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"The Keeper's" Guide"


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#1 MaddockKrug

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 02:54 AM

The role of the Keeper is one of those topics in this froum being discussed most - there are at least four to five topics all about how to play the role of the Keeper aside many individual comments in other topics as well; these topics more often hit more then 10 postings/ replies then many others; many postings are very complex and aim at the heart of this particular role in the game; the complexity of the different replies varies a lot. Probably the role of the Keeper belongs to the most heavily debated roles within or ideas of the game of MoM. In order to get a feeling about this role I "analyzed" the most obvious topics about the Keeper in this forum. You will find an overview along with a brief "summary" of those topics in the post scriptum, because I don't want to kill your attention right now.

Basically I drew the following conclusions about the role of or the how-to-play the Keeper in MoM based on the major opinions throughout discussions from the post up to today:

  • The Keeper is a player and has his own goal per game-session to achieve. He should not be compared or even confused with a gamemaster in an RPG, since on the one hand MoM is a boardgame with - due to its nature - very limited game-mechanics and -concepts, and on the other hand an RPG adheres to totally different ideas of gameplay and gamefun. The Keeper should keep in mind that a boardgame like MoM is basically a game about a competition between him and the Investigators.
  • The Keeper could play as hard as possible; but it seems to be general consensus that in accordance with the Cthulhu-theme the main idea should be to scare the Investigators, to use horror elements and to slowly drive the Investigators mad and by that pushng the competition.
  • Although this may be kind of an implicitness, every now and then people share the idea that the Keeper should always play fair regardless of how hard he plays against the other players. In this context kind of a "gamesmanship" (like sportsmanship) seems to be a general attribute a Keeper should have in order to play along the competition with the other gamers in MoM.
  • A Keeper should be flexible about his gamestyle because the game offers plenty of variations throughout each individual gamesession - due to the setup of the story, the way gamers play their Investigators, and the (small) random effects like drawing Mythos-Cards, results of dicing, and other things to happen.

(the order of these conclusions is random and does not follow a quantification about validity, importance, annoyance or whatnot ...)

My personal opinion about this? Well ... I generally agree with what was posted in the past; some ideas were "new" to me, some others were simply convincing and changed my personal attitudes, and then again others were already like what was on my mind. And I am pretty happy that I grabbed and read all the different threads mentioned in the P.S.; this may help me to become a "better" Keeper in the future. And maybe there are things in or about it that may be interesting to other new as well as veteran Keepers as well.

I hope this summary and the conclusions help you as well.

All the best!
Mad

post scriptum

I. "Keeper neutral or playing to win?" on 05 October 2010

In this first discussion about the Keeper available the majority seems to stick with the idea that the Keeper still is one of the players of the game; and he is meant to deal with the game in a way that he should try to win the game. Since there are a couple of different ways for the Keeper to win the game there is no single strategy available; also different kinds of players, Investigators and scenarios along with the radomizing-factor of Mythos-, Trauma-Cards and mis-/fortune in all the different moves within the game would make it hard for the Keeper to "simply" win with a certain plan A.
The majority in this discussiona seems to agree that the Keeper should not be confused with the role of an RPG-gamemaster, whose role and actions aim at completely different targets of the game. The main argument for this is that MoM still is ONLY a boardgame.
Inbetween a few questions are raised, but not focussed on, which are about the win-ratio of the Keeper and the effect of the Keeper's game-experience gaining him a better chance to win. As MoM was not yet available at the time of discussion (only some playtesting here and there), the debate heavily relies on test-experiences, guessings and (prejudiced?) comparisons with other games like Descent or Doom.


II. "question after 2 games" on 11 March 2011

The OP asks to discuss this theory - quote: "The Keepers task is not to hammer the investigation, but to build the threat and atmosphere of the game appropriately, directing the story like a good film director or storyteller."
This idea does not seem to be in line with the results of the first discussion about the neutrality of the Keeper at first. And not surprisingly the discussion evolves around the differences between the role of the Keeper in MoM as a boardgame and the gamemaster in an RPG, by which the tendencies of disagreement with the OP statement are present; but pretty soon new aspects are added to the discussion, and terms like "gamesmanship" and "game-fun" start to influence and dominate the discussion. Although the majority still sticks with the idea that the Keeper is bount to win as just another player in a boardgame, the discussion turns in a way that a Keeper - although a player with "his" game-mechanics - should not reduce his gameplay to mere game-mechanics, but he should keep in mind to play for the sake of atmosphere and fun. One of the participants offers a complexe description of one of his game-sessions, and he earns a lot of acknowledgements about the way he dealt with the game in the role of the Keeper, because he played "hard" against the other gamers and provided a suspenseful gamesession.
So all in all there seems to be an overall understanding of the Keeper as being the one leading through, moderating and directing the game and not just hammering the Investigators into bits and peaces; and still this does not interefere with his own game-goals to win the game and thus with playing a hard style.


