Quest Cards

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0656

A Brief Word From Johnn

Johnn Chats With Playing Lean

For those into game design and making a side business building games, you might be interested in a Hangout I had with Tore Rasmussen where we chatted about his new game, Play Lean. Currently in Kickstarter mode, Playing Lean teaches you how to start and scale a business. The Lean Startup model definitely works for the gaming industry, so that’s why I’m mentioning it in RPT.

Yup, it’s pretty meta making a game business about the game of business. But he’s turned learning into a game, and what you learn is very important for game makers.

Here’s a link to the video.

Speaking of Kickstarter, Kobold Press – a long-time supporter of the Roleplaying Tips who’s supplied tips and contest prizes – is running one for an Advanced Race Compendium for Pathfinder. Check it out.

The Game Board Review

The Gamer Board is a magnetic dry erase board perfect for use at the game table and especially for your hand-drawn maps.

I did a quick video review of it last week. You can catch it here on my Patreon page: RPG Review: The Gamer Board

Get some gaming done this week!



Quest Cards

Forgetful Players, Monthly Games, and Rough Recaps

I forget things between games. Especially if those games are bi-weekly or monthly. When you have a vague idea of what happened last time, the way you recap a game might not be smooth. Instead of remembering the reason for the party’s quest, you recall the funny thing that happened with the NPC caught in an awkward position in the glassworks. To solve the problem of failing and fallible memory, so your players are always on task no matter how long it’s been since last game session, I present to you the quest card.

The Quest Card

Quest cards remind you what happened last time you gamed and where the game is going. They’re physical play aids you create and use at the table as quick reminders about what’s important from previous sessions. That is one of the most important parts of a recap, after all.

Each time the party gets a new mission, goal, or quest, whip out a blank card and fill in key information. This makes tracking what the PCs are supposed to be doing a snap, regardless of how much time passes between sessions.

So let’s break down how quest cards work, what you can put on them, how to use them in your game, and how to update them after a session.

The Elements of a Quest Card

  • Name
  • Who gave the Quest
  • The Goal
  • The Reason (Reward)
  • Who, What, & Where is also involved (Quest Pointer)

The first and most important thing is to name the quest card. For example, ‘Slay the Dragon’, ‘Do Something about the Falling Meteor’, ‘Rescue the Marjun Prince of G’loot Praktaw’ (points if you get the reference). A good name gives the goal of the quest.

Then add who gave the quest on the card and the reason the players pursue it. This can be a mix of group rewards and personal ones, such as, ‘The Mayor said she’d pay us 500 gold’, ‘Genevive thinks this will lead to her husband’s killer’.

If you’re using index cards, which I highly recommend, then this should leave space on the rest of the card plus the whole back. Use this space for notes on who, where, and what is involved with the quest. These are your quest pointers, the elements of your scenario that point to the next problems or parts of your quest characters can interact with. Now let’s move on to using them in the game.

Using the Cards

Once you sit down and have that pre-game chatter to get some socialization out of your system and you’re ready to start play, drop the quest cards on the table to bring the focus of the players to the game. With everyone paying attention, use the cards to recap what happened last time, where the PCs are now, what they were doing, and what they want to do next.

Now that you’re playing, use the cards as a reference tool. They have the places and people the players have interacted with during the quest. If the players get off track, you can point them to the card to remind them what their goals are, ask them if they’d like to change their goal, or ask if they’ve decided to take up a new quest so a new card can be made.

The PCs also might come across a new quest that is a branch of a previous quest. When this happens, create a new quest card and make a note on the main quest card to remind you there is a sub-quest or quest chain going on from the main quest. I like to use little shapes like triangles or stars on my main quest card next to the name of the quest and then put that symbol next to the name on the new sub-quest card. This creates a simple reminder and organization system that doesn’t take up much space.

