Linked article that is important for gamers to understand and think about. Trigger warnings for Harassment.
So here’s the thing, I’m not the most observant guy, and I don’t game much outside of a select group of very nice people, but to my great sadness this is real and happens every day. While I feel there’s little I can do about such shallow juvenile Terrorism, if you ever have questions, or need help, whether you are in one of my games or not, I will listen and take action. This kind of Social Terror should be talked about and I’m glad that gaming events I go to have harassment policies that they talk about.
So yes, my experiment with the diceless RPG Lords of Gossamer and Shadows, continued at the latest Ambercon 2016 (#acus2016).
Pendrad! had another turn this year. And the third time is the charm. I felt all the elements of the new system performed well, and the PCs were driving well inside the Infinite Stair.
In sketchy form, the game began with reminders for the PCs of the team of Fae involved, and news that a member of the team from previous adventures had been killed. Death among the Fae being very tragic business.
The Fae are pretty terrific at staying out of sight and you don’t know what they’ve seen, where they’ve been, (and the part the Khans like best) what they are up to. For your normal Amber Players, this is a 180 degree turn around.
However, events conspired to have the Fae Facilitators find out the Agora was being taken over by Bastiano troops and the Chaosians were already aware of where ‘LALA’ was located. About halfway into the game, the Fae were tracking down a huge incursion of Chaosi troops into the Grand Stair itself.
Everything that the Khans had been concerned about is coming to pass. Chaos will own the Stair or break the Lords within it until they do own it.
And the eventual story was confrontation. The team decided their mission instruction gave them lease to take the Chaos faction out before they could report back to Thelbane on their information. And then they confronted 2 Logrus Masters, 5 sorcerers, 3 enslaved sorcerers, 5 knights of the black zone, and 20,000 armed slave heavy infantry.
This was not exactly an ideal way to test the LoGaS combat rules in my Fae/Amber/Grand Stair mashup.
However, it went very well. The Khans had appointed a leader, the PCs had adjusted to the dynamic, and the Leader managed to sift and sketch a battle plan that each of the various Fae saw used their strengths and wile to best effect. The battle was a thing of terrible beauty (which is mostly how this GM sees the Fae in my expansion of Amber mythology.)
The 2 Logrus Masters were the High Priority Targets, of course. Neither of them managed to complete the Summons of the Logrus. So basically in game speak, they were crippled before two rounds of combat passed. Even their shapeshifting heals did not prevent the coup de grace moves from taking them out immediately after they went down.
I think Corwin would have applauded. I was pleased and relieved I did not need to restart the game.
Perhaps the most significant strategy was the Fae never had to chat about any actions from plan to action, once things started, the Fae did not stop until the Stair was a flood of bodies and blood. They wiped them out and then left quietly.
Lady Vala and Shatterlight will not have a battle with Chaos forces, and no one is the wiser.
So, not that I’m qualified to mind meld with Abrams, or Lucas, let alone the Imagineers of Disney, but here goes, my own take of the world class phenom that is this film.
First: really enjoyed it. Looked great. Felt great. Man, I love the new characters.
Second: read 75 thoughts, because this is neatly much of my experience in watching the movie. SPOILERS, seriously.
Third: While this is a good film, with class actors, and a great future for the franchise… I hope some of the things I expected from Star Wars find their way into the next two films (let alone the next 12 years or so of the franchise.) With a running time of over two hours, there were plenty of important things left out. More on that later.
In context, you may have already read folks slotting this film into the appreciation of SW films that have come before, (y’know, better than 1, 2, and 3, not as good as 4, 5, or 6. That kind of thing,) but I’m going to make the case that we’ve seen an adroit storyteller’s illusion in 7, setting us up for the whole future of the franchise, not really a film that was intended to give us a great stand alone story.
Movies and stories have changed a lot since the 70’s in no small part because of Star Wars.
Just think about the Lord of the Rings movies. No one much even thinks of them separately, as they know the story being told is too big for one movie. That’s what we just saw with this film. SW:TFA is not a story we can evaluate yet, as it just put the pieces on the board and a passel of questions to be answered. The next two films are intrinsic in really evaluating this film.
So if you accept that unusual premise, the rest hopefully follows. OK?
So my review in short is: good film, clunky plot. Great performances. I found Rey to be a riveting character, and the actress (Daisy Ridley) totally hooked me in every scene I can think of.
All that said, there are enough weaknesses in the film that jumped out at me in the showing that I don’t even want to entertain how long it will be picked apart before SW8 comes around. So I won’t really. I’ll just point out that the transitions between plot points were more awkward than they had to be and the film’s end doesn’t even qualify as an end. (As I pointed out above, it is a cliffhanger pointing to the next film.)
