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My question is focused on the board game Eldritch Horror, but perhaps it could be applicable to other lore-based board/card games.

Does anybody use additional story-telling elements to embellish the game?

If so, how do you go about it?

Some background, I have been playing Eldritch Horror for nearly three years and love the game. However, my friends and I have always thought the gameplay was missing something. I recently started reading some of the short stories of HP Lovecraft and have found the works to be very enticing. I think that's what the board game has been lacking for me and several other dedicated players; a cohesive story of what we are up against and what we are trying to accomplish.

The idea came to me after finishing the short story The Dunwich Horror. I think all the players of the board game would get inspiration and a moral boost if they knew in detail what they are up against, and what it would mean for the hamlet of Dunwich should we fail. I think this holds true for other aspects of the game (i.e. the destinations, the ancient ones, other monsters, and certain items).

If anybody has any tips or currently uses any methods to achieve the desired story-telling and lore elements, your advice would be appreciated, and would most likely save a dusty board game box from being lost in time and space.

closed as primarily opinion-based by doppelgreener, TheThirdMan, Malco, Nij, Adama Aug 27 '17 at 23:11

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Is the problem that the players don't know what the things are (e.g. who Cthulhu is and why the Dunwich Horror being released is bad) or they do, but just aren't connecting the dots for how they relate to their current struggle? – Thunderforge Aug 22 '17 at 23:42
  • To close voters: could you explain how this is primarily opinion-based? This looks to me like a pretty good houserule question that can be answered by play experience. – Thunderforge Aug 23 '17 at 0:21
  • @Thunderforge: I find myself currently on the review screen, but my issue is more that I feel it's too broad of a question because I'm asking myself "Why don't you just tell a story while playing the game, then?". Roleplaying along doesn't require house rules, will probably just start on its own, and I can't think of a lot of ways of "ruling" that, house-rules or otherwise... maybe the question could be edited in that regard? – TheThirdMan Aug 23 '17 at 6:21
  • While not storytelling, I've been using HP Lovecraft-themed music and lit candles to get a good atmosphere for the game. – HenricF Aug 23 '17 at 7:14
  • @TheThirdMan At the time of me writing the comment, there were two close votes, both for "Primarily opinion-based", which I thought was a poor reason. I can understand a close reason of "Too broad" though. – Thunderforge Aug 23 '17 at 14:40
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I think that's what the board game has been lacking for me and several other dedicated players; a cohesive story of what we are up against and what we are trying to accomplish.

This surprises me, since Eldritch Horror is usually praised for creating a cohesive story through the three Mysteries that you have to solve to defeat the Ancient One, creating a sense of progression and a beginning, middle, and end to the story.

I think all the players of the board game would get inspiration and a moral boost if they knew in detail what they are up against, and what it would mean for the hamlet of Dunwich should we fail. I think this holds true for other aspects of the game (i.e. the destinations, the ancient ones, other monsters, and certain items).

I think this is your real problem: a lack of knowledge, or immersion, in relation to what is going on in the board. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help that (but keep your expectations in check; Eldritch Horror will never have as strong or cohesive a narrative as something like Time Stories).

For what it's worth, I think that Arkham Horror is better at solving this problem, but we're talking about Eldritch Horror now.

Read the cards aloud

This may seem like a no-brainer to some players, but I have played with people who draw a location card, read it silently, roll some dice, then say that they need a Common Item. That is beyond boring and disconnects everyone from what is going on. Reading the cards aloud adds to the atmosphere and increases enjoyment for everybody.

Also, there are ways to increase the drama as you read. I don't recall if this is an official rule or not, but when I played in a game with one of the designers, he said that every time it says "Make a roll" or similar, he intentionally made it so that they always ended a sentence. While reading, he said you should stop as soon as you read that sentence, make your roll, and then continue reading. This helps immersion by leading to anticipation as to what will happen. Some players even prefer to have other players read the card to prevent players from silently reading ahead.

Start your game with one of the descriptions in the rule book

The rule book for the base game and each of the expansions has a brief paragraph from someone in-universe describing the the general atmosphere of the threat, and this can be helpful for setting the tone for players. If you see other things like this, read those too.

Read descriptions from Lovecraft's works

Say that your Ancient One is Azathoth. You might choose to at some point read a quote from The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath:

[O]utside the ordered universe [is] that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes.

Lovecraft had a gift for describing things in a way that evokes a specific emotion. Reading these quotes helps convey that to the players, and also educates them if they are unfamiliar with that being.

Do this with whatever you feel is appropriate. I don't know that there are any evocative passages on shotguns, but you might read one when the Necronomicon is revealed.

Read descriptions you write yourself

I once played a game of Eldritch Horror's sister game, Arkham Horror, where the first time a player entered a location, the game owner read descriptions of the places, which he wrote. For instance, when I went to the Graveyard, I was told that I saw graves of veterans from the Great War (i.e. World War I), but one of the graves I passed was old, yet recently dug up. I then read the encounter as normal. This could be done with Eldritch Horror too.

Invent your own rationalization and connections

Why did I get a book from a random dude on the street in Cairo? Maybe I saved their life from the zombie I just killed and they gave it to me in thanks. Just let your players run with it.

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Musing about the motivations behind various actions taken by characters in games that have a narrative underpinning has always been a great way to keep game play more interesting (for those who might not be so engaged) and entertaining for everybody. Most of the time for us this comes in the form of humorous anecdotes or play-acting something that threatens to border on the absurd. One example for Eldritch Horror that occurred from a past game session included the time Norman Withers (the old doddering astronomer) boosted his strength to the max through items and stat bonuses and was basically muscling the enemies across the board despite that being the last thing he might be suited for. He also appeared to be drawing the lady investigators closer to him, so whatever he was doing at the 24 hr fitness on his days off was working. Another great moment involved the Expedition Leader Leo Andersen making a bee line from South America straight for Japan where he camped himself to try to take out monsters remotely, but failed horribly, conjuring images of a drunken Indiana Jones wannabe spending the entire saga in the seedier streets of Tokyo, accomplishing nothing for the team but having a great time regardless.

I don't see how narrative elements can really intersect with or impact gameplay elements at all without hard and fast rules which would probably in turn just make it defeat the purpose. I'm not a role playing expert, though, and we've found just trying to inject a little impromptu creativity to fill in the spaces (usually with humor) is a great exercise and works well with a crowd with the right spirit.

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