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SolennelBern

Playing the Keeper - How to

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Hi, I posted it on BGG and post it here too simply to gather as much opinion as possible on how to play a Keeper based on my yesterday session where 1 investigator among the 3 was constantly telling how to play a Keeper and keep it smooth so they could unfold the story.  Yesterday's game was not that fun to me as we had several 15-30 minutes downtime aguying about the "Keepers' role".  Please read my post and tell me if I play wrong of right! Thanks a bunch!

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Hi all! I've been playing MoM mostly as an investigator and completely love the game. Tonight I wanted to try playing as the Keeper. We we're 4 players, so 3 investigator agaisnt me the Keeper.

I'll keep it simple: Do you play the Good or the Bad Keeper. Here's what I mean:

Good Keeper: You don't care about winning the game. You just let the other Investigators unfold the story and throw some cards here and there just to play with them.

Bad Keeper: You want to win! You let the Investigators unfold the story but you make sure they understand that there's a greater power over their heads that could smith them anytime but ultimately, you don't want them to to accomplish the task they're here for.

I ask that because one the the players (and one of my best friend) told me that a Keeper should not be to harsh and should let the Investigators win the game while giving them a challenge while they play. The Keeper don't necessarily have to win the game...

I sincerely don't agree with that and if the Keeper was there only to give the Investigators some hard times here and there I don't think there would even be a player/human Keeper...

Am I wrong thinking that way?

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TLDR version: I play to win the game.  I play to let the Investigators unfold the story while keeping them on the edge.  It's not my problem if they focus on the wrong thing going on on the board and don't discovered the first clue after 3 hours of play, even though THEY KNEW WHERE IT WAS...

Thanks a bunch all!

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In a perfectly balanced game, playing a keeper there to create mood for the players to explore through would be the same as playing as a keeper trying to win.  Mansions isn't perfectly balanced.  Part of it depends on your playgroup.  If you are all competitive players, play all out.  If the players are more theme/roleplayers, then it would be a mistake to play all out to win.  Personally, from my limited experience, I'd say Mansions is too unbalanced in favor of the keeper to have any fun playing with a keeper out to win.  It's just too easy.  So if you want to make for an unfun game, sure, go ahead and play all out to win.  I'm sure your play group will drop Mansions fairly shortly.  I personally would not want you as keeper in my games.  Now this seems harsh, and I'm not blaming you for the desire to win, as we all have it.  However, I think with more experience with Mansions that you'll find the lack of balance in it.  So in order to make it a fun game for all, you have to throttle back a little as the keeper.  It is unfortunate, because Mansions has potential, but Fantasy Flight Games messed up on the balance aspect of the game. 

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Tobec said:

In a perfectly balanced game, playing a keeper there to create mood for the players to explore through would be the same as playing as a keeper trying to win.  Mansions isn't perfectly balanced.  Part of it depends on your playgroup.  If you are all competitive players, play all out.  If the players are more theme/roleplayers, then it would be a mistake to play all out to win.  Personally, from my limited experience, I'd say Mansions is too unbalanced in favor of the keeper to have any fun playing with a keeper out to win.  It's just too easy.  So if you want to make for an unfun game, sure, go ahead and play all out to win.  I'm sure your play group will drop Mansions fairly shortly.  I personally would not want you as keeper in my games.  Now this seems harsh, and I'm not blaming you for the desire to win, as we all have it.  However, I think with more experience with Mansions that you'll find the lack of balance in it.  So in order to make it a fun game for all, you have to throttle back a little as the keeper.  It is unfortunate, because Mansions has potential, but Fantasy Flight Games messed up on the balance aspect of the game. 

I completely agree with you.  I RP a lot whe playing cards, I read the italic text and try to add some mood in the game.  Same thing when an evade test is missed, sometimes I don't hit the Inv. trying to evade and add some RP elements like "In your evade attemp the Cultist tried to grab you but stepped on his robes and fell.  You take no damage.".  I like to add some flavor to the game so the players feel immersed.

Let me explain the situation with an example:

All game long I, as the Keeper, hold on and played more "softly" on the Investigators so they can unfold the story and find the clues, explore, have fun but i'll throw some stuff in their way so they still have some challenge.  Near the end of the game I see that they're near their objective and could win the game in a couple of turns.

What would you do as a Keeper:

1- Continue at the same pace and eventually, if they play right, the Investigators will win the game.

2- Go in for the win since they're so near victory and use whatever powers you can to stop them, all this while RPing all the same and keep the game interesting. 

I don't say i'm going all out on them all the time, just that I start the game being "soft" and the more they advance, the more "agressive" I become as the Keeper.

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I think my group would stop playing if the keeper pulled too many punches.

Knowing that the keeper is honestly doing his/her best makes those rare victories so much more satisfying. Of course, you must have a playgroup that doesn't mind losing 4 or 5 consecutive games before finally managing to overcome the scenario. I guess it just depends on your playgroup expectations.

I think using MoM in that way (i.e: the keeper just promoting the game experience for the investigators) is just a subpar RPG experience (MoM is not versatile enough to accomodate that). I'd recommend just trying the CoC RPG instead if that is what you prefer. IMHO.

Similar discussions flare up now and then in the Descent comunity, and I guess you can always find people that prefer one of the two approaches.

 

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Ok, i'll rephrase my first post with 2 sentences, which one, in your opinion, describe the best a Keeper and it's goal, keeping in mind that a Keeper also has to set the mood and make sure the game is fun for everyone :

1- A Keeper may accomplish his/her objective.

