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Zaltyre

What makes a good quest?

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While I was finishing the last quests for my custom campaign, I found myself thinking quite a bit about what makes a quest fun to play. I know what I enjoy, but I'm curious what others think.

 

As I see it, most quests boil down to a few types of objectives- race, fight, search, and test. Do you like to see the Overlord and the heroes having similar objectives (heroes must defeat monsters before getting knocked down or letting an NPC get defeated) or completely different objectives (OL is trying to race across the map while heroes are trying to search or fight)?

 

How do you feel about single encounter vs two encounter quests? How heavily should encounter 2 be affected by encounter 1?

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n.b. I've played the base game thoroughly and am eagerly awaiting to play more expansions (I have LoTW and LoR)

 

Anyway, I generally prefer when the objectives are different for the heroes and Overlord for a couple reasons. Often when the goal is the same both parties are trying to acquire the same item and take it to a certain place or are racing to a certain location. Different quests do this well, however. The first encounter of A Fat Goblin is a great example where the item of interest is to be brought to various locations, so it is still a fun encounter, kind of a tug-of-war, whereas in The Overlord Revealed you both have to take the casket to the same place. Granted, it is a behemoth of a quest and is fun, but the Overlord can kind of just camp. The second encounter of The Masquerade Ball is just an annoying race (I'll come back to this). If I had to rank the type of quests from best to worst, as I see it, it would be: different objectives>one group tries to stop the other>same objective. I love it when the heroes have to yank their hair out deciding between trying to accomplish what they must ASAP or stop the Overlord--if they can, that is... If they have the same goal the strategy is not as variable it seems, and if one group is trying to stop the other there is good room for changing it up.

 

I have no preference, really, between having 1 or 2 encounters, but I think that when creating a 2-encounter quest extreme caution should be taken to limit the advantage of winning the first encounter. For instance, in The Masquerade Ball when I won the first encounter as the heroes simply by standing in front of the exit and unleashing death upon all approaching monsters the second encounter was a breeze when Lady Eliza couldn't make it past the 2nd door in time and got pummeled by all the heroes. When I later played the quest again as the Overlord I won the first encounter I blocked the largest room of the second encounter with shadow dragons (right at the opening from the spider den) and the heroes didn't get past until Lady Eliza was at the final door. WHY??? The first encounter should have some impact on the second, but it shouldn't be game-breaking. Same goes for the Act I quest with Belthir. Obviously there are a lot of factors at play here, such as how skilled the players are, how far into the act they are (therefore the equipment/skills/OL cards people have) and if I have eaten beforehand, but it just seems unfair, especially when there are solid strats for the first encounter. I don't think there are too many quests where the first encounter is meaningless, or has little impact, but it was pretty worthless in The Cardinal's Plight--who wants more zombies?

 

All told, I think we can conclude that there's a great variety of quests, and even the less-balanced ones are a blast.

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Honestly, mixing it up causes you to do two things:

One-you make the game more interesting because there are different things to do in each quest. 

Two- Different people have likes and dislikes.

I guess that's not really what you asked though. 
 

Personally, I prefer more combat driven Quests then anything. Combat-and exploration. I also like quests that require you to protect people or things. 

As for Encounters- First Encounter should influence the second, but not in such a way that makes it almost impossible for it to win. You could place an emphasis on the importance of winning the first Encounter, but then you are left with players who will have to sit through a second Encounter feeling the weight of an almost  non winnable task. 

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I will keep my answer shot n sweet: I like quests that are varied and competitive.  Races, fights, king-of-the-hill, it's all good.  I don't want to always have to do variations of the same theme but actual variety--sometimes going after the same objective, sometimes playing to differing goals.  The most important aspect is that both sides need a realistic shot at victory.  So 1 encounter or 2, I think there is place for both.  But I think e1 cannot have such a significant impact on e2 that it basically cripples the losing side.

 

Hope this helps a little.  

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I'm going to give you a couple of different answers to this question, the first won't answer your question so much but give you my opinion on why I think it's the wrong question to ask. The second will answer your actual question.

 

First: You shouldn't ask what makes a quest good, you should ask what makes a campaign good. Because the game is balanced around the design of campaign play and not individual quests, it is only natural that many quests become imbalanced one way or the other given certain decisions players have made. If the overlord chooses the warlord deck, he will be more disadvantaged in race quests than he would be if he chose to start with web traps. Alternatively, a group comprised of high speed low durability heroes will struggle in quests which feature heavy fighting requirements. The fact that quest selection isn't random but is a deliberate decision by the winner of the previous quest means that quests need not be balanced. No quest can be interesting to every single combination of player/overlord setups, and a quest in which a side wins outright without trouble is not interesting or fun for the other side, so no quest can always be interesting. Therefore, it is most important to have a wide variety of quest types and goals in them, so that a player always has a quest to choose.

