The following system is intended to replace 3e’s Project system, backporting concepts from Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine—specifically Quests and Perks, although neither is identical in mechanics or implementation to their Chuubo’s incarnations. In particular, this system offers characters the opportunity to rise as far as 8cp above standard nobles; some Hollyhock Gods may wish to adjust this by changing the number of available Perk Slots or lowering starting CP.
In this first draft, the exact numbers are mostly arbitrary-ish; the real focus is on seeing if this structure is any help to players and HGs. This system is still under construction, and presented for commentary.
Note on pronouns: I’m totally using “they” as a gender-neutral singular wherever possible and necessary. I invite you to draw your own assumptions re: genitals and identity for any given example.//
Powers want things.
That’s a pretty good summary of a basic fact of the Noble condition—the number of Powers who are content with themselves and the world around them could be counted on one hand, even by fingerless True Gods who only had nubby pseudopodia to count on. Powers are often chosen specifically because of their desire for dynamism and change; their soul burns with an initiative that most Imperators recognize as essential to the stewardship of any given Estate.
Mechanically, these desires form the backbone for Quests, overarching goals that spur characters into action. Each Quest is different, and requires some collaboration between the HG and player, but they share certain traits in common: each has a Scope, a set of Milestones, and 2+ XP actions.
Scope sets most of the other variables for a Quest, establishing how widespread the effect of this Quest will be on the world.
- Minor Quests are often personal projects that occupy the Power only temporarily, or that simmer on the backburner, coming into play only tangentially during any given session. They’re generally not going to resonate too far beyond the Power, their Familia, their Chancel, or a single City. Think of them as individual projects—things that have a clear beginning and end, like writing a book, learning ki-manipulating kung fu, or teaching your pet ferret how to sing a song that makes angels weep.
- Major Quests occupy much of the Power’s day-to-day activities; think of them as the Power’s career. All characters begin play with a Major Quest that reflects their relationship (good, bad, indifferent, or psychotic) with their Estate; this Quest provides a framework for the HG in the first few sessions as players explore their characters. Other Major Quests generally answer the question “What are you/What do you do (especially in the Society of Flowers)?” One Sovereign might be an exorcist driven to cleanse tainted spirits; another might consider themselves the foremost events planner on the Ash and try to top themselves with increasingly elaborate fetes.
- Epic Quests are a Power’s deepest ambition, their greatest drive. They go beyond being a “Noble career” and extend into lifelong goals with the potential to shake Heaven, Hell, and all the worlds in-between. It is exceptionally rare for any character to have more than a single Epic Quest at once; very few people can spare the kind of passion to support 2+ all-consuming obsessions. As you move through an Epic Quest, you will begin to reshape and reorder the world according to your vision—these Quests might free the tortured souls of Hell, open Heaven to all who seek it, dethrone Lord Entropy, or rewrite the history of an Age.
Milestones help to punctuate each Quest, offering you tangible rewards as you take chances, get messy, make mistakes, and shatter reality to better fit your will1. At each Milestone, you’ll receive some tangible reward, and the opportunity to stop and reflect on your situation. Primarily, Milestones offer you a Perk Slot (to a maximum of 8) and the opportunity to fill or change out a Perk. Some Milestones for certain types of Quest may have restrictions on what you can gain with your Perk Slots.
XP Actions, the final aspect shared by all Quests, are the ways in which you move forward and make progress. Unlike Chuubo’s, they tend to be much broader and more general—your Quests are not narrative-parcels that take you along a clear arc; instead, they are tools for measuring and structuring your progress towards a goal. Like Quests, XP Actions come in the same three denominations, and Quests (generally) include only XP Actions of their own Scope or less.
- Minor Actions (1 XP) are small and self-contained, usually experimental or exploratory. At its most basic level, Minor Actions often boil down to “Try something interesting or dangerous that relates to your Quest.” Most of the time, you can expect to have the opportunity for 1-2 Minor Actions per scene, with wiggle room for faster or slower advancement to suit your HG and group.
- Major Actions (4 XP) are not incidental; they tend to form the general thrust and focus of a scene, shaping the action and drama. These might translate as “Spend time and effort to do something meaningful for your Quest.”
- Epic Actions (10 XP) form the backbone of entire sessions—and if you want your Familia’s help, the general consensus is that these should rotate. They are either triumphs towards your Quest, or important failures that point you towards an alternative direction. Epic Actions are always social, meaning that they can’t be performed in a vacuum. If simplified, they ultimately mean “Attempt something challenging and interesting to further your Quest.”
Perks & Perk Slots
As established, Milestones grant you access to Perk Slots and the ability to fill (or exchange) the Perks that currently occupy them. Each Perk is essentially a single character point that can be spent…well, anyway you can spend 1cp, including Skills/Passions, Gifts, and MPs.
