Today we’re going to tackle the Questions of the Gods. Last week I set up the top-level categories for the first part of the Quest: Initiation. Initiation is the first phase of questions for the Quest and I broke it into three possible choices for where the Quest comes from:
- The Gods
- The People
I also decided that I’ll only be writing three questions per category. Six questions, as I’d originally planned, would make for around 90 questions, total. Way too many for this exercise. As I mentioned last week, this is a good stage at which to question how all of this it set up. If you can do any foundational self-editing at early stages of a project, you could save yourself time later. It’s not always possible. Sometimes you’ve got to throw a bunch of work at a project and see what ends up working. However, my knowing that 90 questions is too many helps me focus my efforts and not slog through what could have ended up being a lousy set of questions.
Now, on to the questions.
Questions of the Gods
All of the questions in this category assume that a god in the Norse pantheon has given you the Quest you’re on. If this option is rolled or chosen, it will center the gods more fully in your campaign than they are by default in War of Metal and Bone. By the same token, the other two categories will center those things in your game.
This is one of the things that I love about using questions to generate the plot elements for a tabletop RPG. There are a lot of different types of plot that can happen at a table. In a lot of games, the GM decides on those major elements. Sometimes, they’ll get input from the players. Using questions combines GM and player input, especially if the GM picks the questions ahead of time. I prefer to have my players roll all the questions themselves and give me new, unexpected material with which to work, but that’s me.
One of the nice things about using the gods as the source of our first sub-category of questions is that the gods in the Norse pantheon all have distinct personalities and portfolios. They each give us something different to work with. They also offer us a small challenge: which gods to pick?
The Gods and What They Want
In Norse mythology, there are a few different gods who are most present in the myths. They’re also the gods whose names we know the best: Odin, Thor, Loki, Freyja, Tyr, Heimdall. There are three of these gods who use and are known for magic. I mention this because Quests are often linked with magical items, hidden knowledge, or uncovering a great secret of some kind. From that perspective, the three gods that make the most sense for these questions are:
As for what they want, those things are different for each of them. Odin seeks knowledge, wisdom, bravery, and self-sacrifice. Freyja, magic, passion, and unified action. Loki, chaos, secrets, and the power to undermine. The things each of the gods want will inform their questions. As well, each of them have different trappings they’re known for. This will give us some good color for the questions.
The Questions Themselves
I’ve established a lot of parameters for those questions, and for good reason. When I was writing the questions for War of Metal and Bone, I learned that when you have a specific framework in place, it lets you create better questions. When you’re working from what is essentially a blank slate, you’ve technically got more freedom, but it’s too easy to be unfocused and to end up with a set of questions that aren’t compelling at all.
Now, the questions.
A raven from Odion has been flying before you for weeks. To what sign or portent is it continually trying to lead you? What do you possess that marks you as one worthy of the attention of the Allfather?
Where were you when Freyja first appeared to speak to you? What did she say that you possess that brought you to her attention? What did she say you lack and will need to recover, repair, or for which you need to atone?
The whispers are no longer confined to your dreams. Where were you when you first spoke to Loki, aloud, in front of other people? How has Loki marked you as one with whom he is interested, for now?
Each of the questions works to establish a few things:
- A sign, symbol, or visit from a god that directly affects the character
- A question that speaks to the intent of the god
- A question that speaks to how the god views the character
And they’re all leading questions. When you’re making questions, you want them to take the answerer somewhere. Nothing is worse for this process than a question that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Those are dead-end questions, which are no good in this situation.
People and Destiny
This setup work with all the explanation will hopefully give you a guide for how and why questions need to be set up to work well in a campaign. Next week when I make the questions for the categories of The People and Destiny, I won’t spend as much time describing the setup.
For now, your homework is to think about how you might use questions in your own game, especially if you’re the kind of GM who usually plans everything themselves. Questions can empower, spotlight, and ask for engagement. Not every player is comfortable with them, and neither is every GM, but I feel strongly that they should be at least a component in most games. So go think about them and let me know how or why you do or don’t use them in your game.