Hi all, I'm new here -- and generally new to complicated board games in general. I used to play pen and paper RPGs in my youth, but from moving from place to place, I lost contact with my old gaming group.
I have recently started to play more expensive, complex board games. I currently own Last Night on Earth, Arkham Horror, and Mansions of Madness. My least favorite is Arkham Horror -- I was hoping it would be similar to the Call of Cthulhu RPG by Chaosium. And, seeing as I am the only one in my house that is remotely interested in Lovecraft, I could not convince my family members to be patient with the complex rules and just enjoy the game.
Then, Mansions of Madness came out and I see a lot of promise with this becoming my new favorite game. It appears to be much more like the CoC RPG than Arkham Horror. A few quibbles with the game from my players, however, have caused me to work on changing the way we play.
1. Most of our gaming sessions would end with the investigators losing -- and never really figuring out what the hell was going on to begin with. The clues and event cards seemed very vague with the details. This left a "we just wasted a shitload of time" taste in everyone's mouths.
2. The mechanics of the game seemed to draw away from a lot of realism.
a. The investigators walk into a house they have never been in before (supposedly -- depending on the scenario, I suppose), and yet they know where all the rooms are, which doors are locked, and even the locations of "hidden" passages.
b. Exploring a room allows the first investigator through the door to pick up all the loot, as if it were just sitting in a pile right inside the doorway. This caused my investigators to almost always break up so they could go to rooms that were unexplored by other investigators. This is fine, but when you come across a scenario (like "Return of the Re-animator" in the Forbidden Alchemy expansion) that allows the investigators to win if they "escape the graveyard", but only one investigator is actually in the graveyard, it kind of brings the game to an abrupt end with no one really knowing what the hell was happening.
3. Investigators always knew what nefarious plots the Keeper was up to when they would see him place monsters in rooms that the investigators were nowhere near. (A group of zombies rise up in the graveyard, a shoggoth appears at an altar, etc.) This took away a lot of the suspense.
Therefore, I have begun to make my first adaptation to the game. First off, I wrote my own scenario and built my own mansion, stocked it with items, keys, puzzles, obstacles, traps, and monsters. Whenever an investigator enters the room, I will read a brief description of what they see in that room, giving them hints where or what to explore. Here are a few more specific alterations to the rules:
1. Map tiles will only be revealed when an investigator enters that room.
2. Exploration cards will only be revealed with a successful search roll (intellect + half of investigator’s luck, rounding up).
3. Investigators must be on the space where the exploration card is, not simply in the room.
4. Investigators can only pick up one exploration card item at a time. This allows other investigators in the room to find things.
5. Certain monsters are “pre-placed” on the board and will only be revealed if an investigator enters the room where the monster is located. These monsters do not move from their locations on the Keeper’s turn until they are discovered. (Explanation: The monsters are unaware of the investigators’ presence until they see one another. All of the pre-placed monsters are locked in their current locations, or are “busy” doing something in the room in which they are located).
6. Some exploration items can only be found upon killing a monster. For example, a maniac running around the mansion might have an axe on him, or he might be carrying that key to the locked cabinet in the bathroom. Investigators can use one of their actions to search a fallen monster (if it hasn't de-materialized, as would be the case with a Hound of Tindalos).
7. There will be no event deck in this first scenario. I want to give the investigators leisure to explore the mansion, and to take away the timed element (which is just another way for the Keeper to win, even though it adds a nice sense of urgency).
8. Because my friends often choose the same investigator to play throughout the various scenarios, I am planning on giving them a reward for surviving the scenario that they can use with the same investigator in future scenarios (such as a skill point bonus, an increase in certain stats, or an extra starting item).
Anyway, as you can probably figure, I have changed the game from focusing on strategy to story -- basically as an attempt to turn it into the CoC RPG with the game elements of MoM. As the Keeper, I am not so concerned with winning. I desire my investigators to win, and to feel as if they have experienced a story in as realistic a way as possible without resorting to re-purchasing all of the old CoC compendiums and adventures.
