Chuubo Talk: Quest Design

I’ve been through the book a few times now and I’m working my way through one of my absurd flowchart-y things that lays out how the economy works. It’s all pretty straightforward once you’ve yanked it out of Jenna-speak. But like always, the process reveals weirdnesses in ways that I don’t always suss out just from reading.

One big part of the game is that your character is pursuing a series of Quests, and by fulfilling Quests you’re ultimately pursuing an Arc. The Arc is a big thematic thing so not all your Quests necessarily add into the Arc. It’s kind of an ad-hoc thing.

Anyway. It reads to me like designing Quests at the table is the assumed behavior in the game. That said, there’s really almost no guidance at all in terms of what goals might look like, how many XPs it might take to complete them, what Perks you can earn and so on. It feels really under-explored.

In actual play, do folks just use the sample quests in the book? Because I gotta say, they’re really vague. That’s probably a feature and not a bug, right? Since it seems like a big creative contribution opportunity is figuring out how to link together quests under an Arc. I’m fine with that, just wondering if that’s the done thing. One reason I think this is what’s done is this extraordinary resource I stumbled into:

Or is quest-writing way more straightforward and I just need to swing back around on it?

I feel like if I can nail down this quest business, I can run the game. I’m feeling skeptical of the explicitly conflict-free play (I had a similar problem with Freemarket) but that’s a reflection of my own creative limitations, not a flaw in the game itself.

0 thoughts on “Chuubo Talk: Quest Design”

  1. There was a really good discussion over at the Chuubos Community. Tony Lower-Basch kind of made my head explode when he mentioned that you can just make Quests without obsessiong about which Icon they belong to. Another person posting said this was true for Mundane games but not ones where there are Miracles being slung around. I didn’t get the skinny on that. It still seems like with Miracles the narrative style of your Arc doesn’t really seem to have much mechanical support. The things you GET from completing Quests and Arcs do.

  2. Well, it looks like Arcs are nailed down fairly well.

    But Quests, lordy, I have no idea. I can certainly see the advantages of just running a premade thing like Glass-Maker’s Archive.

    If Arc-suitability isn’t important, why did she include it? Even to the point of grading suitability on a 1-5 scale, it looks like?

  3. I think to be honest, depending on the style of game, that accepting the recommendations that are in the book when you pick your first arc works out just fine! I think once you get the flow of the game, you will be excited to add new quests. Or when you first hit a “Oh, my character totally wants to renovate that attic” in your first session and then you make up that quest.

    If you want actual quest-making advice, your 5 XP should be one or two weird/very leading objectives, along with one or two super obvious ones.

    Your 1 XPs should have some which are easy to hit and reinforce the basic themes, as well as some ones that are weirder and suggest directions to go.

    But I would just splat stuff down, maybe a few more than you need, cross of the worst, and then be done with it.

  4. James Stuart okay so…I think I’m reading the same thing. That’s the sense I get. What’s the table experience of that like?

    What jumps out at me as weird/different/hard to suss out is that it seems like you’re not really exploring/playing to see what happens at that point. You’re pre-planning, setting down beats in advance that you’ll hit and then emote around. Is that accurate? I’m not saying it’s bad, but it’s different enough that I can’t sense what that feels like.

  5. You are playing to find out what happens! Let me explain, on three levels.

    First: quests are not fixed. People can and should abandon quests (you get half XP back). Sometimes the thing you thought you wanted is not the thing you actually want. It is easy to get full on quests, and so players should drop quests when they don’t seem fun, fruitful. Especially because you can often delay assigning pot XP for a while, so a clever move is to nominally have a quest for a whole session, and then decide at the end that it’s meh, and only have wasted an XP or two.

    Second: Quests often give you beats, but only rarely give you the heart.

    Adventure Get does let you know that you’re going to get into trouble, and that people are going to have bail you out, but how do they feel about it? What is the adventure? What trouble does it get you into? Do people resent you or move away from you for being so rash, or are you encouraging others?
    Also, that the game does not emphasize conflict does not mean it doesn’t exist: if this is some dispute the PCs get mixed up in, how it resolves and whether the PCs get what they want may have consequences, big consequences.

    Apotheosis gives you some vague ideas of what happens, and some ways for the player to emote, interact with this weird experience, but there is obviously something mythic and important happening, and I have no idea what it means. We play to find out, both internal to the character, and external to the character.

    Connecting does sort of tell you what’s going on. It’s pretty predictable. But that the quest finishes just means some level of bond has some formed. It’s unclear how positive or negative it is. And in game terms, probably the person gets Connection 1 for finishing it off, which is pretty minor. There’s a lot of room for things to explore and change. And if the person stops wanting to connect, abandon quest.

    Third and probably very important, the transition from quest to quest, especially in arcs, is very open-ended. Often times, the shift from the first part of the arc to the second means something drastic changes. How the person pursued their first quest often informs a lot of how they’ll go down their second quest. I could see take Mental Training as the first quest in a arc, and then going in ten different directions.

    Does that help?