III. "Crushing the Players Dreams... Can the Keeper be Nice?" on 09 April 2011

A month later a very similar topic was published on the forum. Since the OP had the experience of obliterating the Investagors in only two games he was not sure about how hard to play against the Investigators. During this conversation people share their different experiences. And it becomes crystall clear that the players of the Keeper often have different means to achieve their goals. Although this idea is challenged there is a slight majority in favor of it that the Keeper is meant to play cruel - but not in the Maniac's way of slaughtering the Investigators by all means, but to be more in line with the Cthulhu-theme and to scare every sense and sanity out of the Investigators.
Since there are many different game-experiences discussed in this topic it is a very good extension to the second topic from March 2k11.


IV. "Playing the Keeper - How to" on 26 May 2011

About another months later another discussion takes place in which the OP asks about how to play the Keeper. The great things about this particular topic are some:
First of all the topic bases on a conflict between a player of an Investigator who relentlessly tried to slow down the Keeper and press him into the "RPG-gamemaster"-role and neglecting his own game-goals.
Second: During this discussion some very complex and decent descriptions and explanations are preseneted how to play as well to win as to develop kind of a storytelling-atmosphere.
As in the first discussions about the role of the Keeper the differences as well as overlapping parallels between this boardgame and RPGs is mentioned and discussed. This seems to be an evergreen in this kind of discussions. And although most participants in those discussions tend to agree that MoM is a boardgame and does not adhere to the general concepts and ideas of RPGs, it is a valid assumption and conclusion that RPG-elements are meant to be involved into the gameplay as well - by creating mood, describing scenes etc.
During the first answers to the OP people add an intersting aspect to the discussion, which they conclude from the imbalances of the game and the variety by which players of the Investgators may play the game. That is why the player of the Keeper should keep a lot more in mind then just playing the rules of the game and achieving his own goal. This reminds me of the "gamesmanship" mentioned in the second discussion about the role of the Keeper. Also this appears on this discussion as well using the term "sportsmanship" a little later.
Overall this discussion is very rich on ideas and opinions. Maybe this is one of the best topics overall on the "Mansions of Madness" boards.

V. "Victories / losses ratio" on 16 March 2012

This most recent and very young topic I added to this overview, since it is about the hardest way to play the Keeper and the likelihood to win the game. Already in the very first topic about the Keeper there was the question about how likely the "Die Ultra-Hardest: The Keeper" would win this game more often, this new topic is a must. It shows the delicate power or at least potential of the Keeper. The topic gets a little of the main question about the ratio, and the participants in this topic discuss the ways and ideas why they play or don't play as hard as possible. Most assuredly this topic is worth your while.
 


For GM: Mad's Adventure, Adventure Hooks, NPCs, and Locations - same at RPGGEEK

 

SW, to me, is a Spaghetti Western with space ships for horses. No matter what you do it causes a problem.  You just might save the day.  Crazy heroics and adventure!

 


#2 MaddockKrug

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 06:31 AM

Hi there!

 

No, I am probably not as schizophrenic as people would like to believe; only the other half of me is schizophrenic - believe me! And I don't feel inclined to answer myself alone. And still I do answer myself on this topic - and that with only one purpose:

 

I managed to take a look at the Boardgamegeek-Forums about Mansions of Madness. This one is worth your while, but less of an experience then I had expected actually. Regardless of that impression I was able to get a good look at the various topics about the Keeper - how to play or to understand this role.

On the one hand I am pretty happy that people on that forum keep to keep it simple with the role of the Keeper. In general you mostly read two things:

  • The Keeper is a player bound to win with all the means and items available to him; and
  • the gamer of the Keeper may decide to play less hard, to be more like an RPG-gamemaster or something.

On the other hand, though,  risk the hopefully enlightening conclusion that people here on the FFG forum-boards kept by far richer discussions about the role of and the gaming-style about the Keeper. As with the starting topic I felt inclined to sum up the various topics of the boardgamegeek-threads in the post scriptum. Also I only checked those topics that are obviously about these questions.

 

All the best!

Mad

 

post scriptum

So is playing a keeper fun?

Here people share some ideas about the joy someone experiences playing the Keeper. There is not much about this topic concering the role of or the way to play a Keeper; but in it some members implicitely describe the Keeper as being the one giving the other gamers a challenge.

