Last night an odd thought crossed my mind: the dice are a greater enemy in Arkham Horror than the Eldritch Abomination that threatens Arkham. Is it true, and why? Whatever made me think such a thing, and does it mean something about the game. Some time back, I looked at Resource Management as a key gameplay element, and how time was one of those resources to be managed.

I’ve been chewing on some of those thought in the back of my mind, and I think I realized something last night. For all your strategy, cooperation, and preparation, you can still lose if you never roll successes on the dice. Might be kind of startling, but I thought about all the different gameplay mechanics involved in Arkham Horror, and how much of the game is based on those skill checks — dice rolls.

Maybe it’s that luck, chance, and risk are all so ingrained in culture here that I didn’t think of it before, but I had to ask myself, with a game so complex as Arkham Horror, why are the dice even necessary? Apart from the money you get from starting equipment, you only get money in encounters. It’s essentially random when you get money, and then the buy-able items in the stores are random as well.

Why don’t you just have a “resources” roll to check if you have enough money for the items? Why use tokens for money at all? You could leave out all the extra little tokens and use the dollar amounts on the items as dice modifiers. Or maybe, you could spend money to add to dice results — I’ve heard general complaints about money in Arkham Horror adding very little to the game.

I wondered, too, about clue tokens. Another common complaint I’ve heard for the game is how abstract the clue tokens are when they could be flavorful notes about the Mythos. Why not make each clue token an automatic success on a check, rather than just adding dice? Maybe have clue tokens specialized to certain skill checks to keep players guessing. Success could be another resource to be managed.

In a game where many circumstances cannot be accounted for, and a certain amount of abstraction may be necessary, rolling dice makes sense. Some games, like Dungeons & Dragons, have dice rolling at their core. In D&D it also provides a layer of insulation between the players and the storyteller, as you can blame the dice for your failure, rather than the Dungeon Master. But Arkham Horror has no DM.

I’m not exactly sure where I can take this yet, but I’m thinking that “commoditized success” may be a viable game mechanic. You have a pool of successes and an unknown number of conflicts laid out before you. You can “acquire” more success, but they’re painful and time-consuming to obtain, and they have limited applications.

Some characters may be able to “convert” one kind of success to another. Imagine a warrior character picking up a bunch of “investigation” successes and being unable to make effective use of them, but being able to convert them into combat successes at some sort of exchange rate (2:1 or 3:1, depending on the foe in question, perhaps).

It got me wondering about other possible applications for success as a commodity.