Amber: Game mastering and threats

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Amber: Game mastering and threats
« on: August 05, 2011, 03:50:05 PM »
I'm not working on a hack, but rather game mastering Amber diceless and using some Apocalypse World MC'ing techniques there.

Idea of Amber setting: There's two real places, Courts of Chaos and city of Amber, associated with chaos (Logrus) and order (Pattern) respectively. Between them there is an infinitude of shadows (worlds, realities). Basically, you can find whatever somewhere among the shadows, supposing you can travel through them, which the royalty of Courts and Amber can do, but others usually can't. Travel happens by certain powers (Pattern, Logrus, Trumps) or more rarely items or established shadow pathways. The royalty is very long-lived (immortal?) and to some degree superhuman.

Key concepts are: Family struggle among the royalty of Amber (only one can be the king), struggle between Amber and Courts, struggle between the metaphysical forces, conspiracies and plotting, mysterious forces and powers, and how to consider the denizens of shadow (as pets, tools, or even people).

For more, see Wikipedia or my blog.

Here's what I have so far (with some explanations) - and with a few comments



Make all the shadows seem real (and Courts and Amber) - I'm not happy with this as it stands
Make the players' characters' lives not boring
Play to find out what happens

Always say

What the principles demand
What prep demands
What rules demand
What honesty demands - there is certain measure of hiding information in running and playing Amber, so this might need to change, but I am unsure how

The principles

Drop details about the worlds
Address the characters, not the players
Justify everything with the fiction
Don't mention: Stuff, points, attributes, ranks, GMing tools
Shadow is transient
Even the real may die (real: the royalty, some of their personal items, Amber, Pattern, Logrus, Trump cards)
Name everyone, make everyone human
Ask questions and build on the answers
Respond with setbacks and intermittant rewards
Be a fan of the players' characters
Think offscreen too
Sometimes, disclaim decision-making
Sow the seeds of doubt (from this thread )


Leave things unsaid (e.g. in battle looking around matters)
Separate them
Capture someone
Put someone on spot
Trade harm for harm
Bring bad news
Set up future bad news
Hint at mystery - this is sort of weak
Inflict harm
Take away their stuff
Make them ask (for help or guidance, from NPCs or each other)
Strike at a weakness
Tell consequences and ask
Offer opportunity
Turn their move back on them
Make a threat move
Always: What do you do?


As for fronts, here's what I've got.

Reasons - there's probably too few as is

Metaphysics (e.g. the conflict between Pattern and Logrus)
- Something to do with the welfare of one's children


Shadow (particular shadow, like landscape but larger)
Disturbance (e.g. shadow storm that rips through shadows, picking stuff and dropping it and destroying a couple of realities along the way)


Prison (contains, denies eggress)
Mirage (entices, betrays)
Fortress (denies access)
Trap (hurts, slows)
Barrier (frustrates passage, forces retreat)
Paradise (tempts, makes content)
Center of power (tests, submits)

Shadow moves

Introduce native creatures
Introduce native powers
Offer resources
Present a guardian
Reveal its nature
Reveal shadow path
Bar the way
Open the way
Provide another way
Offer a guide
Consume and break


Flux (confuses, change)
Block (prevents, separates)
Charge (overpowers, weakens)

Disturbance moves

Move between shadows
Reveal its nature
Destroy shadow
Stop powers
Supercharge powers
Give a gift

Mystic - there's very few types here, as is

Seer (guides future)
Witch (charms and controls)
Mage (gathers might)

Mystic moves

Act unseen
Draw from a source of power
Reveal eldritch might
Use subtle magic
Show potential to great power
Take prisoners
Give a quest
Use someone as tool
Offer aid for unknown price
Know too much

Military (partially from World of Conan)

Conquerer (takes land)
Prophet (establishes a new order)
Packmaster (hunts and dominates)
Immortal (restores the world as it was)
Slaver (owns and sells people)
Hive queen (consumes and swarms)
Dictator (controls)

Military moves

Outflank someone, corner someone, encircle someone
Attack someone suddenly, directly, and very hard
Attack someone cautiously, holding reserves
Seize someone or something, for leverage or information
Make a show of force
Make a show of discipline
Offer to negotiate. Demand concession or obedience
Claim territory: move into it, blockade it, assault it
Buy out someone’s allies
Make a careful study of someone and attack where they’re weak

Monsters (from this thread )

Alien (changes the environment)
Apex Predator (devours and consumes)
Beast (runs amok)
Demon (creates others in its image)
Horror (hurts and terrifies)
Hunter (eliminates all threats, real or imaginary)
Shapeshifter (spreads chaos, lies and falsehoods)

Monster moves

Hint at its presence
Display its full might
Get a hold of something, disregarding anything that might interfere
Crush something, annihilating it completely
Make a rash and sudden action, devoid of human emotions
Execute a carefully hatched and unmistakeably immoral plan
Gloat, possibly revealing a weakness
Dictate somebody's behavior: charmed, frightened, enraged
Have its behavior dictated by someone else: tamed, provoked, manipulated
Grow in size, power or number
Make use of an unnatural power (physical, moral or otherwise)
Leave the scene, with or without an apparent reason


Any comments et cetera welcome. Also, new ideas for threats in particular.

I have problems classifying single people who do not lead armies or wield magical powers, but rather act as individuals. Brutes and afflictions seem not to be very suitable for the setting, as the Amberites can deal with them very easily (almost always), unless they are actively backed up by something real. Grotesques would require renaming and maybe reworking in order to fit.

Re: Amber: Game mastering and threats
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2011, 05:44:59 PM »
"Make the shadows seem real" is basically directly counter to "Shadow is transient."

I suggest: "Make Amber seem real, make Chaos seem capricious, make Shadow seem artificial." For every Shadow that does seem real, there are unlimited others that both don't and are more useful because they don't.

Re: Amber: Game mastering and threats
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2011, 03:01:44 AM »
The contradiction I see like this:

Every shadow must be vibrant, true to its inner logic, and the people should be as human as I can play them. In this sense, every shadow must be real. (Otherwise, why bother travelling through shadow at all?)

But shadow is transient, in that everything of shadow is relatively fragile - complicated items malfunction or outright break if taken out of shadow, and often people don't take well to their actual world being a mere shadow among many. Oh, and there is always another shadow with whatever was lost. So, in this sense, shadow is transient.

My goal is that focusing on a particular shadow and growing attached to it is a real option, though the fragile nature of shadows makes it risky.