AmberCon News :: ACN Now that ye humble GM has removed hisself as an obstacle--the games and player selections are out.
Apologies to all involved, especially Ian.
And welcome back to a crew of familiar faces who are gaming with me this year. Looking forward to it.
Sad news :: the RFL has been told by new boss--no time off in September--so it appears I will be traveling without my immoral support. Bleh!
itSoG Sometimes technology just quits for very good reasons. Comments here will be gone for a week, while a server is replaced. Sorta makes me realize I'm behind on getting this whole shebang off to another host. eTrump me if you have something you'd like to add here. I'm still listening to the carrier wave.
Note to self: Gotta find out if MaBarry has that blog domain ready to go.
IMC :: PC Romances By way of Jvstin, by way of House of Cards Log, by way of Tragic Glass...
The Eternal City has a tapestry of romances more or less woven through the campaign.
Much of the history of Amber revolves somewhat around intense relationships that are both romantic and romances. Dworkin and his Chaos House. Dworkin and the Unicorn. Oberon and Dworkin. Oberon and his search for powerful women of shadow to rule at his side.
Melinda :: who fell hard for Richmond, but was thrown harder into adventures and necessary escapes from the vengeance of Jasra. She had an unexpected affair with an uncle while she was out of her mind. Now one of the most desirable royals of her own young kingdom far from Amber.
Stargazer :: who married the woman that helped him from his earliest adventures, only to see her die years later in a counter-attack prompted by his own investigations into threats to Amber. Stargazer had his vengeance, but has never quite been the same man.
Owen :: a girl who grew up with fears of intimacy, and a visiting giant of a father who seemed to frighten her mum. She took her mother's path--that of gender equality to the exclusion of men. Years later, she found herself jealous of the attentions spent on a young gent of her acquaintance and shortly thereafter chased Kent Merton quickly to ground. She discovered her true powers through the eyes of men who loved her.
Cassandra :: who arrived in a small backward kingdom called Amber with no clue that it might have richness of emotion and character she had never experienced before. She campaigned for justice for the forsaken scions of Oberon and found her heart lost to Captain DeWinter.
Sebastian :: who found himself out of step with royal life, and so quickly established his charm with the 'good people' of Amber's town. Within months, he became engaged to an honest serving girl and a wedding was planned. A wedding he missed--leaving the girl at the alter. And then did so once again at a rescheduled date some months later. The girl was mortified and fled Amber under Florimel's wardship. The royal women of Amber were not amused.
Rhiannon :: who can't imagine a man as wonderful as her father, Julian, or brother, Shapir.
Jacynea :: who attracts proposals of marriage the way some folks do spring cleaning: annually.
Conflict Some folks don't game for conflict--and so 'diceless' gaming doesn't bother them at all.
There is that moment when conflict arrives. The classic, "what do you do next?" exchange between GM and Player.
Real life (unfortunately) trains us that these moments are the ones you will look back upon and say, "damn, I should have done that--or remembered this little thing--or realized that the whole thing was a ruse..." Life teaches us to regret conflict because there are more ways to do it wrong, than the brief moment to do everything right.
Well, I'm not sure. Writers understand---there isn't a nifty tale without conflict.
Dramatic actions flow from hard choices and missteps.
If everything works without conflict, something is really not right with the world.
Some Players are fine with that--but some want a tale's conflict to be visited on someone else, thank you.
They want to be "flawless" in a way unattainable in real life.
At the same time, if one Player is "hogging" the screen time by being the conflict magnet--the other Players aren't going to be thrilled. This is one of the criticisms of Good/Bad Stuff. Stuff is not a "get out of plot free" card. Bad Stuff is not a "get the most attention from the GM" wand.
I have two of my own PCs in conflict right now. The reactions are very different.
One sits back and watches over her steepled fingertips while others spin their wheels.
One is frightened and so outclassed that she may die, or perhaps worse, end her political futures before they have begun---even to imprisonment, exile, or other dark results.
Both situations are fun. Yes, fun. Either situation could overturn at a flick of fate and become much more dangerous than they already are.