------------

Playing the Keeper

The OP asks, whether the Keeper is more like a roleplayinggamemaster or is to be played with an adversarial mindset.
Right from the beginning the commentators agree that the role of the Keeper is not like a gamemaster; but they also leave no doubt that it is up to the player playing the Keeper to play more player-friendly or even like being a gamemaster.
About at the middle of the discussion things start to revolve around the balancing of the game in favor of all players, the flexibility as well as the regular limitations of the Keeper, which is pretty interesting. During this stage of discussion people stick more to the idea of a Keeper having to be a real threat to the other gamers.

------------

The Keeper's Dillema: won the game or enjoy the game...

This topic is quite odd. Here one asks about whether his gameplay was fair enough or not. And people tell him that he played the Keeper more like a gamemaster then like it is supposed to be. And again no one complains about it, but holds this as a valid way to play a Keeper, although they heavily stick with the idea of being as much a pain as possible for the Investigators.

------------

Improving as the Keeper (No Spoilers)

This topic sounds more promissing then it turns out. Because mainly it is only about how to speed up the game or trying to prevent delays from reading too much through the Keeper's options like especially the Mythos- and Traumcards. Nevertheless the points discussed are very good and offer a lot of insight about the dilemmas as well as the complexity of the Keeper.

------------

Playing the Keeper - How to play it right?!

(This topic is also discussed here on the FFG boards.) Here, on Boardgamegeek-dot-com people discuss whether to play the Keeper as the good, the bad ... but why not the ugly? Probably and refering to most statements the Keeper as the ugly is the same as the bad. And that that should be the way to play the Keeper, because he is just another player who is supposed to play hard enough to win the game. But again - here and there people still share the idea that it is up to the individual gamer then, how she plays the Keeper.
This topic is very good - not because of the reference to the Paranioa RPG, but because of the crystal clear message about the role of the Keeper.

------------

Game master

In this topic the community clarifies: The Keeper is not a gamemaster, but another player at the gameboard. So why then do I mention this topic in particular? Because it is probably the best example of simply how wrong people get the role of the Keeper by setting him equal with a game-master of an RPG.

------------

Is the game Master playing competitively

The question of the OP matching the title of this thread is simply answered with "yes". The interesting part of this thread is the last entry, in which some "balancing" issues due to different game-skills are made.

 


For GM: Mad's Adventure, Adventure Hooks, NPCs, and Locations - same at RPGGEEK

 

SW, to me, is a Spaghetti Western with space ships for horses. No matter what you do it causes a problem.  You just might save the day.  Crazy heroics and adventure!

 


#3 Neffer

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 12:52 PM

Thanks For all the Links, Nice to have it all here in one place.

Just got my copy of MoM today. 1st Game on Saturday and obviously I'll be playing keeper and probably for the for see able future haha. From what I've read so far I've decided to start off casual and build it up in an attempt to build up the tension and easy every one into the game.

 



#4 Neffer

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 01:30 PM

After reading through some of the board game geeks links. Im thinking maybe its a just a good idea to ask the investigators what kind of game do they want? Casual or a bitter thought battle for survival.



#5 Julia

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 01:42 PM

Neffer said:

After reading through some of the board game geeks links. Im thinking maybe its a just a good idea to ask the investigators what kind of game do they want? Casual or a bitter thought battle for survival.

Dialogue is always the best path to follow to grant everyone a good time; also consider the general experience of your gaming group: experienced boardgamers should be able to face an active Keeper much more than newcomers


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#6 MaddockKrug

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 10:05 PM

Hi there,

 

thank you very much. For me it was quite important to get some "clearance" or "clarification" on the role of the Keeper. So I really liked doing this. :)

And I fully agree with both of you: Speak with the other gamers. Although MoM is about the competition between the one vs. the crowd, it still is a game and not a death-match. ;)

All the best!

Mad


For GM: Mad's Adventure, Adventure Hooks, NPCs, and Locations - same at RPGGEEK

 

SW, to me, is a Spaghetti Western with space ships for horses. No matter what you do it causes a problem.  You just might save the day.  Crazy heroics and adventure!

 


#7 amikezor

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 11:08 PM

Neffer said:

After reading through some of the board game geeks links. Im thinking maybe its a just a good idea to ask the investigators what kind of game do they want? Casual or a bitter thought battle for survival.

I can only fully agree with this. wise words.


