Stinkers (part two)

It’s hard to run Amber. The rulebook gives suggestions as to how things work, but even those running games very close to the canonical view have to answer a lot of questions as to how things work in a new situation. The overall rule of Amber is, “You succeed unless something has an interest in stopping you.” You can pick any lock, speak any language, go where you wish, unless there’s an active force opposing. Cosmologies can be created simply on a new aspect of how the powers work (check out our power categories.)

On the other hand, there’s a certain feel to Amber. The lack of “wuss Amberites” rule. When I play Amber, I want there to be the big challenges, the personal triumphs, and the destructive possibilities. You should dance on the edge of, “Over the top,” simply because of being living legends.

So when we joined this Amber game, I was excited. I created a deeply flawed character, (Chantal) a thug with a penchant for, “cold currency and hot blood.” The first day was great, with mechanical creatures and magical items, and then… the game seemed to be someone’s old AD&D game ported to Amber.

That wasn’t the stinker, though.

The stinker was because the GM (and a couple of other players) were so determined to keep their secrets that we had nothing to do.

The puzzles were killing puzzles.

In a game where everyone should be larger than life, there should be a decided lack of down moments. Yes, there’s a definite timing for revealing secrets, but when you’re stalling the player chemistry because of it, you need to think of something else. Tell us the secrets, and the characters can still be in the dark.

…And while I appreciate a good puzzle, if the players keep banging at something and not getting anywhere, it’s time for a clue.

The game didn’t last very long for us, but it’s the first campaign I’ve ever joined where I was dreading going to it so much I actually found myself coming up with excuses to not game. I’m sure some of it was just that it was a bad game match, but it’s definitely going down in my mind as a Stinker.

The Third Game [ACNW 2008]

I’ve had a(nother) game cancelled at an ACNW. Death of ego is a strange experience in GMing.

I’ve had a(nother) game cancelled at an ACNW.

So, I had been very frustrated about the third game I wanted to run at ACNW 2008. I know it came out in the description, leaving a certain incoherence and a certain level of nonchalance that didn’t give the same “bang” in the description as I’ve been able to make in other games. I know that was part of it.

Now, obviously, I’m fighting a malaise in my games – I’ve had some big hits and some big misses at previous instances of the convention. I’ve had a couple games just unravel on me – certainly I want to claim what part of it is my fault, but I’ve also had tired players and other participation/play-style issues. So it could just be the number of people (a small but significant number) who say, “I’ll play in anything but MaB’s games.”

It was also post-Merlin, and that’s ALWAYS had a set of people who have said, “No way,” so that’s worth considering. Myself, I run a strong Merlin, and I ignore the whining/super aspects (and the “Able to Speak and Sing” Powers) and come up with a character who is tech-savvy and very modern but also still able to handle the more savage aspects of his society.

The idea here, though, is how I would have felt in previous years to have a game cancelled, and the truth is, while I have reasons to be relieved, I am actually strangely (to me) fine with this.

Steven Barnes talks a lot about “death of the ego shell” and I think that part of it is that, simply, I do not have “GM” as so much of my identity anymore. I still enjoy it – my “Please and Shank You!” game was a fun example, if it devolved a little during the killing cycle, and even although the game I ran at WorldCon wasn’t at all what I wanted it to be, I still gave a taste of the game.

I have a lot of energy and ideas ready for “The Madness of King Lir” and “A Friendly Exchange” that makes me think they have the potential to be intense games.

But I’m not going to feel like I’ve failed somehow if I’m not “full up” in my games. It’d sound too much like sour grapes to say, “Maybe next year I won’t run anything,” but I won’t run anything for which I don’t feel like I have a real, solid enthusiasm, time, and energy. I never should have in the first place, and that‘s where I want to take the blame for the past failures.

No, no, he’s on the outside, looking in.

I still think I would have had my husband without Amber, but no promises.

To give credit where credit is due, without Amber DRPG, my world would be much, much different. I wouldn’t have all the friends I have, and maybe not even the relatives. I may never forgive him for the phrase, “wandering samurai,” but for all that I may not have a lot nice to say, Mr. Wujcik’s effect on my life more than negates anything I’d have had bad to say. I still enjoy playing and running Amber most of the time, and for that, at least, it’s worth the mention and remembering. May his peace be a restful peace.

