Want to make better quests? Read on. These tips work best for short quests involving between one and three missions. Longer quests take completely different skills and tactics.

  1. Simple backstory
    1. Too much backstory becomes cumbersome. Only give necessary details to give your questers enough drive and clues to move forward. Some questions won't get answers and that's fine. Start with the bare basics of your plot (what needs to be done? Why does someone need help?) and build on from that.
  2. Start action quickly
    1. If you've got action in your quest, introduce it fairly quickly. Don't be afraid to start with a fight. The circumstances can often introduce driving questions easier than somebody speaking. For example, why was the Sect attacked? What was the brawl at the inn over? Who bribed these guards?
  3. Don't be random
    1. If someone pursues a path that is a dead-end and a waste of time, simply tell them not to bother, rather than feeling obliged to make up excess pointless details on the spot. Keep the story in focus and moving forward if the players can't figure something out, rather than just adding more stuff to it as it goes. Got too many characters? Cut out unneeded ones.
  4. Trim excess encounters
    1. Just as no action can be boring, too much action gets monotonous. Action is worthless without relevance. What are people fighting for? What clues do they need to find and focus on? Who do they need to speak to? Don't let excess action ruin everyone's concentration.
  5. Design for the participants
    1. If you know you're not getting many fighting characters, don't put lots of fighting in your quest. Likewise, if everyone wants a fight, design the story around that. Building a cool story and just hoping the right characters will come along can be a waste of time.
  6. Add puzzles or traps
    1. Try to include at least one thought-provoking puzzle in your story, whether it's avoiding a very dangerous trap, or figuring out some sort of puzzle to proceed. It could be finding a key or switch, searching a space for clues, or spotting a trap. Try to keep it fairly brief yet rewarding and try not to add a puzzle in as pointless filler. Interrogations don't count as puzzles.
  7. Add skill challenges
    1. A skill challenge is an opportunity for one or more members to show off their skills. This could include chasing a target, parkour, or stealth tasks. This can heighten tension without adding action, and whoever succeeds will feel accomplished.
  8. Be rational
    1. There's nothing worse than a member discovering a plot hole by asking one of your characters the wrong question. Make sure you know WHY all your characters are doing what they're doing before you start. Knowing motives answers most problems.
  9. Add easy challenges
    1. There's nothing wrong with some really easy encounters. It can boost morale, get people prepared for a bigger encounter, or give them something interesting to do, as long as it's all relevant.
  10. Add a “boss” challenge
    1. It's good to have something really difficult toward the end of the quest if it's a big enough plot. This could be a “boss” battle, a difficult interrogation, or a life-or-death stealth challenge. The point is that members need to realise that not every situation they come across in the plot can be easily conquered, let alone conquered at all. Make sure rewards match the level of challenge.
  11. Add plot twists
    1. The best plot twists don't just surprise the players. The best plot twists are the ones that mean a lot for the characters affected by it. Members might be surprised that your man character is actually a woman, but if there are no implications behind this disguise then it's fairly empty. Add meaning to your twists. Maybe have a few optional plot twists for extra rewards if anyone figures them out.
  12. Brainstorm and plan
    1. To begin with, brainstorm on paper or on your computer by writing down any ideas that come to mind. The point of brainstorming is to not be critical; don't say “no” to anything – just write it down! Then once you have lots of ideas, come back to it and find your plot (what is the goal? why does it need to be achieved? what stops someone from doing it on their own?) and work on that.
  13. Don't bloat the plot
    1. A story with heaps of elements and good ideas is not a good story. Try to keep it simple and try to resolve most past problems before introducing new problems. Often, members will be caught up on whatever you use to introduce your quest, so don't use a red herring introduction.
  14. Choose a type
    1. The best quests fit a main type of mode. Is your quest an adventure, where people have to explore a fairly large piece of land, often to search for something or someone? Is your quest a dungeon crawl, where members traverse a large, challenging, often dark and mob-filled region with minimal diplomacy? Or is your quest based around intrigue, where there is little action but much problem-solving, possibly involving interrogations, investigations, and diplomacy?
  15. Give it structure
    1. Record the intended events in a brief format, such as the following. This is a guideline and doesn't have to be followed, but you get the idea.
      1. Entrance or introduction. This presents the problem, whether it's who/what to find, how to get in, or something to defeat.
      2. Challenge. Read up for different kinds of challenges. This one should be moderately difficult.
      3. Breather. This challenge should be easier, a breather from the action previously. Put any non-action events such as conversations here.
      4. Setback or trick. Whether it's a trap or something unkillable, put it here, toward the end.
      5. Climax or boss battle. The finale. Find what you're looking for or beat that big boss.
      6. Reward and twist. Put your reward at the end and make it fit the level of challenge. Want to continue the quest into another quest? Put something here that leads people on, but indirectly, so they don't feel like they have to go do it immediately.
  16. Be flexible but not too flexible
    1. Sometimes the story takes a different turn because of something someone says or finds, or you just get a new idea. If you can, go with it. Sometimes some spontaneity is good. If you can't do this, gently guide the players back on track.
  17. Get inspired
    1. Don't feel bad for copying plots of other shows, games, or movies you like. People often appreciate references, as long as you pretend you didn't invent it yourself, and don't make it too cheesy or ruin the lore with it.
  18. Use checkpoints
    1. Create points in the story that players cannot proceed past unless they're all together. These often come between the structural points mentioned above. It can help reel in stragglers and stop people from meandering or trying to derail the story.
  19. Use random generators
    1. If you're stuck on ideas, use online generators such as the ones on this website: http://donjon.bin.sh/
  20. Listen to members
    1. You'll get live feedback as you go. If everyone's about to die in a regular encounter, stop spawning monsters on them. If someone's lost, let them catch up. If they're confused, give them clues. You don't necessarily have to change everything if someone guesses your whole quest. Just be prepared to adjust things as you go.
  21. Don't be too complex
    1. Just as it's bad to be too simple, it's bad to be too complicated when making stories. Make some parts predictable. Make some parts mysterious. Mix it up as much as you can. Drowning in mystery is never satisfying and drowning in predictable outcomes is boring. They shouldn't need to ask for help to continue but if they do, help them.
  22. Make it real
    1. Never take away the ending from the players. Don't resort to “it was all a dream”, or “your actions had no affect on the outcome”, or “your efforts were meaningless”. Give them the satisfaction of victory… if they win. And make the ending the result of their efforts as players, not of your efforts as the one making the quest.
  23. Be clear
    1. Make the goal/objective clear but make the solutions more mysterious, to encourage people to work together to find out what to do.