The Deck of Many Quests is something I’ve been searching for years. I’ve asked for it at game shops and gotten sideways glances and pointed to Dungeon Crawl Classics more times than I can count. DCC is a fine series, but it’s not really similar. The Deck of Many Quests generates short, 3-5 sentence plot hooks quickly, and claims to have over 200,000 combinations.
I run a lot of hexcrawls, and they tend to involve more hexes than most people recommend. Usually, I see advice topping out at 20 hexes tops, but in my experience, players really want to explore. I usually prep at minimum 200 hexes and try for 2-3 interesting things per hex. Not all combat, but usually a fight or two, some exploration resources, and maybe even a quick dungeon. In practice, I build out an excel chart with letter codes for each hex, and fill in hexes. Starting with major plot points, side plots, one shot quests, vignette encounters, and finally just discoveries (Ex: a grove of peach trees). Without fail, I usually start phoning it in around 150-180 items, and have to dig out resources to fill the gaps. One Page Dungeons are a great source, as is the Mini-Dungeon Tome. The Deck fits right in that same space. Quick, easy to run encounters with just enough info for me to improv a scene based off it.
The other use, and probably more of the intended use, is to have the deck spin off side quests for you. Your players are in a tavern and want to look at a quest board. What’s there? Draw a few quests from the deck and use that as the basis for your answer. I don’t usually have a quest board or adventurer’s guild, or anything that formal in my games, but I know a lot of groups do.
The Deck itself is very easy to use. Draw a Quest (sword), and it will include mad libs style variables like Creature (skull) or Item (potion). You then draw a Creature or Item card from those decks to fill in the blank. Some random results below.
- A troll has been run off from his bridge by (creature) a pesky poltergeist with a penchant for pranks. The troll seeks your party’s help in reclaiming his bridge.
- A troll wanting your help is a nice inversion of the norm, and I love the idea of a ghost annoying him until he leaves his bridge.
- A traveling wizard has caused the pumpkins at a local farm to become sentient and carnivorous. The locals want their squash problem squashed and offer [item] a sack of flower as a reward.
- What sort of poor locals are giving out flour as a quest reward. Obviously, a righteous PC will help them in a lot of ways, but maybe your group passes on this quest if they are a bit more mercenary. Either way, they will reference it again at some point.
- A group of (creature) fiendish hags that steal toenails for their rituals is looking for a lost (item) map of the wayward, a magical map that [lots of text, it means you can’t get lost]. They’ve kidnapped a noble’s daughter and want to ransom her for information.
- This is a proper quest! The noble wants his daughter back, the hags want info, you can haggle, diplomacy, steal, prison break, or just fight it out. Lots of options and potentials.
The Deck is a great addition to any DMs toolbox. If you’re a preparer, use it to generate all sorts of stock quests. If you’re an improviser, use it like the audience calling out topics at a show. Building blocks to start from. I got mine off Kickstarter, but you can pick a copy up on the Lunchbreak Heroes Website as well.