Quest Cards and Concealed Plots

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Right now, I am thinking that Quest Cards are nice and good... for relatively simple plots. "Go rescue the princess", "Go Stop Evil in this Dungeon", "Deliver Goods to this City" and so forth. They are really good at action/adventure driven plots, and even simple mysteries.

Part of me is thinking that they don't work nearly as well the second you have a complex mystery or an intrigue sort of scenario.

For example, the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is a slightly more complex scenario. The beginning quest "Go investigate the haunted house" actually turn out to be "Stop the Pirates from Launching an Attack". At one point, the first quest card is done. They've investigated. They discovered the pirates. However, the first quest card wasn't the goal of the adventure.

The instinct is to award experience as a minor quest card. However, that seems to be against the spirit of the definition of the quest cards. There could always be you switch out the old one with the newer one, but that feels disgeinus, and is bound to cause mistrust between the DM and the players. For sure, I wouldn't want to give them a Major Quest reward, as the hook quest that got them started isn't the quest that is the one they eventually really should end up on.

How would you handle, with the quest cards, a more complex story arch?
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DoublePost
The essential theme song- Get a little bit a fluff da' fluff, get a little bit a fluff da' fluff! (ooh yeah) Repeat Unless noted otherwise every thing I post is my opinion, and probably should be taken as tongue in cheek any way.
It may seem like a cop-out, but it would probably be better, in that scenario, to just have another quest card pop up as soon as they realize the pirates are there. So you give out the initial quest "go investigate the shoreline" then when that is completed you make it clear that there is another quest waiting- defeat the pirates.

This reminds me of Fable, a great RPG, but the friggin' Guildmaster always always ALWAYS chimes in, every like, 4 minutes
"YOU'VE GOT A NEW QUEST CARD!" :headexplo
The essential theme song- Get a little bit a fluff da' fluff, get a little bit a fluff da' fluff! (ooh yeah) Repeat Unless noted otherwise every thing I post is my opinion, and probably should be taken as tongue in cheek any way.
Well, the point of a quest card is two-fold. First, it creates clear communication between the DM and players about how XP will be awarded. Second, it allows the party to have a clear decision point.

So in your example, when the players discover pirates, two quest cards should pop up: "Stop the Pirates from launching an attack," and "Warn the people about the Pirate attack." Stopping the pirates should probably be a much higher reward than warning the people- but it lets the players choose their level of involvment. This is preferable to the look pirates, guess we should kill them scenario.

As for the investigate card, I would tend to keep investigate rewards relativly low, perhapse with a small footnote: *likely to lead to bigger quest.

That's my take on the whole thing.
Well, I think the card is mostly to help keep the party focused on what they are doing. In short, so they have an easy answer to the question that SOMEBODY always seems to ask, "Okay, WHAT was the point of us coming to the Caverns of Ineffible Doom?". Whether it is the fact that some players have short memories, weren't paying attention, came in late, or whatever, it seems, to me anyway, that someone always needs to be reminded what exactly the group was doing. And the card is a tool for doing that.

With that in mind, it seems the problem of quest cards and complex plots is a simple one. Give them a card only with the parts they already know, i.e. "Go investigate the Haunted House". IF you want, you could give them another one when they realize that there is something more to it. IIRC, the finale of that module is a raid on the pirate ship, for instance, I would give them the new card when they are about to embark on that raid.

In short, as far as the cards go, only worry about the things that are public knowledge. Keep the rest in your notes.
Well, the first option that comes to mind is to make the "go investigate the haunted house" quest suitably challenging to be worth the XP on it (or lower the XP to match the challenge of the quest) and then when the pirate issue shows up, make a new card for that. Or just don't make a quest card for the haunted house. But yeah, you definitely don't want to "bait and switch".
personally, I'd only use quest cards as a sort of quest journal, for reminding the players what their current objectives are. Letting them know that they should be getting XP/Treasure rewards for specific tasks is a little too restrictive for my groups style. Plus I think it fosters a pretty linear and videogame-esque method of playing, wheras in a tabletop game I like a sandbox approach.

What I've been doing is using a section of a whiteboard to list the party's general quests and goals, and I ask the players to keep their own little journal of personal goals that they can refer to if they find themselves stuck for something to do between quests. Gives me plot hooks, and gives them something to do when not being actively involved in the main storyline.
Another way to do this;

Near where the player's see the pirates have a new 'quest giver'.

I would suggest something like a cowardly shore patrol guard.

The patrol guard would let the player's know that they have a letter of marquee or bounty that pays so much money per pirate hand taken and returned to the big city sherrif or lord.

The patrol guard seeing so many tough looking pirates is afraid to get involved but is willing to give the letter of marquee to the player's for a percentage share in the profit.

If the player's agree, the patrol guard gives the letter and leaves.

If the player's complete the mission then they can return to the source of the letter to collect their money (part of the treasure awarded for the level).

The player's then have a choice to visit the patrol guard and pay them their share of the money or keep all the money for themselves. If the player's keep the money then they have the gold and if they pay the portion of the money then they get a minor story award for being honest and word will spread to others of their honesty (could be useful in future role playing).

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1> Choose a cowardly 'quest giver' to make the players feel more heroic and brave for doing the quest. Also, explains why the quest giver is not doing the job.

2> 'Quest giver' at the scene allows things to appear to be a natural evolution of plot instead of a bait and switch. The haunted house is still left as a possible quest for player's to pursue. The player's are thus not forced into adopting the pirate quest but can choose to do that or the haunted house. It is a bit more work for the DM to have the two quests but if the DM did not want it then they should remove either the haunted house or the pirates from teh story line.

3> The Quest with the paying of the share of the money to the cowardly patrol guard that 'sells' the letter offers a real choice for the players to be either honest or dishonest. Both answers are supported and both have benefits if chosen making it a real choice (chance even for players to argue amongst themselves).

Anyways, that's just one possible solution.
Well, I think the card is mostly to help keep the party focused on what they are doing. In short, so they have an easy answer to the question that SOMEBODY always seems to ask, "Okay, WHAT was the point of us coming to the Caverns of Ineffible Doom?". Whether it is the fact that some players have short memories, weren't paying attention, came in late, or whatever, it seems, to me anyway, that someone always needs to be reminded what exactly the group was doing. And the card is a tool for doing that.

With that in mind, it seems the problem of quest cards and complex plots is a simple one. Give them a card only with the parts they already know, i.e. "Go investigate the Haunted House". IF you want, you could give them another one when they realize that there is something more to it. IIRC, the finale of that module is a raid on the pirate ship, for instance, I would give them the new card when they are about to embark on that raid.

In short, as far as the cards go, only worry about the things that are public knowledge. Keep the rest in your notes.

My players always take notes and most of them keep a journal (and one of them always acts as the "official" record-keeper). I find this to be a far better system than having dozens of Quest Cards (for past, present and future quests alike) lying around the table.
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