2- A Keeper should accomplish his/her objective.

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I've played only 2 MoM games, and I have the same problem as you. Lately I've been reading a lot about the rules/how to play. Right now, I think the role of the Keeper is to tell a good story. Winning comes second. The first option seems right for me.

Of course, the investigators must try to play a role, not act like playing a round of AH, where you just go killing monsters and closing gates, and the story elements come second. During the last match,  I've got in a situation in which 2 investigator's had to escape the house so they could win. One of them got out while the last one couldn't get out (it was the last round and he was to far away). He was playing with Sister Mary so he went to the end of a corridor and used his last action to drink whiskey, while my zombies were closing in. I really think that's how a story should be told. It's not about winning (doesn't mather which side), but trying to tell a good story.

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Your definition actually bugs me.
"Good" and "bad" are values that add another layer to the discussion. I'd appreciate "max. fun" or "max. competition" instead, as they do not evaluate the Keepers actions instantly. One CAN play to win, killing off investigators left and right without being annoying or "bad". I know you mean the evil kind of bad, but I don't think "nice" and "evil" have a lot to do with it. "Nice" Keepers can still kick you in the groin and spawn a Maniac on you if you're down, as long as it fits the theme.

I, myself, try to make it the most fun for everyone, including myself. And since it's Cthulhu, "fun" basically includes a) risk of death, b) permanent danger and c) horrible, horrible things everywhere.
Usually I'll try to keep the game going until the finale. You know, the last Event card imminent and stuff. If "Kill two investigators" is the objective and I COULD kill them off within 5 turns, I DON'T. Because I don't want to gather people around a table only to seriously annoy them for 20 minutes. Got better things to do, really.

MoM is no RPG, of course. But it's not a purely competitive game as well. If you want competition, might I suggest, I don't know, Chaos in the Old World. Everyone's equal, everyone wants to win, NOT screwing someone over doesn't improve the experience.

MoM is a game centered on narrative. You tell a story. Like every story, even MoM games can include suspense, if done right. Maybe the story allows you to permanently attack the investigators. But if it is not 100% necessary, why would you? Hobo moves, gets attacked by Zombie, evades, gets attacked again, evades,... BORING!
Try to throw different encounters at them.
Maybe do nothing except picking up cards for 2, 3 turns!
"Presence" is a great card to create suspense. The players realize your increasing your Threat only to unleash some horrible monster, see the Trauma cards increase in your hand... add in an evil laughter now and then, a "just as planned" when they decide to enter the Basement and there you go, your players might be more afraid than if you'd spawn a Zombie each turn.

Just think about how you'd want the Story presented as a movie. A classical Horror movie, not the new kind of "People enter house, get knocked out, wake up and the next 60 minutes are filled with their bodies being chopped to pieces". People don't enter the ghost house and get attacked instantly. You don't see Zombies in the first couple of minutes in Resident Evil movies (unless it's a flash back).
Let them explore the entrance hall, the next room, maybe add some Mythos card to play. Spawn a single small monster, maybe the turn before the 1st Event is resolved. Build up pressure, maybe slow down after turn 10 to increase pressure again during the finale. Don't crust their hope immediately. It's more fun to crush it if they really think they're gonna win, after all gui%C3%B1o.gif

In my opinion, the "Keeper can win" part is there for two reasons:

  • One even my players enjoy: The Keeper does not necessarily win if the investigators lose. This has some impact on how the Keeper plays the game. He cannot just slow investigators down, keeping THEM from winning. He needs to manage resources as well. Moving monsters somewhere through the Mansion just to trigger an event might not sound hard, but when you need to slow the players down AND do something on your own, you're in a position of conflicting goals. Those are awesome! Dilemma! Greatest way to enforce players (in this case the Keeper) to think about the game, try new stuff, etc. If the Keeper'd win just by stopping the investigators, some stories would come down to "move every monster to room X, wait for the investigators to find the Clue that sends them there, party party". Sure, a couple of Stories STILL end up that way, but there is muuuch more stuff  to do in most others.
  • Offering the Keeper a way to win stops the... let's call em "really nice" Keepers from doing nothing. If the game would read "Keepers should try to make the game fun for their players", some bad (as in: less skilled) Keepers might interpret that as "create a super happy fun Mansion where everyone gets a Shotgun in turn 1 to dance with". Bit sarcastic there, but that's basically what I gathered in several other threads when "Keepers should stomp the players ASAP" guys talk about us Storytellers. If the newbie-Keeper sees a card that tells him to do X, he might try to do X instead of creating super happy fun Mansions. Way to go.

edit
HAH, just found the graph I was looking for. It's based on a talk from John Romero (the Game Designer).

A graph showing difficulty compared to level progression. The further the players get into the level, the higher the difficulty rises. However, it doesn't permanently increase, there are moments of decreasing tension as well.

Of course this graph relates to a whole video game, so you won't manage to get so many breaks in a single game of MoM. But permanently increasing pressure -> tiresome. Allow them to ease up a bit in between fights. You'll need the threat anyway ;)

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Elbi said:

Your definition actually bugs me.
"Good" and "bad" are values that add another layer to the discussion. I'd appreciate "max. fun" or "max. competition" instead, as they do not evaluate the Keepers actions instantly. One CAN play to win, killing off investigators left and right without being annoying or "bad". I know you mean the evil kind of bad, but I don't think "nice" and "evil" have a lot to do with it. "Nice" Keepers can still kick you in the groin and spawn a Maniac on you if you're down, as long as it fits the theme.