  6. Another entire way to think about this is that you shouldn’t worry about this much. Quests work as very elaborate Keys ala TSOY, and it’s the player’s job (with your oversight and help and observation) to find keys they want to turn, a lot. You step in to help them create new keys/quests (which they should become excited about), but honestly, it is so much better if you barely even know what’s on their quest cards other than the title. You can’t possibly keep 4 quests x 4 players x 10 things per quest in mind. They hammer their keys to get XP on their own free will, and choose actions which will turn the keys.

  7. Yeah…I’m gonna have to see it in action.

    BUT this is interesting stuff. I’m totally skeptical! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting. 🙂

    The elaborate-Keys thing makes sense, and this is where I have to confess to not having any TSOY/SS experience in my head. 🙁 But I see them referenced often and I’ve read the rules, so I kinda get it. It looks like Directives are basically Keys in The Sprawl so we’ll have more hands-on time with the technology here shortly.

    Building a menu of thematically related keys on the spot seems like it’d take a goodly amount of practice.

  8. I don’t have any good advice. I made a few quests using the ones in the book as a model and made the major goals  based on important scenes I felt should happen during the quest, and the flavor based on moments or images that felt appropriate (and threw in a few weird or goofy ones for fun). My philosophy and why it didn’t feel so hard was because I was telling myself not to overthink it. Based on the ones in the book quest elements don’t seem like they have to be big powerful things that drive play, but more starting points or inspiration for scenes.

  9. I support Bret Gillan: really don’t stress about good Quest design (even if you realize something is bad, it’s easily fixable). You can really just spit the first ten things you think of onto a page and it’ll work out.

  10. So here’s where I’m skeptical, and almost certainly wrong: Whenever I hear someone say that thus-and-such doesn’t matter, that sounds to me like it probably doesn’t even need to be in there.

    I think I need to swing back through what XP actions actually look like. I suspect they’re way less plot-relevant than I’m thinking they are. I mean the game isn’t plot-driven or conflict-driven so that’s probably where my stumbling blocks are.

    In practice, are Quests entirely the purview of the GM or does the player suggest beats as well? Collaborative or a GM carrot thing?

  11. Followup for James Stuart and Bret Gillan: How did you cost the XP of the quests you wrote? Just pull a number out of your butt? Calibrate it on how long you thought you might want to linger on it?

  12. If it helps–from what I can gather, Quests are basically more elaborate versions of Marvel Heroic’s “Milestones” system, at least based on my single session of play experience.

  13. Andy Hauge argh another game I need to play!

    Every time I think I’ve got a firm grip on the essentials, I’m reminded yet again of all the stuff I haven’t gotten to yet.

  14. Paul Beakley, I put a cheat sheet together for MHR too, if you want it! XP for me was sort of a “how hard would it be for this character to do this?” or probably more so “how far does this quest take the character from where they started?”

  15. For non-side/basic quests thing, I would pick 25 unless everybody seems really jazzed about a quest/it seems really essential, in which case I’d give it more.

  16. I will solve your problem, Paul Beakley 

    Unless it’s a quest in the book, pick 25 XP per main quest everytime. In general, people completing quests is good and fun, and having a lot of slightly smaller quests that pop is more rewarding than the latter.

    Also, even 25 XP will probably take 3 sessions to knock down with effort.

  17. Yeah, that does seem like sound advice.

    I wonder why there’s such variability in the book? Probably it’s good to have that tool available once you’ve played a bunch and folks are comfortable with the economies.

  18. I think the answer to why is that when you hit the end of a quest, it wraps. It doesn’t mean everything wraps with a neat bow, but you are done. You have connected, the apotheosis happens/did happen, etc, etc. The XP pacing is a way of saying: “let’s luxuriate out in this quest and let it take a long time before we wrap”

    I think that if your players are hyper efficient at pushing play to hit quest goals/5-XP bonuses, you could end up feeling like 25XP is too short for certain quests. But it’s good to recognize when that happens and find the exceptions. (also, you can just stretch out a quest goal mid quest, which is not even necessarily a penalty!)

    And I think most players start off not pushing the “my job as a player is to get all the XP as fast as possible”, since it seems so emotionally different from a lot of games.

  19. XP seems much less of an incentive, in this game, and much more of a tracking resource. You use XP to keep track of how you’re advancing through a Quest.

  20. We mixed and matched quests from the book, subbing in and out details as needed to fit setting.

    I think the arcs are useful conceptual groupings, and it’s more satisfying if you follow them but the game won’t break mechanically if you go off piste, in my experience.

  21. I played in a few games and would say I’m quite familiar with the game, but even then I never really made my own quests. The example quest-sets tend to be vague enough that they fit most characters, so I just stuck to them and switched out some of the xp earning scenes and milestones if it fit my character better.

    There is a bit of information in the Arcs section of the book, there is a list of all the Arcs and what each quest in the Arc should be about + suggestions for the rewarded perks.

    Glass-Maker’s Dragon can really help understanding the game a lot, if you have access to it from the kickstarter. (Unfortunately it’s still not out)

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