Once you have a world for your players to play within, it’s important that you give your players something to do, otherwise you’ve simply given them a different version of what they’re already experiencing every day!
Scenarios and Situations
An easy way to get your players involved in the world is to either place them into a specific scenario with a goal or fabricate a pressing situation for them to get their characters out of.
Depending on how you’ve built your world, it may be easy to come up with something like this. Maybe your world’s government is on the brink of collapse, and it’s up to your players to either topple it or stabilize it. Maybe your characters are literally standing inside of a collapsing building and they need to work together to escape. You can then work forward or backward from there: what caused the government to collapse and how can we fix it? What caused the building to collapse and how can we prevent more from being destroyed? Many great quests start with a simple question like these.
Non-Player Characters (NPCs)
As the GM, you need to control all of the characters in your world that aren’t being controlled by your players, and if you want your players to move down a certain path or pursue a certain goal, it’s up to you to get your NPCs to point your characters in the right direction. Each NPC your players will interact with should have its own character sheet so you know what its qualities are if you need them to perform any actions—your NPCs should be subject to the same rules as your players unless you have a real good reason not to. Having even the most basic of information for NPCs your players interact with, like a list of qualities and their levels, will be helpful to you, and depending on how they interact, you can even decide to turn them into more significant characters later!
For reference, your average adult will likely have fairly low stats unless they are particularly stubborn or academic or something like that. Generally only leading industry professionals or people who have devoted their lives to a craft will have qualities with levels higher than 5.
The most basic of quests are a simple string of scenarios and situations laid end to end, but as more of these basic situations line up, the more resources you as the GM can reap to build connections between them. If you build connections between the building your players are in collapsing and your government collapsing, then maybe you’ll get the idea to add a rebel group that’s destroying buildings. Maybe your players agree with the rebels and decide to join them; now you have a whole lot of possibilities open up! Suddenly the government is the enemy, and your players have to deal with the rebellion being crushed. What would the government in your world do? That creates new scenarios and situations to string your players along to an overarching goal.
Continuing the snowball down the hill, you can keep building larger and larger problems for your players to solve and keep making your world react. You can continue doing this until you decide that your players have reached an appropriate peak, where you can tie together any loose ends you want and make it look like you had planned everything that happened the whole time!
Or if you don’t like being out of control, you can plan an entire quest with all its locations and events ahead of time. This is appealing to many GMs, but it’s important that you still be flexible enough to answer to unexpected things your players might do or describe unplanned places they might go!
In the end, a quest is just a series of events that tie together, and it’s up to you to tie it together into something your players will enjoy.