I, myself, try to make it the most fun for everyone, including myself. And since it's Cthulhu, "fun" basically includes a) risk of death, b) permanent danger and c) horrible, horrible things everywhere.
Usually I'll try to keep the game going until the finale. You know, the last Event card imminent and stuff. If "Kill two investigators" is the objective and I COULD kill them off within 5 turns, I DON'T. Because I don't want to gather people around a table only to seriously annoy them for 20 minutes. Got better things to do, really.

MoM is no RPG, of course. But it's not a purely competitive game as well. If you want competition, might I suggest, I don't know, Chaos in the Old World. Everyone's equal, everyone wants to win, NOT screwing someone over doesn't improve the experience.

MoM is a game centered on narrative. You tell a story. Like every story, even MoM games can include suspense, if done right. Maybe the story allows you to permanently attack the investigators. But if it is not 100% necessary, why would you? Hobo moves, gets attacked by Zombie, evades, gets attacked again, evades,... BORING!
Try to throw different encounters at them.
Maybe do nothing except picking up cards for 2, 3 turns!
"Presence" is a great card to create suspense. The players realize your increasing your Threat only to unleash some horrible monster, see the Trauma cards increase in your hand... add in an evil laughter now and then, a "just as planned" when they decide to enter the Basement and there you go, your players might be more afraid than if you'd spawn a Zombie each turn.

Just think about how you'd want the Story presented as a movie. A classical Horror movie, not the new kind of "People enter house, get knocked out, wake up and the next 60 minutes are filled with their bodies being chopped to pieces". People don't enter the ghost house and get attacked instantly. You don't see Zombies in the first couple of minutes in Resident Evil movies (unless it's a flash back).
Let them explore the entrance hall, the next room, maybe add some Mythos card to play. Spawn a single small monster, maybe the turn before the 1st Event is resolved. Build up pressure, maybe slow down after turn 10 to increase pressure again during the finale. Don't crust their hope immediately. It's more fun to crush it if they really think they're gonna win, after all gui%C3%B1o.gif

In my opinion, the "Keeper can win" part is there for two reasons:

  • One even my players enjoy: The Keeper does not necessarily win if the investigators lose. This has some impact on how the Keeper plays the game. He cannot just slow investigators down, keeping THEM from winning. He needs to manage resources as well. Moving monsters somewhere through the Mansion just to trigger an event might not sound hard, but when you need to slow the players down AND do something on your own, you're in a position of conflicting goals. Those are awesome! Dilemma! Greatest way to enforce players (in this case the Keeper) to think about the game, try new stuff, etc. If the Keeper'd win just by stopping the investigators, some stories would come down to "move every monster to room X, wait for the investigators to find the Clue that sends them there, party party". Sure, a couple of Stories STILL end up that way, but there is muuuch more stuff  to do in most others.
  • Offering the Keeper a way to win stops the... let's call em "really nice" Keepers from doing nothing. If the game would read "Keepers should try to make the game fun for their players", some bad (as in: less skilled) Keepers might interpret that as "create a super happy fun Mansion where everyone gets a Shotgun in turn 1 to dance with". Bit sarcastic there, but that's basically what I gathered in several other threads when "Keepers should stomp the players ASAP" guys talk about us Storytellers. If the newbie-Keeper sees a card that tells him to do X, he might try to do X instead of creating super happy fun Mansions. Way to go.

edit
HAH, just found the graph I was looking for. It's based on a talk from John Romero (the Game Designer).

A graph showing difficulty compared to level progression. The further the players get into the level, the higher the difficulty rises. However, it doesn't permanently increase, there are moments of decreasing tension as well.

Of course this graph relates to a whole video game, so you won't manage to get so many breaks in a single game of MoM. But permanently increasing pressure -> tiresome. Allow them to ease up a bit in between fights. You'll need the threat anyway ;)

I really like your post Elbi.  Thank you very much!

I think I didn't choose the good wording to explain the situation...english is a second language to me :)

If I keep the same example I took in my OP, the Story #2.  I choose to gather X number of Cultists in Y room to summon Z demon (I thought that story path was awesome btw).  At the beginning of the game I tried to set the mood and told the investigators with my semi-legendary evil grin: "Watch your every steps in there, I can feel evil at every turns and foresee an unpleasant future for all of you". 

I said that in a RP style and everyone got all "moody" except one player, the one I mention in my OP.  We immediately started arguying when he said to me: "You know, the Keeper is not there to win, don't throw every cards at us at once and place monsters everywhere.  You're there to tell the story and blablablahhh...".  See my point? We didn't even started the game that he already was on me and our first argument started...15 damnably unfun minutes while the other 2 were just listening and told the guy to just let it go and simply obey the Keeper's will!

You see the problem?  This happened 3 times during this game...3 times where the mood disappeared and never came back.

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Don't worry, German's my native language and thesaurus.com one of my best friends ;)

Sounds like a really bad player. I guess that's the same player you mentioned in that other thread, with the burning Foyer?

If you can replace him, you might want to think about it. Maybe just once, so he realizes that he annoys everyone? You don't need to stop being friends, but... you know, sounds like he doesn't have fun. You don't want to invite people to a game, just to annoy them for two hours, right? Better not invite him, so he doesn't need to fight with you over something he doesn't like anyway... (If I wants to continue playing, maybe this forces him to think about how he appears to others. Don't tell him that he's not invited because he annoys everyone, tell him that you don't want to cause him the trouble gui%C3%B1o.gif)

Can you talk to him, or is it just more crying? Try to explain that you have an objective as well. This ain't an RPG where a total player kill is regarded as "Storyteller Fail", but a board game where the Keeper's goal might be to do exactly this - kill everyone.

