Quests are an unavoidable part of the Runescape experience. From the moment your feet touch Lumbridge soil you're bombarded with blue stars that indicate that there's people who need you to do stuff for them, in return for several different kinds of rewards. From simple retrieval missions to desperate attempts to save the very fabric of creation, quests will take you the world over as you strive to make peoples' lives a little better one step at a time. For some, quests are at best a strenuous task to be performed only if the rewards truly justify the effort. For others each quest, no matter how minor, is a delicious morsel of Runescape lore to be savored and enjoyed to the fullest extent. Regardless of what side of your fence you are on (I'm with the people that actually like doing quests), everybody will have done at least some quests because eventually, quests become unavoidable for those looking for a richer, more fulfilling game experience.
The first, and often most looked down upon reward, is the monetary compensation. There are plenty of ways to make money in the game, and quests are rarely the most effective way to do it. Still, those first few gold pieces might just be enough to get new players the armour they need to survive that mad dash for ten thousand gold through the Stronghold of Security and get some real investments going.
The second, and more important quest reward, is experience. From a few hundred points to push you from level one to level five, to several thousand points that could potentially be huge leaps forward. A great example of this is the Knight's Sword quest, which has only requires about half an hour of mining training and a few GP to pluck some basic items off the Grand Exchange. The reward for this minimal effort is a whopping twenty-eight smithing levels (638 experience points short of the highly lucrative steel smelting) which can greatly speed up the growth of a new character. Of course there's a point where even the biggest experience reward won't seem worth the effort, which lies somewhere around the point where it takes a six digit amount of experience just to advance one level. Again, this might seem pointless to those of higher level, but a break from the endless grind can often be a reward in and of itself.
Right around the point where experience rewards are no longer worthwhile, quests start coming with a new kind of reward that will be worthwhile to even the most reluctant of quester: equipment. More specifically, access to equipment. The very first quest to offer this kind of reward was, of course, Dragon Slayer. On the twenty-third of September, 2001, a new kind of armour was introduced to separate the men from the boys: the runite platebody. Wearing this armour not only told people that you had at least level 40 defense and 64.000 GP to spare (or a smithing level that was, at that point, unheard of), but also that you were capable of slaying a mighty dragon. For most people this is still the first quest of this kind, but for those of us who are willing to pay the fee it will be the first of many. Besides pretty much every kind of dragon weapon there are, amongst others, Fremmenik helmets and bone weapons. The equipment unlocked by quests isn't just fancy looking, a lot of items are amongst the most powerful in the game. Like the runite platebody and the Dragon Slayer quest before, seeing someone wielding a dragon scimitar will immediately tell you that they have braved an atoll full of rabidly aggressive simians with combat levels well into the triple digits.
Which brings me to the fourth reward: Access. Walk long enough in pretty much any direction and you will stumble into some sort of barrier that can only be passed by those that are willing to take the time to quest their way around it. Going strictly by surface area, about thirty percent of the members world is only accessible after doing some sort of quest. Of course these areas aren't just for walking around on, but often offer you some of the most efficient and lucrative training spots in all of Runescape. Access of course isn't limited to just new locations to explore, but also two spellbooks' worth of magic to cast, several different kinds of (almost) free and instant transportation, several different skills, a bunch of different pets and a seemingly endless list of other major and minor benefits that make the world of Runescape just a little (or lot) more pleasant to spend time in.
The final reward, one that is often overlooked and/or unappreciated and, admittedly, has only become a part of the questing experience in recent years: stories. For those who are willing to listen, JAGeX has a whole bunch of different stories to tell. In the east, people living under a tyrannical undead menace that is literally sucking them dry cry out for a saviour. In the west, the power struggles amongst an ancient race sent shockwaves throughout the kingdom of Kandarin and the city of Ardougne. In between lie many more stories that will reveal themselves to anyone willing and able to listen.
So the next time you embark on a quest, consider reaching for your sense of adventure first and a guide second. Don't rush through to the reward, but stop every now and then to appreciate the road JAGeX paved towards it. Take the time to actually listen to what NPCs have to say beyond directions to the next point in the quest and they might actually be able to entertain you in a way that you didn't previously think possible. Always remember that you're not just completing a list of tasks for some sort of compensation. You're giving a little boy his ball back. You're uncovering an ancient sword to protect a city against a blood thirsty demon from its past. You're helping a tribe of goblins that hasn't walked the surface in untold centuries take its first steps into a world that's entirely new to them. In the end, you will be swept away in the power struggles between the gods themselves that have stretched across the aeons. It's a hell of a ride, but it can be quite enjoyable if you let it.