But such is life.
WISH 62: My Favorite Villains Describe three of your favorite villains from campaigns you’ve played in or GMed. What makes them good villains? Why are they your favorites?
Prince Brand of Amber: because he's dead. It's a very important notion that PCs risk things. Maybe reputation, or bodily harm, or even humiliation. In some games, the bigger the daring, the more fun folks have playing those characters. Brand is dead. And dead, he is a shining placemarker for risk and consequence. Pay attention younglings, Even Brand Died. And some folks died making sure he died. And some almost died helping. Big Bads can be pulled down, whatever the cost.
Part of Amber's 'charm' for me as a story is that immortals will die if that's what it takes.
The Nameless Enemy, It: because it is a tactically weak, unimaginative opponent who cannot be destroyed, is relentless and will never stop trying to destroy you (Eternal City campaign.) Defeat It a thousand times and it will return. Give up just once, and It may win everything. Why is that good, especially with what I just said about Brand? Cosmologically speaking, the Enemy is a binding force for the entire canvas of my Amber campaign. Anyone siding with the Enemy is deluded, mad, or just incredibly uninformed. The Enemy isn't even evil in the sense of moral philosophy. The universe (including morality) wouldn't exist if not for the Enemy, yet it can't continue to exist if the Enemy undoes the 'mistake' of sentient life. The Enemy is corrosive and a real test of Character stamina and purpose. The Enemy is also something of a major secret, a Thing that literally cannot 'see' you if you don't understand what It is. The complexity of the Enemy, and its purpose in unmaking the universe is an icon for the complexity and contradictions of Amber and its metaphysical integrity. The Enemy is my tribute to Zelazny--and in a completely self-referential way--the existence of the Enemy makes everything in Zelazny's story about Amber make even more sense in spite of the narrative contradictions.
For Players, it also draws a line which is clear once you experience it in-game. There is a Thing out there vastly horrible and completely uncaring of your continued existence. Something that once you see it, you are forever changed and eternally endangered. Everything is natural compared to It. Your worst enemy is a mild obstacle compared to It. Even more, you and your worst enemy are on the same side compared to It.
The best part? If you are vigilant and never stop caring--- It will always lose.
Finally, a tossup--I'm tempted to just tell you all about Orcus again, but I've done that even though it's a great excuse to link back to that answer. What I liked about dear Orcus would be easy to tell if I had an hour--he was a villain--but one who I found myself helping on more than one occasion. Instead I will do one more of my own villains:
Tiamat, Queen of Dragons: daughter to gods, mother of her race, and love of her two brothers, Tiamat was an essential part of the Second Age of my D&D campaign. She was once young, beautiful and a proponent of Neutrality. But thousands of years later, in the Age of Mortals she had become an evil and dangerously mad leader of all vile and corrupted dragons. More to the point, she had been one of the early victims of that corruption.
Her story was romantic, harsh, full of promise and utterly compelling on some personal level. Tiamat was still in love with her brothers. One known to mortals as Lek'Ronnik, the King of Good Dragons, the other less well-known by modern races, the Prince of Bloodstar, Talisman. The three semi-divine beings were the progenitors of the race of Dragons.
The scale of the campaign was such that PCs did not really associate with such lofty persons as Tiamat. Just meeting one of the ancient dragons of her personal court was a scary business. Yet over time, because of the twists and turns of the PCs' stories, matters concerning the Second Age came to be important to some of the PCs.
And most interestingly, the PCs discovered that the pained relationship between the three proto-dragons was a living thing. Something that drew them back together over and over despite the years and differences between them. This was not just ancient history--it was an ongoing nightmare.
Actually, I don't think I can do justice to how noble, sad, and complex the feelings were-- I'll cut to the chase.
One day, a PC got a formal note from the Queen of Dragons. "You are hereby invited for tea at the Court of Tiamat. Please reply." And the PC understood that this note was a very high honor, and also meant: "I know you have been having an affair with my brother. Prepare to die." The only woman to ever return from one of these teas had been insane ever since. Six others had never been seen again.
