Between meetings at work the other day I was thinking about the Desire and Goals system from Hillfolk, and it got me thinking about different ways I've talked about making characters narratively over the years. Before the Hillfolk/Drama System method, the last I saw was in going through a bunch of GM videos talking about how they make characters where I noticed someone included "wants" and "needs" as different ideas for their characters.
In this system, the Want was the physical/achievable goal the character was going for or aiming for. Bob wants a Promotion. Sarah wants the Soul Gem of Teralyr. Stuff like that.
I always struggled with needs. There was an emotional quotient to them, but what was the purpose of the need? How did you define the need? How could you know what the need.
It seems to me the Hillfolk "Desire" fits in for a need very well. While the want is the character goal.
What do we need? Something simple, something not physically attainable, and something tied to an emotion. We need vindication. We need love. We need forgiveness. We need to be punished. We need to punish someone. What we want is our path to achieving that need - even if we don't actually know that that is what we are doing.
Our character chases the villain all over the world. They think they need justice. They think they need to avenge their father/mother/mentor/dog. What they actually need is to come to terms with the fact that the death of their father/mother/mentor/dog was not their fault.
This may sound familiar because it is the story behind a lot of warrior stories, particularly ones from China about someone becoming a "true" warrior or "more enlightened" warrior. In pursuit of the skill/ability to be strong for what they thought was the goal, they hit the wall presented by their need. They overcome that need, fulfill it, and now they are 'complete.' In the process they no longer need the old goal to prove themselves, which is the point where the villain does something nefarious to force the confrontation.
Consider it that way, and maybe it will make more sense. The emotional reward is not something just desired, it is something needed for the character to grow and evolve. The goal? That's just a want they think will fulfill their need, but whether it does or not? Well that depends on how it goes.