Once upon a time, Amber games followed the premise of the ADRPG: the PCs are children of Zelazny’s princes and princesses (giving us the phrase ‘elder Amberites’ which always seemed like it should be for characters who get age-based discounts on meals at Bloody Bill’s) in a post-Patternfall War setting.
1) Are the PCs all roughly the same age? If so, why?
2) If alive prior to Patternfall, why didn’t Brand stab one or more of them instead of stabbing Martin?
3) If alive prior to Patternfall, What were they doing during the war and how come Corwin never mentions them?
Eternal City is a traditional Amber game.
1) I think the age factor can be worked into the PC write-up. The backstory explanations will tell you a lot about what the Player wnats for a niche, so this discussion is nothing but good for the game’s long survival. When I started ATEC, the range of ages was 13 to 50. But I’ve seen good startups that used 15 to 500.
I would work very carefully on backstory, because I think there are ingenius ways that older kids could be introduced to the story. Sand and Delwin are an example of this. Oberon claimed forty-some children.
I would not start the Players at different point levels. Not.
2) Let’s face it: Martin was a readily accessible and neglected child. He didn’t have Random’s protection. And how much did Brand think Random’s protection was worth? Martin didn’t want Rebma’s protection—even if Brand had considered the Rebman throne dangerous to his plans. Llewella screwed up in liking Brand, too. Whatever backstory you suppose for Martin, he left Rebma without protection and headed off on his own into shadow. Was Martin naive? Well sure—in hindsight.
But remember: killing a blood relative was something only the King could do before Brand. Messing up a relative was fine and almost encouraged. Eric held off killing Corwin when he had motive, method, opportunity, and few witnesses.
So Llewella had little reason to think her brother Brand was fishing for blood when he gulled her.
Why didn’t Brand use Rinaldo? Your canon campaign has to solve that little issue—I think that’s an intriguing point.
3) In ATEC, I started twenty years after the war. Most of the ‘kids’ were born either during or right before or right after. They didn’t figure in the war because most of them were shadow-born. In ATEC, fertility is the GM’s province solely. The question to answer is “why now?”
Why the influx of youngers? Is it because elders have died? Is it because the King has commanded a search of shadow for by-blows so that the ‘Martin’ incident won’t happen again? Infinte shadow is your statistical roulettte wheel. There might be amberites out there no one knows about. So “why now?” is pretty important.
Corwin’s account all but ignores Martin and makes nothing of brothers and sisters that are alive like Delwin. Corwin is too rushed and driven to look both ways before crossing the street and he short shrifts all the women.
Which brings me to the question that ought to be asked about startup PCs:
How do you handle the women in Amber society? Do you burden female PCs with the bias that runs through the books? Do you slant the commoners’ gender expectations? Do you ask the Players not to play women?
Do you outlaw women in pants?
I think the easiest answer to this is a double-standard society. Female PCs get a lot of minor friction if they don’t conform—but no one can stop them because they are royals. People talk about them. They get stared at. They have people respond poorly to aggression. They are underestimated. They have to do things twice as well to get half the credit.