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Mansions of Madness» Forums » Variants

Subject: Has anyone tried this? rss

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Sean Flynn
United States
Mississippi
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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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Bob Holmstrom
United States
Illinois
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Why not just play CoC and use the MoM components?
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Sean Flynn
United States
Mississippi
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I would, but I don't have ANY CoC materials anymore. Besides, with my current group, we rarely get to meet (maybe every third weekend), so when we do, we would like to play out a single sitting -- not make it a whole campaign. With my revisions, we can play almost like CoC without having to worry about all of the CoC rules, not having the right figurines for all of the monsters in CoC, and the entire game can play out in whatever building the investigators are exploring (they don't have to run around Arkham or Dunwich or Innsmouth, for example).

Although, in my first scenario, the game opens in West Church Chapel (an Arkham location). The opening scene takes place on the chapel tile where the investigators meet their informant. After a maniac bursts in through the chapel door (and a fight ensues), the investigators then go to the nearby mansion on the other side of Hangman's Hill. The chapel tile is removed from the table, and the front porch tile is placed.
 
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Bob Holmstrom
United States
Illinois
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If it works for you and your group that's great.
 
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Arthur Peterson
United States
Cane Ridge
TN
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I wish there was official support for this sort of thing. Expansions, etc. It would really add a lot to the game. I feel like I have to tweak the rules considerably to make it any fun at all for investigators.
 
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Sean Flynn
United States
Mississippi
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Agreed. It is difficult getting to people to play if they have to sit through an hour or so of setup, just to know that, even if they do win (unlikely), they won't really understand the entire story because of the vague clues and events. As the Keeper, I find myself holding back on all of the trauma and horror I could inflict on the investigators because it isn't fun for me just making it more difficult (and ultimately pointless) for them. If I am going to run a scenario, I want my players to have enjoyed themselves first and foremost.
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Nicola Zee
United Kingdom
Amersham
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You have identified 2 separate issues.

1. The sense of mystery
2. The coherence of the stories

The only change you've suggested which will help with coherence is getting rid of the Event deck but - as you've already pointed out - this removes the sense of urgency. If you want the investigators to get further how about this instead. If the investigator does a run action they move 2 spaces instead of 1. This will give them plenty of time to explore and dramatically increase their chance of winning.
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Bob Holmstrom
United States
Illinois
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zpeteman wrote:
I wish there was official support for this sort of thing. Expansions, etc. It would really add a lot to the game. I feel like I have to tweak the rules considerably to make it any fun at all for investigators.


I don't. If i wanted to play a RPG, i would. MoM is a competetive board game. If one wants to modify it to be a RPG that's fine, but i don't want to see any official support that way.
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Heiko Günther
Germany
Saarbrücken
Saarland
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I spent 100 GG so you can read this.
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You might be interested in this variant. Also, looking around in the variants forum, you might find other useful ones for your group.
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Sean Flynn
United States
Mississippi
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Wow. That thread offered some really interesting ideas. A little more complicated that I was planning, though. I like the idea of allowing investigators to have more moves so that they can get through the mansion quicker and uncover the entire story before the event deck ticks out, too. When I play according to base rules again (if I do ... we'll see how this upcoming session turns out), I will probably put the additional moves into practice.

I understand that MoM is not an RPG, and I realize I have other options if I wanted to play an RPG rather than a Party vs. Host competitive game. My point, however, was that I no longer HAVE any CoC materials to start a role-playing group, and I thought that MoM could be easily adapted to replace CoC -- particularly if the group isn't entirely interested in beginning full-blown campaigns. With the MoM components, I think any imaginative Keeper willing to put in the effort can write a storyline centered around nefarious goings-on in a mansion, and have the investigators explore that mansion with the sole objective of thwarting whatever nasty plot is at work there. Either the investigators survive and defeat the evil, or they don't (hence, no real need for an event deck revealing objectives).

