|"Beware the smiling Dungeon Master,"
is the slogan on a large round button that my friend Chris wears when
he DMs a tabletop RPG for the old gaming group. Its true.
When the Dungeon Master smiles, you know you are in big trouble, but,
at the same time, youre also in for some great fun.
In UO, you have the same elements and potential for great adventures,
with perks you wont find in other RPGs. It does, however,
have some limitations, as well due to game mechanics and graphics. Still,
questing is not impossible. All it takes is faith and trust, and something
I forgot, pixie dust. No, wait, thats Peter Pans recipe
for flying. What you need to create a good player-generated quest in
UO is plain old ingenuity, creativity and a limitless imagination.
Inspiration for a quest idea can come from anywhere. Watch some movies,
read some books, look over news from other shards. Take the fine threads
you like from these sources and weave them into something wonderful.
I have created entire scenarios from a painting that intrigued me or
from an off-hand remark someone might have made. Jot down notes to yourself
and keep them together. A certain element may catch your eye and spark
your imagination that may not be useable for the current plot you are
working on, but may fit into another.
Organization is a must
Create a sketchy outline of the story. Dont bother with the small
details or try to put too fine a point on it. The best quests evolve
from suggested paths not predetermined ones. Keep track as you go along
of what characters will need to be portrayed, what locations you will
use to stage your events, and what props may be needed. Always double
check that you have all of these things in place before beginning. There
is nothing more frustrating for questors than to finally reach their
destination and not be able to accomplish the task because they dont
have the necessary tools.
Dont go it alone
The message boards are a great resource for those wishing to undertake
creating quests. There you will find like-minded individuals who can
help you by creating props, performing as a character in your plot,
or to help you with plot development and organization. Many are willing
to cross over from other shards to assist. Dont be shy about asking
for help. Small quests or one-shot events can be carried out alone,
but on the grander scale, theres no need to try to pull the load
alone. You and your participants will enjoy the experience much more
if you have delegated some responsibilities to others.
When using someones name or the name of a guild, player venues
or tying in to other established player fiction, always get permission
first. Discuss your plans with those you wish to include. This may seem
painfully obvious, but some quest creators have neglected to do this
and it had disastrous results. If you plan to make a clan of roleplayed
orcs on your shard the bad guys, give them notice in advance. Talk it
over with the leaders. Speak with the tavern owner before bringing your
group of fifteen adventurers to their establishment for a confrontation
with the rogue they are seeking. You will find that most of them are
very willing to allow you to use their groups or venues in your storyline
and you have made useful new friends to aid in your adventures.
Despite its vast array of pixilated masterpieces, UO graphics are limited
and, as players, we are powerless to manipulate them as we might like.
Give credit to your fellow gamers, though. If we can believe that a
small wooden bowl topped with two nightshade and a few balls of yarn
dyed red is a rosebush, its a given that we can believe a purple
potion can be the elixir of eternal youth or other equally fantastical
things. Help players to see things through your eyes, as the smiling
Dungeon Master perched at the head of the table and helped you picture
a dragon breathing fire at you while you sat comfortably in your mothers
cozy kitchen. An arrow becomes a poisoned dart. A book becomes an ancient
tome. A gem becomes a magical seed. Your imagination, and the ability
to convey your ideas to others, is the key to the success of your quest.
If players are to discover secret tomes or items, make them work for
it. Have a character hidden in the depths of a dungeon or in the woods
somewhere. As players approach, the item could be dropped. Be sure that
the hidden person knows how to identify the correct group for which
the item is intended to avoid confusion.
Allow natural spawn to be included as part of your story. This adds
an element of danger and some spice to your story. Dont forget
to warn your adventurers of the possible hazards involved. No one likes
to walk through Mystery Gate Number One and find themselves in the depths
of Hythloth in their best armor. Let them prepare for the trip, carrying
only what they dont mind losing. Try to have someone on hand who
can resurrect the fallen or provide gates if the situation becomes overwhelming.
Be a good sport
Keeping people interested in your events means that you have to give
up the reigns now and then to let them drive things forward. They may
not necessarily travel in the direction that you want them to go, but
thats okay. Take the variation from your original plot as a challenge
and youll find that it makes the quest more exciting for you,
too. Sometimes, you may find yourself incarcerated or dead. Be a good
sport about it. As much as wed all like to be the conquering hero
in everything that we do, someones got to be the bad guy or the
Many quests have gone sour when someone refused to play along because
they didnt like how things were going for them. If it is in line
with the quest, if it is true to the nature of your character - not
you personally, but your character - you owe it to the participants
to follow the flow of the storyline. This doesnt mean that you
cannot rally some troops in your defense to bring you back to life or
spring you from the pokey, so long as it is done in a roleplaying fashion,
rather than as a bunch of spoiled children threatening to pick up their
marbles and go home.
You know what they say about assumptions
To borrow the old cliche: Do not assume; that makes an "ass"
of "u" and "me". Not to negate what I said in the
previous section, but you must carefully balance being the guiding hand
of the quest and letting others guide it. As the quest originator, it
is your job to keep the participants on track. This is why it is important
to convey the essence of the storyline as concisely as possible. Each
new step should be relatively obvious to the party.
Dont assume that your puzzles are easily solved or that the next
step is crystal clear. Remember that you have the benefit of knowing
the whole story or the answer to the riddle. Its why Alex Trebeck
seems so darned smart on "Jeopardy!" - hes holding the
answer card! If you see that your group is having a hard time solving
the mystery or determining their course, find a way to drop additional
clues, either by introducing a soothsayer type character, letting them
find a message to decode or, if they are desperate and disgruntled,
giving outright instructions.
