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  • How To Write a Quest-Based RPG

    - Giannis Georgiou
  • My previous article, Fun & Grief: Completionism in Games, was about the urge some players have to complete a game-take all the quests and see everything. Moreover, it was published along with a little companion game, which was a fun attempt to illustrate the point.

    Screenshot from the game on Arcweave's play mode, showing a cartoonish illustration of a food market, followed by the action description, and the player's clickable choices.
    Screenshot from one of the game's side quests.

    The game is a very simplified text-based RPG, in a generic fantasy setting. I wrote it on Arcweave-and you can play it on your browser, here. It features a main quest, 7 side quests, and a final screen that tells you which ones you pursued and which ones you missed.

    For those interested in other people's creative process, this post is a short account of how I made that little game.

    Prep work

    Research and brainstorming

    I had a notion of what a side quest (probably) is and I could (probably) sit down and come up with a handful of ideas.

    Still, I am not that experienced in RPGs. Experienced players and DMs from all around the world must have already come up with tons of great side quest ideas. All I needed to do was read their lists and shamelessly steal from them.

    A couple of years ago, Nerdarchy published this great list of RPG side quest ideas, while Boccob's Blog has several such lists, as well.

    After reading some of those epic lists and steal... em... taking notes, there came the moment for pen and paper. I did a couple of brainstorming sessions on a little notebook and came up with a list, like this one:

    • trapped in a manor, must escape sadistic host.
    • rescue kid from ogre's lair.
    • go shopping (armour/weapons/herbs/etc).
    • defeat yourself in combat in Valley of Mirrors.
    • find spell component for wizard.
    • ...

    Some sounded more interesting, some sounded more tedious and complicated. The next step was to sort out which ones to use.

    Choosing main and side quests

    Definitely stealing from Stephen Hand's Moonrunner, I decided that the main quest would be about tracking down some villain and handing them over to the authorities.

    In regard to the side quests, I already had a list, but not every side quest ended up being from the list. A lot of them popped up after I started structuring the beast.


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