Saturday, March 27, 2021

Platypus Justification

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced the Platypus only exists because God needed a CR3 monster for the third room of his new "Australia" dungeon, and he'd already used up Owlbears in the first room and Displacer Beasts in the second.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

A Horse Of Another Timbre: Campaign Log, Session 4

 The following is the campaign log for the fourth session of my current Amber Diceless RPG campaign. Most of this log was typed up by one my players (thanks, Brendan!) during the session. I've added a few notes of my own. 

You can Start from Session #1 or just Rewind to Session #3.

Campaign log: 12 October

Setting the Scene: The first few sessions were a failed assassination attempt and a murder investigation set against the backdrop of a banquet in Amber with visitors from Chaos. Tangential investigations continues in this session more than anything else.

The PCs are:

  • Dalziel, son of Bleys. A scientist who has been in Amber for several months.
  • Maarit, daughter of Sand. An orphan who never met her mother.
  • Spinturnix, son of Julian. Grew up in Forest Arden.
  • Medore, child of Dierdre, just recently arrived in Amber to learn Dierdre is dead.
  • David Weyreth is a retired officer from the militaries of Amber.
  • Abn Haram, the human-shaped son of Lady Nykae of Chaos. 

Most of the NPCs are from the novels. Not just the big-name Amber Royals, but also plenty of minor characters, such as Will and Dik, who only show up in a paragraph or three of a single novel each. I was particularly happy with the way I utilized Roger and Rolf, two castle guards from the novels. Another non-Royal is completely my own invention: Jinna the Scullion, who dispensed exposition and minor clues in several later sessions as well.

A few major Chaosites show up in this session: Nykae is the mother of one of the PC, and serves as General in the armies of her brother Sevran. Other minor Chaosites such as Brute and Steward are present as well, these are all connected to Abn Haram's character sheet in one way or another. Allies, minions, conjuration results, etc.

Scene 1: Abn Haram heads to the stable with Steward - Abn Haram, Steward, Brute in the stables of Castle Amber
Abn Haram stuck Kimchee in his eye. (He was trying to figure out if chemical weapons work in Amber.) Steward shows up with a painting, front/back, and some Amber chess pieces. 

That's the back of the painting. It's sort of a map.

Steward says she was on an errand for Abn Haram's mother, Nykae. They head for the stables.

Abn Haram wanders the castle some more, and Maarit (who was in the opposite end of the stables, see scene 3 below) decides to stay on his trail.

Abn Haram tries to use the Tarot to find his mother (the card grows cold but he cannot establish a connection). Haram asks a guard if he can have someone contact King Random, but no one is willing to do so. Haram goes to the library and marvels at the old timey technology. He browses the organizational materials, histories, scientific treatises, etc. Haram makes an excuse to head for the toilet when he senses contact through a Tarot.

It's his Uncle Sevran; they chat about the state of things. Sevran suggests Nykae might be injured, suggests it's suspicious that Haram hasn't seen her. Sevran tells Haram that Nykae was trying to get "some objects," directed toward an effort to reach Haram's father. Haram passes the chess set and painting through to Sevran. Sevran decides to bring Haram into his confidence in his mother's absence. Nykae and Sevran have been watching a hole in reality, which has been growing. Recently the hole ruptured and a "horse with a horn" came out of the hole, killed people, and escaped. Sevran's trackers went after it, but they haven't returned.

Sevran says he will assemble a group of people to try and force a call to Nykae. Haram gives Sevran's card to Steward to use to give Sevran regular updates. Maarit and Haram chat about Haram's pretend diarrhea that he used as an excuse to avoid being observed on his call.

Haram studied the painting before he passed it to Sevran - the painting is very old, has cracks where it was folded. No tarot quality to it, but the paints are very high quality. It has the potential to have some under painting. 

