Monday, 10 August 2020

Noble Cousin Quest

Noble Cousin Quest

I enjoy games where the party has a very clear over-arching goal. In many OSR sandbox type campaigns the goal is "explore dangerous places to collect treasure." This is a very fun goal, which produces very fun games. 

I recently had an idea for a game with a specific party goal: you're all a bunch of young nobles (like early 20s) living in a small mountain principality (like Liechtenstein) in a vaguely medieval fantasy world (like King Arthur), who are are cousins to each other, and are brimming with vim, feeling eager to prove themselves champions, paragons, and exemplars, and your shared Grandmother is the Countess and she gives you quests to do. I wanted to write some rules and quest hooks for this game, and I've named it Noble Cousin Quest. 

"Grandmother said I looked best in orange!"
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Quest Types from Grandmother:

  • Hunt down a Powerful Monster
    • to acquire fame
    • to rescue a captive
    • to claim their treasure
    • to rid a peaceful land of their monstrous influence
  • Find Powerful Treasure
    • Magic Weapons
    • Holy Relics
    • Spells & Sorceries
  • Social Calls
    • call upon a friendly neighbouring noble house
    • call upon a neutral noble house in hopes of an allyship
    • call upon an enemy noble house as part of a plot

Specific Quests from Grandmother

  • Slay the legendary Blue Dragon; it's been eating sheep and shitting blue everywhere
  • Rescue Prince Paul of a neighbouring Duchy; he's been captured by The Moon Ogre
  • Hunt for the Foxenoxen, a mysterious sorcerous creature that has been digging up graves, defiling churchyards, and crushing wells. 
  • Find the famed Sword of Charlotte, the magic blade of an ancient warrior, rumoured to be buried with her in her ancient tomb high in the mountains. 
  • Find the famed Knucklebones of Saint Helene, ancient holy saint, rumoured to be lost in a rockslide in the deep canyon temples.
  • Find the famed Orb of Hank, the evil dark glass sphere of ancient Evil Sorcerer Hank, who is rumoured to have died in his reverse-tower in the alpine plateau above the capital. 
  • Go to House X and befriend their young child daughter so that she likes us when we host them at a feast next month. 
  • Go to House Y and dishonour the heir in a duel or an argument—but don't kill them. 
  • Go to House Z and find out why they've rejected the invitation to this year's Frog Ball. 
I love to play fantasy medieval RPGs in magical worlds where sexism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, gender norms, etc., don't exist. It's much more fun. 

In addition to fairy-tale-esque quests, I also imagine some courtly procedures and play. Befriending other noble families, making connections, vying for Grandmother's favour, etc. To facilitate this type of gameplay I want a set of rules that directly affect this. I'm not a fan of most "social encounter" rules that I've seen. It might be my improv training, but I like characters to have complete freedom to speak to the highest level of the player's intelligence, rather than having the dice tell me they farted in front of the King just because they rolled a 1. 

I think this aligns with the opinion of many other OSR folk—player skill over character skill. I believe that most people (being social animals) are intelligent and empathetic and completely capable of having meaningful discussions in character: arguing, debating, discussing, and convincing. As referee I don't have "solutions" in mind for social encounters. Just like I often don't have solutions in mind for dungeon encounters. You're allowed to surprise me by using acid from a trap in one room to dissolve the lock in another. You're also allowed to surprise me by noticing the huge nose wart on the Marquis and implying his mother is a witch, therefore making him submit to your demands in court. 

Keeping all this in mind, I've been tinkering with a simple rule set. This is not finished but also I probably never will finish it, but I wanted to get it out there anyways. 

"Let's go convince that foreign Baron to lend Grandmother money for a siege engine."
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Noble Cousin Quest: the Rules

Creating a Noble Cousin:

  1. Choose a row off the Quality/Vigour Table. Item Slots = 10+V. 
  2. Choose a row off the Acumen/Charisma Table. Links = 10+C.
  3. Note Equipment:
    • One Light Weapon (d6 damage; 1 slot).
    • Cloth Armour (1 Armour; 2 slots).
    • Silver Jewelry (1 Jewelry; 0 slots).
    • Roll for Inheritance (d66).
    • Roll for Tool (d20). 

























