At long last, I can divulge the secrets of the Patreon poll that precipitated Paladin’s quest. You can check the full results right here, but the important bit is this: When asked how Paladin should go about squaring  his Lawful Stupid alignment with a morally gray world, our Quest Givers settled on the following option: “Embark on a quest for demigod status so that he can make his own paladin code.” And boy-howdy am I glad it went that way! That’s because of a little concept called “epic motivation.”

Today’s rant is in keeping with last week’s Exalted theme. That’s where my use of “epic motivation” originates, and it’s something that’s proven useful even beyond the borders of Creation. Lemme quote the source so that we’re all on the same page:

Most mortals have relatively mundane and unexceptional Motivations such as “become wealthy,” “marry someone nice and have a happy family,” or “live a quiet life on a tropical island.” Celestial Exalted are Chosen specifically because they have the seeds of greatness within them. The Chosen of the Sun (and all other Celestial Exalted) cannot have mundane or pedestrian Motivations—by their very nature, Celestial Exalted are epic heroes, and their goals must be similarly epic.

The idea is to pick a goal with the potential to redefine the setting. Maybe you want to kill a deity. Perhaps you’ll become the defender of an entire nation. Or end slavery everywhere. Or steal the very stars from the sky. It’s all possible, and it’s all the correct scale.

One of the best epic motivations I’ve seen at the table was Laurel’s spectacled owl lunar. She wanted to help every last one of the traumatized demigods in the setting live healthy, well-adjusted lives. In addition to diplomancing all an sundry, she set about creating a franchise of supernatural spas for the purpose. (Nothing says your goal has to be achievable, after all.)

Real-world mythology has examples for us too. Snorri Sturluson tells us The Tale of Utgarda-Loki. There our heroic Asgardians have to out-eat wildfire, race against thought, drink the ocean, and wrestle old age (among other challenges). Not even Thor can complete such ludicrous tasks, and that impossibility is the point. It’s the attempt that’s heroic.

Whether you’re shooting for the epic-level fantasy of Exalted or the human-scale heroics of D&D‘s level-1 adventures, you still need a reason to go out and be a hero. It’s your primary goal, and it ought to take many sessions worth of struggle to accomplish (if it’s possible at all). No doubt this isn’t what Paladin wants to hear right now. But if he’s going to try and rise to the pantheon, he’s going to need to set his expectations accordingly.

So how about it Handbook-World? What is your PC’s epic motivation? We’re looking for stuff that’s a bit beyond “fortune and glory” here. If your current character could do literally anything, what would it be? Outrace the sun? Become their own warlock patron? Unlock the secrets of immortality? Whatever the big-ticked IMPOSSIBLE THING happens to be, tell us all about it down in the comments! And if you don’t have one, get in the spirit of the thought experiment and make one up! You just might be surprised at the new directions it can take your campaign.


GET YOUR SCHWAG ON! Want a piece of Handbook-World to hang on you wall? Then you’ll want to check out the “Hero” reward tier on the The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Each monthly treasure haul will bring you prints, decals, buttons, bookmarks and more! There’s even talk of a few Handbook-themed mini-dungeons on the horizon. So hit the link, open up that treasure chest, and see what loot awaits!