I've had some free time the past few weeks, so when I'm not working on game or reading, I've been playing video games. Borderlands and Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura are two fairly different RPGs (though they both eschew the more traditional Tolkien-inspired approach) that serve as a framework for entertaining an audience of one. I can't rely on table talk to keep my boyfriend amused during our lunchtime game, since it's just him, so I've got to make the world deeper and give him more things to do. So, Borderlands and Arcanum have made me think a lot about quests and sidequests, quest structures, and their effects on the narrative.
Quests should move the story forward in some way, or get the PC in connection with other useful NPCs, or should illuminate some part of the world. Poorly done quests are those that come off as boring or meaningless. The best quests, in my opinion, are those that manage one or more of the above design tenets and gives the player choices in how to finish the quest.
Most of the side quests I've created for my opening session involve getting my boyfriend's PC, a knight recently ordered to aid the dwarven city of Hammerfast, to meet the locals and start making useful connections, in addition to establishing that the city is currently very tense and divided. However, the big quest I want to end the session on is fairly open-ended, so much so that I'm a little worried if it'll work out as I planned. It involves the guard capturing a member of a nearby Orcus cult, found skulking in the Lore Ward; the PC is brought in to help interrogate the prisoner, who reveals that he is merely a scout, and that other cultists are set to infiltrate the city within the week and destroy it. The prisoner is loathe to explain exactly how the plan will go down, but sneeringly responds that Hammerfast houses the key to its destruction in its very walls. I'll end session after that, allowing my boyfriend some time to figure out how he wants to handle this threat.
There should be about a week until next session, giving BF plenty of time to come up with a plan of attack. I'm worried he might get stumped, though, or develop analysis paralysis in the face of such an open-ended quest. I'm happy to answer questions for him regarding what dangers are situated in town (that the townspeople know of, at least), and give him a few suggestions as to what he can do (put the town on high alert vs only allow a select few to know what's going on, etc), but he might not find this as fun as I would.
Oh well. It's an experiment. If he doesn't like it, I'll avoid making quests too open, or create quests with two to three clear options.