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Larry Ho-Teep

Questions for my (future) Arkham Horror game

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Hello folks,

 

I am planning to run a Arkham Horror game using Genesys. I have some questions, maybe you can help me.

 

1- I was wondering which skill you would recommend using when characters are searching for clues/information in a library or a news paper archives?

 

2- Knowing the occult/mythos lore is specific and I was thinking of inventing the skill instead of using the generic Knowledge skill. Do you have any thoughts?

 

3- There is no demolition skill in the rulebook. How could I have characters check to make explosives, plant them, and arm/disarm the bomb?

 

Those are the ones that come to mind for now. Thanks a bunch!  

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1) From the base rules, it might be Perception or Knowledge. However, as investigating is such a core part of the Mythos, I'd break out Investigate into its own skill.

2) Branch out the Knowledge skill (which I think will happen in most settings). Having skills for Mythos, Investigate, Academics, and General should cover all your bases.

3) In Star Wars, I believe it's Craft for all them, except perhaps Skullduggery for disarming. Unless Craft and Demolitions are both going to be very important and need to be separate, that's how I'd run it here.

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Talandar mostly nailed it, but a couple corrections: Bombs in Star Wars are either Mechanics or Skulduggery (there is no Craft skill). Mechanics is to create the explosive, while Skulduggery is to set it and use it.

I wouldn't make Investigate its own skill; rather, I'd make a low-tech analogue to Computers and call it Library Use or something. I agree that it's such a core component of the genre it makes sense to break it out into its own skill. That said, be careful about having clue bottlenecks; be sure there are at least three ways to get the same information in case your players blow a Library Use roll (e.g., they can also bribe the guard for the information, or find the clue by digging through the trash).

 

Edited by SavageBob

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Didn't consider shifting Computer to Research (a good general name for the skill), but it makes good sense. I'd still split Knowledge at least in two, with Mythos and Academics being separate. Mythos could easily be a magic skill, but ratchet up the disadvantage and despair results to show how risky it is to use the magic of the Old Ones.

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Yeah, I can see an Arkham game having several Knowledges, actually; Call of Cthulhu and Trail of Cthulhu both have tons of academic skills. If you wanted to keep the number lower, it might be something like Mythos, Education (or Academics), Cultures, and Geography. That last one would be for knowing your way around various cities, countries, etc. Underworld could fit if the campaign will venture into such territory with any regularity.

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I really like how gumshoe handles this and would pilfer that. Set your base clues or info  to a skill. As soon as someone uses that skill to search for it they automatically get the very basic info to move forward. If they choose to roll they might learn more information that will help down the road or give a bonus some roll etc. Of course that also means they might roll up a bad result as well. That way they can potentially get all the info but never so little the game stalls.

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I've been putting some thought into Knowledges for an Arkham Horror game myself. So far I think I'm going to use Academics (Humanities subjects: Art, Literature, Philosophy, History, Geography etc.), Science (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology etc.), Linguistics (Languages, cyphers, translations etc.) and Mythos/Occult.

Right now I'm torn between having Occult as it's own skill related to folklore, witchcraft, non-mythos gibblies and paranormal phenomena. Or rolling it all into one skill along with Mythos. I don't think it does the subject matter justice as one skill, but I'm concerned about bloat.

As for Mythos itself, I don't think PC's should be able to raise it with XP. Studying tomes, receiving instruction, and exposure to the Mythos should be the only ways of raising the skill. Along with all the attendant risks and costs involved in those pursuits.

I also echo all the sentiments expressed about designing an investigation by SavageBob and Darksyde.

 

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I would change Knowledge to Research. But you need to decide the benefits and disadvantages to rolling for reading a tome. If you are keeping track of how long it takes to read, I could see a good roll doing it faster. It's probably better to tie the sanity loss in with the roll, however - which means a different skill altogether.

Edited by player966703

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5 hours ago, Darksyde said:

I really like how gumshoe handles this and would pilfer that. Set your base clues or info  to a skill. As soon as someone uses that skill to search for it they automatically get the very basic info to move forward. If they choose to roll they might learn more information that will help down the road or give a bonus some roll etc. Of course that also means they might roll up a bad result as well. That way they can potentially get all the info but never so little the game stalls.