Since this is my first attempt at altering the game in this way, if you can think of any problems I might come across while playing, please let me know! I would hate for my game to get going, only to grind to a halt because of some unforeseen setback.
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While reading through this, I was all set to tell you that you were setting your investigators up to lose and heavily weighting the game towards the keeper, but then you mentioned you'd leave out the event deck. The changes you've made are well thought out and should make for a more story-indulgent game, but will cause the game to take longer. This should be fine, though, if you leave out the event deck, so the investigators aren't under a time limit. However, the event deck also usually provides a way for the investigators to see the objective card. How are you going to work that? The investigators' entire purpose is to find out what's written on that card. Another thing to think about is that with the game taking longer, the keeper will be gaining much more threat overall and can thus punish the investigators even more harshly. You may want to think about lowering the keeper's threat gain each turn. Especially since you plan to have monsters spawn in rooms for free, surprising the investigators. Since you are not allowing investigators to pick up each card in a room on a single turn, perhaps the keeper should only gain threat every other turn.
Ah! Nice call on the "threat pool" element. I will get to that in a minute. First, I want to talk about the "Objective" card you mentioned.
I am not sure my system would work with the pre-made scenarios one can purchase from Fantasy Flight. As I said, I had to write my own scenario in order for this to work. I am basically using the elements of MoM to have my players role play through a Lovecraftian storyline of my own creation.
Here is the "The Story so Far" segment of my scenario.
The Story So Far …
You and your party arrive in Arkham at the West Church Chapel at the appointed time. You know that Inspector Hale isn’t a religious man, and you wonder why he called you to this place, cold and shrouded in the shadow of Hangman’s Hill to the west, instead of a warm and inviting pub in the center of town.
Hale’s telegram provided little in the way of clues:
“Please come to Arkham (stop). Matter of life and death (stop). Meet at West Church Chapel 6:00 pm Saturday (stop). Inspector Hale (stop).”
You had first met Hale through a run-in with the Arkham Police Department on one of your earliest excursions. The things you had seen together – and the things Hale had seen you do to those things – had caused the inspector to treat you and your team as a resource, if not a last resort, when dealing with cases involving the bizarre and arcane.
Never before had he seemed quite as desperate as now.
After double-checking your equipment, you step out of (Investigator’s) Model T, turning your collar up against the cold, and head inside the chapel.
Keeper’s Note: Place chapel tile and investigators right inside door opposite of altar. Also, place a character token not in use by the players as Investigator Hale in one of the chapel pews. A search of the chapel will reveal “Crucifix”. A second successful search will reveal “Saturnian Wine”.
The candle-lit chapel is empty, save for the Inspector, who approaches you with an outstretched hand. You shake it, although preferring to by-pass formalities, and Hale begins to speak as he ushers you to a nearby pew.
“Thank you for responding to my telegram. You know I wouldn’t ask you to travel out here if your expertise wasn’t needed. The fact is, the department is at its wits end, and I have nowhere to turn without putting my job in jeopardy – which is one of the reasons I had you meet me here, where I knew we wouldn’t be seen together.
To get straight to the point, there has been a marked increase in missing persons reports around Arkham -- 12 within the past month. Despite every departmental effort, not one of the missing people had been recovered … not until Rebecca Marsh, the fifth person reported missing, was spotted wandering down Pickman Street, completely deranged. She was carrying a rusted sickle, which she used to assault Old Mrs. Bailey who was on her way home from shopping. A couple of strong men in the area managed to subdue Becky and hold her down until my boys got there. Mrs. Baily was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital. She needed several stitches, but she survived.
As for Rebecca, she managed to break free from her restraining officers and attacked them with such force that she had to be put down. She didn’t look right – apart from being crazy. She had some sort of mossy growth around her lips and on her tongue. Autopsy results found some kind of parasitic fungus had taken root in her brain, and spread throughout her nervous system. It seemed to have been trying to alter Rebecca’s cellular structure – and given more time, there’s no telling what it might have turned her into.
