What Makes a Good Side Quest?

in Design

Side quests are an integral part of most RPGs nowadays. You don’t HAVE to have them, some games do not, especially older style RPGs, but if you are like me, you really want to add them in. So let’s look at a few ways to make sure that your side quests are the best they can be. I generally have a small checklist of questions for every side quest. I don’t have to answer yes to ALL of them, but I like to make sure at least most of them are covered. So let’s go through the checklist.

How does this enhance the story?

There are plenty of ways for side quests to enhance the story. I’ve given advice before on not overdoing your world lore too much in the main plot, you don’t want to overload a player who just wants enough to understand the plot! But side quests, this is where you can add a lot of background lore.

Another good way to enhance the story is to have side quests that focus on certain characters. Either more background or some character development for them. This is kind of the Bioware staple sidequests, if you ever want an idea of how to do it, look there.

Story

This feeds players who are interested in the story, character interaction, and lore. Which in RPGs can be quite a bit!

How does it challenge the player?

You, of course, want your main quest to be challenging, but side quests are a unique place where you can add some enhanced challenge factor. Players don’t HAVE to do them to enjoy the main game, so giving the players who want them some extra challenges are good.

But also, you want to make sure that side quests are challenging, and not just fetch or delivery quests. These kind of quests are just routine time wasters. Sometimes it might still work if the other parts of the checklist are all checked off, but in general, I suggest against this kind of stuff.

Give the characters new things to do, new dungeons to explore, new puzzles to figure out, or just a new enemy to take down.

What advantage does the player get from doing it?

If there is one thing that I hate, it is pushing through a challenging, long side quest, and the reward isn’t even worth it.

ah yes, exactly what I need, a generic sword. :|

ah yes, exactly what I need, a generic sword. 😐

For the love of all that is good in the world, GIVE YOUR PLAYER SOMETHING NICE! My suggestion is usually some kind of unique equipment or skill. Preferably slightly more powerful than other things you can get at a similar time, but even if it ISN’T, unique stuff appeals to players collecting obsessions (you guys have that too right? It isn’t just me, right?)

But really, just give your player something mechanical for their trouble!

What other things do you keep in mind when making side quests? Join us in the comments below!

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  • Anja

    I completely agree with all three questions. Side Quests are a lot of fun to play, but they need to add something to the game, too. Using them to deepen the world lore or just the characters is a nice thing. Giving additional challenges makes them a good thing to tackle in your own time (since side quests are not bound to the main ones). And you really, really need to get something out of it. Extra gear (especially unique gear that can’t be bought) is a great motivation for me, too. An additional skill or, perhaps, an additional possible team member would also be great.

  • Pabby

    The tileset where ‘Sword’ was found looks pretty sick, though 🙂