Just about every game has a variant on the quest-giver, whether it’s the infamous Mr. Johnson, the team’s commanding officer, a local political leader, or even the mysterious figure hanging out with all the loner rangers in the darkest corner of the tavern. Whether he’s just what he appears to be, or the tip of a conspiratorial iceberg, the quest-giver can be a handy figure to have around.
Quest-givers can define a mission, including such details as scope, expected opposition, victory conditions, and reward for success, all without breaking verisimilitude. They can also drop hints and rumors (or solid intelligence), and even offer advice for those who may need it. And like any NPC, the quest-giver can lead the party down the convoluted path of intrigue.
Assuming you’re the kind of GM who could use such a friendly fellow (or lass), here are a few tips:
- Quest-givers are people, too! If the party offends Madame Donner de Quete, then let her get offended! It’s so much easier to find another way to get the party on track than to pretend that the Madame is not offended at the party’s antics. (Unless, of course, the party is the only way for her to achieve her very important goals, in which case she might be willing to let a few things slide.)
- Quest-givers can be road signs, information kiosks, local color, retail establishments, employers, fences, etc. Any NPC can be a quest-giver, so don’t limit yourself to those in positions of authority.
- Unless the situation calls for it, try to avoid turning the quest-giver into a press gang or a railroad conductor. There are better ways to engage your group than the use of force.
- Either make sure that someone is taking notes during the Giving of the Quest, or be prepared for the party to screw things up. On second thought, you should already be prepared for the party to screw things up, regardless. But at least be prepared for misremembered or unremembered conversations, forgotten details, etc. If necessary, jot the pertinent details on an index card and hand it to the players.
Like many icons of the hobby, quest-givers are not necessary to a good game. A self-motivated group of players may take offense at the presumption that they can’t find their way into trouble. And many of the newer games neither need nor want something commonly associated with computer RPGs.
But just because it’s not for everyone, don’t be afraid to embrace the iconic quest-giver. He’s a handy guy to have around.
Do you have a different take on the quest-giver? Or perhaps some other skill to add to the repertoire? Sound off and share the wealth…