Mansions of Madness, Esoteric Order of Dagon

Play Arkham Horror with a Keeper

Variants for Arkham Horror

 


#8 MaddockKrug

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 01:00 PM

Hello,

 

on the BGG-forums I was able to draw the attention to this topic by posting the "four conclusions" I mentioned above on the BGG forums. And I highly appreciate it that a few forum-members commented on the "kind of a Keeper's Guide". Based on the ideas and opinions exchanged I have decided to slightly modify the conclusions I drew from the various sources I was referring to. And this is the result so far ... (Please, feel free to keep going with commenting and discussing things ...):

Basically I drew the following conclusions about the role of or the how-to-play the Keeper in MoM based on the major opinions throughout discussions including the posts up to today:

 

o The Keeper is a player and has his own goal per game-session to achieve. He should not be compared or even confused with a gamemaster in an RPG, since on the one hand MoM is a boardgame with - due to its nature - very limited game-mechanics and -concepts, and on the other hand an RPG adheres to totally different ideas of gameplay and gamefun. The Keeper should keep in mind that a boardgame like MoM is basically a game about a competition between him and the Investigators.

o The Keeper could play as hard as possible; but often forum-commentators consider that in accordance with the Cthulhu-theme the main idea could also be to scare the Investigators, to use horror elements and to slowly drive the Investigators mad and by that pushing the competition.

o A Keeper could be flexible about his gamestyle because the game offers plenty of variations throughout each individual game session - due to the setup of the story, the way gamers play their Investigators, and the (small) random effects like drawing Mythos-Cards, results of dicing, and other things to happen. And it would not harm the game itself, if all the gamers talk about gamestyles before they start freaking out at the table ...

o Although this may be kind of an implicitness and is supposed to the barebone within any gaming, every now and then people share the idea that the Keeper should always play fair. In this context the reminder appears that kind of a "gamesmanship" (like sportsmanship) is a general attribute a Keeper should have in order to play along the competition with the other gamers in MoM. But "gamesmanship" is not to be confused with giving up on his basic role of being a gamer in a boardgame competing with the other gamers playing the investigators.

 

All the best!

Mad


For GM: Mad's Adventure, Adventure Hooks, NPCs, and Locations - same at RPGGEEK

 

SW, to me, is a Spaghetti Western with space ships for horses. No matter what you do it causes a problem.  You just might save the day.  Crazy heroics and adventure!

 


#9 yosefbender

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 07:14 AM

I agree the game was designed for Keeper vs Investigators and true to the Cthulhu Mythos the game is set up so that the keeper can get most of the Investigators to end up in tragedy of death or insanity. Case closed !!!! yes you can play that way, it is the best game around for someone with the need to always win regardless of the emotional fun of the other players .

But in less you have a group of people who like to lose all the time ( I am sure there are such people) then the keeper has to modify his play to make the game where they barley win and want to play again.

I have 6 children all adults I could never get them to RPG “the call of Cthulha” but I can get them to play a board game called Mansions of Madness, and I try to make that game as interesting for them as is for me , creating a a shared fun time is so much more enjoyable than just WINNING!
 



#10 yosefbender

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 07:16 AM

I agree the game was designed for Keeper vs Investigators and true to the Cthulhu Mythos the game is set up so that the keeper can get most of the Investigators to end up in tragedy of death or insanity. Case closed !!!! yes you can play that way, it is the best game around for someone with the need to always win regardless of the emotional fun of the other players .

But in less you have a group of people who like to lose all the time ( I am sure there are such people) then the keeper has to modify his play to make the game where they barley win and want to play again.

I have 6 children all adults I could never get them to RPG “the call of Cthulha” but I can get them to play a board game called Mansions of Madness, and I try to make that game as interesting for them as is for me , creating a a shared fun time is so much more enjoyable than just WINNING!
 



#11 MaddockKrug

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 04:20 AM

Hello.

@yosefbender

Yeah, I agree with you. What you describe is actually what I would like to describe with the flexibility a Keeper should have. Yes, that point in my small list is more about what happens during a game-session; but it also concludes with the idea that all the gamers should agree on their gamestyle.

There would be no reason for me to play a game, in which a a hardcore-gamer would simply devour my soul right before I would have any chance to grab the game. But this, again, depends on what I expect from the game and what we agree on.

All the best!

Mad


For GM: Mad's Adventure, Adventure Hooks, NPCs, and Locations - same at RPGGEEK

 

SW, to me, is a Spaghetti Western with space ships for horses. No matter what you do it causes a problem.  You just might save the day.  Crazy heroics and adventure!

 


#12 SolennelBern

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 05:06 AM

Wow excellent post MaddockKrug, very informative and you even linked one of my post hahaha! Thanks! :)

I see it's still an ongoing debate and most importantly, there's not really just one way to play the Keeper as long as everyone has fun and enjoy their experience, no matter who is winning.

Thanks for gathering all this information!






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