That's another good way to do it. But I wouldn't do both. I know you're not suggesting that, but just to clarify the matter. Either do the three-clue rule (where you can get the same information from at least three different sources and rolls must be made for each), or the Gumshoe style (where you always get at least enough information on a roll to move on in the story, regardless of failure or success). On second thought, I suppose you could do both, but it might make the investigation too easy.

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26 minutes ago, player966703 said:

I would change Knowledge to Research. Are you keeping track of how long it takes to read a tome?

There is an argument to not add a Research skill and to instead call for Knowledge checks with boosts based on where the check is made and whether time is being spent on it (maybe +2 for being in a university library, +1 for being in a professor's personal study, etc.). A bare check (no boosts) might be made from the investigator's own knowledge (with no research). Either way, Talents such as Researcher, Improved Researcher, and Valuable Facts are probably good ones to import from Star Wars for this style of game.

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I find the Perception skill not exactly what I want. Maybe I will just rename / replace it with an investigate skill. It could be used in a library + crime scene + news paper archive. Less confusing and more precise. I feel it is more what I am looking for and still leaves Vigilance as complete and useful skill. 

Edited by Larry Ho-Teep
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My own thinking is that Perception stays as is and is used for finding clues at a crime scene. Base the difficulty on the complexity of the area being searched, so a typical living room where a monster was allegedly spotted might be P or PP, or a cluttered storage shed might be PPP or PPPP.

Using one skill for both forensics-style investigating and library-based investigating (research) is too powerful, in my view. Library usage (via a Research skill or Knowledge skills) would be for finding useful background information, lost tomes, (acquisitioned) diaries and ship logs, that sort of thing. Perception would be for crime-scene investigation type rolls. In other words, academics and police investigators use different skills, and I'd want to reflect that. Survival would also be useful for tracking, and Stealth for shadowing someone, so there's utility for outdoorsy and underworldy characters.

Sorry if I'm talking too much; I've been thinking of running this type of game, too, so I have lots of ideas. :)

Edited by SavageBob

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51 minutes ago, player966703 said:

If you have a Mythos skill, how does it get used?

My plan is to use it in part as the skill associated with spells for determining extra effects.

And,

As a means for the players to recognise Mythos related threats. Recognising creature spoor, identifying wound marks, extrapolating on evidence with regard to rituals etc. Successful rolls will provide characters with clues and information about how best to combat whatever threat they're facing, with Advantage and Triumph being spent on greater levels of detail and perhaps even exposing weaknesses or providing leads on where to find whatever spells/artifacts/allies they need to defeat it. Threat and Despair will probably do the reverse, give the characters some red-herrings, or false leads. Despair might even apply a short term Trauma if the character is referencing a tome.

 

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1 hour ago, player966703 said:

If you have a Mythos skill, how does it get used?

Same here as for spellcasting.

 

I intend to use a sanity derived attribute, like wound and strain. The threshold would be 10 + Willpower - Mythos Lore skill. This gives a dangerous feel to knowing too much, a percistant  danger to balance out in game, not just being scared on occasion. 

 

It will also be useful for recognizing the presence of Old One's influence in reality like what @VictorTugglebendsaid. 

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I have a Mythos-like knowledge skill in my urban horror setting, which players cannot buy ranks in but instead gain after discovering major secrets and truths about the universe they live in. The skill is used to identify or notice signs of the hidden horrors they face, with Advantages and Triumphs giving tactical advantages when facing such horrors in combat or magic-based encounters.

i am using the Fear mechanic from the horror tone in the core rulebook, with setback dice being added to a Fear check based on the character's ranks in the Mythos-like skill. I've also adapted the mania, phobia and madness tables from CoC which are applied with various levels of severity / duration based on the number of Threat or Despair generated on a Fear check roll.

That said, I really like @Larry Ho-Teep's derived Sanity mechanic...

