Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

Keys to an Ancient One

5 posts in this topic

I'm looking at creating Ancient Ones now that I've burned myself out making--way too many Investigators. I've looked through the various Ancient Ones available on here that others have made but can't quite pick out a pattern. After looking at the ones that are actually a part of the game as well, I can't see any angle that really hasn't been tapped in some way or another. While Heralds and Guardians can be easy to make and balance, what sort of tricks would one need to make an Ancient One that is original, but not too unbeatable or just plum too easy?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Research: Malleus Monstrorum is your friend here.


Worshippers: Keep this simple or players will forget the effect. Buff one or two monsters or a monster type. Cultists make good creatures to buff.


A quick note on Masks - don't assign them to your Ancient Ones. Doing so diminishes Nyarlathotep. I see this mistake all the time.


Effect: Originality is key. The Ancient One defines the way the will be played. Is your AO going to have evil servants like Abhoth and Nyarlathotep? Is it going to increase the difficulty in closing and sealing gates like Ybb Ysttl or the original Hastur? Will it make a common action like combat or shopping more difficult?


Complexity does not equate to good. In Lovecraft Country, Magnum Innomandium makes all monsters move, Gloon restricts you to using no more than three Physical Items and Mordiggan inflicts an Other World Phase on everyone. None of these effects are complex, yet they all have a profound effect on the game. This is not to say that you can't have a complex AO, just be aware that just because it is complicated it is not necessary better.


Doom Track: How long do you want the game to last? Is a race against time going to be a major factor, like Rhan-Tegoth?


Final battle. The AO should have some kind of resistance or immunity or a hurrendous penalty on combat checks. As a rough rule of thumb. -6 / None, -4 / one resistance or immunity, -2 full immunity. If the AO is more to be fought than not, you might want to make it a little easier to give the player's a chance. The original AOs - skill check with increasing difficulty - are a pretty good model for the Final Battle, and should act as your default template.


Sinister Plot cards - Create them. They give your AO personality during the final battle. Use Malleus Monstorum as a guide to your AOs abilities and capabilities.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm looking at creating Ancient Ones now that I've burned myself out making--way too many Investigators. I've looked through the various Ancient Ones available on here that others have made but can't quite pick out a pattern. After looking at the ones that are actually a part of the game as well, I can't see any angle that really hasn't been tapped in some way or another. While Heralds and Guardians can be easy to make and balance, what sort of tricks would one need to make an Ancient One that is original, but not too unbeatable or just plum too easy?

Tricks?  You just have to think about things that haven't been done before.  I'd suggest taking a look at my stuff and Julia's stuff to get some ideas of how to significantly bend game design.  I've also tried to highlight some other people's interesting stuff during the fan creation league.  You could also read through the fan creation league for some more design idea (had I turned that into heralds and ancient ones, I could have doubled or tripled my numbers).

And check out my demi-gods variant.

In my opinion sometimes a good variant can add a lot of flavor to the game while making it really interesting.

I'm not sure if I agree with that bit on masks...  (Although when I make heralds involving masks, I tend to tie them to Nyarlathotep).  If there's something you really think would work well with a mask and be really interesting and original, go for it.  Never let rules tie you down from trying something different.  But, I sort of agree with Jake on that too ;')

As far as complexity goes...  Take a look Julia and my heralds (the scenarios are not organized in the same way) to try to understand a bit on how we tried to make presentation as simple and obvious as we could (we did not always succeed, especially on some of my earlier work that was done a long time ago).

I'd imagine people would enjoy hating a Glaaki variant.

Anyway, I'm not really sure what difficulty you're accustomed to.

::Returns to lurking::

Edited by Avi_dreader

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I find that when creating Ancient Ones, it helps to have an order of operations. Here's what my process looks like:

1) Start with a Concept, or a Figure that can drive a Concept.

