Dungeons should be the centerpiece of any campaign.

The Dungeon is where characters are proved or broken.

All questions are answered in the dungeon. “Will they or won’t they?” Enter the dungeon and find out. No matter the question, no matter how big or small, how esoteric, the dungeon holds the Answer.

And I don’t mean questions like, “will I find treasure in the dungeon?” Of course there is treasure in the dungeon. No, the question is: “will she say yes if I ask her to marry me?” Enter the dungeon and find out.

Characters should have goals and desires, and those things should be fulfilled by entering the dungeon, however abstract or bizarre, no matter how seemingly unconnected to the dungeon (the more improbable, sometimes, the better).

The reason why is because the dungeon is X in the “X of the week” formula. If the characters have a problem or some burning question or mystery, they should enter a dungeon to solve that mystery.

If you enjoy the format of television drama, you should love this approach. It makes things simple and clean. It’s even better if you can personally justify the decision for each character.

For this reason, most of my characters seek A) fame, B) fortune, or C) power.

It took me almost a decade of roleplaying to reach this point, since it isn’t exactly part of the “training” that new players go through when they pick up a game like Dungeons & Dragons.

Nowadays, I design almost all of my PCs around one of those three goals, and then I expand on the idea by deciding how they relate to other important factors in the world: “what do they think of monsters?” or “what do they want to do with the fame/fortune/wealth once they acquire it?”

See, but those things are secondary to the main goal of “acquire X.”

You can obtain any of those three things by venturing into the dungeon, and each of those things is a means to an end. Further, you can always decide in the heat of the moment, or even after the fact, what those things mean to the character.

For example, say your character desires wealth. Once you find wealth, you can decide if the wealth is worth more than their life, or the lives of their companions. Does it turn out they wanted love? Companionship?

You can’t even begin to answer those questions until you enter the dungeon. First, choose one of the three basic goals: fame, fortune, or power; that’s what will get them “in the door,” so to speak.

Let me add one more to that list: pleasure.

It’s a little more difficult to pin that one down, but let’s say for now that it’s for the “personal enjoyment one obtains by adventuring.” It might be a little kinky, maybe a little weird, but it’s also a lot more “human” than the other three.

Don’t confuse “knowledge” as a goal, because knowledge is a means to one of these ends: whether you seek knowledge for A) fame, B) fortune, C) power, or D) pleasure. If you like knowledge, you seek knowledge for pleasure. And so forth.

Ironically, as I did a little research on the topic, I thought of aspirations in The Sims. I think they fall a little short there because there’s no central conflict in The Sims. You might have a motivation, but you have almost nothing to stand in your way except… bills, and perhaps demands on your time.

But it isn’t difficult to overcome either of those things if you’re any good at the game (or games) because The Sims isn’t very difficult. But I digress.

Entering the dungeon is how characters achieve their ends. Period.