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Author Topic: [Amber Diceless] Blood Hunt - 09/09/05 Session  (Read 2966 times)
Pôl Jackson

Posts: 33

« on: September 22, 2005, 05:34:05 AM »

Amber: Blood Hunt
09/09/2005 Session

Finally playing Amber again! I just recently re-started my Amber game, after about a year-and-a-half of hiatus. All the players are eager to pick it up again, and I'm eager to apply some new techniques to the game. Kickers and Bangs and Relationship Maps, oh my!

It was some trick getting the first new session scheduled. Between real life and other ongoing games, we can only meet once a month, on Friday evenings. Because we have so little time to play, I have resolved to pack as much awesomeness as I can into each session. My design goal for the relaunched game: “More Rock, Less Suck”.

[Warning! Forge wonk talk ahead!] It seems to me that the Amber Diceless system is a bit schizophrenic. On one hand, it wants to support simulationist, immersive play. (“Love your Character, ” “Live your Character,” p. 76-77.) On the other hand, the Actual Play examples in the book read like hardcore narrativism. (“Two Great Characters,” p. 35.) I suspect that the rules can support either style of play, but my experience is that actual play tends towards simulationist.

Thinking back to before the hiatus, I now realize that I had been running a very “simmy” game. Game play tended towards “this is the Amber Universe, and this is how it reacts to you as you wander through it.” Whenever game play dragged, I'd throw something new into the mix to keep things exciting. It got to the point where I couldn't keep track of the new elements I'd introduced, and didn't know where to take the characters next. Hence, the long hiatus.

For the re-launch, I have decided to attempt narrativist play. In the hopes of encouraging this, I've made some changes to the game – both rules changes, and style-of-play changes. I haven't told the players anything about Narrativist Play or Addressing Premise; I don't want to confuse them with jargon. I have told them that I want focus of play to be less like “Amber: The Travelogue” and more about addressing character issues. The important changes I've made are:

No Secret Play. A huge part of the Amber Diceless game as written is keeping secrets from the other players. I decided to do away with all that. No secret notes, no one-on-one conferences between a player and the GM. All play happens around the table. I want a free flow of ideas between players. Also, note-passing and one-on-one conferences are time-consuming. I want the game to be fun for everyone, not just fun for the player whose turn it is. I did discuss this with the other players first, and they've all agreed to give it a shot.

Preparing Bangs. I'm coming up with Bangs for each character. This was really hard! I came up with a lot of things that were interesting plot twists, but very few things that I would qualify as a really solid Bang. I think that coming up with Bangs will get easier.

Scene Framing. I want to give the other players more opportunities to frame their own scenes.

Rules Tweaks. Mostly minor tweaks. I made Good/Bad Stuff less powerful, toned down what a 1st Rank ability means, and formalized Conflicts. Which is to say: instead of comparing stats just any old time, we only compare stats when something important is at stake. (Me, steal from Dogs in the Vineyard? How could you suggest such a thing!)

Establishing Premise. Man, I thought coming up with Bangs was hard! It took me the longest time to work out a Premise for this game. I finally had a breakthrough when I realized that what Amber was about, what it was really about, was family. I still don't have it narrowed down to a good Premise; something along the lines of, “How far will you go for your goals when family relationships are at stake?” Or perhaps, “How important is family?” Better ideas welcome!

And here's how it all shook down on the 09/09/05 session:

We played in the living room at J's house. We pulled in a couple of folding tables so that we wouldn't be shouting across the living room. Some people sat in couches; some sat in chairs.

I briefly went over my proposed game changes; everyone was willing to give them a try. No-one was really jazzed about the changes, but no-one was complaining, either. We then spent some time trying to remember where we had left off a year-and-a-half ago, and did some brainstorming about what was going on now. Then we played! Here are the interesting bits:

1.)  First Awesome Scene: Lita (child of Amber, unknown parentage, played by S) walks through the Corridor of Mirrors in Castle Amber. In mirror-visions, her adoptive mother on Shadow Earth begs her to come home. Her husband, Oroborous, wants her to return home with him to the Lunar Kingdom. Gérard, Prince of Amber, wants Lita to come live in Amber. And lastly, she sees Ahber, a crazy Logrus master from prior adventures, profess his eternal love for her! Lita flees.