After the game, update the quest card and consolidate information. I’m a note taker during my sessions and I tend to have a lot of note cards with random information on them. At the end of the session I will go over the notes I took, ask players about their notes, and consolidate information we decide is most important on the quest cards. Even if you’re not a note taker, have a quick discussion at session end and update cards so no important details will get lost or forgotten between games.

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What to Use for Cards

Index Cards

Index cards are my preference for quest cards. They’re cheap and easy to store. I can fit lots of information on them and they don’t take up a ton of table space.

Post it Notes

Post It Notes are also cheap and in some ways more portable than index cards. Plus, since they’re sticky, you can attach them to each other if you need more note space. They also come in multiple colors so you can color code which quests are campaign goals, which are personal, and which are immediate. You can even break it down further by giving each player their own color.

To give them a little more heft you can attach the Post It notes to old trading cards, like Magic cards you have laying around from that old land destruction deck you don’t use anymore, or index cards. This also makes it easy to pull off quests you’re finished with and add new ones. It’s a plug and play version of quest cards.

If multiple characters have personal agendas on a larger quest, you can put those thin bookmark type Post It Notes on a quest card as another way to remind the players who is tied into which quest at a glance. You can use this trick on index cards too.

Dry Erase Flashcards

These cards are great. You write stuff on them in any color you want with a pack of dry erase markers. This allows you to color coordinate and update your quest cards with the swipe of your finger and a few strokes of the marker. They’re reusable, so if you don’t like burning through paper this is an eco-friendly solution, and they’re just as portable as Index Cards. If you can find Wet/Dry erase ones to avoid the smudge problem they can have, all the better.

All I’ve been able to find are ones from Amazon: Avery Write-On Dry Erase Flash Cards

Electronic Solutions

Lino works like Post It Notes. You can color coordinate your quests and it’s easy enough to update them with just a few keystrokes. This method also has the advantage of all the information in one space where index cards and Post Its can get lost and separated. You could also use Google Docs, Google Draw, OneNote, or Trello to create digital quest cards.

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Here are some examples of quest cards from my games. Hopefully they show how easy it is to create cards and track information with them, and how they keep players focused on your plots and hooks.


I’m running a game with three players who have taken a job from the local sheriff to explore the Western Caves of a small mountain range called The Airy Peaks. There have been sightings of undead in that area and the sheriff’s deputy has gone missing on the most recent expedition. The sheriff wants the PCs to discover what’s going on in the Western Caves and the fate of his deputy. For this information, including proof, they’ll be paid 300 coin each, and if they can bring the deputy back she’ll give them a bonus of 300 coin each.

Now let’s make a quest card:

  • Name: Lost Deputy & The Western Caves
  • Quest Giver: The Sheriff
  • The Goal: Discover what’s going on in the Western Caves, Discover the Fate of the Deputy
  • The Reason (Reward): 300 coin each / 300 coin each

In this case the Fate of the Deputy and the What’s going on in the Western Caves goals are similar so I leave them on one quest card for now but I could make two separate quest cards if I wanted.

So let’s progress the adventure with a couple encounters. Our three adventurers are ambushed by a group of orcs painted in white and black tribal markings making them look like spirits of the dead. They run into a colony of kobolds who they parley with – yes this could happen because it did – and find out a number of the kobolds have been turned into undead drones and are farming a giant underground mushroom field. They also learn the deputy went to where the undead kobold drones are taking the mushrooms, into the Caves of the Dead One as the kobolds call it.

There the session ends and we update the quest card:

  • Name: The Western Caves
  • Quest Giver: The Sheriff
  • The Goal: Discover what’s going on in the Western Caves, Discover the fate of the Deputy
  • The Reason (Reward): 300 coin each / 300 coin each
  • Information
    • Scared Kobolds – Undead farmer drones
    • The Caves of the Dead One – Creepy cave
    • The Fate of the Deputy – Went into creepy cave

There are also those strange orcs in their tribal paint, but they don’t seem connected to this. However, the players don’t want to forget it so they create their own quest card.