The blood literally ran out of the PC's face. Yeah, that was a good one.
...and so I'll add some to the pile--they will seem redundant beside Chris' stuff:
Asskickers of the Fantastic Once you were a mortal. Not anymore. Not since you died. The world however is becoming overrun with Fantastic Abberations like the one that killed you.
Isis doesn't like the direction things are taking. She's pulled strings. Now you're back in the land of the living, your one geas: kick ass! Your only comrades: Asskickers of the Fantastic!
the League of Extraordinary GentleMonsters The darkness in the world was almost gone. A few noble souls around the globe toiled for decades and succeeded in cutting low the masterminds of evil. Now a new generation inherits a better world.... until an improbable series of events starts a war that engulfs all of civilization. France and Germany are the center of the battlefield. Most of the world is taking sides. Weapons of this new war are taking lives at unimagined levels--
What single event triggered it? Brought the darkness roaring up out of the trenches of the Bloody World War?
Now France is a wasteland with a few scattered souls hiding from the dark. Germany is largely uninhabited except by the undead.
Holmes is an old man now, but he knows many things. From his wheelchair, he telegrams to distant corners of the globe for those few Gentle Monsters that were never trusted enough to join the side of Good.
He has sent for you.
Brown paper packages tied up with string A few of my favorite fonts (complete means it has most characters, numbers and punctuation, many free fonts do not)
Ysgarth English :: complete : for severe formal condensed hand
Willow :: complete : slightly runic or 'prarie style', very readable
Warlock :: complete : chiseled condensed severe almost modern
Twylite Zone :: complete : shattered look
Tengwar Quenya :: complete : unreadable must have for arcane scribble
Sumdumgoi :: hip asian style
Still Time :: sharp fast modern snappy
Stagecoach :: nice western look without excess
Spirit Medium :: very nice modern with art deco feel
Skreech :: odd but readable serif font with alt.universe character
Sirona :: complete : must have serif font in inked style
Scurlock :: sloppy ink serif with old distressed look
Samw :: sanskrit letters beautiful for Chaos Thari
Roughbrush :: hand ink style good for quick notes from royal relatives
Rivanna :: complete : fluid hand 'prarie style'
Pristina :: hand ink style great for personal notes from royal relatives
Porcelain :: scratchy ink style good for quick notes from royal relatives
Pepsi :: hand ink style
Papyrus :: complete : must have hand letter style
Modred :: complete : good for casual serif style with exaggerated capitals
Mistral :: complete : modern ink hand in quick style
Marmyadose :: elegant serif (used for EGB stylings)
Freehand 575 BT :: complete : very readable ink script
Freebooter script :: complete : for anything like colonial hand
Flat Earth Scribe :: bold brash brush style
First Order :: complete : brush style with ink dots
ElGar :: complete : brush style with exaggerated capitals
electroharmonix :: asian SF style (think Matrix)
durango-normal :: complete : excellent old west letters for Texorami wanted posters
dateline :: complete : if you need a typewriter font for telegrams and such
caltek :: elegant thin serif with lots of curl
bridgnorth :: cross between celtic and gothic serif with exaggerated capitals
American typewriter :: complete : comes light-medium-condensed styles (three files)
alchemist :: cluttered but readable
Agathodaimon :: unreadable but interesting arcane shapes
Abaddon :: sickle shaped letters and small caps
Summer draws so quickly to close. Hope everyone enjoys this last week. House continues to look more like house. Now have drapes/blinds on half the windows. Construction punch list down to half remaining items.
WISH 61: Characters for Other People:
Come up with a character concept for one to three other gamers you know. System, genre, stats (if you even bother with stats) up to you. How did the gamer(s) influence the concept(s) you came up with? Would you play the character(s) you came up with yourself?
Hmm. The questions are getting tricksey, they are.
Well, this hasn't really happened before--and that's saying something. I've been in the online community for several years now, and have a better feel for some of the Players behind the screens. Yet, I don't design Characters for Players--I want them to do that.
