I wanted to bring up something I noticed while tweaking Arkham Horror’s location encounters. It has to do with the allies that can be gained from encounters at Unstable locations. For a moment, let’s just pretend that there’s really a one-in-six chance of drawing the encounter in which an ally appears. It’s worse than that, actually, but we’re going to give math (and the game) the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s say that location encounters follow the “one-in-three probability of success” philosophy that the rest of the game seems to follow. Something like that puts you in the position of getting what you’re looking for (in this case, whatever the location icons represent) in that “success” window of one-in-three. Not kind, but not terrible.

Two of six encounters should result in gaining either of the listed items. Four of the encounters should result in failure, which should basically be “you get nothing, sorry.” That’s what a failure should be, but the game raises the stakes by dropping in the equivalent of a “critical failure” for between one and four of those failures.

Now, when you go to an Unstable location, it’s usually for one of two reasons. You’re either going there to pick up one or more Clue tokens, or you’re going there to enter an Other World. Unstable locations aren’t places to dawdle, especially because the designers chose to make Unstable locations dangerous for additional reasons.

You’re most likely to encounter a monster, or have a gate spontaneously open while you’re at an Unstable location. Those are two very good reasons to not tempt fate by visiting one. Still, you need those Clue tokens to seal gates, it should be worth it now and again, no matter the dangers. It’s the spirit of adventure, and all that good stuff.

So, you’re risking life and limb to pick up Clue tokens in a location where monsters and gates may spontaneously appear. Bear in mind, the Clue token you pick up is only part of the solution to the gate problem, you’ll need five in total to seal the gate, and that’s after you survive its encounters and make a successful check to close the gate.

One or two Clue tokens are no great reward. What’s an extra die roll or two?

To (kind of) sweeten the deal (somewhat), you can (sometimes) find an ally in one of these Unstable locations, who will join you and provide a cool, unusual bonus to your investigator’s skills and abilities. However, you will rarely, if ever, meet whatever draconian requirements are needed to add said ally to your retinue.

Furthermore, the allies are often dictated by the encounters themselves, and so you get one shot at picking up an ally who may not be of any actual use to you. It isn’t like the bonuses hurt, but why would you pick up an ally when a skill can be purchased, and at a far more reasonable price? (Eight dollars at the Administration Building.)

In conclusion, why should there be a requirement to surmount when picking up an ally at an Unstable location? Each ally is unique, so only one investigator can have them at a time. The ally encounter also prevents the investigator from picking up whatever item they might have hoped for (apart from Clue tokens just lying around).

I intend to put the ally encounter at the top of a location’s table, offset by A) a chance for being pulled through a gate, increasing the doom track, and spawning a monster, B) a chance to spawn a monster, pushing the monster limit, and C) something else marginally but undeniably bad. One in six versus three in six. Sounds fair to me.