The Night Before Questmas

The Night Before Questmas is a GMless, push-your-luck storytelling game where you play as drunk, old Skalds recounting tales of your favourite heroes.

Special thanks to Finn Weldin for their expert services as a sensitivity reader.

You can PWYW for this title on DriveThruRPG or itch.io, or download a free PDF here. To get early access to monthly games, support me on Patreon.

ale mug

It’s the night before Questmas, and all through the tavern

The Skalds have all gathered and filled up their flagons.

With mead in their bellies and tales in their heads

They squabble over deeds done by heroes long dead…

Sword with blade in ground

QUESTMAS is the most exciting time of the year, when great heroes begin quests that will echo through the ages. On THE NIGHT BEFORE QUESTMAS, folk gather in taverns and bars to hear the Skalds tell the greatest stories ever told.

Some stories, however, are old and the Skalds’ aren’t getting any younger either. Their memories aren’t what they used to be. Fights often break out as storytellers struggle to remember which stories belong to their hero and which to another’s…

How To Play

THE NIGHT BEFORE QUESTMAS is a GMless push-your-luck storytelling game, where players take on the role of Skalds regaling each other with tales of great HEROES.

Skalds build HEROES and their adventuring parties, bid to claim a story as their own, work together to expand on story prompts, and test their HEROES in dangerous and exciting quests.

To play, you will need:

  • 10d6 that all Skalds have access to
  • A way to write things down

Work your way through the sections to create your HERO, seed a STORY, then tell the tale of their heroic quest. Continue this until you are weary of talking, or have each told at least 2 STORIES.

ale mug

Creating a Hero

To become a STORYTELLER, you need a HERO to claim quests for. Choose your HERO’s pronouns and give them a heroic name like REYON THE BLOODY-HANDED.

Next, roll, pick, or make up answers to fill out details about your HERO. When you’re done, introduce them to the group by completing this sentence:

[NAME] is [CLASS]. [PRONOUN] is/are [1], [2] & [3].

D66CLASS
11-13AN ARCANE SCRIVENER
14-16A DIVINE SOLDIER
21-23A WARRIOR POET
24-26A MARTIAL CHAMPION
31-33A HAND-TO-HAND SPIRITUALIST
34-36A NATURAL MYSTIC
41-43A HARDBOILED SHARPSHOOTER
44-46A LONGKNIVED VAGABOND
51-53A VULGAR JUGGERNAUT
54-56A TINKERING THAUMATURGE
61-63A BONDED OCCULTIST
64-66AN ENIGMATIC HINTERLANDER

Your HERO is accompanied by a FOLLOWERS, who fight alongside them for a chance at GLORY and riches.

Once you’ve created your HERO, describe up to two FOLLOWERS, who accompany them on their QUESTS. Decide on their pronouns, then give them modest names and brief descriptions.

D66123
11-12BEAUTIFULSKINNYBEGUILING
13-14CHISELLEDLITHEEBULLIENT
15-16HANDSOMEWIRYEFFERVESCENT
21-22GORGEOUSSVELTEENCHANTING
23-24FETCHINGSCRAWNYELEGANT
25-26STRIKINGCUTGRACEFUL
31-32CRAGGYMUSCLE-BOUNDCOMPOSED
33-34RUGGEDBEEFYGENTLE
35-36GRIZZLEDTHICKJOLLY
41-42HAGGARDHEFTYIMPISH
43-44GAUNTROTUNDROGUISH
45-46GNARLEDGIANTTROUBLESOME
51-52GROTESQUEGARGANTUANDISAGREEABLE
53-54DEMONICPOCKMARKEDBROODING
55-56ANGELICWOADEDMENACING
61-62FEYTATTOOEDWICKED
63-64BESTIALSCARREDFIENDISH
65-66MONSTROUSBRANDEDTERRIFYING
Wizard hat with Santa pom pom

Claiming a Story

Create a HERO, using the CREATING A HERO section, then take it in turns to offer story titles using the CREATING A STORY section. When you offer a STORY, you get an automatic first bid of 3d6 – place these in the centre. At that point, anyone who wants to claim the STORY can bid for it, by adding d6 to the centre.

Go round the table, starting with the Skald to the left of the story’s creator. If you want to try and claim a story, you must bid at least 1d6 higher than the current bid. Bids cannot go higher than 10d6. The higher the bid, the more dangerous the STORY becomes.

If you win the bid, by either bidding up to 10d6 or no one raising against your bid, you become the STORYTELLER and may claim the STORY for your HERO.

Once the STORYTELLER has been decided, begin the TELLING A TALE section.

Creating a Story

When you’ve made created your HERO and their FOLLOWERS, take it in turns to claim the STORIES you create.