I'd love to see Jvstin pick up and play a Rebman man of destiny. For too short a time, Jvstin portrayed just such a very dynamic part in a game that had to close (Thy Kingdom Come.) Watching him run a man from a woman's world was interesting--and the noble hero is something that suits the Player very well--and is also rare in Amber gaming. I think a combination of undersea magics and political prowess would be a nifty combination with a dash of warfare. I think the reason I suggest this combo first is because Jvstin really kept surprising me (and perhaps himself) with the intensity that Laertes was capable of.
Could I play that character? Not sure, I immediately think of women when I think of Rebma, but I'd give it a go.
Next, I think I'd ask Meera to play Harla, the most forgotten queen of Amber. Harla, the enigma. Harla, the woman who walked out on Oberon. Harla, who disappeared into shadow never to be seen again. Why? Because I think that I'd ask Meera to play her as the most incredible and tantalizing person--full of contradictions--attractive, elegant, gutsy, and always a bit more intense than you knew she could be.
Because I think Meera could do that, and convince me that Oberon really wanted that woman, and then explore why he couldn't keep her. Could I play that woman? No, don' t think so.
Finally, warming to the subject, I'd try something completely off-the-wall, and ask Kindred to play an important pivotal figure from the Empire of the Gleaming Banner. There is civil war brewing in the Empire with the confused succession--and since Chris usually GMs, has a feel for intrigue, and can do panache--I'd love to see him go full out on a guy from Darrheabarr.
Could I play that? Sure. But it's my game and it wouldn't be nearly as much fun as having a PC do it. And Kindred has said many times that he wants to play in one of my games.
--- Randal Trimmer wrote:
> How did the Mirrorverse work out for you? In a First Series based game
> access to the MV could be terribly unbalancing if closely held. Not so
> much in a game with Pattern and Logrus Shadow Editing.
Recent Eternal City in-game conversation between two experts in primal powers: "So the mirrorverse is connected to us how in your estimate?"
"An unnatural buffer. I believe it only exists at those places where Shadow is held from its normal relationship with Undershadow."
"Places such as...?"
"Well, the Courts and Amber, for instance. Ordinary shadow would not support the stress."
"Ah, protected Realities, not anchored to Undershadow."
"Yes, in floating atop Undershadow there is arcane pressure. My idea is a 'slippery' layer of strange quality is created between Shadow and Undershadow. In this layer, a compressed state of dimension exists, compressed in many senses, such that ordinary energy states are forced into odd conflicting relationships."
"Well, its a theory anyway. We need someone to test it."
"Who were you thinking of?"
"Some younger. We pop someone through a mirror and see if we can track them this time. Let them bang about and see what we make of the results."
IMC :: Shroudlings Introduced another teenager to Amber this week.
And since handing out 'niche' spots is always fun, Castle Amber had the strange arrival of Lady Quiet, rescued from a blackened version of Castle Amber accessed through a trapped mirror in the castle library. Lady Quiet has a secret connection to the Royal Family that might be yet uncovered--and she is a Shroudling.
Exactly what Roger Zelazny would have revealed about the Shroudlings is pure guesswork, but IMC, they are a proud and ancient race, scattered remnants of the civilization preceeding the Courts of Chaos. The universe of the Shroudlings has not existed for nearly half a million years. The Shroudlings have Bad Stuff. Their time in Reality is done and the universe is built without regard for them. Unlike the elves of Middle-earth, the Shroudlings have no place to go.
There are no ships waiting to take them to the western shore.
They are most comfortable drawing power from the odd energies of the mirrorverse where some few things from their own time remain.
They are a lost people.
IMC :: Patternwalk Pattern is usually harder each time you walk it--but this is specific to the individual. Every Royal doesn't walk the same resistance as Corwin.
Yep, Pattern is a self-adjusting workout machine. And if your concentration is a tiny bit out of adjustment, or you haven't rested enough before you try it... you burn to cinders. Now that's a dramatic challenge.
[update] This does mean that the more you walk it, the harder it gets. So Endurance mavens and Advanced Pattern types have a harder time, since those are the folks that have usually walked it more than anyone else.