If you can't or don't want to replace him and he continues to talk unreasonably, maybe go all HULK on him. You know, the old You think I'm evil? Let me SHOW YOU EVIL, MUAHAHAHA routine. Followed by Now that you know how easily I can annoy the **** out of you, would you pleeeaaaase stop crying whenever I do something to reach my objective?

Perhaps he just needs a benchmark. Right now, he rates your behavior on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is "omg, a monster attacked me!".
Replace that with 1 to 10, where 10 is "omg, please let my character die, because right now I'd rather stop playing instead of being humiliated every turn." gran_risa.gif

 

I'm thinking though - what would happen if you'd completely ignore him?
Monsters don't attack him, instead moving past to attack other investigators.
He never receives Mythos cards.
The story resolves completely around the other players.
While he still interacts with the game, opening doors, attacking monsters, etc. the game doesn't interact with him.
You know, like you'd handle one of these children who cry because they want attention. Show them that all their screaming doesn't help a bit, instead it's counterproductive?

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Elbi said:

 

Don't worry, German's my native language and thesaurus.com one of my best friends ;)

Sounds like a really bad player. I guess that's the same player you mentioned in that other thread, with the burning Foyer?

If you can replace him, you might want to think about it. Maybe just once, so he realizes that he annoys everyone? You don't need to stop being friends, but... you know, sounds like he doesn't have fun. You don't want to invite people to a game, just to annoy them for two hours, right? Better not invite him, so he doesn't need to fight with you over something he doesn't like anyway... (If I wants to continue playing, maybe this forces him to think about how he appears to others. Don't tell him that he's not invited because he annoys everyone, tell him that you don't want to cause him the trouble gui%C3%B1o.gif)

Can you talk to him, or is it just more crying? Try to explain that you have an objective as well. This ain't an RPG where a total player kill is regarded as "Storyteller Fail", but a board game where the Keeper's goal might be to do exactly this - kill everyone.

If you can't or don't want to replace him and he continues to talk unreasonably, maybe go all HULK on him. You know, the old You think I'm evil? Let me SHOW YOU EVIL, MUAHAHAHA routine. Followed by Now that you know how easily I can annoy the **** out of you, would you pleeeaaaase stop crying whenever I do something to reach my objective?

Perhaps he just needs a benchmark. Right now, he rates your behavior on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is "omg, a monster attacked me!".
Replace that with 1 to 10, where 10 is "omg, please let my character die, because right now I'd rather stop playing instead of being humiliated every turn." gran_risa.gif

 

I'm thinking though - what would happen if you'd completely ignore him?
Monsters don't attack him, instead moving past to attack other investigators.
He never receives Mythos cards.
The story resolves completely around the other players.
While he still interacts with the game, opening doors, attacking monsters, etc. the game doesn't interact with him.
You know, like you'd handle one of these children who cry because they want attention. Show them that all their screaming doesn't help a bit, instead it's counterproductive?

 

 

Again, very nice post!

I already thought about many options to resolve this matter.  In fact, i'm far from thinking about removing him from play for a game, he's one of my best friend (and the owner of the game pwahahahah) and he like to tease people to death (me too as a matter of fact), so it's part of our behaviors and I lived with that, and mostly enjoyed it, for the past 13 years hahah.

Next time i'm Keeper, i'm certainly gonna use all I have to make the game tense, scary and enjoyable to all players.  In fact, I have my wrongs in it too since it was my first game as a Keeper and the overall experience was very boring and annoying because of our behaviors.  One of the other 2 players even said to him that you have to respect the Keeper so you don't burn in hell for all eternity...that calmed him a bit for a couple of turns before we started arguying again pwahahaha.

In fact, I really don't mind respectful and constructive arguying while gaming and imo it's part of the fun, but that one shot was not fun.  It was more of a "my way of the highway" conversation, from both sides.

Nest time, i'll make sure to use all I have (monster spawning, trauma cards, mythos cards, etc) to set a dark and grim atmosphere so they'll all wet their pants for 2 hours.  I love being the Keeper and i'm glad to see that I was mostly right about my goal: Win the game in the most horrifying, insane, scary, and bloody way while keeping the overall experience highly enjoyable for us and the fun factor to it's highest!

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I think Elbi got it right.

There is no reason why the keeper should prevent him to win. He is not a keep in an RPG but half a player (ie. he can loose). The game is interesting for its ambiance. Winning, loosing is just not so important. Well, it may be even true for all games (I try to win if I can but won't bother loosing at all, as long as I got some fun out of it :)

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@ SolennelBern:

Alright, kicking a) the best friend and b) THE OWNER OF THE GAME might be hard, yeah... Well, as long as YOU can continue playing with him! Just sounded like it was permanent critic from somebody that annoys you more than anything else. If you annoy each other all the time, that seems fine happy.gif


@ amikezor:

Yeah, exactly that. Basically it's not about winning. For BOTH sides.
Of course you don't need to start the game with "Yaaay, today I'm gonna lose sooo hard!" on your mind. I doubt that'd be a healthy mindset!

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Insightful posts by everyone.

I particularly like the way you sum it up, i think it's quite accurate:

SolennelBern said:

Win the game in the most horrifying, insane, scary, and bloody way while keeping the overall experience highly enjoyable for us and the fun factor to it's highest!

You're going to be a great keeper :)

 

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I see two elements. One is a kind of sportsmanship, the other is about handicaps. In any game, unless you're playing in a tournament, I'm pretty lax about people taking back a move or rerolling a cocked die. It's just a game.