So why did we get a cliffhanger? And is it the right move?
Well, yes, I think it is. Not so much because the films up to now are structured that way but because audiences can handle cliffhangers like this due to other media exposures and more importantly, Disney decided to make the franchise films on a schedule that everyone thought was amazingly fast.
Point of fact, Abrams has now admitted that several plot outlines for this movie were discarded leading up to ‘go time’ and that the script they were going to film was discarded because the author did not have time to finish it. Last minute, literally, Abrams started from ‘scratch’ with Kasdan to script the film we saw.
So, polished story? Not so much. Which leads again to the idea of telling a bigger story across three films. This is something that Lucas could never have pulled off before SW came out.
What about turning the ‘no time’ problem into an opportunity?
My working premise right now is that they sat down at one point (Disney may have insisted on a Opportunity Assessment Session) and looked at all the places that George got himself into trouble with the Star Wars fans/franchise. Then they looked at the aggressive time schedule of shooting the films. And then they said, “Where the prequels introduced more details that contradicted the first three movies, we should be introducing more mystery so that we have time to really figure out how the next trilogy ends.”
If you look at SW:TFA as a movie that almost did not have a story ready, it is clear to me that they needed to give themselves ‘story slack’, and mysteries to solve in the next two unwritten scripts, and that they knew they would be smarter to give themselves holes to work with. I think they have ideas, but actually bet they chopped things out of this movie, to make things more ambiguous. Some of that could be cutting room floor and pacing, but I think much of it (omg, LUKE does not even have a line of dialog), is giving themselves another year to get a smarter sharper story line.
Not only that, but think about how many mysteries are in SW4. Even with exposition, there is a tremendous amount of story detail breezed past to spend time with characters. We don’t know about the Clone Wars, we don’t understand the Jedi, we don’t get a feeling for the Dark Side, we don’t know that Ben is only present to make sure Luke isn’t killed off, and etc.
This is the thing SW:TFA gets right for me: they spend time letting you love and discover these new characters. They don’t explain what the holes are there for.
They don’t know exactly what the holes mean yet. But unlike Lucas in the 70s, this is the opportunity to reveal a better story, a bigger story, that can take the franchise to a new level of cool.
Here’s some food for thought, because I’m a big fan of Ahsoka Tano. Wouldn’t you like to see the earliest parts of the timeline show up in the next future bits of story? Would it not be very cool if Qui-Gon Jinn was right? That Anakin was going to be essential in balancing the Force? Perhaps because his apprentice was going to be essential?
Would you not pay good money to see the Jedi get their shit together in the next two franchise movies? The Jedi Council failures of the past are obvious at this point. And SW: Return of the Jedi does not address those failures.
What if Luke’s journey off to find a better Jedi path crossed with Ahsoka’s own journey to find a better path? She teaches Luke some things and the next movies reveal a new path for the Jedi.
Hey, you read it here first.
So for my own brainstorm, I’m collecting all unrealized Game Sparks from the 15 years of this blog to see if I’m going to run a new game in slots at Ambercon US. For many of these ideas, they became ACUS games, so they will not appear on this list.
Please consult your Doctor before using Game Sparks.
Asskickers of the Fantastic
Once you were a mortal. Not anymore. Not since you died. The world however is becoming overrun with Fantastic Abberations like the one that killed you. Isis doesn’t like the direction things are taking. She’s pulled strings. Now you’re back in the land of the living, your one geas: kick ass! Your only comrades: Asskickers of the Fantastic!
the League of Extraordinary GentleMonsters
The darkness in the world was almost gone.
A few noble souls around the globe toiled for decades and succeeded in cutting low the masterminds of evil. Now a new generation inherits a better world…. until an improbable series of events starts a war that engulfs all of civilization. France and Germany are the center of the battlefield. Most of the world is taking sides. Weapons of this new war are taking lives at unimagined levels—What single event triggered it? Brought the darkness roaring up out of the trenches of the Bloody World War? Now France is a wasteland with a few scattered souls hiding from the dark. Germany is largely uninhabited except by the undead. Holmes is an old man now, but he knows many things. From his wheelchair, he telegrams to distant corners of the globe for those few Gentle Monsters that were never trusted enough to join the side of Good.
He has sent for you.
The Dire Tower
Up they go. It is a climb after a night’s search, but they are close to goal and quick up the height of the tower. Above now, they see beyond the railings not just the castle laid out below, but an overlay of colored mist that soon shows them a figure in battle. The mist rolls rapidly and the scene moves in slippery jumps until the figure dies, bravely tossing off a curse to his enemies.
This mist changes into a different figure, another man. In a narrow lane of a dark city, he fights like a dervish and dies speaking a vigorous curse upon his foes.
