Divine Trappings: Quests and Trials

Quests and trials are structurally almost the same thing. A task of some sort is set before the questor/trial candidate, who will strive to complete it.

The difference lies in the intent behind the task. A quest is to try to achieve something, working toward a goal or purpose. A trial is a test of some sort, and success or failure is determined on how the candidate completes the trial, as much as or more than whether the task is completed successfully.

There’s a great Usagi Yojimbo story from when he was training with Katsuichi, and said something about how farmers should be happy to give them their produce instead of charging for it, since growing vegetables is so easy. To instill some humility in his protégé, Katsuichi set him a test: plant these seeds and grow the produce, and his continued status as a student depends on the outcome. Usagi worked on his garden for months, telling Katsuichi things were fine, even though nothing was growing. Toward the end of the test he was tempted to steal some of the farmers’ produce and present that as what he grew, then realized that was wrong and confessed to his master that nothing could grow. “Indeed. The test was not of your skill as a farmer, but of your integrity. I boiled the seeds before giving them to you.”

If this had been a quest, Usagi failed. As a trial, Usagi succeeded (though he did lie to his master, he confessed at the end and was forgiven).

In Divine Trappings, I expect to have suggestions for quests and trials. These can be related to the other elements of the aspect (the bonds and alliances and so on).

For that matter, I think I need to adjust the elements of the domain aspects, to add ‘purpose’: what the deity wishes to achieve. Dogma is what followers are taught, tenets are what followers tend to believe, duties are ongoing activities, obediences are how followers demonstrate compliance, quests and trials are specific tasks, and purpose is the reason for almost all of these.

A couple of years ago I distilled the covenant terms down to six (I should’ve gone back to my Patrons of Low Fantasy series earlier, it’s very related to what I’m doing now).

  1. Support person or group, work in the best interests (not necessarily in an appreciated way) of a specific person, nation or other group.
  2. Promote condition, bring about a particular condition such as war, renaissance, Golden Age, or the like.
  3. Promote ideal, increase the effect or presence of (a probably abstract) ideal such as good, evil, law, chaos.
  4. Oppose person or group, deny the desires of the target, or destroy the target altogether.
  5. Oppose condition, prevent the condition from coming about, or reduce it if it exists.
  6. Oppose ideal, diminish the effect or presence of an ideal.

Not all deities will have all of these (indeed, patrons in Patrons of Low Fantasy have only three altogether), but the domain aspect can suggest options based on these topics.

From there, I can develop specific goals that can be the target of quests or trials, supporting the above purposes. Again from Patrons of Low Fantasy, I developed a table that gives me ways to formulate them.


Roll a d8 and a d6, and you’ve got the basis of a quest goal. Determine the nature of the quest (destroy person), align it with the purpose (support person or group: protect sailors and explorers), and you get “eradicate pirates on the Fyrlaren Sea”.

Closing Comments

Looks like I’m changing domain aspects a bit, to add suggestions for purposes the domain might lend itself to. Adding ‘purposes’ to a deity gives me something I can hang other elements — dogmas and duties, quests and trials, and to some degree tenets — from.

These ‘purposes’ were an oversight, and not having them was causing me some trouble. I should reread my own work sometimes, because I mostly had this solved two years ago.

Ah well… it’s all good, I’m on a better track now.

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