But as far as intentionally letting the investigators win or holding back certain cards, I'm not for that. If the keeper has a much greater experience level than the investigators, give the keeper a handicap so that the keeper can still play competitively. One less threat per turn or whatever you decide, but I think its more fun for everyone -- even the investigators -- if all feel like the keeper is unrestrained.

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WayneMiller said:

[...] if all feel like the keeper is unrestrained.

 

That's where the magic happens ;)

Of course you can't tell them "Sup guys, I'm gonna let you win today" or even "I'll be nice today and don't go all-in on you" - in the best case, they never know whether you played nice or not. Otherwise their victory might actually feel bad. I mean, if I *know* I'll win, winning isn't as satisfying as it would be otherwise.

Therefore you try to punish them if it fits, but thanks to Keeper Actions + Trauma + Mythos we keepers can always decide how evil we play. Sure, you can attack someone. Or you can attack someone, play a Trauma on the character and as soon as the player decides to attack the monster, the weapon jams, lights go out and he can't leave the room any more.

Always pretend to be Evil Incarnate, but try to be fair secretly. Fair. Not amiable gui%C3%B1o.gif

 

edit:

That said, botched rolls, misscalculations on keeper's and investigators' part and unforeseen events will always ensure that whatever plan you had, WILL go wrong. So, if you try to play fair at all times, there will be games where investigators have no chance of winning and others where they cut through the Mansion like a knife through butter. That's okay. Makes 'em feel heroic and awesome, compared to "omg, we fail sooo hard right now" :)

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I tend to play Keeper the same way I play Overlord in Descent. I make sure my victi... I mean players always have a shot at victory. I taunt and I tease them with it, quite often legitimately giving them good advice as to how they might achieve their goals and win (well when they know what they're goals are. Sometimes I'll just give good advice as to how to do whatever it is they want to do).

The role of Keeper is that of balance, you don't want to just destroy the investigators because then they won't have any fun (And in all honesty it isn't that fun). In the same sense, I don't see the Keeper as full on story telling either because in that regards it's going to be much harder for them to win.

This is first and foremost a board game, it is not player vs board, it is player vs players. Which means there will be losers and there will the winners, I find it wrong if a Keeper completely disregards his own objectives to just give a challenge and not attempt to win themselves. That's not them playing a game, that's them playing an RPG not this board game.

I personally enjoy dangling the victory in front of my players. They will always have a chance of victory, however I'm an odds man, I do my best to make sure the advantage is always in my favor and that they might have a shot but at the last second I can crush them.

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 When I play as the Keeper, I favor playing my monster spawn abilities over mythos/injury/insanity cards.  The physical monsters present a visible threat to the player that they can try to avoid, while it is difficult to prepare for the mythos cards.  Simply walking into a room could make a painting hit you in the head, which results in a broken leg.  ...Now the character moves slower and misses out on getting to the fun stuff.

When I do play mythos cards, I try to spread the pain around as much as I can instead of piling on one person.  It's not fun for an investigator to hobble around, crippled and crazy, behind all the other players.  I played one game with lots of players (and therefore lots of threat), and I spent all my cards bullying one person.  I felt like a jerk at the end of the night.  Now, I try to be more sporting.

Classroom Curses is my least favorite scenario because of the heavier reliance on the mythos and injury stuff.  At least, that's how it seemed to when we played that one.

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 When I play as the Keeper, I favor playing my monster spawn abilities over mythos/injury/insanity cards.  The physical monsters present a visible threat to the player that they can try to avoid, while it is difficult to prepare for the mythos cards.  Simply walking into a room could make a painting hit you in the head, which results in a broken leg.  ...Now the character moves slower and misses out on getting to the fun stuff.

When I do play mythos cards, I try to spread the pain around as much as I can instead of piling on one person.  It's not fun for an investigator to hobble around, crippled and crazy, behind all the other players.  I played one game with lots of players (and therefore lots of threat), and I spent all my cards bullying one person.  I felt like a jerk at the end of the night.  Now, I try to be more sporting.

Classroom Curses is my least favorite scenario because of the heavier emphasis on the mythos and injury stuff.  At least, that's how it seemed when we played that one.

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Good thread, everyone.  This question reminds me to a degree about something I found out on boardgamegeek when I was looking up an article on Mancala.  Even though in Mancala, you can take your time and figure out the best move, it's not meant to be played that way.  It's meant to be played with quick descisions to keep the game flowing and players who play that way are accorded a greater respect.

In some ways,Mansions of Madness is like this.  What is the most lethal option for the Keeper to do to the Players is not always the most fun for the group.  When I play Keeper, I try to keep a balance between trying to win, without winning unfairly.  What I mean is this:

If you have a surprise, "I win automatically" card up your sleeve, I don't believe it should be played, as it seems usporting to me.  I'll give you an example.  Last game we were playing Scenario #2, The Inner Sanctum.  One of the win conditions was that all remaining players had to escape.  I had knocked a player's sanity below 0.  I then drew from the trauma cards, "There is ONE way out . . ."  If I used that card, there is no point in playing out the rest of the scenario.  I can win any time I want to, just by playing this card.  It hardly seems fair.  Instead I chose to win by trying to prevent the investigators from leaving until the game clock ran out.  (BTW, I ended up actually losing this one - I miscalculated, and the last investigator was able to get out because I forgot to make a play . . .)

At any rate, a good time was had by all, as opposed to what I believe would have been a frustrating ending coming from an Unseen "I win" card.

