I had some time to tidy up the dining room (where the gaming happens) this morning, and before I put away the Catan board, I decided to run a quick test using a deck of playing cards. I had my creature cup all prepared and stuff, and I drew six cards to see where gates would open up on the board, and how many monsters there would be. In order, I drew: Jack, Nine, Ace, Ace, Nine, and Jack.

I don’t know if the particular deck of cards was being particularly unhelpful because I was under a pretty tight time constraint, or what was going on, but in the course of (what would amount to a month and a half in-game) six turns, there were only three gates, but twelve monsters on the board. (Half the possible number of monsters.)

I guess what that did for me was really make me wonder what I was going to be subjecting the players to, what with regular “incursions” of the game board. Not that I expected the other twelve monsters to hit the game board as quickly (or five more gates), but I had to acknowledge the possibility under those circumstances.

One thing that may drive people away from this game is how often it triggers feelings of loss aversion. I can say with a certain amount of confidence that one of the things that drives some players away from Arkham Horror is how often the game ends with the players losing. (Losing dwarves drives some players away from Dwarf Fortress.)

It can be difficult to quantify success. Sometimes a player grows so attached to a character, they would rather see that character retired and “still alive” than seeking continual advancement and greater success. (See also: risk aversion.) I’d love to study “how far” players advance their characters when they’re the only player.

So yeah, one of the reasons I’m looking at Setback Mechanics (as I’m calling them) for my game, is specifically to keep them wanting to play. I don’t buy into the idea that “the challenges don’t matter if you aren’t risking everything,” I think it’s important to keep the story going, since that’s one of the things you’re looking for in roleplaying.

(The Setback Mechanics are also designed to keep players engaged in the game after their character has been rendered helpless, another problem common in many different roleplaying games, certainly not limited to Dungeons & Dragons.)