Main Quests

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Quests whose completion provides the main winning condition of games.

Main Quests are the ones that provide overarching goals for players in games structured around the fulfillment of quests. They often tie the main parts of games' stories to gameplay and provide frameworks for smaller quests.

Note: Main Quests are in some cases used to refer to all quests necessary to complete in a game to finish it, or the one overarching quest that frames gameplay. This pattern adheres to the latter usage.


Main Quests have most common in Computer-based Roleplaying Games but not so in Tabletop due to the often open-ended narratives. Likewise, overarching quests may be present as story-telling devices in Massively Multiplayer Online Games and large scale LARPS but can often not be completed or do not have rewards on a gameplay level. Examples of Main Quests include saving the world of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion by stop oblivion portals from opening[1], saving or diverting the intentions of project purity in Fallout 3[2], affect the outcome of the struggle between mages and templars in Dragon Age II[3], and choosing the path of non-humans, knights, or declaring neutrality in the Witcher[4].

Using the pattern

The design of Main Quests is similar to Quests in general but may actually not have a gameplay Reward since the games may end by the completion of them. However, they practically always make use of other Quests to create Hierarchy of Goals and players are often given the option of additional gameplay through Sidequests. Since the Main Quests are the main drivers of how players explore and move through Game Worlds and interact with Non-Player Characters, it is also common to make all important places, people, and Factions part of the Main Quests so that players have at least become aware of them through playing through the games.

Note that although completing some Main Quests may end games (as it does for example in Dragon Age II and the Fallout series with the exception of Fallout 3 with the Broken Steel Expansion), this is not a necessity. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is an example of this.

Interface Aspects

Main Quests do not need to be present in interfaces in the same way as other Quests since they frame the whole gameplay and narrative experience.

Narrative Aspects

Main Quests are the main bearer of Predetermined Story Structures when they exist in games, so the pattern is an inherently narrative one.


Main Quests are Quests overarching the main gameplay structures of games, and as such, they are typically also the primary Predetermined Story Structures. These structures give players Anticipation of how gameplay and narration will unfold and typically make players aware of all main Non-Player Characters, Factions, and important places in Game Worlds through the use of subquests.

Main Quests are difficult to combine with Unwinnable Games since completing Main Quests is a way of winning a game. They are also difficult to combine with Massively Multiplayer Online Games since these games need to support Late Arriving Players and other places players in opposing Factions that do not share Quests.


Can Instantiate

Anticipation, Predetermined Story Structures, Quests

Can Modulate

Factions, Game Worlds, Non-Player Characters

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By

Hierarchy of Goals, Sidequests

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Massively Multiplayer Online Games, Unwinnable Games


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Entry for the main quest in Oblivion at the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages.
  2. Entry for all quests in Fallout 3 at the Fallout wiki.
  3. Entry for the quests that make up the main quest in Dragon Age II at the Dragon Age wiki.
  4. Entry for the main storyline in the Witcher at the Witcher wiki.