GM's Note: I have had very little luck in anticipating the motivations and actions of Abn Haram. His player always surprises me, which is really cool, but does sometime result in wasted efforts on my part. This map-like-thing (above) was clearly a secret the character's mother was interested in, with an implication that it was the whole point of her traveling to Amber. It was also implied to be related to the disappearance of his father (Osric). We're six months and a dozen sessions since that prop's introduction, and this thread has gone more or less nowhere. That's okay, the campaign has a lot of subplots, so there's plenty happening. It _may_ mean that this could prop back up later in the campaign if the plot ever slows down a bit. Which will probably feel like a cool call-back when and if that happens. Until and unless it does, though, I can't help but feel like it's a failure on my part. A bit of a fizzle in an otherwise excellent campaign.

Scene 2: Dalziel heads for the dungeon to check on the pattern - Dalziel, Rolf, Roger, and what's left of Will in Dungeons of Amber
Dalziel sees the guards Rolf and Roger, discovers that someone "fell" down the stairs. They report that someone tried to access the dungeon. The story Rolf tells: the guard Will came by with a junk of drink, they imbibed, then a person from the Court came by to try to get down the stairs, called himself "Thelkor," Will relieved Rolf while he whizzed, and when he returned, he found Will missing. Roger reported that Will fell down the stairs and had a burnt artifact. Dalziel examines the burnt object, which smells like a burned heavily-decayed body. The object that fell with Will has human-like teeth in it. Roger mentions he thought he saw a hand reaching from the burning corpse.

GM's Meta-Note: Rolf, Roger, and Will are actual minor characters from the Amber novels. All three are guards in Amber's dungeons. Of the three, only Roger gets any memorable lines or development in the books: he's basically an author-insert character. The books are written by Roger Zelazny, and Roger the guard is writing a novel at his guard post. My real-life name happens to be Rolfe, so I decided to give Rolf a tiny bit of development and screen time as well, as a tip of the hat. In one of these early sessions (probably this one) there was a fair bit of meta-/sub-text to the banter as Rolf and Roger talked about how they split the responsibilities of keeping the Pattern safe.

The pattern is glowing but seems undisturbed. Dalziel decides to secure the door with himself inside, sends Roger back to his post.

2b: Dalziel waits at the pattern. - Dalziel, Corwin, Dungeons of Amber
He uses the opportunity to study the pattern, attempting to draw it on a page, checking out the pattern. The proportions of the pattern keep messing up the drawing. Eventually, Corwin knocks on the door and Dalziel lets him in. They discuss the odd state of Will and his attacker. Dalziel worries about pattern whizzers. Corwin says he needs to go check the corpses in the murder scene; he asks Dalziel to go check on Maarit, and then to bed.

2c: Dalziels slumbers - Dalziel and Bleys
As he sleeps, Dalziel dreams of walking around the pattern, but its fire has gone out and instead it smokes, as if full of incense. Time stretches and he finds himself fruitlessly walking around the pattern, getting nowhere. He spots his father on the other side of the pattern, speaking to him but beyond being heard. Finally his father shouts at the top of his lungs and can barely be heard shouting, "Wake up, Dalziel! Wake up!"

As he wakes, he receives a Tarot contact from his dad. Bleys asks Dalziel for info (says Dalziel is the "most trustworthy" person there). He indicates that there's "blood in the water" and says Caine is up to something, and that there might be a war. He suggests Caine is mounting an offensive against Random, and says he can avoid taking a side by not being there. Dalziel suggests that the assassins LOOK like they were sent by Bleys.

Bleys ponders the idea that there is an impending coup, wonders if Corwin is still in the capital, thinking that having a powerful brother of the King in town would help keep Caine from advancing "his coup." He asks Dalziel to pass along the impression that Bleys is still there, contemplating the defense of the city. He also gives Dalziel a request to find or speak to David, and then suggests that Dalziel get David's message for Bleys.

They also discuss the burning bodies / burned bodies, and some magic / person who makes beings appear? They discuss whether someone else might be marshalling a new attack on Amber. Bleys, a bit annoyed, breaks things off. 

GM's Edit: The thing that caused Bleys to break off was Dalz thanking him for including him in things and not treating him like a child. Bleys said "let's not get all sappy about it" or something to that effect as he broke off the contact.