I will post the single-sitting campaign I have written for my upcoming session if anyone is interested in trying it out themselves.

Thanks for all the feedback, guys.
 
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Guillaume Zork
France
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I think The Arctic Explorer, All-Saint Asylum and In the Dark, Dark Wood are scenarios you should enjoy playing. There are clearly story driven and not so hard for the investigators.

Check on this page.
 
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Nicola Zee
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Sawtooth Jack wrote:
Wow. That thread offered some really interesting ideas. A little more complicated that I was planning, though. I like the idea of allowing investigators to have more moves so that they can get through the mansion quicker and uncover the entire story before the event deck ticks out, too. When I play according to base rules again (if I do ... we'll see how this upcoming session turns out), I will probably put the additional moves into practice.

I understand that MoM is not an RPG, and I realize I have other options if I wanted to play an RPG rather than a Party vs. Host competitive game. My point, however, was that I no longer HAVE any CoC materials to start a role-playing group, and I thought that MoM could be easily adapted to replace CoC -- particularly if the group isn't entirely interested in beginning full-blown campaigns. With the MoM components, I think any imaginative Keeper willing to put in the effort can write a storyline centered around nefarious goings-on in a mansion, and have the investigators explore that mansion with the sole objective of thwarting whatever nasty plot is at work there. Either the investigators survive and defeat the evil, or they don't (hence, no real need for an event deck revealing objectives).

I will post the single-sitting campaign I have written for my upcoming session if anyone is interested in trying it out themselves.

Thanks for all the feedback, guys.

When younger I used to play a lot of CoC but nowadays I prefer board games. The experience may not be as intense (and possibly not as rewarding) but they take up a lot less time and its much easier to find players.

I should warn you its a lot harder to design a Mansions of Madness scenario than a CoC scenario. Firstly, if you make a CoC scenario unbalanced or put in a mistake a good keeper will easily adjust play to compensate. In Mansions a small screw-up can ruin a game. Secondly, the more story-based the scenarion is, the less replayable it is. Mansions scenarios are only partly story based so the same scenario can be replayed multiple times. Hence the vagueness and time limit.
 
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Jon Dennis
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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Narrative descriptions of rooms: I had lots of fun writing these for one scenario. My RPG friends loved it, but my BG/minis friends got confused by some unintentional red herrings in my descriptions. If you want a more immersive role-playing type experience, go for it!

Hiding the Tiles: I've tried a couple ways of doing this. Best way I've come up with is to buy some scrapbook paper that looks like antique wallpaper (much more thematic than white copy paper). Cut it into hallway-sized strips and cover up the map after placing all the cards. My players loved it.

Hidden Monsters: If you hide the unexplored tiles, it's pretty easy to secretly spawn monsters. Just make a note of what pops up. A more fair but less thematic way is to tell the players "A Cultist has appeared somewhere..." and set one in front of you, noting where it is in your head.
This leads to hilarious circumstances, like a player exploring a new tile and opening the door on four cultists and a Shoggoth. I give them the option of NOT going in the room (still have to make terror checks, though!)
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David Cart
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I have a lot of similar dissatisfactions about some things in MoM; here are some of my other posts on the subjects (full posts under Variants forum...these are abridged versions). I haven't used the advancement one much, though like it so far. We love the hidden tiles & cards one


(Investigator Advancement)
So one of the things which is a shame in MoM is that some of the cool things on finds in one adventure never can come up in other ones. Things like "The Cure" (From Death Due Us Part) and "Sword Of St. Jerome" (Forbidden Alchemy). This got me to thinking of a way to have advancement, and ways to use “treasure” from previous missions. This also would allow for extra abilities to be gained. This would be based on successful missions. I’d think of each successful mission as a level…3 successful missions = 3rd level character. Keeper would have to gain threats to try to make the missions from becoming too easy. So far, I was thinking something like this