You need to have a very good idea what it is you want to create, whether it be an eldritch horror or a real world cult or even Evil Santa. You either need an idea to drive the Ancient One's creation, or you need a figure that will be the Ancient One and is capable of navigating an idea. Most baseline concepts should be simple; ideas like "Clue Poisoner" or "Gate Swapper" are very simple, but can drive some big ideas. Alternatively, starting with a figure can help create a concept; Evil Santa for example could lead to "Reverse Gift-giving / Item Extortion" or "Naughty List". Once we have the simplest elements, it's time to build it.

2) The first part of creating the sheet is preliminary numbers

Draft up the sheet in Strange Eons. The first things you want to do before anything are create Doom Track size and Combat modifier. Start with the easy stuff. While Doom tracks can be any number of your choosing (Lowest 6, Highest 15), most games of Arkham are balanced around the 11-13 range. If you aren't sure where to set the track, just start with 12. For combat modifiers, pick anywhere from +0 to -6 based on how difficult you want the fight to be. Extra modifiers like resistances and immunities add a huge roadblock, so try to keep modifiers lower if applying resistances and immunities.

As easy as 1, 2, 3


The reason I encourage getting these numbers in early is because they establish a frame with which to create the rest of your Ancient One. When you churn out early numbers, it actually feels like you've finished almost half of the Ancient One in one fell swoop. The best part is that your initial numbers are only guidelines, it's very likely they will change after you've created the rules, and they are just as easy to change as they are to create.

3) Driving the Idea

Contrary to popular belief, it's actually quite easy to create ideas that Fantasy Flight haven't tried yet. There's a TON of unexplored room in the Arkham mechanics, and an infinite amount of room outside of them. What's actually difficult is trying to create things that Fan Creations hasn't made in some form. Since there's no real way to know every creation made by the forum goers, just focus on what's already in the Arkham Horror box.

In order to drive your idea, you need to have a good idea of what you want it to do. I'm going to use an earlier example I brought up earlier: "Clue Poisoner". With that idea in mind, I'm going to script up a few possibilities as to how that can operate:


Once you have a few basic ideas for execution, it's time to narrow it down. The first iteration is the most open to interpretation, so it has the most breathing room. I can either cause hard losses for collecting clues (stamina and sanity losses upfront) or I can make players roll a skill check to prevent taking said losses when collecting clues (probably Lore -1 check).
The second iteration can also be handled several ways, but the way that makes the most sense to me is to just start chipping away at a player's sanity over time based on how many clues they have (They lose 1 sanity per turn for every 3 clues in their possession, and cannot lose more than 2 sanity per turn from this), or to simply lower their maximum sanity based on the same idea (-1 to max sanity for every 3 clues, no limit). Between those two variants, I prefer the latter since forcing sanity loss every turn isn't actually that engaging to play against, it's just unfun. I also feel the max sanity makes more sense thematically.
The third iteration will probably just provide a -1 to all skill checks for each clue collected this turn. The ability becomes simple, powerful and trustworthy. It also encourages correct gameplay decisions from players, as they should be encouraged to pick clues up out of locations before they start stacking too heavily. On the other hand, the ability is very narrowly focused and will hardly have any effect in the later half of the game while also being perhaps too punishing in the early half.

Among all these ideas, the one I like the best is the second iteration, so I'm going to capitalize off that.

4) Carving a Statue out of Marble

Now that I have the theme and idea, as well as a working mechanic, it's time to flesh everything out. When it comes time to create the alpha version of the main ability, make sure to never forget your original concept. Here's what I came up with:


When I first wrote the ability, the second clause didn't exist. I decided to add that in to further punish players for simply ignoring the rules and picking up too many clues. After having posted this rough draft, I'm now thinking that 4 clues per reduction is a little too generous, and have thus reduced it to 3. So, now we have an ability, which is honestly the hardest part about creating an Ancient One.

5) Assemble the Minions

Let's start the final steps with Worshipers. I don't think there's a right or wrong way to handle worshipers, but they are generally separated into 2 categories - Source or Synergy. If you based your Ancient One on a figure in step 1, their lore can help lead to creation of adequate minions. If I was working with Evil Santa, it would make sense to have him served by an army of Evil Elves, which you can substitute with Cultists if you want. You can also opt to create custom monsters for the worshipers, just make sure they have a way to hit the table (Good examples include Abhoth and Glaaki). For the sake of the Clue Poisoner, I want to create people that spread his toxic message, so I'm using Cultists and Maniacs as my worshipers.