House Rules #1: Time, Trump, and Personal Energy

But what are my house rules? Do I use them when I introduce people to the game? I think, using this round of development as an example, that the answer is, “Heck, yeah.” House Rule #1) The Limitations of Time, Trump, and Personal Energy.

Here’s the strange thing: I never thought of myself as a big “House Rules” person. I mean, when I could find a pithy one I added it. I have a collection of rules from the community that I have assimilated. So I don’t think of them as “House Rules” in the fashion I do, say, our silly Monopoly variants.

I have some GMing tricks and rules I re-use. The “three questions” I want to know of each character:

1. What are the character’s greatest hopes and fears?

2. What circumstances would turn the character into a hero?

3. What makes this character interesting enough to play?

The rule, “What someone pays attention to develops.” The maxims noted in this and these old WISH responses.

I have personal rules. “I play with people who can separate fantasy from reality.”

I have goals.

I use the Communist Trump rules (and by the way, people buy Trump Decks using this rule…)

I use Ginger‘s Rule of Game Design.

I use Arref‘s Rule of Three for Shadowshifting.

I use the Sarah Bear Rules of Epic Amberites.

I use the Odekirk d10 method of Patternwalk Risks.

A d10 is used to see if you die on the Pattern, each time. Note, I’ve never actually utilized this, but I reserve the right.

I use the Epoch rule of Automatic Trump Blocking.

If the person receiving the call doesn’t accept the call in the first place, the person making the call has next-to-no ability to put the call through. “Not accepting the call,” is something that takes little or no concentration. It is something you can do while swordfighting, for example.

But what are my house rules? Do I use them when I introduce people to the game?

I think, using this round of development as an example, that the answer is, “Heck, yeah.”

Continue reading “House Rules #1: Time, Trump, and Personal Energy”

A New PBeM…

A PBeM game I’d run if, well, I was running games…well, see, there’s all of these little catches. Three eras of Amber, and how they interact: create legends in each.

Hold on, wait–!

I’m not running a new Amber PBeM. My Amber PBeM GMing days are officially over. I know what happens to people who consider running Amber PBeMs. I like to think I have more respect than that.

With that said…

Continue reading “A New PBeM…”

Amber Sez

In the style of the popular, “English for the Sexes” humour file that is making its rounds into my e-mail again, here are some “English for Amberites” bits.

You have, of course seen that even something as straightforward as English can sometimes need translation, especially when it comes to things such as Amber. Here’s a few handy thoughts. Add your own!


1. Yes = If it suits my desires.

2. No = But you raise an interesting possibility.

3. Maybe = I’m guilty of nothing but malice…so far.

4. I’m Sorry = How’s the Kidney?

5. He might even be a very effective monarch. = Sucks to be him.

6. Would I lie? = Do I breathe? (Chaosians excepted.)

7. Do what you want = You’ll pay for this later.

8. I need to deliberate = I am going to mark someone for my extreme prejudice.

9. I am not interested in the crown = Pick me! Pick meeeeeeeeeeeee!

10. He’s blocking his Trump = Someone’s trying to kill him. Maybe me.

11. I’m off to Shadow = What happens in Shadow, stays in Shadow, or we destroy the Pattern and start over.

Consistent Amber Rulings

I use the Odekirk d10 method of Patternwalk Risks.

I use Ginger‘s Rule of Game Design.

I use Arref‘s Rule of Three for Shadowshifting.

I use the Sarah Bear Rules of Epic Amberites.

I use the Epoch rule of Automatic Trump Blocking.

I’m going to be testing the Jvstin Endurance as Drama Points idea.

I’m no longer running Amber from the ADRPG. I’m running Amber from the community.

Continue reading “Consistent Amber Rulings”

Rational People

Still trying to convince people to play the game.

“I just like the ability to go into an impossible situation and roll a die, and look!–A critical success! Or to trip when I’m walking down the stairs.”

“If you were trying to convince the King to give you troops to fight something intruding on your lands, would you roll a die?”

“No, that’s something I’d roleplay through.”

That’s what Amber’s like. It’s all a matter of the stuff you `roleplay through.’ The little details are taken care of; you’re just there to handle the stuff that really matters.”