 

Second: Okay, that aside, what makes an individual quest good. First, the balance can't be too far off. Quests should be set up so that there is pretty much no way for a side to blitz win before the other side can interfere. Race quests should only exist on large maps where the heroes have some opportunity to interact with the other side, and should have multiple opportunities for either side to get ahead. What I mean by that is that in some race quests, a pure luck based mistake can mean a loss. Consider A Cardinal's Plight encounter 1, if the heroes choose the wrong search tokens for a few actions, they will be doomed for the rest of the quest because the overlord will get all 4 zombies. If they are playing slower heroes, they will lose. If the overlord blocks well and they don't have the power to get through, they lose. The overlord has multiple opportunities to get ahead in this, as he can utilize his forces in a way to delay the heroes. However, the players do not. Aside from capitalizing on the overlord's mistake of failing to block properly or choosing a bad open group, the only way to delay the overlord is to hope he rolls poorly, and there's no interaction on their side that modifies that. This is a bad encounter for that reason. In the second part, if they didn't get at least 2 zombies prevented in the first part (highly unlikely, I've actually never seen it), they can expect to have no chance, and only if they somehow prevent all 4 from going up (Statistically near impossible) do their odds of winning the second encounter swing in their favor.

It's okay to have quests that are overlord favored or hero favored, but there needs to be interaction on both sides towards the objectives.

 

I'll break encounters down into two broad categories:

 

Race- This encounter is a race against time, with one side needing to prevent the other from completing some objective which is not difficult but time intensive. Fighting is limited to delay tactics for the side with the race objective.

 

Battle- There is an important unit or group of units on the map which need to be defeated by one side and protected by the other. Fighting is essential.

 

A good race encounter features options for both sides to make decisions, and multiple viable tactics. An example is the Trollfens quest which features two bosses (a harpy and ettin boss) players must defeat before time runs out. The heroes must race against time to complete their objective, while the overlord must delay. However, the overlord has several options: they can play keep away trying to avoid the party or force them to split up to complete their objectives (running the bosses away), they can group all their monsters up and force a difficult engagement from the heroes. The heroes can decide to chase the boss down by splitting up if they are strong combat heroes, or if they are fast go as a group. The map design gives a variety of movement paths, allowing for different formations and maneuvers. This is a good quest.

 

Battle encounters are fairly limited in option, but they function best with large open maps with lots of movement, and must have some kind of time limit on the map. Either an overrun function (Overlord gets reinforcements with increased speed as the battle goes on), or an actual hard time requirement (12 turns the map ends). They also should have some kind of objective on the fight that makes the battle easier for the side that has an uphill battle, combining an element of race quest. A straight slugfest isn't particularly interesting. For example, imagine a quest in which various enemies have buffs tied to runes on the map, and destroying the runes removes their buffs. If the group is strong enough, they can pursue victory without wasting time eliminating those runes (or only some of them), but they can also use their speed if a fast group to destroy them rapidly to compensate for a combat weakness.

 

In short, every encounter should have something that helps a speed based group, and something that helps a slower, power based group.

 

Also, no two part encounter should have an impossible to win second encounter based on the results of the first. Consider Masquerade Ball: If the overlord wins the first encounter, the heroes have essentially a 0% chance of victory in the second part, the only thing they can do is try to grab as many search tokens as they can before they lose.

 

However, given the way overlord cards work and the mechanics of what carries over from part 1 to 2, I believe that single encounter quests are better than two part quests.

Edited by Whitewing

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I also believe single encounter quests have a better chance to be more enjoyable, because if one side crushes the other in encounter 1 of a two encounters quest then it oftens makes encounter 2 very shallow and not very enjoyable for the losing side. Whereas a single encounter quest is probably easier to balance out, and you can also throw in some more stuff into it since you can afford playtime to be slightly longer. The map can be bigger, you can have multiple objectives etc.

 

Personally, the best quest I´ve played so far was My House, My Rules from Manor of Ravens. Because both sides are running in parallel. There are race elements (obv.), combat elements and interesting terrain mechanisms.

 

I like when quests have multiple objectives. So that you can fall back on a plan B if plan A comes to a failure.

 

One thing I do not like are quests where one side can completely ignore the objective and just sit tight to block a corridor to deny the other side. That's just lame. I am not opposed to the strategy of leaving a couple of heroes as guards to catch some monsters escaping through the exit, or similarly putting a large monster in a corridor to give the OL some precious time, but both sides should be actively trying to reach the objective at the same time.

