Oho! Such a question!
What do you think are the fundamental elements of an Amber game? The things that mean you’re playing Amber rather than something else. The things that if you drop, mean the game is no longer Amber, but another game in an Amber setting.
I think you could do a game with the Pattern ‘dead’ or altered beyond recognition. But to use that example, if you also altered all the Other Powers like Trump, Shapeshifting, Sorcery, etc. then you would have wandered out of Amber.
That’s my rule of thumb. I’ve played in a game where it was a future Amber and most of the city was changed, the powers were changed, and the cultural base of the people had changed.
It wasn’t Amber. It was an intellectural exercise based on Zelazny–sorta.
OTOH, I firmly believe that my Argent Rose game is pure Amber.
Yet Argent Rose is set in a different city, with a different Pattern, with no Elders but Corwin and a different premise entirely that includes gunpowder and automobiles. No, it’s not just because it’s my game.
- the Amber Pattern exists—unreachable
- the same questions of Real, truth, and immortal authority are raised
- sorcery is there, with attendant tweaks
- even Chaos resides in analog
- Corwin references the entire canon—though it has marginal meaning to the world of Argent France
- things are added, not really subtracted, this also follows the Empire of the Gleaming Banner theme, namely layer upon Zelazny, his work is strong enough to support
So based on the above, I think what an Amber game HAS to have is something like a blended mix of the below (note that means I’m not sure how you would ever get a bare minimum):
- the immortal family
- the shadow worlds
- the Pattern foundation to power over shadow
- magic of some kind
- gray ethics and noir choices
- family frictions and human frailties
and my very own twist on the classic Spiderman theme of power (thank you Stan Lee)
- …with great competancy comes bad things to kick your ass
How about that? Please comment.