Side Quests

Local thieves have stolen riches from a nearby tomb. The players must discover and return one or more specific items to stop ghosts, ghasts, or specters from murdering the locals.

A man requests to join the party for protection from a secret, powerful entity. The party is unaware that he has stolen a magic item from that being.

An airship has crashed in a remote forest outside of town. Strange and otherworldly people have entered town seeking materials to repair the damages.

 
 
Side quest sign illustration

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Why do we need side quests?

Side quests are alternative stories that deviate from the campaign’s main plot. They can be small, quick requests to retrieve a specific item or sprawling multi-part epics that change the adventure’s course. Depending on players and their decisions, side quests may require game masters to spend nearly as much time planning and preparing as the main story itself. However, it is not always necessary to treat these stand-in quests with such importance. They can offer game master and players alike a chance to break out of the norm, try new things, and recharge their gamer-batteries before plunging into a more serious story.

Game masters may decide to incorporate side quests for several different reasons. When considering the players, alternative short-form adventures allow them a certain level of freedom. It assists with the illusion of an open-world environment and provides adventurers the opportunity to choose and influence the narrative and gameplay.

Side quests may allow players to level up in experience or gain magical items to help their larger goals. It could also provide them with opportunities to earn favor from townspeople or political figures, gain powerful allies, or learn new skills. These short-form stories help develop and expand the world around the players and stretch beyond the main narrative.

However, there are real-world benefits to side quests as well. Focusing on the primary adventure for extended periods can be taxing for some. Giving players the option to delve into a nearby dungeon, take down roving bandits, or solve a local mystery, can provide a much-needed break. However, not every player is the same, and some may be intensely goal-oriented. It’s vital to present side quests as options for your players and understand that some adventuring groups may ignore or even miss them entirely.

Those running the game may also see a benefit to running short alternative adventures. They can provide game masters some much-needed time to flush out the main narrative behind the scenes, wrap up outlying story threads, or give some attention to a PC the players love. Side quests can also help address unforeseen holes in your campaign or resolve complaints your players might have.

What types of side quests are there?

As mentioned above, there are many different types of side quests available. Typically, there are seven categories of quests: retrieving items, killing individuals or creatures, escorting NPCs, delivering items, solving mysteries, completing essential tasks, or expanding the lore of the world. However, not all of these categories may fit with your campaign’s narrative. Game masters should never feel restricted by these definitions and should try mixing and matching them to create unique and unexpected story threads.

Knowing and using these concepts, those running the game can develop nearly any type of quest they desire. The framework can provide a quick and easy way to craft a new story, and the examples provided in the generator above are great thought starters. The specifics may require a bit more thought to implement into a specific campaign, but your players will appreciate the extra attention to detail.

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