I should also mention that I would say this way of playing is applicable for probably about 90% of all groups, UNLESS they contain hardcore gamers who can accept that bad ends can happen unfairly in a microsecond - In that case, go for the quick kill.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

SolennelBern likes this

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The way i dealing with the mythos card is I making my players to make a will power check, because i telling them all this might just an illusion which make them believe that thing actually happen around them. if the person fail that check the mythos power reflect on them. some of the mythos card has their own requirement so i don't change them. it is fun to see your player to suspecioues about that which card you going to throw at them while without worry that players though u all full power on them. if bad things happen to them  i will just reply .... you haven't make sacrifice to your dice god.....( 8 games i only kill 2 player with that which every time they role 10....... what a luck  =p) evil laugh with this i have no worry to throw "there is only  one way out" so far out of 8 game keeper win 4 player win 4 . very balance record  with this house there still some player like your case... board is game is for player to win... while my answer is that would prefer that i play original ruling just on you evil grim and he was like grup... @@;; well and i totally agree with what Elbi say here.. if you can apply some of your own house rule to make things fun without changing too much. i c this game as story telling and enjoy the mod while anything might happen on 1 rare occasion  i tell my players that all this thing is just happen in their dream and they win the game because i just enjoy they effort the working out with each other struggle to survive and this is  4 v 1 scenario and actually they lose the game while they lose the actual game. i also reward them with skill point if they manage to complete some task which i note down in my note book...  so it encourage them to playing  (which i don't really write any stuff i reward them depends they willing to coporate with each other or how they manage the harsh situation some, time i did just to show them) and as long your player enjoy any type of keeper is still fun =) 

 

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I have been playing role-playing games for almost 30 years, and it's important as a GM/DM/"Keeper" in a RPG to give the players the experience that they're looking for.  However, I don't feel that MoM is a role-playing game.  Sure, it has vague role-playing elements when it comes to hit points and story accents, but it isn't a role-playing game for the following reasons:

-Options are limited due to the board game's rules. You can't problem solve the challenges in MoM the same way that you would in a RPG.  A RPG has virtually infinite more options.

-Players can see all the rooms on the board as well as the monsters.

With that being said, this is a board game with opposing players.  The rules of the game are built around this concept.  If you're using this as a role-playing game, I think that you'd be happier playing a role-playing game!  I have heard that some people use this as a way to get board gamers into role-playing... I guess I'm for that, if that's what it takes to convert them. :)

I've played the game twice so far as a Keeper.  Each time, the investigators lost.  The first time, they were just a few spaces from the exit.  In the second game, they were brutally overwhelmed.  I am very curious to see how tactics and interest levels change as the scenarios are re-played.

This may be inappropriate, but I also play another board game that pits heroes versus zombies.  Players take both sides, and in the end, one side ends up winning.  Like Mom, the game creates an excellent mood related to the genre, but in the end, it's a board game.

Of course you can play it as you'd like, but the main idea of my post is this: If you're more concerned about telling a great story with your players, play a role-playing game instead of a board game.  I think you'll be much happier.

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I really like this discussion. Have the game brand-new and have only played the game against myself with one investigator to find out more about how the game works. It was actually quite close, but the Keeper won by one lost and actually quite easy dice roll (Story 1B, keeper was a bit slow, final objective was changed a bit to be winnable by the keeper, elder sign roll didn't work out) But until now I've read more than enough about the game being brick-hard for the investigators. My two cents as quite an experienced roleplayer and all-over game geek: The game is winnable for both and thus both sides should win not too rarely. The rest depends strongly on the group. I.e. what makes play interesting for it. I think that this question, for example, is essential: How much are the players into Lovecraft? Because doom is part of the flavour with this guy. No story ends entirely well and some spell out doom for all of mankind. At the least for the protagonist(s). If all people involved are big Lovecraft fans, I think they are quite okay with a ratio that is quite, uh, distant from a 50/50 ratio. If people still want to win once in a while you could rotate the keeper role ;). In Arkham Horror, for instance, we had some games where we were on a road straight to hell, but instead of quitting or saying it's boring we played on and just died in face of the odds. But if the other players (I won't say YOUR players, I think the last thing you should be in this game is a DM) do aim for a ratio that is around 50/50, you should, in my opinion, not try to go easy (that's ridiculous. If they get wind of it they might think that their victory is worthless, etc.), but you should, after two games or so, try to change some rules. I'm not experienced enough with this game, but allowing skill point use after the roll might be a quick and easy idea to make things at least a bit easier for them. My experience with other games is that sometimes you just have to do this to keep games fun. You shouldn't be afraid of it. Nobody's perfect, game designers included. Afterwards you don't have to feel like a GM who doesn't want to have his players die all the time, but you can actually feel and act like the evil overlord you should be. Most important thing of all: I think you should talk to the other people and see what can make the game enjoyable, if it wasn't so this time. If everyone expects something else from the experience, you will be hard pressed to find some middle ground, especially if you don't talk about it.

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Hi everyone,

this is a very interesting topic. And I must say that I feel inclined to generally agree with what was being said. Now, why do I post then? Because I would like to add my 2c, a couple of new thoughts (unbelievable  since there are already plenty of good points), and to "reactivate" my FFG-forum-entity again. :)

 

First of all:

  • SolennelBern said: ... We immediately started arguying when he said to me: "You know, the Keeper is not there to win, don't throw every cards at us at once and place monsters everywhere. You're there to tell the story and blablablahhh...". ...