 

I like terrain in quests, because the map is more interesting with it.

 

I like environmental effects tied to figures being present on a given tile. 

 

I like levers, torchs, any objects allowing the heroes/monsters to interact with the map or not suffer an environmental effect.

 

I like rotating effects, where something happens at a precise spot/tile on the map, and then moving to another spot/tile in an order you can predict.

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I think one example of a Bad quest is the Dawnblade quest. In that Second Encounter, the OL had two ways to win as opposed to the Heroes one. While I get the premise, it was extremely one sided. Encounter 1 made it worse though as when the heroes lost, Alaric had even more of an advantage. 

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As a coop gamer myself I prefer the classic hack and slash with some test objectives but nothing against the clock. While is good to have some quests to be a race and to measure every step you make, this can be stressful sometimes, and a more relaxed quest is always good.

 

But in overall, a big map, that's what makes in my opinion a good quest (a good map with a good lore but at the end, a big mission, not only 3 tiles.

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This is a very good question. Some things are good others not as enjoyable. But hard to have all or nothing.

I personally enjoy single encounter quests. They offer a larger map an take more time and strategy to complete then just a quick hack, grab, and run. A larger map also offer more movement instead of cramped or narrow areas or passages.

 

I also enjoy quests that have a series of objectives that differ for the overload and heros. Different goals make it more fun. You have to find a way to achieve you goal while delaying the other players from reaching their goal. 

With a series of objectives I am talking about something such as you need to obtain a key to open a door to gain access to a lever to open a gate which beyond lies your final task, sort of thing. I enjoy this because with multiple objectives to reach a goal it really forces players to look at their strengths and weaknesses. They might have to split up or choose the right monsters to make it work. Plus it adds small elements of different play styles. 

Edited by Japles

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I like quest where you have to puzzle a little bit. For exemple "tipping the scales" (LoR). And i like quest that have creative rules which reflect the story like "rude awakening" (LotW

I made (till now) one quest myself. So i will use this forum to tell you guys to test it :-)

It`s called  "a thorny matter" and you will find it in the quest vault. The quest is still too easy for the heroes (at least in our games they allways won).

 

You can add to the reinforcements:

at the beginning of his turn the overlord can place 1 monster of his open group at the entrance.

 

note that the the OL gets the fatiguetoken at the end of his turn, so he has 2 tokens in his third turn (concerning reinforcements).

 

P.S. it is a 4 heroes quest, it will not work with less heroes.

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Whitewing- I very much agree that variability between quests is important, and I admit the question isn't complete. I tried to vary "The Legacy of Timmorran" quests woth regard to objective, amd most have dual objectives, though some are mirrored (kill or be killed, get token off the map before the other side does). While I don't play epic very much, I feel the question does still stand for single quests.

Indalecio- I agree that one encounter quests can be a lot of fun- what I find challenging about writing them is they must be long enough to be substantial, but also not so complicated and tedious that they become a chore to play. Also, from a balance standpoint, they tend to offer less search tokens- so too many can shift a campaign to the OL. I tried to mitigate this by adding an extra search token per hero during such quests. I think of my campaign's 18 quests, 7 are single encounter, including both interludes and the finale. Hopefully that works for people.

Edit: I too, abhor stalling for the sake of stalling, so in most quests I wrote in a turn limit or a cost for taking exceedingly long- not to make everything rushed, but to provide incentive for moving the game along- for both sides.

Edited by Zaltyre

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For the "race" style quest, I'd actually break that down into two sub-types:

 

- Chase quests, where one side is running away from the others (like the second half of The Masquarade Ball, etc).

- Condition Race quests where both sides are trying to do something as quickly as possible, or one side is and the other side is trying to stop them.

 

I *HATE* the chase quests.  One bad immobilize or slow character can completely destroy the fun of those quests, and they are hard to catch up from if you trip up.

 

I like the Condition Race quests, though, because usually in the course of the condition, the two sides are bumping into each other often enough where it doesn't feel like you can just get so far ahead that you can't be caught.

 

 

So far, I've liked pretty much any of the quest flavors EXCEPT the "chase" variety.  Those are either way too easy or way too hard, and not much room for error.

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I haven't been playing for too long, but one thing I find enjoyable is variety in mechanics (but not overly complicated at that).

Simple examples would be a door switch/pressure pad that needs to be held to keep a door open so the other heroes can run through. This gives quests a bit of a unique experience and in this example, splitting the heroes up can make the battle dynamics more interesting.

 

Encounters that have two (or more) parts (and I don't mean two encounters as part of a quest) are always fun.

