Or NOT To Be…

A Grand Affair. An Amber game where most of my time is not playing an Amberite at all. So now I can confirm how much fun it is—it’s worth comparing to other such games and more.
What does playing non-royal mean for Amber games?
How much fun is it to be ‘background’ instead of Pattern blood?

Grand Affair isn’t the first Amber game where I’m not a royal. I think Blaze of Glory was the first. Then there was the very surprising Thy Kingdom Come, where most PCs were related to the family except me. That was a lot of fun, if a bit hard at first because of being the fey outsider.
Well, in one sense, you start a new Amber game trying to work the legend of your character into the context. Everyone is coming to it fresh—everyone needs to identify their character as capable of standing with other Amberites.
When you play off the royal family (not in it) —you don’t have that immense legend to live up to. You can do many other things. It has a freedom that you get in other RPGs, but you still have the super-cool Amber backstory. This can amount to playing the underdog, or a figure that much more heroic because they don’t have all those nifty advantages.
Probably those folks in Ill Met in Amber can vouch for this as a powerful story technique.
There is something tragic about much of the royal history. Not playing an amberite doesn’t dodge the ‘noir’, but it might give you a more entertaining response to it.

From a ‘sticky’ viewpoint, touching and caring about other PCs is much easier in a non-royal game. ‘Royal Legends’ are independant and arrogant and usually have the reason to lead whether they wish to or not. There is also the parental history: Oberon’s methods become the yardstick to personal relationships, barring some sort of revolution in personal interactions.
Non-royals have smaller victories and usually a shoulder to cry on. They have spouses or cooks or groomsmen or tons of sisters or a bunch of connections that royals don’t always get. They have mothers, grandfathers, and uncles who aren’t plotting against the universe.
I seem to enjoy the Amber genre whether I’m royal or not.



  1. Ill Met is the game where I’ve had the most fun playing a non-royal.
    One of the neat things about Ill Met is the interaction the little people get to have with the royals. It is more intense, this interaction, for the Duchess, than it is for the swordsman.
    When I created Juliana I wanted her to have a royal in her past. It didn’t have to be a serious relationship – in this case I was kinda going just for a sexual one that looked serious. Being the extreme trusting type that I am, I let the GM decide which royal that was going to be. That took him awhile.
    That’s one of those emails you get when you get off the machine you’re squealing and jumping up and down.
    ***Eric? Oh, she’s so dead! Oh, that’s so perfect!***
    But the interaction – nearly every character has some in with the Royals (some use to them.)
    Juliana is a diplomat, has a bunch of contacts in the GC and in the bad part of the city, and she’s hot. Not to mention she’s a good way to pull her husband’s strings. When Oberon disappears (which he has, but just) and GC circles start complaining, she’s going to be Eric’s help. It doesn’t help that she always had ambitions for him. It was one of the reasons Oberon exiled her for 250 years.
    Cass is one of Benedict’s hand-picked, and probably has more loyalty to Benedict in her swordarm that Juliana has ever had to anyone, accumulated.
    The same can be said of Arryl and Eric – although Arryl is slightly more obsessed than Cass.
    Abigail has some sort of former relationship with one of the dead ones. Plus, she’s a DCI, and excellent at what she does. So I’m sure some royals are trying to keep her alive and some are trying to kill her. As a matter of fact, out of all of us, I think Abigail can have the most impact on the actions of the royals.
    Max is doing Fiona, and who knows what else in his free time.
    Other characters are spies, high end merchants, and scholars. But everyone has a connection, somewhere, even if they don’t know it yet.
    It lets you consider the elders from an entirely different perspective.

  2. “Arryl is slightly more obsessed than Cass”
    Different levels, no less intense. All that emotion when she saw the wyvern was because that beast will now be forever tied to a painful memory of The General.

  3. Hmmm… While O’Donovan is a faithful servant of the crown, he doesn’t have much use for the royals (though he may occasionally be useful for them), and certainly is not romantically interested in one of them. (Why would any sane person be?!?)
    Overall, Ill-Met has certainly been one of my best experiences as an Amber gamer. When I think about the game, there isn’t any sort of “oh, that’s the game where we play non-royals” or other such slight or caveat to it… it is clearly an Amber game, and Commodore O’Donovan clearly is an Amber character. Sure, he’s just a small fry in the universe, but he’s still larger than life and his story is still big to him, and that’s what counts.

  4. I mentioned over on Jvstin’s that we had someone we know FTF express interest in doing an non-royal in House of Cards. I don’t think House of Cards is built for that, but if anyone could do it, the player who suggested it would have been the guy to do it.
    One of the things that attracted me to the idea of GA was, in fact, a low-stress way to try a non-royal game. I never expected anyone to take the game as seriously as some of the players have turned out to do.

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