Scene 3: Maarit heads for the stables - Maarit, Mathis, Bronze
She looks for some guards on her way, adding the stables to their rosters. Then she finds a spot to sit in the stables where she can listen for Abn Haram to guard him, subtly. Steward sees Maarit and alerts Abn Haram to the surveillance. Haram goes back to sleep.

Maarit admires Bronze, a strangely-patterned horse (it's striped brown and green), and chats with a stablehand about it -- who reveals that these are "wonder horses." She and the stablehand open the idea that she might come back and ride the horse. Bronze belonged to Sand, whom Maarit has never met, but has been told is her mother. Bronze has been maintained in these stables for a very long time.

Scene 4: Medore questions Dik - Medore, Nix (Spinturnix), Dik in Castle Amber
Upon realizing Medore is trying to get Dik alone, Nix stays in the library while Medore walks toward Dik's quarters. Medore questions Dik about the messages written under the plates. Dik confesses that he smuggled a gift on behalf of Lady Karm to Abn Haram, some sort of light love token. Medore promises to protect Dik in exchange for his help finding out which Kitchen staff might have planted the message. Dik suggests Ginna the Scullion seems suspicious, as does the chef.

Dik mentions the message he had to give - "The door is open far below...Lady Karm remembers the debt owed to Gehenna's finest son... Many happy returns" - it was accompanied by a key. Dik hands out a folded-over handkerchief with a gravy-stain image of the key stuck on it. Medore assures Dik that he's protected.

4b: Medore meets up with Corwin - Medore, Corwin,
Medore asks Corwin about Lady Karm, that she's trying to reach out to the Chaosites.. Medore suggests that it was a servant who wrote the message, and Corwin agrees, but suggests it was done at the behest of a family member. Medore says it could have been "Jinna the Scullion" or "Chef Wilhelm." Corwin invites Medore to join him in the morning at the place where Corwin likes to go to remember Medore's mother.

Corwin asks more about Karm's message, Medore repeats the message to Corwin. They proceed to the ambassadorial suite, then stab some bodies and rifle through their clothes. The bodies start smoking after he stabs them; Corwin puts the smoking body in the bath tub and takes its clothes. They search the bodies to see if they're carrying any shared item. They each have a piece of iron jewelry, which Corwin finds significant. Corwin suggests he'd want the King to arrest the Chaos delegation. Corwin establishes that the murdered Chaosites smoke or burn when he stabs their corpses with Greyswandir; the assassins do NOT smoke.

Medore and Corwin discuss the next steps -- who they can trust, which door they think the key opens. Medore gives the gravy napkin to Corwin, then heads for the kitchen. He gossips with the kitchen staff and learns that the Chef yelled at everyone that night, was fussy for his table settings. Medore has a tasty dessert and reports to Corwin before he goes to bed.

Scene 5: David leaves Caine's ship - David, Caine and (Caine's nephew from Rebma?) aboard the Venom
As David leaves Caine's ship, he sees an eddy of water and a submarine from Rebma surfaces. The person on the ship calls out that his uncle is expecting him, and Caine's crew invites the unknown person aboard. David, having seen this, rows ashore and heads for his camp to go to bed. He arranges for an early call.  

5b. David makes breakfast - David in City of Amber then Castle Amber
David rises early, takes a run to the early markets, and then begins cooking breakfast for King Random. He learns that Chef Wilhelm has taken the morning off, so David makes the relatively simple dish: pancetta something something something (not at all simple). David has to rush and ends up giving the King a plate of total garbage. 

(David's Edit: In fact, I simply stopped curing the pancetta a few minutes early, so it may be only somewhat less salty than optimal. And the meal is pancetta, oysters, and crayfish in a soft scramble with Egg-Avocado toast, which I assure you is quite simple, in the grand scheme of culinary things: a protein scramble with toast, more or less. One must be mindful of what one puts in one's body, yes?)

