I enjoy games that come with some baseline direction, whether that’s through the game itself (like, for instance, My Life With Master), or through buy-in during a Session 0 discussion with the group.
Back when I was DMing Pathfinder, the group I was running it for was very much for the murder-hobo style of play. What they wanted was to get XP to get to higher levels, so they could complete their build (which some of the people there had worked out from level 1 to 20 before even the first session), and they wanted gold to buy new equipment for their characters. Essentially, they just wanted to play Diablo 3 around a table. That was their basic want that drove both their characters and them as players.
For me, however, that led to less enjoyment of the game itself. The result of that is highly callous characters. The characters’ main motivations at that point are greed and a lust for power, which skews the characters’ actions towards a lack of concern for the world and the characters in it. As always, if that’s the game that everybody chooses to play together, then fine; however, that wasn’t necessarily the game I wanted to be playing.
For me, a central want is crucial for an interesting character. And for an interesting group, there should be a shared want. I’ve run a game for a group whose characters all wanted separate things, which meant that all their characters invariably ran off on their own to do their personal things. The game, however, was centered around preventing doom for the city they lived in by preventing a cult from completing their work. The result, however? The characters ended up in conflict with each other (the players were having a great time having their characters squabbling amongst each other, though!) and in the end they neglected the actual plot advancing. I’d set it up as an actual timer of certain key events, and well, the timer ran out!
Experiences like these taught me how important it is to have that Session 0 talk with a group. Everybody needs to be on board to play the same game, by which I mean theme, genre, goals, and plotline. My Life With Master, for instance, is great when it comes to that. You play a Minion who will be breaking free of the Master at the end of one (possibly two) sessions—great clarity. Together with the players, you make the Master, so that everybody understands what their threat is. The mechanic for the final resolution is also clear, because it’s directly determined by a set of statistics on the player’s character sheet. Does a player want their Minion to become the new Master at the end? Okay, lean into that! Do you want your player to have a good live? Sure, work towards it!
Understanding everybody’s wants—both players’ and characters’—gives you a much greater chance at enjoyment in your games.