I’ve been talking recently about setting up a new table of setting generation questions for Iron Edda, using a Quest as the central binding element, rather than a holdfast. The last post in this series looked at the distribution probabilities in Fate dice to talk about how the tables themselves could be set up. This week I’m going to start building the tables themselves.

The Set-up

I’ve been batting around ideas for these questions since the quest-as-glue idea came to me a few weeks ago. There’s something that’s not quite sitting right with me about having each player roll on the same set of questions. With holdfast generation, each of the answers can stand alone because there’s room in the holdfast for multiple events to be happening at the same time. In fact, that’s where a lot of the interesting stuff for play comes from.

For a quest, things are much more centralized. Everything revolves around the one event. If there are a bunch of disparate elements then the quest itself won’t make any sense. I think that a good solution to that is to make the quest rolling even more procedural in nature, with each category of questions building off of the previous.

To that end, I’m going to set up the questions to be much more evenly distributed than they are in Iron Edda now. That’s for two reasons:

  1. I want each of the elements to have an even chance of coming up on a die roll
  2. It’s not an easy task to write the 96 questions that get asked in Iron Edda. This is an object lesson and neat idea, so let’s make things a little more straightforward.

Types of Questions

I said that I wanted this to be a little more procedural, so that’s going to take some extra setup on the front end here. Basically, we need to be able to break a quest down into its component parts then assign them to categories to make the questions.

The procedure of how these questions will be answered by the players will come once we have all of the categories and questions set. Don’t want to put the cart before the horse.

So, What Makes a Quest?

There are a metric ton of answers to that question, and people spend entire academic careers studying that question. This is a prototype, so we’re going to keep things a little more simple. I’m going to divide the Quest into a few component categories, each of which will have sets of questions associated with it. Those categories are:

The Initiation
Who assigned the Quest? Why? Under what circumstances? Why you? These are all questions about the origination of the Quest, how it all begins.

The Goal
What’s the purpose of the Quest? What is it supposed to solve? What problem will it cause for someone else?

What Is Required
Why couldn’t just anyone do this? What special item, knowledge, or good is necessary to complete the Quest?

The Obstacle
What’s stopping the Quest from being completed? What’s in the way? Why is the journey fraught?

The Reward
Why would someone undertake this? What’s gained?

These categories have some overlap and I guarantee that I’ll end up having to adjust things once we get to the point of creating the actual questions. These will make a good starting point, though.

Incidentally — That’s one of the things I’ve learned about what helps me when I’m working on a new design: being willing to go back and change things. I’m not writing a final draft here, just getting ideas out in a way that will benefit me, and hopefully you, too.

Table Setup

The top levels of each section of this quest generation table is going to be divided into six categories. Each of the top level categories will be decided by a roll of 2dF (two Fate dice), with the choices assigned to each of the results: ++ +0 +- 00 -0 —

Each top level category will have three drill down questions that a player could have to answer. They’re chosen on a roll of 1dF, with a question assigned to + – or 0 for each of the categories.

I think that this setup could be reversed and work out, too. It all depends on which ends up more impactful: the top level categories, or the questions assigned to each of them. We won’t know that until we get to the questions themselves.

Speaking of which, with this setup we’re looking at five categories, six top-level categories per category, and three questions for each top level. That’s 18 questions per category, for a total of 90(!) questions.

That’s a lot of questions. In fact, for my talk about wanting to do this setup because I didn’t want to write as many questions as in War of Metal and Bone, I’ve managed to be only six questions shy. This number will likely end up getting trimmed down as these posts go on. This is for a couple of good reasons:

  1. That’s a lot of questions, and I’m not sure that all of them will be either needed or interesting enough to make the cut.
  2. Unlike with holdfast generation where multiple things can be true at once because it’s a broad canvas on which to put stuff, one player’s answers to a Quest question have a decent chance of really complicating someone else’s answer.

Overall, though, this is a good start. The next article in this series will see us starting to define some of the top-level categories. In the meantime, if you’ve got suggestions about questions you’d like to see, or quest tropes you’d like to avoid, let me know in the comments!