GM's Edit: That is one of the great things about running your game online, and having logs and pages the players can access. Players can jump in and later clarify bits that others didn't catch the first time. I'm lucky to have such active participants.

Scene 6: Nix roams the castle - Nix (Spinturnix), Jinna the scullion, Hendon in Castle Amber
Nix spends about an hour researching a) recent events at the castle and b) methods of movement among shadow. After learning a bit, he leaves to try and dig up a little gossip with the scullery maid. He chats with Jinna, the scullery maid, who reveals that the banquet wasn't well attended, that Droppa MaPants chased everyone out with his bad performance, and that Lord Bleys was in charge. Nix learns that Chef Wilhelm demanded some time alone with the table settings, and later Bleys did the "yank the tablecloth" magic trick. Next, Nix seeks out Hendon to find lodgings. After revealing who his identity, Hendon eagerly helps Nix find rooms. Nix takes modest rooms near Julian's wing of the castle. Hendon tells Nix he'd be welcome to have lunch with King Random the next day.

Quote Log:

“I can still deny everything. I don’t know anything about it.” -Abn Haram

I rub a bit of Kimchee in my eye. Does it hurt?  I am a man of science after all!  - Peter/Abn Haram

"I'm giving him space, but also making sure that he doesn't get got." -Marit

“I’ll protect your secret, but in exchange, you will help me figure out who on the kitchen staff had motive to leave those messages.” -Medore

“My friends do very well… I protect my friends.” -Medore

“That does make sense… he is always trying to get in mah pants too.” -Kitchen Maid

“Yes, turns out Dick is the center of the universe.” -Rolfe

“I am in a bit of a hurry, I had a lot of that Kimchee.” -Abn Haram, hoping to not be followed into the bathroom

I supposed we should serve less Kimchee next time. -Marit

“I haven’t had a party this interesting in at least six months.” -Medore

"Family is far more plural than it used to be." -- Corwin, to Dalziel

A Song Of Ice And Fan Theories

 In the Discord group we'd set up for my Amber campaign, me and my players were discussing our favorite Fan Theories from various media. I decided to snip my rambling opinions from there and repost it here, because I feel I did a decent job of summarizing some complicated and nerdy theories.

I will say, if you like fan theories, and can stomach a bit of literary gore, you'll find no series of novels more rewarding than A Song Of Ice And Fire. They are intentionally written to encourage infinite dissection and analysis. Every chapter has a point-of-view character, which are chosen by the author to very strictly control the reader's access to what's really happening and what the prime movers actually think about it. Varys and Baelish and most of the other big conspirators never get POV chapters of their own, so you're constantly trying to puzzle out their schemes from what others observe. Most viewers of the show are aware of the famous fan theory about John Snow's true parentage (which was proven true after the show outpaced the novels) but there's hundreds of fan theories conjecturing all sorts of secret conspiracies and hidden meanings, and I'd guess more than 30 of those hundreds are actually truly what the author intends to reveal by the end of the series. If you want to send your brain down a deep dark rabbit-hole, ASOIAF is your bunny-burrow. 

The following Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones theories are without major spoilers, unless of course all my harebrained theories prove ultimately to be true. So most likely <1% spoilers, but with an outside chance that it's 100% spoilers if I'm actually correct on all counts. And if it is possible that I'm right on any of this, it's not because I'm clever. None of these theories are my own, they're almost all from random videos on Youtube. I've collected them here because I've never seen them in one short place in print together, but generally posted in multi-chapter youtube video channels.

 Where to start: The internet has determined that the final season of GOT was not up to the same standards of the previous seasons. I believe the reason it falls apart is because the motives and schemes of the two most important manipulative bastards in the novels, Varys and Littlefinger, simply proved to be too byzantine to translate to the screen. Once their goals were cut, it left huge holes where the plot should have been, and the show-runners couldn't fill the gaps in a way that lived up to the premise.

