Sizing Up

In searching for a copy of 4th Edition Talislanta, our sweetie and I made the journey to four different gamer-friendly locations. This was my first jaunt to local places, so I was also kind of looking for “the” place, you know, the store where I would be spending my time and money…

It’s not that I’m a big Talislanta fiend or anything, although I loved their “No Elves” advertising campaign. It’s become kind of a joke in our household, though, with both my husband and I fighting over who will get and read a copy of it first…

The first location I had called earlier in the week, and they were “expecting a copy” so I had high hopes. It’s a very large hobby shop with an emphasis on board games and card games, with a small miniatures aisle and some anime stuff. The gentlemen behind the counter (one older, one younger) were engaged in fairly animated conversation with some of the customers…mostly about CCGs, but I could forgive them that. The game I was looking for wasn’t in, and I got the impression that the RPG side of things was handled by other employees. Their RPG selection was fairly extensive, although the prices weren’t any bargain. They did have a good collection of used games at a reasonable mark-down… but nothing that really sparked my interest. They had the three tiers of shelves, with a lot of White Wolf up on top, where I would have been hard pressed to look through it if I had been interested…but I wasn’t, so no big loss. [laugh] I expect I’ll be back, especially if I get a job in the area.

The second location was mostly an Anime Haven. Lots of videos, figures, and CDs. Atmosphere was not hostile, but we were never asked if we could be helped, and I had a strong feeling that it was kind of a “regulars” place. Lots of people, some watching television. I suppose I’ll be back because of my interest in the products, but not for their customer service. RPG selection was laughable.

We were on our way to a third place that I’d received a flyer for when we passed a place claiming to be “owned by,” “run by,” and “for” gamers. I investigated: it took a few minutes to determine that they actually had RPGs: it was like a convenience store for CCGers, complete with restaurant-style booths in backs populated by little boys.

“Hi, can I help you?”

“I’m looking for a copy of 4th Edition Talislanta.”

“Um…what set is that from?”


“Do you know what game it’s from?”


“Is it a card or a game?”

“It’s a…game.”

“Is it like a game-game, or a…?”

“It’s a…book.”

“Oh. Well, I’m just watching the store. If it’s a book, it’ll be on that case… if it’s a game, it’ll be over there on that case.”


They had 3eD&D, Star Wars, and a smattering of Shadowrun. Um, needless to say, no such luck there. I had that strange feeling, listening to the background noise, that I was speaking a language ALMOST but not quite the same… where I could recognize a lot of the terms, but not the context.

The fourth place, however, did what I hoped. I was greeted, I was told that a woman had bought their last copy, I was told they were looking to hold more roleplaying sessions (as opposed to tournaments and stuff) in their store, and I was encouraged to look around. I ended up buying a figurine there and giving them my information (alas, they didn’t recognize my name) for future reference. Their gaming selection wasn’t as extensive as the first store’s, but they’ll order things, and overall it was a much more comfortable place.

It’s a beginning, I guess.

Trump Laws: Proposed

[from MaBarry’s notebook]

I don’t know exactly what I was doing with this list, but there’s some interesting thoughts in it. Written below it is the word, “Alexithymia” meaning, “able to only poorly differentiate between emotions.”

1. Tarot requires knowledge of images. The questions are irrelevant.

2. Requires a patron totem (can be a card image) or power.

3. Can be used to ‘remember’ a Shadow.

4. Images can be blended: will warp an original image.

5. The cards can be used to spy on peoples’ thoughts.

6. The order the cards are in is important.

7. There is a secret set of ‘master’ cards that relate to archetypes.

8. Each card is individually made and ‘spelled’.

9. Communication through the cards cannot be false.

10. Using them backwards can be dangerous.

11. Each card has a special meaning.

12. Cards cannot be duplicated exactly.

13. Cards are ‘sealed’ by the Artist to prevent changes after they are drawn.

Cymnea and Oberon

I actually don’t really care for the Amber children (or teenager) games. Admittedly, I ran one, but it was inspired to actually be a game FOR children should I try to get my little sisters into Amber gaming.

(“Look, the chocolate on my hand looks like a slug!” says Chatterbox, all happy. She’s warped already, but is she warped ENOUGH?)

Or do some community service, such as it is.

The idea of Oberon as a teenager, however, amuses me greatly.

[the Chaos version]

“Go to your Ways! And no talking with this Cymnea girl!”

“I never asked to be born!” [slams door with Logrus tendril]

Of course, while writing the first sentence, I had this whole “Romeo and Juliet Gone Horribly Wrong” idea about Oberon and Cymnea…

Cymnea and Oberon: ala R&J


Two households, both alike in dignity,

In blackened Thelbane, where we lay our scene,

Source of ancient grudge to Brand’s mutiny,

Where civil blood makes Amber hands unclean.

From forth immortal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-cross’d lovers make their fight;

Whose misadventured and Eye-stealing overthrows

Do with their actions create Shadow’d night.