11: INVESTIGATOR ADVANCEMENT: May take souvenirs you end the game with (won’t drop normal starting items for this). If a partner lets you use something during the mission, must return it afterwards unless you trade. May create a list: on the following adventure, may bring items (choose after the “story so far…” but before prologue…keeper gets extra 1 starting threat per weapon damage, 4 per tome/artifact, 2 per equipment). Limit of 4 total items, including starting ones. Souvenirs can be lost permanently during mission (not starting, though). Finder of the item gets to keep it, unless dead (leading to backstabbing perhaps?) Spells successfully cast in 3 missions become starting (permanent) afterwards. For each successful mission, +1 starting Skill point, +1 Sanity. After every 2 missions, +1 Health. After 3 successful missions, get both starting items, still choose 1 set of stats. (Keeper gets +1 threat/round). After 4, +1 on all abilities. After 6, get both starting abilities (Keeper gets +1 threat/round). After 8 +1 again on all abilities (and every 4 after). 9, may spend 3 skill points to use abilities again, not just once per game (Keeper gets +1 threat/round.)

If you die, must start new character… Unsuccessful but still surviving missions = lose 1 of your successful missions, though may keep souvenirs (All as storyline allows...if you wind up permanently insane, character cannot continue, etc). May flee mission too (from an exit), but you’d again be at the mercy of the epilogue, as well as losing a level.

Obviously it’s hard to win many rounds in a row in Mansions of Madness, so I don’t think this advancement would go far often. It might be fun to see who can get highest levels with different characters. It’d also make for a fun dynamic of, after having heard the "Story So Far", trying to decide what you might want to bring on this adventure. Choosing carefully will be important, as items which don’t help would only be giving the Keeper more starting threat chits.





(Hidden Rooms/ cards)
We actually love to play with limited tiles exposed and hidden movement; it really does add a ton of dread factor and the story line takes on more life. And it's really not too hard to manage as long as the keeper is very familiar with the scenario. He might have to make adjustments accordingly: the biggest problem is making sure the clues will still lead them where the investigators need to go. Obviously, if playing this way, the keeper does all the set up and the players never see the map.

First of all, try following the natural storyline: don't cover up any areas they can see right away. If they've had a chance to explore you can allow them to know other areas (i.e in mansions, all outer rooms with plausible windows). Also, if there's a reasonable time they could have researched, allow them a map (place down) the tiles of what they might see. For example, in "Classroom Curses", I allowed the investigators a map of the ground level (given to them by Dr. McBride), though the Attic & Tower was not included. That's usually all you need; a couple of rooms to be exposed later as they explore. It helps if the Keeper uses a screen to hide the hidden tiles until they are exposed, though I just use the box. In some cases monsters begin in on the hidden tiles, so keeping track of their movement is the only tricky thing during play, which is not bad at all. In "Blood Ties", I had all the tiles exposed except for the underground ones. which is only a few tiles so it was easy to move creatures on them, and then exposing them when they come up.

We also tried "the Season Of The Witch" this way, with having the boarding house exposed (talking with the student could reasonably reveal the layout) and the otherworld completely hidden. The only difficulty came when arriving to the otherworld, the clue won't lead them anywhere, so I had the surrounding doors open to have those rooms revealed. Thus the tower could be seen and the clue had some relevance...

"The Inner Sanctum" I had just the Chapel, Study, And Corner Hall exposed. I did run into a clue problem later, though that was mostly due to the investigators being timid. Usually if they explore at a regular rate, the clue thing won't matter, as they'll at least know to go where they haven't explored (that can be told to them from the begginning, too)

Another thing I'm a big fan of is hiding the cards underneath the tiles until the room gets explored. The players get to enjoy the board more, without the clutter of cards everywhere. Also, they don't see a stack of cards in any closet or whatever, and thus don't know it's a place they must visit. It slows play a little as the keeper has to keep peeking under tiles, but we find it well worth it.
 
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