in the Shadow of Greatness


May 20, 2002

Trumps Are Not Cell Phones

Trumps are NOT cell phones. More thoughts on Trump.
How big is the Royal Family in your game? In Mine, it is something like fifty people, about ten of them are younger than 20 and don't have their own Trump decks. Yet. So hand out forty Trump decks...three or four Player Characters and what happens? Even if none of your PCs are Trump Artists, folks start making Trump calls. And making Trump calls. And Trumping, Trumping, Trumping. In the Old Quarter shopping? Need to talk to the King before dinner? Trump him. At your estate in the country, curious about the peace and quiet you've enjoyed the last three weeks? Trump someone. Is it only American players that do this?

As a GM, I have at least two problems with this:

1. No one in the books seems to think that Trumping folks three times a week is necessary. As a game mechanism, keeping in touch makes some sense, but the trivial level of some Trump calls bears watching. It takes thirty minutes to walk to the castle. That's just good exercise, not a reason to Trump someone. To be fair, 'Nine Princes in Amber' had a lot of strife and stress going on and it was considered unwise to allow a Trump contact that wasn't strongly needed. 2. Psyche and Physicality. Amberites are really very physical, very here-and-now. Amberites (even Chaosians) are not psionic jet-setters or indolent cerebral types. What kind of joie de vie is there to Trumping Flora to ask about what she's going to wear to the ball? If it is important, go see her. Should Flora expose her mind to a trivial Trump call because you think walking takes too long?

Rather than tell the players they are dead wrong, here are things I do, by way of Elders actions/responses to curb trivial Trump use:

1. Think twice before you have any NPC Trump someone. If the PCs don't get calls— maybe the flavor will carry over.
2. Think three times before you have any NPC answer a Trump. Ignoring Trump calls is logical in many cases. If a small circle of intimates all had cell phones with each other's numbers...there might spring up a natural slide to abuse. Trivial calls. Picture the folks I see in the supermarket who are calling home to ask if such and such is on the shelf in the cupboard, or do we need fresh eggs? Why didn't you think about this before you left home?
I could actually stop right there. Those two cover the basics, but there are more suggestions.
3. Make sure Trump decks get lost when folks are knocked out, or stripped of clothing/weapons, or when such opponents might just take the opportunity. Having some family decks in the hands of unknown persons makes sense from story and other points. Don't make this a negligible issue. After all, the use of Trump by certain privileged classes in the universe is not such a big secret. Who wouldn't like to try listening in or having a direct psyche link to a big-shot like the King of Amber, or at least plan such an option?
4. Some Elders just never answer their Trumps. Figure out which ones based on personality or position. Does Julian make everyone come out to Arden to talk to him? How many times does the President of France allow himself to be interrupted by unscheduled phone calls in a week? Now how many times if a kilovolt pulse could be sent through a phone line by terrorists? Don't get too cute with this (for instance, Fiona does not have a Trump answering-machine, but Merlin might, if you see what I mean).
5. Awkward Trump scenes. Remember time is always an element. It's more than possible that a Trump call will wake someone who is in a different shadow. This should happen about one in three times, since most folks sleep about a third to a quarter of the day, even Amberites. If you wake up the King, it better not be to tell him you just won a yacht race. And don't forget time dialation in Shadow. If you are in fast time, calling once every other day might still be calling three times a day in Amber.
Not a rant, just some ideas for you all to think about.

Filed under : Amber at 20.05.2002