Amber canon :: attribute conflicts

The big questions in trying to do Amber as an rpg.
Can you emulate the dramatic conflicts of the novels?
Will your game’s attribute conflicts reinforce the canon?
Will your conflicts follow what Zelazny says is important in this universe?

Can you defend secrets that might save Amber? Or destroy it?
Benedict, Oberon, Llewella
Can you discover who your enemy really is?
Caine, Julian, Fiona
Can shadow reveal a resource that will throw the battle in your favor despite your opponent’s resources?
Corwin, Rinaldo, Bleys
Can you bind things to your legend that intimidate your sibs?
Julian, Delwin, Merlin
Can you control the weather with only a few scratchy notes for inspiration?
Eric, Corwin, Random
Can you work up enough prestige to take a throne? To be admired?
Eric, Merlin, Gerard
Can you build Merlin or Rinaldo or Martin (and not need more ‘attribute resources’ than other family ten times your age?)
Can you build a Random able to beat Eric at cards but lose to him with the blade?
Does your system of attributes work in Zelazny’s Chaos?
Does it work for shadow sorcerers?
Does it support Mask? Jasra? Melman?
Can you introduce strange new powers without breaking the canon set?
Is it fun?
Will it ‘tailor awesomeness’ for the PCs?
These are reasons to examine the existing system and change it.


  1. Can you build Merlin …and not need more ‘attribute resources’ than other family ten times [his] age?
    Why is it necessary to assume that he had the same points? What advantage is there? Canon shows he has abilities that are not “paid for”. Assume he has to be an NPC and balance the game for the real PCs.
    This is part of why we don’t have Chaos PCs (or worse, Chaos/Amber hybrids). The costs don’t work, they’re not true to the books, there are too many takes on Chaos amongst the players, Wujick’s Chaos as seen in the products and the games I’ve seen that use it is unappealing to me and players who want to play Chaosians don’t seem to be good fits for our games. And I’m fine with that. By narrowing the scope, we sharpening the focus.
    Does your system of attributes work in Zelazny’s Chaos?
    Which one? The mysterious, distant one from books 1-5 or the turgid, pedestrian, overpowered one from books 6-10? (or beyond)?

  2. Well, first, your system of attributes =does= work in your Chaos. And your Merlin =does= work in your Amber.
    And yes, my Amber DRPG game has flown quite well for years with lopsided-wonky-point Merlin toddling around as a NPC. Except even taking away Merlin’s “not paid for toys” doesn’t bring him back close to ‘young protagonist’ point load. Merlin does not have to fit the system, but it tells me something knowing how bad a fit he is.
    On the other claw, =your= AmberWay system has shown me a way to model Amber games in a new frame that delivers characters that are closer to the Zelazny feel.
    And having taken that step, I can =now= trot out a list of tests that might help me find an even better system model of what I got out of reading Zelazny. The current Amber Diceless obscures that.
    Even (forgive!) more, if Zelazny had grabbed the whole cloth and shaken brilliant sense into it with another set of books, what system lies in that non-turgid, non-pedestrian direction I would dearly like to imagine?

  3. Merlin in HoC is way off pointwise. He was trained in sorcery, he can shapeshift, he draws trumps, he’s walked a pattern, and he’s no slouch in lots of areas.
    Given our point costs, he needs a buttload of points.
    Of course that’s true in any system. The only one you can canonically lose is shapeshift, and we make it or pattern a requirement to survive in Chaos.
    I’m just wanting to make sure that the answer doesn’t have to be ‘yes’ to all of your questions. I think it’s OK for it to be ‘no’, as long as it’s a trade-off you chose and you know why and what you’re getting for it.

  4. I think you can drop or substitute the canon attributes depending on what you think Zelazny’s story is about. So a list of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ is a good place to start.
    Don’t care for the ‘peeling back truth and reality’ theme? Then don’t conflict over discovery.
    Don’t wonder that Oberon, Corwin and Random bring ‘shadow’ reality to the hours of their need? Then don’t conflict over shadows.
    If you drop family wrangling or infinite myth or the immortality, it is harder to call it Amber.

  5. Too many drops, and its not really Amber anymore.
    As a GM, you’re not going to know what the players don’t care about in advance or what they’ll follow or pay attention to. You may have some good guesses, but no expectation survives contact with the players.
    I’d say “Too many additions and it’s not really Amber anymore” is more typical of the cases I’ve seen.
    That’s my observation both of HoC and of other games I’ve seen, run, or heard of. And of submissions for HoC that have set off the “Danger! Danger!” signals.
    Why not have Tolkien’s Elves? Because the Amberites fill the niche of incomprehensible near-immortal human-like people. Elfquest elves would work. Corwin would have them invading Ghenesh inside of two weeks. Riding War-Puppies of Tindalos and carrying Mattel 1/2 size automatic weapons.
    Now go ahead and do a Tolkien recast where the elders are the Maia and the citizens of Amber are the Noldor, maybe, but if thy’re both there one is superfluous.
    Balancing Chaos and Amber is hard. If each Chaosian is 10 times the man of any man, including the Princes of Amber and Chaosians outnumber Princes by infinty to 9, then “Game Over, dude!” & we need to nuke the pattern from orbit (the only way to be sure). That’s part of the 2nd series kool-ade: in 1st series, the only Chaosian who ever gets the better of anyone is Dara, who works on Corwin’s weakness. Countless hordes need to be individually unimpressive, so making them individually uberpowerful is a bad add.
    I guess you can rephrase that as a bad drop. Dropping “the baddest thing in the multiverse is us” and “our only real enemies are our closest kin” diminishes the Amberness for me. If Amber is being menaced by elder beings from beyond time, space, and shadow, then there needs to be a family member behind it.

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