  • Name: The Black & White Orcs
  • Quest Giver: The PCs
  • The Goal: Find out who they are
  • The Reason (Reward): Satisfying curiosity
  • Information: Spirit painted – Look like skeletons

The next time we get back together, it should be easy to remember what happened last game just by looking at the cards.

Weird West

This game has been going for a while now and a couple of quest cards are in play. There are four players in this posse, a Gambling Mystic, a Gunslinger, a Preacher, and a Native Tracker. The most urgent quest is stopping the Evil Land Owner from digging deeper into his gold mine because the farther he digs the more terrible demons and monsters are released into the world. The mine was once a prison of evil spirits of the Native Tracker’s tribe.

There is also the quest for the Gunslinger who is looking to avenge the death of his brothers by the Holden Gang. Lucky for the Gunslinger, one of those Holden Gang members is an enforcer for the Evil Landowner.

A third quest card on the table is to stop the coming reckoning that will plunge the world into the end of times. One of the reasons they came to the caves was a vision the Preacher had that pointed her at the caves for answers on how to stop the reckoning from happening.

In the previous session the posse was asked to help find Donavan Bram. He’s a miner at the gold mine and hadn’t been home in ten days. Since this went along with the Preacher’s vision and the rumors that Terry Holden was working for the Rich Landowner, the posse said they’d bring him home to his family. They learned the miners were all under some sort of possession, that Terry was working for the Evil Landowner, and that a deal had been struck between the Evil Landowner and an Evil Spirit when they exorcised a spirit from within Donavan Bram.

If the Evil Spirit was freed then the Evil Landowner would be granted immortality. He had a lot to say before returning to his family. The posse confronted the Evil Landowner, shot him, and learned the Evil Spirit had already been freed when the Evil Landowner stood up and healed the head shot he took. They also learned from the mines and paintings within them that deadlier things are still trapped farther within the mine.

This gives us these cards:

  • Name: The Spirit Prison Mines
  • Quest Giver: The Bram’s Family
  • The Goal: Stop the mining
  • The Reason (Reward):
    • Protect the innocent, keep evil spirits trapped
    • Native Tracker: Save tribal seals
    • Preacher: Find information about the coming reckoning.
    • Gunslinger: Kill Lem Holden
  • Information:
    • The Evil Landowner – Made a deal with an evil spirit
    • The Deal – Immortality & riches for freedom
    • The Evil Spirit – Already free and working to free more evil spirits with the evil landowner
    • The Miners – possessed or enchanted by the Evil Spirit to mindlessly mine
  • Name: The Holden Gang
  • Quest Giver: The Gunslinger or his brothers
  • The Goal: Kill them all
  • The Reason (Reward): Revenge
  • Information:
    • Barton Holden: Somewhere in Utah
    • Lem Holden: killed at the Dartmouth Showdown
    • Terry Holden: Enforcer at the Spirit Prison Mine
    • Jedidiah Holden: Whereabouts unknown

During the next session the posse banished the Evil Spirit and broke the enchantment over the miners. Those who were possessed were either exorcised or run off. The Gunslinger killed Terry Holden but not before finding out his brother Jedidiah Holden is the dark man riding for the reckoning. Also, the reckoning will begin with a great rending of the world. The Evil Landowner escaped with his immortality but the mining has stopped, keeping more evil spirits from escaping and doing harm.

With the scenario done The Spirit Prison Mines quest card is done, but the other two can be updated and a third one is made by the group for the Evil Landowner.

  • Name: The Holden Gang
  • Quest Giver: The Gunslinger or his brothers
  • The Goal: Kill them all
  • The Reason (Reward): Revenge
  • Information:
    • Barton Holden: Somewhere in Utah
    • Lem Holden: Killed at the Dartmouth Showdown
    • Terry Holden: Killed at the Spirit Prison Mine
    • Jedidiah Holden: Whereabouts unknown. The dark man riding for the reckoning.
  • Name: The Coming Reckoning
  • Quest Giver: The Posse
  • The Goal: Stop it from happening
  • The Reason (Reward): Save the world
  • Information:
    • The veil between worlds is coming down (that stupid possessed mayor).
    • The Shaman of the Trackers tribe: working on locating weak points in the veil and reinforcing them.
    • A dark man rides for the reckoning. He’s Jedidiah Holden.
    • San Francisco is controlled by a cabal in service to bringing about the reckoning.
    • The Reckoning will start with a great rending of the world.

