Experiment with Zelazny's Amber 'canon' in the Shadow of Greatness btw, I have to put together Elder blurbs on the premise sketched for Lord Flight. So any thoughts out there in building this black mirror canon are appreciated.
RPGnet Forums - Understanding Nobilis... Rebecca Borgstrom on RPG and Nobilis:
"My theory is this. The game play is not the story. The game and the story depend on one another, but they're not the same thing. Similarly, the setting isn't what the HG describes. The HG's verbal scenery and the game world depend on one another, but they're not the same thing.
The story is what you get out of the game when you look back on events during a lull or between sessions or after the campaign is over. You mentally strip out all the gaffes, oversights, omissions, memory lapses, and retcons. You pump up the things the characters said and did a little bit in your mind to match the ideal of what they should have been. (In part, by focusing on the coolest things they actually did.) And *then* you have the story."
Which coincides with something like this I said over on Mirrors and Light. One of the coolest things I see in the dynamic of actually playing an RPG is that tiny little mistakes are natural, meaningful, and part of the tapestry that renders amazing narrative.
Fictional stories aren't nearly as absorbing. Mistakes (the human element) make the "world" sing.
Experiment with Zelazny's Amber 'canon' in the Shadow of Greatness This game is a "tarnished" mirror of the 'canon' characters of Roger Zelazny's "Chronicles of Amber". Major NPC's are matriarchal reflections of Zelazny's characters. The atmosphere of Umbra is a shadowy storm of night banes and haunts.
I'd like the stories of this weave to carry a greater threat from Outside than from internal Family matters. The Family is smaller because of the War. Odessa, Eerie, Beneficent, Carnage, Break, and Daedalus are all gone. Your Characters are dark heroes who manage to find common spirit in spite of their burdens. A Family that Amber might learn something from. Among them, there could be a kind of tenacious dark humor not unlike the Addams Family.
Name your 'fault', that dark thing your character has an attraction for that makes mortals cringe. Describe the 'monstrous' reflections of your character through shadow.
Flight, Prince of Umbra Handsome and charming, Flight is the gracious host of the family, always willing to go the extra league to make a visitor comfortable. Diplomat, bon vivant, and expert of fine and exotic bloods for sipping and discussing matters of import. Flight can lend a hand to make any situation more elegant.
Flight's fault is to desire bizarre hedonist sensations of the palate. He knows over thirty recipes for swamp guzzle pie and his collection of harsh teas is infamous throughout the Moonlight Circle.
Shadows of Flight are elegant blood drinkers and sexually magnetic cassanovas, particularly those with real charm and manners.
1. Is there a good web reference to read about the quirks and abuses of the Amber DRPG system?
Yes. Techniques differ, but there is an excellent reference online to abuses of the game. http://wso.williams.edu:8000/~msulliva/campaigns/amber/tips/ This site goes into much more detail than you will find here and makes good suggestions for character creation and other game facets.
2. The game makes Characters so powerful. How do I deal with abuse of:
a. fast-time shadows?
There is no reason you can't put a "cap" on fast-time shadows. Degree of difficulty in finding such resources is in the hands of the GM. b. artifacts of power?
Put a "cap" on values in your game. See how that works, and only open up more points for artifacts after you have a better feel for play. c. constructs?
Don't allow the knowledge of construct construction, perhaps Characters will learn of it later in the game. d. shadowfolk?
Pattern and Trump don't allow altering shadowfolk, but re-visualizing them and going to that new place. If you want a friendly king, you have to find him in shadow and shadow is infinite so there is the needle and haystack problem. And how do you visualize "friendly"?
3. Characters are tough, but they aren't bullet-proof. How do I deal with the lethal innovations of high-tech and high-magic?
Yes, royals are tough. Yet they get broken limbs, get stabbed, get shot, and need to sleep and eat. And they know this, so they are careful. Stay out of High-danger shadows. That stuff can't threaten you in Amber.
4. Shadows of desire. How do I answer Characters who just shadowshift to find an answer instead of working out an answer to a conflict?
