What Makes your Character Unique: Motivations and Milestones

The rules of the game are primarily concerned with what your character can do: their abilities, their senses, their skills, and so on. But perhaps more important to a dedicated role-player are the things that make their character who they are: the motivations that drive them forward, and the life and history that has shaped them. This section is concerned with their motivations and their milestones.


A character’s motivations describe the goals that drive them. Motivations have very little mechanical role — that is, very few rules refer to them. Instead, they are role-playing guides; they help players qualify who their characters are, and why (and they help GMs decide if a player is representing their character well).

Ideally, motivations should be grand and abstract. They do not represent a character’s immediate aims, or even what they hope to achieve this year; instead, they represent in the most abstract sense the character’s view of the world, and what they hope to achieve in their lives.

Motivations are represented by short phrases, preceded with a + or a – to indicate whether the character is for or against a given motivation. Motivations are normally selected during character creation; but, since they have little “mechanical” importance, they can be selected later, and they can be changed after the character selects them.

+Wealth, +Honor, +Justice and -Slavery are all good motivations. Wealth and Fame are tangible but limitless; you can gain and loose wealth and honor, but you can never have so much of either that you can’t have more. Similarly, the task of ensuring justice is never-ending; justice will always be threatened, and it will always need guardians. Finally, in principle, you could extinguish slavery everywhere, but it would be extraordinarily difficult; doing so would practically require overthrowing not one but several hostile kingdoms.

-Shaded Sea Peoples or +The Commonwealth are also good motivations; nation and people are causes larger than an individual, and none has ever achieved total victory over all its foes (and the final defeat of a great nation is a momentous-enough event to completely change a citizen’s view of the world and their place in it).

Role-Playing Rewards

Motivations are first-and-foremost a guide for the role-player; they have only two major mechanical roles. First, they can be used to decide when your character has earned a rez bonus (or penalty), and second to determine (some) situations when a Stress Test may be called for (see Character Advancement and Injury and Healing, respectively).


During play, characters will perform great deeds — heroic or infamous, earning renown or infamy (players, of course, may also throw themselves into a role, creating a moving moment — or just ham it up, getting a laugh out of the table). Whenever a scene becomes legendary, a character might earn a milestone.

Milestones are short phrases that describe a significant moment in a character’s history; they might take the form of a title (like “Scarred Warrior”) or a description of the event (like “The Great Dive”), but any short, memorable phrase will do. Characters can have any number of milestones — they can start without a single one, and they can have as many as they can earn.

Milestones serve several purposes; one of the simplest and most important is to provide a short, vivid history of your character. This is particularly useful in a long-running game, when characters might have dozens or hundreds of game-sessions worth of history to try to keep track of; it is also very useful if you are introducing an existing character to a new group, or to a new player.

Milestones also serve important mechanical roles, by tracking a character’s reputation, and by allowing a player to tap into their past triumphs (and failures) for heroic resolve. And they serve an administrative function too, by allowing GMs to reward players for producing memorable scenes (either because they were heroic, or moving, or just hilarious).

Earning Milestones

Milestones are awarded at the GM’s discretion. Milestone are usually awarded either to denote either a major achievement (or major failure) on a character’s part, or to reward a character for good role-playing.

Example: Chandra the Drake has ventured into the neighboring Kingdoms of Men to defeat a slave ring. When he encounters one of their champions — a Wolverine shifter — rather than frighten, he decides to charge her, using his Dragonshire Style power to grip his sword by the blade and strike her with the pommel. He rolls a critical success, and inflicts so much damage that he downs the slaver in that single blow. The (frustrated) GM decides that Chandra has earned the “Pommel-er” milestone.

Example: Fire-Watcher the Shifter mage has used his Journey power to teleport himself into the office of Grana (the local Commonwealth general, who has given the party their current quest) without any warning, and has then immediately jumped into an explanation of what the party has learned without providing her with any context. When the GM points out how odd this is, rather than start again, the player decides to go with it; he knows that the GM is (also) a fan of Stargate Atlantis, and so he delivers the remainder of the scene doing his best Rodney McKay impression. The GM is sufficiently amused that she decides that Fire-Watcher has earned the “Just Don’t Give Him a Lemon” milestone.

Milestones should not be given too often; they are used to highlight truly memorable moments in a character’s history, which don’t happen all the time. We find that most players will earn a milestone roughly once every six games — although this will vary widely. Circumstances that result in a character earning a milestone often also result in earning one (or more) additional Rez point(s) as well, and possibly traits (see Advancing Characters).

If you are thinking about awarding a milestone, consider whether the event you’re commemorating is likely to be important in the future. Will it play an important role in how the character defines themselves going forward? Is it a part of the character’s history that will likely come up in the future? Equally, is it the kind of story that the player is going to tell the first time they describe their character to someone? If so, awarding a milestone is appropriate.

Negative Milestones

Sometimes a player frustrates the group or fails to perform at a reasonable level; if milestones can be awarded for both great successes and great failures, and if creating a moving or funny scene can result in being awarded a milestone, is it also appropriate to punish poor play with a negative milestone?

Put simply, no. We strongly recommend that you don’t record role-playing failures and player misconduct with milestones. It is almost always a better idea to talk to a problem player about what they’re doing than to passive-aggressively give their character a snide nickname they didn’t pick and hope they take the hint.