Expect the unexpected
Its a fact of life and an even truer fact of life in Britannia.
Stuff happens. Maybe the person whod agreed to portray a leading
character in your quest has had a computer problem that prevents them
from participating. Maybe the 1,000 diamond ring you needed as a prop
was stolen by a thief as you made your way through a Felucca moongate.
Expect the unexpected and have as many backup plans as possible. Always
be sure that you have duplicates of the most important things in your
quest, especially books. Whenever possible, have a stand-in on stand-by
for significant roles. Have an alternate date and time selected in the
event of a server crash. Think of all the ways that a quest can go wrong,
address those issues in advance, and you will drastically reduce your
Dont use "prime" characters such as Lord British, Nystul,
Dupre and the others. The oxymoron "believable fiction" carries
a lot of weight in Britannia. People want to believe the story as much
as possible. Introducing characters that are impossible to interact
with ingame or storylines which would seem to alter the realm is asking
for trouble. If you wish to send out a group with a special commission
to apprehend a criminal, do so by the authority of a judge of your own
creation who sits on the bench at the Court of Truth in Yew, for example.
The same standard holds true for scenarios which include town politics.
Bear in mind that you cannot force-feed recognition of your Ocllo senate,
for example, to every player on your shard. Be prepared to deal with
these non-participants and avoid confrontation with them. They are as
entitled to their style of gameplay as you are. Respect the differences
and go on with your own storyline.
Guidelines, rules and penalties
Dependent upon the type of quest you are running, you may find it useful
or necessary to establish some ground rules, rules of engagement or
possible penalties for rule infractions. Discuss these with the people
involved with your quest. Make sure that everyone understands them.
Write them out and make them available for future reference. This may
prevent disaster down the road.
Types of quests
There is a variety of quest types that even the most novice roleplayer
can undertake. Here are some basic examples:
Pursuits: Send players in search of objects or people.
Escorts: Have players escort a damsel in distress, a gate-shy
priest or a caravan of goods from Point A to Point B.
Mysteries: Who-dunnits are an excellent roleplaying opportunity
and a way to involve large casts and adventuring groups.
Scenarios: The soap operas of Ultima Online. You may have heard
Calandryll make reference to the "Divided Lands" scenario
he was involved with as a player before he went to work for Origin.
This particular political scenario involved over one hundred participants
and lasted over two years.
One-shot events: Start small and get a feel for how to do things
on a larger scale. Typical one-shot events are: scavenger hunts, swap
meets, market days and guild recruitment/symposiums. Though these shorter
quests, you can build contact groups, gather information about what
interest the people on your shard and collect ideas for future long-term
These basic premises for plot ideas by Ozar were taken from the UO
- A caravan takes some items from Point A to Point B
- A person becomes sick and a healer is requested from another town.
This healer needs an escort from that town to this one as it is not
safe for him to travel alone and use of magic/gates will ruin the
healing draught needed to cure the sick person.
Find the X:
- The location of someone or something is given in the form of hints
or a riddle.
- An item X is needed for some reason. Players are enlisted to help
retrieve/find the item.
- A group of X has taken thing Y and person Z wants it back.
Preserve the Peace:
- A person has escaped justice. Players are sought to kill/capture
- A group of X is gathering near point Y. Players are sought to kill/capture
Twinks and whiners
Be aware that there will be some participants in your quest whose sole
purposes will be to irritate you or to ruin your storyline. It is a
brutal fact that cannot be ignored. Remember that you have some limited
courses of action you can take - avoiding Felucca, if needed; banning
them from player homes; calling for a Game Master if it gets too ugly.
The Ignore feature in the game options menu is one of the best ways
to avoid harassment. If you cannot hear what they are saying, they cannot
goad you into reacting to it. You might also consider hiring a brute
squad to help act as security guards during your events. Advertise for
this on the message boards, but check them out before accepting their
services. You dont want to hire the wolf to look after the sheep.
Above all, do not let the grief tactics destroy your quest or drive
you to quit trying. That encourages the behavior and everyone loses,
except the grief player.
At the end of every rainbow lies the pot of gold, according to legend.
And, by tradition, at the end of every quest lies a reward. No matter
what prize you give, you will have reactions varying from those who
want nothing and participated for the sheer pleasure of questing and
those who will whine that the quest was a waste of time in consideration
of what they got out of it. Again, ignore the negative. These are the
types of people who can never be made happy and, even if they could,
it is not your responsibility to make them so.
That said, some suggestions for prizes could be magic items, bank checks,
reagent sets, rune books or armor. If you have a treasure hunter or
fisherman, you might build up a nice cache of prizes to give away. Simple
gestures such as a bag of wine, cheese and bread are also appreciated
by the party. Try to be as imaginative in your reward giving as you
are in putting the plot together. It is like serving the perfect dessert
after a perfect meal. You can be sure that your guests will always return
when youre the host.
Questing is not about the outcome, its about the adventure you
have while getting there. Remember that and remind your adventuring
crew of this when they seem to be racing toward the finish line rather
than enjoying the chase itself. Divide lengthy storylines into clear-cut
chapters with cliff-hanger endings that will bring them back the next
night to see what happens next. Above all else, remember that Ultima
Online is a game and that your level of enjoyment is just as important
as anyone elses. Have fun with what you do. If the quest master
is happy, everyone wins.