Yes, imagination is a wonderful part of Amber. Yet almost all of the Pattern skills are dependant on visual imagination. You can visualize a ship, but how do you visualize a starship if you've never seen one? How do you visualize a murderer? And then, have you found a murderer, or *the* murderer you're looking for?
5. Attributes. They aren't equal and everyone wants Warfare to be supreme. How can anything compete with a single attribute that wins every fight?
Yes, the attributes are both the best part and most daunting element of GM arbitration. Modify them if it makes it clearer in your own mind. Or realize that roleplaying up to and through conflict counts as much as simple rankings and points. Amber royals prefer not to confront those opponents they aren't sure they can beat. Call your time and place for confrontation.
6. The rulebook. I just read it and I'll never be able to portray the Elder Amberites. What now?
Yes, you can. The secret is that they aren't infallible at all. As written in the rulebook, no one mortal could portray the Elders, so don't sweat it. They don't have eyes in the back of their heads or spies in the Characters' closets. They make serious mistakes. Judicious use of what is NOT said by NPC Elders is a very effective cover for the experience that you lack. Look for GM guile to get suspension of disbelief from your crew of Players. Go for it and remember the GM has many tricks that the Characters don't. Remember that the game should be about the Player Characters anyway, not the Elders.
7. Player Character in-fighting. How can I keep a group together?
Do you have to? Part of the challenge of the game is strong minded people with their own agendas. They are one family, but they may not always be "buds". Let them follow their own projects and stories, but provide an overall story of Amber taking place in the background. When the PCs are interested in the "common story" they will get together themselves.
8. Game reputation. I've heard this game is one where PCs are supposed to betray each other, that even the GM "lies" to the Players. I'd love to play but how can I get Players to try it?
Yes, the rulebook provides examples of the GM 'humorously' misleading the Players in a very obvious fashion. IOW, don't take the reputation of Amber DRPG as a 'backstabbing' game too seriously. It's a game. The meta-game concept of a group of Characters working together to combine strengths is much weaker or non-existant in Amber. This can be changed by the GM. The rulebook is a guide, and many examples in the rules are exaggerations for effect or to make a point. Play a style that is comfortable for you and tell the Players how you want the mood and style of the game to come into focus. Then they can help you.
I've read elsewhere that the RPGnet forums are the high and low of gamer culture. Here's a search for Amber in threads.
RPGnet Forums - Search amber zelazny :: be careful and check your prose before you post it
bragging rights :: an excerpt from the ongoing Strange Bedfellows PBeM turn ::
I hope you enjoy. My character, the traveler Bhangbadea of Ersia, has just downed an assassin and is touching her captive's mind. Bishop is her traveling friend and no mere cat.
GMs material in italics.
Once, this had been a shocking thing, like sex with a stranger or sliding fingers into a still warm deer as it was skinned. But that was many, many years ago.
Survival alone was like that. She tried not to reflect on it overmuch.
Her lightest probes pushed forward into the nervous system of the killer under her fingers. And the question was hung on her phantom tools: how many of you? where have you lodged? who is your local support, if any?
The taste, the flavor, the nature of the killer's mental circuitry is known to you in principle and flavor, if not in the particular. It is like eating a dish that you have had before in a new restaurant. Although it is the same sort of meal, it doesn't taste quite the same as the dish you know.
The scent and flavor saturated her tools as she reviewed them. With no hesitation she gathered and carefully arranged the information pooled about the probes.
So it is with the mind of Athora, your would be assassin. The taint of Sthenno is literally almost tangible, like the order of rotten aromatic cedar. She is marked in that, more so than any badge or other token of identity.
The questions you raise, on the tines of your tools come back. Not readily and without a fight, the assassins sent by your adversary have some defenses to overcome.
You, however, are more than their equal, and it is with patient care that you extract the information.
...3 assassins...lodged in the Sign of the Three Fish...(it seems to be a inn of some sort near the dock area of the city, a dive, really). Local support proves harder, this assassin herself is not the leader of the trio, she has less contact with their contact, but there is an image of a well kept, gated house. Clearly upper class.