Upgrading, Changing and Removing Milestones

Sometimes, character’s (or player’s) current exploits build on their previous ones; if Aryn has made a fool of the Champions of the One yet again, does she need to have another milestone to commemorate the experience? If Lohrs’ scars are healed, is he still the Scarred Warrior? Sometimes, instead of adding a new milestone, you’d like to upgrade, change or remove an existing one.

Remember that a character’s milestones are a simplified representation of their history — of the memorable events that have made them who they are. If you alter those milestones, you are to some extent altering that character’s history — something their player may not much appreciate. We recommend that you always ask a player’s permission before upgrading, changing or removing one of their milestones.

Milestone represents a character’s history, not necessarily their present state. Even if Lohrs’ scars are healed, he can still be the Scarred Warrior, because he still won a heroic wrestling match with a Leaper while covered in Scour.

Invoking Milestones

Once per session, a player can invoke one of their milestones. (That is, you only get one “invocation” per game session, no matter how many milestones you have.) The milestone that the player invokes must have some kind of resonance with their current situation; it might be that they recall their previous triumphs to spur them on, or it might be that they have desperate need to redeem themselves after previous failures.

When you invoke a milestone, you may gain any one benefit that you could spend a point of Luck to gain; alternatively, at their discretion, the GM may offer you special bonuses or effects appropriate to your character and the situation.

Example: Aryn the Elven archer had previously earned the “Enemy of the Chosen” milestone for throwing several weapons consecrated to the One that Chose Us into the ocean as a deliberate offense to the loathsome spirit. In the current game, she finds herself fighting several of the One’s champions. When she hits one with a bow, she invokes her milestone to upgrade her exceptional success into a critical one, as though she had spent a Luck Point to do so.

Example: Lohrs the ash-elf grappler had previously earned the “Scarred Warrior” milestone for grappling a Leaper even as he was covered in Scour himself. In the current game, Lohrs is attempting to grapple an opponent that drains away his life as long as he is in contact with it. The creature scores massive damage, and would disable Lohrs; the GM offers to allow him to invoke his Scarred Warrior milestone to show heroic perseverance, allowing him to take one more turn regardless of how much damage he takes.

Challenging Milestones

Besides a player invoking a milestone, the GM can also challenge a milestone. To issue a milestone challenge, the GM offers a player an additional challenge relating to one of their milestones, and a bonus should they accept the challenge; the player must then choose to accept the challenge or not. In general, challenges and bonuses should be interesting and appropriate to the milestone; in want of an appropriate challenge or bonus, GMs may use a Luck Point, either for an NPC’s use or the player’s, respectively.

Example: Aryn is traveling in one of the larger cities of the Heartland Province, and the GM decides that it might be and interesting time for her past to catch up to her. He offers her a challenge: there happens to be in that city on that day a noble from the Kingdoms of Men who is a devotee of the One who Chose Us, and who knows of her history. If Aryn accepts, that noble will notice her, and she will have him to deal with as a potential enemy — a powerful one, with wealth and a noble title. In exchange, Aryn will gain a +10 bonus to social skills tests with the people of the city, owing to her history as a champion of the Commonwealth and its values.

Social Bonuses and Penalties

Sometimes, a character’s reputation might help them; other times, their past failures may come back to haunt them. People who know about a character’s reputation, and who have a reason to either admire or resent them for it, may treat characters differently.

Sometimes a character will receive a bonus or penalty to their social-skills tests, based on how the character they are interacting with views their history; the exact penalty depends on the specific character they are interacting with. (A reasonable starting-point is a +20 bonus for a positive view, and a -20 bonus for a negative one.)

Of course, for such a penalty to apply, the character in question usually has to know about a particular character’s history, which often requires them to have some idea of who the character is; a devotee of the One can hardly hold Aryn’s history against her if he doesn’t know who she is.

Milestones in Character Creation

Since milestones are a part of how your character represents their history, and since even a fresh character has some prior life and history, it is possible to choose milestones for your characters during character creation; see Character Creation.

As a special rule, if you are introducing an existing character into a new game, you may ask the GM to keep some of that character’s existing milestones. How many milestones the GM allows you to keep — and whether they require you to pay an CP cost for them — is entirely at their discretion. (Your willingness to regale the group with the heroic tale of how you earned those milestones may factor into the GM’s decision, as might your willingness to buy the group a pizza.)

Example: a player joining a new group decides to base her character on the one she player in her previous game — Venn the Shambler Halberdier. Even though she builds Ven from scratch using the character creation rules, she still wants to “keep” some of her favorite moments from Ven’s previous adventures in her prior game. She asks the GM if she can have the “Gift of Remorse” and “Ice-Breaker Halberdier” milestones to represent Venn’s previous exploits.

Note that we interpret the idea of an “existing character” somewhat loosely; your current character need only be inspired by or based on a previous character — possibly even one from an entirely different game system — to gain milestones from their history.

Example: a player joining a new group decides to base his Renaissance character on his own character from a previous Eclipse Phase game — thus, Dayton Lex, the lightning-wielding psion. He tells his new group of Dayton’s exploits vaporizing Ultimates with plasma fire, and of the hilarious compulsions his old group picked for his async character when he resleeved. The GM is suitably amused, and grants the new Dayton Lex the Ultimate and Asynchronous milestones.