hairylarry's blog

Writing Quests
by Larry Heyl

A story is said to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is a simple and reliable guide for writers. Somewhere along the way, in the creative process, a light is switched on and the writer sees where the story is going. Once the end is discovered the middle falls into place. That is, the middle part is shaped by the end part providing the necessary bits that allow the story to end convincingly.

Sometimes a quest is well run and well played and produces a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. But more often not. In fact producing such a story is not the purpose of the game. It is a possible side product but not the goal. I think the players immersion into the fantasy setting and their identification with their characters are far more important to enjoying the game than any derived story everyone becomes aware of after the fact.

I am not saying the story is unimportant. Without the story there is no fantasy world to become immersed in and no characters to identify with. It's just that the story is not like a written story with a beginning, middle, and end. Nor is it like a story written by an author.

That's why I avoid writing a story when writing a quest.

Instead I write the setup, seeds, and goals.

The setup defines the quest and lays out the goals for the party. It should be short. It should place the party geographically and introduce important NPCs. It can be read aloud at the beginning of the quest and can also be printed for the players to refer to. It is the beginning of the quest and is similar to the beginning of a story. Except shorter.

Within the setup I include seeds. These seeds indicate what might possibly or could probably happen. The literary parallel is foreshadowing. With foreshadowing the author indicates what might happen and then writes what does happen or perhaps inserts the foreshadowing knowing what will happen. The seeds are hidden in the setup to suggest to the characters what they might be able to do. Whether they follow up on the seeds or not is up to the players. If the players do follow up it's good to give the DM some options to choose from, possible seed resolutions. And it's good to have multiple options because nobody knows how the players will appproach the situation hinted at by the seeds.

The goals are what the quest is about: find the treasure, rescue the princess, kill the monsters. When the players are satisfied they have met the goals that signals the end of the quest. The goals can be mentioned explicitly in the setup or they also may be hidden in the narrative like a goal seed.

The setup, the goals, and the seeds are all text. The other part of writing the quest is preparing the assets. The assets are the pictures, the maps, the character sheets, the description of the treasure, the stat blocks for NPCs and monsters, etc. It is possible to run a quest without any assets but assets make the quest easier to run for the DM and assets make things flow smoothly for the players.

Once the quest writer has an idea writing the setup is quick and easy. You can then look for the seeds you have planted in the setup and write a few sentences about each one. The primary goals should be included in the setup. List them and then see if there are any hidden goals within the text the players might follow up on. Add them to the Goals section. Then list the assets, maps, pictures, stat blocks, and short descriptions.

This can all go quite quickly. The bulk of the work is in the assets, not in the writing. This does, however, give you a framework for a playable quest. Adding the assets will make the quest easier to run and more fun to play.

Not every quest idea is great. Some ideas, however, work better than you thought they would. Also when reading through old quest ideas sometimes something clicks and you can greatly improve the quest with a minor tweak.

Don't feel like you have to put every quest idea into a publishable format. Take the time to add assets to your best quests. They deserve the work. You still have all the other quest ideas which you might improve on later or add into a campaign as a side quest.

Tonight at 9:00 PM Central join the Inspired Unreality open game chat held in the gamerplus chatrooms at Tenkar's Tavern on Discord. Our opening topic tonight will be maps. Professionally drawn, randomly generated, or just the DM drawing with pencil and paper during gameplay, maps are a part of almost every quest. Maps of the area, maps of the town, maps of the room where the treasure is hidden, multilevel maps of the dungeon or the tower. How does a DM use maps to communicate the ongoing quest to the players? How do the players use maps to plan strategy? How do you use maps in your quests?

If you have never been to Tenkar's Tavern we have an invitation for you here.

wilsonelisa430 posted a blog about How to Solve the Sunstones Puzzle in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.

