Saturday, August 29, 2020

Chateau What-d'If!

 Super happy with the Night's Black Agents session. Had two simultaneous thriller scenes: A fight on Chateau d'If with 3 PCs against the Man In The Iron Mask*, at the same time a 3-way fight in downtown Marseilles between 2 PCs, a team from the British vampire program, and a corrupt cop on the take from a French vampire, which then turned into a chase sequence. Two PCs got mauled by a vamp, 1 got tased by spy, sniper fire broke out on a city street, and a group of characters had to jump off the cliffs of Chateau d'If and swim to safety.

*= It turns out the Man In The Iron Mask is a vampire that's been locked up beneath Chateau d'If for hundreds of years. Also locked beneath the castle was a beheaded Moroccan Djinn, and the animate mummy of Jean-Baptiste Kleber. Their warden is one of Les Immortals (the 40 influential people in charge of the French Language) who happens to be a Karcist (Goetic Mage) who has been tending their prison since the French Revolution. He was originally their warden, but has sort of fallen under the influence of the Djinn. It's complicated. Also more creepy, and less campy, than this short summary would lead you to conclude.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Table for 8

 I just ran my first Amber Attribute Auction in more than a decade. I had invited a large group of players, but as of this morning, only 3 had confirmed that they'd definitely be playing, and one of those 3 said he unfortunately was probably going to have to miss the character creation system. 3 dependable players is enough to run a good Amber campaign, but it's not really enough to run an Attribute Auction, so I spent a good chunk of the day unnecessarily prepping for how I might handle character creation for 2 or 3 in a way that would allow me to seamlessly add another player or two at a later date. 

For those unaware of the intricacies of Amber, the auction has 4 major Attributes (Psyche, Strength, Endurance, and Warfare) and player bid against each other to be "1st Rank" in each. This is fundamentally broken with less than 4 players, and can easily fall apart even with 4. Basically, if one player manages to be first rank in 3 of the 4 attributes, you'll potentially have some very painful balance issues should those characters come to cross purposes. So I was worried.


When the appointed time arrived, people just kept showing up to the google hangout and Roll20. I ended up with 7 players!

The auction went smoothly, despite my being a decade out of practice. If anything, my being rusty may have actually helped. I didn't oversell the attributes, so people had enough points to get Powers. Here's the Attribute "rungs" we ended up with:

Psyche rungs: 4 / 7 / 10 / 12 / 17

Strength rungs:  1 / 3 / 6 / 7 / 8

Endurance rungs: 5 / 7 / 10 / 12 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20

Warfare rungs: 2 / 5 / 7 / 10 / 12 / 15

It's kind of "weird" that 1st Rank didn't cost more than 20 for anything, and that Endurance was the highly competitive stat. Neither of those feels "normal", but they don't strike me as problematic either. Nearly every character ended up with Pattern, so they'll be able to move around the universe easily and they have reasons to interact. They're all cousins, and they have a vested interest in the prosperity of Amber.

This current batch of characters just feels like they are going to be so much easier to build stories for, than the crazy mixed-up groups of disconnected characters at the start of all my previous campaigns. No inexplicable enigma characters without a connection to either Amber or Chaos. No worries about anyone being "Shadow Lame" and unable to travel to the worlds where the plots are. No one caught in the unfortunate bind of having 60 points of Psyche and no Powers to use with it. This seems pretty great.

My only concern is in running a game for 7 players, especially a game like Amber where those 7 players are likely to frequently scatter to the ends of the universe. It's going to give me a serious workout each session, but thankfully we're only meeting every second week and I'll have plenty of time to catch my breath on off weeks. Should be fun. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Horse Of Another Timbre

 I'm going to be starting a new Amber campaign soon. I've sent out a few invites, and started building the campaign on Roll20. Not that an Amber game really needs Roll20, given that it's diceless and the rules are minimalist, but I've been so happy with the clue-storage and relationship-mapping aspects used in my Night's Black Agents campaign on Roll20 that I've decided something similar for this campaign is a good idea. The Roll20 will be a place to share images, if nothing else. 

I've decided the campaign will be called A Horse of Another Timbre, which just struck me as a clever thing to call an Amber game. The "horse" being the unicorn, of course, of course, and the music-term "timbre" is properly pronounced "tamber" and means the characteristic quality or "tone color" of a sound. It's a pun-inside-a-rhyme and cries out to be used for an Amber game.

I'll be running a Logrus-less Chaos, because I kind of hate the way Merlin's descriptions of the Logrus really invalidate the plot of Corwin's tale. (As in, we're told in the first 5 books that Chaos needs the Black Road and Dara's blood of Amber to be able to invade... but if Logrus is common in the Courts and functions as it does in Merlin's tale, that invasion should have been easy to start without Brand or Dara.) So I'm currently pouring over my old Amber documents here, looking for things that need updating. 

I'm also looking over the Lords of Gossamer and Shadow rulebook, and mulling over if there's a way to use the Grand Stair from that book, without it creating the same problem the Logrus does. I'm thinking maybe the Grand Stair is like a secret backdoor that Dworkin or Oberon created? 

One other change I'm going to make is just a rename of an ability. It will be Tarot Artistry, because the old name is unfortunately a homonym for the criminal-in-chief, and I don't want that constant reminder ruining scenes.