  • Awesome Aside #1:  Oroborous is played by M, S's real-life husband, who is sitting right next to her on the couch. But I play the Oroborous-vision in the mirror, as he's watching. Wonderful bit of disconnect there, I thought.
  • Awesome Aside #2:  Lita asks the Gérard-vision, “Are you really here talking to me?” Someone mentions out-of-character: “You're asking Gérard a metaphysical question about his own existence!” (Gérard is oft-regarded as the Amberite of Very Little Brain.) The Gérard-vision gets really puzzled, scratches his head, and says, “Uh... I don't know...” as he fades from view.

No Bangs here, but I thought that it was a good set-up of Premise. The “No Secret Play” rule worked really well here; everyone at the table seemed to enjoy the scene.

2.)  Just Stuff That Happened: The Slayer (enigma from Shadow, hired assassin, played by R) didn't have a lot to do. I talked with R a bit about The Slayer's ambitions and goals, then staged a scene with him and Vialle (the King's wife). Turns out, the reason the Slayer is still alive (after trying to assassinate the King's son) is because Vialle intervened on his behalf. Now confronted, she claims that it's because he “seemed familiar”. The Slayer's interests are in setting up an intelligence network through the whorehouses in the city; Vialle offers to hooks him up with a member of the King's intelligence agency.

Again, no Bangs here, but I'm glad I did the setup. My Premise is all about family, and so far, this character has none. The “seems familiar” line is a good set up for hooking the Slayer into the Amber family.

3.)  Twenty Minute Digression about Oregon Subdivision Laws: I mean, seriously, what? I think that this should have been my cue that the players were ready for a game break.

4.)  Communication is Key: At some point, I turn to the other players and say, “OK, I want to deal with getting Oroborous out of the Eye. Is that cool with everyone?” And it was, so that's what we did.

Turns out, Oroborous (reincarnated soul, warrior of the Lunar Kingdom, played by M) has been possessed by one of his ancestors. (Let's call the ancestor “The Imperator Oroborous”; M's character can be “Young Oroborous”.) Oroborous is missing an eye, but can see thanks to a magical implant - the Eye of the Oroborous. The Imperator has somehow trapped the Young Oroborous inside the Eye, and taken over his body. Young Oroborous has had enough, and is finally going to force his way out. (Sudden determination brought on by seeing the Imperator about to have relations with the Young Oroborous's wife!)

So I turn to J and say, “We should get you involved in this somehow. Any ideas?” Because Damian (son of Bleys, sorcerer, played by J) has had jack-all to do all session. J has his raven familiar flying through the castle, and sees something mystical going on through his raven's eyes.

Am I ever going to get to use a Bang? Still, the “No Secret Play” rule is again working well.

5.) Second Awesome Scene: Young Oroborous can't get past the wall of fire in his jade prison (the Oroborous Eye). He does, however, find a flaw in the Eye itself. As his prepares to force his way through it, I offer, “this will probably break the Eye, you know.” He does it anyway.

Everyone else sees Oroborous's face explode with fire! He screams and collapses, burning. Alarums!

Everyone rushes to his side. Oroborous's body is alive, but there's nobody home. Damian senses energy from the shards of the Eye, opening a path from to the spirit world. (Damian had been studying the spirit world, pre-hiatus.) He astrally projects to follow it, taking along Lita and the Slayer.

Heavy railroading here from yours truly. I thought that maybe “Will you break the Eye to escape?” might be a Bang, but it's really not; obviously, he's going to go ahead and do it anyway. The whole “use spirit magic to get involved in the possession plot” has been in the back of my mind for quite a while; also, the only reason Damian took along Lita and the Slayer is because of my unsubtle hints that I wanted him to. But I justify it this way: I'm clearing away old, annoying plots so that I can focus on tasty future Bangs.

6.)  Last Awesome Scene: Young Oroborous feels his connection with the ancestors again! He feels himself drifting up, up, up, away from his body; his ancestors are calling him home. He fights it, trying to return to his body.

But he's not alone! The Imperator Oroborous is also there, also fighting to return to the body. Oroborous decides that it's more important to stop the Imperator than to race back himself; they struggle, and both are called to the Halls of the Ancestors.

And what I said was this: “We could do this as a formal Conflict, where I compare your stats, but I don't think we need to. It seems clear to me that your choices are to struggle to return, or struggle to stop the Imperator. Does that sound good?” He agreed it did, so that's how we played it.

Damian, Lita, and the Slayer follow. And find themselves: In a huge marble hall, with a spiraling gallery containing all 412 of Oroborous's ancestors. Who all look really similar, and who all turn to look when the three of them appear. Eerie!

