So, there’s this game, Goblin Quest by Grant Howitt, which is ridiculously silly, and therefore also loads of fun. I really like the quest/task structure it provides for arranging a complete story and how it handles multiple expendable characters. But would the game be even better if it could be played over multiple sessions? I imagine that Goblin Quest could be a good system to tell stories about more persistent groups of semi-competent subordinates like the Horde characters occasionally used as point-of-view in She-Ra or the crew of Star Trek: Lower Decks (although the Goblin Quest rules already contain a hack for one-shots in that setting). I came up with the rules hacks below to add some longevity and variety to characters in the game (but not too much longevity) to find out whether the system can successfully follow an ensemble over a longer period. The hacks can be used together or separately, but all require a reading of the base Goblin Quest rules, which can be purchased at this link.
The Great Battle Camp setting of Goblin Quest is also wonderfully silly, but I’m not sure it would be conducive to longer stories with these hacks because of the short lifespan of goblins and the animosity between different groups in the camp, so I would recommend using the hacks below in the setting liked best by you and your group. Personally, I have a setting in mind with a more structured, somewhat office-like castle for the players to inhabit, ruled by a sorceress with the power to transmogrify other living things to her whims who is middle management in the armies of evil and whose demented and/or adorable creations can be found scattered all over the castle.
In Goblin Quest, you have a clutch of goblins that are all very closely related and only live about a week. For interesting longer term play, we will need to branch out and consider a cast with more variety. To this end, all of the player characters are part of a group called the Horde (or party, gang, scooby squad, or what have you). There will be a great many characters in the Horde – more than can participate in a single scene – and these form a sort of shared stable of characters that players can draw from as needed. Instead of playing a goblin continuously until their death, at the start of each scene players can select any character from the Horde to play for that scene. It is polite to ask the creator of a character for permission before picking up that character to play.
When a character dies in the course of a scene, the player can immediately call up another character from the Horde’s bench by describing how they stumbled onto the events taking place. I recommend starting with a Horde with at least three times as many characters as players in order to accommodate this occurrence. If a player swaps a current character for a different one at the start of a new scene, the character returned to the bench retains any injuries that they have, but all characters in the Horde will heal their injuries at the end of the game session.
The best part about the Horde is that it can grow by the power of friendship! Although these goblins may be part of an evil army bent on world domination, we like the characters we follow to be friendly and sympathetic. To encourage this behavior and allow a sustained cycling cast of characters in our Horde, any time players make friends with a NPC, they can be added to the Horde. Goblin Quest has rules for playing as NPCs that can be used, or if using the Power and Character Aspects hacks below, fill those out when adding the character to the Horde.
Congratulations, you have a stat! Your stat is Power, which is set on character creation, and it can be any integer value you want greater than zero. Your Power determines how many dice you roll when attempting a task. If you have 1 Power, you roll 1 die, 3 Power, 3 dice, and so on. This helps describe varying levels of strength among different members of the Horde, which might include goblins, redshirts, orcs, unicorns, scorpion-human hybrids, and any number of other things. The default goblin in Goblin Quest has 1 Power. A friendly elder god might have 100 Power and be able to accomplish any task (and subsequently get banished from this plane of existence). Practically, Power levels above 10 probably won’t do much for you.
The goblins in Goblin Quest have some fairly goblin-specific traits that help them out. These are their Quirk, Dream, Expertise, Ancestral Heirloom, and Defining Feature. Fortunately, these map really well onto Fate Core’s Aspects, so instead of having all the characters in the Horde be goblins, you can have the characters be whatever you want and give them up to five Character Aspects that can be invoked for the same benefits as Goblin Quest’s Quirk, Dream, Expertise, Ancestral Heirloom, and Defining Feature. Players can invoke these aspects for free to aid in any task that they would be appropriate for by describing how the Aspect is relevant. In order to speed character creation, I recommend limiting Character Aspects to one High Concept and two other open-ended Aspects; thinking of a full five can be time consuming.
In the types of stories I’m trying to replicate here, like the animated shows mentioned at the top of the page, there are of course many characters who fall or die for one reason or another, but there are also usually a few central viewpoint characters who stick around and we see develop relationships with those around them. There are a couple ways to manage persisting a character: one is to make sure there are always expendable characters around to sacrifice for rerolls according to Goblin Quest rules; another way is to artificially mark the character as having a little bit more survivability. One way to accommodate the second option is to have a special rule where characters with exactly 1 Power get one additional injury box so that three injuries are needed to kill them. This accentuates the tradeoff for increased Power and ensures that only our most incompetent, lovable characters get additional survivability.
In the hacks above, I’ve sprinkled in a few concepts from Fate Core to enhance character building (Aspects and extra stress boxes), but we can go further.
Goblin Quest provides for a variety of ‘lucky’ items to help the goblins out; these lucky items could be replaced with Fate Points, in which case players would start a session with one Fate Point each. Using Fate Points for luck would also allow for players to compel each other’s Aspects in order to give each other more Fate Points. Unlike Fate Points in Fate itself, these Fate Points would not be exchanged to invoke aspects, but only to reroll dice (no aspect required) or to declare story details (although in Goblin Quest you can usually do this without a Fate Point).
The Goblin Quest rules describe outcomes when attempting tasks based on the numbers shown on faces of 6-sided dice. These outcomes can be mapped onto Fate dice if desired with ‘1’,’ 2′ = ‘-‘ and ‘5’, ‘6’ = ‘+’. If taking this approach, then whenever a blank face (‘3’, ‘4’) is rolled, a Situation Aspect would be added to the scene with one free invocation that would grant the same benefits as invoking a character aspect.
Another way the game could be made more Fate-like is by changing injuries to consequences. Fate has specifically defined rates of healing for each level of consequence, which would mean injured characters would need to spend a session or two on the bench to recover rather that healing all injuries at the end of the session as described above. If each character can take two consequences then this also increases the maximum durability of characters because with Goblin Quest injuries a character dies when their second injury is taken, but with Fate consequences a character dies when they would take a consequence but have already filled all their consequence slots.