Thursday, February 18, 2021

A Horse Of Another Timbre: Session 1 Log

I am currently a dozen sessions into an Amber Diceless Roleplay Campaign, for a half dozen players. I've posted a few things about it from time to time, but I don't really have the time to write up every session here. Which is a shame, because there's not a lot of active Amber Campaigns on the web, so it seemed like an ongoing log of our campaign might be of interest to any Amberites who stumble upon us.

Thankfully, one of my excellent players, my old friend Brendan, is already on top of it. He's been keeping a detailed log every session, and has agreed to let me re-post it here. Brendan lives in a different state, so some sessions he has to call it a night earlier than those of us on the West Coast. So sometimes I have to take my own notes of what happened after he logged off, and I'll probably occasionally add a bit of color commentary as well. For example, I still had the list of books from "Fiona's Book Club" in the first session, so I inserted that below.

In addition, another of my excellent players, my friend Andrew, is keeping a log of funny and memorable quotes from the game. So I'll be posting many of those at the end of each campaign log as well.  

Both logs are below the collapsible/divide in this post.

The Setting: Corwin's Saga, the first 5 Amber novels, are treated as cannon. Those books are the tale Corwin told to his estranged son Merlin at the end of the Black Road War, so there's some wiggle room for face-saving or weakness-concealing lies on the part of the narrator.  

Books 6 to 10 are non-cannonical for the purposes of the campaign, and have not happened. What's more, many of the "big reveals" of those books have been set aside. Most notably, this is a "Logrus-less Chaos" version of the Amber setting. The Courts of Chaos have very limited methods for traveling the Universe. They are also very much NOT human. I put a lot of stock in the claim in the books that Dara's mother could not take the human form. Any Chaosite who looks human probably has a very interesting backstory.

Our campaign starts 10 years after the "Black Road War" (a term I have Amberites use instead of the cannonical term "Patternfall War" used by characters in books 6+. Patternfall seems to imply a level of vulnerability that the Amberites aren't likely to want to advertise)

Amber has been at peace for all 10 years of Random's reign, with no known fratricide attempts in that time. King Random has enacted many social reforms both in Amber itself, and further out in the Golden Circle.

The Cast: All the usual Amber NPCs from the first 5 novels are in play. Random is King, having been chosen by the Unicorn at the end of the war. In addition to King Random and Queen Vialle, several of the King's siblings appear in this session, such as his brothers Julian and Bleys, and his sisters Fiona and Florimel. 

In regards to those characters, or the most part, we take Corwin at his word about the personas of his siblings... they're a paranoid, fratricidal bunch, but as mentioned above,  things have been peaceful in Amber for 10 years now. The only major NPC that I've taken significant creative liberties with (at least in this first session) to specify that Sand and Delwin, two missing members of the Royal Family who are merely name-dropped in the books, are people of color in this version of the setting. This largely because two of the PCs are POCs. Neither Sand nor Delwin appear in this session, but I'm sure they'll turn up sooner or later.

In addition, the following Player Characters attend this session:

  • Dalziel, son of Bleys, who has been living in Amber for several months. He was a scientist back home in the Shadow Lochland, and has recently begun a series of experiments to learn the laws of science as they apply within Amber.
  • Maarit, who was presented to the King a few weeks ago. Maarit is an orphan, who was found in the Shadow Iolu by Llewella and Gerard. She has been presented to the King as being a daughter of the long-lost Princess Sand. She has recently walked the Pattern for the first time, and has struck up the beginnings of a friendship with Dalziel. 
  • Spinturnix, is the son of Julian. 'Nix grew up in nearby Forest Arden, but has never actually met his Uncle the King. Spinturnix works as the Head Archivist of a great library of a world known as "Oberon's Loupe", which is part of the Golden Circle of satellite nations to Amber.
  • Ava, daughter of Florimel and Duke Uldain of Chaos. Ava has walked the Pattern, and is on good terms with her mother and her cousin Merlin. Ava lives in a shadow world called The Topiary.
  • Medore, child of Dierdre. Deirdre died in the Black Road War, and Medore is very different from their mother. Medore is non-binary, pansexual, and a person of color. There are lot of scenes early on where the Elder Amberites aren't quite sure what to make of Medore, and some of them check their priviledge and adapt to this faster than others. Medore does not yet know that Deirdre and the former King Eric are dead. At the start of the campaign, Medore is in a remote Shadow known as Dwydder.
  • David Weyreth is a retired officer from the militaries of Amber. He served under Caine in the Navy as a young man. In the second half of the Black Road War, he transferred to the Army and served under Deirdre. He is not a member of the Royal Family at all. (And given that he's a Player Character, that lack of significance is certainly suspicious.)
  • Abn Haram, the human-shaped son of Lady Nykae of Chaos. At the start of the campaign, both Abn Haram and his mother are both aboard a chartered ship in the Golden Circle, headed toward Amber. They are accompanied by Abn Haram's steward, and his pet pig "Brute", and Nykae also has her own entourage. 