Follow Me And Die is on a quest. The goal of the quest is 1000 Youtube subscribers. He says, "I now have 951 subscribers on YouTube! 42 Days to reach my goal of 1,000 subscribers by year end...." If you are not already a subscriber link over and click the Subscribe button. He posts interesting videos including the Roll20 For Absolute Beginners series.

Ivan Bilibin illustrated Russian Folk Tales in the early 20th century. Most of his drawings are now public domain. I posted some of my favorites in the Public Domain Fantasy Art gallery.

And in the Archive Of The White Mage we killed Marusan again. And then we killed him again. This time for good. (We think.) Here's the session summary.

Let me know about what's going on with you life in gaming. Message me on Gamer+, reach me on the fediverse, or send an email.

Hairy Larry

Session notes for November 18, 2020

When we enter the temple Marusan is gone, The skylight has been replaced. Everything looks like it did the first time we saw it.

Leaf shoots the skylight with the rod of Pann-Severi. It emits a bright white light and everyone is blinded.

After a while we recover our sight. Leaf wants to try again. The rest of us leave the room. This time the rod shoots a fireball and explodes the skylight.

We check the statue of Moloch. The rope is gone. Marusan is not in it. The tubes are still cut.

The tombs in the side rooms are open and empty. No undead or weapons lie within.

We check Marusan's study. EVerything is like it was when we left it. The chests are open and empty.

We check the supply room. It's been cleared out. No supplies left in it.

In the secret room behind the temple Caper looks for a trap door and finds a loose flagstone. We lift the stone and find a tunnel with steep stairs leading down.

Leaf pokes his head through the hole in the floor and looks around with his dark vision. He sees a hall with a door at the end and light shining under it from the next room.

We go down into the hall and I check the door. We look under it and check through the keyhole. We see skeleton bones.

Caper checks for traps on the door but he can't tell if it's trapped. He tries to open the door wide. But it's locked. He tries the keys from the jailor and one of them opens the door. He opens the door wide. There are 5 skeletons and Marusan at his desk. He looks bad.

Leaf shoots a fireball into the room with the rod. Caper slams the door shut to protect the party.

When we open the door they are all dead in the room. Caper pours some of the jailor's potion on Marusan.

We smash the skeleton bones into small pieces and throw them into a nearby creek. We burn Marusan in a huge fire outside.

Leaf hits the metal statue with a beam from the rod. It gets 50% bigger and now it barely fits in the temple.

We go outside and look through the papers and books in our packs for information about the rod. Back inside we go through Marusan's library. We find nothing about the rod but we do discover that the potion was supposed to be drunk by Marusan before he died. So all we know is that the rod is chaotic and that Marusan is probably coming back.

We decide to camp instead of going back to town.

At midnight we hear scraping from inside the temple. We light torches and go in. The scraping is the skylight glass golem reassembling.

We hear noises from the tomb rooms. The bones are reforming and dropping out of the air onto the floor.

We throw the bones into the tombs putting the heads together, arms together, etc. so there is no complete skeleton in any tomb. We cover the tombs with the lids. Finch the raccoon hears something in Marusan's study. Leaf talks to Finch. The sound is snoring.

Opening the door we see Marusan sleeping on the bed.

Caper sneaks into the room and pours the potion into Marusan's mouth just as he wakes. He chokes on the potion. Leaf chops his head off. Marusan glows green and dissipates into the air. We're pretty sure that this time he is dead.

I mean really dead. (Not mostly dead.)

Open game chat on Inspired Unreality tonight at 9:00 Central. Our initial topic will be writing modules. How is it different than writing a story? Just how much needs to be figured out in advance anyway? Three sentences for each NPC? Monsters and Treasure? Maps?

Inspired Unreality is held in the gamerplus chatrooms at Tenkar's Tavern on Discord. If you've never been to Tenkar's Tavern we have an invitation for you here.

Now posted on Anchor, the Related To Geeks Podcast about Virtual Gaming.

