Stages in Design: Trading Pawns (I)

So, “Trading Pawns” is the Amber LARP our family group is offering to run for ACNW, and it’s based off several ideas of an event in the Merlin series, of all places. I figured I’d write a little about the design here.

While I’m the major planner behind the LARP (I haven’t done a big one in far too long) I’m working with Chuck, the LintKing, and Chuck’s boyfriend (who I need to pin a moniker on, other than “Burly, Dark, and Handsome,” which is how I referred to him last night.) They can’t get into my mind, so I need to write a lot down. That means I have to create a whole GM book so they’re starting with the same knowledge.

What goes into a GM book? Well, I am going to point you to that very post on my regular gaming blog when it’s finished, but for this, let’s talk about the set-up.

First there’s the hard numbers – the statistics. In this case, because it’s Amber, I have ranks and I have actual numbers. The first page is the ranks, and I have colour-coded them for quick reference as well. I have the actual numbers in the back reference pages because they’re only really for me to check out how I spaced them as I set everyone up for the same number of points. There are some definite “clumps” of points depending on which attribute is a character’s focus, but the ranks are what the other GMs will be looking for if they need to compare things in a hurry.

Next, in conjunction with that is the list of items. These should be represented with physical objects – if we can’t get actual replicas to play with, they will at least be brightly coloured cards. In the book there will be the quick list (where they start in play, what they can do) and then a second set of pages organized with the large description and their fine points.

Then spells and powers are set up the same way. A spell in one of my LARPs will always be a one-shot item. You will cast them by giving them to a GM who will destroy the card (I’ve always wanted them on flash paper, but…) and explain the results. Some sorceror characters will be able to design spells “on the fly” and we’ll have extra cards available for that, but “on the fly” and sorcery in Amber are not really synonymous – although lynchpins can count as items.

Then a basic character and player list.

The next tab talks about timing and instructions. There are instructions for the GMs to give to players, and there is timing that everyone knows about – it’s replicated in the player books in brief. Then there’s GM events. GM events for this game are oriented first around the GMs’ particular NPC. Each GM has a particular NPC to play (that is developed in whole in case we get extra players who need a character as well – we can adapt on the fly) and then there’s a list in the book about other NPC characters (and hints on playing them as well as their secrets) who can show up in the game. There’s also a page of “complications” broken down to each GM to add to the story if necessary, such as rumours, or minor events that GM can handle exclusively.

The next tab is the reference tab and it has my “Tolerance List” which describes initial tolerances of one character to the next. It also has what the initial house allegiances are, and some of the obvious initial plot items are and how they’ll resolve if the players don’t interrupt.

The final tab is the character list in depth – it has all the details that each player gets privately, in alphabetical order for easy reference.

Each player gets their stats, their backstory, some roleplaying hints, their immediate connections with other players, their goals, the game timing, and a card with their name on the front and some details on the back. If they have spells/items, those will also be in their packets.

Trump Issues (2 of a Multipart Series)

Trump Questions: Verbal/Telepathic and other Communication Issues

It’s All in the Cards

Part Two: The Communication (Sound/Voice/Telepathy) Questions

Do you communicate using thought or voice? Can you switch? Are there certain requirements to one or another?

If it’s verbal, can someone overhear either speakers outside of the contact?

Can you be misheard in either case? Can you lie? (Caine does in canon, but is that a separate ability?)

Does it use _your_ (mental) voice?

What if you have laryngitis, or are in a form that changes your vocal cords?

If it is a mental contact, can you change the way you sound or add other effects?

What kind of sounds can you NOT hear inside a contact, if any?

Is there any kind of exertion (physical, magical, spiritual, whatnot) that can interfere with the communication?

Can you hold open a contact under any exertion at all? Does it depend on your attributes?

Does distance affect the connection?

(from Arref: Does distance affect a trump call?

Does distance plus caller affect a call?

Does distance plus caller plus listener affect a call?)

Does what body part is in contact affect the connection?

Does it have to be skin-to-Trump contact? Vision-to-Trump? Attention-to-Trump? Spell-to-Trump?

When sharing a Trump connection, does it have to be skin-to-skin contact?

Does the quality of the Trump affect the connection?

