Well, I’ve finished condensing the language used for Arkham Horror’s Personal Story cards, and I’m pretty confident they were written as “patches” to fix unbalanced characters, and most of them were made up as they went along. Reviewing an individual Personal Story might give you a sense it was written specifically for a character. Some are just cop-outs, and some have pitiful rewards.

Part of the reason for the Personal Story mechanic is to give investigators something to do in addition to saving Arkham from the awakening of an eldritch abomination, and the best ones are written to work within the normal duties of gathering Clue tokens, defeating monsters, exploring Other Worlds, and sealing gates.

It’s even better if a character’s Personal Story gives them a reward suitable for the effort required to complete the task, and it’s even better if the Personal Story answers whatever question was raised in their “Story So Far” background text. The best ones do all this and then answer a question with a question, leaving the ending ambiguous.

Most Personal Stories don’t do this. I mean, any of this.

First of all, a lot of the Personal Stories follow a template based on the character archetypes. Warriors need to gather monster trophies. Everyone else needs to gather a variable amount of some other kind of game piece, be they gate trophies, Clue tokens, allies, money, or Unique items. Some need a combination of items.

Roughly one in five investigators (ten of forty-eight) must spend several items in the right place at the right time, usually Clue tokens (six of the ten). So, these characters are encouraged to hoard one of the game’s most valuable resources, preventing other investigators from claiming or using them, to fulfill a personal goal.

Just a couple of the Personal Stories encourage the player to sacrifice their investigator “for the greater good.” Such is the case for Silas Marsh and Tommy Muldoon. I won’t comment on this idea, except to say it’s counter-intuitive for the archetype. (They’re warriors, needed to keep the monster population in check.)

Ten investigators fail their Personal Story if the Terror Track increases to anywhere between three and five, while five investigators fail their Personal Story if the Doom Track increases to somewhere between three and six. Twelve of them fail their story either if they fall unconscious or go insane. In a few cases, both (meaning either).

In conclusion, I mean … what? Really. There isn’t a whole lot to conclude from this. A Personal Story’s success and failure conditions and the potential reward (or penalty) might advise a player if an investigator is worth playing, but they don’t do much more than add another layer of complexity to an already unwieldy game.