A Quest isn't
a design pattern. It's a definition, but because it's complicated and needs
discussion, we're going to treat it like one.
A task accomplished by the players for a reward.
Scope: A quest is the basic unit of gameplay. It is something that must be
accomplished that provides some reward for the players.
quest is ubiquitous. All game action is driven by reward and quests formalize
and increase the default rewards gained from playing the game such as character
experience and player fun.
Player driven quests are the most engaging quests. Dictates enforced from kings
and geased by wizards are the most frustrating.
Fan (or Array): giving players 2 or more quests simultaneously.
Scope: The creation of the quest fan is to give players meaningful options. The
problem with the quest fan is making sure the quests are meaningful. If it's
just a list of quests and the order you complete them doesn't affect the other
quests or the rest of the game, it's effectively a linear sequence. The quest
fan is effective when completing one task means you can't finish or complete
another. The quest fan is very effective when the order in which you
complete the tasks opens and closes different options based on how they are
is not a video game you can complete 100%. When you run a game that way, the
game becomes tedious.
Use: This is
common to anyone who's ever played an older bioware game. You have a start
quest, then you reach a base, from which you have three quests you can complete
in any order before you can advance the plot. In a video game, it's fine
because the purpose of choosing a quest is to play the video game.
example of a quest fan is the three-pronged quest in S2, White Plume Mountain.
Characters are tasked with retrieving three weapons that have disappeared, each
in a different location in the adventure and each with a different clue. There
is a minimal amount of interaction between the three quests, each following a
different direction in the dungeon and only affecting each other prong in the
most direct way (i.e. slain guards remain slain). There is some interaction
based on the order in which the players leave, retrieving wave last can cause
the players to exit via the geyser, allowing them to avoid Nix and Nox and
Keraptis's recruiting attempts.
Using a quest fan allows players to meet their own needs during play, based on
what type of gameplay they are interested in. It allows the Dungeon Master to
then alter play based on the choices of the player characters. Simply having a
list of tasks to complete that do nothing but reward you doesn't work as well
in a tabletop game and certainly doesn't leverage the strength of infinite play
available from a live human Dungeon Master.
If you have a
selection of quests available and the order you complete them in is irrelevant,
it's might as well be a linear sequence pattern. No action the players take can
affect the outcomes of the quest fan, they are just a list of tasks that can be
completed in any order.
This is why
"Retrieve all parts of the Rod of Seven Parts" are such bad campaign
ideas. It's removing all the meaningful choice from the players. That doesn't
mean such a quest can't be done in a good way. Pirates of Dark Water had such a
quest, and it seemed like it was going to be tedious. From the very first in
that show, the treasures rarely stayed with Ren for very long. Sometimes
captured by Bloth, sometimes stolen. At the end of every show, there was a
possibility that they had to acquire the treasures by some means other than
simply heading to the next location the compass indicated. Also, the show moved
at a very brisk pace. In 21 episodes (six months of play) 8 of 13 treasures
were acquired. An entire campaign could be handled in 9 months, which is about
the reasonable outer limit for a single quest or goal.
effective way to use the Quest Fan is to mix the quests with some time
structure. If you give the players 3 quests, whenever they complete the first
one, the other two get worse by some significant margin. This simple pattern of
having unattended things grow more complicated, naturally leads into an organic
campaign that drives creative play as the players struggle to put out or
control multiple fires at the same time.
A pattern for characters to acquire tangentially related background
information, quests, and world flavor.
Scope: This is a method such as a local news sheet, bulletin board, town crier,
or rumor mill that provides quests and information to the players.
Kutalik provides an excellent example here on his blog about how he uses this design pattern to not only help provide
cohesion to the campaign experience, but also to further his ends as Dungeon
Master. His article talks about providing plot hooks, quests, background
information, and flavor.
fond of literally bulletin boards being in towns, created as physical artifacts
I can hand my players. Not only can I then have plot hooks, but I get to use
the best techniques of Craigslist and classified ad posters.
This is by no
means a new technique. The most classic use of the grapevine pattern is the
vintage rumor list. Examples can be found in any classic module, many also
include grapevine patterns from a variety of sources, the church, thieves
guild, quartermasters posting bounties, etc.
pattern is a pristine opportunity for driving complex rumors that engage
players in play through multiple dimensions. You can use the grapevine pattern
to extend rumors to function as foreshadowing as I talk about here.
Here I talk about using the grapevine pattern to create campaign mysteries and
The largest consequence is the amount of time such a technique can require.
Even going through weekly and writing a news brief on four or five items or two
or three sentences each is going to require about 30 minutes, as well as the
creative energy before hand. There's quite a list of standard options (such as
bounties for bandits, missing people, looking for monster lairs), but the
downside is that those are standard options.
grapevines can rapidly expand play in a very natural way, which eases your work
on the backend. The results are entirely driven by player activity and because
you're writing the grapevine, it dovetails into the adventure you've prepared.