the factions knows more. Nothing motivates a PC better than being robbed of their gold/experience.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I'v literally seen groups fall apart because of this exact idea - Not saying it is bad and I give it +1... personally I love it and it drives the story forward a ton. Just have to be careful. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 16:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed, as with all GM tools, you must be wary of overplaying it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 11:08
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It motives them to go after the person who robbed them; not so much anything else. If that's what you're going for then great, but I've seen GMs have a corrupt lord stiff the PCs and expect them to move on to other things, perhaps holding a grudge for later. Instead, overthrowing that lord became 100% the focus of the campaign. \$\endgroup\$
    – Errorsatz
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 2:06

In part 2, the PCs are offered various incentives (ranging from potions to gold to "help out a former employer" to "there is trouble over there") to do certain things.

PCs can accept or reject those.

After doing said quests, the PCs are often offered to join various factions. If they refuse to join all such factions, and refuse all the quests in part 2, then the PCs may have a boring time. They can neglect said factions, or they can help them; you can point out that rising in social status and power often depends on being part of a larger organization.

If they refuse all quests (with and without rewards), the characters can proceed to be bored.

Now, backing up a second, in part 2, the big quest is "Find and locate Craigmaw Castle, and defeat [...]. Suggests [you look around]". There is a large and explicit reward for this.

Part 3 is what happens when you look around for the Castle, and/or do other stuff. Many of the encounters give directions to said Castle, and/or treasure. They can all be skipped; this merely makes the Castle part harder.


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