Is there any limit to how long a Trump can remain active?

Does it depend on the caller(s) or listener(s)?

Can an environmental effect change, disrupt, or implement a contact?

If so, what does it take? Is it something that is purely localized or something lasting?

Can you Trump near the Pattern? The Primal Pattern? The Logrus? The Keep of Four Worlds? The Grove?

Can illness or curses affect a Trump contact?

Amnesia or organic brain damage? Psychological damage?

Can a missing limb change your Trump connection? Missing eye? Missing ear? Lobotomy?

Continue reading “Trump Issues (2 of a Multipart Series)”

Trump Issues (1 of a Multipart Series)

A look at Trump, this set of questions for GMs starts with the physical nature of Trump Cards.

It’s All in the Cards

Part One: The Physical Questions

What medium are the cards?

Paper? Ceramic? Mirror? Does it make a difference?

Do they have to be a particular size or shape?

Is there anything special about the ink/paint?

Does it change if it’s blood instead? Your blood (or other bodily fluids)? Someone else’s blood?

How much art does it take? What must be included?

Stick figures? Sketches? Black and white or colour? Playing cards?

Does having something on the back make a difference?

Can the cards be smudged? Torn? Shattered?

If so, how?

The cards are “cold”; what changes this?

How do you make duplicates?

How long does it take? Is it based off another power?

Continue reading “Trump Issues (1 of a Multipart Series)”

Nodes of Logrus

New concept-idea for the Logrus I came up with for a convention game: Logrus as cross-shadow complete with Nodes of power.

In my mentally-proposed ACNW ’05 (presuming we make it this year) game “Brothers of the Empire” I’ve come up with a new (to me) concept for the Logrus that I quite like and figured I would share.

The Logrus is not a place. It is purely an initiation. There are sacred grounds for it, but its tendrils snake (if you excuse the word) throughout Shadow.

No one knows entirely what makes the initiation successful, although after countless years it has been made crystal clear that a certain fluidity of shape is required.

Continue reading “Nodes of Logrus”

SotR: Stuff Chart

What DOES having “four” points of Bad Stuff mean?

I’ve mentioned “Sisters of the Rainbow” a few times as an Amber game designed by myself and a friend based loosely on Aztec/Toltec mythology. I was rummaging around and found this note on it in a drawer.

In a lot of campaigns, Stuff is kind of a rough guide to a rough idea. For “Sisters of the Rainbow” we had a specific idea for what every point of “Stuff” on a plus/minus ten point scale suggested for the character.

Continue reading “SotR: Stuff Chart”


A reprint of my old Shroudling article, in preparation for some new Shroudling ideas I hope to develop.

[reprinted from old blog]

I’ve played with different cosmologies for Shroudlings. The first is what I call the “soul aspect” Shroudlings.

This type of Shroudling includes five different aspects.

  • The Familiar
  • Image
  • Blood
  • Spirit
  • Hunger

Before going into the different types, there are three things common to all Shroudlings: Teve, The Shroud, and the Calling.

Continue reading “Shroudlings”


A brief history of the Loyalists attribute.

It’s been mentioned a few times that there is a decided lack of social attribute (besides those implemented in determining conflicts of a strategic or psychic nature) in the ADRPG as it stands.

It’s been bandied about a few times, but in the spirit of all those people who have messed with the core stats, I often include the “attribute” of Loyalists, especially in my Throne Wars.

Continue reading “Loyalists”

Conflict of Resources

Elfquest vs. Amber – a brief discussion.

I have been agonizing over what to do for ACNW 2003. I’ve got two games pretty much “designed” and ready to test/play/run…whatever opportunities develop. What I don’t have is…more than two. As I normally run four or five, this is kind of sparse to me. (Although, honestly, there are more ideas out there than I can really use.) I’m hoping there’s a ton of people who just want to run something fantastic this year…but GMs are a fragile, rare breed. [laughing]

Continue reading “Conflict of Resources”

Snakes: (July 5th, 2003)

The game design for “Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?” for amusement, education, and the occasional raised eyebrow.

For those interested in such things, I’ve included a write-up of the original adventure plan. I’m much happier with what happened as opposed to what was planned, but that’s because when you create the adventure, you never know what the players have in mind.