I was thinking about it, and it seems to me that most bad guys are motivated by greed or anger (wrath). They either want to take something from someone else, or they want to kill. Doesn’t that leave five other deadly sins? I did actually run a game once where the bad guy’s motivation was gluttony. Granted he was the evil spirit of gluttony, so I doubt that one will work too often. What about sloth? Well, there are a lot of people who do a lot of work while trying to avoid doing work. My mind slides toward slavery or the summoning of demons, either of which might make good adventures. Lust? Well, yes, there are definitely ways that lust can be the motivation behind a bad guy (or girl). Rather than get into trouble, we’ll let your mind wander on that one alone.
The point of this posting is this: Pride and Envy are likely the most common motivational forces in the modern world. Let’s speak only in generalizations (that means I’m claiming that I’m not talking about any one person or group of people): More people are interested in doing better than their next door neighbors than they are in doing well. People who have never wanted a riding mower in their life, feel compelled to get a new mower, because their next door neighbor just did. Don’t believe me? Ever seen a grownup drool over a Lexus? Ever talk to someone and find out that they hate that other guy, but you realize that they hate him because of who he’s dating and not anything he’s actually done?
Let’s play some angles on this: The king of XYZ declares that his daughter is the most beautiful in the world and any knight who wishes to claim her hand in marriage must prove himself through some fantastic accomplishment. Pride huh? You betcha! So what? (We ask that a lot don’t we) The neighboring kingdom is going to be pissed. They think their princess is the most beautiful, or they hate the fact that their neighbor is flaunting his obviously better looking daughter. Maybe they see it as a slap in the face of their horse faced princess. Maybe they pay the party to mess up the questing knights. Maybe they kidnap the princess. Maybe they have a female adventurer prove herself better than the questing knights and then take the princess, or a male knight who wins her and dumps her.
Lesser example: Kingdom ABC is known for growing the most succulent fruit in the world. Kingdom DEF wants someone to go and steal the seeds to their trees, and bring it back, so they can have the most succulent fruit.
The world’s most perfect diamond has been found in Smith County. Count Jones wants it - not because it’s valuable, but if he can convince people that the best diamonds in the world come from Jones County, all of his stones will increase in value.
See where we’re going here. Focusing on why they do it, can give you some really cool twists on missions. It won’t always change the mission itself, but it can make the mission seem different to the players. Perception is more important than reality here! Just think about it. Greed and wrath are not the only motivational forces in the world. Oh, yeah, love and all that too - blah blah blah.