Sir Galahad’s quest for the grail. Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring. Jason and the Argonauts’ recovery of the Golden Fleece. Dorothy and her companions search for home, brains, heart, and courage. Quests have driven some of the greatest adventures in literature.
However, quests can be harder to pull off within the frameworks of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Within a game, you’ve got to deal with multiple players, and their characters, and sometimes it is hard to set up a quest that appeals to all of them.
One of the things to keep in mind when trying to draw a party of adventurers into a quest is not to expect them to immediately pick up on a quest you set before them. Rather than dumping a quest in front of them all at once, you need to draw them into it slowly, planting seeds for the quest over the course of several adventures.
For example, if you want the party to go on a quest for a lengendary sword, during an early adventure they might hear a tale of the sword, or find a book about the weilder of the sword and how it was used to overcome a defeat a powerful sorceror who once unleashed great evil or destruction on the world. Another adventurer might pit them against a former minion of that same sorceror, or someone else seeking to resurrect the sorceror. While not every early adventure should focus on the quest, as the sorceror returns and sets his old plans back into motion, the players will come into more frequent contact with the sorceror or those assisting him in his goals.
While building the need for the characters to undertake the quest, try to build in other reasons for the characters to undertake the quest. While some characters take up the quest just to do good, others may need additional motivations. The sword might be in the homeland of one player character, while resting in a tomb or dungeon rumored to hold a magic item of interest to another.
Building up to the quest over multiple adventures, you have time to learn what kind of motivations might help draw each of the characters into the quest. That way the quest becomes a goal of the entire party, not just a goal of one character with the others tagging along behind.