I finished writing concise versions of the Personal Stories for the investigators included in the core Arkham Horror game. My initial thoughts, having read and compared their difficulty, is that some are intended as “patches” for some of the characters who could be considered underpowered.

There’s also a strong possibility that the Personal Stories were simply “made up as they went along” without any regard for how difficult some of them are compared to others. Consider Sister Mary’s story is completed successfully if two investigators are Blessed. (Which can include her if she’s rolled a one and lost her Blessing.)

Blessings are highly desirable for investigators to acquire as they increase the probability for success on any of their skill checks, and trading in monster trophies at the South Church enables an investigator to have any character Blessed, even if the investigator is, say, plumbing the depths of R’lyeh or scaling the Plateau of Leng.

With the added perk of having what amounts to a perma-Blessing, it’s in Sister Mary’s best interest to see to it that she have those other investigators Blessed as soon as possible so she can help the group and herself. It should be noted that failing her Personal Story requires that she be Cursed, which can be difficult to accomplish.

And what happens when she’s Cursed, you might ask? Well, she discards it immediately and gains a Blessing. Technically, she also loses her chance at a nigh-permanent Blessing, which is just too bad (insert massive sarcasm quotes). There’s slightly less incentive for her to aid the group in becoming Blessed.

Compare this to the conditions for success or failure of Mandy Thompson’s Personal Story. To succeed, the group must successfully seal at least one gate (it’s probably necessary to have at least two sealed), so that gates may be prevented from opening on at least five occasions. She then immediately closes and seals one open gate.

Similar to Sister Mary’s Personal Story, sealing gates is highly desirable for the group, and it can be easily accomplished in the course of normal play. It can even wind up dealing the final blow needed to win the game. I’ve discovered something through normal play that upsets this idea — if you’re already winning, you don’t need it.

Bear in mind that a minimum of five rounds must pass for Mandy to clear her story. Should the group have sealed gates sufficient to block five from opening, they’re generally doing well enough without the help of her story. It often cuts a decisive victory that much shorter. And if they’re winning, she can’t fail her story.

To fail her story, the terror track must rise to five or higher, which often only occurs in games where the investigators are already losing. The terror track soars in games where numerous monster surges occur and the investigators can’t keep up with the monsters in Arkham. Failing her Personal Story reduces the Gate Limit by one.

In effect, passing or failing Mandy Thompson’s Personal Story serves to cut the game short. When the investigators are winning, she seals one more gate. When the investigators are losing, the Ancient One awakens that much sooner (and groups are usually woefully unprepared to deal with the Ancient One).

I’d like to leave off on an absurd note. If the scientist, Kate Winthrop, fails her story, she is prevented from spending Clue Tokens to add to checks to close gates. I want you to think about that for a moment. Her Lore goes to five. Exactly how often is she going to need to spend Clue Tokens to boost the check to close a gate?

To illustrate: first, she needs to enter an Other World (her investigator power works best if she remains in the city of Arkham). Second, she must explore the Other World (hardly impossible, she has decent skills). Then, she’ll somehow need more than five dice to achieve one success to close the gate. After the doom track reaches six.

I’ll let you do the math on your own. The probability of these specific circumstances coming to pass is so low as to make the whole thing absurd.