Anyway, the reason I asked you here is because I can really go no further in this investigation myself. Not officially, that is. All I have is circumstantial evidence and a really big hunch – nothing that any sane judge would sign a warrant for.
About a month and a half ago, Professor Armitage at the Miskatonic University library reported one of their occult tomes, De Vermis Mysteriis, to have gone missing from the archives. Only university faculty have access to that particular collection. Approximately a week later, Dr. Emmanuel Goodwin, the renowned botanist -- a botanist, mind you – applied, and was approved for, a research sabbatical. It was about two weeks after Dr. Goodwin left the University did the first missing persons report come in.
I went up to Dr. Goodwin’s mansion after Rebecca Marsh’s autopsy, but he didn’t answer when I knocked. And without a search warrant, my hands were pretty much tied. That’s where you come in.
Keeper’s Note: At this point in the story, Richard Collins, a named maniac, bursts through the chapel door wielding an axe and attacks the group. Following the fight, a search of the body will reveal “axe”. If investigators find this item here, it will not be available on the “Front Path” tile. If they do not find it, they can find it on the Front Path tile.
Inspector Hale approaches the body and flips it onto its back. He sighs and says, “That’s Richard Collins, all right. He was the fourth person to have gone missing. Look at his mouth. You see that? It’s that moss that I was telling you about. Listen, I think something seriously wrong is going on at Dr. Goodwin’s place. Head up there, though the woods past Hangman’s Hill. You can gain access easier than I can – we’ll work out your explanation for going there later. I’ve got to stay here and process this body. Now go!”
Your party piles back into the Model T and, after a short drive west down Aylesbury Street, you turn south into the woods behind Hangman’s Hill. The bare tree branches reach like skeletal claws over the bumpy road. Soon, Dr. Goodwin’s mansion looms in the distance, a shadowy behemoth silhouetted against the night sky. You park the car at the end of a long footpath and, gear in hand, make your way to the front porch.
That's the introduction.
The objective for the investigators is made very clear here -- find out what is happening at Dr. Goodwin's place. The investigators will essentially move throughout the mansion, gathering clues and keys telling them where to go next as the story is slowly unveiled through these clues. They will be attacked by more maniacs as they open bathroom doors and explore the tower loft, they'll come across zombies locked in closets and holding cells, and, among other things, they will have to deal with a nasty Cthonian that has burrowed up through the greenhouse floor. Just as in the base game, investigators cannot proceed throughout the mansion until they have explored certain areas first, giving them the key to pass through locked areas in the mansion. Eventually, they will be lead to the rooftop, where Dr. Goodwin awaits (the "Lead Cultist" figurine). He'll attack them, they'll attack back -- after killing him, his body will sprout a shoggoth that they will have to deal with. If they defeat it, they win. If not, the Keeper wins.
And about the Keeper winning -- I am almost always the Keeper. When it comes to playing with my friends, I am more concerned that they are having a good time than I am with winning the game. I want them to essentially feel like they have played through a story, not racing against a clock and a sadistic Keeper who is constantly throwing nastiness at them. So, about the idea of "Threat" … I plan to simply use threat as a means to build atmosphere. The Keeper Action cards I am using for this scenario are: "Mutagen Testing" and "Harvest Organs" from the Forbidden Alchemy expansion, and "Evil Presence", "Raise Dead", and "Creature of the Night" cards from the base set. The cards from Forbidden Alchemy are really for story purposes (alien fungus and whatnot -- although, creating a byakhee with mutagen testing is cool), and the others are simply to allow me to move monsters, create new ones (zombies), and draw mythos and trauma cards (which I intend to use fairly liberally).
That's it! Perhaps I will record our session and post a video of how it went. We'll be playing this Saturday.
Well, what you've done is not an easy task, so I hope it goes well!! It sounds like fun, so let us know how it goes!
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