I had written in a previous thread from August that I would like to see (at least some) quests have an overarching storyline possibility. This could branch out further and further to include the master Quest as a victory condition. The narrative elements itself could be dynamically generated from a pool of possibilities based on what has happened in the game so far, so that the single elements of the following “story arc” should be able to be interchanged from a central pool governed in part by feedback from the current game world. The following is an example for a Master Quest Arc available to a member of either the Human faction or the Fallen faction. Other Quest Arcs could involve faction-specific stories (see below).
1. Sovereign hears a rumor from NPC Q regarding an ancient tower in land L, believed by the populace to have existed since before the Refounding of the world and believed to hold secrets regarding a dangerous plague.
2. Sovereign investigates, finds tower locked. He must either find key or otherwise gain access.
3. In tower, sovereign finds scroll regarding plague. Scroll indicates that magician M in land L has hidden a magic urn which will release the spirit of a demon who will grant its releaser any wish in the world. There is supposed to be a map where the general location of the urn is indicated hidden in a cave in L2. L2 should be a place far away from L, to be determined dynamically by the computer.
4. Cave in L2 is guarded by Protector P. Sovereign must somehow gain access, either by stealth, wits, guile or strength.
5. Map is found in L2, indicates location L3, which might even be required to be behind enemy lines. L3 should, when investigated, uncover a small neutral settlement where the location of the urn will soon be stumbled upon and uncovered by prospectors if the sovereign isn’t fast enough.
6. Sovereign should find urn guarded by a magical ward, requiring for its penetration 3 relatively rare items. Sovereign must find out where to obtain these items, then obtain them, then mix them together in a magical way so as to obtain the “key” in unlocking the urn.
7. Sovereign releases demon, who will grant sovereign victory – IF he is able to fetch the demon’s heart, which is buried in the guarded chamber C in location L4.
Not only should there be a large pool of different Story Types which can be told (e.g., Wish Urn, sketched above, or Plague, Rescue the Personage, Find the Needle in the Haystack, etc.), so that many games might transpire before a similar Story Type is unearthed, but each different Story Type should have a pool of Quest Elements that differ from game to game in those games in which they do take place.
For short games / very small maps, some of these steps can and should be removed, e.g. Quest 7 is easily removed by merely having the demon grant the wish after completion of 6. Quest 6 is also easily removed by having sovereign gain her wish at the end of Quest 5. Etc.
Each game should select each step from a large pool of possible choices, so that a narrative story in each game is recognizable but different.
Additionally, there should be substantial rewards for the completion of each Arc section, for balance reasons, namely: In amassing a large military force, for example, a player reaps immediate rewards for many aspects of her realm, but thereby also directly helps in obtaining a Conquest or Military victory; building up your armies is something a player will be wanting to do and doing anyway, even if the player is not consciously attempting a Conquest victory – building units and researching war tech is a “reward in itself”. Something similar can be said for research of the arcane arts – this is something probably every player will be doing to at least some degree, because it is a “reward in itself”, it helps on many levels – but is also the prerequisite of achieving a victory condition (whose current designation is not clear to me presently). I believe the same thing can be said about getting along well with neighbors and its relation to the Diplomatic Victory condition. The Master Quest victory condition may deviate from this pattern slightly, and hence it appears wise to me to have smaller rewards for completion of its components.