Again, the mist becomes a woman on an orange horse surrounded by a hundred foes. She cuts into them like wheat, but is dragged down in slippery moments, her mouth silently screaming their doom.
As our cousins realize they are seeing the complete roster of the Blood of Oberon gone down into death. Men and women not even remembered now.
Time to leave, perhaps.
Pawn to Queen’s One
What do you get the fellow who has everything? Who takes the throne of Chaos by surviving assassinations? Who wears a spikard and keeps another one nearby in a vault?
The Chaos Elders get King Merlin a bride.
Merlin makes it through his ‘gauntlet’ fifty-years as Heir and becomes King of Chaos. Now he has to guide some poor gal through the same process. He needs a queen.
The PCs are the best candidates from every House of Chaos. The assassins are primed. The fifty-year period of courting has begun.
The Lessima Protocols
Forms of ceremony and etiquette observed by House leaders are called House Protocols. This also means the code of correct conduct—including the secret methods by which Chaosi Houses handle their internal justice, resources, and ecology.
There is nothing more sacred than the House Protocol. It is the accumulated secrets of success for a House. It is worth your life and/or career to leak protocol secrets to another House. An anonymous offer has reached a few Chaosi Houses of a complete set of House Protocols that are available for barter.
And the exchange desired is even more unthinkable. The Protocols are for the vanished House Lessima. And the asking barter is one of the two known spikards held by the Houses of Chaos.
PCs are Chaosi who are asked to find and recover the Lessima Protocols before someone takes the awful step of trying to steal a spikard from Thelbane. If any of your team are caught or killed, your House will disavow any knowledge of your actions.
May the Serpent watch over your soul.
The other PCs notice the Ambassador-Extraordinary to the Fae Court is much distracted of late. Sometimes the A-E seems to be in a fog, or tired, or generally not themselves. Food is being ignored—always a bad sign with amberite appetites.
Perhaps the A-E is looking a bit pale.
The Khan of the Zhan Zi is known as Shi-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. Shi has taken a shine to the A-E and there are long ‘diplomatic’ sessions in the Black Palace of the Zhan Zi through the prolonged nights there.
Direct questions to the A-E often only garner an enigmatic smile. A very good friend of the PC may find in confidence that there is an affair in progress between Shi and the PC.
Any actions here need to move carefully. The Fae are very different than Amber and have strange magics. One certainly cannot forget that some of the Fae are worshipped by the warrior culture of Ghenesh. The King would not be pleased to be confronted with diplomatic fury as a result from actions of the PCs.
Is some sort of tax being charged of your Cousin? Does the A-E know about it or is she/he fogged by glamour?
A Farewell to Spikards
And how do you verify that weapons put down are really gone? When does a forbidden tactic become viable again? Who watches the watchmen? When the consequences are so far in the past that the present needs to re-learn the lesson, those weapons come back.
IMC, the spikards are forgotten and forbidden. There are very good reasons for not opening the vault and bringing them back into use.
But they are used. In canon.
Would Chaos continue to restrain itself if Corwin and Merlin and Rinaldo use spikards routinely? Would Darrheabarr? Would Glantri?
Is there no way to put the terror of spikard misuse to bed once and for all?
The Lords of the Living Void invite the PCs to go on a surreal journey to un-make the spikards and remove this threat against the future of civilization once and for all.
Volunteers take one step forward.
Six Chaosi arrive in Amber. They are secret cabalists who (despite Swayville’s outlawing the cult celebration of amberites centuries ago) have made their way, at great cost, to Amber. Now they have a chance to see the Worthies and perhaps take home some exalted experiences.
the Demmed Few!
Restrictions: PC’s must be from Chaos built for 70 pts. Characters submitted to GM prior to convention can be built for 100 pts. No Logrus, no Pattern. Note special costs for powers at web site.
Before your eyes your Chaos Elders incandesced in Logrus-spun fires as the Wavefront passed. Now younger cousins gather your remaining troops and beasts. The Black Road remains yet, but sorcery fails and your flyers have fallen sickened from the horrid blue skies above. Trump does not work. All your Chaser and Guardian demons are black bones but a few Chine survive. Scouting suggests you outnumber the remaining enemy eleven to one. Your allied House commanders confirm none of their Logrus wielders survived the Wavefront. What foul weapons have the Amber madmen loosed? Can you rally before they strike so again?
It falls to you! For your fallen blood! For your House! For Fidelis!
Gerard and his skirmish forces are all that remain between the ragged strength of Chaos and the castle on Kolvir. Your honor demands the enemy shall surrender or perish. What are your orders? Will inexperienced allied officers support you? Can you convince Amber to surrender? The Black Road War shall be won or lost by the Demmed Few.