Now that the posse has these quest cards updated, the next time they get together they will know what’s up and the GM can introduce a new element, point the posse at the shamans, or they can travel to Utah after Barton Holden.

Closing Thoughts From Johnn

Thanks for the cool GM aid idea, Chris. I used quest cards (index cards) for my Murder Hobos campaign and they worked great.

Readers, if you enjoy a bit of graphic design and have some spare time, I’d like to share quest card templates with everyone. Unfortunately, I can’t design my way out of a wet paper box with 11 point font. But if you wanted to take a stab at turning Chris’s quest cards into something we could print and use at the game table, that would be awesome.

Also, if anyone has tips or ideas on enhancing quest cards, please hit the reply button. For example, I’m itchin’ to buy stickers at the Dollar Store and use them somehow on cards. RPGs need more stickers!

Mythic Monsters Examples

Here are some entries from the recent contest involving Mythic Monsters. Some neat ideas here possibly for use in your campaign. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest!

Thuun (Dark Fey)

From Scott Stokes

Thuun is 9? tall and has a powerful humanoid body of sinew and muscle. His head is that of a large predatory beast with one red gleaming eye and one green eye. He has scraggly green hair and demon-like horns.

Thuun is the offspring of Gargoth and a dryad named Pindil. Like his father, he is a master of hunting and terror. Thuun takes malicious delight in the hunt, though not from the killing, but from the actual excitement and terror created by the hunt. He seeks the most cunning prey and then stalks them. Finally, when the terror in his victim has reached a crescendo, he makes his kill.

In recent years, he captured twelve virtues from the Host of Virtues. He hunted them for over a month, instilling terror and fear in the group, and took each of their heads as trophies.

Thuun, lives in an old quarry now called the Quarry of Death. Over the years he has turned the piles of gravel into a maze. At its center is a large hovel built of loose stone standing twenty feet high in the shape of a large tree trunk. The inside is more like a dark temple than a home. It is here the heads of his victims sit as decorations for all his visitors to enjoy.

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The Mirror Squid

From Michi il Disperso

Indaco, the god of water magic, carries an eternal war against the other three magic gods. To guard his fortified realm at the bottom of the ocean, he created a race of astonishing tentacled monsters. With the size of a giant squid, Indaco gave them a shimmering dorsal shield, which can reflect every spell cast against them except water magic.

After the fall of the Four Elemental Magic Gods by the hand of Rosenrot the Heretic Queen, the surviving monster began to wander in the bottom of the ocean, and today poses an occasional threat to nautical travelers.

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La Mirabilia aka The Living Pest Temple

From Michi il Disperso

Ages ago, Click-Tocking, the ingenious god of intelligence, made a gift to his faithful acolytes and engineered a magical-mechanical living device to ease their lives. With the help of the devotee cleric Galileus, he created La Mirabilia, a temple-like clockwork device that crawls slowly on a row of shining metal legs.

La Mirabilia’s duty was to build Sheraphins. These small constructs with baby-angel aspects swarm around the main creature and help acolytes in their duties, such as building, harvesting, and mining.

All worked fine until Moira the Black, the cruel goddess of pain who bore a grudge on the mild genius god, cursed the living temple and transformed it into a dark and rusting machine of destruction.

Its perfect ticking is now a shivering squeaking. Its white columns are gray and stained. And the Sheraphins have become skeletal horrifying pests who follow the wandering temple spreading plague with their sharp teeth.

Worst, is the legend that the terrible machine draws its energy from the still living body and mind of Galileus, buried deep in its internal chambers. Perhaps this is a clue to how to stop it.