 

 

Edited by KeithDEdinburgh

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12 hours ago, KeithDEdinburgh said:

i am using the Fear mechanic from the horror tone in the core rulebook, with setback dice being added to a Fear check based on the character's ranks in the Mythos-like skill. I've also adapted the mania, phobia and madness tables from CoC which are applied with various levels of severity / duration based on the number of Threat or Despair generated on a Fear check roll.

This is a really good idea. I really like the idea of the more you know the worse your Fear checks get. In an Arkham Horror game I'd probably limit the setback dice to Mythos specific Fear tests; seeing monsters, witnessing rituals etc. Just so I don't have characters going mad every time they see a corpse.

I like the concept of a Sanity Mechanic like @Larry Ho-Teep is suggesting but I worry about tying it to Willpower. No other stat makes sense but I think it starts to weight Willpower a little too heavily as it's already tied to Strain Threshold. Perhaps just having a set value of 10 and introducing a ranked talent to increase it like Grit? Or doing something like the Morality Mechanic from F&D where it's a totally divorced stat and characters accumulate instability from exposure to the Mythos and failed Fear tests. At the end of each story the you test against instability and your Sanity drops if you fail. Once Sanity reaches a certain threshold you make a roll on Madness table similar to the Critical hit table? Although it probably needs to be a bit more elegant than that as it's quite a lot of bookkeeping.

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7 hours ago, VictorTugglebend said:

This is a really good idea. I really like the idea of the more you know the worse your Fear checks get. In an Arkham Horror game I'd probably limit the setback dice to Mythos specific Fear tests; seeing monsters, witnessing rituals etc. Just so I don't have characters going mad every time they see a corpse.

I like the concept of a Sanity Mechanic like @Larry Ho-Teep is suggesting but I worry about tying it to Willpower. No other stat makes sense but I think it starts to weight Willpower a little too heavily as it's already tied to Strain Threshold. Perhaps just having a set value of 10 and introducing a ranked talent to increase it like Grit? Or doing something like the Morality Mechanic from F&D where it's a totally divorced stat and characters accumulate instability from exposure to the Mythos and failed Fear tests. At the end of each story the you test against instability and your Sanity drops if you fail. Once Sanity reaches a certain threshold you make a roll on Madness table similar to the Critical hit table? Although it probably needs to be a bit more elegant than that as it's quite a lot of bookkeeping.

We have had very similar ideas! My approach is indeed to treat Sanity like Morality from F&D. Borrowing an idea from Trail of Cthulhu, each PC has a "pillar of sanity" that keeps him or her hanging on, holding fast to the idea that there something worth living for. I haven't worked the particulars out, but failing fear checks will cause the character to accrue Instability (in addition to any short-term effects), and at the end of the session, the player rolls a d10; if the number exceeds the session's Instability, Sanity drops by the amount of excess. Then, if the character's Sanity triggers for an adventure (like Morality triggering in F&D), that pillar of sanity will be directly challenged, and all Sanity loss is doubled for that session. I still need to work out the kinks, but I think it should be pretty serviceable.

Edited by SavageBob

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Yes, I'd be keeping the Fear checks to a relatively infrequent level, rather than having everyone develop paranoid delusions every time someone pops a balloon. I do have one concern about the soft cap of 5 for the Mythos skill, which means 'awarding' ranks in it will have to be quite a rare event, rather than the creeping realisation of CoC's Mythos skill. I'm toying with the idea of having them make a Cool or Discipline check when faced with undeniable proof of the horror, which only if they fail gives them a rank in the Mythos skill.

FOr the effects of madness, I'm going with a failure provoking a 'bout' of GM-controlled short-term insanity (duration being one turn plus an extra turn per Threat), with a Despair inflicting a longer-term phobia or mania, success on a Discipline check at the end of each session being required to shake it off. Which, of course, the Mythos skill will add setback dice to as normal.

My setting is a little less bleak and fatalistic than Lovecraft's, so there are a couple of Talents that allow my characters to nullify the setback dice under certain circumstances. 

I still fully expect them to go bonkers every two or three sessions though...

Edited by KeithDEdinburgh

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