Gathering Quests - Can they work in Tabletop?

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Havard
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Gathering Quests - Can they work in Tabletop?

Post by Havard » Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:45 pm

Video Games have a different logic than Tabletop RPGs. Quests from video games often involve gathering X number of a type of item etc. This can also be different parts of a single item, like shards of a single sword that needs to be reforged.

Even in video games these types of "grinding" quests can be rather tedious, but can they ever be made to work in a tabletop RPG?

The most important thing is to have a good in game reason for pursuing the quest. Ideally, this should come from the motivation of the PCs themselves rather than have some old Wizard in a pub give them a quest.

Searching for plants or magical components to be used for a special potion or ritual can be boring, but one possible mechanic is to allow for a skill or ability check roll every time the PCs move to a new area. Failure (or even success) can trigger an encounter. The area can be a different type of wilderness or say a new dungeon level. Maybe they get to make the roll upon leaving the area.

Obviously having a good reason why these items is needed helps alot.

You could also add some urgency by saying that X number of failure before Y number of successes means the enemy got the required number of items first, sort of like how Skill Challenges work in 4E.


Thoughts on ways to make this type of quests work in a Tabletop environment?

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Re: Gathering Quests - Can they work in Tabletop?

Post by enderxenocide0 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:18 pm

I'm typically of the opinion that generic fetch quests are boring, especially in a tabletop environment. If they're trying to acquire parts of something specific and important (say, the Rod of Seven Parts, the Ashen Crown, or something equally plot-centric) then they're not so much fetch quests as subquests that make up a larger adventure. Should one feel the need to have a fetch quest, I would either do it completely narratively or perhaps like a Skill Challenge, as you suggested.

I think the key here is: you need to determine the failure state of the quest and the failure conditions before deciding how to handle it. Assume there are X pieces or components to be acquired. If the party fails to acquire all X, is it a complete or partial failure? Does it merely reduce the potency of an action they would have attempted (perhaps for each Crystal of Plotitude they add to the spell, the harder it is to resist)? Or do they need all parts to do anything (the Sci-Fi Portal Device and its Sci-Fi Battery are useless by themselves)?

If partial failure is an option, then I really like the Skill Challenge approach. They acquire some of the components, but not all. If total failure is the outcome... I'd say that needs to be the focus of the adventure/plot. Or, you could have it such that they will definitely acquire all the parts, but there are consequences for taking too long.

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Re: Gathering Quests - Can they work in Tabletop?

Post by Thorf » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:44 am

Recently I've come to realise that resource-gathering is one of my favourite aspects of games... I don't know how it applies to RPGs, but in computer games and even board games, there's just a thrill to getting resources.

I suspect I got the same thrill growing up playing BECMI with treasure hoards.

But I agree about fetch quests being a bit boring, and also "grinding" can be exceedingly tedious. The line between "I want to do this" and "I can't be bothered" is surprisingly fine, and it can change over time. Clearly these games are triggering something in me that makes me want to play them and gather materials. If you knew exactly what that is, and how to trigger it, I assume you could draw me in to RPGs in a similar manner.

As to what exactly this is... I don't really know.

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Re: Gathering Quests - Can they work in Tabletop?

Post by Big Mac » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:18 pm

A lot of my posts in the World of Warcraft forum have been about looking at elements in the MMO and translating them to tabletop play.

I can't recall if there is a topic about gathering yet, but in 3rd Edition terms, this would be managed using Skill checks. (Presumably 2e games would use Proficiency checks instead.)

I think you are either going to make this sort of thing a foreground feature or a background feature or maybe a bit of both.

If you think about the example, from World of Warcraft MMO where people are travelling through the mines looking for ore to dig out, I would say that rolling something similar to a spot check (maybe using the mining skill) to look for ore would be appropriate. You could also use a d20 roll, using the Mining skill, to help work out how much ore a PC is able to extrac (and maybe what sort of rock they are able to dig out). I think that foreground action would be appropriate there, especially if there is combat.

If a PC is in the middle of digging iron out of rock with a pickaxe, they could easily get attacked by a wandering monster (so I would suggest making sure that players have the combat stats for tools used as improvised weapons).

If you think about another example, of people making a long journey, where they might be looking for herbs and plants to pick, it would be excessively boring to get someone to roll dozens of spot checks. So I would recommend doing that sort of thing via a background process. I would suggest that a GM talks to the players about how slow they want to move across the terrain. If the PCs are galloping across the countryside on fast horses, it isn't really fair for them to be expecting to be able to search every inch of ground for some sort of medicinal weed. But if they were moving slowly, they should have a lot of opportunities to search for plants.

A table, that factors in travel speed and other distractions could give a GM an idea of how many skill checks a player is allowed to roll against their gathering skill. It would be a lot more managable if a 12 hour journey (where random encounters didn't occur) was hand-waved as the one player making 5 rolls to see if they discovered anything to gather. (You might also want to think about adding gathering time onto the journey, based on how hard it would be to dig out the things that need to be gathered.)

