Part of the reason for incorporating encounter locations from Arkham Horror into the basic design of “Dungeons of the Catan Horror” was to introduce qualities of inevitability AH has that Dungeons & Dragons lacks. I should say, lacks everywhere outside of combat encounters. AH gives you a feeling of growing evil that must be stopped at all costs, which D&D can rarely muster.

The main problem I’ve found with Arkham Horror is that the progress of said evil is random and spotty, with so many variables that it feels ineffective at the best of times, and incompetent at the worst. There’s still a greater sense of inevitability, it’s just diminished by being impersonal and based on luck of the draw. It takes a powerful suspension of disbelief to overcome the disappointment.

Reinforcing the random and arbitrary nature of the Ancient One’s progress is the random and arbitrary nature of the investigators’ progress. Some encounter locations are “all good,” while some are “all bad.” Visiting a particular location may prove to be a waste of time every time it’s used, so why bother with it at all? Arkham Horror can be solved to a certain point — at which point the dice take over and make it boring.

Instead of luring players in with empty promises about rewarding good rolls and handing them “save or suck” skill checks, I want to provide them with reasonable expectations with the opportunity of threat escalation. Maybe your River Docks encounter started out as a search for clues about the Mythos, and got out of hand when someone transformed into a Deep One before your eyes.

There’s a lot of creativity in Arkham Horror’s encounters, and it seems like a paradox that it’s wasted by the game simultaneously being too complicated and too simplified. There are only six skills and they’re unevenly represented across the game. With so many cards and little pieces, rules get lost in the mix. You can go several games with some elements never being called upon at all.

So, progress needs to be measurable for both the heroes and the villains. The players should be given the opportunity to weigh the risks and rewards of their adventures, with a chance that an encounter could very well spiral out of their control. Each failure has to be felt, and every effort must feel like a success. Play must be rewarded.