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Drives and character motivations

I think I have a broadly good grasp on how to choose Drives for particular actions but there are a number of case that I am uncertain about. I could, of course, shoehorn them into one of the 5 drives but a) I’d like to know what others would do and b) I am curious as to why they are, in fact, something that causes me uncertainty. Is it that I just haven’t grokked the full generality of the 5 drives in the rules? Is it that in fact there are some drives uncovered? Is it an intentional omission because these cases are not what Dune is “about”?

So here are a few cases I’d love some input on?

  • “I am driven by love. I am besotted with this person and want to impress them and I want them to reciprocate my affections in a pure and sincere way. I want them to like me genuinely and sincerely.” The closest I’ve seen in the rules is Jessica’s devotion to Paul as “Faith”. But it’s odd to me to cast every romantic drive as “Faith”

  • “I am driven by glory and need for acknowledgement. I have worked long and hard to research something that has brought benefit to millions. I don’t need to monetise it or convert it into influence but I want my genuine efforts recognised. I want to be t remembered long after I die.”

  • “I am driven by sheer animal terror. I am sprinting across the desert to that rock outcrop with a sandworm behind me. Every ounce of my willpower is controlled by my lizard brain.”

  • “I am bored. I am doing these things because to do anything else is dull.”


The Drive names seem to be partially drawn from the Book “…the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the righteous and the valor of the brave.” With fudging in the case of Valor → Duty/Power.
So some hammering is always required to get the result you want.

I’ve put what I would use for the cases below, but that is my personal view. It may be that for your table you may want to change one of the Drive names to better fit how it works for your players.
Possibly change Justice to Dedication to better reflect the dedication to Love and the law or Faith to Passion as it is easy to be passionate about faith and love.
You could try recasting the case as well. “I am Bored” → “I seek out new thrills and excitement”

I would say romantic love could fall under either Faith or Duty.

  • Faith for the dedication to someone you love. The spiritual aspect of Love.
  • Duty for the responsibility you might feel to the one you love. You want to do want is right for them.
    Neither is a perfect fit, but it feels closer than Justice, Power or Truth.

This is very much Power or Truth.

  • Power for the view that it is a selfish drive. You may not want influence or riches, but it is very much centred about the character being the important one and others acknowledging that.
  • Truth for the fact that it is about Knowledge and that the desire has been driven through research & learning.

This is a hard one… :thinking: Possibly Power as it centred on the character trying to control the universe around them? This one does feel like a struggle to fit into any of them.

This is almost the opposite of a drive. :open_mouth: Maybe Power or Duty?

  • Power as again this is centralising the drive on the characters desires.
  • Duty as they are only doing these things out of a sense of obligation and they don’t really care? - More of a stretch this one.

If you recast it as “I seek out new thrills and excitement” then I would say Truth could also work as you want to discover new things and your curiosity for them drive you.

I think they stuck with 5 drives as that is what the other 2d20 systems use so it was less adaption of the system. Nothing stopping you adding more, though you would need to balance what level you gave it at. Probably 6 as that is the average?

I am driven by sheer animal terror. I am sprinting across the desert to that rock outcrop with a sandworm behind me. Every ounce of my willpower is controlled by my lizard brain.

I pondered this one as well. I had thought of a “they fought like cornered rats when we caught up with them” scenario, where NPCs might become more dangerous later in a battle, as their motivation switched. My feeling was that this would be Power, since the motivation is purely selfish: trying to save ones skin.

An interesting spin on this would be if a character already had a statement for power. For example, a (possibly Harkonnen) character whose Power statement was “I enjoy hurting those weaker than myself” might find themselves getting a Determination point when they fled a battle that went badly …

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Fame & glory, I also had trouble categorising under Dune’s drives. I came to the same conclusion as @CountThalim , selfish goals can all come under Power for the lack of a better one, although this is a stretch.
Survival as a driver: I also put it under Power, because it is a selfish drive, even if understandable. Not perfect fit, but the best I could come up with.
Boredom: as it involves a kind of curiosity, the intention of discovering something, maybe Truth sounds relevant for me.

Sometimes, when the basic definitions of the drives do not really fit, I try to look one step behind.
OK, you just want to survive, running because of sheer terror. Tell me, WHY do you want to survive? What is it that makes you want to cling to life, and not give up? If this was your last moment to live, what would be on your mind, what would be the thought you grab and hold on to, what would give you the strength to fight on?
Once you identify such a drive behind a drive, it may help you identify a good drive.

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