The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,

And the continuance of all Swayville’s rage,

Which, with Amber’s creation, could not remove,

Is now the amused mutterings of our sage;

The which if you generously attend,

What here shall miss, our laughter should to mend.

The scary thing is that I think I could do it…

Good Campaigns

I have a list of my top twenty favourite Amber campaign sites. A lot of what I like about them is in the webpage design, or sheer reading pleasure, or other reasons for admiration. I recently plugged a couple of games here on the blog and felt I ought to clearly support my choices.

What does a good game have (and for what should someone strive)?

1) Consistency.

Like it or not, that’s the bread and butter of a game. Players need consistency. They need to know that there are rules that will apply across the board, and if for some reason there is an exception, that exception has a REASON. They need adequate response times, with adequate responses. NPCs should talk the same way each time you come across them, landmarks should be solid and any changes maintained and described.

2) Knowledge.

Write what you know, skirt around and study what you do not. You can really get in trouble when you fudge a dessert (so to speak) and find out one of your players is a gourmet chef who knows -that- isn’t going to work. Yes, we’re playing out fantasy here, but I’ve heard of murder mysteries that lowered the GM’s credibility because the fatal injuries couldn’t have occurred that way. Also, keep track of who knows what — unless your game is populated with mysterious oracles who can spout important clues when asked the right question.

3) Quality.

Quality of response and quality of materials are a very important piece of a good game. A definite knack for improvisation will carry you far, but why stress yourself when you don’t have to? Put in the little details; they make the difference.

Those are probably the top three things I look for in a game…but they are of little importance when you don’t have the fourth piece:

4) Character-Specific Entertainment

There’s probably a better way of putting it, but really, I want to be entertained. I want my character to have a role that reflects how much energy I put into my gaming, and probably a little bit extra. I want to be the star, the hero for my fair share of the on-screen time. It’s a combination of fun, and importance… because, after all, why else am I gaming?

So, when I say a game is good, that’s because it’s fulfilling those needs. And yes, I have seen horrible examples of games where the exact opposite was done…

Comments: Rikibeth Stein on 2001-Dec-18:

Murder mysteries that lowered the GM’s credibility because the fatal injuries couldn’t have happened that way?

You wouldn’t maybe be thinking of the time I quoted the Ripper autopsy reports to a FTF GM to prove how hard beheadings were?

I should talk, though. I just read through one of my old gamelogs and realized how badly I’d screwed up the description of a foxhunt. And I don’t have the energy and intensity that it takes to sustain a huge PBeM as GM, either. I had to learn the hard way.

Beheadings, especially. [shaking head] I don’t know how so many GMs screw that one up. (I’ve heard about six different stories…)

I am LEARNING what it takes… and I’m HOPING I have “it”. [grin]

A Sentence on Sentience

At that, I’ve never really appreciated the idea of talking Patterns and Logrus.

I am not a first-series purist. I’m not saying that I’m happy with the Merlin part of the series, ’cause I’m not. Merlin’s an idiot sometimes, especially with his inability to ask for directionsadvice, and his stumbling about to find an answer.

At that, I’ve never really appreciated the idea of talking Patterns and Logrus. If they needed to talk, they could have used someone as a Voice. That’s always been my approach to it. Ghostwheel was designed to learn. The Pattern, however, connects to so many Shadows that at some level the processing it does may apply to itself. I see it capable of making limited “decisions” as an analysis of what is required of it. I don’t think it’s at any level where it can 

communicate or desire anything in the way of human concepts.

The fun idea with it, however, is to imagine it something like “The Blob,” wherein it is hungry to grow its connections. What does it devour to do so? Does it grow with Dworkin? Does Dworkin have to be a shapeshifter in order to contain the effects of Pattern? (Is that what is meant by having to be a shifter for Logrus?) (Being a shifter in the Courts, where as Merlin says sometimes Shadow is loosely woven together and you could fall into unhealthy environments makes sense. But is it different shapeshifting that that of Power?)

If you don’t have Logrus, does Ygg root into the same connections and perhaps limits Pattern’s effectiveness? (There might be an interesting reason for this.) (Ygg says he marks a boundary…not maintains it…but who knows. He’s a talking tree.)

My First Time

It was the Shadowrun game to end all Shadowrun games. I mean, we had everything. Vampires, kender, ancient Aztec gods, feathered serpents, crazy riggers, a three-eyed troll, a toothbrush salesman, and it ended with a bang, as the house exploded.

Somewhere in there, my main NPC, a burned-out mage, and Maxi, the rigger, fell into something more, something…different. A burned-out mage who discovered her real feelings, something to ease the eternal ache…

…and the first gaming erotica to which I was ever exposed.

Oh, I suppose in retrospect it was like most good first times, kind of clumsy, and messy. I remember it with a fond, sentimental smile. Just an e-mail I ran across after school, I never associated it with the fellow behind it as a flirt. It felt so much like a part of the story, just another scene, even if I hadn’t written it as GM. I never even questioned its appropriateness.

A few months later, the same fellow introduced me to Amber.