This is a legitimate question I think. In an ideal world, player intrigue would be the main driver of story, with a solid GM team to support them. Second to this is GM driven plotlines. The fact is that a sizable portion, perhaps even the majority of the playerbase, are not play leaders who drive player plotlines. They are consumers of player driven, GM driven and designer created “content”.
In my experience, Quests tend to serve two roles. They give players an alternative to GM mediated plotlines when there is no GM around and they break the monotony of grinding when there is nobody to RP with (assuming small worlds). If you log into a server and nobody is on to RP with, you have five options:
- automated quests
- parking your PC and going afk
- logging off
The last two are undesirable from the world’s standpoint, though the fourth is less so than the fifth. Depending on how grindy and diku-like the world is, there may be different emphases on the first two. An alternative to these is quests.
So why do we have quests? Is it to get to know the world better? This would certainly be the case for one-shot, non-repeatable quests for new characters and repeatable delivery quests. Is it there for the players to grind XP? On diku-like worlds, this is common and if it happens on your world, then it is a safe bet that that your players are roleplaying despite your world design, not because of it. Assuming that the world is not a diku and the players are just questing as another form of advancement (a quest grind instead of a mob slaying grind), we still have a place for them I think.
Player intrigue is the best option and GM driven plots a second, but what about low population worlds where players would like to adventure when nobody else is on? What about groups of players with no GM coverage? GMs can’t be everywhere at all times.
What about easing newbies into the world? If they are not coming into a world where they already know other players and unless players are unusually welcoming of strange faces – enough to involve them in plotlines without getting to know them first – then the newbie experience on a roleplay world can be very, very lonely. There should be some mechanism that can introduce them to the world and ideally, this mechanism should encourage them to meet people.
Quests are sort of a poor man’s GM plotline.
At least for low population worlds, worlds without “enough” GM coverage (is there such a thing as “enough GM coverage”?) and worlds that try to be newbie friendly, quests are needed. How can we have suitable quests that don’t involve any elephant gyrations?