Surprised. She put the parts and pieces of that gated house into a separate work area of her mental landscape. Bhangbadea saw a future need to share this quickly and she would rather isolate it now.
The corruption, clearly has reached the nobility of Amber. Perhaps its been there, before even you arrived rather than a development aimed at your presence here.
Still no sign of Cyllene...and there must still be another assassin floating around.
A logical chance the leader had already moved out having lost two companions. She sighed to herself. An equal chance that the last of the trio would remain to attack from behind the cloak of illogic.
Religious minds were hard to anticipate.
Bishop whispered. "So how bad is it?"
"Bad enough. There is a third. Cyllene should be warned. And they had local lodgings at the 'Sign of Three Fish.' Also we will have to pay a visit to a local home of some repute. It remains to be seen who at that place is working with foreign churches and for what profit."
"I'll take word to Cyllene. What about her?" Bishop nodded lightly to the prone assassin. He flexed his claws. "Should I--"
"No." Bhangbadea answered tersely. "Don't provoke me with such spare philosophy, my friend. I will not kill her coldly."
"She had such a plan for you."
"This is an old play between us, I know my lines, as do you. Shall we skip to the ending? I have done many things of which I am not proud. You have killed for me before but I don't count taking a helpless prey as anything but bare survival or murder. Since we don't need the meat and since she is not going to kill me today, she goes to the dungeons of Amber Castle, or more properly to Prince Gerard, I suppose, where he will do what he wishes. As we have no legal right to do otherwise..."
Bishop interrupted. "In this you are wrong. Today-- now-- you are known as a princess of Amber. To make prey of you on this holy day is the grossest sort of violence against the realm. I think that none will find your personal justice out of order. Remember, they use the Chaosian code of justice here and vendetta is legal."
She felt the pulse of the woman, Athora, beneath her mind. Bhangbadea swallowed. A light flutter of anger swept through her, years of dreams suddenly broken by a light sound in the dark or a unexpected rustle of the wild, these were the costs of defying Sthenno the god. She was hunted. She was prey to immortal forces and their puppet killers.
She quenched the anger with a quick lance of effort, releasing its pressure as a boil. "You are correct. It is a matter of a different sort now. They call me a princess though I was almost born in a gutter. Somehow I don't yet feel that the word 'princess' fits me as well as this new dress, nor does it look half so charming on my reflection."
Bishop relaxed his claws. "Then we will leave be for now."
She reached out but stopped her hand and did not touch him. "For now."
"I'll tell Cyllene."
He left silently and zagging amidst the dock crowd of legs.
She slowly counted the years within Athora's life laid out before her mind tools. Nineteen. Trained from the age of five and warded with the blessings of the immortal church. Athora would likely kill herself rather than allow Amber to interrogate her.
"We will leave be for now." Bhangbadea spoke directly to the unconscious woman under her hand.
Moments later Bhangbadea dragged the dark-clad figure nearer the mouth of the alley. It would have been easier to throw her over a shoulder, but two things disallowed this. First, it would have told the entire crowd of dock unknowns that she was stronger than anyone could suspect and she never cared for such public knowledge without advantage. Second, the bunching of chest muscles would have certainly split what remained of the seams holding her bustier in place and she would have looked stupid.
And she had the luxury of trying to pretend the rest of the evening would be better.
She called out to Cyllene and Gerard. "Some help? Are there guards?"
Hmmm. Dune is a good choice. Big world, big ideas. All the various responses so far are good choices.
I'm of two minds. One: I'd like to see a very social rpg product hit it big. Something like what I imagine 'Lace and Steel' might have been. A world that comes close is 'Dragaera' by S. Brust. Something along the same lines would be 'Regency' by G. Heyer. Two: I'd love to see a urban fey rpg handle characters the way Emma Bull does in 'War for the Oaks'. Something that actually rewards small gestures, courage and creativity the way that Amber DRPG inspires a huge canvas.
That last reminds me: I should include a Courtesy attribute in the Twilighters RPG.