While I was writing encounter text for The Ascalon Horror, I found myself at a loss for a tangible benefit to attach to “stable” locations with special encounters. If you visit an “unstable” that doesn’t have any Rumor tokens, you’re either looking for good hunting, a companion, or trouble. Nice and straightforward.

If you visit a stable location that doesn’t have a special encounter, you’re looking for whatever that location offers, be it wealth, magic, or trophies. But there are only three locations that don’t feature special encounters — the Vassal Farmstead, The Actor’s Stage, and The Fishing Village. (Technically, the Secret Garden is also stable.)

Unless you count the Shrines for “non-members,” in other words, characters who don’t belong to the recognized profession. Then there are, like, five extra locations without special encounters. Kind of — but those locations offer Blessings to characters who seek encounters there, and those are good for everyone.

Well, this left me with two questions. I’m actually going to answer the second question first, and I’ll get to the first question in a moment. The second question is, “if you don’t already meet the requirements for a special encounter, why would you go to the stable location where they’re found?” I mentioned the shrines above.

You know what features prominently in Pre-Searing Ascalon, though? Skill Trainers. I figured that for stable, non-shrine locations with special encounters, the players should be able to gain “skill points,” which can be used toward acquiring or enhancing their built-in talents. Let me explain what I mean by this.

Investigators in Arkham Horror have one or more unique investigator traits that only they have access to. Then they gain an assortment of randomly-assigned Skills and equipment. Rather than making these things random, heroes in The Ascalon Horror will have inherent powers and abilities that can be unlocked through play.

Upgrading a character’s built-in weapons and armor, for instance, requires an expenditure of wealth, magic, or trophies, depending on their profession. Learning and/or enhancing built-in skills requires gaining skill points through slightly more esoteric methods, such as completing quests or studying with a trainer.

Now, going to the first question, “what does a character stand to gain from a stable, non-shrine location?” I actually don’t have an answer to that question just yet, which is why I saved it for last. I’m still working out what happens at locations. Now, unstable locations are a little bit easier with companions, monsters, and rumors.

I’m going to have to come back to this question.