Ambercon US 2015
after action notes
1 : Thursday, April 10, 2014 – 7pm to midnight
Agents of the Argent Rose: City of Hope
A wide ranging exercise in hurry up and talk to each other. Attacks from last year’s game had only seemed over, but a bigger threat rolled out of the night. The family is big enough and events were busy enough that not everyone was in one place until the end.
Corwin’s secrets are almost all put on the table. Almost.
The Muse Queen appears in Paris to remind Corwin of his obligations.
Next year could be very interesting.
Simone has a birthday. Parties will be everywhere.
2 : Friday, April 11, 2014 – 9am to 1pm
Infinite Amber: Strange Roads
First time ever game. New faces and old and reworked a PC of mine to work in the wide universe of JP’s Infinite Ambers. Lots of complexity here. Lots of possible enemies and counter forces.
This will be hard to track as a serial game unless I manage to join it consistently. Liked the way it played very much.
3 : Friday, April 11, 2014 – 2pm to 6pm
An Unkindness of Ravens
Low power game where a bit of daring kicks a lot of ass.
This year the team seemed to gel very fast and we just tore into our tasks. Doormen not around, and so we just moved from point to point, ratcheting up the mission points.
Well, we did set ourselves up for some future crunch time with a momma Dragon. Nothing’s perfect.
David A McCreless
4 : Friday, April 11, 2014 – 8pm to midnight
House of Justice and Doom
Benedict is dead. But the only people who believe it in their hearts are Ben’s kids, who felt him die.
This was very intense roleplay and the scions of Ben challenged the Big Bad straight off head to head. They did not prevail, but they brought a bunch of good intel back to Amber with them.
Then they promptly dared the king’s displeasure, the silver city in the sky, and also the idea that they might be too valuable to be used in pressing Amber’s response on the Big Bad.
Lots of face time, discussing the weaknesses of Amber’s order, lots of context between the kids. Very nice game. While these games are always one shots, this game had serious legs and could be an excellent warfare campaign. I really loved where the Players went with their characters.
5 : Saturday, April 12, 2014 – 10am to 5pm
The Pendrad: Shining Liquid Universe, Discovery!
Good team. Lots of exploration. Lots of magic and discovery of the possible weaknesses of the Lords of the Gossamer worlds.
And some tricky Fae politics also.
This year the players really did up the arcane weirdness of the Fae really well.
I hope to bring this back again next year.
6 : Saturday, April 12, 2014 – 7pm to midnight
Lost in Amber
Experiment in time, place, and memory. Players at an Ambercon get walked into the Chronicles of Amber just at the narrative point where Corwin is confronted by Eric in the library.
Hijinks ensue as Players interfere.
Selfies with the Pattern Room are just some of the highlights we got to.
Corwin is very manly, 24/7.
Lots of fun.
You’d be surprised how many important items your memory of the books plays false when you have to figure out ‘what comes next?’
7 : Sunday, April 13, 2014 – 11am to 4pm
The Company: Youth Eternal
LOGAS game with the Josiah Company, searching for a lost exploratory team that vanished 2 centuries ago on the Grand Stair.
I made a new PC and was very pleased with the way it worked. The Prof isn’t someone who says a lot or makes a lot of splash, but I felt he was right on target for the scenario.
What helped with that was a really good cast and double GM strength to match the six Players. We had a very sweet team on the stair experience.
This game is a keeper.
8 : Sunday, April 12, 2014 – 7pm to midnight
The Soft Cimmerian: DeathGlass
Anyone who has been following this Rebma game since 2008 knows this is a very eccentric bit of RP. The Amber/Rebma characters are not center stage, but the Knights of the Afanc Glass are.
We started early, opening the game at 6PM. We ran a whole bunch of Gallant family RPing until about 1220AM until we struck the plot square on. In that six hours, we covered kids, politics, inheritance, ancient history, marriage, love, and we invented a new “most important attribute” for the character sheets. Much of the theme danced with Rebma’s true relationship with Amber instead of the one that gets glossed over in the novels.
We also demonstrated that Llewella and Moire do things very differently and advice from one does not work with plans of the other.
At the point where some serious treason talk was being thrown around, the Gallants sat down with the Queen and talked her through a new approach to diplomacy with Amber. And it worked very well. It also kept Bleys out of the story, which saved the GM about 2 hours of hijinks.
And then Random wants to know what Queen Moire is doing attacking Chaos with a ‘DeathGlass’ when there is a peace treaty. Oops!
Fantastic group of Players. I must consider closing this game to new faces, as this year was the first time I bent reality (the original premise) to allow an extra spouse in the poly-marriage. No end game in sight here. I’ll run this as long as the original players want to see it.