I need to disagree with your friend there. Although there is some truth in what he says especially about throwing around with monsters on each and every corner, the general point he takes about the Keeper not bound to win is completely wrong. On the one hand the rules of MoM tell you differently by

a) setting a specific goal for the Keeper to win as well as

b) explaining that the Keeper works against the cooperating Investigators aka the other gamers.

Just check it with what is described on pgs 1 and 14 in the Keeper's Handbook and also on pg 6 of the Rulesbook; you'll find this described in black on yellowbrownish or grey ...)

Furthermore there is no entry within the rulebooks that describe the Keeper as a storyteller. Right at the beginning of the rules there is a brief mentioning about all the gamers, i.e. Investigators along with the Keeper, to tell a thrilling and exciting story of true horror. But that's all ...

On the other hand - as being already mentioned - this is not an RPG, although it feels like it with respect to several game-concepts; and I doubt that this general rule about the Keeper/ Rolegame-Master being not bound to win is fully applicable on RPGs as well (which is arguable though) ...

Second:

I had some interesting and funny experiences in this game so far - five times I played it as a Keeper, and all the time I tried to be "polite" by keeping a low profile, explaining rules, throwing in some cooperative ideas. All this happened because I felt like a game-master of an RPG. And it even did not feel wrong doing so. Also the gamers realized that MoM is very complex and that I / we tried to stick as close to the rules as they are written down by the Great Old Ones of FFG ...

I only advanced against the players in accordance with the rules and tools I had, when there were pretty nasty situations by which I was able to catch the investigators flatfooted. And even then when I tossed tons of misfortunate tragedies at my gamers they still enjoyed the game a lot - mostly because then they realized that

a) I am not the nice guy I was so far and I had my own goals to win the game,

b) these things added a new level of complexity and problems to solve,

c) things happened as scarcely or were used as sparsely as good spice in a soup, and

d) it was well within what was allowed by the game-rules and evil game-schemes ...

During all the five games so far I happened to win in three sessions and loose two. And with the exception of one game all the different results were basically a surprise to me as well - especially since I sat around during the better part of the game not interacting too much. The reason for that is simple: Although I set up the game as described in the Keeper's Handbook, I did not care a lot about reading the different story-goals and clues etc. Therefore I blindfoldedly stumbled through the games as did the other gamers by investigating the Mansion, suffering from Madness and finally experiencing the utmost evil clowding above their heads.

During the one and last different game session I really did not have to do a lot about winning the game; because the gamers simply did not agree on what to do; they scattered around, argued (roleplayed) a lot and made it pretty simple for me to win, while they simply did as much wrong as possible and also suffered from bad luck in dicing; simply the time ran out for them ... Still: They enjoyed it. Me as well ...

So the points here are more then two things:

a) Cooperate with your gamers; since you are the Keeper you very likely are the one somehow "controlling" the game;

b) make the gamers feel like being in charge of the development of the story, because that's the way the game takes place(!)*;

c) be malicious every now and then;

d) don't forget your own goals during this game, i.e. don't forget to try to be successful in winning the game (what a mad sentence ...);

e) stick to the rules, then no harm is done and you won't even need to work with houserules;

f) enjoy the game together with your friends/ other gamers.

*Although there is the "artificial intelligence" of the game with the threat level gaining slowly and leading to a lot of stress within the story, it is up to the investigators to explore the Mansion of Madness; the Keeper only has at best some toons around and little opportunity to influence the things taking place; most of the time the Keeper is "only" the one managing situations popping in due to the actions of gamers and especially some incidents as the results of threat-levels and clues; only very few Keeper's Action Cards (don't know the proper English word for it ...) allow him to influence the game heavily - and even then he is restricted by the threat markers he may throw in to afford things like that ...

I hope all this makes some sense - somehowish.

Third:

Now something completely different:

When I read the rules of MoM the first time I had the impression that the game-developers had one thing in mind: There are several ways to be the more or less evil Keeper. As with the old Holes and flying Lizards game (due to trademark issues it might be a problem to write Dungeons and Dragons ... ooops!!! Now it happened ... ) I would like to differ between three different evil Keeper alignments:

-> lawful evil - you play along the rules, know your goal and try to get there - not with an inner drive, not on purpose, just in accordance to the rules and situations;

-> neutral evil - you know that you have a goal to reach, but maybe things take too weird turns, so let's see and maybe forget about options;

-> chaotic evil - do everything to kill the Investigators and maybe the gamers at the table as well ... (well, maybe not the gamers, but the investigators Yarrr!!!);

(other alignmets might available for Keepers as well, but what would be the point then to play a Keeper?).

Since this is up to the keeper to decide, there may be different expectations by the other gamers. That's why I suggest that - especially with experienced MoM gamers - you should discuss about the threat-level of your personal game-style as the Keeper before you start the game. Should it be more like sweet ice-cream with sugar on top and some fruits, or more like nightmarish-blood-spilling-soul-creeping hell ... ?

Years back when I was a gamemaster I started with discussing things like this before the game; and I also agreed with the other gamers how to deal with rule issues during gameplay. And since we treated and still treat agreements like these more like guidelines and not like heavy-duty-death-sentence-rules we very seldomly experience bad game-situations ...

 

All that being said: Am I a bad Keeper?

 

All the best!