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Samgange the White Minotaur

From Daniel Gent

Samgange was a rogue who continually robbed the graves and ancient temples. He amassed a fortune off the easy pickings found in family tombs. As the years grew on he heard of an ancient temple and simple labyrinth that led to a huge diamond known as the Matron’s Eye. Samgange, always wanting more wealth and the world’s greatest treasures, opted to seek out the Matron’s Eye.

Upon entering the maze, Samgange slowly began turning into a minotaur. A powerful curse was placed on any would-be treasure seekers who entered the forgotten halls of the maze. Once he found the Matron’s Eye, he saw his reflection in the gem’s facet and went mad. He had transformed into a minotaur with white fur. Now, forced to protect the Matron’s Eye, he is unable to leave the maze but always yearns for the riches and splendors of his past life.

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From Daniel Gent

Born deformed and of slow mind, Guillaume Oakstriker was victimized and bullied over his lifetime in the mountain village. He fell in love with a young noble’s daughter and often left her small trinkets that he crafted at her doorstep.

One summer day by the village’s watering hole, he confronted her about his feelings. She laughed at him. When the town bullies arrived and harassed and struck her, and proceeded to beat Guillaume, he whispered a prayer to the gods for help, not for himself, but to protect the young woman who had rebuffed him.

His prayers were answered and he quickly took on the form of an exceptionally large dire bear. Guillaume summarily killed the bullies and watched over his now unconscious paramour. When she awoke she saw the large bear sleeping among the dead bullies. She panicked and quietly fled back to the village.

Unable to return home, Guillaume wandered the forest around the village searching for his beloved. Now referred to as the Guardian, Guillaume occasionally appears to wreak havoc on bandits terrorizing innocent victims. He even appeared at a hanging destroyed the gallows saving a the man who was later discovered to be innocent.

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War Kami

From Jeremy Brown

In times of war, when honor is often discarded in lieu of opportunity, the War Kami arise in the land. They are lesser deities born of the war ravaged earth, blood, slaughter, the death of innocents, and the loss of honor.

The War Kami spontaneously form from the trampled crops and destroyed houses of the poor, the discarded fragments of armor and weapons, and the blood soaked earth itself. They are sometimes called the children of the Sorrowing Earth, for the priests teach that when blood is spilled it makes the earth weep.

War Kami appear to be moving mounds of earth, armor, and wood with savage blades for arms and blood red eyes. They do not walk, but float a little above the earth or water, and have been seen even on the waves of the sea. They often assault powerful warriors or weak war bands, and they always hunt down those who have discarded their honor.

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Warbler’s Revenge

From Grumpf

Legend says when the Troll sorceress Shaedmara fell in love with Gonk, the second in command of the undead Orc army, she planned to trick him under a mistletoe to steal a kiss. Shaedmara put on her best rags, a little bit of goblin dung behind the ears for perfume (a well known aphrodisiac for Trolls) and waited for her message to reach Gonk. When Gonk arrived, Shaedmara pointed at the mistletoe just as a warbler’s egg was ejected from its nest by a cuckoo, right in their faces.

Unfortunately, Gonk was allergic to eggs (well when he was alive but old habits die hard). As he fled screaming and choking on the egg, Shaedmara cursed the cuckoo and her bad luck.

Now, we can find Warbler’s Revenge on some trees in the forest. They are an exact copy of a warbler’s nest with 3 eggs. But the careful observer can notice the strong goblin dung smell that gives them away.

Needless to say, cuckoos are the main food source. They try to push the fake eggs away and are immediately reduced to a pink pulp by the creature’s mighty teeth. Occasionally some birds or squirrels can be lured into the ‘nest’ if too intoxicated by the smell.

Warbler’s Revenge grows only on trees that are infested by mistletoe and are a common problem with druids suffering from congestion (otherwise the smell will be sufficient warning). While not deadly, the toxic bite can cause several days of running diarrhea.

If you ever to climb a tree with mistletoe on it…watch out!

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