So here's my beliefs on the motives and backstories of Varys and Littlefinger in the novels:

Varys is a secret Blackfyre, and this hidden King's Blood within him is why he was castrated by the wizard in his youth. Young Griff (a character who didn't even make it into the show) is not the semi-secret Targaryen he appears to be, but is actually a secret Blackfyre. Specifically, he is the son of Varys's sister Serra, who was the second wife of Illyrio Mopatis. Serra and Varys are matrilineally descended from the Blackfyre line. Varys is just looking to put his own nephew on the throne, which is a simple-enough goal, but you would have to put 300 years of world-building and history on the screen to explain who the Blackfyres are and why anyone should care. That's a lot (s)exposition, even for GOT.  Also, Young Griff doesn't show up until maybe book 4 or so, meaning there would have been no way to introduce him before Season 5, and giving him a major story arc at that point would have taken too much focus off the fan-favorite characters (Jon and Dany).

Peter "Littlefinger" Baelish has goals that are legitimately much harder to make seem sensible on screen. Hidden mystical /occult goals, that involve deceptively-fulfilling specific bits of prophecy in front of the Weirwood trees. The most powerful supernatural beings of the setting can see through the trees. Baelish's goal is to fool the Gods (or at least the three-eyed raven) into thinking he is the messiah. He is definitely NOT actually The Prince Who Was Promised, but if you can only see the things he does in front of the Weirwood Trees, he is recreating all the story beats of the in-universe tales of  Bael the Bard, the Night's Queen, and Azor Ahai myth-cycles. It's a little unclear to me what power he thinks this will get him, but he does very specific things in places where specifically only the Children of the Forest can see them happening, and coincidentally these are also the only places in the world where the Children of the Forest would be able to see him. Each such action casts him in the role of the hero figure of yore who kidnapped a Stark bride, or the other hero figure of yore who defeated the Others. It probably also means he's planning to sacrifice Sansa in a ritual. Tangential to all this, it is also worth noting that all the major plotpoints that take place 17 years prior to the first novel, including the deaths of Ned Stark's father and the birth of Robert's Rebellion, are also events engineered by Peter Baelish. It's just not clear to me yet if he did these things to advance his magical agenda, or if said occult agenda came about after seeing as a young man how easy it was to upend the world.

Credits: Most of the Baelish stuff came from videos by Preston Jacobs. There are a ton of videos about Varys and Young Griff being Blackfires, but I know I've watched some (f)Aegon videos by In Deep Geek that we pretty great. So if you want to learn more about these theories, those are your search terms. Happy hunting.

As I said there are hundreds more theories of ASOIAF, and I think a few dozen are likely to be true, but those two are among my favorites, and their absence goes a long way towards explaining the way Varys and Littlefinger fizzle out in the later seasons of GOT.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A Horse Of Another Timbre: Campaign Log, Session 3

  The following is the campaign log for the third session of my current Amber campaign. Most of this log was typed up by one my players (thanks, Brendan!) during the session. I've added a few notes of my own.  Click here to start with session #1 or session #2.


Campaign log: 28 September 2020, turn by turn

Setting the Scene: Much of the previous session took place at a somewhat sabotaged dinner party in Castle Amber. At the start of this session, Bleys brings the banquet to an end by bringing Droppa Ma'Pantz, the Court Jester, in to do a performance. The performance is borderline offensive. Lord Rein leads the exodus out of the hall, largely to assist in clearing the room before minor nobles can start asking questions about why the King and Queen never showed up to their own party.

Most of this session is a murder investigation, being conducted by 6 PCs and multiple NPCs, none of whom particularly trust one another.  Information was dolled out slowly and tightly, with lots of scenery chewing to help establish characters, and some detective legwork of the crime-scene procedural variety as well.

The PCs are:

  • Dalziel, son of Bleys. A scientist who has been in Amber for several months.
  • Maarit, daughter of Sand. An orphan who never met her mother.
  • Spinturnix, son of Julian. Grew up in Forest Arden.
  • Medore, child of Dierdre, just recently arrived in Amber to learn Dierdre is dead.
  • David Weyreth is a retired officer from the militaries of Amber.
  • Abn Haram, the human-shaped son of Lady Nykae of Chaos. 