When you create a STORY, fill in the gaps by rolling on each side of the table and read out the phrase below:

It’s Questmas Eve and I have a fine tale!

Who remembers the story of the [ADJECTIVE] [NOUN]?

ADJECTIVED66NOUN
LOST11-13FOREST
BROKEN14-16MOUNTAIN
FALLEN21-23CAVERN
DROWNED24-26CASTLE
ABANDONED31-33CITY
RUINED34-36TEMPLE
WHISPERING41NECROMANCER
MISERABLE42HAG
VENGEFUL43PALADIN
HUNTED44PRIEST
SORROWFUL45SORCERER
UNFORGIVING46MAGE
PROFANE51FEY
SAVAGE52FIEND
TWISTED53ANGEL
DYING54DAEMON
FOUL55DRAGON
DOOMED56GOD
ROTTEN61ABYSS
CORRUPTED62SUN
TAINTED63MOON
POLLUTED64PLANET
BLIGHTED65STAR
CURSED66NEBULA

Once you’ve created a STORY, go to CLAIMING A STORY to try a claim it for your HERO.

Telling a Tale

Once you’ve established yourself as STORYTELLER, it’s time to tell the tale. Begin by saying what your HERO set out to achieve and how their quest began.

Your HERO will be tested as part of the STORY. The more dice in your bid, the more CHALLENGES they will face and the more dangerous their quest will be.

Skalds who are not the STORYTELLER take it in turn to generate CHALLENGES for the HERO equal to the number of dice bid (a 4d6 bid means a story has 4 CHALLENGES, a 5d6 bid has 5 CHALLENGES etc.)

When it’s your turn to create a CHALLENGE, roll on the table and work the challenge into the story established so far.

D66CHALLENGE
11-16FIGHTING
21-26JOURNEYING
31-36DELVING
41-43BARGAINING
44-46SWINDLING
51-53CREATING
54-56LEARNING
61PUZZLING
62POLITICKING
63CURSING
64REBELLING
65ENCHANTING
66SUMMONING

The STORYTELLER then rolls all the dice for their BID and calculates the total, to see how well their HERO handled the CHALLENGE. Apply the result in the table below and describe what your HERO does and what happens next.

TOTALRESULTFALLOUT
1-11PERFECTLY – None could have done it betterRecover 1 FALLOUT
12-20EXPERTLY – With wit & cunning, they triumphedNONE
21-30ADEQUATELY – This didn’t need a hero’s touchSuffer 1 FALLOUT
31-39POORLY – Not this hero’s finest hourSuffer 2 FALLOUT
40-50REALLY QUITE BADLY – An embarrassing slipSuffer 3 FALLOUT
51-60EXTREMELY BADLY – A stain on their honourSuffer 4 FALLOUT

Once all the CHALLENGES are complete, the story is over and the HERO achieves their goal and receives GLORY.

dark, intimidating tower

Fallout

HEROES and their FOLLOWERS begin each STORY with 0 FALLOUT. When things do not go so well for HEROES and their FOLLOWERS, they suffer FALLOUT.

FALLOUT represents all manner of things that can harm an adventuring party, like their threshold for damage, endurance over a long journey, reputation, supplies etcWhen FALLOUT is taken as the result of a ROLL, it can be shared between members of an adventuring party.

HEROES can suffer a maximum of 10 FALLOUT.

The first time a HERO reaches their maximum FALLOUT, they receive a SCAR and reduce their maximum FALLOUT threshold by 2. The second time they reach their maximum, something occurs to end their career; whether it’s death, a gruesome injury, total embarrassment, etc. 

FOLLOWERS can suffer a maximum of 3 FALLOUT.

When a FOLLOWER reaches their maximum FALLOUT, something occurs to end their career; whether it’s death, a gruesome injury, total embarrassment, etc.

Glory, Loot & New Followers

When HEROES complete a quest, they gain GLORY equal to the number of CHALLENGES faced. GLORY can be kept, or spent on LOOT or new FOLLOWERS.

LOOT can be used on quests. Better LOOT costs more GLORY. When you claim LOOT, pay the cost in the table below and describe your LOOT to the group.

COSTLOOTPOWER
3A mundane, but useful itemRe-roll one dice
6A master crafted itemRe-roll two dice
7An item with a spark of magicReduce any one dice to a result of 1
8A divine or wondrous itemReduce any two dice to results of 1

When your HERO uses their LOOT, state how they use it and how it helps them, if it does.

New FOLLOWERS can be hired for 4 GLORY each. When you hire a new FOLLOWER, give them pronouns, a name, and a brief description as in CREATING A HERO.

When the night is over and all of the Skalds have told of their HERO’s death, or have tired of talking, the HERO with the most accrued GLORY is honoured at the Questmas Feast.