Inheritance (d66)

11. 1000 Iron Ball Bearings

12. Bolt Cutters

13. Book of Poetry

14. Book (Blank)

15. Brass Bell

16. Bugle

21. Butterfly Net

22. Chess Set

23. Compass

24. Crystal Goblet

25. Deck of Cards

26. Fishing Rod & Tackle

31. Firelighter

32. Fur Cloak

33. Glass Goggles

34. Grappling Hook

35. Hand Mirror

36. Hourglass

41. Loaded Dice

42. Lockpick Set

43. Lute

44. Magnifying Glass

45. Manacles & Key

46. Pack Mule

51. Padlock & Key

52. Perfume

53. Prehensile Tail

54. Ring with Secret Compartment

55. Scary Animal Mask

56. Silver Holy Symbol

61. Small but Vicious Dog

62. Small Magnet

63. Spyglass

64. Trained Hawk

65. Waterproof Scroll Case

66. Whistle

Tool Table (d20)

  1. Bucket

  2. Chisel

  3. Chain, 10ft

  4. Chalk, 10 Pieces

  5. Crowbar

  6. Fishing Net

  7. Glue Jar

  8. Hammer

  9. Iron Tongs

  10. Lantern + Oil

  11. Large Sack

  12. Metal File

  13. Pick

  14. Pole, 10ft

  15. Pot of Grease

  16. Rope, 50ft

  17. Saw

  18. Shovel

  19. Spikes, 5

  20. Steel Wire


Represents ability to undertake general tasks, especially those that require dexterity, physical prowess, or skill with the hand. Includes riding a horse, jumping across a creek, pickpocketing a neighbour, dodging a spell, lifting a large stone, or forging a horseshoe. When testing your Quality, roll 2d6. A result less than your Quality is a success; more is a failure. 


Represents your vitality and fighting spirit. Add your Vigour to your Hit Points (HP) and damage rolls during combat. 

Item Slots

You have a number of Item Slots equal to 10 plus your Vigour. Everything you carry must fit into these slots. Most items take up one slot. Larger ones might take up more. Items small enough to fit inside your closed mouth take up no slots. If you have a horse they can carry 10 more Slots worth of items, but it takes a full minute to access anything in your horse's bag. 


Represents your ability to undertake mental tasks, especially those that require poise, intelligence, or cunning. Includes knowledge of spells and sorceries, ability to bribe knights and guards, tinkering with delicate machinery, tracking game, or persuading allies. When testing your Acumen, roll 2d6. A result less than your Acumen is a success; more is a failure. 


Represents your force of personality and charm. Add your Charisma to your Repute (RP) and damage rolls during an argument or social encounter. 


You have a number of Links equal to 10 plus your Charisma. A Link is a social connection to a non-player character (NPC) that your character has. These can be friends, allies, or enemies. During play, you can declare any NPC to be a Link, until you've named all your Links. A friend will help you and an ally will assist you. Enemies will try to hinder you but you know a valuable truth about them. 

Hit Points (HP)

You have Hit Points equal to your Quality plus Vigour. This represents your fatigue in battle. Damage from weapons and many spells subtracts from your HP. Armour worn reduces incoming damage. Once your HP reaches 0, you start taking damage to your Quality value. Any time you take damage to your Quality, you must roll Quality. A failure means you acquire a Wound (roll on the Death & Dismemberment table). Once your Quality reaches zero, you die. Resting for an hour and having lunch restores all HP. Healing damage to Quality requires a full night's rest somewhere safe. 