There is a lot of information about gathering in WoW on Wowpedia. I'm sure that other online games have information. So it would be relatively easy to see what they have and make up your own system for how things should work on the tabletop.
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Re: Gathering Quests - Can they work in Tabletop?

Post by night_druid » Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:26 pm

Quests, in a fashion, were present in older editions, either as rumors to be followed up on, or as jobs handed to PCs by NPCs. Overall, a lot of quests are grindy and boring because they're just meant as busy-work to keep players occupied and give the illusion of more content than there really is. Mechanics like that are as old as video games and take many forms (draw system & Triple Triad from Final Fanasy 8, "NES-hard" from 8-bit days come to mind).
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Re: Gathering Quests - Can they work in Tabletop?

Post by Cthulhudrew » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:41 pm

I think the mechanics have always been in tabletop RPGs to one extent or another. A couple come to mind from me from BECMI, such as the trading and selling rules for Merchants from the Mystara Gazetteers for Darokin and the Minrothad Guilds (IIRC, there have been various similar sorts of systems from 2E as well, though I don't recall specific ones offhand).The Dominion rulership rules are similar conceptually as well.

I think it would be fairly simple to incorporate gathering quests in a more significant way, though I'd hesitate to make them just skill checks or dice rolls, and would make sure there is an actual roleplaying element to them (playing out some bartering or haggling exchanges with a merchant NPC; gathering information about where specific resources can be found by talking with the townsfolk; etc.)

The other thing would of course to listen to what your players want. If they enjoy that sort of thing, then you can feel free to develop it more and add more depth and detail to it (specific types and amounts of merchandise with varying supply and demand rates in different regions, for example); if not, keep it a bit more vague.

ETA: I see night_druid has mentioned some other similar sorts of systems above, as well.
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Re: Gathering Quests - Can they work in Tabletop?

Post by Tom Bulls Eye » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:52 pm

Gathering quests are some of the suggested "allowable" quest using the clerical 5th level quest-spell in BECMI and also suggested as allowable using the 6th level magic-user spell Geas. One possible usage could be questing/geasing a player to stop and search for a certain item whenever the player is near a lake "Find Excalibur" etc.

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Re: Gathering Quests - Can they work in Tabletop?

Post by Big Mac » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:42 am

Cthulhudrew wrote:I think it would be fairly simple to incorporate gathering quests in a more significant way, though I'd hesitate to make them just skill checks or dice rolls, and would make sure there is an actual roleplaying element to them (playing out some bartering or haggling exchanges with a merchant NPC; gathering information about where specific resources can be found by talking with the townsfolk; etc.)
I was thinking about the actual gathering stuff (skinning animals, picking flowers, digging out valuable rocks and so on). Selling, of course, should include an element of roleplaying.

I'm figuring that the actual gathering would, in most cases, be the equivalent of searching for bonus treasure.
Cthulhudrew wrote:The other thing would of course to listen to what your players want. If they enjoy that sort of thing, then you can feel free to develop it more and add more depth and detail to it (specific types and amounts of merchandise with varying supply and demand rates in different regions, for example); if not, keep it a bit more vague.
Oh, sure. That goes without saying. There is no point fleshing out a system to do something that players won't enjoy. :)
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Re: Gathering Quests - Can they work in Tabletop?

Post by Big Mac » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:43 am

Tom Bulls Eye wrote:Gathering quests are some of the suggested "allowable" quest using the clerical 5th level quest-spell in BECMI and also suggested as allowable using the 6th level magic-user spell Geas. One possible usage could be questing/geasing a player to stop and search for a certain item whenever the player is near a lake "Find Excalibur" etc.
I didn't think about that spell. That's a great idea.
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Re: Gathering Quests - Can they work in Tabletop?

Post by Arrius Nideal » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:43 am

One significant concern with gathering quests is that it does not fit with the common method of operation in tabletop games. If we're talking about D&D or similar d20 games, then it is best tied with a downtime ruleset.
The common way of running games (setting a skill or combat encounter and looting the enemy) doesn't fit in gathering, so the two systems must be integrated in some fashion. Earlier editions of D&D assumed the characters then became important in-world, giving thieves guilds and fighting-men (fighters) castles and armies. If the downtime system integrates all this, then gathering becomes required, not only an idea.
For example, the Traveler system runs most games on a light engine, which makes gathering quests easy and recommended. D&D is a different beast altogether.

I'm incorporating such a system in our World of Warcraft D&D 5e conversion. There are nodes on the map or in dungeons where resources can be gathered when the character has proficiency in the gathering skill. Materials can pay for crafting items. One can make their own node by starting an alchemy/engineering business to have a reliable source.
For example, I've designed a thief's guild dungeon (called the Deadmines), where there are up to 40 crafting points from nodes (alchemy for potions, engineering for guns or gadgets, infusion for weapon enchantments). Since an uncommon-quality firearm costs 80 crafting points, that means that the engineer needs to pay only half the cost in gold and use materials instead. Discovering a mine that can yield 50 CP/month is an in-game asset.

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