Look folks, the freakin' Chaosians just want their frelling icon back which was stolen by you bloody idiot forkin' scions of a freaky hunchback at the instigation of a two-leg-frelling mute magic horsey decidedly not innocent of all but malice.
On top of that, you got yourselves a nice Grand Doohickey in the basement at no cost while the freakin' Chaosians are stuck with the mind-ream called the Logrus.
Give 'em a fair and balanced bit of a frelling break would'ja?
Perverse Access Memory:
WISH 60: Frames of Reference How do you use different frames of reference or mindsets in your games? In what ways do your characters or NPCs in games you GM think differently from the people around you? What sorts of things make them different (societal, mental, physical, etc.)? Do you feel that you’re successful in incorporating and showing the differences?
I'm very interested in culture as it applies to Amber. I won't hit Players over the head with it, because I don't demand they adhere to my bias of RPing.
I give high marks to those Players who play royal amberites who are first, of Amber, and second, well-traveled of shadow.
In this, play examples of Players discovering how this must cause Characters to think differently are excellent. Like Ginger, I have a problem with a Character who wants to introduce "modern ideas" as inherently superior (or make themselves an 'Edison' of Amber when the Character is transparently inspired by the Player and not in-game events.)
At the same time--I am flexible with transport of shadow concepts into Amber (Oberon was famous for trying this when it suited him) as long as folks are reacting to them from an Amber viewpoint, not a earth-modern viewpoint.
It is telling, to me, that Corwin, Merlin, Random, Frakir, and Rinaldo--our narrators--always fall back upon an Amber mindset in the way they see things, no matter how arcane or shadow-obscure their education and exposure to new things. While I don't reject Character concepts that have amberites being raised on shadow-earth, or in science-fiction backgrounds, I am less interested in them as a GM as it is possible to get lazy about that Frame of Reference.
The single most difficult pose for a Player is that there is a Real Difference between Your Royal and otherfolks. My friends and fellow Players are too darn modern and egalitarian. They expect to be friends with the people they spend time with. So I see Royals who are asking for servants to call them by their first name. Not only this sort of thing, but if another Player comes along who's Character demonstrates a sociopathic disregard for otherfolks--peer pressure can build to curb that behavior.
There is a fine line here.
For instance, the example I give above about servants. Showing respect between classes doesn't mean that your Royal Character should use and discard servants. It doesn't mean that Psyche attacks on groomsmen and stableboys is considered 'good fun'.
With power, comes great responsibility. Most Players get that part.
But here's another example: novice Royals in my campaigns kill people they don't intend to. How? Why? Because if a Player says, in a desperate scene, "I have an opening? Finally! I hit the bastard as hard as I can!" That NPC is probably dead. Why? Because most opponents are not four to eight times stronger than human--and it is my firm belief that Royals generally forget this a lot. They walk around with a "shucks, I'm not much different than you" pose. Corwin even tries this with Bill Roth, dodging that he is not human--not even close to human.
Another example: novice Royals in my campaigns have a damned hard time making friends. Why? Well, in shadow, are you talking to the same person that you were the last time you came through this way? Have you noticed how attracted to you your new friend is? Or do you wonder if this NPC is really acting in their best interests as they help You?
Another: Royals are incredibly wealthy, usually. Even if Amber's economy is stable and moves along on an advanced Renaissance footing--most Royals have had centuries to put their own assets to best use. Gerard, that good-natured fellow that seems so slow--- he owns banks. He needs a new ship for the Southern Fleet and doesn't have time to go through the Treasury. He pays for it out of his own pocket.
In House of Cards, there is a simple mechanic that emulates the "mindset" issue in subtle fashion, though quite well: zero-point powers. They don't really change play or plot, but they matter. A lot. Something similar, in con games I've been running, I ask Players to assign a one-word Expertise to each of the Attributes. Like "sleight-of-hand" for Strength. This does two things--it gives the Player immediate focus and niche for the Character, and it allows an "up one rank" show of competancy.
And if there is one frame of reference that Amber games must respect and that can be a struggle to RP, it is competancy.