E.g. A character performing a ritual that the heroes have to stop, but if the character succeeds then the objective changes. For instance, the character successfully summons some monsters and now need to stopped from leaving the map.

The first objective should be hard for the heroes to accomplish, but not a loss if they don't as the second objective would be more fairly balanced. This gives the quest a bit more replayability because the heroes can try and fight harder with different party combinations to beat the first objective as an added challenge.

 

Another inevitable mechanic I come across in quests is the ability for monsters to just clump together to block hallways etc. This makes sense in certain quests and is a valid tactic, but I feel it gets overused, especially when not necessary. Maps with multiple paths is a nice touch so the overlord can't just clump his 5 spiders into a 2 width hallway.

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I would have to agree with Sigmazero on the fact of a "chase" type quest.  If the OL gets one or two dash cards it can make it hard for the hero to catch up at all. Most quest such as that have monster groups slowing down the heros but almost nothing in the way of monster trying to run of the map. I also just dont enjoy race type quest to begin with. If you are taking time to set a quest up I dont want it to be over in 10min because you just rush to the goal. Some hero's abilities or hero feats that allow extra or double movement can end these quest very quick and you dont get time for strategy or a feel of accomplishment.

 

I also like what Mitchjmiller says about an objective changing if a certain something happens during the quest. If you focus on one goal and it changes it can add to the level of thinking quick and changing strategy. Will make it harder to try an keep a consistent strategy and will have to adapt.

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Hmmm... interesting- I have a chase quest, "Hot blooded," but the monsters only want to run away after they've stolen something from the heroes, so it forces them to stay close for awhile.

 

Do the heroes have a way to prevent the thing from being stolen?

 

In any case, assuming the heroes know it may happen, I don't know if this is quite the same since the heroes could still have time to "get into position" if they see it coming.  It's the straight-up "the bad guy is ahead of you trying to escape" that I don't like - a Dash or two really makes it tough, and couple that with a key Stun or Immobilize on the heroes and they just end up being frustrating.

 

A quest that starts as something else and BECOMES a chase mid-encounter is a bit different since the heroes could account for it (and especially if they can prevent it altogether).

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Wait-a-minit! Zaltyre? You finished your custom campaign? Where are the links?

 

Here you go. I updated the original thread rather than make a new one, plus it's in the "Quest Vault" forum, so it's a bit less visible. Should there be a topic in the main forum?

 

Also, sigma- the item starts out as a weapon carried by a hero- the only way to steal it is to knock him down. Any monster can knock the hero down, but only certain monsters can pick it up and run away with it. The monster group starts as inactive, so the heroes have to actually get near them to start (away from the exit) and then if a monster moves off with the item, OL wins. If the heroes kill the featured group, heroes win. It's a bit tough on the OL, but if he manages to win, the quest allows him to steal back a cool relic from the heroes, so it's a big prize.

Edited by Zaltyre

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Yeah, I think that's a different beast - it's not a pure "chase quest", but rather a quest that has a chase element in it.  From your description, it doesn't seem nearly as bad as things like The Shadow Ritual or Masquerade Ball.

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I really like the quests where there are important and thematic interactions with the map that makes the world come to life that let's you act out a small story. For instance I really like how the SoN campaign utilises the portcullis and the portcullis levers that always seem to be in places were they make thematic sense while it additionally creates interesting gameplay mechanics. SoN's quest comes to my mind where you have to raise a portcullis to get on the bridge (which means getting to the lever inside the gatekeeper's hut) while the OL can use his Ettins to pull it open for his monsters.

Also I really liked the idea of diving down into the sewers while being chased by rats or the idea to catch and knock out a magistrate with bare hands who is fleeing in the narrow city-paths and the like.

 

The most important thing in 2 encounter quests is that the advantage for the second quest has to be dynamic. A close victory in encounter I should only give minor advantages, while only a clear victory should give you the full advantage. I always considerd it the most frustrating thing when you lose the first encounter only by the fraction of an inch and being at a huge disadvantage in the next quest, because you are not only getting the full disadvantage from the first quest, but your heroes are pretty worn out (damaged) from the beginning as well, making it nearly impossible to bounce back. It always made the unfun playstyle of giving up quickly and getting all the searchtokens while keeping your heroes at full health the much smarter option than trying to give your best for winning the quest even if there is only a slim chance of succeeding and I don't like that.

