in the Shadow of Greatness


October 28, 2003

IMC :: Chaos :: IMC Force

There is no joining the Chaos of Zelazny's first five Amber books to the second five. The canon tone of the first is destroyed and blurred by the second.

Disprove the above.

If you, or any of your IMC Force are flamed or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.
Good luck, Arref.

First—you might want to read stuff about Chaos and alternate interpretations. I think if you search here for Chaos you'll get a good start to links.

Second—this is obviously a conceit on my part. This is such a big topic, I'll try to keep it all in this one entry for comment purposes.

Chaotic thoughts from elsewhere (thanks G, N, J, & J):
"The three-year-olds-with-bazookas mentality..."
"...if you define Chaos as inherently better than Amber, you're making it awfully hard to run a game where Amber is supposed to be the key focus."
"...few GMs have managed to to bring a little strangeness to Chaos..."
"...I've often found the Merlin Series depiction of the denizens of the Courts of Chaos as kind of flat."
" seems the powers of Chaos that draw the most unbalanced players."
"Jim Henley's comment that Amber came from a unicorn f**cking a mad hunchback, and Chaos should be stranger than that."

The above excerpts briefly sum up the problem. First series mystery and misdirection are 'busted' by second series insights and power tricks. What's a GM to do?

1. Keep Chaos distant.
Some really good alternative ideas are out there in the links. A few. It's hard to find them and no 'one paragraph blurb solution' is going to work. The Chaos Ring of web pages never really took off, but google is awesome. The lack tells me most folks just keep Chaos offstage as a 'Them' force to harass Amber PCs. That works—but doesn't resolve the canon.

2. Start from scratch.
This is where GMs really throw out first and second and build something that 'hangs together' better than canon. Kindred, Jim, Nuadha, Jvstin, Ginger, Michael have all talked about this within the last year and you should find links to all that in archives. That works—but doesn't resolve the canon.

3. Wave Hands furiously!
Yeah. Furiously. So we wave, and find that first/second canon Chaosians must have.....

  • Visuals: Chaosians are odd and creepy—appearing to be human requires some extra effort and planning. But perhaps this doesn't ordinarily slow them down.
  • Shaping: three types, visual, physical, and dramatic plot-changing shaping. You don't spend the same points for these. Maybe they are not all the same thing at all. Work that into your costs to PCs.
  • Strange: you can't take them home to mother. They have to have a value system that breaks down. Yes, they can find Florimel attractive, but for different reasons than everyone in Amber does. Maybe her aura leaks energy? Maybe she tastes good? Maybe she soaks up harmful radiation? Maybe she lays eggs?
  • Imbalance: Chaosians have the potential to be every bit as effective as Amberites. They are cut of the same cloth. Something, however, is wrong. There is a great imbalance, perhaps created by Dworkin, or by some other element to be defined. Chaosians are more numerous, older, and have powers that Amberites do not. Yet they are demonstrably not as effective as Amberites—perhaps by several orders of magnitude.

    Are they under a curse from the Serpent for complicity in losing his eye? Are they hampered by a perception that the universe works in a way that it does not? Are their great powers squandered by imbeciles and impaired savants? Do they consistantly challenge a Sicilian when death is on the line? Do they have racial Bad Stuff?

    They are just not going to overbear Amber. Find a way to deal with it. This last is damn important. Make it real and make it dramatic.

  • Layers: last but never least, make Chaos an onion. The PCs encounter Chaos and bring notions with them. Challenge them, confuse them, and then give them a story-place to hold on. Now wait until they are comfortable. Peel a layer. Now they see things about Chaos that didn't register before. Analysis. Confusion. Give 'em a new story grip. Wait. Peel a layer.
    Grip. Wait. Peel.
    Grip. Wait. Peel.

    This last is pure Zelazny. Don't think you will get away with peeling forever. No. Do the startup work. Deconstruct. Understand something basic about how the universe first allowed the Courts to come about before you start peeling.

This last point suggests where you have to spend the most time to reconcile the canon.

Merlin was raised in the Courts. Or was it a 'fast-time' Black Zone shadow of the Courts? Was it "The Truman Show"? Was it the "Village" a la the Prisoner series? How many resources were being spent on Merlin's vision of Chaos?

Grip. Wait. Peel.

Filed under : IMC at 28.10.2003