You’re no hero.
You’re a reaver, a cutpurse, a heathen-slayer, a tight-lipped warlock guarding long-dead secrets. You seek gold and glory, winning it with sword and spell, caked in the blood and filth of the weak, the dark, the demons, and the vanquished. There are treasures to be won deep underneath, and you shall have them.
Return to the glory days of fantasy with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. Adventure as 1974 intended you to, with modern rules grounded in the origins of sword & sorcery. Fast play, cryptic secrets, and a mysterious past await you: turn the page…
This is the opening text of the Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG webpage, and it got me thinking. My buddy Lance used to deride these “new” players (particularly after the advent of Vampire: the Masquerade; not necessarily causal, just saying) with their need for character motivation. He'd say, often, “the only motivation we needed was riches and glory” or “we quest for riches and glory”. Riches and glory were the only motivation we needed, we didn't need an angst filled back story for our character. We were there to play and our ultimate motivation was to be the biggest, richest bad-asses in the campaign world. Even Lance's paladin Bordan had a wealthy bad-ass fixation, which is hard to do given the wealth restrictions on paladins, but he was very legalistic about them and got certain dispensations from the DM (Tim) on occasion (usually in connection with the campaign arc he had surrounding the quest for the 10 holy swords).
I read somewhere recently, probably on an OSR blog, that the art changed between editions and became more heroic, where in early edition stuff the adventurers were depicted more like grubby mercenaries. I guess I can see the change now in retrospect. Newer editions and the vast amount of additional available material for them kind of encouraged a straight-up heroic style of play and I kind of went along for the ride on that because I like heroes myself. But I kind of miss the morally ambivalent Conan the barbarian inspired hero. Conan wanted to be rich and powerful so he did what he could to get there and ended up king of Aquilonia. But he started out as a thief and a mercenary. He had a moral code that would probably put him on the good side of the alignment chart. He had interest that included wasting lots of his (often ill-gotten) riches on wine and women.
That's the character, more or less, that pretty much everyone I played with back in the day used to play.