29 September 2010

The Keeper Speaks

An Interview with Arkham Nights' Special Guest, Richard Launius


The Arkham Nights event at the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center is fast approaching and among our special events are Q&As with the designers of our Lovecraftian games. To whet your appetite for these events, we present this interview with the originator of Arkham Horror, our very special guest, Richard Launius.

A bit of background for those of you new to Arkham Horror: Arkham Horror was originally designed by Richard Launius and published by Chaosium Games in 1987. Fantasy Flight Games published a revised edition, developed by Kevin Wilson, in 2005.

Without any further ado, we present our interview with Richard Launius.

Q: What led you to create the Arkham Horror board game? 

When Call of Cthulhu came out as a roleplaying game I purchased a copy and read through it and several of the adventures. I thought it was a brilliant game, both in theme and play. Over time I began to write a few adventures that got published in Different Worlds magazine, and later one of the Dreamlands Adventures from Chaosium. It was the mid-80s and we had transferred with my company a couple of times by now and found ourselves in Rochester, New York. Living in a city so far from my wife's and my families was difficult as my wife, an ER Nurse, was working the night shift and I was working the day shift as the New York Territory Graphics Manager responsible for Art Departments in both Rochester and Buffalo NY. Together we juggled taking care of our  3 small children - my wife by day and then I took over at night. Since this work and family environment was not conducive to roleplaying games, I started thinking of how I could design the Cthulhu Mythos into a board game that could be played solitaire or as a cooperative game - something I could play after I got the kids in bed each night. It was from this idea that the first design of Arkham Horror was born, developed over a few months and ultimately published by Chaosium.

The original cover for Arkham Horror

Q: What drew you to the Cthulhu Mythos? What about it made it a compelling theme for a game?

I love the setting of the 1920's and gothic horror as a whole. The idea that the heroes have to be brave, investigate to discover what is going on and slowly get drawn into madness by opening worlds that are both marvelous and horrible - too much for them to survive in most cases - was really compelling to me. In my opinion, it is the most thematic setting for fantasy escapism and I wanted to bring that feeling to life in a board game where the players face this horror collectively. While the 1st edition of Arkham Horror achieved that to some degree, thanks to Kevin Wilson and Fantasy Flight Games, the 2nd Edition truly achieved this vision in my opinion.

Q: Aside from the goal of creating a solitaire/cooperative game in Arkham Horror, what did you especially want to see in Arkham Horror that was different from other games at the time? 

I wanted the game to tell a story that unfolded with the players' actions. The fact that winning would occur less than 50% of the time, I wanted the story to drive the fun and make it an experience the players remembered less for winning or losing and more for certain events that occurred in the game. I don't believe there were any other board games that focused on story the way that Arkham Horror did when first published.

Q: Since it has been out of print for a while, can you tell us what the biggest change was between the first edition of Arkham Horror and the second? 

Actually, most of the game mechanics have changed. The encounters grew from charts to cards enabling a broader range of encounters, movement changed significantly from the old roll-dice-and-move to using speed as automatic movement, monster movement changed significantly as did skills and the ability to change them, which was a brilliant addition Kevin brought to the game. The final confrontation with the Great Old One was also a major change as in the original versions the the Great Old Ones were actually monster tokens that could appear on the board just like any other monster - only when they appeared they were almost impossible to defeat. The game mechanics, scope, and overall adventure changed significantly for the better in the current Arkham Horror and for that I will always be appreciative to Kevin Wilson and Fantasy Flight Games for without them a good game would never have become the Lovecraftian classic I think it is today.

Extra-special thanks to Richard Launius for granting us this interview and for appearing at our Arkham Nights event, October 22nd-24th.

If you have any more questions for Mr. Launius, you will be able to meet him in person at Arkham Nights so register today and we will see you at the event!

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