Edited by DAMaz

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The most important thing in 2 encounter quests is that the advantage for the second quest has to be dynamic. A close victory in encounter I should only give minor advantages, while only a clear victory should give you the full advantage. I always considerd it the most frustrating thing when you lose the first encounter only by the fraction of an inch and being at a huge disadvantage in the next quest, because you are not only getting the full disadvantage from the first quest, but your heroes are pretty worn out (damaged) from the beginning as well, making it nearly impossible to bounce back. It always made the unfun playstyle of giving up quickly and getting all the searchtokens while keeping your heroes at full health the much smarter option than trying to give your best for winning the quest even if there is only a slim chance of succeeding and I don't like that.

Continuuing to use "Hot Blooded" as an example, in encounter 1, the heroes are climbing a mountain. There are ladders which take them "up a level" in elevation. After some turns, the first ladder burns away and cant be used. After some more turns, the other ladders burn away. Any hero who gets stuck because of a fallen ladder suffers fatigue up to his stamina at the beginning of encounter 2, I suppose because he had to climb up the hard way, but any heroes who make it up dont sufder the penalty- is that what you mean?

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The most important thing in 2 encounter quests is that the advantage for the second quest has to be dynamic. A close victory in encounter I should only give minor advantages, while only a clear victory should give you the full advantage. I always considerd it the most frustrating thing when you lose the first encounter only by the fraction of an inch and being at a huge disadvantage in the next quest, because you are not only getting the full disadvantage from the first quest, but your heroes are pretty worn out (damaged) from the beginning as well, making it nearly impossible to bounce back. It always made the unfun playstyle of giving up quickly and getting all the searchtokens while keeping your heroes at full health the much smarter option than trying to give your best for winning the quest even if there is only a slim chance of succeeding and I don't like that.

Continuuing to use "Hot Blooded" as an example, in encounter 1, the heroes are climbing a mountain. There are ladders which take them "up a level" in elevation. After some turns, the first ladder burns away and cant be used. After some more turns, the other ladders burn away. Any hero who gets stuck because of a fallen ladder suffers fatigue up to his stamina at the beginning of encounter 2, I suppose because he had to climb up the hard way, but any heroes who make it up dont sufder the penalty- is that what you mean?

 

 

Yes that's exactly what I mean.

This is much better than define the goal as every hero has to reach the top and if you fail, all heroes suffer fatigue up to their stamina for the second encounter.

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I'd lean more on the side of winning the first encounter only giving a minor bonus in general; a perk say.

I've played a few games where one side would win the first encounter and the second encounter is pretty much a write off. This was most significant for me so far in The Masquerade Ball where I won as overlord, and in the second encounter Lady Farren could pass all doors without the attribute test (except the last). By the time the heroes had gotten through the first door I was already three doors ahead before they were confronted by 2 ettins blocking the next door. Meanwhile I strolled along leisurely to the last door without any confrontation.

 

It ended up being pretty hopeless for the heroes from about halfway through the encounter and I ended up making some obvious mistakes and pity moves just to balance it out which is never fun for either side.

 

Small perks work best I think, the first encounter should never be a very decisive victory as it makes the second encounter tedious and somewhat pointless otherwise.

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I'd lean more on the side of winning the first encounter only giving a minor bonus in general; a perk say.

I've played a few games where one side would win the first encounter and the second encounter is pretty much a write off. This was most significant for me so far in The Masquerade Ball where I won as overlord, and in the second encounter Lady Farren could pass all doors without the attribute test (except the last). By the time the heroes had gotten through the first door I was already three doors ahead before they were confronted by 2 ettins blocking the next door. Meanwhile I strolled along leisurely to the last door without any confrontation.

 

It ended up being pretty hopeless for the heroes from about halfway through the encounter and I ended up making some obvious mistakes and pity moves just to balance it out which is never fun for either side.

 

Small perks work best I think, the first encounter should never be a very decisive victory as it makes the second encounter tedious and somewhat pointless otherwise.

 

I see your point, however I think dynamic advantages solve this problem better.

 

If the things you gain by winning the first encounter are too minor, there is not enough incentive for the heroes to concentrate on the objective and they are probably more successfull if they just gather all the search tokens and try to stay at full health. Long story short: If you make the advantages too minor, the first encounter becomes tedious and somewhat pointless.

 

Although I agree that the advantages shouldn't be too big, they should be on the stronger side. Ideally imo you should get them down to minor nice little perks by achieving half or 2 thirds of the objective.

Edited by DAMaz

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I'm on board wilith incentives being at least big enough to encourage playing to the objective, rather than hoarding the search tokens and staying healthy. I've played quests where the heroes make the decision to intentionally not end the map while they search and heal. I've also seen OL's try to squeeze in a few extra tuns of wailing on the heroes in hopes of gathering a couple more threat.

Edited by Zaltyre

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