IMC :: Immortal Time Scale

Trying to squeeze two campaign aspects into one discussion. One, what does ‘immortal time’ mean in my Eternal City campaign. Two, what can a GM do to manage that in a small cast Amber game.
See :: Amber in Three Hours by Jim H.

IMC, Immortal Time has several aspects.

  1. NPCs and PCs forget more than they remember about their own story. Really. Unless very strong associations are made, my amberites lose track of their age, the sequence of certain events, and sometimes ‘important’ details. Not amnesia, just “sloppy filing.” This is a dramatic license as well as a benefit to Players and GM, who are only human.
  2. Royals are seldom in a hurry to fix things. Or change long-standing balances. Even if a Elder doesn’t like a particular thing, they don’t just yank it around until it suits them. They may try instead to slowly alter it.
  3. Royal lives at stake is an exception to above.
  4. Everyone has “buttons” that can be pushed. Royals IMC Know This. They also know what their own “buttons” are because they have had immortal time to get to know themselves pretty well. You can push those “buttons”, but they will not react—by their own powerful discipline. Or they will send back false signals. Or they will react slightly, even when more provoked than you realize. Why? Because this is part of the Family Game. Knowing your relatives is power—even if you choose not to use it. I mention this because I think it has a great bearing on perceptions within the game immersion.
  5. Immortal time scale does not trump infinite Shadow. By this I mean that shadow will still surprise, or delight, or frustrate. You can say you’ve seen it all, but even Benedict hasn’t seen it all. So go ahead and play a Constantly Blase PC if you want, but he will be perceived as quite shallow and possibly an idiot.
  6. Corollary to all above: immortal time scale makes characters sticky. The older you are, the more ways you connect to Everything Else.
  7. Immortal time reinforces your legend. You may become more subtle and devious personally, but your legend does not. It goes the other way—becoming more widespread and obvious.
  8. Addenda to above: you can spend a lot of time and energy trying to “edit or control” your legend. Good luck. Infinite reflections of the things you do will escape your best efforts to alter them.
  9. Youngers (most starting Royals) really don’t understand most of the above.
Immortal Time Management
What does a GM do when one player is busy with a day spent getting a new coat at the tailor. While another player wants to assemble an army out in shadow?
I think the meta-answer is don’t worry about it.
Now that strikes me as wrong, too. I’ve been mulling this for several hours while I was re-reading the ref’d article above. In my games, there is a small cast. One or Two or Three folks playing. So my answer stands.
Don’t worry about it. It is self-correcting.
If Player A is at the tailors for their ten minute turn—they are probably having fun.
If Player B is deep in shadow dealing with logistics and massing troops for their ten minute turn—they are probably having fun, too.
Both Players, however, only get the same meta-time for their turn and there is the rub. Player A is going to get a lot done—Amber clock certainly—but plenty of detailed character play. Player B is going to get a lot done—shadow clock of days or weeks—but plenty of Warfare choices to be made.
And the GM must assume that they are getting and doing what they need/want to do. So during Game Time: they are all equally important things, even though to observer eyes they seem on very different scales.
How do you keep the Players “together” so they can speak and interact with each other and NPCs without destroying causality? How does one person’s spotlight time work out with another’s?
I think that large scale “change the universe” things happen more in shadow and at faster times. That small scale “talking to my friends and having breakfast” things happen in Amber—or in personal shadows.
My gut reaction is the two don’t overlap easily. Though there is provision for it.
IOW, you can’t change Amber quickly. If you try, you will be constrained by the immortal time clock. Other Players, the King, the Elders are doing things on a time scale of hours and days. You cannot rush this along just because You want to have a Sweeping Agenda. And that makes sense.
It makes all the sense in the world.
The more Real a Place is, the more the immortal time scale works against Sweeping Agendas and fast changes of any kind.
I also apply this to Broad effect. One example:
Player Z: “I want to go out into shadow and learn Trump artistry. I know just the fast-time shadow that has those sorceror Trump fellas. How long does it take for me to learn Trump?”
The above question could seriously screw over your whole campaign.
Let’s say that Player Z even has the ‘character points’ to build up their character this way. How long does Trump take to learn? Who can teach it? Do the folks in shadow really know Trump the way Dworkin did it? Will that work well with Pattern-imbued cards? Will it only work with sorcery-imbued cards? How fast are fast-time shadows? There is no intelligence stat because all Royals are smart as a whip. Ever learn something from someone who isn’t as clever as you are? Was it frustrating? Was it easy?
The Real answer to Player Z’s question is not simply ‘how long’, but who, what, where, and how well. Don’t allow Time to always equal Quality in some sort of logical trade.
I think Immortal Time revolves around the PCs—because they are Real, not because they are PCs. So Immortal Time also revolves around a select crew of NPCs in the game as well.
It cannot clock at the pace of any one Player—regardless of GM’s wish or Player’s RPing style.
I don’t think it contradicts this from Jim H.:

“In the Grand Unified Solution to the Time Problem, the mechanism for regulating the flow of time necessarily becomes a method of picking the moments to focus in on, to slow down to moment-by-moment play. The GUS would favor points in time where multiple PCs interact, without eliminating solo play.”


  1. While I agree with most of your points, I’m not at all sure that assuming that Sweeping Agendas need to take place outside of the realness of Amber works to solve the time flow problem. Or are you not proposing that it does? It would seem to me that the very solidity of Amber would mean that many plans would need to be long-term and incremental in nature, which would make a slow pace even more vexing to those players who were trying to accomplish things.

  2. The implication was there in my words that you could only have ‘Sweeping Agendas’ for shadow things. My bad. That’s not quite what I meant.
    I think I am saying two things about ‘Sweeping Agendas’ and Amber.
    1. ‘Sweeping Agendas’ in Amber can only move incrementally. Certainly you can have them. There are too many forces Real and other characters Real to ‘gloss over’ or pass time quickly in Amber. IOW, Amber is not a place where the Player who wants to “rush the clock” is going to be happy or get fruitful results. Players who want to experience the immersive details of Amber’s incremental clock will be more suited.
    2. The more Real a Place is, the more the immortal time scale prevents seeing quick results for ‘Sweeping Agendas’ and fast changes of any kind. A PC can ‘meta-control’ the clock in shadow and see ‘Sweeping Agendas’ realized. This does not work the same way in Amber.
    Amber’s clock shouldn’t match the pace of any one Player–regardless of GM’s wish or Player’s RPing style. Only in a one-on-one game can this sort of thing work.

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