Repute (RP)

You have Repute equal to your Acumen plus Charisma. This represents your reputation and social standing. Damage in arguments or social encounters subtracts from your RP. Jewelry worn reduces incoming damage. Once your RP reaches 0, you start taking damage to your Acumen value. Any time you take damage to your Acumen, you must roll Acumen. A failure means you acquire an Ostracism (roll on the Ostracism table). Once your Acumen reaches zero, you are socially exiled and everyone will shun you forevermore. Retreating from the sight of others for one hour restores all RP. Healing damage to your Acumen requires a full night's rest away from prying eyes. 


Works pretty much like Into the Odd. Attacks hit automatically and roll damage based on the weapon. Armour reduces incoming damage, usually by one point for each two Item Slots of armour you're wearing. Fast and deadly. You better be wearing plate armour if you're fighting a dragon. 

Arguments & Social Encounters

You can always role-play things sentence by sentence. But when everyone agrees to move into an official "Argument & Social Encounter" stance, things work a little differently. You can attack with a social weapon, which rolls a damage die (d6 or d8) based on its power. Damage is dealt to Repute (RP) which is an abstraction for social standing in a given situation. Before you engage in a Social Encounter, you must acquire a social weapon specific to the situation. A d6 weapon is something like an insecurity, insult, argument, etc. In an argument with a Duke, you can roll a d6 of damage if you know that he's sensitive about his large nose. This means you can imply that he has a big nose, therefore dealing d6 damage. A d8 of damage requires some dark secret which requires some work to dig up. You can roll a d8 of damage against the Duke if you uncover the fact that he has an illegitimate daughter hidden in a mountain village.

There is also social 'armour,' which takes the form of Jewelry. Not all jewelry counts as Jewelry. It's special. This definitely needs playtesting, I'm not really sure how it would work. I just like the symmetry between the violent combat and social combat systems.  

Wilderness Travel

When travelling overland, the referee will give you a map gridded with hexagons. Each hex contains one main point of interest. When you learn about new locations (from rumours, etc.), the referee will mark them on your map. 

Each day has three phases: 
1. Start with Morning Preparation
2. Choose: Travel/Search/Explore
3. Finish with Camp. 

Morning Preparation. Break camp, prepare spells, choose activity for the day: Travel, Search, Explore. 

Travel. Moving from one hex to another takes one full day of travel. You automatically find the main point of interest within the hex upon entering. During Travel, the referee will roll two encounter checks (one for morning, and one for afternoon/evening). 

Search. You can spend a full day searching the hex you are in. You will find all hidden locations within it—or at least clues leading to them. The referee will roll two encounter checks, morning and aft/eve. 

Explore. You spend the day visiting a location inside the hex and exploring it. This can be the main point of interest, or a hidden location you previously found. The referee will not roll a wilderness encounter check, but may roll other encounter dice if you are exploring a dungeon or other dangerous locale. 

Camp. Set up camp for the night. This might be in a safe location, or simply in the wilderness. Mark off water and rations for the day (one per person). The referee might roll a special nighttime encounter check, which has a very small chance of a midnight encounter. It is assumed you are setting a watch, and if there is an encounter the referee will roll randomly to see who was on watch. 

Horses & Mules
Unless you are on well-maintained roads, horses don’t really travel much faster than travellers on foot. However, they can help you carry more gear and arrive at your destination less tired. Pack mules and other animals can also assist with transporting gear. 

Other Rules

Magic. This might need a part II. Not really sure how it would work. Maybe limited to just magic items and have real spellcasting be limited to old fuddy duddy wizard uncles or something. 

Probably Something Else Obvious I'm Forgetting. Role-playing games always have too many rules anyways, so I'll stop here. 

Couple of disdainful cousins right here. 
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1 comment:

  1. This looks great! I would say you're probably leaning too close to OSR standard rules, though. Overland exploration and dungeon delving doesn't really fit with the characters.

    Also, I love the list of possible quests just because I find it really hard to come up with those kinds of things. Thanks!