In the center of the room, in chains, is the Imperator Oroborous. In a high box stands Young Oroborous, along with THE Oroborous – the First. The Imperator is on trial for breaking the law of the ancestors. Lita, Damian, and the Slayer take a seat to watch.

Young Oroborous debates with the Imperator. The Imperator feels that Oroborous has neglected his duties at home. Finally, Young Oroborous is asked to pass sentence. He does so, exiling the Imperator from the collective for eight generations.

The mystical trail back to Amber is fading fast; Young Oroborous and the others must leave soon if there's any hope of return. Before they leave, The Oroborous (the First) asks Young Oroborous if there's anything he'd like to know. Young Oroborous wants to know about his secret parentage (answer: “Ask your mother”), and about how to stop the attacks from Chaos (answer: “Seek the answer in Kronosways”). The four of them then leave, returning to their bodies (and Young Oroborous returning to a long convalescence for his burns). Game ends.

  • Awesome Aside #1: Florimel (fashion-conscious Amberite princess) enters the room to see Oroborous lying there, still smoldering and covered in his own blood. Eyes wide, she puts her hand to her mouth in horror. In a small, shocked voice she exclaims, “Oh god. The carpet!”
  • Awesome Aside #2: After the game, I tell R, “you know what would have been an awesome way to end the trial? You assassinate the Imperator halfway through it!” And then he tells me that he was thinking the same thing! I wonder why we didn't do it, or at least suggest it? I'll make a note to tell the players next session: It's OK to blurt out cool ideas!

Huzzah! I finally got to use not one Bang, but two! “How will Young Oroborous judge the Imperator” (I had no idea), and “Given the chance to get the answer to one question from THE Oroborous, what will he ask?” I kind of messed up the second one, but humorously. The exchange went like this:

Young Oroborous:  “What did the Imperator mean, when he said that I was a 'child of sin'?”
The Oroborous: “Really? You can ask anything, and that's your one question?”
Young Oroborous:  “Uh... wait!”
The Oroborous: “I mean, that's OK, I'll answer it, I just thought you might want...”
Young Oroborous:  “Uh... hold on! Uh... Ah! HowcanwestoptheattacksfromChaos!”
The Oroborous: “Well... I don't know... that's two questions, and we're kind of running out of time...”

So I ended up giving him two partial answers, instead of one in-depth answer. In other words, he got two plot hooks instead of one solid direction. I kind of wish I'd just given him one answer, but I am amused by the exchange.

Whew! Glad I finally got that finished! Well, for those of you who have bothered to read the whole thing... any thoughts? I'd be especially interested in ideas for a better Premise.

- Pôl

Posts: 3702

« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2005, 07:46:22 AM »

Wow... that sounds awesome  And this from someone (me) who is recovering from a multi-decade abusive relationship with the ADRPG game.

Before I'm tempted to back-slide, I must ask:  How much were the actual ADRPG mechanics in evidence in the game?  My intuition, given your description, is that the answer verges on "Not at all," but I'd like to hear your take on it.

Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum
Pôl Jackson

Posts: 33

« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2005, 10:55:47 AM »

Tony: Yup, the game mechanics came up "not at all". But in this session, there was hardly any conflict. For the one conflict in the session (Young Oroborous struggling with the Imperator), we just agreed on a solution that made sense to everybody.

I've resolved to only check Good/Bad Stuff in certain situations, and only to compare stats in Conflicts where we clearly define stakes beforehand. So I expect to see game mechanics come up less, but to have more impact when they do come into play. I intend to write up a little cheat-sheet for the players, so that everyone knows how I'll be handling Conflicts. I'll post a copy here when I have it written.

And this from someone (me) who is recovering from a multi-decade abusive relationship with the ADRPG game.

Care to elaborate? As I mentioned in my earlier post, I think that the Amber Diceless game has some Sim/Nar schizophrenia. Do you think that your bad experiences are related to this? Or are your experiences completely different?

- Pôl
Rob Carriere

Posts: 187

« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2005, 01:47:35 AM »

Second the motion on awesome.

I got a pretty good view of what jazzed you. Do you have any insight on the other players?

Pôl Jackson

Posts: 33

« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2005, 08:52:37 AM »

I got a pretty good view of what jazzed you. Do you have any insight on the other players?

Not as much as I'd like. They all enjoy the Amber "genre", and I'm sure that M enjoyed the focus on his character. Everyone seemed pretty easygoing about watching other people's scenes. I don't think I'll really know more until I run a few more sessions this way, and get some good player feedback.
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