Campaign log: 31 August 2020 

Scene 1: The Journey to Amber (Abn Haram, Nykae, Caine, Steward near Amber)
Haram prepares for a journey to Amber, has been gathering a group of people to help on their journey. Haram's mother arranges for the travel on a three-masted sailing vessel. He sails past a lighthouse and near a forest.

Spots three ships from Amber coming toward them, flying the colors of Prince Caine. Haram's crew mutiny, he and his mother and Steward kill many of them to stop the coup. Having stopped the coup, Haram uses magic to accelerate the ship and elude the Amber ships and run up the beach.

Scene 2: Science in the Forest (Dalziel, The Weir, Julian, in Forest Arden)

Dal executes a scientific experiment to learn about the universe around Amber. He's interrupted by some wolfmen (Wier). Dal kills one of them, gets bitten by another, and bests them in battle. As they retreat, arrows attack!

Arrows from the forest take down the werewolves -- it's Prince Julian and his patrol! Dal finishes his measurements, Julian reveals the werewolves are becoming a problem. They discuss wier, heritage, ambition, and science. Dal says he'll contact Julian if he plans to come into the forest. He learns that a hunt is afoot and heads off to find it.

Scene 3: Science in the Capital (Maarit, Bleys, in Amber)
Conducting an experiment for Dal in Amber, Maarit learns from Bleys that a delegation from the Courts of Chaos is late, and may have been ambushed at sea. They head on their way to a battle (or to receive a delegation), but stop for a drink.

Scene 4: Kitties in the Garden (Ava, Merlin, Large Cats, in The Topiary)
Far from Amber, Ava and cousin Merlin talk about whether he should walk the pattern. They meet a wounded unicorn and couple big mean cats. The unicorn is black with a golden mane. Ava talks down the cats and shoos them away, but they have some mysterious mutterings and ideas to offer before Merlin kills one of them with a spell.

Ava uses her labyrinth to hurt the remaining cat, which shrinks. Ava decides to try and keep the cat to question it. The dogs attack and the cat strikes back and they decide to end it. Ava calls her mother, who is fascinated with the unicorn. She wonders if the cats came from the stables of Lord Sevran of Moen. After they propose bringing it to Amber, the unicorn runs off, leading Ava to find a path in shadow leading out of the labyrinth, with her mom.

Scene 5: Birds & Book Clubs (Nix (Spinturnix), Fiona, Toucan Hawk, in Oberon's Loupe)
Nix returns from a long weekend (where he found a new bird with a huge beak) to find Fiona waiting for him, having read a whole pile of books on Dopplegangers. She assures him that it's all just a coincidence, that there's an issue with inheritance but it's nothing to concern him, but he might want to visit his father. He sends a bird to his father.

Waiting to hear back from his father, Nix puts away Fiona's books and notices they're all about changelings and doppelgangers. 

 Fiona's Book Club:

There's only a single Fiction title among the 43 books she had out. That lone fiction title was Dumas'  The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later, Volume 3. There's no signs of volumes 1 and 2 in the room.

All the other books on the table or in her chair are non-fiction, such as:

Wards of Power, Volume XXVIII: Abjurations Against Illusion And Befuddlement

A book about serial killers called "The Copycat Syndrome"

Saga of the Grisbanx Dopplegangers

Lord Forthright's Esteemed Treatise On The Detection And Identification Of Liminal Beings

True Tales of the Ty'iga Terror


Reports of Zombification and Identity Theft In The Age Of The Black Road

Dwellers Upon Every Threshold

His Majesty's Enemy Within: The Unmasking of the Clone King

all three volumes of the Compleate Catalougue of Changelings

Mirror Ghosts: My Possession Narrative

Doubles, Dopples, Matches and Mimics

The Village That Ate Itself

Pod People And You: A Primer

And several large, encyclopedic tomes of Folklore, Urban Legends, or Bestiaries of Supernatural Creatures, each with multiple bookmarks tucked in them.

