in the Shadow of Greatness


January 16, 2004

WISH 81 :: it's the system, man

WISH 81: My Favorite System

What's your favorite game system, and why? What things don't you like about it? How much do you have to "jigger" it from published rules and why?

Nothing to see here, move along. You know the answer before you click.

Amber DRPG, created by Erick Wujcik.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

  1. All the PC info really fits on a page. I've seen it all put on a business card.
  2. GM can remember everything he needs to arbitrate conflict and story.
  3. Players can care about character perspective and motivation more than character stats.
  4. Create a legend or explain one.
  5. Play a comedy, drama, tragedy, action, adventure, magic, tech story — all at once.
  6. Play small groups at no penalty to story content.
  7. Play intriguing literate larger-than-life types.
  8. Save random events for trivia, play dramatic events and know your choices (GM and Player) count for everything.

Some would say that there isn't enough system in Amber DRPG to hang a 'real RPG' upon. I suppose that gets to some of the tweaks I've done.

Attributes have specific story value. A tweak where every point spent not only makes a difference with the other players, but also every other NPC you might ever run into, or ever have introduced to the game. This tweak supplants the 'ranked within generation' concept in the rules.

Attributes equate to steps of human feats. A tweak where conflicts of Attributes always relate back to Human examples. Combined with the above tweak, there is never a question of what you can do and when you should run.

Every point of Character Design corresponds to metaphysical reality. Sort of an overarching concept that takes the first two tweaks and makes a universal theme of the game. Every living character design choice is measured against every other choice. For example: three points of Stuff is as potent as three points of Warfare. And if you put enough points into Items, they begin to live as expressions independant of your character. This also tells you that Stuff and Items and Creatures are not as powerful as PCs.

Why the above tweaks?

The rules as written provide guidelines to Attribute 'events'. I wanted to extablish a logic to pull the entire thing together in a simple way. I wanted no consultation with chart or reference to extraordinary actions by PCs. And I wanted the system to more often support independant "hands on" effort.

I wanted a 'low power' version of the Amber genre, not a 'high-power' version. So I grounded it in mortal feats and expanded from there.

Something like what Everway seems to do. (I have a copy in the mail, I'll see.)

Truthfully, the system was all there, and this GM applied a logic that was contrary to the impulse of the written rules. Instead of 'gods and demons', the PCs in my Amber games are 'extraordinary'. Instead of an internal measurement against other Players, I have been more concerned with an external measurement against a universe.

I've also been able to "plug in" various bits of imagination to this framework without ever breaking the system. I need a game that does that.

Filed under : Amber, Game WISH, amber.revised at 16.01.2004