Mad

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MaddockKrug said:

Hi everyone,

this is a very interesting topic. And I must say that I feel inclined to generally agree with what was being said. Now, why do I post then? Because I would like to add my 2c, a couple of new thoughts (unbelievable  since there are already plenty of good points), and to "reactivate" my FFG-forum-entity again. :)

 

First of all:

  • SolennelBern said: … We immediately started arguying when he said to me: "You know, the Keeper is not there to win, don't throw every cards at us at once and place monsters everywhere. You're there to tell the story and blablablahhh…". …

I need to disagree with your friend there. Although there is some truth in what he says especially about throwing around with monsters on each and every corner, the general point he takes about the Keeper not bound to win is completely wrong. On the one hand the rules of MoM tell you differently by

a) setting a specific goal for the Keeper to win as well as

b) explaining that the Keeper works against the cooperating Investigators aka the other gamers.

Just check it with what is described on pgs 1 and 14 in the Keeper's Handbook and also on pg 6 of the Rulesbook; you'll find this described in black on yellowbrownish or grey …)

Furthermore there is no entry within the rulebooks that describe the Keeper as a storyteller. Right at the beginning of the rules there is a brief mentioning about all the gamers, i.e. Investigators along with the Keeper, to tell a thrilling and exciting story of true horror. But that's all …

On the other hand - as being already mentioned - this is not an RPG, although it feels like it with respect to several game-concepts; and I doubt that this general rule about the Keeper/ Rolegame-Master being not bound to win is fully applicable on RPGs as well (which is arguable though) …

Second:

I had some interesting and funny experiences in this game so far - five times I played it as a Keeper, and all the time I tried to be "polite" by keeping a low profile, explaining rules, throwing in some cooperative ideas. All this happened because I felt like a game-master of an RPG. And it even did not feel wrong doing so. Also the gamers realized that MoM is very complex and that I / we tried to stick as close to the rules as they are written down by the Great Old Ones of FFG …

I only advanced against the players in accordance with the rules and tools I had, when there were pretty nasty situations by which I was able to catch the investigators flatfooted. And even then when I tossed tons of misfortunate tragedies at my gamers they still enjoyed the game a lot - mostly because then they realized that

a) I am not the nice guy I was so far and I had my own goals to win the game,

b) these things added a new level of complexity and problems to solve,

c) things happened as scarcely or were used as sparsely as good spice in a soup, and

d) it was well within what was allowed by the game-rules and evil game-schemes …

During all the five games so far I happened to win in three sessions and loose two. And with the exception of one game all the different results were basically a surprise to me as well - especially since I sat around during the better part of the game not interacting too much. The reason for that is simple: Although I set up the game as described in the Keeper's Handbook, I did not care a lot about reading the different story-goals and clues etc. Therefore I blindfoldedly stumbled through the games as did the other gamers by investigating the Mansion, suffering from Madness and finally experiencing the utmost evil clowding above their heads.

During the one and last different game session I really did not have to do a lot about winning the game; because the gamers simply did not agree on what to do; they scattered around, argued (roleplayed) a lot and made it pretty simple for me to win, while they simply did as much wrong as possible and also suffered from bad luck in dicing; simply the time ran out for them … Still: They enjoyed it. Me as well …

So the points here are more then two things:

a) Cooperate with your gamers; since you are the Keeper you very likely are the one somehow "controlling" the game;

b) make the gamers feel like being in charge of the development of the story, because that's the way the game takes place(!)*;

c) be malicious every now and then;

d) don't forget your own goals during this game, i.e. don't forget to try to be successful in winning the game (what a mad sentence …);

e) stick to the rules, then no harm is done and you won't even need to work with houserules;

f) enjoy the game together with your friends/ other gamers.

*Although there is the "artificial intelligence" of the game with the threat level gaining slowly and leading to a lot of stress within the story, it is up to the investigators to explore the Mansion of Madness; the Keeper only has at best some toons around and little opportunity to influence the things taking place; most of the time the Keeper is "only" the one managing situations popping in due to the actions of gamers and especially some incidents as the results of threat-levels and clues; only very few Keeper's Action Cards (don't know the proper English word for it …) allow him to influence the game heavily - and even then he is restricted by the threat markers he may throw in to afford things like that …

I hope all this makes some sense - somehowish.

Third:

Now something completely different:

When I read the rules of MoM the first time I had the impression that the game-developers had one thing in mind: There are several ways to be the more or less evil Keeper. As with the old Holes and flying Lizards game (due to trademark issues it might be a problem to write Dungeons and Dragons … ooops!!! Now it happened … ) I would like to differ between three different evil Keeper alignments:

-> lawful evil - you play along the rules, know your goal and try to get there - not with an inner drive, not on purpose, just in accordance to the rules and situations;

-> neutral evil - you know that you have a goal to reach, but maybe things take too weird turns, so let's see and maybe forget about options;

-> chaotic evil - do everything to kill the Investigators and maybe the gamers at the table as well … (well, maybe not the gamers, but the investigators Yarrr!!!);

(other alignmets might available for Keepers as well, but what would be the point then to play a Keeper?).

Since this is up to the keeper to decide, there may be different expectations by the other gamers. That's why I suggest that - especially with experienced MoM gamers - you should discuss about the threat-level of your personal game-style as the Keeper before you start the game. Should it be more like sweet ice-cream with sugar on top and some fruits, or more like nightmarish-blood-spilling-soul-creeping hell … ?

Years back when I was a gamemaster I started with discussing things like this before the game; and I also agreed with the other gamers how to deal with rule issues during gameplay. And since we treated and still treat agreements like these more like guidelines and not like heavy-duty-death-sentence-rules we very seldomly experience bad game-situations …

 

All that being said: Am I a bad Keeper?

 

All the best!

Mad

Awesome post Mad, thanks!

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