MyrddinWyllt says, "I've been running a game of Lords of Olympus for the last 5 months. If anyone here likes Greek Mythology and enjoys the idea of playing Gods and Demigods in an infinite Multiverse I would highly recommend it."

He also posted some nice maps of Middle Earth.

Meanwhile at The Archive Of The White Master we've all got horses except Caper the halfling who has a pony. We cracked the safe. And Marusan is back!

Do you write Modules or other D&D assets? Join the discussion at Writing Modules and Module Assets.

Or join us tonight at Inspired Unreality. Open game chat. All gaming is on topic.

Hairy Larry (on the fediverse)

Session notes for November 11, 2020

Caper buys Ari a horse and a pony for himself for 115 G. Jennifer buys her own horse for 75G. Caper buys tack, a saddlebag and oats and rations for 50G for all horses except Leaf the elf who doesn't need tack. (because elves ride bareback)

We ride north through the woods with the Finch, the raccoon, and Rowan, the dogbear. Leaf carries Finch on his shoulder and Rowan runs beside the horses.

We get back to the Archive quickly and nothing seems changed. Caper checks for traps on the front door but he can't tell anything. Fighter the Cleric opens the door and we move into a round room with doors leading left and right. Leaf looks to the right and sees an large metal box. Caper recognizes it as a safe. He checks for traps but can't tell if the safe is trapped or not.

The safe has buttons numbered 0 - 9 in two rows.

Caper tries 1 2 3 4 5. Doesn't work. You can only depress 4 numbers. Jennifer tries more combinations but doesn't guess right.

Caper looks into the next room. It looks like an office for a guard or a jailor. He reads through some notes and finds some keys.

Caleb - Snuck in the building after dark
Robert - Stole coins from donation
Ezon - Holds all my secrets
Roger - Assaulted scribe

They check the cell. In the office there's a locker with clothes, a backpack, and a sword.

The party discusses the notes as a clues and finally deduces the combination, 8019.

Inside the safe there is a green potion with a note that says the potion is to stop Marusan's life spell. There is also 500 G, 100 each.

The door to the left is locked. Caper couldn't pick it.

Leaf hits the lock with a burst of energy and the door just fades away and disappears.

The circular room to the left has benches around the outside like a waiting room.

In the next room there are two more statues of Moloch made of stone, one to the left and one to the right.

Leaf shoots them with the rod. He sees a real bright light and can't see anything. No one else sees anything. Only Leaf.

After a few minutes Leaf recovers his vision. We continue north into the temple. Marusan is gone! The glass skylight is back! The secret room is empty! In the side rooms the coffins are closed!


Open game chat tonight on Inspired Unreality. Our opening topic will be NPCs. Just how much agency should the DM give to NPCs? Should they only be minions or more like PCs with the DM acting out their roles? Or should the DM go even further with NPCs solving puzzles that have stymied the party or even fighting their fights for them? I'm more of the have the NPC give a hint every now and then but I am open minded about this. Should the NPC add a bit of color or should they dominate the narrative if necessary in the eyes of the DM? What's your take?

Inspired Unreality open game chat is held in the gamerplus chatrooms at Tenkar's Tavern on Discord. 9:00 PM Central every Monday night. If you are new to Tenkar's Tavern we have an invite for you here.

Earlier this year on Inspired Unreality the Related To Geeks Book Club discussed "Armada" by Ernest Cline. Our podcast is now up on anchor. If you are a big fan you will want to leave a comment because neither Megan or I were impressed. Here's the link.

I've been posting session summaries from our Archive Of The White Mage quest so I thought I would post a session from someone else's game. From Northport here's "OSE play session with the gang 10/17".

Northport is written by Gamer+ gamer Gwythaint.

I found this session log on the Gamer+ "View Last 60 Items Here" link.

If you have a blog, podcast, vlog, or just about anything with an RSS feed let me know and I will see that your posts are listed as well. Here's one more link to "Gamer's Homepages". Great gamer content from the footer of Gamer+.