You’ll continue to gain new Slots with each Milestone until you hit 8 in total; at that point, new Perks will require you to abandon older ones. This is less about game balance and more about the point of diminishing returns; at 8 Perks, it becomes harder for players to remember and utilize all their character options, and play slows down.
Anytime you gain or change a Perk, you’re also invited to reflect on your experience and reword a Skill/Passion, Bond/Affliction, or Estate Property, although the HG has the right to veto changes that don’t flow from the Quest itself.
This section is incomplete; I’m hoping to have a Quest Record sheet soon that can be used as a quick reference for this system that can be printed on the reverse of the Character Sheet.
For the time being, each “Basic Quest” has an XP tracking bar; darken one circle for each XP you receive. Each Milestone is shown by a tick mark (|); when you’ve filled all the circle behind that mark, hit your Milestone and gain/change a Perk.
As a general rule, players don’t (not can’t, but don’t) have more than 4 Quests at once.
It’s possible for another player to contribute to someone else’s Quest, but practically, this usually runs into the fact that there’s only so many opportunities for an XP Action in any given scene. A player can always refuse an XP from someone else’s action; moreover, you can’t “donate” an XP Action to someone if it will make them hit a Milestone—those can only come from personal achievements.
As you move through an Epic Quest, you have the opportunity to enact Quest Miracles, either Minor or Major. Each Quest Miracle is a normal miracle of the given level (Minor 1-5; Major 5-8). You must pay for it as normal using your Attributes and Miracle Points, but the effort put into achieving your Quest sustains the Miracle indefinitely, without causing any strain on you.
In effect, the miracle becomes an innate part of the world; other miraculous actions can subvert or subdue them as though they were normal facts of nature, but once those actions cease, your miracle reasserts itself (albeit slowly, often on the scale of days, weeks, or months).
The Basic Minor Quest
Give this Quest a name that tells the GM what you’re setting out to do.
XP: ○○○○○○○○ |
Minor: Do something interesting, challenging, or dangerous to further your Quest.
Minor: Accept a difficulty from the HG that stands in the way of your Quest.
The Basic Major Quest
Give this Quest a name that tells the GM who you are and what you’re becoming.
XP: ○○○○○○○○ | ○○○○○○○ | ○○○○○ |
Special: When you finish a Major Quest, you may combine up to 3 Perk Slots and fill them with a costly Gift or an additional level of an Attribute.
Major: At the end of a scene, reflect on your Quest and accept a difficult truth that complicates who you think you are.
Minor: At the end of a scene, explain to the HG what you’ve learned about your role or its importance.
Minor: At the start of a session, set a challenge for yourself. If it meaningfully impedes you, gain an XP at the end of the session.
The Basic Epic Quest
Give this Quest a name that tells the GM how you intend to change the world.
XP: ○○○○○○○○○○○○ | ○○○○○○○○○○ | ○○○○○○○○○○ | ○○○○○○○○ | ○○○○○○○○ |
Special: When you hit a Milestone in an Epic Quest, you may perform a Minor Quest Miracle. When you finish an Epic Quest, you may perform a Major Quest Miracle.
Epic: Overcome a difficult challenge that secures you vital, material aid towards your Quest.
Major: Endure a significant setback, obstacle, or defeat that makes you reconsider your Quest; when you take this Action, explain what’s changed to the HG and rewrite the Quest name to reflect this.
Major: Overcome a challenge that secures you tangential or qualified aid towards your Quest.
Minor: Perform an impressive, unique, or entertaining action that explores or experiments with your Quest.
As previously stated, all Nobles begin play with a Major Quest reflecting their relationship with their Estate. These Quests, which are more specific than the Basic Major Quest, are intended to help provide a foothold for new players and HGs during the initial sessions of a chronicle. Advanced players are free to devise their own Estate Quest with their HG, or to ignore it entirely.
Training the Loyal Estate
Your Estate has a mind and a will of its own, and though it loves you as a dog loves a proper master, it does not understand human (or Noble!) desires, needs, and fears.
XP: ○○○○○○○○ | ○○○○○○○ | ○○○○○ |
Special: At each Milestone, you gain a Gift of your Estate (usually Automatic). At the end of this Quest, you may trade in those Gifts to take either a single greater Gift (up to 3cp) or increase your level of Domain or Persona by 1.
Special: The HG takes shared control of your Domain or Persona during this scene; they may use the Attribute to perform Miraculous Actions, but cannot spend your MPs without your permission. At the end of the Scene, gain XP equal to the rating of the shared Attribute.
Major: At the end of a scene where you’ve struggled with your Estate and its nature, tell everyone what you have learned about it.
Minor: Allow the HG or another player to “twist” a miraculous action, forcing you to make a hard choice about what you really want it to do.
Minor: Scold, chastise, encourage, or otherwise interact with your Estate in an interesting way.