How to Run:Amber

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Another one from the original thread, again posted by DivineCoffeeBinge.

How to Run Amber Diceless Roleplaying[edit]

Part the First: Let the Wookie Win

Nine times out of ten, your PCs are better at... just about anything... than the NPCs. This is normal and expected - your PCs are denizens of one of the two poles of Reality, and they have the ability to shape the cosmos to their whim by taking a stroll. However, there's always that tenth time out of ten.

That's right, kids - it's time to talk about the Elder Amberites.

Now, you don't want to use these guys all the bloody time, because let's face it - they're better. The PCs are never, thematically, going to be able to outfight Benedict, or out-mindwhammy Fiona. And that's okay - the Elder Amberites are less NPCs and more "Forces of Nature." Which means that, unless your PCs are incredibly F'ing sneaky, they will lose in a heads-up contest.

Let them.

Oh, I don't mean "never give them a chance." I mean "let them lose. Let them see why they lost. Let them decide to get even."

And they will. Nothing motivates a PC like the burning desire for revenge.

Part the Second: these kids don't play fair

It's a canonical example, in the Amber rulebook, that Benedict has a higher Warfare stat than Corwin. So how, it is asked, does Corwin beat Benedict in one encounter? Because Corwin cheats.

This is a very important lesson for players to learn. Encourage them.

It's all too easy, in many games, to slip into the mindset of "kill the bad guy and take their stuff." Only, in Amber, the bad guy can generally shake the foundations of the universe. So in order to beat them, the PCs can't simply charge in heroically - Note that every time this is attempted in the Amber novels, the heroic chargers tend to LOSE. Make sure your PCs understand this.

Part the Third: Unlimited Cosmic Power in Ten Easy Steps

With the wide variety of things that an Amber character can do, some PCs will go a bit over-the-top (my favotire example, from one of my games, was the PC who used his mastery of Trump to create a Trump-Powered Construct based off of the Space Battleship Yamato).

Let 'em (are you seeing a theme in most of my GM advice, kids?). For one thing, it lets the players' imaginations have their free rein, which is a lot of fun for most people. For another, it doesn't matter how cool the Yamato is when the plot demands that Caine Trump onto the deck and punch the PC in the nose, no it's not as though anything the PCs can do is going to utterly shatter your plot. Hell, if need be, the NPCs can generally build the same sort of stuff, only in less time, because they've had more practice at that sort of thing.

Part the Fourth: Stuff

The "stuff" system of Amber is one of the hardest things to wrap your mind around. Leaving out possible homebrew rules and whatnot, allow me to point out one simple fault that many Amber GMs fall into with the given rules.

Bad Stuff characters have bad things happen to them, and spend a lot of their free time trying to avoid the results of said bad stuff. Good stuff characters have good things happen to them, and spend a lot of their free time waiting around for more good things to happen.

See the problem?

Bad Stuff brings conflict, it brings excitement. If a Good Stuff character meets three guys in a shady alley, they'll probably leave him be, or even offer him a good deal on some stolen watches. A Bad Stuff character encountering the same guys will tend to be attacked. Guess which one is more fun and exciting to roleplay?

Keep an eye on this. Don't give your Good Stuff characters short shrift on the "roleplay spotlight" simply because their characters tend to be luckier.

Part the Fifth: Avoiding the Path Already Taken

The Return of Brand. The Return of Osric and Finndo. The Quest for the Spikards. These games have already been done. To death.

Part the Sixth: Screw The Rules!

You know that portion of the rulebook where the game writers talk about modifying - or even eliminating - the rules? Read it. Use it. Once you have a little bit of Amber under your belt, you'll find rules you dislike (the Magic rules being the primary offenders, for many a GM - myself, I just lumped all three varieties of magic into a single Power and charged 25 points for it). So change them. Look online for various Amber house rules (there are approximately two metric fucktons of them out there), and either use those, or use them as inspiration to make your own. But don't feel chained to rules for a game wherein most of the rules are intended to be guidelines anyways.

A few notes from another fan of Amber Diceless RPG and Amber

Elder Amberites In my game, Jeweled Amber, I chose to give the PCs an advocate, an Elder that King Random had assigned to look after "The Cousins". It was a punishment detail for Bleys, as well as a chance to involve the players with an Elder. By giving on voice that the players could go to i didn't have to run different Elders with every PC. They went to Bleys for information, gossip, relaxation, and a variety of needs. He almost never went with them on adventures but was able to come to their rescue if they really needed help.

Elders are royals too, High Royals. Depending on the PCs status they may have very little time for the players. However Amber is a Royal Court. Court members have just as little time but usually don't outrank the PCs, if the game is centered around a court, and thus can be excellent sources of help and information. Amber Guardsman, Ladies in waiting, courtiers, cooks, grooms, armorers, maids, and a huge number of other people abound in court. I tried to find one of these people to befriend the players. I also developed a couple people imortant People the players could go to without bothering the Elders. Dame Margot, Chief Chef of Amber. Lord Michael, the Herald of Amber, sometimes called the Little King.

I tried to steer the players away from being at odds directly with Elders.

Part the Second: these kids don't play fair The PCs need a good beat-down. It can be humbling. Many of the foes they will face are far tougher then they are. They need to be weened from the hack and slash mentality of most games.

I hesitate to suggest this because it can put bad ideas in players head, but if the players in your game are just learning Amber Diceless Role Playing Game and its rules a good baptism by fire can be good. Run a limited session Throne War. Run the stat auction, give players a chance to do a bit, then toss the crown out. Let them fight it out, kill them off, till one survives. If your game group understands its a quick thing it can be fun.

Part the Third: Unlimited Cosmic Power in Ten Easy Steps

I really like this advice. Let them build what they like. Destroy stuff they make. They are never going to be experts like the Elders. Make them get very detailed in the stuff they make.

On the subject of making stuff. I made trumps for the players. In the first Campaign i ran that meant photocopying and cutting and pasting since it was before everyone had incredible computers. The Jeweled Amber game was post-Paintshop so the trumps were much cooler. Make trump artists create trumps. If they build castles, have them find a floorplan. Warships, sailing ships, spaceships, etc. The stuff is available online all over the place. There are public domain and copyright issues but only if you try making money off them. They probably won't. Such art really makes a game come to life.

Part the Fourth: Stuff

Good and Bad Stuff can be tricky. It fluctuates so much. Players get points, allocate them, need one more for something and take bad stuff. Has a point left over they stash it in good stuff. Good Stuff becomes a bank. Bad Stuff becomes a loan. In my game i tried separate things that happen to players from their stuff. Politics can be bad politics. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. I had Stuff affect actions, not politics. It would mess up hellrides, attract monsters, effect spells. Good stuff and bad stuff can do both things. Players learned that having more then a point of either was more trouble then it was worth.

Part the Fifth: Avoiding the Path Already Taken

Ya, i agree. In many ways the threat of dead elders maybe coming back is better then having them actually come back. As for the spikards. Shadow is full of other things without things that players get clues about how to use from the books. I rarely used things and places used in the books. Its worth the effort to steer players away from such things.

Part the Sixth: Screw The Rules! I wholeheartedly agree. There are lots of really interesting things people have written up that can make your game fun. Most people would be happy to have you use their stuff. I wrote a thing called Diners of Amber that was the Place Trumps in the deck of cards King Randon gave to all the PCs. Anyone who wants to use it, or parts of it, is welcome too.

If a player develops an interest its worth the effort to find some way to provide for it.