In reference to my previous ideas about Amber v2, I’ve recently read the persuasive comments about flaws in the original Amber Diceless by Mike Sullivan.
He’s right on target.
One thing that jumped out at me about Mike’s comments (and he just sticks to the original elements and doesn’t propose new elements as I’ve done) is that Warfare takes up a huge amount of the book narrative in all ten books, while the game choices for Warfare PCs are spare compared to arcane powers.
Mike recommends ‘specialization’ and I’ve added some of those options in convention games, such as a PC is allowed to buy a point or more of expertise to up-rank themselves (“I’m the best with ‘fast draw’.”) But in the new expansion I’m thinking of, I haven’t noted expertise rules.
So here are those ideas expanded now.
Here’s Mike about the original game:
It is difficult to differentiate characters based on stats.
I think we’re used to blaming highly Powers-oriented games on the, uh, liberal take on the capabilities of powers and advanced powers, but there’s another side to that story. The game as written does a pretty poor job of differentiating characters who aren’t very powers-oriented. The basic problem here is that every character’s entire non-Powers mechanical existence is entirely defined by three numerical stats. And one of those stats is way more important than the other two.
No, this isn’t a cry to make Strength and Endurance more important: the books obsess over who’s the better duellist, not who’s stronger than whom (I think that the sole unambiguous comment on Amberite Strength ranking in the canon is “Gerard’s the strongest,” while we get at LEAST the top three in Warfare (Benedict, Eric, Corwin), with Bleys implied to be a dark-horse contender, and with lots of discussion about jockeying for position in the rankings).
I’ve never wanted to split up Warfare for the simple reason that it makes it harder to achieve major advantage over numbers of men (my rank magnitudes) versus other PC designs (your sibs.)
But in the redesign, fewer points actually separate the sibs and skills. My revision is dealing with twenty or thirty points, not one hundred. Specialization would be a nice feature, just as I’ve included more powers, items and shadow stats.
The classic split for Warfare choices is strategic (large actions and planning) and tactical (small actions and weapons.) However, when it comes to morale, planning, assessment of large groups and wit I think I’ve already identified this Attribute: Coup.
This gives the Warfare folks another axis of drama.
Likewise, in penetrating the enemy’s logic, assumptions, resources and plans, I’ve already identified this Attribute: Discovery. Discovery might help a PC avoid a fight they can’t win, or switch a conflict to another, more useful, Attribute. Another axis, yet more choices for Players.
Between these three Attributes, the variety of ‘Warfare’ approaches assumed under the original Attribute is better and more specific to a PC outlook.
This isn’t to say that Warfare PCs aren’t going to be interested in Binding, Sorcery, Shadows, or Endurance. They will be. But now Warfare is the base of tangible conflict with a number of options for steering the conflict before Warfare takes over.
So what about ‘specialties’ and ‘expert’ labels.
Well, I still like the idea.
So we can suppose in this system that points spent on ‘expert’ labels give twice the value. Players would then have the option of bringing an Attribute up to a base level they like, and then instead of raising it one rank by another point spent, declare an ‘expertise’ and get two ranks up.
And this is a heady increase in the doubling ranks system: four times your base level.
Another way to do this might be to treat it as advancement. This method would be no changes to your base PC design, but advancements allow expert labels from in-game events (and single point increases for twice your base level.) In a longer campaign, this would have advantages of tying PC goals to powerful rewards.
And asking Benedict for his mentoring time becomes a path to more power game effects.
Mike makes several other great comments about costs of powers and access to same. I like to think I’ve addressed that by having the PC be able to buy one or two points in a lot of powers if they wish. In any case, I’m very excited about the potentials of the Amber genre and new ways of looking at the rules to get closer to the books.