The tricky part is now determining how you want the worshipers to work. One route involves having worshipers that function independent from the Ancient One. Rhan-Tegoth buffs Gnoph-Keh with Nightmarish 1, which has literally NOTHING to do with any of Rhan Tegoth's other functions, and is a decision based more on Source than Synergy (Both creatures hail from the frozen tundra). For this Ancient One, since I don't have a lore in mind, I will choose to design with Synergy over Source, in which the worshipers exist solely to take advantage of the Ancient One's functions and amplify them. If you are really awesome, you will find a way to implement Source and Synergy in a fair blend, and I honestly think both are equally important when crafting an Ancient One.

Since I'm operating on Synergy, I want worshipers that take advantage of the main ability. The first thing that came to mind was that defeating cultists gives you 1 clue and drains 1 sanity, but I don't want them benefiting the investigators and I believe there are other ways to take advantage of my mechanics. In creating Ancient Ones, it helps to get creative:


My intention was to create worshipers that both reinforce the Ancient One's theme and amplify his mechanics. I feel this version is a success.

6) Prepare for Battle

Almost done, it's time to create a Start of Battle and Attack. For these steps, there's really no limit to what you can do, but every Ancient One attack boils down to one question: Skill Checks, or No Skill Checks? If you look at any of the Base Arkham AO's, almost all of them require you to roll a constantly decreasing check based on a single stat. Failing that check penalizes you, succeeding allows you to avoid the punishment. Fights like that can last an indeterminate amount of time since it's theoretically possible to just never fail (the Fed can guarantee at least 1 roll against the Ancient One's attack every turn). On the other hand, attacks that don't involve skill checks become unavoidable and will inevitably end in defeat after enough time, with that time fluctuating based on loss. Glaaki's fight, for example, is guaranteed to be over within 10 turns. Realistically speaking, Tsathoggua will kill everyone in 1-3 hits. Ultimately, you want to design the attack around how long you want the fight to last assuming the Ancient One will win.

I don't really have any hard advice for Start of Battle. You can choose a miscellaneous effect, a setup for a unique fight experience, or possibly some extremely synergistic ability with the Ancient One's attack. Ultimately, this is entirely up to you. The only thing I would recommend is to make the Start of Battle AFTER the Attack. The only time I would make the Start of Battle first is if you are creating a setup to a more unique fight. Here's what I decided on:


I decided to create an attack that reflected elements from the Ancient One's main ability, and would last on average about 4 turns. If possible, you definitely want to avoid fighting this Ancient One.

7) All the finishing touches

At this point, it's time to reevaluate your numbers. I'm actually pretty happy with the 11 doom track, but I'm going to knock the combat modifier down to -2, and I changed his resistance to Magical from Physical since this Ancient One is more about attacking and resisting effects of the mind. In my case, I still need a name and picture as well, and since this isn't a serious AO for me I'll just throw some stuff in there. Also, you probably want to create some Sinister Plot cards to go with your Ancient One. I'm not going to bother doing that for this presentation, but generally you want to use Sinister Plots as an opportunity to create backstory, plot or development. Otherwise, you can use them as opportunities to expand upon your original design in CRAZY ways.

Here's what my final version looked like:


And that's it, you've successfully created your own Ancient One. Feel free to ask people on this board what they think, as having an extra pair of eyes can really help spot problems and missed opportunities earlier.

Hopefully this helps, and please remember that while this is the method I use it isn't necessarily the best method. Good luck.

Edited by Shining Aquas

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, back when I was active in herald and ancient one design, I literally read every herald and ancient one posted.  I did this for years.

Also, I'd add that in my opinion, ancient ones are not a good place to put flavor text.  There's already not much space on them.  That's one of the reasons I preferred making heralds, more space to write, and they allowed for more modularity of the game.

Edited by Avi_dreader
Atomicq likes this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0