Most of the NPCs are from the novels. Not just the big-name Amber Royals, but also plenty of minor characters, the non-Royals who only show up in a paragraph or three of a single novel. Lord Feldane, for example, is present at the final battle of the Black Road War, and witness to the deaths of Deirdre and Brand.

Scene 1: David, Bleys, Lord Feldane,  -  (Banquet hall)
David listens to Bleys talk to Lord Feldane, who is worried he offended the King. Then Bleys chats with David about Caine; Bleys is worried about Caine's motives, learns that Caine is "fascinated" with David, Bleys asks David to make contact (for the children!). Bleys reveals three potential bad things Caine did recently:

    1) Hiring the treacherous captain that attacked the Chaos delegation in on the boat.
    2) Put the insulting messages on the buffet table to call out the Chaos delegation and the King for treating with them.
    3) something far worse, but Bleys doesn't say what exactly (GM: because he doesn't actually know yet) and wants David to try to get info about it from Caine.

David notices the guards are writing down who leaves. He goes to the harbor and surveys the ships in the harbor, they are the Venom, the Revenge, and the Knife in the Dark. He commissions a dinghy to go out in the harbor. He rowed out to the ship he thought was likely Caine's ship, The Venom. He spots Caine on deck, Caine has the crew lower a rope down to the boat, David rows toward the ship.

Scene 2: Abn Haram, Dalziel, Maarit, and Corwin,  (Banquet hall in Castle Amber, then Dalziel's lab)
Haram, Dalziel, and Maarit leave the hall to go discuss science, taking food with them to Dalziel's Lab. Dalziel's Lab is snazzy and as high tech as possible without electricity. Abn Haram examines Dal's equipment. They have a discussion of how fire works in Amber. Haram explores heat and water, Maarit goes to get safety devices.

Dalziel thinks about two principles:

    The numbers/ laws of physics here are not the same as they were shadow worlds.
    As something approaches weaponization, it becomes harder to use

As they talk about these things, Abn Haram feels like someone is making a "bad call" to his Tarot card, so he moves into another room. Abn Haram focuses and connects with Sevran, a blue-fur tentacled horror who is a friend, calling from a place where there's a lot of entropic energy and a hole in reality. The friend warns that there's been a "development at the rift" which might affect the negotiations. It asks if "the various missions have been a success" and asks for Haram's mother to call it.

After the call, Haram excuses himself to head back to his mother's chambers; Dalziel calls Corwin to warn him that Haram is on his way back to the suite.

The group heads toward the ambassadorial suite. Corwin asked Dalziel to stall him, but Abn Haram continues at speed. Maarit and Dalziel keep up with him. Lord Corwin appears and tells Haram that his mother (Nike) had been attacked; she killed 14 people in defending herself. Corwin reveals she's been removed to another place and the King isn't answering calls. Haram, Dalziel, and Maarit accompany Corwin into the murder scene. Haram sees neither Brute nor Steward among the corpses. The assassins are humanoid but not human.

    Bald assassins with chunky jaws, bloodshot eyes, jaws open (in horror? or someone was checking their mouths)
    wearing functional black clothing, like ninja outfits with sport coats
    Stabbed to death (recognizably by Nike's sword skills)
    Back of one assassin's hand has a bony protrusion
    Door is damaged FROM THE INSIDE
    Haram notices: It was a surprise attack, seemingly from the wardrobe?
    Wet footprints on the floor - was Nike in the bath when the attack began?
    Likely conclusion: the assassins trumped in, or perhaps one or two were hiding inside and trumped in.
    There are a pair of men's shoeprints and women's shoeprints that Corwin doesn't mention.

Haram suggests the door was "broken in," and Corwin suggests someone smashed against the door from inside, then explains the battle scene in detail. Meanwhile, Maarit uses her pendulum to investigate. Haram steps to the side and reaches out to Nike through his Tarot card, but gets no connection at all. Corwin said that Random took Nike to a surgery in a place shielded against the tarot.

