Let's face it, most Players are out for loot, despite what their Characters may tell you about “noble causes”, “the fair maiden”, or “I’m hungry”. It really comes down to one thing: Da Loot.
So, making loot part of the plot is often a pretty reasonable choice. However, I put a caveat on that before I go any further. Like most things with Gamesmastering, it’s an art just like cooking is an art. You have a certain set of ingredients without which you cannot make the loaf of bread… however there is an amazing amount of discretion that can go into the subtle seasonings that can turn flour from a loaf of Wonder Bread into a fine French Baguette, or a loaf of mouth watering sfilatino imbottito. And loot (or should I say dough?), my friend, while a major ingredient is one that can nevertheless be overused, underused, or otherwise inappropriately applied. Too much is just as bad as too little. And soggy dough?… well, anyway, you get the idea, so enough said on that. Let’s talk about how dough can be a plot-driving device for a Campaign.
There are a myriad of ways to bring dough into the plot, and it often makes for a great motivator for Player Characters, even if they don’t actually want to admit it. Maybe they are a bunch of goody-goody-two-shoes Paladins who couldn’t possibly be bothered Questing for something so crass as a chest full of golden trinkets. But! If you mention that the golden trinkets are the lost religious artifacts of a their temple, and that the Archbishop is desperate to keep them out of the vile hands of a certain Drow Lord… well, suddenly two elements fuse that make for a thoroughly fun romp around the block hunting for loot,… er, dough. Notice what happens in this example. The Gamesmaster knows that the Players want dough. He also knows that the Player Characters don’t want to be motivated by filthy lucre, so he combines the filthy lucre with something they do want – namely recognition by the Archbishop for saving the filthy lucre, … er, artifacts. This is an important point, because it illustrates what I think of as proper seasoning for a Campaign. Good Gamesmastering, and good story telling in general, involves the subtle art of mixing ingredients in the proper proportion, with the proper amount of seasoning in order to give rise to the perfect loaf. So involving loot as part of your plot, but in ways that are not too overt, or too obviously designed merely to engorge the Player Characters with shiny stuff, is often a good (though far from only) way to create fun and successful Campaigns.
Loot is of course a vital ingredient, without which you can not make a successful Campaign. After all, Players like loot, and Player Characters need it to buy equipment, weapons and armor, not to mention luxuries like food and clothing. However, too much loot in your Campaign will spoil the Players, and too little will ruin the Characters. And having the impure motivation of searching for loot for it’s own sake works well for Pirates, Outlaws and Brigands, but really may not work at all well for your other classes of Characters. So keep that in mind while you design your Campaigns, and try to achieve the right balance, and the right motivations for your Players and their Characters. Then, when everyone is rich fat and happy after a long and violence packed rampage through ye old local dungeon, you’ll have satisfied players, successful Characters, and a pretty good shot at an entertaining story to remember.