Scene 6: A Gift for the King (David, Random, Lord Rein, Bleys in Castle Amber)
David hears a report about the disrupted visit of the ship from the Courts of Chaos from the King. He shows the King a new drum set. The king reminds himself of who David is, asks for a music demonstration, asks David to grab a sword, and then summons Bleys, who shows up with a wine goblet. Now we'll see what happened.

Scene 7: A Message from Mother (Medore, Toucan Hawk in Dwyder. Prop: The Note From D)
Medore is resting in his Edwardian world, a huge bird with a huge beak appears and inspects his wardrobes, and delivers a note Deirdre's hand asking them to prepare for war. 

 The note reads:

My little Zephyr,

We find ourselves drawn into a war. Amber needs us. I need your help. Raise an army, and await my arrival on the third day. If I am delayed, take the bird to Dorrit-town. It will know what to do.   -D

Medore takes three days to walk through shadow and raises a sizable army (mostly Edwardian technology soldiers, sprinkled in with a few High Tech Troops), which encamps in a realm near his realm. His mom doesn't show on the third day, so he heads to Amber.  

Medore takes a ship and brings his crew to Amber by sea.


Scene 8: At the Docks (Abn Haram / David / Medore / Maarit / Random / Bleys in City of Amber)

Maarit stands with Bleys, they see a ship and watch the dingy coming in and get news of some sort of attack from Caine. King Random and David, armed with swords and drumsticks. Random and Maarit have tension, he introduces her to Bleys. When the dingy appears, the men report that there was a mutiny on board. Random reveals that a delegation from the Court of Chaos was to arrive today to return an item that belonged to Osric, the dead brother. They ponder what could possibly have been the object on its way.

When Medore arrives at the docks, they have an amusing interaction with Random, Bleys, David, and Maarit. Medore gives a bottle of good wine to Bleys. When Medore reveals who his mother is Deirdre, which makes everyone cringe. Because it turns out she's dead! Medore identifies her in the Tarot deck, and Maarit starts to take Medore up to the castle. Random pretends to be sad, but isn't really sad.


Scene 9: A Kitty in the Library (Nix (Spinturnix), Toucan Hawk, Large Cats, Julian, in Oberon's Loupe)

Later, in the library, Nix is accosted by a big cat, which tries to eat a bird. After a tussle, the cat is killed in the aviary. Nix connects to Julian via Tarot card and gets a caution to reach out directly to Julian before coming to Amber.

See also:

Scene 10: At the Gates (Abn Haram, Nykae, Dalziel, Bleys, Random, Maarit, David, in Amber)

Haram and the other survivors of the shipwreck make it to the city, where they send a townsperson to get the King. The rider announces the diplomats and everyone marches down to the edge of town to see the diplomats. They meet and Random announces a feast but the Court of Chaos general rebuffs him in favor of sleep.

Haram reveals that tomorrow is his birthday. Bleys smiles, David frowns concernedly. David takes the opportunity to mention that he fought against Haram's mom during the war. Dalziel calls Julian to learn about what happened in the forest.


Quote Log:

  • “One must be attended.” - Abn Haram
  • “I don’t know if they like their jobs. That’s between them and their God.” - Abn Haram
  • “Run home and lick your wounds, I have work to do” - Dal
  • (Gleefully) ::EAVESDROPPING!:: - Marit
  • “I said we don’t fight in my garden, but that was okay, that was good!” - Ava
  • “My arm is only ‘a little’ shredded” - Nix
  • “Well, you know how she likes the stacks” *wink* - Nix
  • “If you shit on any of my clothes, you’re lunch” - Medore, to the strange bird
  • “I don’t want them in my realm, they might stink up the place” - Medore

and my personal favorite exchange of the session:


King Random: “You a drum man, David, or just a brown-noser? 

David: "A bit of both, sir.”

Further Reading:

A few months back, I had posted a bit about our first session. You can read my thoughts about it here: As you can read there, I really enjoyed that first session, and I'm very lucky to have such a great group of players and such interesting PCs. 

I also wrote about a specific thing I did with some birds during this session. The log below fills in a lot of context and detail around those. 

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