It is often difficult creating quests for new players as you have to balance a sense of ease and straightforwardness with something that actually is interesting enough to keep the players’ attention. This blog gives tips on how to successfully create a quest for new players and examples of quests you can run!
Beginning players should always start with a quest, and never a campaign. The reason this is my first rule of thumb is because campaigns often have a more in-depth plotline that can encumber the new player’s capacity to learn how to RPG and learning the rules. A quest that at the end may hint at further exploration (such as a second part or leading into a campaign) is highly advisable. This way you already have a direction for players to go in if they really enjoyed the first quest.
The first quest is mainly about exposing the player to a multitude of things that might appear in a regular session of Dungeons & Dragons. Be sure to include these main aspects: traps, interaction with NPCs, puzzles, monster encounters (encouraged to have one horde encounter and one single strong monster encounter), and socializing/RPGing specific time. These main attributes can be found in most quests and are good way to help players learn how to use skills, how combat works, and what RPGing is like.
It is highly important to know all your players’ characters in and out so that if they have questions you can easily answer them. Also use what you know about their characters to develop a sufficient quest. If one of the player’s characters has fire damage reduction make an encounter or trap that uses fire. If a player is immune to magic sleep effects create a boss that uses the Sleep spell. This is a good way to make each player feel like their character is special or excels at something and boosts the moral of the individual.
Also be open for changes to the quest. If the players seem to be struggling with a puzzle, throw them a hint. If they don’t seem to know how to go about getting the information they need create an overfriendly NPC on the go. Don’t make your new players struggle through scenarios as it slows down the game and can create frustration rather than enjoyment. But don’t make things too easy where it becomes boring.
Along these same lines, do not kill characters if possible. Nothing is worse for a new player than to have their character killed in the first battle and have to sit and watch the rest of the time. I play by the rule of thumb that new players cannot have their characters die the first three times they play; when their character gets knocked to 0hp they immediately are stabilized.
Make sure to let your new players have lots of new room to breathe. Let them be creative and get silly and do everything in your power to help the new players have fun. Learning the rules should come second behind making sure everyone is enjoying themselves. Try not to overwhelm anyone with rules but make sure that they come out of their first quest with a basic understanding of how RPing works and the basic rules.
Below is a skeletal example of how to form a quest for beginners. Use this formula to create quests of your own for new players. Be sure not to create a short quest as much time will be needed to teach the players the rules and help them learn the game. Example quest is given. Next blog I will talk about how to handle ‘bad’ players.
Skeletal Quest Form
Introduction– Tell them where they are at, describe what they see, and why they might be here. Then let them do a small amount of role-playing (could just be them introducing what their character looks like or is doing in the current setting).
Example: “You all find yourself at the PuckerBerry Tavern, the only tavern in the small village of Puckerberry. The tavern is well kept with several wooden tables and chairs as well as a bristly looking human bartender and a shy old serving maid. Other than yourselves there is a group of three younger men eating at one of the back tables and playing some game of chance. You noticed a sign in the front window asking for help. What are each of you doing in the tavern and what does your character look like?”
Request for Aid- After a short introduction get them set on the quest as quickly as possible. This can be someone requesting aid or maybe a shady incident occurring or even introducing with a small skirmish or battle.
Example: “The bartender looks wearily at all of you saying ‘You look like you have traveled far. Be you a group of adventurers that noticed my sign for aid? Well if you have I am looking for some people to take care of a rat problem in my cellar. They keep stealing the barrels of ale! Don’t you be giving me that funny look, I swear my barrels have been disappearing! I offer free night’s stay, food, and a small reward for anyone willing to help”
Light Skirmish– Start with a small skirmish, something easy that won’t be in risk of killing anyone in the party. This is a time for them to learn how battle works and what their characters are capable of/their role in the party.
Example: “As you head down into the dark basement none of you can see a thing [ask if anyone has darkvision or see if anyone lights a torch]. [Ask for passive perception] [Those that beat a 10] You hear scampering as if small feet are hitting the stone floor. [If anyone goes all the way down the stairs] Everyone roll initiative [fight begins against three Giant Rats].