Abn Haram starts to cut open one of the assassins; Corwin starts to object but then changes his mind and says Haram could go ahead. Corwin indicates that he's seen the creatures before, reveals that forensics might be valuable. Haram passive-aggressively implies Corwin isn't working hard to solve the attack. A card call to the King fails to connect.

Scene 3: Nix and Medore in the library with Dik and eventually Corwin and Umbra
Dik arrives in the library, being gently pursued by Medore. He tries to lock the door but Medore shoves the door open. Nix and Medore meet and briefly chat about with Dik a bit about whether he would like to chat. Medore reveals he's Dierdre's son and is supposed to bring Dik to talk to Corwin. Nix indicates he also wanted to speak with Dik, so he accompanies Dik and Medore back to meet with Corwin.

When we return to the banquet hall, Nix and Medore find it mostly abandoned. Medore mentions a "spill" that Dik made / covered up. Medore directs Dik toward the royal chambers; Nix follows. At the royal chambers, they are redirected to the ambassadorial suite, where they meet Corwin. Corwin asks Medore to conduct the interview with Dik, then meets Nix. Corwin asks Nix if he or Julian had anything to do with "this," Nix says no. They turn away.

Nix asks Dik about creatures traveling between shadow worlds, they discuss a few obvious ways the creature could have traveled to the shadow world. Medore's raven arrives and Nix becomes enamored of it. Dik and Medore talk about the message on the tablecloth, then about how politics is scary, then about literature.

Scene 1b: David, Caine - Caine's Ship The Venom - Worlds mentioned: Ikseth, Karm, Hepania, Xandria

Caine waits in the Captain's Quarters of the ship, they chat and meet. David suggests that Chaos is being sown in the city, Caine agrees and says he dislikes the way things are going. Caine tries to recruit David. David tries to confirm that it was about 10 years since he was on a march with Caine.

    Caine did get in the way of a ship, he intentionally got in the way of the ship, knew that there was a mutiny.
    Then David mentions the comments on the tablecloth, and Caine acknowledges that he was behind it (or knew about it).
    He did know that an "enemy general" was being allowed into Amber.
    David tries to ask about the third thing he doesn't know about. Caine doesn't acknowledge whether he knew in advance or not.
    David mentions Llewella, and he and Caine agree that she is patriotic for Rebma more than Amber.  

David changes tack and asks what Caine has been doing "these many years." The routes have changed after the Black Road War. Lands changed and landmarks have been destabilized. David offers to work on Caine's behalf "on the shadow paths." They specifically discuss changes on the routes from Ikseth to Karm by way of Hepania, and how that route was more disturbed by the Great Storm than most - entire islands were in different positions after the war. David has been living in "Xandria." Caine seems to trust or welcome the relationship with David. Caine indicates that he will not condone violence or attacks on Amber itself, but he wants to "course correct" the King.

Scene 2b: (GM's Addendum) Dalziel, Maarit, Abn Haram, and Corwin, and later Steward and Vialle.

The scooby gang inspects the crime scene further. Maarit crawls into the wardrobe, and is certain that somehow, the attackers came out of it. There's a footprint inside suggesting that someone in it kicked the door open, but she can't line up her foot at that angle. It has two marks on it, suggesting that the door was at least twice smashed open from the inside, and hit the corner of the table where a chaos person was pouring a drink. One of the thugs has thug money, like if Al Capone was the Treasury Secretary. None have ID, and they were carrying shortswords as well as guns (though none of them drew their guns).

Abn Haram's Steward walks in from the hallway.

Dalziel tries Queen Vialle's tarot, and is able to reach her. She says Nykae's surgery is wrapping up, and they think she's going to make it. She says both sovereigns of Amber are dedicated to Nykae's safety and survival.  Abn Haram and Steward head to the stables, but might not be leaving.