Hairy Larry (Follow me on the Fediverse)

Gamer+ News November 2, 2020

Join us for Inspired Unreality open game chat, tonight at 9:00 Central in the gamerplus chatrooms at Tenkar's Tavern. Our opening topic will be on game prep. Not enough, too much, or just right? Bring your own topic. All gaming is on topic.

If you've never been to Tenkar's Tavern there's an invite for you here.

New podcast up at Anchor. The Related To Geeks Book Club discusses Neuromancer by William Gibson.

For those of you keeping up with "The Archive of the White Master" I posted Session 4. Executive summary: Marusan is dead. (for now) We got another pet. (Rowan the bear-dog) We're back at town with pockets full of platinum and magic weapons.

Read all about it here.

And speaking about podcasts and archives I have a new weekly podcast, From The Archives Of Something Blue. Marty at KASU suggested that we start this back up and I'm doing it all at home and sending it in. It is located at Hairy Larry Rocks Funkwhale. Nice and short with talking about a song, the song, and a promo for Something Blue. This weeks episode features blues harmonica great, Bob Corritore playing with my band, Delta Legends, at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas.

I hope to see you tonight on Inspired Unreality or stop by Gamer+ anytime and let us know what you've been doing.

Hairy Larry (on my Friendica)

The Archive Of The White Master - basic D&D - Session 4
Session notes for October 28, 2020

We loot Marusan and find a pouch.

Fighter the Cleric goes through Marusan's room and finds two magic scrolls.

Jennifer pitches rocks at the two chests to check for traps.

Leaf opens a chest from the back. Magic energy seeks Leaf and he's laying on the ground again.

Fighter the Cleric looks in the chest. There is a short sword and a pile of coins. Fighter heals Leaf.

There is one chest remaining. Everyone except Jennifer leaves the room. When she opens the chest the magic missle hits her. We have no more healing but she takes the damage and remains standing.

In the chest she finds a ring, some coins, and a potion. Fighter the Cleric thinks it's a healing potion.

Total coins from the pouch and both chests.

200 copper
200 silver
200 platinum (5gp each)

We cogitate on how to deal with these weapons and Marusan's corpse.

We slice the tubes in the statue and put Marusan's corpse in it tying it shut just in case he comes back to life while we're in town.

Leaf takes the rod, Pann Severi, a 16 inch magic sceptre.

I wrap the swords and the mace in my blanket and tie the bundle up. Jennifer carries the bundle on her back and we head back to town. Leaf calls his raccoon and leads the way.


We hear another animal in the woods and find another trap. Leaf frees a trapped canine, a dog-bear. We lower him down and he likes us fine. Now we have two wild pets, the raccoon and the dog-bear.


I see clawed goblin tracks like before. We decide to go back to Birkenstock and deal with the goblins later.

We split the coins 5 ways. Each of us gets over 200 gold.

Leaf and Ari study the spell book copying the spells to their books. They are Detect Magic, Light, and Ventriloquism. The supplies for doing this cost them their 200 gold each.

The spells on the scrolls are 2nd level Web and 3rd level Fireball.

Caper talks to father Abraham to get more healing balm. He donates a platinum piece. Father Abraham gives him 4 doses of the balm.

Caper goes to the fletcher's and gets 20 fine arrows for another platinum.

Concerned about the cursed weapons Fighter the Cleric and I talk to Father Abraham at the church. He can remove the curses. First he removes the curse from Fighter the Cleric so she no longer desires the cursed mace. While he does this Caper goes for Jennifer and they bring the bundle of weapons. Father Abraham removes the curse on the mace and the long sword. Caper donates 3 platinum and Fighter the Cleric donates 2 platinum.

Fighter the Cleric buys two fine horses for Leaf and herself.


Salted Caramel

The next day Leaf detects magic auras on the short sword, the long sword, the mace, the ring, and the potion.

We each gain 2000 XP. Caper and Jennifer level up to 2nd level.


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