A Small Puzzle– by puzzle I mean some difficulty that prevents them from continuing to pass. This can be a legitimate puzzle with pieces to solve or just some circumstance that causes them to stop and figure out a solution.
Example: “After slaying the rats you notice a small hole in the wall. It looks just big enough for the rats to squeeze through but not big enough for barrels of ale to fit through. [Good investigation when looking in the whole] You notice a trip plate at the end of the whole that could do something if pressed with enough force.”
Trap- After they solve the puzzle and possible progress further into the plot there needs to be a trap that can deal damage or perturb the party, letting the new players know that everything may seem safe but always be on your guard.
Example: “You press the trigger and a larger stone moves away revealing a short doorway into a descending hallway. [they enter and begin following it down]. A slick substance covers the walls [can try to identify the substances, it is ignitable fluid]. Front person make a Dexterity save. [On a fail triggers a pressure plate that sprays out fire igniting the hall and dealing 1d4 fire damage to everyone in the hall]”
Social Interaction– Now add in a bit of skill based social interaction to give the players a chance to role-play their characters in a controlled setting. This can come as a need for information, finding an NPC, or even talking to an inanimate object.
Example: “The players arrive at a dead end. There is a door to the right and a door to the left. Moaning is heard behind the door to the left. [must lockpick the door or break it open to enter]. Upon entering the characters find a deformed Halfling with rat like qualities, one ear is ratlike, claws, a pronounced rat nose, patches of fur. He looks up at you eagerly ‘Are you here to rescue me?!’ [Allow players to interact and find out information from this prisoner]
Boss Battle– Every quest should have some form of a boss battle. This can be the classic cliché evil boss battle fight or maybe some kind of particularly dangerous puzzle trap that could kill someone if the party does not solve it. No matter what you choose it should be difficult and pose a major threat to the party.
Example: “The Halfling explains that an evil alchemist is trying to turn people into wererats and has poisoned some of the barrels at the tavern. His office is across the hall. Upon entering the other door, they find a manacled man working at a desk. He looks surprised but immediately takes on an aggressive stance [roll initiative]. Everyone fights the alchemist wererat.”
Treasure– Players should be rewarded for their hard work and effort with some kind of prize or treasure. Experience is never a bad choice but be sure to give them items as well. For new players something special like a magical scroll or masterwork sword can be exiting.
Example: “Upon defeating the wererat alchemist you can search the room [Investigation on Room or searching body]. On the wererat you find a masterwork shortsword [+1 to attack rolls] and two daggers plus a small bag [Arcana to tell it is a TangleFoot bag]. Around the room is several books on alchemy, alchemist tools, and a two peculiar looking potions [Arcana to tell that one is a Cure Light Wounds Potion and Nature to tell the other is a cure for Lycanthropy].
Developing the Plot– Create some depth to the quest and/or give some plot that might lead the players to another quest connected with the current plot.
Example: “[Sleight of Hand to lockpick desk or find Key on Body] In the desk is a bag of coins [18gold, 21 silver, 35copper] as well as several important correspondence letters. The letters speak of a plot to poison the townsfolk and turn them into wererats, then force them to join some kind of army. The letter is written by the Duke of Covington [the nearby Duke estate].”
Definite End- Be sure to close out the quest once the players have accomplished what they needed. This can be returning to let someone know they have accomplished what they needed. Also find out what the characters’ plan on doing next [are they continuing with the potential future quests related to this plotline or is their character going to continue on their merry way?]
Example: “The adventurers return to the bartender and explain the details of what they found. The bartender pays and thanks them and provides some information about how the Duke of Covington just came into power a few months ago is a rather shady manner and that he will be sure to have the local priest purify his ale before he serves it to anyone. He gives you food and puts you up in the Tavern for a night. What do you adventurers do for the rest of the day and when you awake tomorrow?”