Corwin reveals about when he'd seen this thugs before, 15 and 10 years ago. The first batch seemed to work for either Bleys or Fiona, and had tried to kill Corwin and Random. The second batch were Caine's attempt to frame whoever they belonged to, but Caine incorrectly thought that was Corwin. This third attempt could belong to Fi or Bleys or Caine, but the could also be Random's. What if the King created the situation that he then rescued Nykae from, as a way to manipulate her?

Corwin notes that Haram seemed less concerned about his mother's welfare than you might expect. He may have known the attack was coming. Corwin also notes that Steward did not comment on where she'd been during the fight. Then Corwin realizes Abn Haram might be half-Amberite, because of what Dara had told him long ago about none of her Chaos relatives being able to look human. Abn Haram is now suspect number one, and Corwin says if he gets to the Pattern, Haram can do worse things than walk it. Dalziel suggested magic may be different here now, because of what Julian said about the Weir.

Corwin assigns a guard each to help Dalziel and Maarit. He tells Dalziel to check that the Pattern chamber is safe, then sweep the Castle for anything else that seems out of place. He tells Maarit to babysit Abn Haram some more. Corwin is going to meet with Medore, and follow-up on something else he thinks may be connected to all this.

Quote Log - Night 3, 9/28/2020

“Fondness might  not be the right word, but maybe fascination would be more appropriate… or fixation.” David

“You wouldn’t want to disappoint the little children!” - Bleys

“Let’s do some science!” - Abn Haram

“Oh my, that would make the two of you cousins, wouldn’t it!” -Dik, realizing that Nix probably wasn't going to cover for him with Medore

“I just can’t get enough of Dick” - Gavin

“Being good at warfare and having a sense of self preservation doesn’t make you not a little shit.” - Andrew

“Since all communication will have to go through you I have to trust you. And since I have no other choice, you have my explicit trust… Thank you, though.” -Abn Haram

“David:        I saw Llewella tonight
Caine: Oh? That is unusual, usually to talk to her I have to lean over the deck.

David: Yes, meetings with Llewella are usually more… wet.
Caine: And not in the fun way.”

My favorite exchange of the night was partly out-of-character:

“The ships are the Venom, the Revenge, and I think the Knife in the Dark was out there at some point.” - Dock Guard.
(So they are all named after virtues? - asks Abn Haram's player)

GM's ruminations: 

This session was about simmering tension. The players started with basically zero knowledge of the murder-mystery, just awareness that bad things were afoot. They interviewed suspects, but didn't yet know the right questions to ask because none of them really knew what had happened until late in the session. They poked a lot dead bodies, and engaged in colorful banter, and slowly put together at least a bit of what was going on. 

Mysteries are absolutely vital to Amber, and you need a lot of them. They don't have to be police-procedurals like this session, but they do need to be layered and complex. This is especially true if your play group isn't particularly hot on the prospect of Amber PVP. Each PC in an Amber game packs a ton of power, so if 2 or 3 PCs collectively decide a particular NPC needs to go down, they usually will pretty fast. For that reason, the Amber GM needs to have multiple pots boiling at any given time, with more than one villain waiting in the wings. Luckily, the canonical NPCs are sneaky, murderous, manipulative bastards... so you can have 1 or 2  Big Bads and additional just-as-big-and-certainly-bad-but-not-necessarily-the-villian-of-the-story types. 

The bodies of the assassins that tried to kill Lady Nykae of Chaos were the spur-handed thugs that appear a few times in Corwin's novels. Most readings of the books interpret them as belonging to Bleys or Fiona, but I feel you can also make a compelling case for them working for Caine or Oberon without having to twist much, and if you assume some of the uncorroborated narrations in the novels are straight-up lies then you could argue that they might be Julian's, Random's, or even Corwin's goons.

It was clear that Caine was up to some sort of power play, but at this point no one was really sure if his motive was truly treason, or was just overzealous patriotism and was only incidentally making the King look bad.  Though David sailed out and talked to Caine, he didn't actually ask him straight up "Did you attempt to kill the Chaos delegation tonight?" As such, the answers he got were inconclusive and maybe even misleading. 

Things were about to get much worse. Tune in next time.