The basics of a normal quest is, there’s somebody that needs something, and the players are he ones that do or get that something.
The basic problem with quests is, someone powerful enough to hire and adventuring team should be powerful enough to accomplish the goal themselves.
A powerful dragon needs McGuffin, so why doesn’t he get it? The king needs an evil wizard slain, so why doesn’t he send any of his ten thousand soldiers to do it?
On the other hand, a poor farmer needs help with an ankheg, what the hell is he going to pay you? A tiny frontier town needs protection from orcs, what are they going to pay you with? Farmer’s daughters?
I’m getting ahead of myself. Lets start with basic philosophy.
In Knights of the Old Republic 2, the old crone Kreia, in one of her interminably long boring monologues, actually said something useful. Struggle leads to growth, and by taking others struggles onto ourselves (as players taking quests) we become stronger (gain experience points) and they do not grow.
In Vampire the Masquerade the elders, who are usually the ones spawning quests and giving the young spawn stuff to do, do not change. They are often trapped in the same mindsets and behaviors (and sometimes asthetics) that they had when they were young. If they do grow more powerful, it is at a glacially slow pace.
This said, the key to a good quest giver isn’t ability, but inertia.
Player characters do things because that’s what they do. They do things. They do things. Players have agency, drive, and detanglements. (autocorrect changed that to “derangements” twice) They have mobility and speed.
The king can’t send his soldiers because they are all already stationed right where they are supposed to be right now. The mayor can’t ask the police to investigate the “weird goings on” because without evidence of a crime, that’s not what the police do.
Anyone who thinks it would be easy to mobilize an army without notice has never tried to take two young kids to the pool.
In addition, Quest Givers are restricted by their station and their previous obligations.
Adventurers can act outside established social and political norms. They come in from the outside and are essentially wildcards. Anyone who has seen the movie Yojimbo (or it’s entirely underappreciated remake “Last Man Standing”) can see the main character is essentially a player character in a town full of NPCs. This is why NPCs want adventurers.
A nobleman, or an elder vampire, cannot simply strike directly against his enemies without pulling on the strings of the web of intrigued and obligation he is currently meshed in. Likewise a farmer cannot abandon his fields and family and go off and fight a battle. They need the players.
In my next article I’ll discuss the failure of one of my favorite NPc Quest Givers, and hopefully spawn thought on the ramifications.